Shelter A Bridge to Independence

Here’s a newspaper article on The Bridge:

Shelter A Bridge To Independence

Kingdom Causes Receives Letter of Appreciation

Dear Kingdom Causes,

I wanted to take a moment to express my deep gratitude to you for helping to make our District-wide Middle School Math Madness and English Extravaganza competitions a tremendous success.  Thanks in large part to your efforts, our students were treated to a first-class event to recognize their hard work in the classroom.  By providing valuable volunteer services, as well as nutritious snacks for this memorable day, your time, talent and treasures provided the foundation for an unforgettable academic competition for over 800 students and their families.

By all accounts, this year’s academic competitions exceeded everyone’s expectations.  Countless family members joined students, staff and community members to cheer-on our students.  While we have been fortunate to enjoy this high level of enthusiasm and participation for athletic events, I know you will agree that it is inspiring to see this type of support and encouragement for students who are determined to be champions in the classroom as well.

Thank you again for being an integral part of our District-wide Middle School Math Madness and English Extravaganza Competitions.  This wonderful event simply could not have come together without the determination of dedicated community partners, such as Kingdom Causes.  I am quite confident that the smiles on students’ and families’ faces, and the sense of pride that comes from participating in such a unique event, will remain with us all for a very long time to come.  We look forward to working with your organization again, as we continue to provide world-class education for every student, every day.

Gwendolyn H. Mathews, Ph.D
Assistant Superintendent

Visit Kingdom Causes website by clicking here.

Visit Kingdom Causes: Longbeach blog here.

Visit Kingdom Causes: Longbeach website here.

Marriage Turn Around

Yesterday a couple who went through the, Healthy Marriage class shared their story with me. The week we started the classes at Baker, they were planning on splitting up and going their own ways (leaving of course behind a small child). They got a flyer from Mika about the marriage classes that very same day they were fighting and planning to divorce.
They thought for a moment and decided that they would make attending this couples seminar their last effort. Four weeks went by, they successfully finished the classes and after they saw a big improvement in their relationship. They later decided to attend the El Camino Church adjacent to Harbor Trinity Church, where the class was held.

Finally two weeks ago, they came to the conclusion that they both needed Jesus in their lives and now they’re so happy and are planning to be baptized soon.

Walter Garcia

Visit MIKA Community Development Corporation’s website by clicking here.

Visit the MIKA blog by clicking here.

Háblame Class

Last week’s Háblame (Reciprocal Language Class) was a blast! In each class we pair up people who want to learn English with people who want to learn Spanish and empower them to teach each other on the weekly teaching theme. Our instructor, Aura, does a great job preparing both language learners with words and phrases during the first part of class and then we practice in pairs for the second half.

There’s something very humbling about learning language. You can hear sheepish laughs as each partner tries to pronounce words in the language their learning, but later they’re the one teaching their partner. It’s beautiful to see everyone at the same level teaching, learning & having fun with someone they don’t usually cross paths with outside of the class.

Last week we had a great time learning words and phrases that would help us go grocery shopping for Thanksgiving. I never new that “relleno” meant stuffing. This week we will learn basic conversation skills, vocabulary and phrases that could be used in a parent/teacher meeting.

Chrissy Padilla Visit the Kingdom Causes Bellflower blog by clicking here.

Solid House for Boys Update

As the boys are growing older (more than half are now in junior high), it has been both rewarding and challenging to watch their interests change along with their ages.  Issues like skateboarding, girls and parties frequent our conversations more than ever before, revealing their growing need for acceptance and to fit in.

Since the start of the school year, the boys have had the opportunity to participate in many activities in, and outside of, the neighborhood.  These have included building skate ramps, fishing at the Newport Beach Pier, and exhibiting culinary creativity by cooking meals with items exclusively from the 99¢ store.

Since the start of the Solid House, it has been the same six boys who have been involved.  There have been certain occasions in which other kids would join us, but never permanently.  Javier, a local junior higher that wasn’t an original Solid House boy, began coming around more often during our weekly meetings this summer.  I could not make myself tell him not to come; over time his presence just fit sort of naturally.  We began to serve up an extra plate of food and make extra room in the van when going on trips.  I guess you could say he has sort of joined the group.  There was no official introduction or talk with the other boys, but I found it impossible to turn away someone so obviously starving for attention and/or a different routine.

