Journey Ninth Ward

It is with great excitement that I announce to you the launch of Journey Ninth Ward—the second campus of Journey Fellowship Church! My purpose in this proposal is to share with you the amazing story of Journey Ninth Ward, and to boldly ask for your generous help in making our vision a reality.

All of us know the devastation in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina, “the largest natural disaster in the history of the United States.” One of the hardest hit areas of the city was the Ninth Ward. This section of the city is filled with the unique culture and old-world charm for which New Orleans is famous. However, the real asset of the Ninth Ward has always been the people—people who lived here for decades, many of whom returned home to rebuild after the devastation. They must not be abandoned!

From the first days after the hurricane, God called us to be part of this rebuilding process. In November, 2007, Journey Fellowship Church purchased the former Redeemer Lutheran Church—an historic church off St. Claude Avenue in the heart of the Ninth Ward. I wish all of you could have been part of the exciting, rewarding, miraculous transformation! Two buildings with more than two feet of hurricane water became Journey Ninth Ward. One building is a World War II-era sanctuary with a beautiful bell tower and incredible stained glass windows. Each window recounts stories from the life of our Savior and Redeemer—appropriate themes for a community that needed to be saved, and still needs to be redeemed. The second building is a multi-purpose facility that serves as our children’s ministry facility and the home of Compassion Outreach, a non-profit organization established to support our holistic ministry.

Why are we so passionate about the Ninth Ward? Nearly five years after Katrina, it seems New Orleans still lacks the natural and spiritual walls to protect its residents from vast poverty, deteriorating families, low academic achievement, and unprecedented violence. But in the midst of such discouragement, we have chosen to respond as did the prophet Nehemiah—by calling God’s people to rebuild the walls of the city. With residents returning and schools reopening and businesses rebuilding, it is critical that the community of faith rise again. People in the Ninth Ward need a revitalized center of worship where individuals and families can find hope, healing, and restoration. This is our mission—to “Transform Lives Forever.” We are passionate about the Ninth Ward because we know that God is passionate about the Ninth Ward. With us, it’s personal!

What makes Journey Ninth Ward distinctive? We know many people and organizations are committed to rebuilding New Orleans, and they are doing a wonderful job. But there is a difference. Our calling is not just to help people, but to permanently transform their lives—and we believe this best happens by connecting them with God. We know that God can change a heart permanently, because he has changed our hearts! And so we introduce people to the God of love, and remind them that their Creator has done everything necessary to reconcile them to himself in Jesus Christ. We think God’s Word is still the best guidebook for reconstructing a needy community.

This is what this proposal is all about. The time has come for Journey Ninth Ward, while continuing its spiritual partnership with Journey Fellowship Church, to become a fully self-supporting congregation. Thank you for taking the time to explore more deeply our vision for the Ninth Ward. And thank you also, in advance, for your prayers and partnership! Sincerely in Christ,

Robert Burnside, Pastor Journey Ninth Ward

http://www.journeyninthward.org/

ABCD Training Reflection

It can be widely agreed upon that each individual or community has needs. Each community lacks something. Whether it’s a local park for children to play in, better roads, or safety, it is not difficult for us to identify what is not right about a community. I was privileged to be introduced to Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) a couple of weeks ago in a training led by Terri Larson and Susan Sngiem. It was a great time of learning, fellowship, and listening to stories of the journeys God had brought each individual that was there. The message was simple, yet a complete shift of thinking. Instead of starting from a needs perspective, the goal was to start from what the community already had or was good at. This shift thus allows each person in the community to directly participate in their community in a way that promotes empowerment and a sense of ownership. As I carefully tilted my ears towards Terri and Susan as they spoke, there was only one thing I could think of. “But what about the needs!”

This phrase stuck with me the next couple of hours after the training. I knew there was nothing really wrong about focusing on the needs, but something led me to believe it wasn’t the best way. How do we really know what we need anyway? Perhaps an analogy to prayer can help us unpack this further. When I usually pray about a petition or request to God, I start with my needs. I ask God for things to help me with ministry, school, and finding parking (which God has answered many times by the way!). The ABCD training really challenged my way of thinking. Perhaps ABCD is so compelling because it teaches us to acknowledge what God has already blessed us or the community with. It tells us that God has already given so much and that there is “hidden treasure” waiting to be discovered by those who are willing to search. Having such a perspective may also allow us to realize that our preconceived needs were never really needs in the first place.

The potential for ABCD is tremendous. It provides an avenue for grant money to be used more effectively and directs us to see the good in our communities, to see God in our communities. I was truly blessed by the ABCD trainings. It has changed the way I think about what it means to be lacking and to search for God’s Kingdom wherever I go. If you ever feel like you can’t see the Kingdom of God in your community, you may only have to search next door to find it. Blessings.

