The Bridge Offers Transitional Housing

Check out this newspaper article on The Bridge.


Delhi’s Dream Park

I have the privilege of serving God in Delhi, CA in response to a call from Gateway Community Church. I am called to lead a missionary team in making new disciples into a multi ethnic church in this small central California town. A small group of people from Gateway began meeting for worship, teaching, prayer, service, and outreach in Delhi in January, 2007.

Our team has connected with the community through an Easter Egg Hunt, Fourth of July celebration, block parties with the sheriff and fire department, concerts for youth, video game tournaments, Christmas Eve worship service, coffee distribution to commuters and many more activities.

An opportunity arose several months ago to take on a more ambitious community development project – to build a new park. There is an obvious need for parks in Delhi. My wife was told to leave one of the only playgrounds in town because it is on the high school property. That leaves one lackluster playground available for community use.

That got me thinking and praying about the idea of building a new park here. When I found out the school district had plans to make a piece of a campus into some kind of park setting, I asked the superintendent if we could make this into a true community project and thereby make it bigger and better. A few meetings with community and county leaders identified what some of the hurdles would be, but we were encouraged to pursue the idea. A steering committee emerged as I talked about the idea in different venues.

We began asking Delhi residents what features they would like to have in a park and what skills they could contribute to the project. This built momentum for the project, as we saw that people are not just supportive of the concept, but eager to actually be involved. People began to volunteer all sorts of skills: electrician, construction, pressure washing, civil engineering, cooking, drawing, painting, music, and on an on. Every one of these abilities will help in some way. Over 20 people have volunteered just to help with fundraising.

The steering committee adopted the name “Building Delhi’s Dream Park.” A logo was selected from a competition and a local high-school age artist made the concept into a very professional-looking logo. Building a park will be nice, and it will certainly fill a void in Delhi, but the real goal is much deeper. We hope to build community. As people dream together, contribute their skills, and work alongside one another, a sense of community emerges. People connect with one another. They get to know one another. And they think about other things the community can do together. Opportunities to talk about our wonderful God arise. It is our hope and prayer that people come to faith, and that this project acts as a catalyst, sparking many more like it.

The more exciting aspects of the park project is on hold, as we wait for the details of a Memorandum of Understanding to be worked out with the school district, which owns the property that will soon be a park. But the team is ready for action as soon as the MOU is approved in a couple months. We hope to build the park in the fall of 2008.

The lull in the park project has allowed me to focus on some other community development projects. As a corollary to the park, I began looking into the possibility of improving the skate park, which sits on the site that will become a full blown park with playground, picnic tables, and potentially even a water play area (excitement for a water play area is huge, but the cost is tremendous.

I began asking the skaters if the skate park could be improved. The answer was a unanimous yes. I organized a few meetings with the skaters to pursue it. One high schooler volunteered to write a letter, and 20-some skaters signed copies and sent them to skate companies seeking donations. Although no money had come in, the posters and stickers that a few companies have sent have encouraged the skaters to keep at it.

A young man who works at a local grocery story suggested asking his store for candy that the group could sell as a fundraiser. The owner of the closest skateboard shop said he can get new equipment made. A non-profit organization called the Land of Plenty will be sending boards for them to skate and boards for them to paint and auction off as a fundraiser. People are calling their grandparents who have connections at a lumberyard, and their uncle who built a skate park in Ripon. The snowballing involvement of these young skaters demonstrates the beauty of the Community Development process.  Even more exciting is that two of these young skaters came by my office, asked to do Bible study, and said they want to be baptized!

As I wait for the park project to pick up steam again, I am taking advantage of the time to canvass a low-income apartment complex (almost always in Spanish), asking the questions suggested by Asset Based Community Development. I will arrange follow-up meetings with residents to discuss the issues they have identified, such as safety and security, recreational opportunities for youth, and commerce and job creation. Job creation is acutely needed in Delhi. Perhaps some kind of alliance between these working class residents, business owners, and county leadership could lead to some new venture. The manager of these apartments, by the way, has talked with me about reconnecting with God after many years of running.