Please pray for Javier.  He is constantly forced to deal with issues that no thirteen-year-old kid should ever have to face.  Please pray for the other boys as well, as they approach some of the most awkward stages of their lives.

Matt Anderson, Solid House Boys Director/Teen Center Director

Visit Solidarity’s website by clicking here.

For more on the author click here.

Setting the Table: A Community Working Together

By Bethany Dudley 
Just South of Chicago is the small city of Sauk Village.  The residents of Sauk Village consist of families who have been there for generations and those who have recently moved South after being pushed out of Chicago. The word around town is that the youth of the city are bored and lacking in guidance.
There are many different sectors of the city that would like to “fix the problem,” many who believe they have the answers.  There are politicians, police officers, those in the religious community, community groups, concerned citizens and NPOs who all have ideas for starting programs for the youth.
In many cities these groups would each start their own individual programs addressing an issue, not really aware of what the others are doing.  Sauk Village is different.
While recognizing that there is a need they also acknowledge that they have great resources in each other and in Sauk Village itself to address this need.  Instead of working individually, representatives from each of these sectors of the city have agreed to come together and listen to each other, to the youth and to the community.
I was privileged to be invited to the table as the group met for the first time two weeks ago.  The excitement in the room grew as each person shared assets they see in Sauk Village.  Each person had a unique perspective to give and had fun sharing it with the group.  When the suggestion was made that they meet again in a month the group decided that a month was too long and are now meeting every two weeks.
Sauk Village is at the beginning stage of transformation.  They are beginning to understand the power of community listening and ownership.  It will be exciting to watch this city work together to bring about their desired future.

A Story of Transformation

The story of Joy and Jose:

Joy came to Winton LifeLine Community Center in need of emergency food. In the past the center gave out food to hundreds of people as they were standing in line, but we realized that this ‘quick fix’ made us feel good but really did not help the people look at their preferred future.

So, we changed our approach. We still help with emergency food, but not without hearing people’s stories, learning about their plans and dreams and passion and encouraging them to take the next step.

As we listened to Joy’s story we learned that her Hispanic husband had been laid off, that his 3 children often spend time at their home and the she was pregnant with their first baby.  Joy is a very articulate young woman and we could see that there was so much more there about her, then just her need for food. When Joy missed the bus to get her GED we helped her and in turn got invited to her graduation where she beamed with pride.

While Joy grew up on welfare, she was determined not to become another statistic. We encouraged her to go to college and pursue her dreams and helped with gas money at times. Various government agencies also saw her potential and helped her get enrolled.

We also invited Joy to be part of our Community Garden and she was so excited to be able to get fresh fruits and vegetables for the family.

During her time at the community garden she connected with the Loren & Barbara, the farmers who provided the land. They mentored her in various aspects: how to appreciate God’s creation and care for it, how and when to grow the plants, how to prepare and store them, how to use spices. During this time a lot of personal mentoring and encouraging took place.  Everybody enjoyed this growing friendship and learned from each other.

When Joy comes home from her weekly trips to the garden, she shares the fruit of her labor with her neighbors who in turn share some of their goods with her. Together they decided that they could have some vegetables in their own little apartment complex.

Joy heard about the Master Gardener Program and is planning to go through the training so that she can share with others what she has learned and give back to the community. She is dreaming and planning for a big community garden in Winton.

Over time she received other items through various agencies and groups (diapers, furniture, clothing) and she noted that many of her neighbors did not speak English and had a difficult time getting the help that they need. We started talking about starting a Spanish/English class. Some of us would learn Spanish and others English, building a bridge between the Hispanic and Anglo community.

During these tough economic times Joy and Jose are at times in need of help, but that does not hinder her from helping others in her community, building bridges between races and working with her neighbors to transform her apartment complex.  They share groceries and receipts, exchange clothing, help each other when in need and enjoy a growing community.

While it all started with the need for groceries it sure went much further than that!

Monika Grasley

Improving Our Serve: What We’ve Learned Through Service Sundays

Our church in Shoreline, Washington, wanted to be more involved in our community.  We didn’t necessarily want to create a new program or event that would draw our neighbors into our church.  We wanted our members to get out into the surrounding neighborhood and build relationships.