 

The Church “With” The Community

By Delia Caderno, director Partnership for Community Transformation (P4CT)

Being the church “with” the community is much more difficult and complex than one can imagine.  Having the desire to be the church “with” the community isn’t enough.  Having a few “community focused” events isn’t enough.  Inviting the community isn’t enough.

So, what does a church need to do to become the church “with” their community? How does a church start down that pathway? What does it mean to be community inclusive?

In partnership with P4CT, South Kendall Community Church has been asking and working-through some of these questions.  Some insights into the answers to these questions were revealed during a recent Small Group Leaders Dialogue.  “I need to change how I think about community, I need a new mindset” was the heart’s cry of one of the leaders.  “We need a new approach; we need to start asking and not telling” declared another.  “We need to start joining their stuff”.  One of my favorite remarks was “We need to get the word but out of our thinking. And, we need to get our butts into the community”.

An active, intentional and thoughtful listening process is necessary in the pathway to become the church “with” the community.  Listening to what’s being said and to also notice what is missing from the conversation, were key insights that the group was discovering from “listening” to one another.  At the end of the dialogue there was a deeper appreciation for each other, the community and their vision to be in the heart of the community and to have the community in their heart.

Being the church “with” the community isn’t an easy task.  It requires a paradigm shift of how we think and act.  It requires intentionality.  It means that we have to build trusting relationships, one conversation at a time over time. As the SKCC leaders are discovering it isn’t at easy task, but it is a task worth doing because as they continue to walk down this pathway they too are being changed and transformed.

Community Listening

The strategy for community listening being implemented by All Nations Church is to start literally in their back yard. Saunders Elementary School’s property abuts the church property. Although they have had a cordial relationship over the years the majority of interaction has been through the church giving school supplies each year. This year their intention is to go deeper and to build transformational relationships.

This is being done through a team led by Tricia Goeller from All Nations Church and Carol Hall from Huntington Mennonite Church which is located near the school as well.

Both churches are encouraging the involvement of their members is this work. I am coaching this team in the steps of ABCD but they are truly leading the effort.
We have established relationships with the school’s parent involvement coordinator and its principal as well as several teachers. We have conducted one listening event with the teachers and parents at their PTA meeting recently and have plans for several more listening events. Tricia and Carol are excited about this process. As Carol said this week, “I knew that something was missing. Now we know what it is. I cannot wait to see what is going to happen next.”

I conducted a “What is ABCD?” meeting at Huntington Mennonite Church with Carol’s Community Outreach Team which includes their pastor. We are also planning for other listening efforts.

The Franklin Center

The Franklin Center is an Argentine icon. It’s a stately, stone school building that was constructed in 1897 that until October of last year had been used as a community center. Several different social service organizations were housed there as well as a café and grocery store. Over the years, as these organizations closed shop or relocated, the bills had become too much for the final few tenants. They abandoned it one year ago. Vandals broke in, graffitied the walls, broke windows, emptied toner cartridges, and stole all of the copper wiring from the breaker box. On June 21 they set a small fire in a stairwell. Residents had feared this was the end of the Franklin Center.

Last night a different story was being told about the Franklin Center. Our Youthfront School of Formation students joined with community members and about forty-five students from Heritage Christian School in beginning some of the initial cleanup of the Franklin Center. Until last night the building had only been secured by placing plywood over the several broken windows by a group from Pathway Community Church. Broken glass was swept up, trash was gathered, and items that the previous tenants had abandoned were organized. Local kids showed the outsiders around their neighborhood and we finished the night with Mexican food from El Rabanito.

Cleanup is only the first stage of what we ultimately hope to see at the Franklin Center. Today with our Youthfront School of Formation students, we created a plan for community organizing around the Franklin Center using Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) principles. ABCD distinguishes itself from other forms of development by looking at a marginalized community like ours as a glass half full rather than empty. Rather than looking at all of the needs of our community and then “servicing” those needs through outside resources, ABCD looks at how we can mobilize the assets, all of the latent and often hidden talents, skills and passions of the local community to achieve and implement their own collective dreams for the community. While Argentine residents may not have a lot of money to pay for renovations and programs in a traditional development way, we do have construction workers, bilingual speakers, and mothers who care about what their kids do during their after school hours. What we hope to do is to organize the small loaves of bread and fish that people here have his way with them. One of my neighbors upon hearing of this came over to my house with 25 galls of paint for the renovations. Our friends at El Rabanito, wondering what all of the fuss was about last night didn’t hesitate in their offer to donate some food as well as labor in painting and drywall.

