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

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Common Ground Weekly Update -November 21, 2008

WEDNESDAY NIGHT BIBLE STUDIES

We are having a blast with our Wednesday night neighborhood bible studies. We now have three separate studies happening simultaneously in three different locations. Kevin and I now have 27 boys mostly middle school age involved in our study. We have moved our meeting to our YMCA because we outgrew our house. Delta and Nicole still have 8 young women between 16 and 20 years old attending a study at Nicole’s house, and we are excited to announce that a new bible study began this past week with 8 young girls age 8-12.

Middle SCHOOL BOYS

This week we had 22 boys attend and we discussed the question “Who are you becoming?” I contrasted this with the normal question they hear of ‘what do you want to be when you grow up.’ It is a question that has everything to do with character and growth, rather than some occupation. It anticipates that they are constantly becoming something. IF we as Christians are to be ‘transformed’ into the image of Christ then it is extremely important to ask if Christ is being formed in us. I asked the boys what they thought being a ‘real’ man meant. I asked them if they had ever really seen one.
A ‘real man’ in our neighborhood would probably brag about what gang he is in, his ability to beat up other guys, his physical relationships with girls, about the money he has, about the car he drives, and the rims he has on it, according to the boys. We looked at how Jesus was the only ‘real’ man that has ever existed, as the one who was truly fully human and walked with the Father the way we were intended too. If we were truly united with Christ and ‘re-born’ according to the bible, then we should be engaged in the process of growing to be more and more like Jesus in our character and actions. I kept asking them throughout the night, ‘who are you becoming like’. They kept saying, ‘Jesus’. I asked them if this was possible in their own strength, if they could somehow make this happen by their own effort. It was a springboard to continue to teach them about the need for God’s grace and about the choices they need to make on a daily basis.

DAY ONE WITH THE YOUNG GIRLS

I think some of the younger girls involved in our tutoring program were considering putting out a ‘hit’ on me if I didn’t follow through with finding someone to begin a bible study with them. I kept hearing week in and week out “ya’ll do all this stuff with the boys and have bible study and ya’ll don’t ever do one with us!” Seriously, it was getting a little hostile! I asked them one day who they would like to teach for them. Two of the girls told me that they wanted Abbey and Mrs. Leigh, a mother and daughter who had been coming over and tutoring them. I went to them and asked them if they would consider taking on this challenge. They were humbled by the trust these girls had granted them and said they would pray about it. Long story short, they did the first one Wednesday night. They young girls LOVED it! I took the girls home at the end of the bible study and the entire way they kept singing the song they had learned (at the top of their lungs with the windows down through Gibbs Village Housing Projects), “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father, BUT THROUGH ME! John 14:6!” It was beautiful.


ALL IN A NIGHT'S WORK!!
I think you will be at least be interested by the night we experienced this past Saturday........
Teaser Hint: A wedding, A party, and time with prostitutes?


We 
(the
 Kelly’s 
and 
the 
King’s) 
had 
the
 privilege 
of 
being
 a
part 
of 
a 
wedding 
of 
some 
friends 
of 
ours 
that
 live 
in 
the
 Gibbs
Village
 housing 
projects. 
Kevin
 was
 a
 groomsman, 
Nicole 
was 
the 
wedding
 coordinator ,
my
 4
 year‐old
 son 
Ethan
 was 
a 
bible
toter/ring
bearer, 
Kaiya 
was 
a 
flower
girl, 
and 
I 
had 
the 
honor 
of 
co‐officiating 
it
 with the
 pastor 
of 
the
 church 
they 
had 
recently
joined 
(a
HUGE
 life 
change! )
 We 
have 
known 
this 
family 
for 
over 
2 
years 
now 
and 
love
 them
 dearly. 
 I 
have 
had
 the 
joy 
of 
doing
some
 marriage 
and
 personal
 counseling
 with 
the m
over 
the 
years .
 It 
is 
a 
blessing
 that 
they 
have 
granted 
us 
such
 a
 place
 in 
their 
lives. 
We 
have 
seen
 God 
do 
amazing 
things 
with 
them.
We
 had a 
blast
 at 
the 
wedding
 and 
reception.


