[dropcap]D[/dropcap]orothy Moore was born on July 25, 1935, in Sycamore, Illinois, with more than a silver spoon in her mouth. She was the fourth and last child of a hard-working company president and a mother whose family came from a classy, well-to-do background. Her parents owned a mansion in Irvington, New York, and a summer home in Sycamore, Illinois. They were members of their city’s elite society, traveled extensively, and raised their children on a foundation of privilege.
Moore was sent to prestigious private schools where she hung around people who grew up just like she did. She admits that, with time, “I was rebellious. No one could talk to me; I wanted the freedom to do what I wanted to do.”
In the midst of all this, there was a side of her that questioned and ached for people going through difficult circumstances. It began with the black servants who worked for her family. They told her stories of the blows meted on them by racism, rejection, and poverty. Although she wasn’t conscious of it, her tap of compassion began flowing at a very early age.
After graduating from college, she moved to San Diego and worked for KCB Radio. She met her future husband Bob in her apartment complex. Unlike the other rich Ivy League boys she was used to dating, Bob was “a tough-minded West Texas boy who never really had a childhood,” she says. Six months later, on October 3, 1959, they married and moved to Texas. Married life was very difficult: Their different backgrounds and Moore’s refusal to submit to anybody, including her husband, didn’t help matters. Twelve years and four children later, she was ready to get a divorce. A timely invitation by a friend to a Bill Gothard Basic Youth Conflicts Seminar opened, ministered to, and changed her heart. Fifty-two years later, she and Bob are still joined together as one.
Accepting Christ was the beginning of a journey that took her from the country-club lifestyle to an inner-city ministry on the drug-infested streets of Old East Dallas. It was the beginning of the end of her rebellious ways and the emergence of total trust and respect, love for God and for other human beings. Moore found herself dodging bullets; being in the midst of gang wars; receiving threats from drug dealers; witnessing to battered women, abused children, and homeless people. This is the foundation on which her ministry, Reconciliation Outreach, was birthed in 1986. To date, Reconciliation Outreach has impacted more than 20,000 lives. It has a men’s and women’s residential program, prison after-care program, a charter school for low-income families, affordable housing, an after-school program for children, and a summer camp.
October this year makes it 30 years of dedicated ministry to the broken lives in East Dallas and 30 years of lives restored and a neighborhood changed.
Moore shared her remarkable story during an interview with MannaEXPRESS.
If you were 10 years old and someone had said this is what you would do with your life, would you have believed it?
I had no idea and no intention of building anything like this. This has been a gift, and it’s been really the leading of the Lord and not my own good ideas–otherwise we would have failed.
How did the Lord prompt you to start Reconciliation Outreach Ministries? Where did the raw passion come from?
You learn by what the Lord does in the lives of other people. The experience of salvation is so powerful; it is an overwhelming thing. The church doesn’t seem to have the capacity to be in the front lines where the real need and the trouble is. Going on mission trips is necessary and significant, but we have missed our back yard and the hungry, hurting people who are ready for the good news. We started on the streets. These people came and found life with us. With less resources, less hope, literally less of everything, they were open to something that can give them a reason to live.
Why the name Reconciliation?
I found out to be reconciled is to come into a right relationship. When the Lord does that for us, everything changes. When I was reconciled to Christ, I knew it and found ways to reconcile with other people despite social and economic factors.
I am trying to connect you being broken and transitioning into Reconciliation Ministries; tell us what happened.
After I got saved, I was so excited with the life I found and wanted to tell everybody. I just could not stop. The Lord spoke to me a lot, and I ran with His instructions. It started with eight street kids from a tent crusade till it grew to more than 100 of them. Many were hungry and found the reality of the love of Christ. With all this going on, I ran into a lot of inner-city women with a lot of problems from drugs, abuse, prostitution, and so forth. We started taking care of them, and a charity organization blessed us with a house to put the women in. Then with a referral from my good friend the late Freda Lindsay of Christ For The Nations Institute, a men’s group was started. We became a very odd family but were happy at the progress we were making. We built The Refuge, a place family could be restored. Four years ago, we started a charter school on our facility for the children in the inner city. We are also building a sports center for the youths to get their steam off and be safe. It will have a library also.
How many people have passed through the ministry to date? Is there one person about whom you can look back and say, this person came in a hopeless situation but today is somebody in society?