Before we’ve even formally begun, activity and interest is gaining. And I think its because while this route is much more laborious and less efficient than raising a half million dollars of renovation money through grants, state funding and the like, it’s attractive because it’s empowering. It’s a call to quit viewing ourselves as poor and dependent on the charity of the powerful, but to recognize the imago Dei in each of us and that out of our fragmentation we can collectively create something new. Our YSF students get to be instigators of this. They will soon be out on the streets gathering dreams and networking these people and resources into collective action, practicing resurrection in Argentine.

This requires that the church take a different role in our communities than we oftentimes do. Oftentimes, we are mere occupants in our neighborhoods-we don’t engage those in proximity to us. It is merely a church in the neighborhood. But if we do recognize that we have a missioning God, we often engage our neighbors in a patronizing way, especially if it is located in a community of need. It’s a temptation for us to set out as saviors in our community because if we don’t come as the “have’s” in the have/have not continuum, we don’t know what we have to offer. This is a church for the community. But others are recognizing that there is another way. A church with the community is one that recognizes that God is not confined within the walls of the church but is already actively at work in the community. A church with the community is one that shapes but is also shaped by the community.

In this way rather than setting the agenda for what will happen in the neighborhood and doing things for the community, the people of God can play a different role. We can listen. What we hope to do instead is to awaken the Kingdom imaginations of the people that lie dormant. They already know what a better future looks like for themselves and those around them, but they don’t dare to dream because dreaming alone seems futile. As the church we can stir those dreams and honor people, even poor, marginalized sinners as image bearers of God who have worth and can change things. And finally, we can call them to join hands with saint and sinner alike, because we’re all both, calling them to participate in God’s mission of restoration and reconciliation.

Gardening on Rooftops and the Radio

Okay, so we aren’t virtually gardening with radio waves as the title implies, but we are gardening on a rooftop here in Belltown and we were featured on a local radio station just yesterday. Here is a link to the radio show blog site where you can listen:

http://greenacreradio.blogspot.com/2010/04/blog-post.html …

As you can tell by listening to the program, it’s a really cool project that is actually putting feet to much of the hype floating around about “green” this-and-that–a conversation that seems to often happen more on the internet than in real neighborhoods. This project is a beautiful collaboration that I have only recently really stepped into. It started out with Sustainable Belltown (SB) and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) working together to create more sustainable food gardening in Belltown while also helping the city develop a pilot project for rooftop systems to then hold up as a model to use throughout the city. Our project is a small scale retrofit, meaning that it is a small scale container system that can be added to most rooftops without overloading the structural capacity of the roof.

(This is not a full roof system, and can intuitively be applied on rooftops or balconies that are already supporting lots of people, tables, grills, etc. Obviously, if doing more, one should consult an engineer or the building’s architect to be sure about safety concerns.)

What the radio show does not make obvious, is that this would be completely impossible without the collaboration, active participation, and fiscal sponsorship of the management company and staff at the Centennial Apartment buildings. Multiple folks there have made this possible and they took a risk last year of believing that this was worth their effort and finances as a way to give back to their residents and the neighborhood. I have worked some in the past few weeks particularly with one of their staff members, a gentleman named Markham, who has been a huge force in making this happen.

The Centennial is a great example of a private business that has decided to expand their bottom line to include doing something great in the neighborhood, and guess what? When people come to check out apartments in their buildings and find out about the foodbank gardens, it is starting to become a contributing factor for people to want to rent from the building–what a great win-win for this company that has decided to help make the neighborhood a little more human and earth friendly!

So, I knew about the project when it was started up and the containers were managed by a couple of wonderful gardener/residents over at Centennial. Now that the project is underway in earnest, I am working through SB to track data and help develop a case study that SPU can use for future developments and recommend to existing building owners. Being a garden nerd, I am also helping set up a system of managing the beds, educating residents on gardening basics, and setting up the process of growing, community building, and food donation so that it will be successful for years to come (ambitious, I know).

Some of the benefits of the system include: reduced rainwater runoff, community involvement and connection between gardeners and residents, fresh local vegetables for the local foodbank (helping reduce the carbon footprint of a local non-profit), increasing awareness of place, generating excitement and inspiring other projects, bringing food production into the line-of- sight for city dwellers, educating first time gardeners about a) how easy it is for them to grow food and b) how long it takes, and difficult it can be to grow food, thus building respect for those who grow most of our food and making us a little more willing to pay equitable prices for the labor and produce of food grown well with respect of the earth and our bodies.

As you can see, I am excited about this project. It is something I did not start, and I hope I will not see end, yet I get to play a fun and helpful part in doing something that makes our neighborhood a little better to live in. In the process I have met some beautiful people, had some great conversations about how we can connect with our neighbors and understand ourselves as people living in a community together, and learned a lot about what it means to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, our neighbors, and the earth.

