Strong Citizens and Effective Ministry: We Need Both for Stronger Communities

When ministries engage with the full range of community resources, they are more effective. They are more powerful community actors when they are effectively connected to the citizens, resources and other assets of the local community, rather than simply focused on needs, problems, and deficiencies.

We are called by God to be good neighbors, working to bring His shalom to our communities. Asset‐Based Community Development (ABCD) offers an important set of skills and tools to build relationships with your neighbors, community organizations and institutions in order to work together for the common good.

NECT offers a variety of resources to help your church or ministry make these connections. We offer consulting and tools to help with strategic planning — from developing mission, vision and organizational capacity, to establishing measurable goals and outcomes, and multi‐year goal planning.

In addition, NECT can assist with program development — practical steps in organizing your ministries in response to community needs, identified through community input and participation.

Our goal is to provide both a framework and a set of tools designed to improve a ministry’s capacity to transform its neighborhood, to give communities a foretaste of what they will be when Jesus comes again to make all things new!

Al Santino, NECT Director

To find out more about NECT email Al Santino by

Touched by Christ…Touching Her Community

Linda DiFazio has been touched by God’s grace and is in turn touching her Newark “Ironbound” community through her love for its children and families. She is a staff member of Safe Haven Urban Redemption, a youth and family development ministry and NECT partner affiliated with Trinity Reformed Church (RCA).  In 2003, Linda was touched by the love of Jesus Christ through the ministry of Trinity and committed her life to the Lord.  At the time she was volunteering as an aid in the community school but now the Lord has magnified her burden and gifts for her community in a way she could never have imagined.

These gifts were recognized by Safe Haven Director Danny Iverson who invited her on staff.  Her responsibility as Food Service Director at Safe Haven includes teaching Home Economics as part of the after school program, preparing community meals and helping to organize the food pantry.  The after school program (SHAC) is conducted in coordination with the neighborhood school, Hawkins St. School.  Students are held accountable for behavior and academic performance and rewarded accordingly.

Another “hat” that Linda wears is as coordinator of the Hawkins St. School Community Association where she is organizing parents to address issues such as: school safety and cleanliness; parents and teachers working together to address child behavior; fundraising, and advocating for quality programs and against budget cuts.  Some of the results of her efforts include raising funds for graduation caps and gowns and the board of education removing junk furniture which was blocking fire exits.

The Lord has wonderfully knitted her ministry and community roles together as she has been a bridge builder between Safe Haven and Hawkins St. School.  She is helping Safe Haven to be a servant to the school and she is bringing parents and youth into the Safe Haven community where they are being touched by the love of Jesus.  She has become a friend, example, and counselor.  She is known in the community as “Mommy” or “Titi”.

Linda comments on her calling to serve her community: “I do this for our children’s future.  I do this because I see the potential in them.  I do it with the hope that I can reach a handful of parents and help them get involved in the community and in the life of their children.”

Al Santino

Walker Moore’s Story

This story is about Walker Moore and his missionary work in the city of Waco.  He never meant to stay in Waco; he was just going to get his education at Baylor.  Then he would head back to Oklahoma.

However, fate being what it was, he met the woman of his dreams and married.  However, that is not what kept him in Waco.  While he was doing his masters degree in Social Work, he interned with Waco CDC.

While he was doing his masters degree in Social Work, he interned with Waco CDC.  While working there he fell in love with the children of Parkside and Brook Avenue Elementary School.

Unfortunately, not everyone felt the same way.  The manager of Parkside was suspicious of a tall lanky white young man hanging around the apartment complex.  Soon the parents also were not happy that this young man was coming around this predominately African American and Latino community.  This would not deter him from doing God’s work.  He knew that God wanted to bring about change in this neighborhood and especially in the Parkside apartments.  He worked so hard and with time began to develop inroads.

In comes Harry Porter.  I met Harry through an inquiry off the CFA website.  Harry was going to become the next CRWRC intermediary in Dallas/Waco.  One of the people that Harry heard of and wanted to collaborate with was Walker Moore.  Unfortunately, some of the hood had rubbed off on Walker and he was not having any of it.

I visited Harry two to three times a year and met Walker on one of those visits.  I also had an opportunity to meet with Mike the director of the Waco CDC.  After having lunch, we came back to Mike’s office and just began to chat about community organizing.  They asked me for suggestions on points of entry.  Apparently, my responses turned the relationship around.  I advised them to increase their target area to include people who owned their homes.  I also encouraged them to connect with neighborhood associations.  Harry and I had visited the city economic development office and they were helpful.

