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.

Everything You Need Is Already There

To live in a consumer society means that we live in a society that is constantly seducing us to remember what we do not have. We need, we don’t have, if only we could get, wouldn’t it be great to have, I could do this if only I had……these are all familiar chorus lines to that song you can’t get out of your head called, consumerism.

There is much that could be written about the pervasive spirituality of consumerism in our day, but for a brief moment I’d like to focus attention on how the posture of “need” influences neighborhoods and churches.

This past Monday evening I had the joy of leading a handful of neighborhood leaders in beginning to realign and reimagine the Cascade People’s Center, my neighborhood community center that is going through significant challenges amidst a rapidly changing neighborhood. We increasingly understand together that the posture that we collectively take when undergoing change is usually just as important as whatever strategic initiatives that require implementation. In other words, how you get somewhere is just as important as where you hope to go.

Due to some crushing financial realities, as well as major organizational changes, the People’s Center has found itself focusing on neighborhood and organizational “needs” instead of assets. It is very easy to be overwhelmed with the crushing sense of need. We need more money, we need more staff, we need more volunteers, it isn’t so different than most church communities is it? However, when we allow needs to be the driving force for change, consumerism oddly wins the day. Here is a diagram I’m borrowing from a fabulous book on community development.

Two Paths ——– Two Solutions Needs (what is not there) creates services to meet those needs which then creates “consumers” which results in the mantra that programs are the answer.

VS.

Assets (what is there) creates connections and contributions which then creates “citizens” which results in the mantra people are the answer.

I believe this model is just as useful to neighborhoods and cities, as it is to churches and non-profit agencies. If you begin with what you have and work from there, the end result is almost completely different than beginning from a place of need. Think of the next major challenge or initiative you are facing. You already have everything you need to begin. Start with what you have and work from there.

Tim Soerens

Green Bean Coffee House Burns Down

On October 23, 2009 the Green Bean Coffee House and three other businesses were destroyed by a fire. For more information on this story visit these links:

http://www.kirotv.com/news/21401279/detail.html

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/65765377.html

http://www.auroraseattle.com/2009/10/23/green-bean-scorched

Ring…Ring…Ring…

“Hello this is Randy Rowland.”

“Hi Randy, this is Jeff.”

“How you doing Jeff?”

“…Well…”

Randy [With gusto]: “The Green Bean is unscathed and doing just fine!”  ”On the other hand, the building is gone.”
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
Dear Friends of the Green Bean Coffee House, Sanctuary Church and the Greenwood community:

With that wonderfully framed perspective, a new course and future for both the Green Bean, Sanctuary Church and the community has been set.

The people, people in community, all alive and unhurt are intact, present and will move on through this crisis.  In-fact they will be more vibrantly alive and mission-driven than ever before.  The stuff of brick and mortar, lath and plaster…went up in smoke or fell to the ground.  Yet the substance of meaning, care, life, spirit, joy, and future – was only fed toward advance, perhaps like never before.

So you know by now of the fire.  The fire raged rapidly and totally consumed the Green Bean and 3 other businesses just adjacent the C.C. Teriyaki, Szechuan Bistro and Pho Tic Tac.  In addition to the businesses, the Taproot Theatre was severely impacted, not burned but suffered major water and smoke damage.

What started out as shock followed by tears then by profound grief, began by noon to turn toward hope: “What’s next?”  Talk began among people gathering across the street: “This is a community thing…we’ve got to pull together.” Talk was beginning to swirl that nearby businesses, untouched by the fire, where exploring how to turn some of their net receipts toward those impacted by the fire.

I stood on the street for about 3-hours.  Once people were allowed to gather on the sidewalk across the street from the fire – most just came, stopped, stood quietly…and simply stared at the smoldering ruins.  It was easy to start conversations…”It’s so sad.”   Replies came:

  • “Yes…so sad…I loved the Green Bean.”
  • “This hurts, the Vietnamese restaurant was the most authentic in the area…tragic,” says Dave (a travel journey tour guide)
  • “My 10-year old son is in a play at the Taproot…I am am afraid to tell him what has happened here,” say Robin (a mom of 3)
  • The Green Bean was such a wonderful, safe place for so many of us in the neighborhood,” anonymous.
For me, the most gripping moment was when I turned to my left and saw a Japanese mother with her 2-year old daughter on her back, her other young daughter in her grasp as she kneeled on the sidewalk.  The youngest was verbalizing, “Fire-man!”   Below her sister and mom was the saddest face in the neighborhood I think.  That little 5-year old girl was transfixed on the remains of the Green Bean…her face hid none of the big grief welling up in such a little heart…so transparent it was.  It was the saddest thing I saw.