Peace, Daniel

*While finishing a masters of divinity degree from Mars Hill Graduate School, Belltowner Daniel Tidwell has been pursuing urban agriculture opportunities along with his wife, Jocelyn. Members of the Belltown P Patch and part of the Emmaus Road crowd, Daniel and Jocelyn have also become rooftop farmers. Within the last year, the Tidwells have seen how growing fresh produce with the intention to share has brought neighbors together. Check out this radio story from GREEN ACRE RADIO on KBCS, and listen to Daniel speak about rooftop farming and community development.

One More Handout or One Hand-Up?

Recently I met with a church that wanted to do an event in a specific neighborhood we are involved in. Their great heart and passion to help people was apparent . They wanted to be a blessing to the under-resourced community, wanted to be the hands and feet of Jesus. And they already had a plan…. give out food and clothing…have games and prizes for the kids… share the Gospel message….pray for the hurting people… invite them to church…love them with the love of Jesus. Their hearts were in the right place, they wanted to spend their time and energy outside their church.

Constituent transformation starts with offering people a new frame of reference. What really happens when we just do these “parachute jumps” into a community? What does it look like from the other side, the side of the community members whose kids want to participate?

•    Strangers are coming in and interacting with my kids – can I trust them?
•    People are telling my kids about a God that I don’t know about – are they a sect? Will they mislead my children?
•    People give my kids snacks – but are they healthy? Are they safe?
•    Who said I need food and clothing? Do you not think I can provide for my own family?
•    If I take your food will I get more next month? I have gotten used to getting free stuff from churches.

Maybe these questions are not exactly what is on people’s minds, but I am sure that it undermines their dignity, that it makes them feel less capable of providing for their families, that it does not bring out the gifts, passions and abilities that these families have and that it creates a dependency on outside resources.

What if instead of spending the time, energy and money for a 2 hour event this church would ‘adopt’ a neighborhood? What if they would learn some of the Asset Based Community Development principles and practices and get involved in a neighborhood for 5 years? What if instead of handing out free stuff they would learn people’s names, find their passions and giftings and exchange those gifts? What if the church would come every week, not with cookies and soda, not with clothing and gifts, but with hearts open to see God’s image  in every person, with minds open to hear their stories and discover their amazing gifts and with hands willing to work side by side on the issues that the community sees as necessary?

What if the neighbors would see Christ lived out in the lives of the Christians and would want to experience some of that Shalom in their own lives? What if the church is invited to start a Bible study, not because they forced themselves in, but because the love of God was so evident that people are curious about a God who cares enough to be involved in that neighborhood?

What if they get to see a God who doesn’t give hand-outs and abandon them afterwards but a God who walks side by side with people helping them up the hill by giving a hand-up!

In the end the church went ahead with their outreach as planned, but we continue our dialog.

Monika Grasley
LifeLine CDC

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down Starting with Being Repainted

On any given day you can see a group of young men driving through Winton looking for graffiti  defacing the walls and fences of their town. What makes young men get up and be at ‘work’ at 8am to clean up graffiti?

Instrumental in this was a young man who wanted to give back to the community.  He connected with Winton LifeLine Community Center and his enthusiasm, leadership ability and passion soon led him to be surrounded by young men who were on the verge of being gang members, young men who were taggers themselves, young man who were looking for a role model they could follow.

At 28 A. had done his share of damage in the community. When he missed yet another birth of one of his children, because he was incarcerated, he decided that it was time to change. And a huge change it was!

Now he helps young men to make better choices, helps them to see some of the consequences of his past actions. Now he spends his mornings driving around with a bucket of paint and 4 or 5 people in tow.

In the conversations about the graffiti he found out that these young people do not have a place to display their art work… so we asked for a ‘legal’ graffiti wall. They met with the Historical Society to learn about the community and they are partnering with some artists to create a mural that will be based on certain themes.

Through A’s involvements walls are broken down. Seniors who are heading up a group are now interacting with young people and they learn from each other. Neighbors are asking how they can help. The owner of one of the walls took a bucket of paint and his helping with it.

When young and old care for something, when rich and poor have the same interest at heart and when together they act to make things better we get to see a glimpse of God’s SHALOM present in a community.

Monika Grasley
LifeLine CDC

Cheers and Challenges

I am seeing a growing interest in ABCD and receptivity by churches to implement it in their neighborhoods. However, several good opportunities to employ ABCD best practices have been abandoned by some pastors just as the opportunity arose.

The relationship with All Nations Church is deepening between myself, the pastor and the congregation and widening in the sense that the church leadership is now directly engaging in ABCD listening events. I have been impressed with how eagerly they have taken the responsibility upon themselves to work through the process of using ABCD in their church events.

Crossroads Community Church is embracing ABCD as well. They are seeing and hearing about the progress of All Nations Church and have been inspired and challenged to see similar results in their community.

I have noticed a reluctance of many churches to commit to the process. They seem to see its benefits but are hesitant to commit themselves to this journey.

