A Community Easter Egg Hunt

The Harriett Tubman community has historically been a community of “to” and “for” activities and programs.  A good example would be a year ago in the Spring of 2009, Hope for the Inner City sponsored an Easter Egg hunt “for” the children of the community.  It was a well attended event and those who came, both children and adults, enjoyed themselves.

Fast forward to February 2010, Jerry Woods, the AmeriCorps representative with Hope for the Inner City, holds a monthly convening with the officers of the Harriett Tubman resident association to discuss what issues they care most about for their community.  A central theme from meeting centered around the children in the community and the fact that the residents would like to have more positive activities and events for the youth to be involved.  One of the residents inquired about the annual Easter Egg hunt and it was decided in the meeting that if there was going to be a successful event for the children that the residents needed to drive the process to make it happen.

Jerry helped plan the event “with” the residents of the neighborhood association.  One of the first positive actions the residents took was to engage the help of the county commissioner who represents the area of town where Harriett Tubman is located.  The residents began meeting with the county commissioner and got his commitment for some financial support from the county to help with the expense of the event.  The residents also contacted local businesses for donations of goods for the event.

The day of the event 14 residents from the community worked the event on behalf of the children in the community.  Instead of the event taking place at the Hope for the Inner City facility, the event was held in the community.  The attendance was very good and the event was a success.  The residents who worked with Jerry Woods to plan and manage the event felt a sense of community pride to know they had worked together on an issue they cared about.

It is the prayer of Hope for the Inner City that the residents of the community use this event as a reminder of what they are capable of accomplishing when they come together as a community on their own behalf.

Great Neighbors

Great neighbors make great neighborhoods; Great neighborhoods make great towns and cities:

Sarah is a good neighbor to us. She is friendly, quick to chat. She has work connections that give her insider information about plant sales and she passes that information along to her neighbors. She is a willing helper watching neighbor children for a minute when the mom has to run to the corner grocery. Sarah has willingly given a cup of brown sugar when her neighbor ran out. She shares generously. Sarah has a ladder I need to borrow at times and I have a snow blower she uses. We share quite a few things, making life simpler for both us. When I blow her drive, she brings over fresh baked cinnamon rolls – so good! Sarah is a good neighbor!

There is another level of neighboring. Sarah has helped her neighbors Joe and Rene connect because Rene needed someone to watch her kids get on the school bus in the morning, because she was off to work before the bus came. Joe lives with a disability and is prone to depression. Getting up on time every morning to watch the kids get on the bus helps him get up and start his day with purpose. Sarah is a connector in the neighborhood. She is also finding ways to set the table for neighbors to interact together because neighbors who interact and know each other enjoy their community more. Sarah has offered her home as a place for neighbors to gather. She has organized block parties. Sarah builds the fabric of community.

Sarah has also been active in a community listening. Sarah loves to get neighbors dreaming about making their neighborhood the best it can be. Life here will be more like heaven when… As Sarah discovers what neighbors care about, ect., around common hopes and dreams so they can work together on what they care about. Sarah is a great neighbor because she takes responsibility for the condition of her neighborhood.

  • Communities First Association: Believes great neighbors make great neighborhoods, and great neighborhoods make great towns and cities.
  • Encourages congregations to leave a redemptive imprint in the neighborhood they occupy.
  • Is raising a growing cadre of leaders who are transforming a growing number of communities.

Miracles Wanted:

  • A safe place for kids to go after school
  • Green space
  • For non-resident people who bring trouble, to leave
  • Less gang violence
  • Neighbors who talk to each other, who are nice.
  • Parents working together on summer outings for kids

This is a community group in Bellflower CA who worked together to name and begin organizing residents to change things they wanted to see improved in their neighborhood.

When Worlds Need to Collide

Sometimes we need have our worlds collide to learn what it means to “act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). We often think that giving to a cause, or feeding a homeless, or writing a letter to a congressman will suffice, but to really live out Micah 6:8  we need to interact with the people who are suffering from injustice, we need to show mercy by really being with a homeless person, we need to walk with our God by walking with our fellow human being.

At LifeLine we try to make those opportunities possible. One example is our Bus Boutique, a converted school bus that has new and gently used clothing and travels to various communities.

