Mustard Seed Ministries

This past fall, we (Volunteers In Service – CFA West Michigan) were pleased to place an Americorps Member in the Westown area of Grand Rapids.  Our site partner, The Other Way Ministries, has been a sustaining member of the neighborhood for about forty years, bringing individual and community development opportunities to the residents there.   For the past several years, The Other Way Ministries has been partnering with two other near-by community organizations (Servants Community Church and Westown Jubilee Housing) to coordinate community betterment and development efforts.  All three members of the partnership worked together to develop the capacity to bring the Americorps program to Westown.

Based upon his history in the neighborhood and his interview, we were not too surprised to discover that the new Americorps Member, Karl Williams got right down to work, introducing himself and engaging local residents in the work of making the neighborhood a better place for all.  Among the several ‘small actions’ Karl has already initiated with neighborhood volunteers was connecting some willing volunteers and a community member in need.   Here is the brief story in Karl’s own words.

“For the past month, we have had an elderly resident, that has recently gone through surgery.  She has received letters from the City, pertaining to her fence being out of code due to vandalism.  I met her through community involvement and interaction.  I informed her that Americorps has volunteers that could repair her fence to code.  Adam Lavas, not pictured, and Terry Williams repaired her fence to code, and our resident forwarded a note stating that she was profusely Glad!!”

These ‘small actions’ go a long way toward changing the character of the neighborhood.  Neighbors have the experience of receiving appreciated acts of kindness from other neighborhood residents, who experience the joy of doing something they enjoy for a neighbor.  A small action – just a few people involved, but little by little Westown is on the way to a better day – no big expensive programs, just neighbors working together with each other – for each other.

Jim Schepers
Volunteers In Service
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Community SHINE Event

Churches are beginning to experience the benefit of working together to reach out to their communities. This was a community Fall Festival in York County, Virginia.

As a part of this outreach the leadership conducted a survey of those attending to hear their wishes for their community. This will be followed up with meetings of the community to plan community development efforts. Since a local church and Christians in the community are leading this effort the community will be well served and drawn to the church.

As our ministry continues to interact with churches in various communities the need for workers to coordinate these efforts within each community grows. We will also need to develop our web site’s capacity to handle and manage the information generated from these efforts as well the workers to manage the site and develop its capability.

These are urgent needs since as our ministry grows the demand for quality resources and personal management becomes critical. Your support will enable us to be effective and efficient managers of these resources

Cheers and Challenges

I am experiencing the struggle of trying to move those interested in and excited about the possibilities of adopting ABCD principles in their communities to being leaders who embrace these principles to the point of actually implementing them.

My intention now is to go deeper rather than wider in select communities. By this I mean that I am going to reduce my involvement in several communities in order to work more intentionally in two particular communities to identify community stakeholders and to organize visioning meetings.

I continue to find many churches, ministers and para-church ministries interested in learning more about ABCD but they also shy away from working with others in their communities to develop a connectedness in their community for this work.

Their motivation seems to be their desire to attract more community members to their churches and ministries without having to share leadership responsibilities for community development or their organizational resources for this work.

Although I will continue to share the ABCD message with these types of ministries as the opportunities present themselves, I plan to widen the circle of those I approach to other non-church specific community stakeholders.

One dynamic Iʼve observed is that of the ministry leaderʼs passionate ownership of his or her ministry. Although he or she may be interested in the possibilities of implementing ABCD they fear the dramatic changes such implementation would bring.

One leader said in response to my answer to his question of, “OK, what do we do next?” “Oh now, we canʼt do that! If we did that no one would come back.” In other words, even though there is a deep desire for their ministries to be much more effective and Kingdom- like, they canʼt let go enough to go through the process needed for His Kingdom to actually come.

I must let go of my stubborn desire to see the organized church embrace ABCD and simply implement the ABCD principles to the best of my knowledge and ability trusting that Jesus will bring the changes He desires in the process.

