Mt Airy Community Church Launches Community Ministry

Al Santino – Northeast Community Transformation

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Northeast Community Transformation has recently developed a partnership with Mt Airy Community Church, a new church plant which is part of the Philadelphia Christian Reformed cluster of church plants affiliated with Spirit and Truth Fellowship.  Through the training, coaching and encouragement provided by NECT Mt Airy created the position of Community Advocate around one of its community gifted members, Cindy Lees.  Cindy tells the story of their recent progress.

In the beginning of April, Allen (our pastor) and I helped out at a local community cleanup that was sponsored by West Mount Airy Neighbors (WMAN).  That day I met the Chair of the Nominating Committee for WMAN, who asked me if I had any interest in becoming a board member.  As I thought and prayed about it, it seemed like a significant opportunity for me to become more relationally connected with some of the “gatekeepers” in this community (WMAN is a VERY active organization with a lot of influence in our neighborhood).  As of June 14th, I officially began a three-year term serving on the Board of WMAN (monthly Board meetings start in September).  Please pray for much wisdom for me!

Mt. Airy Day (which is sponsored by WMAN), was the large, annual community celebration that took place in the beginning of May.  This was another good opportunity for me to meet and work alongside folks from WMAN and begin building relationships with this group.  Several folks from our church helped “man” our table (at which we advertised community resources) and they began doing some community surveys as well.  I was encouraged as I reconnected with several folks from the community whom I knew from previous events; it was good to interact with them and let them know about our church and our desire to serve the community.

MACC is also coordinating with another local church, Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church, to run a Summer Kids Program (essentially a vacation Bible School) on Wednesday evenings in July and August.  These evenings will begin with a free “community dinner” for the kids and their parents and families.  This will be followed by teaching and activities for the kids, as well as worship time for teenagers and adults.  This is one of the ways we are seeking to reach out and serve our community.  We have posted flyers in the neighborhood, placed an ad in one of the local newspapers, and have also made some individual phone calls to “get the word out” about the program.  We also plan on handing out flyers door-to-door to folks who live very close to the church.

Going Deep In Partnership

Northeast Community Transformation is excited to announce a new venture in our collaborative partnership with Safe Haven Urban Redemption in Newark, NJ.

Safe Haven is a youth development ministry affiliated with Trinity Reformed Church (Reformed Church in America) in the Ironbound community.  Their mission is to empower youth and their families to be the spiritual and social change agents of their community.  This is being accomplished through ministries such as after school, teen employment, arts and music, summer camp, and partnerships with the local school, parents association and health clinic.

Founder and Director Danny Iverson, who has become a dear colleague and friend to Al Santino, is embarking on seminary studies in Florida and will be working long distance.

To help fill is some of the gaps, Al will serve as community development Strategy Coach for six hours per week for the year July, 2010-June 2011.  His role will be to encourage the staff  in developing creative community focused programs and leadership skills.  We believe this going deep” partnership will be a blessing to both NECT and Safe Haven as we give and receive from each other the expertise, gifts, and synergy to work for God’s Kingdom coming to the Newark Ironbound community.

Please pray for this partnership as it represents a deeper level of engagement for NECT that could serve as a model for a strategic focus for empowering our partners and their communities.

Al has been meeting with a group of summer teen employees to discuss how they can own the change in their community through persuading their peers to come together to work together on issues which are critical to their well being.

Some of the issues raised by the teens included  having a safe place for socializing and recreation and using music as a positive, creative force for good.

Al encouraged them to see their job at the Safe Haven summer youth program as an opportunity to grow in community as they affirm each other’s gifts and abilities.

One young person commented that he came to make a few dollars but now is actually enjoying working with the children.

Safe Haven Community Coordinator Jason Bundy will be following up with the youth to help them “own the change”.

Touched by Christ…Touching Her Community

Linda DiFazio has been touched by God’s grace and is in turn touching her Newark “Ironbound” community through her love for its children and families. She is a staff member of Safe Haven Urban Redemption, a youth and family development ministry and NECT partner affiliated with Trinity Reformed Church (RCA).  In 2003, Linda was touched by the love of Jesus Christ through the ministry of Trinity and committed her life to the Lord.  At the time she was volunteering as an aid in the community school but now the Lord has magnified her burden and gifts for her community in a way she could never have imagined.