We held our first “Service Sunday” in March of 2008, where church members went out in teams on a Sunday morning to help out neighbors in very practical ways.  We’ve had two other Service Sundays in June and August, on days when there was a fifth Sunday in the month.  Reflecting on our three experiences, we’re thankful we were led to dive into this sometimes uncomfortable approach and we praise God for the developing connections and relationships that are taking place.

We’re glad to share some of the things we’ve learned:

We meet for worship at the same time as usual, so visitors don’t come to an empty church.  Our worship service is short, albeit enthusiastic.  Within half an hour, members are gathering into their teams and heading out to their jobs.  The list of jobs (18 projects for about 130 participating members.) includes tasks that could always use an extra hand (such as garbage picking or pulling weeds out of the community forest) so that any last-minute person could join in.

There are about two and a half hours allotted for our various jobs.  We need plenty of time to help encourage our goal of relaxed, fun relationship building.  It’s also important to have enough time to complete the task well.

As teams finish their jobs, they head back to the church.  Several teams have remained in the church building: for prayer, to do indoor projects (like assembling first aid kits for our sister church in Africa) and to prepare our meal.  We gather together for lunch, having learned to begin the meal even if a few straggling teams haven’t finished up yet.

During these meals, conversation is buzzing and enthusiasm and story-telling are at their all-time high.  It’s a delightful time.  Recipients of our tasks (and any people we’ve met along the way) are invited to join us.

Our first Service Sunday meals were potlucks.  Everyone brought more than enough to serve extra people and it worked just fine.  We got the feeling, however, that many un-churched people were not used to the idea of a potluck and felt uncomfortable with the idea.  Our third Service Sunday was a large BBQ lunch, with church members frying up burgers and hot dogs, providing a more familiar palate and environment for everyone involved.

We concluded our first Service Sunday with an afternoon worship service right after lunch.  It was intended especially as time of singing, sharing and praising God for His presence.  We were quickly aware of how uncomfortable some of our visitors were with this approach.  Not only were they unfamiliar with the songs, but they were unsure of what would happen next – as if they suddenly lost their trust in us and worried that we were about to Evangelize.  As well, the sharing time turned into some playful team competitiveness, with an air of our great ability to interact with our neighboring heathens.  We decided to cancel the service and to instead simply allow the lunch to linger.  This meal time has become a highlight for many people – there’s evidence of relationship building in true fellowship void of cliques.

The Jobs:
The church members who volunteer to set up our jobs have been very organized – and they really need to be.  Getting 130 people out the door with the tools they need is a big job.  We’ve chosen to include both public and private jobs, and appreciate the balance this provides.  Public jobs include picking garbage along city streets and trails, cleaning up school yards and pulling weeds from the local park.  Private jobs include projects for particular neighbors: weeding, painting, washing windows, hauling out backyard junk, etc.

Each team has an appointed leader who takes the initiative with the assigned job.  S/he often makes contact with the recipient before Service Sunday and lets the members of the team know what tools they’ll need to take along.  Team leaders arrive early, are sure to have members sign any necessary city waiver forms, and hand out t-shirts.

We chose to buy t-shirts for a number of reasons, and we’re glad we did.  They build cohesiveness and add enthusiasm.  T-shirts get handed out by team leaders and are promptly returned to be washed and stored for the next Service Sunday.  We’ve kept them simple, with our church name on the front and the words “neighbors helping neighbors” on the back.  A surprising, but big benefit to our matching t-shirts is that other people recognize us as a group and feel more comfortable approaching us.  An organized group seems more trustworthy than a collection of random individuals.

Another expense we’ve had with Service Sundays is the dumpster rental.  We bring a large garbage and yard waste dumpster onto our parking lot so we can completely take away the trash or weeds we haul out of someone’s yard.  People are very appreciative and we often give church members and other neighbors a chance to add to the dumpster for a few days before they’re hauled away by the city.

At first, menial jobs like picking garbage were meant to be replaced by more meaningful tasks.  But some wonderful stories have come from teams in these jobs.  Although not officially signed up to work with any neighbors, they always end up meeting people and engaging in interesting discussions.  We’re planning to keep our menial tasks!