Thousands of people. It has been 25 years. There are a number of people we can point to. There is a guy whose father was shot and his brothers were in prison. No one in his family had any education. He is a first-generation Hispanic with a disabled sister. He started coming at 10 years of age. He kept coming all through the years and made up his mind, he must get an education. He got a scholarship to junior college, then SMU, finished, and is doing very well. There are more like him. Many of the children of the men and women that started out here are in the charter school today.
It takes a lot of courage and very brutal faith to do what you are doing. It also takes a unique thing called brokenness, and it can come as a result of a past experience, revelation, or passion. In your case, what spurred it?
For me, it was learning how to be a wife. I rebelled so young and chose to marry a man who was a tough, strong West Texan. In the beginning we had nothing to build our marriage on. We were not saved and both very young and ignorant. He was so strong-willed, and he pushed on my world so hard that something had to give. The fruit is there in the brokenness. The suffering, pain, and process were there for me to learn. In working in the inner city, I see a lot of people in the same situation, and once I recognize it, I am able to help them with the power and Word of God that helped me.
Can you take us back to your childhood and the age when you encountered Christ?
Although I was always in church services, the act of being broken and submitting to the Lord was at 30. Prior to this, the word submission was not in my vocabulary. I did not submit to anyone: parents, teachers, school authorities, or whoever. It took the brokenness in my life for me to be here today.
Reconciliation Outreach keeps expanding. What is the secret?
This ministry has grown, with ups and downs. God has had to teach us how to put common sense and prayer together and let them be one. The church grows as people get excited and they get on board to be a part of something bigger. Many of the people living in the midst of us have gotten royally saved and want to help their brothers and sisters who are struggling. There is a lot of sacrifice by people to serve others. The idea of serving someone else does not have a lot of charm. I did not know how it would work when I started the ministry. Jesus says it is better to give than to receive. As I began to teach that, people caught it and understood it and wanted to pass it down to someone else. Today, those who came in broken and hopeless are the ones ministering to newcomers. More than half of our staff today came in here from the streets, got transformed, and are giving back to others.
Do you think or feel like you have fulfilled the mandate of the commission the Lord gave you?
I feel very peaceful. Seven years ago, I thought the Lord was ready for me to retire because my husband was retired from the job he worked for 40 years. I thought, OK, now it is time for me to be a wife. We bought a house and moved to Denton, Texas. That little voice came back last July, and we sold our home and moved to an apartment next to the ministry. My husband is involved now, which is fun. He is a corporate lawyer doing what we love doing. I am very fulfilled if the Lord takes me home tomorrow.
I want to visit how you grew up. Were your parents devout Christians?
My mother was such a godly woman who laid her life down for her husband. My father was a wonderful man but could be very dictatorial, and that made me angry and brought about my being rebellious. I used to ask my mother why she could not stand up to him. I had a lot of confusion about the wealth I was born into. I was very privileged but did not want to marry a nice Yale boy and settle down in a nice house like people from my background did. It did not appeal to me. My father built his fortune through hard work. I liked his pioneer spirit, which was in me from the start. I was looking for God all the while but did not know it. I was a spoilt child, I was really like an only child, because my brother and sisters were 16, 15, and 12 years older than I was. I had it all to myself. Mother and Dad took me on trips on ships to Europe. I wasn’t looking for anything except to be Peter Pan for the rest of my life. It takes a wake-up call in your life to realize this is not what life is supposed to be about.
What was your wake-up call?
We had a lot of black servants in our house; I had a lot of respect for them. I watched them and saw the kind of people they were and loved them. I watched people who suffered and stood. I read a lot about heroes and heroines and admired how they did not just exist but went out and impacted people. I was not saved and was trying to do it my way, without realizing I needed God to do it for me. When I let God in, He put all the pieces together.
Coming from the country club setting to the ‘hood is a big, big leap. How was the transition?
I did not start out in the ‘hood in one day; it was a gradual process. It was the realization of turning around in my privileged life and going back to the ones left behind and bringing them to where I was. It is not about always being in front of the crowd but how you bring all the wonderful things you found and find a way to bring others to where you are.
What should we expect in the next five years?
I believe the Lord will continue to allow me to share his goodness with others. We just bought a house for men in South Dallas and did our first outreach this past weekend.
What is your message to young people?
Don’t waste it. You have been given something so precious and powerful. You people are the container of the wonder of the Lord–the wonder of His creation. The Lord wants to use you to reveal Himself. Christianity teaches that once you are broken, you turn around and take someone to where you found your answers and provide those answers to them. It’s not a matter of forced evangelism, but when you find joy and a purpose for living, you have to share it.
May Olusola is the Publisher of MannaEXPRESS.