Then just about the time we were making progress, Harry had a terrible gut feeling.  While he was excited about the work in Waco, he could not get the thought of working in Uganda out of his mind.  His wife was the only reason he had not considered it before, but now she too could not get Uganda out of her mind.  Then on my third visit, Harry reluctantly broke the news to me.  It was a devastating blow.  I thought after all this effort, all this work is down the drain.

Then out of nowhere, Walker approached me at a CCDA conference and asked if I would be willing to mentor his work in Waco.  I remember the first meeting he called at the Parkside Community Center.  He was expecting 10 to 12 parents.  Three people showed up.  He was devastated.  However, he did not quit.

I helped him develop a framework that captured all the work that he envisioned.  He sent me a weekly report on his progress.  After a year of emails, telephone calls, helping him be trained on facilitation methods, and visits to our team meeting, he began making progress.

The last report he sent me, he reported a meeting of 28 people, which he did not facilitate because he had someone else trained.  He also mentioned being part of a citywide Waco Education summit. Walker Moore has grown so much in one year.

One of the challenges I had with Walker was that I wanted him to work as an intermediary but he and his organization only wanted to work in the Oak Brook neighborhood.  They still have not changed the scope of their work but now others are approaching them and they are collaborating with other neighborhood leaders.  Therefore, the work is growing and spreading but they are not extending their work beyond their initial scope.  God is bringing transformation to Waco. It is great to be part of the CRWRC story.

Renewed Excitement for Transformation

The Westside Ministers Coalition (WMC) has been a strong presence on the Westside of Chicago for over thirty years.  The mission of WMC is to be “an organization whose purpose is to work in cooperation with other organizations sharing similar values in accomplishing our goal which is to explore and initiate self-help efforts to improve the Westside communities of Chicago in the areas of housing, health, energy, education, economics and community development.”  Rev. Lewis Flowers has been leading the WMC since the beginning and is highly respected among his community, political leaders and other clergy on the Westside.

Rev. Flowers and his staff have been working diligently for the betterment of the Westside of Chicago however are facing the same challenges so many NOPs are facing when it comes to lack of development and transformation. It is discouraging feeling that a community is stuck in a cyclical pattern of poverty.  I met Rev. Flowers while speaking on Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) at School of the Prophets, a local clergy gathering. Through this introduction to ABCD and then a follow-up in-depth training the WMC has developed a renewed excitement and optimism for transformation on the Westside of Chicago.

The Westside Ministers Coalition and Rev. Flowers are now strong advocates of Asset Based Community Development and have begun hosting trainings for their partners in order that true transformation and development will continue on the Westside of Chicago.  While WMC is at the beginning stages of this process the renewed energy in the organization and its’ constituency is evident.  It will be exciting to see how God uses WMC to continue His work in Chicago.  I look forward to sharing the many stories of transformation I know will come from WMC as they continue to apply the ABCD process in their communities.

Bethany Dudley

Central City Church & Community Open Transitional House

What was once a dream is now the reality for many families in the city of New Orleans and surrounding areas. Central City Community leaders and the members of Bethlehem Lutheran Church are taking strides into decreasing the homeless rate throughout the rebirthed city, by opening a transition house in Central City for abused and battered women. After one year of careful planning, hard work and newly renovations, the very first transitional house of 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths, opened in February.

“The original idea was to work with Foster Kids who have been emancipated and put out of the foster care system at 18-years-old,” Rev. Patrick Keen said. ” Funding didn’t allow this to happen right now, but it’s still in the works.” The Unity Coalition for the Homeless and Covenant House of the city are the other partners. They are helping to find abused women who are in need of a stable home and helping them find employment opportunities and providing food for the women. Martha Kagle, director of the Unity Coalition for the Homeless is selflessly assisting to provide for these women and their families.

Families can stay at the transitional house, anywhere from three to five years, while being provided rehab and given the tools they need to become homeowners, one day. ” I want these women and families to have their own homes… and myself along with Unity and Covenant House are going to try our best to make sure this happens,” Keen said.

Community Discusses Future Development

By Janine Calsbeek – Staff Writer (Sioux County Capital Democrat)

ORANGE CITY – What do we need? Who are we missing? Where are the walls?