Since I have become better known, I am being invited to participate in many community programs. I’m learning that these can be very distracting and time consuming, As a result I have become more discerning as to those I believe are really interested in community transformational efforts versus those seeking only to implement a to-for program.

Bar-B-Q in the Backyard

Family Bar B Q in the back yard?  Sure; great family time, great food, quite, intimate, good conversations, fun, safe, and all the comforts of home.  But it is enclosed and separates you from your neighbors.

As a practitioner of ABCD it seemed to me that the exclusivity of a Bar-B-Q in the back yard went against all that I know and practice with CFA.  So the next get together my wife and I decided to move our Bar-B-Q to our front yard.  The first time we did our two sons with their families were surprised and I believe, felt a little “exposed” as we sat there in our driveway and ate with some of our neighbors walking by.  All our neighbors said hi as they jogged or walked their dogs.  To our surprise and satisfaction our next door neighbor came over and joined us.  Soon his family came over and a couple of the other neighbors joined us.  They all had a hot dog and sat with us and we had great time.

The following month we decided to have another one.  Our two son’s first question was “Front yard or back yard”.  To our surprise they both thought our idea of front yard was a good one.  So they came.

This time however, we decided to invite our neighbor from our immediate right and left.  We planned it for a Sunday afternoon when both of them were available.  The Saturday before the event we asked Talia, our neighbors nine year old, to go around the neighborhood and let everyone know that they were invited to a Bar-B-Q on Sunday.

After she went to a couple of homes she breathlessly knocked on our door and told us that everyone wanted to know what to bring.  Our plan was to be as spontaneous as possible so that our typical busy American organizational style would allow them to join us and just relax.  I told Talia to let them know that we would be providing everything and they should bring their appetite and come and enjoy.

At 2pm on Sunday we began setting up in our driveway.   Our two neighbors came over with additional chairs and a table.  They also had cold drinks, chips and dips and a salad.  We fired up the Barbie and started our afternoon.  Soon a couple of the other neighbors joined and throughout the day others came.  We had approximately seven families join us and had some wonderful conversations which continued into the evening (which reminded me of the definition of hospitality: making your guests feel at home, even if you wish they were).  The kids climbed our tree and had a great time in our front yard grass area.  As we ended the day we heard a very consistent comment “this was a lot of fun and very relaxing, we should do it again”.

Prologue:  A couple of weeks ago Bill and Sue came over and said they had bought all the food for the next neighborhood Bar-B-Q and wanted to have it in their driveway.  It is planned for next week.

In every community people seem to be hungry for relationships.  Most of us feel such a wide disconnect from our neighbors that it just take’s a small spark to get connected.  Our independent lifestyles have separated us from each other but, I have found, if we bring folks together they will come.  What is missing in most communities is a connector.  The person that will take the first step.  How do we identify the connector?  Well, maybe it just might be you!

We live in a middle class neighborhood with fences that separate us.  We say hi to each other as we pass by but we don’t know each other.  I’m looking forward to see if this progresses to something more than just Bar-B-Q’s.

The Gift of Space

Often in the field of Christian community development we focus on the importance of getting out of the church building and into the community.  Being in the community and journeying with community members is a key component to community transformation.  However we cannot underestimate the importance a church building can play within its’ community to contribute to transformation.

Horizon Christian Reformed Church of Downers Grove IL understands the value an open building can have within a community.  The mission of Horizon CRC is to “join with our community, to share God’s blessings and to demonstrate the love of Jesus to others; being a body of people learning to experience the depth of God’s love for us.”

The members of Horizon CRC view the space in which they use for worship on Sunday mornings as a blessing to be shared throughout the week with their neighbors.

One of the goals of Horizon is that our facility would be a place for the community.

On Monday nights, The West Towns Chorus, a men’s barbershop chorus, of which the pastor is a member, meets at Horizon for their rehearsals. On Tuesday’s, New Leaf Resources, with whom they’ve partnered since moving into their current space in December 2007, uses a classroom for counseling ministry.  And all during the week, the Woodridge Head Start program teachers are temporarily using their space.  Head Start is a national school readiness program which provides education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families.   They are in the process of remodeling a facility but are not able to get in yet.

Horizon has been able to provide office workspace for the teachers until their facility is completed.   Not only have Horizon been able to provide a space, but they will be able to partner with them in other ways as well. Garage sales, ice cream socials and ESL classes are another way Horizon “shares God’s blessing” of space with its’ community as they continue in the journey of community transformation.

The Rosewood Initiative

By Shawn Patrick Higgins

A short film I made with the students of the S.C.E.N.E summer program, a joint youth-media- education project of Oregon Partnership and Portland Community Media.

Go to: http://vimeo.com/15414191

Interviews shot entirely by PDX high-school students!

