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

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Common Ground Weekly Update

Email Update for April 1, 2008
Thank you for your continued support of our ministry!

Walking the Streets….

I’ve mentioned a 14-year old boy in our neighborhood that walks our streets all day long in a previous update. He hasn’t attended school for at least four or five months. I’ve caught him playing basketball in front of my house a number of times throughout the day as I’ve traveled through the neighborhood. He is the same boy who flashed a gun at one of our concerned neighbors when she told him ‘get his butt in school and quit walking the streets’.

We have been getting to know him for months. We’ve caught him in a number of lies about school, his family, trouble he’s in, and violence he claims he is involved in, etc. Yet, we love this kid. He seems to be a little fond of us too. The more we have been around him the more we’ve understood the desperate nature of his family situation. He recently said “nobody cares about me in my family”. Many teenagers say such things. I know I said that when I was around his age. Some times it is teenage drama. We have all been there and had such exaggerations. He is not exaggerating. He lives in pretty deep poverty and I recently figured out that he wears a coat even when it is very hot outside because he is embarrassed about the rags he wears as shirts. I hear the other kids picking at him from time to time about his clothes.

Kevin was so grieved about what we were learning about this kid that he picked him up recently and took him to the alternative school that he claimed he attended. We found that he was no longer a student there. He has been unable to re-enroll in the program he needs in our school district. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much contact with his mom. He has a place to literally lay his head at the residence of some of his extended family who live in our neighborhood. Kevin spent the morning with the kid at the alternative school and called the kid’s mother a few times, and finally was told by an Assistant Principal that they might allow Kevin to enroll the kid with the parent’s permission. It seemed to touch her that a concerned neighbor would take this initiative with a kid who isn’t his own. Supposedly, he started school again this week. Kevin has repeatedly told this kid and his mom that it will not be long before this kid is destroyed on our streets by the current path he is traveling. We are seeking the Lord’s leadership as to how we can demonstrate the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to this kid (and many like him). Please continue to pray for us as we seek to be available and take advantage of the opportunity to enter into the lives of kids like this one who have been abandoned in many ways… leading to an abandonment of hope and creative God-given desires.

Ministry space… direction!

Thank you for praying diligently with us about some very needed ministry space for us. As you may remember, we were considering two options: One was a 4-acre piece of land the other was some land we already own that was considerably smaller. We have been praying about building some sort of community center. We are thrilled to announce that we believe the Lord has led us to a decision on some ministry space… a decision that includes neither of the previous two options we and you were praying about! We have decided to build a large house in our neighborhood a few houses down from ours. This house will be a neighborhood community house. It will possibly be used for after school tutoring, neighborhood bible studies, job development training, community meetings, summer intern housing, arts initiatives, neighborhood movie nights, dance classes, “hood aerobics (yea, you read it right!)”, and many other neighborhood inspired and created ideas. We have been asking neighbors for their ideas about what such space could be used for. The point is to have a house that would provide some smaller, less expensive, and easier managed space (than a community center). We do not want to build a big central structure that would take so many resources to build, staff, and maintain right now. Our hope is to create some space that would not be a burden to the neighborhood and that would allow for some spiritual and recreational development. The back yard of the house will contain an abbreviated full court basketball area, some swing sets, and a small batting cage net for baseball hitting instruction. We are in the process of acquiring two lots for this project. Please pray for us in this decision and in the initial planning stages. We have been talking to many neighbors about this and we have had a lot of support and excitement about the idea.

Carver Baseball update….

We’ve seen one level of adversity after another with the Carver Baseball team this year. The school did not give us any start up money to get the program going this year. Common Ground Montgomery was able to buy a good bit of game and practice gear for the kids this year. We have come to expect tough situations and self-destructive patterns among our players. God taught me a lot about that last year. I try hard not to be caught off guard by the extra challenges that come with coaching kids that grow up in dysfunctional home environments and peer groups. I felt pretty good about my expectations and hopes heading into my second season of coaching.
Two weeks before our first game our batting cage net was stolen. A generous donor provided money for a new batting cage, but there was a significant wait time. We missed three weeks of much needed batting practice because of the theft. When we were about to reorder the new net, we were hit with another blow. We found out that Carver was destroying our field within days of the notice. They wanted to begin to store trailers and equipment on our field for summer school renovations. We not only lost a batting cage, but we lost a practice field. The school promised an alternative playing field and transportation, but didn’t deliver on either. Our kids don’t have cars, and travel to distant fields to practice is not a great option. Nevertheless, we have been using our ministry van and another coach’s car to transport the 16 kids to various places to get a short practice in.
Honestly, it has been a little demoralizing to the guys on the team. We don’t get to work on and practice the things we need to compete with other teams. We had one team bible study a few weeks ago and most of the kids came. They asked sincere questions about what it meant to be ‘an enemy of God’ according to the scriptures and about the significance of Jesus’ work for and our need for reconciliation. Other than this one bible study and a few conversations we have had in the van during late evening drop offs to their homes I have wrestled with feeling like I personally haven’t been that active in sharing my faith with them. I have been so overwhelmed with rescheduling baseball games, finding practice locations, dealing with administration, and other stuff that I found myself just trying to make it through the day, honestly. This is on top of family responsibilities, fundraising, speaking at churches, studying for ordination exams, general CGM responsibilities. Throw in a steady diet of neighborhood crisis! I simply had slipped into survival mode, rather than intentional living for God’s Kingdom.
I am sure we all continually find ourselves here. Going through the motions is a tough and yet natural place to be. The problem for me is that I forgot the end goal and the power available for me in the process. Delta and I were deeply encouraged and refreshed this weekend as one of my mentors preached at a local mission’s conference. I was reminded again, at just the right time that the message of the Gospel has real power bound up in the story of Christ. I was renewed in my desire to be intentional in my efforts to further God’s Kingdom in all that I do. We are actually told that the spiritual forces at work in the world cannot prevail against OUR attacks. This means that the gates of Hades can not prevail against the church. In short, I was renewed in my desire to use this whole baseball experience, in the midst of the adversity, for the greater purpose of demonstrating and sharing the Kingdom of God with these kids. Please pray for me over the next two and a half weeks concerning these 16 boys. I want to use the time wisely for our Lord, and not get caught up in the other stuff. What an incredible privilege I have to be around these guys like this. How easy it is to forget and just exist.

Kevin and Nicole, and Delta and I greatly appreciate your support of CGM. We are able to live in the neighborhood and share God’s love with your support. Please respond with questions you may have about our activities in the neighborhood.

Psalm 34:3:

Bryan Kelly
Common Ground Montgomery