What can churches do to better serve the citizens of the community? That’s what Bonnie De Jong, Teresa Gunderson and Jon Nelson – people from First and Trinity Reformed churches – got together to discuss. Their conversation quickly turned to the roles of business and non-profits as well.

Mike Callagy, a retired civil engineer who worked on community development projects in California, joined their discussion.

And, they decided to invite townspeople and community leaders for open forums – community development summits.

The first was held on Wednesday, Jan. 7, with Dave Nonnemacher and Michael Andres of Northwestern College presenting the theology of community development. The following week, a group of 40 did some brainstorming and list making. “What does our community need?”

The final two sessions will be critical, said Callagy…thinking of ways to implement the ideas.

Nelson, associate pastor at Trinity, is interested in helping all people of the community succeed, including the people in the “margins.” Do systems and organizations here provide opportunities for everyone to excel? He asked.

You’ve heard the saying; “Give a man a fish. He’ll eat for a day,” said Nelson. “Teach a man to fish. He will eat for a lifetime.”

“But, the big question is, who owns the pond? That is a statement by John Perkins about community development, and it needs to be asked,” said Nelson. “Are those who own ‘the pond’ willing to help others so they can succeed as well? If we profess our faith in Jesus Christ, we are called to be reconcilers, restorers and healers actively participating in God’s redemptive work.”

Nelson wonders if there is a way that non-profits and churches could work together more extensively.

When he brainstorms, thinking of local businesses that are for sale, he wonders if someone could purchase a business and continue to run it as a for-profit endeavor, but offer a few jobs for women at The Bridge?

He thinks the notion of businesses and non-profits working together is an idea with potential, but maybe there are other creative ideas out there. He also believes that community leaders and organizations would benefit from this type of collaboration.

There are many innovators in the community who could bring about needed change that would bless many, added Nelson. “Are they being asked for their input?”

“Quality of place”

Mike and Pat Callagy spent 30-plus years in south-central California, doing land development, civil engineering, and project development. Their city, Bakersfield, is 110 miles north of Los Angeles, an agricultural and oil-rich region.

When they moved here, they left kids in California, but joined others in Orange City; their daughter is Laurie Furlong, a professor at Northwestern.

Nelson approached Mike Callagy recently. “You’re not from here,” he said. “What does this community need?”

Another retirement community – that’s one of Callagy’s ideas. Pat’s mother is on the five to seven-year waiting list for Landsmeer, a long wait.

And how about housing for the many who work here, but don’t live here?

Another of Callagy’s hopes is that Orange City will put in place necessary zoning to prevent leapfrog development, to protect the downtown flavor of the town.

Yes, a mall on Hwy. 10 might be good for the area, he said, as long as it doesn’t starve downtown.

Bakersfield is much larger than Orange City, but it’s an agricultural town, so it resembles this place. A redevelopment project was suggested for the Bakersfield downtown region…a down town mall to encompass the already-thriving businesses there. But those businessmen told the developer to “go away.” They were doing just fine.

A few years later, the developer built an enormous mall just outside of town, triple the size of the mall in Sioux City, said Callagy. And downtown suffered.

It took 35 years and huge amounts of work and resources to restore the Bakersfield downtown region.

It’s easier to protect first, Callagy said.

Mike Hofman, Chamber of Commerce director in Orange City, believes that good ideas will be gleaned from the Wednesday morning meetings. It’s great that people want to be involved in the process, he said.

His term is “quality of place.” It’s bigger than “quality of life” – more encompassing – and includes “the whole place as a benefit for everyone,” he said.

“Why is this a good place to be? What can we do for others?” Hoffman asked.

“We may be biting off more than we can chew, in these community summit meetings,” said Nelson, “because community development covers so many areas. But, I am very interested in seeing what may happen. Great innovations, businesses, and ministries are all created through someone’s inspired idea.”

Callagy hopes that the last two meetings are productive, and that some of the linchpins of the communithy will back a few projects. Crucial, also, is involvement of the Chamger, city and county, and the city of Alton.

Key components will be identified, then prioritized. “If one or two ideas are implemented in 2009, and one or two started,” Callagy said, that would be a framework. It would be a sign of progress, and momentum would build. There’s potential for a lot of good to result, said.

“Implementation is critical,” Callagy said. “This is where community development usually falters.”

Visit the Sioux County Capital Democrat website by clicking here.