A brief look into an often neglected part of Portland & the unorthodox community-building / alternative crime reduction project the Portland & Gresham police (and others!) are involved in; “The Rosewood Initiative.”

The Students were able to spend half a day in the Rosewood Area, (a fusion community split between the jurisdictional lines of Portland’s Centennial / Glenfair neighborhoods & the Gresham neighborhood of Rockwood) filming interviews, listening to the resident’s personal stories, and speaking to them about the effect that drugs & drug-use have had on their community.

And a special thanks to the officers of the Portland East Precinct who took the time to come out and spend the day with the students!

Woodland Historic District

Woodlawn Historic District an 8 block long 4 block wide neighborhood which began in 1913 with bungalow one story homes. It is two blocks from the state capital and is the center for homeless shelters. The area is very transient with very high unemployment in addition to the homeless wandering the street.

A house church was started about 18 months ago of 14 young adults which calls themselves, Apprentice to Jesus (A2J). All live in the neighborhood. We introduced the church group  to ABCD and how to become known in the neighborhood. They have been going to neighborhood association meetings and they have been doing things to develop relationships with people in the neighborhood like basketball games by the side of one of their houses. Also they have held barbeques and coffee house discussions.

About three months ago we made with Jeff who had decided to work one half- time in reaching out to the Woodland neighborhood who went through our five day Neighborhood Transformation training. He returned and Nov 6th we did an ABCD training for the young adults and a number of other people in the neighborhood.

 

Neighborhood Children Learn How to Advocate on Extreme Poverty

Have you ever tried to teach a kindergartner about extreme poverty? What about teaching first and second graders about advocacy? Yesterday, I gave it my best shot. I had some resources from the people at Micah Challenge. They are pros at this stuff. I was just passing on their message.

A day of action. A day for prayer. A day for promise. A day of advocacy. This is what is at the heart of the Micah Challenge as they ask people around the world to join in the commitment to pursue justice for those living in extreme poverty and encouraging our leaders to take action. 2010 is the 10 year mark of the promise made by nations of the world to meet the Millennium Development goals. The UNDP (the UN’s global development network) has been working with global leaders to cut poverty in half by 2015. Micah Challenge is spear heading the Lend A Hand campaign to focus on our promise to those living in poverty. We need to remind our leaders that this is a promise worth keeping.

This is where our kindergarten, first and second grade students at Mika CDC come in…we decided to “lend a hand”. We talked about extreme poverty. Many of our students are from low-income families themselves and it gave us an opportunity to talk about the difference between struggling and survival. It gave us an opportunity to consider just how much we do have and to count our many blessings. We made a list of ways that we can help those living in extreme poverty. Jorge said we could give money that we save. Monica suggested that we could collect food. Carlos thought it would be good to give all of the clothes and shoes that don’t fit anymore to people who need them. As for the problem of a lack of medicine, one student said we should gather all the medicine in our houses and ship it to whoever is sick…maybe not do-able but hey, at least they’re thinking!

As a sign of our promise to do what we can to help the poor, we made postcards with our handprints on them. We will be sending them to the folks at Micah Challenge and they will be sending them on to Washington, D.C. along with others they are collecting from around the nation. We also made a banner with our names and handprints to send along with the postcards so our nation’s leaders would know that we care about the poor and that they need to continue to serve them and pursue justice on their behalf. What a great way to spend an hour with our Mika students!

By the end of our time together most of the students knew that there are 500 million people in the world suffering from extreme poverty and that we are trying to get that number down to 250 million. They knew that 10-10-10 is not a holiday but a day of remembrance – a day of prayer, promise and advocacy. Most of all they knew why we at Mika CDC chose the name of our organization and the verse that inspired it. Not only do we share the name with our brothers and sisters at Micah Challenge, but we share their vision to reduce poverty in our world as well.

“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

View MIKA’s blog.

Jerry the Organizer

“Hi this is Jerry from the …. apartments, you mentioned that you could bring the Bus Boutique to our apartment complex if we get it organized… is that still true?” I was pleasantly surprised. I met Jerry in his neighborhood several weeks prior during an event that our local Christian Radio station organized. The station wanted to bless an under resourced community and picked an apartment complex in partnership with several churches and Christian non-profits.  50+ Thanksgiving baskets had been distributed and then Thanksgiving morning the groups came with a bounce house for the kids and goodies for the adults. I was invited to join…but I did not bring anything, I just came to have conversations with the community members.

One of the principles of Asset Based Community Development is not to do things for others that they can do for themselves. We want to empower neighborhoods; we want them to be the decision maker and the owner of their projects. So I spent most of my time just listening and hanging out. It is amazing what you can find out! I gave them our information to let them know about the winter clothing on the Bus Boutique and that if they wanted the bus to come, they needed to organize it! … and so they did!

