This Is George

This Is George from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

This is a story about how simply showing someone they are needed can change their life.
Posted: Aug. 28, 2008          DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
General (3:40)
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Look Before You Leap, Listen Before You Speak

The Gospel should give us the ability to look at our community with both unflinching realism and almost ridiculous optimism. Sin has a deep, terrible and unavoidable blast radius, but Grace much more abounds and our God rains on the just and unjust. It’s way too easy to look at East Harlem and see it only as a community of great deficits. For example, our neighborhood is extremely vulnerable to the decisions people make on Wall Street causing rental prices to soar or funding cuts for much needed programs. Locally, we hear enough stories to be enraged at the ways people hurt each other in our building and across the street.
As a result, we at Open Door Fellowship are being deliberate about seeing the community with Gospel optimism as well. One practical way to do this is our community survey. It’s a valuable tool that helps us to see the assets our generous God has placed here. Several months ago, under the direction of Al Santino, the Core Team developed a community survey in order to help us:
  • Meet more of our neighbors.
  • Position ourselves as listeners, not experts with all the answers.
  • Treasure hunt for the gifts God has entrusted to people.
  • Identify trends and people’s felt needs help us discern strategic next steps for ministry.
  • Discover unique opportunities and obstacles for evangelism.

During one survey, we encountered Valerie, a woman whose compassion puts many of us to shame. She defied common stereotypes of people in public housing by adopting two children who she raised and are now in college. How did she do that against all the odds? We have a lot to learn from her. On the other hand, we also encountered Sheila, a senior citizen who, although she complains about the lack of affordable housing, maintains her large, dirt cheap, government subsidized apartment here in the projects even though she really lives in the South most of the year. Twenty-one year old Adam told me he attended a local church regularly. He was drawn to the church because, “You can come dressed regular and they treat you like family.” We’ve been enriched by many conversations we’ve had with average people and local grassroots leaders throughout the community. As we continue to use the survey tool, it will inform our planning for the next stage in our ministry.

Johnny for ODF

An Open Door for Shalom in Harlem

Dear Friends,

We thought it would be a good time to catch you up on the latest Santino venture, as well as introduce ourselves to those of you who don’t know us well. My wife Haydee, son Lorenzo and I have recently become members of a core team launching a new church in East Harlem – or “El Barrio” – the center of Puerto Rican culture in New York City. In recent years East Harlem has been growing into a community of diverse ethnicity and social class, representing much of the “flavor” of the Big Apple.

Several years ago we began asking the Lord to lead us to a church that would enable us to express our gifts and passion for community development. We especially wanted to be in a Christian Reformed Church, which would work in concert with my role as Director of Northeast Community Transformation (NECT). In His providence, the Lord reconnected me with Johnny Acevedo, who had been a long-time friend. It soon became obvious that the Acevedos and the Santinos shared a common vision for a church that would be engaged in its community as a good neighbor working to represent God’s Kingdom in word and deed. This reconnection helped catalyze Johnny and Melanie becoming church planters with the CRC and thus Open Door Fellowship was born.

Haydee, a native of the Dominican Republic, has served as a middle school teacher and math coach at PS/MS 15 in the Bronx for 14 years. Her dedication to seeing her students excel is evident in the lives of many who overcame personal difficulties and have gone on to be successful in high school, college and vocation. She envisions leading an after school program as well as a ministry to the single mothers. My own desire is to connect with residents and help them come together as a community of responsible citizens addressing social needs and justice issues. Our son Lorenzo is a first grader at Manhattan Christian Academy. He loves learning piano, Little League baseball, trains, and the city life. He has recently been wrestling with the deeper issues of his heart and what God is all about. He is becoming a good example to his classmates and friends.

In this new and challenging venture we see a wonderful opportunity to share the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We want to be used by the Lord to lift up the name of Jesus especially to the least of these…people who are broken and oppressed who need the healing of our Lord in body, soul and spirit. Open Door Fellowship will indeed be an open door for God’s shalom to come upon East Harlem.

Building the Church’s Readiness

Read Heidi Unruh’s essay:

Building The Church’s Readiness For A Transformational Ministry Journey (PDF)

In this essay she looks at what makes some churches transformational to their communities and what makes others complacent.


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