Rose of Sharon Missionary Baptist Church - Featured Article
Rose of Sharon Missionary Baptist Church - "We Love People"
    Featured Article in the Baptist Standard
    January 5, 2015 By Ken Camp / Managing Editor
     
    Elmo Johnson, pastor of Rose of Sharon Baptist Church in inner-city Houston, talks with neighbors on the street. Elmo Johnson rejects any personal credit for transformation in Houston’s 4th Ward since he arrived as pastor of Rose of Sharon Missionary Baptist Church 30 years ago. But he’s eager to give God the glory.Several suburban churches send volunteers and financial assistance to help the inner-city Rose of Sharon congregation in its community ministries. The Lord has done some great things here,” Johnson said.Three decades ago, drug deals occurred daily on most street corners, and addicts sought shelter in burned-out or dilapidated row houses in the historically African-American community, originally known as Freedmen’s Town.“First it was Freedmen’s Town. Then it became the 4th Ward. Now, they call it Midtown,” he said.Housing boomWithin the last decade, the area began to attract upwardly mobile young professionals who moved into newly built high-rise condos and townhouses. But the market-driven housing boom in the 4th Ward likely would not have occurred without the catalyst Rose of Sharon and its nonprofit community development arm, Uplift 4th Ward, provided. In 2006, the church, Uplift 4th Ward and a wide variety of ministry partners and volunteers known as “Elmo’s Army” built the 20-unit Crawford W. Kimble Senior Living complex across the street from Rose of Sharon to meet the needs of low-income elderly residents. Next, Uplift 4th Ward and its partners built additional housing in the area for low- to moderate-income residents.The construction company that built the senior living center—Trammell Crow Residential—continues to work in partnership with Rose of Sharon, providing hams the church distributes to its neighbors each Thanksgiving.Racial reconciliationWeeks before the most recent ham distribution, Johnson invited officers with the Houston Police Department to participate. Their involvement at the event became particularly meaningful, since it occurred the morning after a grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., after he shot and killed an unarmed young black man, and that community erupted in rioting."We had to drive the drug dealers out, fix up some old houses and do some conquering in this community," said Rose of Sharon Pastor Elmo Johnson.In contrast, crime has decreased in the 4th Ward in recent years, and Johnson wants to foster good relations between residents and the police officers who serve the area, which hardly resembles the neighborhood where he began serving 30 years ago.“We’ve seen dramatic improvement. It’s a cleaner neighborhood. Change is difficult, but change is necessary,” Johnson said. “Change has to come. God is a God of change.”When Johnson starts talking about God affecting change, he begins to preach: God brought the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. God parted the Red Sea and led the Israelites across on dry land. God brought them to the Promised Land.“But when they got to the Promised Land, they had to conquer it. They had to do some work to claim what God promised,” he said. “That’s the way it is in a community. We had to drive the drug dealers out, fix up some old houses and do some conquering in this community.”Weeks before the most recent ham distribution, Johnson invited officers with the Houston Police Department to participate.Conquest often involves conflict, and Rose of Sharon initially faced some resistance as it sought to bring change to its historic neighborhood. However, as the church continued to meet needs in the 4th Ward, it earned respect.“Keep doing what is right for the sake of people, and they will see that you mean good for all the community. This church has never been broken in. When you feed people and clothe people, the people respect that, and they know we’re here for their best interests,” Johnson said.Because of the reputation Rose of Sharon has earned in the Houston area, several suburban churches send volunteers and financial assistance to help the inner-city congregation in its community ministries. Those ministries include serving meals to homeless people twice a week and operating an ongoing benevolence program that offers food and clothing to any who need them.