When we drove the Bus Boutique up to the apartment complex the whole group was out from young to old, having great conversations. They unpacked the bus, set things up, brought out the supplies that were needed and even had the things that we had forgotten.

They helped each other, helped the handicapped people who could not get on the bus and found clothing for each other. It was such a delight to see. In times when everyone is looking out for number one, they assembled a deep community spirit. We had great conversations, learned from each other and decided to work together on other things.

When the time came to a close they all helped put things away, cleaned up the area and thanked me before they helped me maneuver the bus out of the complex.

I am sure Jerry and I will have more conversations and under his natural leadership this ‘low income’ apartment complex is a ‘rich community’ on its own!

Monika Grasley
LifeLine CDC

The Wood Chopper

A neighborhood teenager, maybe 15 years old, is outside circling his house at 8:15 am on a Saturday morning. He can’t seem to rouse anyone to let him in. He was gone all night apparently and found himself locked out.

In the house next to his, lives a single parent mom with two children, a daughter 11 and a son 2 years old. This mom works long hours and then attends to her children and household chores. She has neither time nor inclination for tending her garden or yard work. I have seen her father and a brother pop in (from a significant distance away) to mow the weeds. I love to garden so for the first year that we lived across the road from her, I asked if I could tend her garden in the front of the house.

I was cleaning the garden (pulling weeds) when I noticed the young man circling the house next door. I asked his name – Brian. What are you doing Brian? He asked me if I had a ladder he could use to get into his bedroom window on the second floor. With regret, I told him I did not have one long enough to reach it. He was stuck till his mom got home from work (night shift) – at least another hour.

In the garden I was cleaning there was a huge old tree stump – oak (hard wood). It looked like it had been used as a decorative plant platform (pot holder) some time past. It needed to be removed. I had an above ground wood burner. I could burn the wood if I could chop it up.  The home owner had no other way to get rid of it (that she could afford). So I retrieved my wood chopping axes and began chopping.

I noticed Brian watching me from his front porch. He was sitting there smoking, listless and bored. His impatience with his mom was clear. I called him over and asked if he had ever used an axe before. Nope. Would he like to try it? I saw a tentative first grin and then a slight nod of the head. I have a heavy splitting axe and a smaller splintering axe. He wondered about the difference. He was surprised by the weight of the splitting axe. He was not sure how to hold it. I showed him. In a few minutes he was getting it, after a few embarrassing missed swings. I coached him a little. He chopped the whole log (what was left of it). Took 40 minutes and he was sweating. Grinning, he handed me the axe and began picking up the wood with me.

Brian asked me what I was doing there anyway. He knew I lived across the street. I told him. I asked him if he would like to help me take care of his neighbor’s garden if I would teach him how to garden and how to tend plants? I suggested he might earn some good pocket change in the neighborhood if he knew what he was doing, working for other neighbors. We agreed that he would help one hour per week on Saturday mornings to learn.

In every community there are people with gifts. In every community there are unmet human needs. What is missing in many communities is a connector, the person who will connect Brian with the single mom. This year I am not working her garden. Brian is. The gift here goes many ways. Brian has something constructive to do, something to feel good about. Marian has a nicer yard; the neighborhood looks better. Brian is not going to tag Marian’s house, nor are his friends. Marian is not going to make up stories in her head about the listless teen next door and his lazy buddies. Life got better in the neighborhood for everyone.

The fabric of community grows stronger when gifts flow freely within a community. What might that look like in your neighborhood?

It takes a connector to increase neighbor-to-neighbor exchanges. Who is the connector in your neighborhood?

Jay Van Groningen

Jay trains and coaches leaders from churches and non-profit community agencies how to build stronger communities. CFA and her network of partners transform a growing number of declining neighborhoods across the USA.

Strengthening Community By Strengthening It’s Leaders and Organizations

There is a growing movement sweeping across the nation that community matters more than ever, and that building on the skills of local residents, community leaders and its institutions creates more sustainable communities for the future. The task of developing the framework for these organizations is a daunting one, but with the help of organizations like the Faith and Community Development Institute (FCDI) there is relief and hope.

The mission of the Faith and Community Institute is to build the capacity of citizens and institutions engaged in community transformation by providing coaching, training and research. The ultimate goal is to see people and organizations working together to restore and strengthen their communities.

“I am equipping leaders, engaging congregational leaders, providing constituency development, and developing a regional network of leaders. Together we learn about churches being strategic players with their communities making life better for everyone,” said Executive Director of the Faith and Community Institute Tronn Moller.

After Katrina, Moller was looking for an opportunity to engage the Faith Community in the redevelopment of the Gulf Region. Over the past 3 years since the FCDI’s inception the institute has helped over 21 organizations grow and thrive.

