Baylor graduates who helped found Mission Waco 30 years ago reunite at the home of Jimmy and Janet Dorrell

WACO, Texas (KWTX) – Baylor University students from over 30 years ago met for the first time ever this weekend in a North Waco apartment building in the same living room where they helped create Mission Waco, a nonprofit organization that has helped thousands of poor and marginalized people in Central Texas.

Jimmy and Janet Dorrell, founders of Mission Waco in 1992, invited the original students back and said they naturally founded Mission Waco and later Church Under the Bridge, a facility that provides a place for people from all walks of life, including the homeless, to worship.

More than 40 of the original founders from 30 years ago came to the reunion and met at the Dorrells’ house where it all began.

“It was an amazing weekend,” said Jimmy. “We had so much fun.”

The students who traveled to the city are now in their late 40s to early 60s.

Jimmy said they were a mix of everything from doctors to psychiatrists.

Jimmy remembers it was an experience he and his wife had nearly half a century ago that changed their attitude toward helping the poor.

“About 47 years ago, Janet and I came back from a trip around the world to see the poor of the world and work among them for about 4 ½ months,” Jimmy recalled. “We returned to Waco to live and felt that we just couldn’t get back into middle class America. So we moved to a poorer neighborhood here in Waco and started loving and caring for our neighbors.”

Jimmy and Janet received help from Baylor and seminary students.

“Over the years, we have been fortunate to have literally hundreds of Baylor and seminary students come and work with us to help the local poor,” Jimmy said. “Many of these students have traveled with us all over the world, to Haiti, Mexico City and India, and many have participated in our poverty simulation where they become poor for 42 hours.”

He said the now city-wide and global initiative began with setting up a basketball hoop in their North Waco home.

“We started something we called the King’s Club for the neighborhood kids by building a basketball court,” Jimmy said. “And then their moms and families would come and talk. Then we started a Sunday night Bible study, which became increasingly popular.”

Mission Waco now has several different missions that serve thousands of people in Central Texas and beyond.

The group took a tour of Waco and was able to see first-hand the fruits of their labor.

They visited the Jubilee Food Market, which provides healthy, affordable food to residents of a neighborhood in northern Waco that has become a food desert.

Before the market opened in 2016, residents had to walk over three kilometers just to get to the grocery store.

They also had breakfast at the World Cup Café & Fair Trade Market, which opened in 2006 on North 15th Street in Colcord. The café is designed to provide a place for North Waco residents to socialize with middle-class people while training men and women in the food industry. The market features unique gift items from around the world that help provide a living wage for people worldwide.

Jimmy said the meeting was unforgettable.

“Over the years, 30 years later, these children have returned to Waco to celebrate those years together with us and to see the work of Mission Waco and Church Under the Bridge. We have continued to love the poor and empower them to become all that God created them to be,” said Jimmy.

Jimmy has retired from his role at Mission Waco, but remains co-founder and president emeritus of Mission Waco Mission World.