This sweet one, not fully understanding what was going on or why, knew without a measure of doubt she had lost something valuable-a place where wonderful people of all kinds gather and softly celebrate every day.  This place, the Green Bean, held people in community in such a way (whether people knew or not) they were experiencing the King’s Kingdom, His Presence, a foretaste of His Fullness “heaven on earth”.

This little 5-year old knew somehow that something near & dear was taken away.  But of course we know, as Pastor Randy Rowland so well expressed, temporal stuff may be gone, yet that of eternal, living and true – continues on.

I trust soon, this little Japanese-American girl will walk through the doors in a newly remodeled building somewhere near Greenwood and 85th, where a restored Green Bean and community freshly arise from the ashes.  And we will see a smile that sings:  ”Joy!”

So community…continue to pray.  I can’t wait to see how the Lord is going to keep on doing His good work.

Jeff Littlejohn

For ways to help and more updates on the Greenwood arsons visit these links:
http://www.greenbeancoffee.org/
Coffee Shop Owner Has Message of Forgiveness After Arson
2 More Arsons in Seattle’s Greenwood Neighborhood
Greenwood Business Owner Threatened After Arson at his Restaurant
Greenwood Arson Suspect is a Convicted Firebug
Greenwood Arson Suspect Charged

Greenwood Arson Suspect Pleads Not Guilty

The Green Bean Story 1

Green Bean Story 1 from CFA Videos on Vimeo.


This is a story from the Green Bean coffee house in Seattle, Washington. For more videos on the Green Bean follow the links below.The Green Bean
The Green Bean Story 2
Posted: June 7, 2009          DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
General (2:09)
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The Green Bean Story 2

The Green Bean Story 2 from CFA Videos on Vimeo.


This is a story from the Green Bean coffee house in Seattle, Washington. For more videos on the Green Bean follow the links below.The Green Bean
Green Bean Story 1
Posted: June 7, 2009          DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
General (1:12)
To download Quicktime right click (control-click for Mac) on the “DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME” text and choose “Save Target As,” “Save Link As,” or “Download Linked File.

Ground-swell for Community Garden

A new community garden is just about to emerge.  Just south of Aaron Drive, located in north Lynden, WA., members of Sonlight Community CRC have been meeting with nearby residents asking if they would be interested to organize a community garden.

So far over 35 residences have showed interest.

On Saturday, April 25th, the overall general membership met to decide on a number of organizational matters that charted the course for this community effort. Planting of seeds and transplants will likely begin the following week.

More information may be gleaned on the goings-on with this new effort via a link to their blog: http://northcitycommunitygarden.blogspot.com/

A recent article on the garden was published by the Lynden Tribune, link to it here: http://www.lyndentribune.com/node/4273

Community Garden Draws People Together from Area Neighborhoods for Common Goal

Tim Newcomb
Tribune assistant editor
The Lynden Tribune
Country Life

April 8, 2009

LYNDEN — It is a garden for the community, by the community. And it is that way by design.

Sonlight Community Church has donated three-quarters of an acre along Aaron Drive for use by the local community as a plotted community garden.

Behind the initiative of church-goer and community activist Jeff Littlejohn, nearly 300 homes in the neighboring high-density community were invited to participate in the new garden.

The church is simply donating the space and letting the community take charge of planning it.

Littlejohn said it has been a true community effort.

Melissa Nienhuis, resident, said that she was “surprised to see a group who didn’t know each other agree on a plan (for the garden) and work together.”  “I have never felt that sense of community,” she added.

Lisa Kusick said the initial meeting of interested residents was shockingly “inspiring.”
She said she got involved because she wanted to grow peas like her “granny” did. “It went from growing peas to growing a community,” she said.

Neighbors from Heartland, Parkview West Apartments, Lynden Manor, Lynden Manor Condominiums, Heritage Park and Fishtrap Landing were all invited to participate. All of those areas are high-density, providing residents little to no room for a garden of their own. The garden still has room for residences of those areas to join in.

