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10/8/97 Calif.-NAMB efforts yield new Oakland missions center

OAKLAND, Calif. (BP)–Residents of Oakland’s Telegraph neighborhood celebrated three decades of Southern Baptist ministry in their community at the dedication of a new facility described as a model of missions partnership.
“This is a dream come true,” declared Fermin A. Whittaker, executive director of California Southern Baptist Convention, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 3 marked the official opening of the Telegraph Avenue Missions Center.
“Telegraph Center exists to feed the hungry, to clothe those who need clothing and to love those who are unloved,” Whittaker said. “Red and yellow, black and white, the rich and the poor — they all need to be loved.”
The missions and ministry complex is jointly supported by the California convention and the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Additional support comes from area churches as well as a local food bank and various other community organizations.
The modern, two-story building replaces three smaller wooden structures which housed the Telegraph Avenue Mission Center the past 30 years. The new facility includes a large multi-purpose room which can be used for a variety of community training programs. Also included are staff offices, a fully equipped kitchen and dining room, and refrigerated storage for the center’s food distribution ministry.
In addition, the center serves as a worship center for new Baptist congregations and houses a socialization program for the mentally ill.
Charles Stewart, NAMB director of missions properties, credited the center’s director, Paula Dickson, and her husband, Ted, who “dared to dream that we could build it here.”
Stewart recalled three years of construction delays, escalating costs and other obstacles that eventually were overcome to bring the project to completion. He called it “one of the most ambitious tasks” ever undertaken during his 15 years with NAMB and its predecessor, the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board.
“If it was easy, everybody would be doing it,” Stewart quipped. “The Lord obviously was in this from the beginning.”
Originally expected to cost less than $400,000, the newly constructed building eventually required more than twice that amount to complete. Volunteer labor helped keep costs from going even higher.
The center’s director expressed gratitude to Southern Baptists for the new center and for the many years they have given “time, money and words of encouragement” to help make the center’s ministry possible.
“I wish all the needs could be met, but I am thankful to the Lord for each one that is met, each life that is touched,” Dickson said. She noted the center’s new home represents “the beginnings of new opportunities and new challenges to work closely together with churches and organizations in our community and neighborhood.”
Dickson pledged to work with Southern Baptists to help meet needs in the community “so the people who walk through these doors can find hope.”
“I look upon this (new center) as an investment in the Lord’s work in the East Bay,” said Larry Fisher, director of missions for East Bay Southern Baptist Association, which includes Oakland. “From this day on, there is going to be a marked difference in how Southern Baptists are seen in the Bay Area.”

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  • Mark A. Wyatt