These gifts were recognized by Safe Haven Director Danny Iverson who invited her on staff.  Her responsibility as Food Service Director at Safe Haven includes teaching Home Economics as part of the after school program, preparing community meals and helping to organize the food pantry.  The after school program (SHAC) is conducted in coordination with the neighborhood school, Hawkins St. School.  Students are held accountable for behavior and academic performance and rewarded accordingly.

Another “hat” that Linda wears is as coordinator of the Hawkins St. School Community Association where she is organizing parents to address issues such as: school safety and cleanliness; parents and teachers working together to address child behavior; fundraising, and advocating for quality programs and against budget cuts.  Some of the results of her efforts include raising funds for graduation caps and gowns and the board of education removing junk furniture which was blocking fire exits.

The Lord has wonderfully knitted her ministry and community roles together as she has been a bridge builder between Safe Haven and Hawkins St. School.  She is helping Safe Haven to be a servant to the school and she is bringing parents and youth into the Safe Haven community where they are being touched by the love of Jesus.  She has become a friend, example, and counselor.  She is known in the community as “Mommy” or “Titi”.

Linda comments on her calling to serve her community: “I do this for our children’s future.  I do this because I see the potential in them.  I do it with the hope that I can reach a handful of parents and help them get involved in the community and in the life of their children.”

Al Santino

Northeast Community Transformation Communities First Presentation

This PowerPoint Tool, developed by Northeast Community Transformation, is used to promote Communities First in churches, Classis meetings, workshops and other group meetings.

Download PowerPoint

On Justice, Opression, and Suffering: Our Present Hope in Future Glory

by Al Santino, NECT Director

As God’s people we are called to bring relief and hope to those who are suffering under poverty, oppression and all manner of calamity.  Now at times this may seem to be a futile mission for in the ebb and flow of history there appears to be no lasting remedy and we can only cry out, “How long Oh Lord!”

So many of the old Negro spirituals speak of a yearning to go to the Promised Land “up yonder.”  In their chains, the slaves could envision no earthly restoration to remedy their suffering.  The Apostle Peter wrote to Christians who faced imminent torture and death at the hands of Rome, “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:13).”  Indeed, when the Lord returns and establishes the new heaven and earth, there will be no more tears and suffering for His people.

Are such notions just “pie in the sky” theology being used to explain away suffering or deny its harsh reality?  Yes and no.  If we offer pious platitudes about the restoration of all things and neglect to weep with those who weep, render deeds of comfort, and cry out against oppression, then we are certainly being too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.  However, if we are also not certain of the hope that the Lord will complete the good work He began in us, then we will spend our days in dissipation; angry and depressed in our travails.  We will not be zealous for the Lord and for good works in His name if we do not hold fast to the hope set before us when Christ appears.  As we have shared in His suffering, we shall also share in His glory.

Justice will ultimately roll down when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.  In the Psalms we hear David crying out to the Lord that there appears to be no justice.  The wicked are prospering through their exploitation of the righteous-or so it seems.  Reformed theologian D.A. Carson comments, “Assessments of fairness and proportionality based solely on what takes place here and now in this world are bound to be premature at best, entirely misguided at worst.”  We do see manifestations of the Lord’s shalom in this present world as the Gospel is restoring people to dignity and fruitfulness as His image bearers.  However, our ultimate hope is in our covenant God who has made us the sheep of His pasture to dwell with in Him in eternal joy.  The Lord will triumph over every evil and make every path straight and so His people will glory in the triumph of His justice.  In Revelation 19:1-2, we hear the multitude in heaven proclaiming, “Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are His judgments.  He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.  He has avenged on her the blood of His servants.”

In the New Jerusalem, the City of God, children will play in the streets without the fear of erupting gunfire.  Mothers will no longer be lamenting the plight of their young sons given over to drugs and gangs.  Children will no longer be ravished by AIDS.  Every race and ethnicity will be around God’s throne, worshipping as one, without envy and strife.  The promise of this glorious future should give us hope for working out our salvation with fear and trembling her and now.  The healing of the poor and oppressed begins as they receive a foretaste of this glory to come.  When we pray, “They will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” that is a call for us to do the works of mercy and justice today, albeit in a glass dimly, but still as a reflection of the Gospel and the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus, with its power to transform people, communities, and cultures.