Published : Wednesday, January 21, 2015 | 12:53 PM
Maranatha High School’s mission emphasizes the spiritual formation of students as an integral part of the educational experience. This spiritual growth has empowered Maranatha graduates over the years to serve their local communities and the world. One such graduate, Thomas “Tommy” Nixon ’97, co-founded Solidarity in 2002, a nonprofit organization with a vision to be Christians “that live out what we say we believe.” In order to see its vision realized, the group’s mission is “to empower believers to be dynamic followers of Christ whose lifestyle is marked by love and will impact communities towards holistic transformation.” Solidarity is a community of Christ followers who not only join with what God is doing in transforming lives in at-risk neighborhoods, but also reflect, process, and internalize how God is moving in their own lives.
Born and raised in Pasadena, Tommy credits Maranatha for giving him leadership and character-building opportunities that he likely would not have received at his local public high school. Initially, Tommy did not want to attend Maranatha. “I was focused on public school, hip hop, and urban culture. I lived in a neighborhood that was pretty rough, and I grew up getting in fights and was suspended a number of times just to survive and fit in.” The only contrast to Tommy’s school and neighborhood life was his church involvement at Lake Avenue Church. “Pastor Dave Kosher had a huge impact in my life. Dave made me the leader for the eighth grade Mexico Missions trip and also took me to camp at Hume Lake. Those experiences with God changed my life and I started seriously thinking about where I would end up and what path I would take. God changed my heart and I talked with my mom about going to MHS. With family members’ financial help and a scholarship, I was able to attend Maranatha.”
Tommy is grateful for the leadership opportunities Maranatha afforded him that shaped him into the person he is today. He has fond memories of A number of teachers who influenced his life. While at MHS, Tommy served as the Junior Vice President, as well as the Freshman and ASB President. He shares that speaking to the student body on behalf of student leadership, serving as the lead in a student production, and playing on sports teams allowed him to develop his public speaking skills and taught him to take initiative.
After graduating from Hope International University in 2001, Tommy knew that he wanted to be a missionary and searched for the right location and organization. “I knew I was at a place to submit to God’s will. One of my friends had started a Bible study called Solidarity, so I used my gifts to organize and move us into actually living out our mission as a formal organization.”
Fourteen years later, Solidarity is involved in local, national, and international initiatives. Solid Local concentrates on two low-income, predominately Latino neighborhoods in Fullerton, CA, where the members invest in afterschool programs, gang intervention and prevention, mentoring, and community development. Solid National works with congressional leaders on immigration issues to move towards comprehensive immigration reform while encouraging the faith community to consider the issue through a theological and relational lens. Solid International, via Solid Brasil, runs a street child intervention and prevention program and helps victims of sex trafficking. In 2015, Solidarity will open the first refuge house for sex trafficked victims in Sao Paulo.
Tommy currently serves as the Executive Director of Solidarity. He lives with his wife, Rachael, and four young daughters in “one of the oldest and largest gang neighborhoods in Orange County. Although it is challenging at times, it is rich with relationship and God’s movement.”
Looking ahead ten years, Tommy hopes that Solidarity will be a large part of a church renewal movement and that the Church in the United States will grow deeper with God. He believes that as Christian communities seek holistic transformation in their neighborhoods, they will see “growth in church numbers, justice, and transformed communities. But if we just focus on the byproducts, then we’ll miss the point. We say at Solidarity, that sometimes we are so busy doing the things of Jesus that we miss Jesus.”
To sustain the organization financially, Solidarity relies on a lot of prayer, charitable donations, and two businesses: SolidT (screen printing services) and SolidCoffee (coffee sales). These enterprises provide jobs and job training for Solidarity’s students and neighbors in Orange County while being a source of income for the non-profit.
In reflecting on his ministry, Tommy shares, “All I ever wanted was to work with the poorest of the poor and the most oppressed. So God put me in one of the richest places on Earth and then led me to who was hurting there. God is good to us!” To learn more about Solidarity and its church development initiatives, please visit www.solidarityrising.org.
Maranatha High School, 169 S. St. John Avenue, Pasadena, (626) 817-4000 or visit www.maranatha-hs.org.