Many of our jobs return to the same places or people at the next Service Sunday.  These ongoing relationships are most exciting.  Not only are we getting to know our neighbors, but they are connecting with other neighbors through us.  And when we return to the local park to pull weeds, it’s great to know that we’re making a visible difference in our community.  Often church members continue developing these new relationships on their own, stopping to visit a neighbor they helped out or to attend a community park clean up.

We’re so excited about this avenue of service and outreach.  By serving our neighbors in this way, we’re developing relationships and creating a connectedness throughout our neighborhood!  It’s been an exciting journey – praise God!

Erika Bakker

To find out more about 1st Seattle CRC and their Service Sundays click here.

Neighbor Has a Changed Perspective of Church!

Juan is the owner of the apartment I live in.  In the beginning of summer in 2008, Juan and other neighbors came together to criticize the local church, Long Beach First Friends Church (LBFC), in the neighborhood. They did not like homeless neighbors being in their neighborhood.  The church listened to their concerns and set up greeters and security at the church to gather the homeless neighbors into the church building.
Later in the summer, LBFC started to work in the neighborhood.  Somatra and I moved into Juan’s apartment building and started building relationships with him and the other neighbors.  He has been asking us about the events at the church.  Recently, he has been making repairs to the apartment and has been hiring some of the homeless neighbors to help with repairs.
Juan started to share his resources with other neighbors such as giving tools to Ray another neighbor.  It seems his relationship with the church has been reconciled.  He sees the church as an asset to the community and is, also, willing to contribute.  He also says that Somatra and I are his best tenants.

Susana Sngiem

A New Kind of Expression

To live out the Great Commission is to live out our Christianity beyond the Sunday morning church service. Bearing witness is to embody Christ and publicly testify to him everywhere we find ourselves. But witnessing is not enough—we are called to make disciples, to actually help in the furthering of God’s Kingdom on earth by growing more Christians (followers and worshippers of Christ) and we are called to do this in all nations.

The Greek word used for “nation” is ethnos which means race or tribe. Jesus is saying that this gospel is to be shared beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem, to wherever people are, regardless of their race or tribe. For the In, For, and With Community Church Network, the Great Commission’s expression takes on some unique forms, one of which is the Community Liaison program.

A community liaison can be an In, For, and With the Community Church participant or a neighbor who is not a Christian but lives in our local neighborhood. Their goal is to have a designated number (say 10) “listening conversations” during the course of a month. These conversations are held with neighbors and the purpose is to find out what that neighbor is interested in seeing different in the neighborhood and how they’d like to participate in making that difference happen.

There are three questions asked of the neighbor: if you could make one good thing happen in the next year in this neighborhood, what would it be; what skills, strengths, assets, or abilities do you have to contribute to making this one thing happen; and if there are others in the neighborhood who desire to see the same thing happen, would you work with them to fulfill that good thing.

This community development practice calls neighbors into action for the good of the community and has tremendous implications on the neighborhood. Here the church does not as much “do for” the neighborhood as it really acts as a catalyst for what is already in the neighborhood. This may not be direct disciple making per say, but it does call the church to “go” and for the community liaisons who are not Christians, it calls them to recognize the church as valuing the very places they “go” to. In a sense, for the church to develop and operate a community liaison program is to practice theologies of place, neighbor, and community with no strings attached thus our love for God and neighbors is personified in community development work.

For information on Roosevelt Community Church visit their website by clicking here.

Mrs. Stewart

Mrs Stewart came to us in the spring of 2008 requesting help with home repair. She had a hole in her bathroom floor that was preventing her from using the bathroom. We interviewed her and assessed her needs. We realized that she was in an unsafe living arrangement. There was an infestation of roaches and rats, as well as extreme filth in the home. We would only be able to help her if she was willing to help herself along side of us to completion of all her needs.

She agreed to allow us in to her house on a limited basis. At this time Mrs Stewart was a very angry person who really didn’t want us there, but needed help to get the bathroom fixed. We began with the help of a team of teens who wanted to serve in the community by cleaning out her house. Over the course of the first week there was a lot of tension and on one occasion we were thrown out of the house as Mrs Stewart had a temporary change of mind. We just continued to show her love.  Slowly and (three dumpsters later) we began to see a difference in the countenance of Mrs Stewart and on about day five we had a breakthrough with her. She stopped resisting our efforts to help restore her home to a livable situation.