Pathway Community Church Launches Community Ministry

This past fall I spent working with Pastor Tony Brown to educate the congregation on what we are doing in the community and how it fits in with God’s plan to transform communities. We had one major project, which was to help a neighbor to finish his shed. This was in the Elm Street Trailer Park. The gentleman was unable to do the work due to injuries, and was being threatened with eviction. Four people attending Pathway Community Church were involved, as well as the young man’s step-father. Two of the men from the congregation also live in the neighborhood. Joe Robles and his family live next to Bryan Hetherman, who is the gentleman that needed the help. Some time later the church  held a prayer walk in the neighborhood and we met a few more of our neighbors. I was also involved in helping another woman from the congregation build a shelter for her horses.

Pastor Tony and I will continue the education of the congregation. One of the projects that I want to finish before the month of January is up is to interview a couple of the people in the church that live in the trailer park. I intend to ask the basic initial survey questions starting with what they like about the trailer park. After doing the interviews, which I will be recording, I will edit them and we will play the video for the whole congregation to see. We would also like to hold a prayer tour so that people will at least be able to see the neighborhoods we will be working in and pray for their neighbors. We also have two people in the congregation who need help to make it through the winter. One gentleman needs a shed built so that he can supplement his income by raising dogs, and another gentleman needs help winterizing his house.

The biggest challenges we are facing right now is to get people educated enough in Asset Based Community Development so that we can expand beyond doing individual projects in response to needs and help build community among our neighbors.



By Ted Bessey
Community Development Team Coordinator

West Core Neighbors Fall Clean Up

Good Samaritan Ministries – Holland and Zeeland, MI – Judy Van Dyke

Good Samaritan Ministries partners with an RCA & CRC church to do community transformation in the core city of Holland, MI. Their site, the West Core Neighbors (WCN), is developing a deeper relationship with the neighborhood as they work together on things residents care about.

On a warm and sunny autumn day in October the WCN participated in a fall clean up. A community spirit was evident as 8 neighbors planned the project, Hope College provided the rakes, and New Community Fourth Church provided shopping carts to transport sticks collected for firewood. 24 students from the Phelps Scholar program at Hope College volunteered and worked with neighbors in their projects.

Students, neighbors, children and church members from New Community Fourth and Maple Avenue Ministries raked leaves side by side for over 70 homes in the core city of Holland. Assets were shared as the neighborhood garden was cleaned out, a shed was demolished, three years worth of dirty dishes were washed for an elderly neighbor, sticks were gathered and bundled for firewood and a neighbor’s dumpster was shared for all the neighborhood work. True community was experienced as people from various economic and ethnic backgrounds worked together for a common purpose.

Listening Works

Faith and Community Development Institute – AL, LA, MS

In October, when New Orleans is beginning to cool down a little, 10 people from the House of Hope Fellowship began doing prayer walks and listening to the community.  Rev. Gerald Burton, Pastor of House of Hope Fellowship, said, “We are a 1 year old church plant in the 9th Ward community. It wasn’t my original intention to be in this community, but God shifted our focus here. With most church plants you do demographic surveys and then start moving. I didn’t take that route. We just moved into the community and trusted what God is going to do.  We didn’t have a great feel or deep roots into the community, so I thought it would be very important to listen to the people in the community.”

For several hours, the members walked in the community.  Before they left the church, they defined their boundaries and developed into teams of two.  In the listening sessions, they ask the following questions. Please tell us about yourself and your connection to this community? How long have you been in this community? Who are the leaders in the community? What would you want to see in this community? What would you like to see going on in this community?

Upon returning the group shared what they learned. They discovered:

  • Pre Katrina, the community was predominately African American. Now the community has become a little more diverse to include Hispanics and white people.
  • The middle school and high school students are bused out of the community.
  • They envision programs to reduce crime, new and rehabilitated housing, and activities for the youth.

“When we finished that day, we were excited about what had just happened”, says Rev Burton. He goes on to say, “But the real impact on walking the community didn’t until we walked again a few weeks later.  “As they walked this time, Calvin Jackson and Audrey Brown met them and shared with them their appreciation for listening to the community.  They also shared that they owned the neighborhood grocery store and would like to partner to mentor youth.

In December, they House of Hope Fellowship, We Got It Grocery Store, and the New Orleans Recreation Department developed a youth mentoring program. On a weekly basis, youth are contacted and engaged by adults in the community.

Faith and Community Development Institute

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