The Bus Boutique was a dream to bring clothing to under-resourced communities where the community members can barter (exchange the clothing) or volunteer in exchange for the goods. Manned by community volunteers the bus would provide clothing for families who often struggle with making ends meet. This opens doors for conversations and interaction with neighbors.

Radio Merced donated their former “Bear Bus” to LifeLine. John and Jim checked the bus and equipped it with the clothes racks.

Many volunteers donated clothing, while others washed and mended them. Sorting, storing and hanging are done by volunteers.  And then in the process we build relationships, because when you work together the barriers of ‘them’ and ‘us’ are broken down and all of a sudden the drug addict is no longer ‘them’ but is becoming a friend and we find out her story. We realize that the lack of justice and mercy in her life brought her to this point. We walk with her and we learn from each other and as we ‘walk humbly with our God’ we get to do life together.

The bus was painted as part of a worldwide community service for a major bank in the US. 6 members come out to paint the bus. They did an amazing job in several hours.  Last week we started with the final part, decorating the Bus Boutique. It was so much fun to see a young woman who cannot find a job (but has incredible artistic abilities), a single mother (who has the most organized mind and a passion for the success of the Bus Boutique), a homeless man (who has a master’s degree, is great with people and very creative), a welfare parent (who has a very giving heart and a dream to break the chain of poverty) and a number of students (all with their own stories), get together to decorate the Bus. People who never thought they could draw created a beautiful piece of art; people who thought they had nothing to give gave life to each other.

We create venues where people can do life together and we learn again what it means to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. Because when we build relationships with people, when we hear their stories, when we learn about each other, then we can live out Micah 6:8.

Monika Grasley

www.lifelinecdc.org

Holy Scribbles

Okay, okay, it might not look like much to you after a quick glance. But, this bunch of scribbles on an oversized napkin is indeed a very holy document for me and for our community.

It represents dozens of organizations that are feverishly at work seeking to provide housing, support neighborhood connection, advocating for environmental justice and on and on.

On this map are the homes of people in just about every income range. There are multi-national corporations beating Wall Street predictions and small start-up businesses struggling to make it another month.

This is the sketch of a neighborhood we love and showcases a God very much at work.

As I write these blog entries for the practicing church, even if I don’t mention it directly I’m going to be talking about this map because it represents a neighborhood, my neighborhood, and much more importantly, our neighborhood. Our church community has swallowed the “parish” pill, which effectively means that we are interested in joining God of all creation who is active in each square inch of this downtown neighborhood of Seattle. We figure that if we take God’s shalomic vision seriously, then we simply must begin where we are and take our locality quite seriously, the chances of losing security and comfort rise exponentially, but so far, there is nowhere I’d rather be.

Tim Soerens

For more on Tim Soerens church, DUST, visit their website: www.gatheringdust.org

Urban Resurrection

Urban Resurrection is a community development initiative with the vision to transform urban neighborhoods through weaving the fabric of a Christ centered community. We do this through three unique focuses called VOICE, BEATS, and the Good Neighbor Initiative.

We believe that Christ has called us not only to minister in our neighborhood but to actually relocate and live here. Just as Christ came to live among us we have chosen to live among those to whom we minister.

We encourage a Christ centered transformation by empowering community residents to organize, plan for, create and sustain a vibrant, high quality and diverse neighborhood.

Michael Philip, Director

“We believe that Christ has called us not only to minister in our neighborhood, but to actually relocate and live here.”

Horizon CRC

Horizon Christian Reformed Church in Illinois is a community primed for transformation.  Through prayer, preaching and study the congregation decided to leave their comfortable church building and relocate to a store front directly behind a 700 unit apartment complex many in the city claim to be a major “blight” on the community.  Realizing the best way to minister with the individuals and families that live in this complex is to be a part of this community Horizon has put stepped out in faith and moved when God told them to move.

The vision of this church is to see the community which they are now apart of to be transformed into the healthy Kingdom God has planned for it.

