Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Community (Slowly) on the Rise

By Rodger Dean Duncan

As part of our public affairs work on our mission, we need to get acquainted with the community here in Waco. Although a lot seems familiar to me, much has changed in this community since I was a Baylor student some 50 years ago. For one thing, the town is much larger than it was then. And, like many communities across the nation, especially in the southwest, Waco is much more diverse that it was a couple of generations ago. As you'd expect, the Hispanic influence is especially prominent here.

We enjoy driving around town, simply exploring. One thing that is readily apparent is the widespread poverty all across McLennan County. There seems to be quite a bit of new construction (as we see everywhere we go in Texas), but the poverty is nevertheless apparent throughout much of Waco.

Pat Neff Hall, Baylor's administration building. My senior
year I had an office on an upper floor where I assisted one
of my professors (the fabulous Lois Smith Murray) as she
wrote Baylor at Independence, the school's early history.
Like many cities across America, Waco is clearly making an effort to "upgrade." Baylor University is leading the way. When I attended school here, the Baylor campus was an oasis surrounded by what was known as "shanty town." One of the old houses where I rented an apartment my sophomore year was built in the 1880s and had very little insulation. Today, the Baylor campus has expanded to several times its original size and is absolutely one of the most magnificent campuses I've ever seen. (A Baylor education has always been pricey, but it really seems so today. Current cost of an undergraduate degree here is about $50,000. Per year.)

For anyone who's interested in seeing more about Baylor University (which we expect to play a major role in our missionary work here) click on to see a brief video. On that same page, you can see additional videos. They're well worth the look.

Much of the "upgrading" in Waco's downtown area is obviously intended to attract people who might otherwise never even venture in that direction. For example, a lot of very old buildings beside the Brazos River have been repurposed as trendy restaurants and shops. Some of the old manufacturing buildings have been transformed into new lots, apartments, and condos. Waco suffered a devastating tornado in 1953, and the recovery took many years. Today there is some "fresh blood" in various community circles, and this new thinking is beginning to manifest itself. A relatively new organization called Prosper Waco is one evidence of this, and we expect this proactive approach will help accelerate the growth that needs to take place here ... not just in terms of business and commerce, but in terms of how people take charge of their own destinies. Our intention is to help with that latter effort.

The Waco Downtown Farmers Market is open every 
Saturday, rain or shine, throughout the year
On Saturday we visited the Waco Downtown Farmers Market. We love the farmers market in our hometown of Liberty, Missouri. It's on the town square each Saturday morning from May through October. The farmers market in Waco is every Saturday through the entire year.  It draws agricultural producers and artisan vendors from within 150 miles of Waco. On Saturday it was a great place to pick up some fresh produce. It also afforded us a chance to visit with some of the locals. Our missionary tags continue to make for good conversation starters.
One of the many great views at Waco's Cameron Park.

We've also taken some some nice walks in Waco's famous (seriously) Cameron Park. It's recognized as one of the "Top 50 Trails in America." The 400-acre park, right in the middle of town, is located on the confluence of the Brazos and Bosque Rivers. Winding up and down the park's ever-changing terrain are more than 20 miles of trails. The beautiful views range from 100-foot cliffs to bamboo forests to cedar groves. We look forward to taking further advantage of this in the upcoming spring.

We met Hippo, mascot of the
restored Hippodrome Theatre
that features classic movies
and live performances.
This past week we observed three family birthdays (one grandson and two sons-in-law). These reminded us how much we miss our loved ones. But staying busy keeps us focused on others. We're especially gratified by the response to the teaching we're doing. This includes an upcoming baptism. We'll report more about that later.

We are grateful for so many things. As mentioned previously, one of those is the technology that enables us to stay in relatively close touch with our family. Facebook, Instagram, email, texting, and phone calls keep us fairly up-to-date on our children and grandchildren ... even those living in Italy and those who travel elsewhere throughout Europe.

Thanks again for those friends who take the time to drop us notes and emails. We love hearing from you. In addition to sending us your news, tell us what you'd like us to report in this blog.

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