He executes justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, he lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves those who live justly. The LORD watches over the immigrant and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. -Psalm 146:7-9

Friday, January 25, 2008

Common Ground Update

Please continue to pray for us!
Kings and Kellys

Email update for January 19-25, 2008

Much Needed Vacation and Renewed Burden!

After 19 months, we (the Kelly’s) took our first vacation away from the ministry in mid- January. My time away was fun, very encouraging, somewhat restful (as restful as a family vacation with 3 kids 5 and under can be!), and reflective. As I withdrew to think, read, and pray, I was renewed and my burden and vision for what I believe God has called us to do in the ministry of Common Ground Montgomery were strengthened tremendously.

We have always communicated our vision of Christian neighborhood redevelopment. We see this happening as God’s people seek His Kingdom manifested in real transformation of the neighborhood we serve in many ways. This means ministering to the whole man, whole families, and to the whole community. We know that the hearts of people need to be changed and empowered by the Spirit of God for real long term change, but we also realize that so many of the destructive structural and cultural systems need to be dealt with as well. ‘Loving our neighbors’ means being concerned with the struggles and pains of their lives as much as we are about our own.

The housing in our neighborhood is greatly dilapidated and inadequate (one in 2 or 3 are abandoned on most streets). An independent study recently labeled our neighborhood high school a “drop out factory.” Though it is obvious that there are problems in the school system, the bigger problems lie in the other 16 hours a day of the kids’ lives. Children run the streets and see and experience things they shouldn’t have to see and experience. The lack of fathers and the predominance of unhealthy role models allow the dysfunctional culture to interpret life for them. Many mothers and grandmothers are doing everything they can, and still losing the battle for their kids. Our streets continue to produce a very visible population of addicts, prostitutes, and criminals. For a variety of reasons, we are a very poor community. We see crisis after crisis. ‘Overwhelming’ can be an understatement at times.

We believe that God desires to do ‘immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine’ as we seek His Kingdom together in the midst of this context rather than retreating from it. Kevin, Joseph and I have been praying and planning as to what strategy we can take to see long-term transformation in our community. We have decided to focus on teenagers, and look to see them raised up as future leadership (husbands, fathers, leaders of churches, businesses, etc.). We wrestled over this, not wanting to neglect others in our neighborhood. But we realize our limitations of time. As we have taken our context into account, the burden God has put on our hearts, and our gifts and abilities, we have chosen to spend a great deal of time with and commitment to seeing these teenagers being developed and transformed into the Image of God. This means that after we see them come to the Lord we train them spiritually, personally, socially, and in many different life skills over a long period of time. We have a lot of ideas about this, but we are praying as to how this should be done. Please pray about this with and for us!

We have adopted a philosophy of ministry that leads us to focus the other aspects of ‘holistic’ ministry through the teenagers. “With them and through them” is our new principle. We will seek to always take teenagers with us when we serve and do other types of ministry in our neighborhood. In this way we can model the ‘life on life’ ministry that Jesus modeled for His disciples. As we teach the teenagers the biblical call to love our neighbors, we hope to see them come up with creative ideas and expressions of love and ministry that they can walk-out in our neighborhood. In this way we can minister ‘through them’. We can influence the younger kids through the teenagers, and can serve others this way as well. Long term, we are trusting that the teenagers will develop more and more into creative beings by fulfilling their potential as God’s Image bearers. We trust that they will lead efforts in spiritual transformation, neighborhood revitalization, educational development, economic growth, and the repopulation of our neighborhood with in-tact families. They will raise their children with a new interpretation of life and culture. Please pray with us as seek to order our schedule towards impacting these teenagers.

Carver Baseball…

We are continuing to prepare for the upcoming baseball season together. I am very excited about the opportunity for love and influence we can have over the 18 or 19 guys on the baseball team this year. It is an honor to spend 2 to 3 hours a day with these guys. Please pray for the upcoming team bible study that we will begin out of my home with the guys.

Batting cage theft…

Last year we had generous donors donate a batting cage and net for our program, as well as uniforms and bats and balls. Two days ago we noticed that our cage net had been stolen from a locked storage room. The value of the net is about $500. It was very discouraging for me and for the kids to see that this had happened. Please pray that God would provide another net for us. The school is not giving us any money for the program this year. This is a much needed component for batting practice. Further, the cage provides me a lot of one- on-one time with guys.

So, Common Ground Montgomery continues to seek the Lord to fulfill the mandate that we believe he has given us. Please continue to pray that God would grant us grace and strength to continue this work. Thank you again for your friendship, companionship, and most of all --- prayers. I look forward to a life-changing year.

Psalm 34:3,
Bryan Kelly