Littlejohn said it simply worked out that the location of the garden is surrounded by high-density housing.

A dozen people on a steering committee are planning the rules and bylaws for the North City Community Garden, which is expected to have about 26 households participating. The first order of business was to determine the garden is going to be organic. Other decisions are on the way.

Nienhuis said that it is turning into a great family event, as kids are excited to participate in the learning process.

The garden itself will feature three different sizes of plots ranging from 4 feet square to 10 by 20 feet.

Plans include a communal plot for corn, shrubs, flowers and trees on the outside of the garden, a split-rail fence along Aaron Drive, the creation of a gathering area outside of the garden and the fixing-up of a nearby shed (which at one time was used as a residence for a farmhand) for use by the gardeners.

Discussions over creating raised beds, making it easier for older members to participate, are in the works.

“We want the old-timers to help,” Littlejohn said.  “We have so much to learn,” Nienhuis   added.

The garden will be planted when the weather allows. Littlejohn said he was able to get Whatcom County and the City of Lynden to work together — a feat in and of itself — to bring in river silt, which a local farmer spread. Edaleen Dairy offered free manure, which was tilled by Eldon Heutink. The most recent layer of compost is germinating, getting ready for planting with another mix of high-quality compost.

Nienhuis said she is looking forward to the opportunity to learn and share in the knowledge of gardening and the community it brings.

Kusick said she has already met neighbors she hadn’t known before. “That is the other part that is so much fun,” she said. “Strangers are coming together with this purpose in mind. That is a big part for me.”

There is hope that in the fall, the plot of ground can be used as a winter garden showcase and that the Lynden Boys & Girls Club, which meets at the church, can play a role in the gardening. Nienhuis thinks that enough food can be raised to donate to Lynden’s Project Hope.

Littlejohn praised the efforts of Third Christian Reformed Church in planting a community gardening seed across Lynden.

Last year, Third kicked off its own community garden (as chronicled in the Tribune) under the direction of Dave Timmer. Littlejohn said that that plan sparked the thoughts of starting one at Sonlight.

Alyce Werkema is also spearheading a similar effort at United Methodist Church of Lynden.

Master Gardeners
The WSU Whatcom County Master Gardeners will visit the North City Community Garden of Lynden at 10 a.m. on April 18 to help neighbors get ready to grow their own groceries. They will be teaching how to prepare soil, which vegetables are best for our region, how to build raised beds and other useful structures and how to site and design your garden. All are invited to this free event.

Demonstration Garden
As part of Littlejohn’s Imagine Northwest community partnership organization located at Lynden’s New Hope Center, 205 South B.C. Ave., he has created a demonstration garden in the front of the building.

The small garden, which is simply layers of compost and straw on top of cardboard (to keep the weeds out), is designed to allow people to learn how to garden. The style Littlejohn uses enables layering, which replaces tilling.

It has also served as a teaching tool for the youth housed at New Way Ministries, as they helped with the initial planting recently.

  E-mail Tim Newcomb at .
[Found at: http://www.lyndentribune.com/node/4273 ]
You can visit the North City Community Garden (NCCG) blog by clicking here .

Improving Our Serve: What We’ve Learned Through Service Sundays

Our church in Shoreline, Washington, wanted to be more involved in our community.  We didn’t necessarily want to create a new program or event that would draw our neighbors into our church.  We wanted our members to get out into the surrounding neighborhood and build relationships.

We held our first “Service Sunday” in March of 2008, where church members went out in teams on a Sunday morning to help out neighbors in very practical ways.  We’ve had two other Service Sundays in June and August, on days when there was a fifth Sunday in the month.  Reflecting on our three experiences, we’re thankful we were led to dive into this sometimes uncomfortable approach and we praise God for the developing connections and relationships that are taking place.

We’re glad to share some of the things we’ve learned:

Scheduling:
We meet for worship at the same time as usual, so visitors don’t come to an empty church.  Our worship service is short, albeit enthusiastic.  Within half an hour, members are gathering into their teams and heading out to their jobs.  The list of jobs (18 projects for about 130 participating members.) includes tasks that could always use an extra hand (such as garbage picking or pulling weeds out of the community forest) so that any last-minute person could join in.

There are about two and a half hours allotted for our various jobs.  We need plenty of time to help encourage our goal of relaxed, fun relationship building.  It’s also important to have enough time to complete the task well.