A pastor said about his church recently, “We’re high on brilliance, but short on execution.” The danger of dreaming but not implementing is very real for us in Delhi. My response to challenges is often to say, “I want to do something about that” I say this so often that, I run the risk of making no long-term impact in any area because our efforts are too dispersed. Focus and persistence are keys. I am finding that fruitful ministry takes lots of hard work and lots of time. The bright spots seem to show up with people I have already spoken with a dozen times, not the first time conversations. On the other hand, sometimes a door opens that I wasn’t even looking for. I’m realizing how much of a challenge it is for many people to engage in the community and build relationships, but meaningful relationships are the building block of ministry. A few of us have also sensed spiritual resistance to our presence and work, as seen in discouragement, confusion, and lack of motivation.

As the challenges grow, I become more determined to see the Lord at work in Delhi. I have a conviction in my spirit that He is indeed at work here. Knowing my own pride and ego, however, I often ask God to move here in a way that makes it impossible for me to take the credit. “[God] is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think – to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” (Eph 3:20-21).

Zeke Nelson

Assessment of Ministry Capacity

This tool is a general capacity assessment questionnaire used for congregational discovery work.

This tool is utilized within a coaching/consulting relationship. It is not intended to be a “stand alone” resource for analyzing data.

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Church Resources Survey

This tool is a survey used to find out what member gifts are present in your church, and what time people are free to volunteer.

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Community Listening and Networking Surveys

This tool is a sample of survey questions.  One contains questions for talking to communities about their neighborhood, and  the other are questions geared towards interviewing officials, organizations, and leaders for the purpose of networking.

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Community Stakeholder Interviews (Key Questions)

This tool is a basic interview template for talking with organizational stakeholders in community discovery work.

This tool is utilized within a coaching/consulting relationship. It is not intended to be a “stand alone” resource for analyzing data.

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Community Study Guide

This tool is a practical manual that guides church leaders through the basics of community assessment.  It should help leaders to understand their church’s context for ministry.

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Community Walking Exercise

This tool is an outline of a community walking exercise intended for aiding in community discovery.

This tool is utilized within a coaching/consulting relationship. It is not intended to be a “stand alone” resource for analyzing data.

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Congregational Listening: Potential Interview Questions

This tool is a basic interview template (based on Appreciative Inquiry) used for congregational discovery.

This tool is utilized within a coaching/consulting relationship. It is not intended to be a “stand alone” resource for analyzing data.

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Creating Space for Community Listening

This tool is a PowerPoint about how to create space and prepare to listen to your community. Only when you start listening to your community can you really bring about positive lasting change.

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ECN: An Initial Framework

This tool is an overview of Volunteers in Service.

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How is Your Church Engaging the Community?

This exercise gives you a quick overview of how your church is engaging the community. An accurate picture of the church’s strengths, weaknesses, and goals for outreach is useful in pointing the church toward its next steps in developing transformational community ministry.

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Church Initiated Neighborhood Transformation

This PowerPoint looks at ways and strategies for the church to initiated transformation in neighborhoods.

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Mapping Your City

Mapping out your city or town can be an important tool in effectively making a difference. Through mapping, an attempt is being made to prepare teams to be successful, and to assess the city to better understand what to do. This tool shows how to do this using Microsoft MapPoint.

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NOTE: This tool is (4.5MB) and is easier to download than to view within the browser.

Community Health Evangelism Training Curriculum Manual

This tool is a list of lessons available in the Community Health Evangelism program from LifeWind International.

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Community Score Card

This is a PowerPoint Tool that can be used to gauge the effectiveness and success of community programs such as ESL, Civics, Computer Literacy, and Building Community.

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Community Score Card Information

This tool talks about why it is a good idea to create a community score card to measure progress in development.  Examples of what to include in a community score card are also talked about.

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Ministry Inventory Guide

This tool is used to assess your church’s ministry capacity and identity.  The questions focus on local outreach.  Some questions ask about what  the church does, others focus on how and why the church engages in external ministry.

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“Neighbor” Conversations (Key Questions)

This tool is a three question template for starting “neighbor conversations” to aid in community discovery work.

This tool is utilized within a coaching/consulting relationship. It is not intended to be a “stand alone” resource for analyzing data.

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Developing Leaders For Community Transformation

This document gives some advice on what to look for in a community leader and partner.

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