From there we began to see a difference in her. She started to communicate with the workers, instead of them praying for her, she asked them could she pray for them, this was huge. Also instead of her watching them work she began to work along side of them. One day something very significant happened, She smiled. As each day went on over the summer we saw more of Mrs.Stewart come out. We began to see smiles, hugs, and one day flowers we found her out planting flowers.   She began to interact with her neighbors, she started to share a lot of her possessions with them, people wanted to know what was going on with Mrs Stewart and she was more than happy to tell them. As we saw more of her come out we realized that there was a long history of service and work before she had a bout with cancer.  Her identity changed, it became marred to the opposite of what it was originally. At one time she told me she was the community outreach coordinator for her church and they used to feed 900 people a year!! This was amazing because when we met her there was no sign of this person.

After a few more weeks the workers no longer needed masks to be in her home, Mrs. Stewart says “You all have given me my life back. I have never seen Christians behave this way”. Then she says: “I want to help y’all do for others what you did for me”. BINGO. Now Mrs Stewart has agreed to be our first Ambassador of HOPE for her Street. She wants to take her street back and infect her community with positive changes. We are still walking with her and her husband. The last time I saw her I noticed she had gotten another car. I asked her what she needed another car for, her husband was sick and retired and they had the one car that they both used. Neither used it much. She told me (very matter of factly) she was a missionary too!!! She needed her own car to do her missionary work, Unbelievable! So she has made herself available to us as a volunteer, she actually just agreed to help us by impacting the lives of the young mothers through a once a month gathering that is about to launch in the community. This is a very short account of our dealings with Mrs Stewart, but it has been a pleasure to see her life change and now as a result we are anxious to  give her the support she needs and cheer her on as she leads the charge transforming her community.

Travis C Upton

For more information on Hope for the Inner City click here for their website.

Five Loaves Farm: 3rd CRC Lynden

Last spring, though the rains incessantly continued, the days were lengthening and we broke ground on the backyard.  Our church was trying something new.  We planted a garden.

As the tiller chewed the sod, with optimism, I wondered where this was leading us.  Our hope was to bring our church outside the walls, bringing church members, neighbors, and the community together in some small way.

The idea was to accomplish that through tending the soil, creating a beautiful space, and sharing the bounty.  While we somewhat blindly felt our way through the first growing season, it worked.  Five Loaves Farm brought together people from our church, neighbors, and those in need.

One evening while we harvested produce to distribute to the neighbors, a family who often walked by the garden showed a strong interest in our activities.  They walked through the garden with tons of questions.  The mother and father – who spoke no English – pointed and smiled at the different plants.  The son and daughter asked about the artichokes and told how their mother uses different foods in her traditional Indian dishes.  After several minutes of conversation and sharing stories they joyfully continued their walk with a bag overflowing with tomatoes, squash, beans, and peppers.  We went back to our harvest.

An hour later, a car drove up and the son jumped out with a bag of Swiss chard.  He handed me the bag with a smile stating that, with gratitude, they wanted to share with us something from their home garden.  Perhaps next year, I’ll taste one of his mother’s meals.

Dave Timmer

Community Toy Store 2008: Roosevelt Community Church

The Community Toy Store has completed its third year of service to the community at large, thanks in large part to neighbors and neighborhood institutions that have an invested interest in helping families through the holidays.  Wanting to provide a help up instead of a hand out.

You see, typically the way community responds to need during the Christmas season is to give things away, especially toys.  Families in need are given toys for their children which makes the children happy but leaves the parents with a feeling of low self worth.

Our goal through the toy store has always been to provide a way in which parents can provide toys for their children but at a reduced cost.  We take brand new donated toys and sell them at 70% of there purchase price.  All of the proceeds then go to two non-profits that are already working with many of these families, The Whatcom Dream (Teaches financial skills classes to poverty families) and Rebound of Whatcom County (Works with at risk youth, single moms, and low income families).

So, by design the Community Toy Store not only helps low income or financially struggling families through the Christmas season but also completes the cycle of neighbors and neighborhood institutions coming together.

The planning for the Toy Store began in earnest towards the end September with the church (Roosevelt Community Church and Northwest Community Church) partnering with Rebound to make the Community Toy Store bigger and better than ever before.

