Taurus Montgomery [Photo courtesy of the Lake Union Herald]

General Conference

Church Hosts Event to Combat Violence in Its Community

Following an uptick in gun violence in Benton Harbor, Michigan, including the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old last summer, Taurus Montgomery, pastor of the Harbor of Hope Church, knew he and the church could not remain on the sidelines.

United States | Jharony Fernandez-Gibbs

Last weekend, June 10–13, the Harbor of Hope Church held The Final Play, an event that brought families together to set the tone for a positive, productive, and peaceful summer in the city of Benton Harbor, Michigan.

“Instead of sitting back and complaining about the youth, we decided to do something—” said Taurus Montgomery, who has pastored the church for almost nine years and lives with his family in the economically depressed community, “something that will showcase opportunities that are available to the youth, set the tone towards preventing an uptick of summer violence, unite [the] community and leaders around the shared goal of youth empowerment, and spread love and hope throughout the city.”

More than Basketball

The basketball-and-faith, four-day event had several components: exhibit booths, giveaways, community service,a talent show, food vendors, and community grants. There were representatives from more than 20 organizations sharing information on health and wellness, financial literacy, education, and other topics with attendees.

Each evening, there was also an episodic stage play centered around a young man going into the summertime; he had talents and abilities but faced a challenging environment.

Community Grants

Teams in the charity basketball tournament competed for a $1,000 prize and a chance to donate $2,500 to the charity they each represented. The organization with the most social media shares received the first pick of the basketball team to represent them. The Benton Harbor mentoring organization 400 Men had the first pick and chose Benton Harbor All-Stars, which placed second in the tournament. The organization was awarded $1,500. Peace of Life of Benton Harbor chose the Oakwood University team, and they placed first. Peace for Life was awarded $2,500. The African American History Museum of Benton Harbor received a $1,000 community grant.

Community Outreach

The Community Impact portion consisted of participants going to Family Dollar, Phillips 66 gas station, Marathon gas station, Kartar Foods, and a barbershop to bless community residents with free groceries, gas, and haircuts, as well as free prayers, of course.

A Large Number of Volunteers

The Harbor of Hope Church was able to execute this event, which attracted over 400 attendees, by utilizing the skills of over 100 volunteers and a planning committee that met over the course of nine months.

The committee consisted of Pastor Montgomery as basketball operations coordinator, Nicole Montgomery as registration coordinator, Shannon Trecartin as project manager, Ricco Ruiz as logistic and outreach coordinator, Russell Robbins as security coordinator, Willis Byas as parking coordinator, Rayneau Victor as media coordinator, and Jharony Fernandez-Gibbs as evening program coordinator.

“This was on the level of March Madness, Oshkosh, and Tyler Perry!” said Fernandez-Gibbs.

Trecartin remarked that it was obvious that God had picked very specific people with complementary skills to make the event a success. “And as a side,” she said, “planning The Final Play really revived my relationship with God. It reminded me of the excitement that comes when you dedicate your time and talents to God and blessing His children.”

Decision for Baptism

One of the players, a young man named Napoleon, made a decision to follow Christ. He had been attending Harbor of Hope before the pandemic and was glad they were once again engaging with the community.

Community’s Response

Diane Young, a local influencer, said she was impressed with the high degree of professionalism and wrote the following on social media: “Thank you Taurus Montgomery and supporters for the grants awarded to some amazing groups working to make our community a better place to live and work. The exhibit booths, the networking, the basketball tournaments, the praise team, and the stage play were such a blessing to Benton Harbor. But what touched me, even more, was the young man wanting something different, wanting a better life, wanting to be saved. Thank you, Jesus!”

Another Final Play event is planned for next June. If you want to know how you can get involved or learn more, visit: https://www.onefinalplay.com/