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, December 2, 2009

Common Ground Weekly Update December 2

I present to one of the most emotional updates thus far. This gives me goose bumps and just excites my heart with HOPE AND JOY! The LORD is raising up leaders in our community!! Thank you for your prayers!!

Real Men Rising Up From the Ashes

I would like to introduce you to 5 emerging leaders in our neighborhood. All five are fairly new Christians. One of them was shot in the stomach two years ago, and returned the favor shortly thereafter. Another was serving a life sentence in prison as a third strike offender before being released on parole. Another was shot in the chest a year ago while high on cocaine, lying in a pool of his own blood; he looked up and accepted that he was going to die as he blacked out with friends and family watching. A fourth man has opened up a barber shop across from our building and struggles to make ends meet with a legitimate business while many of his friends sell drugs. The fifth man is 19 years old , is a talented young artist, and is battling the temptations of the streets and the struggle of a past of abandonment, and the loss of his mother at a young age. All of these men have grown up on our streets. They have not had the experience of the presence of a father in their lives. The ‘odds’ aren’t stacked in favor of these men. They are not ‘qualified’ to do a lot of things. They have a history of pain, violence, destruction, abandonment, oppression; and yet…. God has redeemed them.

They have a hunger for God, a deep love for those who are deceived and broken in the community, and a passion to demonstrate God’s Kingdom. All of these men are involved in a bible study that Alonzo Brown, one of our staff, is leading on Tuesday nights across the street from our facility at a barber shop. They are recruiting other men from our streets to attend the bible study. It is real…. raw… and a beautiful expression of testimony, struggle, vulnerability, honesty, and a clear declaration of the Gospel every week. We are sharing life with these men. God is teaching us much through them and the wisdom he has granted them. We are coming alongside them to offer what we can to train and ‘disciple’ them in their walk with Christ. They are coming alongside us to do the same as they share their gifts, perspectives, experiences and wisdom with us.

We sat around our office the other day and talked of what God was doing in our lives and neighborhood. I listened as they shared how God was using them to talk with young boys who come in the shop. They spoke of deterring young kids from ‘gang’ fights, of destructive decisions, and hopeless behavior. Four of the five men are now standing up as the ‘first’ generation of fathers. They are accepting responsibility to raise their children ‘in Christ’ and be there for them. One of them recently lamented, “We have never seen what a father looks like. We are having to break these patterns and learn to father our kids.” When they speak of what God is doing on our streets their eyes light up. They dream of what can happen as we live out the Kingdom of God together. They are the rising leaders. I have never seen anything like watching them share their faith in the street. It is an extreme blessing to participate with them and to be used by God to invest in them. If you want to be encouraged, come over and visit these gifted and passionate men of God. Please pray for Charles, Corey, Jeremy, Jermaine, and Irvin. It is powerful for our neighborhood kids to see these men begin to ‘stand in the gap’ and model what real men look like. Resurrection is a beautiful thing

Common Ground Christmas Store

This year will be the third year that we will have our annual ‘Christmas Store’ in the neighborhood. Will you consider being a part of it? We took some wisdom from others who have gone before us in other urban contexts and decided that we would open up a Christmas ‘store’ rather than ‘give away’ free toys to kids. Rather than going around the parents for Christmas, we decided to allow parents in our neighborhood the same joy that you and I get when we get to see our children open the gifts that we were able to contribute towards for them. Knowing that many of our parents are not able to provide much and still pay the bills, we open up a store where toys are sold at 30 to 40 percent of the retail values. We take in donated toys, money, and toy store gift cards and set up our store in the ‘hood. The ages to be bought for are 1 year old through 15 year olds. This year it will be at our new building! You can help in a lot of ways. You, and any social or business group you are a part of, can either donate money, buy toys, or donate gift cards from Wal-Mart or Toys R Us, to Common Ground Montgomery and we can stock our shelves accordingly. You can also serve by helping stock and re-stock shelves, price toys, help us go and buy the toys, help us ‘gift wrap’ toys during the store after ‘check out’ and help carry the toys out to people’s cars. Sorry, but we already have two or three feisty neighborhood ladies who run the cash registers! Trust me… they are best suited for the job.

Christmas Store Quick Facts:
Store dates and hours: December 14th-18th from 4-7 P.M.
Location: 1516 Mobile Road, Montgomery, 36108.
Drop off dates: From now till the 17th of December (please call for coordination)
Number to call: 657-7049 Kevin King

Thank you for your prayer and partnership. I am humbled to be on your team.
Bryan Kelly Founder, Common Ground Montgomery