Mission 180: Turning lives around, filling in gaps around the community

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Courtesy of Mission 180

HANNIBAL, Mo. — When Stephanie Morris walked into the church near the corner of North Hawkins and St. Marys Avenue in Hannibal, she saw in the building what she also sees in people.

The building, which had a 1970s decor, had a lot of internal damage. Yet when she walked into the basement, Morris found a home there amidst the brokenness and knew something beautiful could come from it.

A little more than two years later, and although parts of the building are still in the process of renovation, the brick structure has been restored to a place where people can come and find hope.

The sign on the front reads Mission 180.  

Mission 180 is now a local nonprofit group reaching out to other nonprofit groups and churches in Hannibal to fill in gaps.  

Although the Hannibal hills are a far cry from the mountains in Georgia where Jevin and Stephanie Morris brought their family from, it’s a move they believe is deeply rooted in the will of God. 

Moving to serve alongside Corey and Amy Allen from Consumed International Ministries in New London, Mo., the group now serves the Hannibal area in ways they didn’t necessarily expect to.

What does Mission 180 look like?

“We just saw a kind of vision for some sort of outreach here but we weren’t sure what that exactly would look like,” said Morris.

Two years later it looks like a sanctuary filled with teens from the surrounding streets every Tuesday evening, worshiping together and some making music together.

“We found out that when our young son would play outside and suddenly all these kids would just show up and play in the yard. So we discussed with the youth leaders about having a program here on Tuesday nights. They were already here, and it’s in a good location for the kids to walk or get here quickly,” she said.

Starting out with three children and now seeing up to 30 kids on a Tuesday night, Teen Night has grown substantially since it began.

“When we started Teen Night there was still a lot to be done but the kids didn’t care. They would run and play and eat or whatever. It was clean but we didn’t have the floors or stage done yet,” Morris said.

Coming Together With Music

John Ali, is a music teacher, worship leader and youth leader at Teen Night for Consumed Ministries. From the island of Trinidad and Tobago, Ali served with Stephanie Morris during her ministry trips to the island, and when he received a phone call from her to join them in Hannibal, he came quick.

Ali is now immersed in teens from some of the toughest streets in Hannibal and he has found connections and growth through the universal language he brought with him. 

Music.  

Ali began teaching music back on the island to make a little money but he soon realized that his gift was not something he wanted to make a personal profit on. Now he teaches lessons on Tuesdays to kids before Teen Night and other times as well. 

Mission 180 received a grant from the Community Foundation in Quincy to support the arts and music within the community. The Reidel Foundation has also provided a grant for Mission 180 to help foster families.

“The grant we were given allows us to purchase instruments and equipment for the kids,” Ali said. “We have one playing the drums, one playing the keyboard and one playing the bass right now and they all have picked it up very quickly.”

The lessons often become a place for ministry and bonding for the teens and Ali.

“He is such a good influence on the kids and they really look up to him. He’s able to share biblical principles with them and life skills along with that,” said Morris.

Ali said it’s a great way to teach patience as they learn and mess up along the way. 

“The kids sometimes come with a lot of anger or family issues and I see them do this a lot. Sometimes while they are in a lesson they will open up and break out in tears because of what is happening and how the music or lesson is impacting them and easing them from the hardships of their day,” he said. “I can give life advice while bringing it back to a musical standpoint.”

“It’s a really healthy outlet,” Morris added. “And not all kids can or want to play music but giving the ones who are interested an outlet, especially when so many of the kids are coming from difficult backgrounds, I think it’s a real positive.”

Ali hopes to eventually have a full youth band on Tuesday nights at Mission 180. 

As for all the kids, the connections have become something special to Ali, although he said they tend to forget his age.

“Sometimes they forget that I am 23 and they still think that I am 14 or something,” he laughed.

Serving the community

When 2020 hit, the concept of Mission 180 and the building were in construction.

“We knew it would take a lot of demo and a lot of work. In the meantime hoping the vision would collide,” said Morris. “Then COVID happened and whatever thought we had going kind of tanked.”

But the work didn’t stop, Morris rolled up her sleeves and got on the phone. She began calling all of the local nonprofits and churches in the area and asking questions.

“I asked them: What do you do? How can we help you with what you do? And what do you see is the greatest unmet need in our community?” Morris said. 

She met with everyone who would meet with her. The United Way, Salvation Army, Douglass Community Service, the Harvest House, FACT, and more. Morris found out what needs were out there and where they could fill in the gaps.

And around that – the vision became more clear.

They found out that while there are several food banks in the community, there wasn’t one for people who don’t have transportation, and there wasn’t food available on the weekends when everywhere is closed.

Through that they grew an emergency food bank funded by a grant through the Riedel Foundation. With help from their teen group, they started making emergency bags with two or three days worth of food and toiletries to get people over the hump until they can get to other food resources.  They will also door drop the bags for those who need it.

She also found out that there were no resources for free winter coats, so they started carrying jackets, hats and gloves and working with area school systems along with Avenues, Salvation Army and FACT who works with people just coming out of jail.. 

Working with Coyote Hill, Mission 180 is providing “I Belong” baskets, which provides a basket of personal items for kids and a meal for the family on their first night together.  

They also received help from Continental Cement to have a Winter Wonderland, which fed and celebrated local foster families while Morris and others sneaked around to place gifts in their homes and cars.

How you can help

Follow Mission 180 on Facebook to see when they are doing food drives or are in need of certain sized items of clothing. They also welcome volunteers from the community, from full time to even an hour a week for certain tasks.

They are currently working on getting a phone but until then Facebook messenger is the best way to reach them.

“Getting support from the community and them just being aware that this is for the community, I think that would be helpful to have,” Morris said. “We are open to giving people walk-throughs to see what it’s all about or other nonprofits that want to join together to do projects. Other churches as well.”

Morris said while any kind of help is appreciated, but they already have the best kind of help.

“He saw the willingness. We didn’t have a lot of finances to get anything started, we were just counting on connections. We didn’t want to go into debt for anything so it was slower than it could have been, but I feel like that paid off in the end,” she said. “The Lord has really provided and I believe He will continue as long as we stay willing.”

The sign that hung on the church when they purchased it is now part of the decor in the basement where the Morris family lives.

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