A Catalyst for Change

Themis Vargas is an Americorp member working at Touching Miami With Love (TM) in the Overtown Community of South Florida.  In June of 2008 Themis was a stay at home mom who was afraid of her neighborhood and her neighbors.  She had been living in Overtown for a few years, but beyond her daughter’s Kindergarten teacher and a couple of other mom’s from the after-school program at TML, she didn’t know many people in her community.  Those who meet Themis would label her as shy; however, reserved is a word that would best describe her.  As an immigrant from the Dominican Republic life hasn’t been easy for her in this country.  However, in the midst of all of this Themis has emerged as a Catalyst for Change in her community!

Her work through Americorp and TML has opened up new possibilities and they are not just new possibilities for Themis, but for others in her community.  Now when Themis walks through her community she is no longer afraid.  She knows her neighbors and her neighbors know her.  During the tax season she helped many of them file their income taxes and made them aware of much needed benefits such as EIC.  They now see her as an advocate for them and she sees them as her neighbors.

Themis’ own needs have been turned into an asset for her neighbors.  As part of her work she needed to be able to use a variety of computer programs, but she didn’t know too much about computers.  The Director of TML thought it would be a good idea to have someone teach her computer literacy and asked her if she knew others that might benefit from the class. As she began talking to other neighbors she realized that this was true for many of them as well.  So, a computer literacy class was started at TML and there’s currently a waiting list!

Delia Caderno

Find out more about Touching Miami with Love by clicking here.

Servant Leadership

A Pilot Program at Ramona Middle School in the Bonita Unified School District

Kingdom Causes San Dimas has launched “Servant Leadership”, a pilot program at Ramona Middle School in the Bonita Unified School District.

What is a servant leader?  “Servant Leaders measure their impact by asking themselves, ‘Do those served grow as persons?  Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become a servant?’” – Robert Greenleaf on Servant Leadership

The goal of the Servant Leadership  program is to develop Servant Leadership  in students by raising their Emotional Intelligence(EI) through modeling and implementing the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, by Stephen Covey.

In developing servant leaders, they begin by assessing the student’s Emotional Intelligence by engaging them in conversation through open-ended questions.  EI is one’s personal competence (self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-motivation) and one’s social competence (social awareness, relational ability).  These conversations will center around questions which highlight the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.  The student’s answers and absence of answers will reveal their natural ability to lead.

Emotional Intelligence is important because it is quickly replacing IQ as the most sought after individual quality in the marketplace.  Therefore, developing EI in adolescents will prepare for future success.  By raising the EI of a student population, they believe that students will be self-motivated to do well in school, have healthy relationships, and engage in extra curricular activities.

A long-term goal of the Servant Leadership  program is to give students opportunities to serve their community surrounding the school in which they live.  Showing students that serving others is a reward is a key factor in developing servant leadership.
The 7 Habits are:

  • Be Proactive®
  • Begin with the End in Mind®
  • Put First Things First®
  • Think Win-Win®
  • Seek First to Understand and then to be Understood®
  • Synergize®
  • Sharpen the Saw®

Visit the Kingdom Causes website by clicking here.

Visit the Kingdom Causes: San Dimas website here.

Teamwork: How area agencies work Together for Those in Need

The people of Northwest Iowa are blessed to have multiple agencies that serve those in need. The question has been asked if all of these services are necessary. The question has also been asked if our agencies work well together. The answer to both questions is a resounding, “yes!” Women who are in need often come to The Bridge by way of Atlas, the Family Crisis Center, Mid Sioux, Bethany Christian Services, or the Department of Human Services. The Bridge in turn connects these women to area agencies, community programs, and churches. When the women move back into the community it is not uncommon for Justice for All to help supply their new apartment with basic furnishings. Although each of these agencies has their own Board and operates independently financially from one another, the collaboration is truly beautiful!

The Bridge Offers Transitional Housing  (Newspaper Link)
Back On Her Feet
Every Gift is a Blessing
Organizing the Community

Volunteering at The Bridge

The Most Unlikely Totem Pole

Solidarity – Fullerton CA
Youth Church Winter Retreat 2009

For the past three years, teens that are a part of the Youth Church on Monday nights have had the opportunity to attend The Oaks winter retreat, including the one held a few weeks ago. The Oaks is a campground owned by World Impact and located north of Los Angeles.  Each winter they put on a special retreat for churches and ministries, providing an environment specifically designed for teens from local urban areas.  Activities include basketball, soccer, archery, rock climbing!, paintball, a high ropes course, and much more.  Every morning and evening the students attend a general session where they have the opportunity to learn about Christ and what it means to follow Him.