As teams finish their jobs, they head back to the church.  Several teams have remained in the church building: for prayer, to do indoor projects (like assembling first aid kits for our sister church in Africa) and to prepare our meal.  We gather together for lunch, having learned to begin the meal even if a few straggling teams haven’t finished up yet.

During these meals, conversation is buzzing and enthusiasm and story-telling are at their all-time high.  It’s a delightful time.  Recipients of our tasks (and any people we’ve met along the way) are invited to join us.

Our first Service Sunday meals were potlucks.  Everyone brought more than enough to serve extra people and it worked just fine.  We got the feeling, however, that many un-churched people were not used to the idea of a potluck and felt uncomfortable with the idea.  Our third Service Sunday was a large BBQ lunch, with church members frying up burgers and hot dogs, providing a more familiar palate and environment for everyone involved.

We concluded our first Service Sunday with an afternoon worship service right after lunch.  It was intended especially as time of singing, sharing and praising God for His presence.  We were quickly aware of how uncomfortable some of our visitors were with this approach.  Not only were they unfamiliar with the songs, but they were unsure of what would happen next – as if they suddenly lost their trust in us and worried that we were about to Evangelize.  As well, the sharing time turned into some playful team competitiveness, with an air of our great ability to interact with our neighboring heathens.  We decided to cancel the service and to instead simply allow the lunch to linger.  This meal time has become a highlight for many people – there’s evidence of relationship building in true fellowship void of cliques.

The Jobs:
The church members who volunteer to set up our jobs have been very organized – and they really need to be.  Getting 130 people out the door with the tools they need is a big job.  We’ve chosen to include both public and private jobs, and appreciate the balance this provides.  Public jobs include picking garbage along city streets and trails, cleaning up school yards and pulling weeds from the local park.  Private jobs include projects for particular neighbors: weeding, painting, washing windows, hauling out backyard junk, etc.

Each team has an appointed leader who takes the initiative with the assigned job.  S/he often makes contact with the recipient before Service Sunday and lets the members of the team know what tools they’ll need to take along.  Team leaders arrive early, are sure to have members sign any necessary city waiver forms, and hand out t-shirts.

We chose to buy t-shirts for a number of reasons, and we’re glad we did.  They build cohesiveness and add enthusiasm.  T-shirts get handed out by team leaders and are promptly returned to be washed and stored for the next Service Sunday.  We’ve kept them simple, with our church name on the front and the words “neighbors helping neighbors” on the back.  A surprising, but big benefit to our matching t-shirts is that other people recognize us as a group and feel more comfortable approaching us.  An organized group seems more trustworthy than a collection of random individuals.

Another expense we’ve had with Service Sundays is the dumpster rental.  We bring a large garbage and yard waste dumpster onto our parking lot so we can completely take away the trash or weeds we haul out of someone’s yard.  People are very appreciative and we often give church members and other neighbors a chance to add to the dumpster for a few days before they’re hauled away by the city.

At first, menial jobs like picking garbage were meant to be replaced by more meaningful tasks.  But some wonderful stories have come from teams in these jobs.  Although not officially signed up to work with any neighbors, they always end up meeting people and engaging in interesting discussions.  We’re planning to keep our menial tasks!

Many of our jobs return to the same places or people at the next Service Sunday.  These ongoing relationships are most exciting.  Not only are we getting to know our neighbors, but they are connecting with other neighbors through us.  And when we return to the local park to pull weeds, it’s great to know that we’re making a visible difference in our community.  Often church members continue developing these new relationships on their own, stopping to visit a neighbor they helped out or to attend a community park clean up.

We’re so excited about this avenue of service and outreach.  By serving our neighbors in this way, we’re developing relationships and creating a connectedness throughout our neighborhood!  It’s been an exciting journey – praise God!

Erika Bakker

To find out more about 1st Seattle CRC and their Service Sundays click here.

A New Kind of Expression

To live out the Great Commission is to live out our Christianity beyond the Sunday morning church service. Bearing witness is to embody Christ and publicly testify to him everywhere we find ourselves. But witnessing is not enough—we are called to make disciples, to actually help in the furthering of God’s Kingdom on earth by growing more Christians (followers and worshippers of Christ) and we are called to do this in all nations.

