The same sun scorches both. The same struggle burdens both. The same love brings hope to both. Located more than 8,000 miles apart, it’s hard to imagine Marks, Mississippi and Lesotho, Africa sharing any similarities. And yet, the two places play to the same beat of the resounding drum. Through the efforts of Reclaimed Project, a Jackson-based ministry, churches in both Marks and Lesotho seek to defend the fatherless through community development.
Less than a year ago, Reclaimed Project invited Brett Barnhill to fill the role of executive director. Brett and his wife Allison, both graduates of Mississippi College, joined Reclaimed Project in 2015 as missionaries in Lesotho, where they served faithfully for five years. Their ministry in Lesotho mimicked the orphan care center model Allison created when she served as a missionary in Botswana. This model revolves around training locals in child care and gospel sharing. Additionally, Reclaimed provides job skill training, which allows the local church to meet the needs of the community and, in the long term, create a community that is self-sustaining. After reflecting on the role of the church, Allison said, “The local church possesses gifts and abilities, both physically and spiritually, to meet the needs of the orphans in their community…we want to come alongside them and bolster what God is already doing.”
In Marks, Reclaimed Project has partnered with the local church to develop community relationships, which is done, in part, through The Village, Reclaimed Project’s ministry base. On the first floor of the Village is a communal space that hosts local events, men and women’s Bible studies, and after school tutoring. The second floor of The Village has a completely different layout than the first as it can house up to seven Quitman County teachers through Reclaimed Project’s teacher fellowship program. The goal of the fellowship program is to provide skilled teachers who long to invest in their students both academically within the school setting and spiritually at The Village.
Reclaimed Project is not only partnering with the local churches in Marks and Lesotho but, most recently, with Fondren Church. On the second floor of Fondren Church lies the new office location for Reclaimed Project. Reclaimed Project came into this office space last fall after the Barnhill family relocated to Jackson. Robert Green, senior pastor of Fondren Church, fondly looks upon their ministry partner saying, “Fondren Church excitedly promotes and supports Reclaimed Project as one of our dedicated and deserving ministry partners. They are passionate about James 1:27 and we come along side them through financial gifts, friendship, prayer and the donation of office space to carry out their mission.”
Outside of partnering with buildings made of stain glass and adorned with a steeple, Reclaimed Project partners with Mississippi State University’s Kappa Sigma Fraternity, whose partnership looks quite different in comparison to the local churches. Each year Kappa Sigma hosts Charity Classic, a football game, played in Davis Wade Stadium between Kappa Sigma and an opposing fraternity, and cheerleading competition between sororities, which benefits their organization’s philanthropic partner. The roots of Charity Classic sprouted in 1998, but the direction in which they grew changed in 2016, when Kappa Sigma officially joined Reclaimed Project as partners with the non-profit’s mission. Since then, all proceeds from Charity Classic have benefitted Reclaimed Project with $207,000 raised this year and a total of $794,000 since 2016.
Besides their financial contribution, Kappa Sigma invests more than a couple of touchdowns and field goals into Reclaimed Project. Every year, the fraternity takes several of its members to serve in Lesotho during spring break. This year, 17 Kappa Sigmas traveled more than 50 hours to spend a week in the mountains of Lesotho. The Kappa Sigma team built a retaining wall and irrigation system for the new skills training center. After experiencing a week of hard work, shoveling an abundance of dirt, and loving on the people of Lesotho, Alex Gibbs, a graduate of Jackson Prep and freshman at Mississippi State said, “I feel so blessed to have seen the Lord at work through Reclaimed Project in Lesotho. Seeing it firsthand and putting some faces to the work that our fraternity has done was extremely rewarding. I’m excited I was able to be part of something like that during spring break.”
Reclaimed Project’s presence can be found throughout the Jackson area. Currently, Beacon Supply in Fondren sells Reclaimed Project’s merchandise, which includes a variety of hand-made items from the women in Lesotho. These items can also be purchased online at www.reclaimedproject.org or at one of Reclaimed Project’s various fundraiser events, which are hosted throughout the year in Jackson.
As a new arrival to the metro area, Reclaimed Project has picked up its foundational roots from Starkville and replanted in Jackson’s soil. Allison Barnhill is excited about developing foot-prints in Jackson. When asked why she joined Reclaimed Project’s movement, she said, “Reclaimed Project is seeking to provide opportunities to believers to live out their faith in practical ways. I wanted to be a part of Reclaimed because it provided an avenue for me to live out part of my faith that is fairly important to me, caring for the needs of the oppressed, and specifically the needs of the fatherless.” With the help of Reclaimed Project, Jackson now has the opportunity to play a role in defending the fatherless across the state and the world.
Former Kappa Sigma president and graduate of Jackson Academy, Gipson Clark, said, “The Reclaimed Project partnership with Kappa Sigma has been a great relationship to watch over the past few years. Both organizations have grown tremendously since our first mission trip with Brett and the team, years ago. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the mission, from the fundraising through the actual game played in Davis Wade Stadium. The work that goes into pulling this off is a team effort that takes months to plan and we are fortunate to have such great partners in this effort. The amount of people who donate and participate every year astounds me and exceeds expectations from year to year. Our chapter is truly grateful for this organization and their mission to serve,” Clark said.