Last year, three of the teens that went decided that they wanted to be Christ followers!  Since that time they have been involved in a weekly discipleship group, and even had the chance to attend a special leadership training back at The Oaks last fall.  This year we were able to take a new group of teens and grow in deeper relationships with them as we were in awe of watching God move in their individual lives.  Please enjoy the following story highlighting the perspective of a staff member who attended and his relationship with one of our teens.

The Most Unlikely Totem Pole

Every year the teens end up doing something at The Oaks that they never have before. This year my friend Israel, a freshman in high school, got a chance to experience the knee-knocking fear of a high ropes course.

When we first approached Israel about the opportunity to join me in the ropes course he was all for it, but as we approached the platform, his excitement quickly turned to apprehension. Israel and I stared fifty feet up to a tiny wooden platform that the two of us had to climb up to. One look up at the monstrosity caused Israel to look me in the eye and say, “There is no way that I am going to do this.”

After a little prompting, our group of teen boys was able to convince Israel to step into his harness and helmet. Again, as he stood there in all of his climbing gear, Israel looked at me and without blinking mumbled, “Kev, I’m not feeling good.  I feel like I might lose my lunch.” From the expression on his face, he didn’t look like he was kidding.

I have to give credit to Israel- either his quiet determination was masked by his fear, or he simply succumbed to peer pressure and began to climb. The two of us stood fifteen feet in the air after making it to the first platform. Israel did what no one should do when they are afraid of heights… he looked down. Dread swept over Israel once again. He pleaded to go back down, but I convinced him to continue to climb.

With every new platform we reached came another question asking if we could go down, yet Israel climbed on. At one point we had to stop because Israel could not reach the next platform. I had to climb down and allow Israel to use my knee as a stepping ladder to reach the next plank. Thirty feet in the air, my knee wavered under Israel’s weight. He could reach the next plank, but needed to get higher in order to get his body on top of the platform. Suddenly, the ropes course manager yells, “Use him as a ladder, step on Kevin’s shoulders!!!!” With my feet planted on a suspended tire and both hands clinging to two pieces of rope that dangled in the wind, my body was coming off the structure in a 45 degree angle. Israel climbed on my shoulders and as he did, his weight dug into my collar bone. I half sat, half squatted, hanging on to those two ropes as if I were sitting on an imaginary toilet thirty feet in the air. We looked like the most unusual ethnic totem pole: a tiny Chinese base and a larger Mexican head.

Eventually Israel and I made it to the top. He was laughing as we stood at the very edge of the platform. Israel’s voice cracked, somewhat do to euphoria and partially to the adrenaline that was pumping through veins, as he asked if we could finally go down. I conceded and we repelled down the climbing structure. Israel was never so happy to be sitting on dirt in a sweat soaked shirt as he snickered about nearly crushing me. We climbed down the path and went to dinner where this story was told and retold; gaining momentum every time he told it. It is in moments such as these that really bond me to the kids in our neighborhood.

Kevin Mo-Wong, Solid Life Director

Visit Solidarity’s website by clicking here.

For more on the author click here.

A Visit to Overtown

I visited the Overtown neighborhood in Miami this week. I learned a tiny bit of their history. Historically, this was the “over the tracks” section of town for black folks. The lead entertainers for the posh white community had to cross town at night after hours and this was their neighborhood. It was rich in musical talent, cuisine arts, and many other skills that made life in Miami so great for the rich and famous.

More recently it is a community of exclusion by virtue of poverty. It is plagued by many social ills. It is the place self-respecting folks avoid.  No big surprise when the highways were built they ran smack through the middle of this part of town. On the other hand, had the highway not been a detriment to development, this likely would be a totally gentrified neighborhood today with its proximity to downtown and waterfronts.

Serving Miami with Love is a little non-profit organization serving in this neighborhood.  They receive coaching and training from CRWRC to increase their capacity to transform this community from the inside out.

A few years ago they were feeding the poor and homeless, and running some after school programs for kids. These are good things to do in a community like this but they do not typically lead to sustainable change in the community.

CRWRC has coached this partner to:

  1. Stake out a specific neighborhood that will be their target neighborhood.
  2. Listen to the people in this neighborhood for what is really great, and what they care about changing.
  3. Facilitate neighbors meeting and interacting with each other
  4. Facilitate neighbors working together on what they care change.