The Greek word used for “nation” is ethnos which means race or tribe. Jesus is saying that this gospel is to be shared beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem, to wherever people are, regardless of their race or tribe. For the In, For, and With Community Church Network, the Great Commission’s expression takes on some unique forms, one of which is the Community Liaison program.

A community liaison can be an In, For, and With the Community Church participant or a neighbor who is not a Christian but lives in our local neighborhood. Their goal is to have a designated number (say 10) “listening conversations” during the course of a month. These conversations are held with neighbors and the purpose is to find out what that neighbor is interested in seeing different in the neighborhood and how they’d like to participate in making that difference happen.

There are three questions asked of the neighbor: if you could make one good thing happen in the next year in this neighborhood, what would it be; what skills, strengths, assets, or abilities do you have to contribute to making this one thing happen; and if there are others in the neighborhood who desire to see the same thing happen, would you work with them to fulfill that good thing.

This community development practice calls neighbors into action for the good of the community and has tremendous implications on the neighborhood. Here the church does not as much “do for” the neighborhood as it really acts as a catalyst for what is already in the neighborhood. This may not be direct disciple making per say, but it does call the church to “go” and for the community liaisons who are not Christians, it calls them to recognize the church as valuing the very places they “go” to. In a sense, for the church to develop and operate a community liaison program is to practice theologies of place, neighbor, and community with no strings attached thus our love for God and neighbors is personified in community development work.

For information on Roosevelt Community Church visit their website by clicking here.

The Green Bean

The Green Bean from CFA Videos on Vimeo.


The Green Bean coffee house is a non-profit approach to coffee. For more videos on the Green Bean follow the links below.The Green Bean Story 1
The Green Bean Story 2
Posted: Feb. 9, 2009          DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
General (3:51)
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Community Candy Walk

Community Candy Walk from CFA Videos on Vimeo.


  How can churches and Christians engage their communities? Roosevelt Community Church in Bellingham Washington had an idea to engage their neighborhood during Halloween. They set up a safe “candy walk” to distribute candy to their neighbors and invited people from the community to set up their own booths on the route.
Posted:Nov. 16, 2008          DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
Community Organizing
(3:23)
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Birchwood Candy Walk

This was the first year of having a candy walk in the Birchwood Neighborhood and after spending several hours passing out fliers there were three of us at a station along the candy route.  We had no expectations but high hopes that people would react positively to the idea of having a safe way for kids to get the candy they so desperately wanted without the parents having the anxiety as their children went door to door.  So we approached the evening just being thankful it was not raining and that there were plenty of Trick or Treaters.

Within 15 minutes of each other two different neighbors approached us with their bowls of candy, asked what we were doing, and the asked if they could join us.  “Of course!” we practically shouted.  So for the next 30 minutes or so we had some neighbors setup a station similar to ours about 100 feet down the route.  Success!

Click here for a video on how the Candy Walk works.

Cameron Garcia

In, For, and WITH the Community

In, For, and WITH from CFA Videos on Vimeo.


To develop a community you have to be willing to live in it.  To be WITH a community means to be a servant to the community.
Posted: Feb. 5, 2008 DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
General (3:56)

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Go Where He’s Working…They Did!

by Megan West for Imagine NW!

“If you want to know Jesus,” says Pastor Eric Likkel of Emmaus Road Church, “you have to go where He’s working.” “People need to have a sense of place in their community; you need to know people in your place in order to make a difference.” So the people at Emmaus Road head to the streets, public meetings, and local outreach centers in their Belltown community to serve and love their neighbors.

The Belltown district is one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the Seattle area. Upscale condos and towers dominate the landscape. However, only 25% of residents own homes.  The less visible population rents, has subsidized housing or lives on the streets.  Connecting in this community is especially difficult because the neighborhood lacks any community centers or greenspace.

“People from the neighborhood started coming, from the Union Gospel Mission, people in recovery, people from the condo crowd…they loved to worship with us and felt like they could come and belong,” said Likkel.

But for Emmaus Road, it’s not just about “putting butts in seats” on Sunday.  Neighborhood building is a long-term investment, says Likkel.  Emmaus Road goes out in the community to get to know people, develop trusting relationships, and to let people know we care about them, not just getting them to come to a service.  “It takes lots of phone calls, coffee and showing up.”