The results?
Over a dozen neighborhood institutions (from churches to the Prosecutors Office to Starbucks) working to collect toys, a neighborhood private school donating the space to host the Toy Store, a neighborhood church donating its basement to store the toys leading up to the Toy Store, over $6,000 in toys donated, 35 volunteers logging collectively over 200 hours to make the Community Toy Store a reality.  We served over 80 families on a Friday night and Saturday morning.

Some of the highlights:
One single mom was so excited that she was able to provide toys for her two children that she stayed an additional hour after she was done shopping so that she could volunteer as a gift wrapper.  In fact, we had at least three moms that shopped at the Community Toy Store and then volunteered in whatever capacity they could.  One single mom remarked “Without this I wouldn’t be able to provide for my family.” Another couple commented “We can’t wait until we are in a position (financially) to donate to the Community Toy Store because it has meant so much to us over the last couple years.”

For more information on the Community Toy Store Click Here.

For more information on Roosevelt Community Church Click Here.

Baron Miller – Roosevelt Community Church Pastor

Down and Dirty – Service Sunday

The most impressive stories came just after our first Service Sunday this last March.  This event was a new experience for us all; mobilizing the whole church on a Sunday morning to serve our neighbors by using teams and trucks to clean up the schools, homes and parks nearby.
We really didn’t know what to expect.  Needless to say, much prayer and planning preceded the event.  Two hours after a brief but energizing worship service, the workers returned from their sites of service; sweaty, dirty, but glowing with the presence of the Lord.  Not one complaint was heard even though it was during the hottest time of the day and some of the teams encountered overwhelming heaps of home owner accumulation.
One mother of young children came directly up to me upon returning from her work site.  She spoke with wonder and excitement how the dynamics of Service Sunday provided a rewarding experience that everyone in her family and the church family could participate in, both young and old.  This was a fresh experience to her.
Another member remarked how she appreciated that the church members did not choose but were assigned to a team.  As a result, she had a rich experience getting to know her team members as they worked side by side.   She also observed at the Service Sunday potluck, people sat with other members that were not part of their customary “church cluster”.  At the potluck, where homemade food overflowed, the volume of conversation and laughter was an affirming sign of good times had by all.

Sarah Zerkel

The Power of With: Marilyn Stranske Plenary

The Power of With: Marilyn Stranske Plenary from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

This is Marilyn Stranske’s plenary from The Power of With Conference 2009. Marilyn addressed how the church can be WITH communities using stories from her own experiences.
Posted: Mar. 23, 2009         DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
General (57:45)                   (171.6 MB)
To download Quicktime right click (control-click for Mac) on the “DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME” text and choose “Save Target As,” “Save Link As,” or “Download Linked File.”

The Power of With: Doug Pagitt Plenary

The Power of With: Doug Pagitt Plenary from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

This is Doug Pagitt’s plenary from The Power of With Conference 2009. Doug addressed how the church can be relevant in today’s culture.
Posted: Mar. 18, 2009         DOWNLOAD VIDEO
General (1:22:57)                (219.6 MB)
To download the Video right click (control-click for Mac) on the “DOWNLOAD VIDEO” text and choose “Save Target As,” “Save Link As,” or “Download Linked File.”

Bellflower Churches Acknowledged by Caring Connections

Caring Connections is a network of school caseworkers, teachers, organizations & churches in Bellflower.  The group meets monthly to discuss community events, train on a local resource or skills that can help our community and share stories of how we’re working together to address the needs in our city.  The meetings are held at the BUSD school board room.

For the last two meetings our local churches have received special recognition for how they are helping families with food and support during these hard economic times.  This morning the group collected canned goods to help support the local church food pantries.

Also, this morning the following churches were recognized for their tutoring programs that help the Bellflower Unified School District:

  • Bellflower Brethren
  • Bethany Christian Reformed Church
  • First Christian Reformed Church of Bellflower (Bell 1)
  • Holy Redeemer Lutheran
I love sitting in meetings like this where the body of Christ in Bellflower is acknowledged for really making a difference.  How is church contributing to the good of our city?  People are watching.  Let us do good and glorify the Lord.
Ryan VerWys
Visit the Kingdom Causes Bellflower website by clicking here.

Visit the Kingdom Causes Bellflower blog by clicking here.



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