Themis is a newly recruited CRWRC AmerCorps worker from within this neighborhood. She loves her community. She says that 6 months ago, she would never let her kids out of her apartment because they could get shot. She did not know her neighbors and she was afraid of them. Today Themis freely walks the neighborhood with many folks hollering a friendly hello to her as they catch sight of her. She has connected neighbor to neighbor in ways that neighbors help each other, breaking out of their isolation and strengthening community.

There is a growing sense of community here. Resident participation in the things they care about, working together for the welfare of the neighborhood is way up, especially in things that affect their children. There is a growing sense that the residents when they work together can make good things happen.

It was a joy to walk into their office, and the FIRST thing I saw walking in was the map of their neighborhood. The first thing Jason did to introduce us to his ministry was to talk about the history and strengths of the neighborhood. Then he started talking about some of the dreams the residents shared for neighborhood strengthening.

This little non-profit is giving their neighborhood their voice and their future by helping them work together for God’s glory! Incidentally (and naturally) the residents are now asking for Bible study and Worship opportunities.

Jay Van Groningen

Organizing Center St. in Costa Mesa CA

This is the vision statement of the Christian Reformed Church: The Christian Reformed Church is a diverse family of healthy congregations, assemblies, and ministries expressing the good news of God’s kingdom that transforms lives and communities worldwide.

What is this transforming lives and communities about?

Here is a picture for you:
Imagine a dense, low income (all of it) neighborhood in which:

  • Unemployment is high
  • There is high crime
  • Many neighbors are illegal immigrants
  • Schools struggle; most students drop out
  • There is fear – rampant fear, debilitating fear
  • Neighbors don’t know each other
  • Kids don’t play outside without a parent attending them

You get the picture.

This is a snapshot of Center Street in Costa Mesa

Add one CRWRC half-time AmeriCorps volunteer. After completing a two day asset based community development program Juval started hanging out in this neighborhood getting to know the kids. He focused first on the skate boarders (a common passion). Then he started interviewing parents. He wanted to find out their priorities for life in the neighborhood. He quickly formed a parent advisory committee and gave them responsibility to name the changes they wanted to work on in their community.

He supported them as they began English classes, Health Classes, Legal Aid, Exercise groups, Housing Forums on fair housing practices. Economic Development and Savings Plans. Plans are in the works for Neighborhood watch groups, Neighbor/Police joint ventures, and much more.

AmeriCorps service is changing the community, indigenous leaders are developing, neighbors are working together doing what they can with what they have to make life better for the common good. Bible studies are taking place, more people have a church home, and life is more peaceful – Shalom!

Juval has also changed. From a fearful and hesitant young man, he has become a servant leader. He loves the neighborhood and the people. He has signed up for a second year of service – this time full time – and then he has big plans for continuing his education.

What Do People Know?

by Zach Hacker

ORANGE CITY – Nine people from the social work department at Northwestern College in Orange City want people to know more about immigration in their community.

Social work processor Valerie Stokes’ community development/needs assessment class has been working to find out what people in Sioux County know about immigration issues in their community. They presented the results of their work Thursday to about 40 people at a community forum at the Orange City Town Hall.

To gather their research, the nine seniors called every 10th phone book listing from Orange City, Alton and Maurice. Of the 411 people they contacted, 199 responded (48.4 percent) to their questions about perceptions and knowledge on Hispanic immigrants in Sioux County. Of those that responded, 122 were females and 79 were males, 96 percent were Caucasian, and they were between the ages of 18 and 96.

“In a matter of 17 weeks, they’ve accomplished a great deal by really assessing the community, by interviewing stakeholders and meeting directly with Hispanic women in the community, and then walking through this whole process of developing the survey, adopting it, implementing it and then analyzing the results,” Stokes said. “That’s a lot to do for students in a small amount of time. I am more than pleased.”

In their research, the students found what they felt were discrepancies in how people responded. Fifty-two percent of those surveyed said they thought there was “about the right amount” of immigrants in the community, while 64.4 percent were concerned there are too many illegal immigrants coming to the area.

Nearly 99 percent of those surveyed considered themselves to be a Christian. Of those, only 11.8 percent said the community “always” models the biblical passage “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Nearly 45 percent of respondents said Sioux County is “occasionally” a welcoming place while another 30.9 percent said it is “frequently” a welcoming place. But 87.8 percent said they have no Hispanic friends outside of the workplace.

Finally, 70.3 percent of those who responded said they thought immigrants strengthen the community, yet 45.6 percent said those immigrants do not pay their fair share of taxes.