Emmaus Road is dedicated to being what Likkel calls “sparkplugs and glue” in the community. As “sparkplugs” they inspire people in the community to imagine how their community could be. The “glue” is putting people together with existing ministries where they can plug in.  “God’s provided resources…people just don’t know it. If we could bridge the gap between the towers and the street it could transform the soul of the city.”

“A lot of people feel mixed emotions about homeless people pan-handling.  They aren’t sure what to do.  People are at a loss to know how to get involved in their own neighborhoods. We want to come alongside and help people become aware of the treasures in their own neighborhoods,” says Likkel.

Although it can be daunting to reach out, Likkel reminds us that as Christians, it’s not an option to show love and concern for our neighbor.  He says we start by praying for our eyes to be open to the needs around us and to the ministries that are already in place.  It takes courage to let God soften our hearts to reach out and care for those who may not share our values.

“Ministry is not about getting people to come see what we’re doing at church, it’s about getting out there.  And then you get to see God better because you’re where He is.  The purpose is for the church to meet Jesus,” says Likkel, “and when we feed each other, we feed Him.”

Town Pulls Off a Community Dinner

During my first 6 years of ministry in Clear Lake (WA), it was the tradition at Thanksgiving for the two churches in town to have an annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner.  It was an evening of terrific food and pleasant conversations followed by a nice program.

But it wasn’t a “community” Thanksgiving dinner, for not one person outside of the two churches would come.

This changed!  When plans were beginning for the 2006 Community Thanksgiving dinner, there was a willingness to offer a true community dinner.  A group of leaders from our community were invited to join the two churches in offering a meal.  After great conversations and creative brainstorming a format was chosen.  The Clear Lake community would have its first Progressive Community Thanksgiving Meal.

The Historical Association would host the appetizers in their building.  Community Covenant Church would host the main course and Clear Lake Baptist Church would host the dessert at the Elementary School with a program by the local high school jazz choir following.  The Fire Department agreed to have a fire truck at each of the locations to help with traffic and with people walking between each building.

On the night of the meal our prayers were answered.  Many people came.  In-fact 350 or around 20% of the whole community joined in this celebration!  Young, old, the well known and the forgotten, all came together for a Thanksgiving meal.  It was a grand night.

This time – it was a community meal.

Now months later plans are underway for the next Thanksgiving.  Also, as a result, other community matters are being pursued as well.  More people have joined in providing leadership and new ideas and events are taking shape.  For example, the Clear Lake Connection Committee is seeking to have a free trash day; to offer free or reduced swimming at our local beach this summer; and to have a community safety meeting with the Sheriff and more.

The committee is gaining the courage to care for our small town.  To God be the Glory!

TH

AmeriCorps Makes A Difference

by Trudy Shuravloff

With the help of Imagine NW! my organization, The Whatcom Dream has been able to receive a grant in the form of an AmeriCorps position for the past year and a half.  John Shuravloff filled this position as an AmeriCorps member.  The requirements of the position are to advance Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) practices in our neighborhood.  John and I live in the Roosevelt Neighborhood of Bellingham, Washington.

Some of the ABCD efforts include:

1.  Helping residents organize and develop a neighborhood poster and calendar.

2.  Supporting and encouraging neighbors to work with local Child Welfare Officials to create a system that allows foster kids from our neighborhood to stay in our neighborhood.  A system that enables kids to remain in their same school, with the support and familiarity of friends and teachers, will decrease stress on the kids while the family is in crisis and foster a sense of belonging and stability for families.

3.  Assist neighbors in organizing local block watch programs.  Every resident was given a free low energy compact fluorescent light bulb for a porch light to help reduce crime in the area.  Roosevelt is no longer the highest crime area in Bellingham.  Community Development REALLY WORKS!

4.  Facilitate a “Citizen Leadership” program in the Roosevelt neighborhood.  This program is patterned after one developed by Imagine-Chicago, a non-profit community organization in Chicago.  This is a structured, on-the-job training that equips local people, young or old, to learn the basics of community organizing.

The goal is for each trainee to form a team of citizens to plan and complete a small project that improves the neighborhood.

John will be facilitating the nominee’s work sessions, which provide them with the necessary tools, information and resources to complete a project of their choice.  This is a wonderful opportunity to provide free leadership development training to residents who are recognized as potential leaders!

