by Jeff Heerspink
In essence that is what we are asking the people in the community to the North. On October 15, Karen Keyzer, Rich DeVries and myself headed out to knock on a few doors. What we found is that many people are not home on Sunday afternoons, but more importantly those who are home are more than willing to answer a few questions about their neighborhood.
The questions are simple.
* If you could wave a magic wand, and make one positive thing happen in the community this next year, what would it be?
* What gifts, strengths, education, talents, passion, and abilities do you have that you could offer to make this one thing happen?
* If you found out there are other people in the neighborhood who have a similar idea as you, would you consider working with them to make this one thing happen?
* How many neighbors do you know by first and last name that live near you?
By asking these four questions we find out what those in the community would like to have changed (not what we think should be changed), we find out what resources are available in the neighborhood and if people are willing to help bring change to the community they live in. Our goal is to get back to them with a letter communicating the concerns in their community and to begin to try to bring them together to bring about the changes.
The three of us split up and in an hour and a half we were able to connect with 21 people (half of one street). The three biggest concerns we found:
(1) Traffic on 14th (trying to get on Superior).
(2) Neighborhood association not having any authority to uphold rules and
(3) Lack of a community.
When I think of “community development,” I think of Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan. This is the story Jesus told when the Pharisees questioned him about who his neighbor was. Jesus highlights the reality that everyone in need is to be our neighbor and tells us that we are to do as the Good Samaritan did, by caring for people in tangible ways. Jesus concludes the parable with the statement, “Go and do likewise.” The heart of Community Development is to discover the needs and demonstrate God’s love to our “neighbors.”
We do not want to be a church that sits in a neighborhood without making any tangible effect. I believe that the church must do more to change the landscape of a community than just be a building. We need to be active and display the grace and love of God as we serve the community as a representation of Christ. Our goal is not to do all the work for this community but simply to assist them in coming together to bring about the changes that they see fit. That is why it is important that we find out not only what the problems are, but what they are willing to do about the problem and what resources are available to them.
We pray also that as we go out in the community and talk to our neighbors, they will want to know more about the church and ultimately about a relationship with Jesus Christ. Who know how God might use the efforts of His people?