INVITED TO A PARTY

…. Kevin and I left the reception to go to a birthday party in the neighborhood of the mother of two of the boys that have been involved with us for a couple years now. The mother of these boys made a big deal about wanting to see us at her party. The invite was really important to her. Now would be a good time to confess that Kevin and I often go places that are questionable at best, for us to go. We like to hold onto the fact that Jesus went places oftentimes that caused him to be criticized and called a drunkard and sinner (can you imagine where this might be going?)
We showed up at the ‘party’ and were immediately patted down by an extremely drunk and over protective brother of the birthday girl. We walked in to a smoky packed room with uncomfortable stares from many interesting looking men who were wondering who we were and why we were there. Loud music with extreme profanities rang in our ears. I have to mention that Kevin still had his tux on from the wedding and stood out almost as much as my white complexion…. Almost. The two young boys (8 and 7 years old) came flying through the crowd and jumped on us with wild hugs. The birthday girl ran out and hugged us, thrilled that we showed up. One of the men wasn’t sure he wanted us at that party so I told her that I just wanted to stop by and say happy birthday, that we weren’t there to start or cause any trouble, and that we would be leaving. She would hear nothing of it. She looked at us and loudly announced, “These are my people and my family, and you are my people and my family! You belong here.”
She then proceeded to tell everyone in the apartment what we mean to her, what we have done for her kids over the last two years, and how much she appreciates the role we play in their lives and in the lives of the other boys and girls in the neighborhood. It was incredible. The tension faded away, and men and women began to ask us questions and say how much they admired what we were doing and how they had seen us loving the kids over the last year. One father pulled us outside and poured his heart out to us about how we were an inspiration to him and how he wanted to round up some other fathers in the housing project he lived in to come get involved with us in our community. It was unbelievable.

When we came back in, the mother pulled the little boys over and told everyone in the room how much her sons had learned about God and about the bible and dared anyone to ask them what they had learned. I cannot do justice to the story in my attempt to explain to you what a truly humbling experience it was for us to be given this place of honor at such a ‘party’. As we were leaving I was fighting back tears of appreciation to God for the favor He has granted us in the lives of families like this one.

TIME WITH PROSTITUTES

…. It was now about 11 o’clock and I turned down the block towards my home. A prostitute that I have recently been getting to know (in healthy ways, I promise!) didn’t recognize my wife’s van that I was driving and tried to solicit her services to me. It was very cold out, so I went home and warmed up some chili and other leftovers to take back to her. I returned to the corner where she was and we talked for a while. I have spent other nights recently on that corner just getting to know her and two others who work that same corner at night. I introduced myself as a minister who lives around the corner. I have brought food to them multiple times now and continued a conversation with them little by little over time. This particular girl wouldn’t take any food from me before. This time, she was happy to take it. She talked with me for a while and remembered my name, where I lived, and some of the things we had discussed previously. She told me about herself, which house she was staying in, and about the other two girls she ‘worked’ with. They all looked out for one another.
I told her again that I wasn’t out to judge her and that I was just trying to get to know my neighbors. We talked about some of the dangers and struggles she is experiencing. She thanked me for the food and I left and prayed for her on the way home. The next day after we returned from church, I came home to one of the other girls sitting on my doorstep. She said, “‘Shorty Black’ gave me some of the chili you gave her last night and told me to come see ya’ll because you might be able to help me. I am really hungry.” Delta made her some food, and we sat on the porch and she poured out her heart to me for a half hour. She just told me her story. She wept as she recounted how men had beaten her, raped her, and even left her for dead. Two of her friends have been murdered in the last few months while working the streets. I told her to come back and see us anytime. She has a few times since. Please pray for Angela, Savanna, and Karita as we love these ‘neighbors’.

God has granted us many open doors in our community. The boys and girls involved in our bible studies and tutoring are recruiting other kids to come and we anticipate a lot more kids getting involved. Please pray for us as we are making HUGE and fast-paced decisions on our future ministry space over the next few weeks. Thank you so much for your prayer and support!

Psalm 34:3,
The Kellys and The Kings