Lastly, John can be seen most days out in the community garden – planting, weeding and watering.  When we moved here several years ago, this garden became a huge and exciting gathering point for neighbors to naturally connect and talk.  This benefits the neighborhood by bringing people together through meaningful conversations.  Our neighbors love the produce and the spontaneous chats!

Thanks Imagine NW! for supporting us in our work!  We appreciate your help!  TS

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

Roosevelt Community Church: Common Vineyard

by Baron Miller

In John 15, Jesus says we are the vine, and he is the branch, and this is how we have life in Him.  Consider the whole church sharing in the vine of Christ.  Catherine of Sienna, the 14th century Christian Mystic, called this “common vineyard.”  The nature of a “common vineyard,” Catherine says, is that every action, good or bad, affects other people.

The challenge for the local church is to live like we DO really share a common vineyard.  If we only offer this vine to others during a church service, then very few, namely Christians, will ever experience new life on the vine.  What if the city was our sanctuary, not the building, and the neighborhood our congregation, not merely church attendees?

With this question in mind, Roosevelt Community Church spent a Sunday DOING a church service, not sitting in a church service, and we didn’t take an offering, we made an offering. We worked with the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association and secured a grant to plant 30 street beautification trees.  That Sunday our sermon was on loving our neighbors as ourselves; and the neighborhood didn’t hear the sermon, they saw the sermon.  Events like these get us one step closer to sharing a “common vineyard.”  BM

A Blue Collar Pastor

by Baron Miller

It was 3:00pm, and our church had been working for 6 hours at John and Trudy’s house on Texas Street in Bellingham, Washington.  This was after a construction crew had spent the last 3 weeks attempting to salvage their home.  Leaky roof and windows, rotten floor joists, mold; you name the problem and this house had it.

Inspired by the early church’s social actions, “There were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4:34a), we had committed to support John and Trudy with a working party to save labor costs.

It was at this time that I was introduced to Isreal, the carpet guy.  Adam, our project coordinator had convinced Isreal to donate the carpet installation costs and while chatting with him, called me out, “Hey Baron, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

I shook Isreal’s hand while Adam explained to him that I’m the pastor of the church who had put this working party together.

Isreal shook my dirty, blistered hand and said, “You’re the pastor huh—a real blue collar pastor.”

I drove home that day feeling like being called a blue collar pastor was the best compliment I’d received in years.  But more important than the personal compliment is what it means not only to Isreal, but to the community: That this blue collar pastor leads a blue collar church, and we all get our hands dirty together.

This is the heart of incarnational ministry—to be among, not separate from the people.  This is what Jesus does, he’s among, and he gets his hands dirty with the rest of us—a blue collar church for a blue collar Jesus.  BM

ABCD AT FCRC

by Harry Weidenaar

From the top of the year Seattle First Christian Reformed Church has partnered with Jeff Littlejohn and Imagine NW! to learn and practice the principles of Asset Based Community Development.

This partnership comes out of a desire of Seattle First to be relevant to its community.  We want to have influence with our neighbors without being obnoxious.  We want to serve the Kingdom of God by coming alongside our neighbors and helping them to achieve what they plan for their community.  As we build relationships, we believe opportunities to share Christ in word as well as deed will arise naturally.

To this end we have opened our church building to use by community organizations and encouraged our membership to attend their meetings.  For example, the Briarcrest Neighborhood Association had their annual party in our multi-purpose room.

Our people joined their people in eating, laughing, swapping stories, and swing dancing.

We plan on having a block party off campus in one of the neighborhoods close to church so that neighbors and church members can meet and greet informally over burgers and dogs.  We’re hoping to have a table at our annual rummage sale (always a big draw!) that gives away money!  What’s the gimmick?  We want to ask Shoreline residents 5 “magic wand” questions for a buck.  Answer the questions, you get your dough!

This is an effort to gather more information on our neighborhood, to help us serve better.

We have a basketball camp planned for middle school and junior high school kids in August.  Camp teachers include neighborhood “balers” who have signed on to work with us.

A neighborhood summit, involving a number of neighborhood associations, is planned fo later in the year.

What’s the benefit to us?  Three things, I think:

First, we believe that we are doing God’s will here.

Second, our people have enjoyed contact with our neighborhood people and have managed to help them do some things that they wanted to do.

And third, we have some new people (just a trickle now) but we hope it will become a stream and join us in our mission work and worship life at First.  HW

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