Founder of Urban Promise Tells HSU Students God’s Plan


Photos: Dr. Bruce Main addresses students at chapel; Dr. Joanne Roberts and Melissa Milliorn with Main

“If God is a God of justice, then what is he doing about the injustice in the world?” quizzed Dr. Bruce Main of students gathered for Hardin-Simmons University’s weekly chapel. Main, the founder and president of Urban Promise in Camden, New Jersey, related to students an inspired question originated by Main’s friend Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission. “Haugen asked an audience during a speech, ‘What’s God’s plan to make it believable to the world that God is good?’ He then looked at the audience, paused, and said emphatically, ‘You are the plan. There is no other plan. You are the plan.’”

Started in the basement of a Baptist church in 1988, Main’s ministry was born out of the New Jersey community’s need to address the problems of intergenerational poverty and the incarceration of youth. The organization’s influence has now spread to cities across the United States, Canada, South America, and Africa.

The relationship between HSU and Urban Promise began a few years ago when Dr. Joanne Roberts, head of the HSU Department of Sociology, began showing her urban sociology students the Diane Sawyer special on Camden, New Jersey, one of the most impoverished and violent cities in the country. That led Roberts and Melissa Milliorn, head of HSU’s social work department, to create a May Term course to instruct and inform students about Christian community renewal. The course included a weeklong trip to Camden for the students and faculty to work with Urban Promise.

Main’s chapel message, of people working as God’s hands and feet, emboldened a handful of students to inquire about working with the organization. “I responded to the thought that we are the answer to what God will do,” said Tanner Rice, a ministry junior from Burnet, Texas. Currently working as a youth minister at First Baptist Church of Blackwell, Texas, Rice will be a part of Dr. Rob Sellers's cultural studies class in the Logsdon School of Theology that leaves for Indonesia this summer. “I like people and learning to understand other cultures,” said Rice. “I am only able to go to school on loans that I will repay by myself,” said Rice, “but I am way over-privileged compared to much of the world. I want to relate to people and be involved with their needs and struggles.”

Main was also at HSU to speak to Roberts’s urban sociology class and met with students in HSU’s social work club. “Our students’ immersion and service learning experience with Urban Promise has led to an ongoing relationship between the Social Work Program and the Sociology Department to include future plans for another May Term travel course with Urban Promise,” said Milliorn. She says Main’s ministry offers a great deal of potential in internship opportunities for social work majors at HSU.


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