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