By providing a supportive learning environment, resources and the necessary tools to strengthen those engaged in building community it not only benefits the individuals, the organizations they work with, but most importantly the citizens of the communities.

“The services that Tronn and the Institute provide are extremely needed in the faith-based community. Training leaders to be more effective at what they do will and has made a valuable impact on our communities,” said Pastor Nelson Dexter Jr.

Dexter is a Pastor and Teacher with the Temple of Praise Ministries, and serves as Board President for Jefferson Cops and Clergy Coalition.

“In my church Tronn has done asset based community development training, leadership development, board development, and team building for my volunteers. Personally, Tronn and the Institute have grown me as a leader. He has expanded my ability to organize, plan and implement strategies that will cause both organizations I serve to be more effective and efficient in both vision and mission,” said Pastor Nelson Dexter Jr.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation to the city of New Orleans, the guidance of Moller and the institute was invaluable helping Rev. Dwight Webster and Churches Supporting Churches (CSC) rebuild the communities affected. The mission of CSC is to restart, repair and rebuild churches to redevelop New Orleans.

“Moller’s work with us through The Faith and Community Development Institute was instrumental in assisting us in formulating the three main thrusts or pillars of CSC—Capacity Building, Community Development and Advocacy,” said Rev. Webster.

Through the Institute’s assistance CSC was able to secure start-up funds to get the organization established as a working group, later a Louisiana non-profit corporation and ultimately a 501 (c) 3 tax exempt organization. According to Rev. Webster, Moller’s work was not limited to the organization, but he also worked one-on-one with individual pastors who were able to shadow CSC’s development and get tax exemption designation for their churches as well.

Recently, FCDI was instrumental in the development of our first deeply affordable house. This has built even more trust between the pastors and FCDI and they now at the beginning stages of training and coaching two leaders from each church in community engagement.

The FCDI is a much needed faith-based community development organization, according to Marcia Peterson of Desire Street Ministries, whose organization is based in the upper ninth ward of New Orleans and operates a medical clinic and youth development programs.

“I have benefited from working with Tronn as a coach in helping me create an RBM tool for managing my organization; he has conducted our staff development around leadership and community engagement for the past three years; and most recently he is working with our board of directors for our charter newly formed school, facilitating our board development sessions on forming a mission statement and vision elements.” Peterson said.

By strengthening those engaged in community development The Faith and Community Development Institute provides a much needed service to New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Like most non-profits they rely on donations to keep their vital operations going.

Urban Farm

Rev. Judy Van Dyke is the regional CFA coach working with 3Sixty in the East Core City neighborhood of Holland. This idea was born from a resident in the neighborhood and is catching on with neighbors. It is a snapshot in time of neighbors working together for common good!

Jeff, an organic farmer, has always been one of the leaders in the neighborhood around 3sixty (East Core City Holland MI). He shared his desire to have an urban farm with other neighbors and they began dreaming together about how they could make this happen.

They had a desire to focus on teaching kids farming, nutrition and neighborhood beautification. Excitement and participation grew as more people affirmed the idea. Over time Jeff and his neighborhood partners were granted permission to use an old church preschool playground to farm a “pilot plot” for the 2011 season.

The building will be turned into an educational center. They hope to utilize the gifts and talents of local neighbors to work the garden as neighborhood interns. Seeds of ideas are being sown and the soil is being prepared for the spring growing season.

Long Lasting Transformation

Our relationship with Carlos, Mario and Charlie has deepened since they started coming by our office after school. At first they stopped to say hello on their way home. Then they would stay to help with projects we had going on. Yesterday they came to get help with job applications. As we help one another we see that the relationships they have built with Mika staff and volunteers are not just beneficial in the short term, but have long-lasting impact as well.

Charlie is starting his senior year of high school this week and as he looks ahead to college applications and long lasting decisions, he recognizes that key role his mentor and other volunteers play in his life. “I see that these relationships are not only beneficial to me now, but will continue to impact my life later as well.”

Mentors and volunteers are developing skills in kids like Charlie and Carlos and Mario in areas of finances, healthy relationship, leadership development and service. These are values and practices that create long lasting transformation in our community. Carlos, Mario and Charlie say that as others have poured into them, they have come to understand the importance of helping others. They recently told their mentors that the best part of their summer was the opportunity they had to serve and develop friendships with some of our homeless neighbors. Its a privileged to watch these young men transform before our eyes.

View MIKA’s blog here.

Shalimar Community Garden

The neighbors of Shalimar have planted their first community garden!  Shalimar’s Neighborhood Action Committee (NAC), Comunidad Unida have been working with local experts to move forward on their project.

Land was donated from one of the apartment owners, neighbors contributed funds, and project leaders rallied the troops. As of Wednesday, May 19th the garden has been planted!Stop by the Shalimar Park to check it out!

http://www.mikacdc.org/

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