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

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Common Ground Weekly Update -September 19,2008

Here is the account of our new ministry space in detail! I am just so amazed at the LORD and the plans HE has for us!
**Pictures above I took of us outside the court house( sorry for the quality)

We have been praying (so have many of you) that God would open up the door for us to build a ministry facility around the corner from our homes. Below is the account of how we ‘heard’ His answer.

A Quick history lesson: First of all, we spent the better part of a year trying to acquire enough land to build on. Property after property became ‘available’ only to become ‘unavailable’ again due to title problems. Finally, a mother of a teenager who had been introduced to Jesus through our ministry, donated an empty lot to us because ‘she wanted something good for the kids in our neighborhood.’ The home she owned on the lot was lost to a house fire years ago. She now lives with her mom 2 houses down. We were able to buy the adjoining lot from a wonderful family who had moved away from the community. When they become aware of what we were doing in the neighborhood they were happy to sell the lot to us. We were committed also to getting overwhelming neighborhood support for such a facility.

We have spent the better part of 2 years building relationships with and serving the precious people in and around our neighborhood. He are some examples: We have provided volunteer coaching for the football and baseball teams at Carver High School and held bible studies and meals for as many as 60 students weekly. We have provided recreational ‘fun’ for the kids wandering our streets, having baseball camps, paintball outings, a summer boy’s camp, a trip to the mountains of North Carolina for camping, a girls camp, and various other excursions. We now have after school tutoring to what has grown to 35 kids. A year ago we relocated our families into the Washington Park neighborhood and have opened up our homes to many kids and families who have become like family to us. We have had various ‘sleep over’s’ in our homes with kids we are getting to know and support our local YMCA by transporting and signing up kids for sports teams with our own children. We have also provided Christian counseling to families and kids, and starting a local Christmas store that allowed for neighborhood parents and grandparents to buy discounted new toys for 165 children. We also have begun doing housing renovations for families who could not afford to make the potentially expensive repairs to leaking roofs, dangerously faulty wiring, and bad plumbing and now hold bible studies for boys and girls age 6-19 in our homes through out the week. We have worked hard to live with and listen the desires and needs of our neighborhood. The next step was to have the property rezoned to allow us to build on it.

God ‘shows up’ through our community! We went before the city Board of Adjustment yesterday evening to plead our case to be able to build the building in a residential area, and to ask for variances on some of the ‘set backs’ and parking regulations for such a facility. Our argument was that we have a major need for such a community space, that our community wants and needs it, that our families and kids walk to the facility, or that we pick them up and bring them, and that our proposed set backs would match what is already existing in the neighborhood.
We spent the last week or so getting the word out that we needed community support to come with us to the meeting. I learned a lot about the mistrust of government as so many people told us they would sign anything we produced in support, but that they do not go to ‘meetings’! Also, we saw a number of folks tell us all along they were ‘coming’ and then not show up. As I reflected on this with one 74 year old resident, he told me that people all over this neighborhood talk about how bad it is, but that they have resigned themselves to doing nothing more. This may come as a result of the hopelessness that has set in over time. He looked at me and said, “You come by to get me and I will be here! I won’t let you down.”
We made calls all day yesterday and personal visits to remind folks about the meeting. Kevin and I drove two vans around and picked up those who said they had no way of getting to the meeting. As time got closer, I realized that some of the ‘key’ people that I thought would and should come would not be showing up. I prayed that God would bring the ones he desired to work and speak through. I called a grandmother who has care of her two grandsons due to some very sad and devastating circumstances and she said this to me. “Don’t you worry, I have already prayed and God says it will be done! You just pick-up me and my boys and we will come and do what needs to be done! This is a done deal! “
I stopped by the house of the woman who donated the land and she said, “Oh, don’t you worry, I will be there, just pick me up… and I will bring some others. That land is just sitting there and our kids need somewhere like this! Ya’ll are doing too much good in this neighborhood for them to say No!” I then called our neighborhood watch/association president and she said, “I will be there… let me make some calls and get some others there as well.”
We showed up at city hall with 22 people from the ‘hood. Kevin led us in prayer before we walked in. They Board leader called our petition to be discussed. Our architect argued our case and then they had me come to the front to answer questions. It was a little grueling, and we were challenged with a good bit of concerns the board had. One board member seemed very displeased with our request and presentation and at one point even said it seemed as if we were trying to ‘sideswipe’ them by saying we were a ‘church’, which had to do with the type of zoning we were requesting. I explained that we, as a ministry, saw ourselves as the ‘church’ in that we care about the various needs of our community, not just that which is considered spiritual only. I also explained that the very nature of our ministry was to unite the various congregations in Montgomery to serve those living on the west side of the city. They then opened the door for those from our community to speak. That is when I saw God ‘show up!’
Before the leader could even finish getting the phrase “is their anyone that would like to comment on this…” out of his mouth Mrs. Punkin was already walking up to the front!....“Yes I got some things to say!” She introduced herself rather clearly and emphatically and said, “I donated this land to them for this building and this is our neighborhood… and these are our children… this is our community, and we need something positive, and we want to build! And our kids need something like this! Bryan and Kevin having been doing a good thing in this community and our kids need a way of staying out of all the trouble”. As she turned to walk back, there were “Yes’s!” and “Uh Huh!s” and “Amen’s” and “That’s right!’s” from our crowd. Then, Mrs. Rice walked up.
“I am the Grandmother of two boys and these guys are mentoring and tutoring my grandsons. They are positive role models and doing great things for our community. Everyone is always looking down on the west side and focusing on all the negative stuff… and this is some thing positive that is going on. We need this, and we want this. “ Again, came the crowd responses, maybe even louder, during and after her testimony. Then, came Mrs. Harris.
“I am the head of the neighborhood association and watch committee and we are very much behind what these young men and this organization are doing. We have seen some great things happen in our community through this ministry and wish to show our support for this facility.”
Three more people raised their hands and were on the way up to the front to talk when one of the board members said, “I make a motion to grant the request to build and allow the variances,” and then there was an “I second” and a vote was held…. A unanimous vote in our favor! I could hardly hold back the tears. Our families applauded and we walked out overjoyed! Please celebrate with us over this and praise and thank our great God who opens doors like these.

Now, please pray for us and there is the SMALL matter of raising the $350,000 to build the facility over the next 5 months! Praise God from whom all blessings flow! May He ‘show up’ again through the generosity of His people!