Julia Rathbun, one of the researchers, attended a focus group for Hispanic people in the community for more research. Although shed said not every member of the group thought they had been discriminated against, they did think the community as a whole had much to learn about them and why they are immigrating.

“One thing that we really learned was that Hispanic people want the non-Hispanic community to know that they’re not bad,” Rathbun said, “They’re here, basically, on the means of survival and to support their families.”

That general lack of understanding shown in the “knowledge” questions on the survey was surprising to the researchers and a problem they think needs to be addressed.

“I think people have a good basis of understanding,” said group member Rebekah Wilson. “We need to kind of take that to the next level. If we’re really as concerned as we say we are, we really need to know things. How many unskilled workers does this county need? How many years does it take to get a visa? What are people withstanding when they enter this country? Issues like that.”

The group suggested there should be three intervention stages in Sioux County to help Hispanic neighbors integrate into the community. With religion having such a major impact on the community, the class things each church should hold Sunday School lessons revolving around the topic of immigration. Secondly, it thinks the community should hold outdoor events during the summer to encourage community and relationship building, and third, it thinks local newspapers should publish a series of articles pertaining to issues about immigration in Sioux County.

The Rev. John Nelson of Trinity Reformed Church in Orange City worked with the students in laying the groundwork for their studies. He said his church already is trying to reach out to the Hispanic community through real-time translation of sermons and English as a second language classes among other activities.

“We’re trying to break the barriers down, but we still need to work at it,” Nelson said.

The students and their professors think Sioux County could be a better place with the help of the three proposed interventions and community knowledge.

“The course is ending, and now the community has an opportunity to take hold of this information and run with it and develop a plan of action that will allow us to be who we say we are and who we want to be,” Stokes said. “We want to be a welcoming community. We want our Christian faith to show in our actions. We are a community of immigrants. We must figure out how to use that as an asset, to view that as a strength in our area.”


Here are some of the most telling statistics in a recent survey of 199 Sioux County residents conducted by a social work class from Northwestern College in Orange City.

Q: Do you have a close friend or colleague with whom you socialize outside of work who is a recent Hispanic immigrant?

87.8% – No, I do not have a close friend/colleague
10.2% – Yes, I have a close firend/colleague

Q: Do you think there are too many, too few, or about the right number of Hispanic immigrants in Sioux County today?

52.3% – About the right number
28.0% – Too many, 12.4% – Don’t know
7.3% – Too few

Q: How concerned are you about illegal immigrants?

47.0% – Somewhat concerned
45.5% – Very concerned
6.1% – Not too concerned
1.5% – Not at all concerned

Q: Do you believe most recent Hispanic immigrants to Sioux County are here legally or not legally?

42.6% – Legally
42.6% – Not legally
21.2% – Don’t know

Q: Do you think Hispanic immigrants are unfairly discriminated against?

52.0% – Yes, discriminated against
40.3 – No, not discriminated against
7.7% – Don’t know

Q: Do you think Hispanic immigrants pay their fair share of taxes?

45.6% – No, they don’t pay their fair share of taxes
29.0% – Yes, they pay their fair share of taxes
24.9% – Don’t know

Q: What’s closer to your views?

69.1% – Immigrants today strengthen Sioux County because of their hard work and talents
29.1% – Immigrants today are a burden on Sioux County because they take jobs, housing and health care

Click here for a link to Northwestern College’s page about the study.

Click here for another newspaper article on the same study.

Click here for one more newspaper article on the study.

Kevin’s Solidarity Update

Ruben and I go way back- about five years. He was the type of kid who would antagonize me on purpose so that I would chase him around the Garnet Community Center. This type of game tires pretty quickly, but even when I stopped chasing him I really enjoyed hanging out with the kid.

Ruben has a great mom, but a dad that is out of the picture. His older brother was in and out of gangs and eventually ran away to Vegas for a while. Ruben’s sister was diagnosed with lupus when she was 13, almost taking her life.

During Solidarity’s first years, Ruben and his sister were among the kids who would regularly attend our After School Program. He was eccentric, trouble-making kid whose diet mostly consisted of hot cheetos and coke (for about a year, this is all I saw him eat). Every time I’d run into him he would say, “Hey man…can you buy me a coke?” He spent some of his elementary years running around and causing trouble here at the Community Center.

