The ministry that would later be known as Mission Centers of Houston began in the 1940s when Primera Iglesia Bautista Houston established an outreach ministry for impoverished families in the Near Northside. The ministry moved into a house on Fletcher Street to become a stand-alone site, which became known as the Mexican Goodwill Center. It served as a daycare for the community and offered food assistance to needy families, especially single mothers. In 1962 the property was deeded over to the Union Baptist Association who took on the ministry, inviting churches across Houston to join in supporting the work through volunteers and donations.
It was during this initial year that Mildred McWhorter (affectionately known by the community as ‘Miss Mac’) was appointed director of the center by the Southern Baptist Convention. For the next three decades, her name would be synonymous with Baptist ministry and service in inner-city Houston. The Fletcher Center became well known for the provision of food and clothing, after-school programs for children and teenagers, senior adult programs, ESL and GED classes, Bible study classes and worship services.
Over the next 20 years the mission work in the Near Northside expanded rapidly with the addition of several buildings to become the Fletcher Center and the establishment of a second location on Gano Street, less than a mile away, which became known as the Gano Center. This location also had a building donated that would serve as a residence for visiting missionaries and youth groups who came to volunteer. A new mission work was also established in Houston’s East End – in the Magnolia Park Community on Avenue F. It became known as the Joy Center because Miss Mac said every time she went there the children all had a look of Joy on their faces when they greeted her. In 1980 the Fletcher, Gano and Joy Centers were combined under one name – Baptist Mission Centers.
After Miss Mac’s retirement the legacy she built remained intact with an emphasis on community development efforts to help fight generational poverty. An increased effort was placed on providing a platform for training college-aged missionaries who would commit to volunteer for a summer, semester or entire year. In 2007 the Gano missionary building was demolished and the Mildred McWhorter Missionary Building was built in its place to house administrative offices and a new missionary residential space. In 2008 the Board of Directors voted to change the name of the organization to Mission Centers of Houston, which opened the door for broader ministry and community partnerships.
Today Mission Centers of Houston continues to maintain close contact with the residents in the Near Northside and Magnolia Park communities through an integration-based approach, much like the model used in international mission work. Our staff members who lead the ministry work at each center are residents of their communities they serve. At each location a husband and wife team oversee the mission work, joined by family members who volunteer at the centers. This enables us to understand the needs of the community better while modeling a Christ-centered marriage and family for the community. We also recruit volunteers and additional staff from within the community to increase our understanding and enhance the trust of our neighbors.
Mission Centers of Houston has been transforming the lives of people in Houston’s inner city for nearly 60 years through the love, mercy and grace of Jesus Christ, and will continue to do so, God willing, until He returns.