This vision for transformation is stated very clearly in their services statement:  The church is called to be a compelling force for good in this world.  It is not made to serve itself, but to serve and love this world.  God is already at work in the world and we are invited to join him to relieve suffering, fight injustice and oppression, meet the needs of the poor, and engage in making a transforming difference in the lives of our neighbors, in our community, and in this world.

It will be exciting to see what God is going to do with this community of believers who have opened themselves up to the transformational service of ministering “with” their community.

Bethany Dudley

Pullman CRC

The late 60’s early 70’s was a time of turmoil for the Southside neighborhoods of Chicago.  Within a few short years the entire racial and social economic makeup of these neighborhoods changed.  The Pullman/Roseland neighborhood was no exception.  With the changing of the neighborhoods came changes within the church.   Four large CRC churches, despite a few members’ pleas, left Pullman.  The rundown Gospel Mission’s building along with its’ small congregation who refused to abandon their neighborhood was all that was left in the once heavily Christian Reformed neighborhood of Pullman.

Over thirty years later this small congregation, now  known as Pullman Christian Reformed Church, is a strong thriving multi-cultural worshiping community. Pullman CRC has recently reestablished their commitment to the Pullman neighborhood and has gone through Asset Based Community Development training in order to enhance God’s Kingdom in Pullman.  They are in the beginning stages of adopting a school and starting listening conversations with their neighbors.

Pullman CRC’s love and commitment for the Pullman neighborhood has not wavered since they answered God’s call to stay in the community over thirty years ago.  The decades of relationships and ministries built by Pullman CRC coupled with their commitment to Asset Based Community Development and their open hearts to follow where God leads it is clear that the transforming power of God’s Kingdom is at work in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago!

Bethany Dudley

Delighted to Share with You

by Stacey Kiekintveld

It was six years ago.  My husband Joel had left a job working for a church and we were seeking out what was next.  We found a little house on the north side of town in what was considered Anchorage’s “ghetto.”  Joel ended up working for Anchorage Youth for Christ running a teen drop-in center, Parachutes, in the Dimond Mall on the south side of town.  We started attending Crosspoint Community Church also located on the south side of town and, at that time still meeting at Klatt Elementrary School.

Nearly five years ago Jeff Littlejohn came to Anchorage and held an ABCD Conference at Crosspoint.  It was there that I began to think about this idea that we should be living at the mobile home park.  After all, if it was the area of town that we were trying to “reach.” Then I suppose we should actually live there ourselves.  Four years later, after many hours of discussion on a dusty dirt road near Dawson City, we decided to make the leap.  Last spring we sold our house in Mountain View and bought a mobile home (a double wide) in Dimond Estates.

The cost of living in Anchorage is high and there is very minimal affordable housing.  Many of the city’s lower income families find themselves with few choices, one of those choices being a trailer.  Dimond Estates is one of the larger and nicer mobile home parks in a city that has a good number of them.  We estimate that anwhere from 1500-3000+ people live on Dimond Estates’ 522 lots.

There is a stigma that goes along with living in a mobile home park.  For many reasons it’s not a place that people take pride in.  Some of my dreams would be to improve the community in the park to such an extent that people would not be ashamed to say they live there; to make this mobile home park esthetically a great place to live for people who cannot afford to live anywhere else; to build community where kids have a great place to play and where people know one another; to make services available like medical or financial clinics, after school clubs, soccer leagues, garden clubs…I can just go on and on with this list.  I dream of a park that people could actually be proud of living in, which, to be honest at this point in time for myself, is a little bit humbling.

Organically, little things have already begun to happen.  One example was TV Turn Off week at school.  During that week, we had kids over after school to draw with sidewalk chalk, blow bubbles, and play Kick the Can.  Through those activities I know more of the kids’ names and a few more adults too.  Our first “plan of action” is to organize a neighborhood meeting in order to learn and discover what the people here dream and hope for living in this community.  Through this beginning, hopefully, we will begin to develop a neighborhood association.

Deep down in my heart, however, I know that if none of my dreams become a reality, God really just called me here to love the people He brings my way.  That is really what it comes down to right?  Loving people no matter what their situation is or where they live.  Brining peace and love and hope to a community where little is to be found.  Bringing heaven here on earth.

We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. (1 Thessalonians 2:8).  SK