After Solidarity decided to give more structure to the After School Program, I started to see less and less of Ruben. At the same time, he began to get in more and more trouble. His mom was doing all she could to keep him straight but sometimes it wasn’t enough. There were just too many negative influences. I was bummed to hear that Ruben was not doing well, and on top of that I missed the ornery kid.

Recently Matt, the Teen Center Director, has revamped the Teen Center. He restructured the hang out time, added a pool table, opened up Friday nights to be fun nights, and adopted a new rewards incentive plan. News spread throughout the community about the changes.

Enough of Ruben’s friends started coming to the Teen Center that he decided to come back. It was great to see this kid again. He’s still getting in a lot of trouble but at least he’s around.

I really feel like the more that he has a chance to be in Solidarity’s programs, and the more that his mom continues to pour into his life, the better chance Ruben has to succeed in life. It’s been about five years and Ruben is about to go to high school, but whenever he sees me he asks me for a coke.

Kevin Mo-Wong, Solidarity Staff Director

For more information on Solidarity visit their website:

All For One, One For Hamilton

Thank you, to all those who participated in the first Church-School Partnership meeting at Hamilton Middle School. Kingdom Causes was blessed to see the support of the local church for a local school. It was a great witness to the city leaders (Monica Daley, Hughes Principal; Linda Ivers and Janet Surber, City Council field representatives; Dan Pressburg and Carina Cristiano Leoni, community leaders) who attended the meeting to see the Church come along side schools for the success of the students.

David Downing, Principal of Hamilton Middle School, presented current ways organizations, businesses, and churches are partnering with Hamilton and new opportunities to support Hamilton. Participating in the Church-School Partnerships meeting was the first step.

The first Church-School Partnerships meeting, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism Christian Church partnered with Hamilton for their Teacher Appreciation Day on May 7th. Teachers were happy and blessed due to many groups coming together to show how special the teachers are in Hamilton.

The Hamilton PTA contributed flowers to decorate the library tables. Hamilton United Parents in Action (HUPA) decorated and cleaned the teacher lounges, main office, and the new parent center.

Students from the Student Council and Gear Up program made banners celebrating the teachers that were displayed around the campus. One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism Church provided a wonderful continental breakfast including beverages, muffins, bagels, and plastic-ware for the teachers’ staff meeting.

Leticia Espinoza was the connecting point that brought all these groups together. Cindy Mendez, a Hamilton staff member, praised Leticia and Teacher Appreciation Day by saying, “Teachers were commenting all day about how nice the lounges looked and smelled!…Our teachers were happy about this treat!”

Kingdom Causes, along with Hamilton, would like to thank those who made the Teacher Appreciation Day really special.

For more on Kingdom Causes visit their website:

Mentoring Karen

Recently I decided to take on a mentee. Her name is Karen. She’s a gem! She’s 9 years old, smart as a whip and will melt you with her chocolate brown doe eyes and broad smile. Don’t get me wrong- she is no shrinking violet. The girl can dish it out (as well as take it) and can “hang” with a houseful of teenage boys as if she’s done it all her life. This girl has all the right stuff to make it and I want to make sure she does.

On our first meeting we wrote down a list of things we wanted to do together.

“How much time?” she asked.

“I don’t know, ten minutes or so,” I answered.

“No, I mean how many years will we be together?” she responded.

Wow! This seemed out of left field. “I don’t know, how long do you want to be together?”

She was quiet and then said, “30 years.”

“30 years? You will be 39. You’ll be done with college, probably be married and have kids. I’ll be 78,” I explained.

She laughed. “Yes you will! And you will stand up there and tell everyone what we’ve done over the past 30 years!” She smiled and said, “And I’ll tell them you were the most amazing woman ever.”

I think at 39, she will be the most amazing woman ever.

Her thoughts were not out of left field. Karen knows exactly what she wants from our relationship. Now, I do too. How great would it be if I DID see her through the next thirty years? I think we’ll just start with 2009!

Of all the great youth activities Mika has going on, I think that our Mentoring program is the most important. You may have read the statistics of how valuable it is to have good adult role models for our children. Studies show that support and encouragement keep them in school longer and help kids navigate the tricky parts of growing up.

We know mentoring exposes kids to things they might not have access to in their families and that nearly 18 million kids’ ages 10 through 18 are at risk of not living up to their potential if they don’t have a strong adult role model in their lives.

We currently have 15 pairs of mentors and mentees. Connecting students with their adult friends is one of the many joys of my job, but nothing compares to watching what happens when they start to build their relationships.
For more information on MIKA CDC visit their website:


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