There is much “abuzz” since recent events and visits to Durham by Tim Keller, John Perkins, and President Obama.  Each proclaimed Durham as a progressive and gifted city.  Participants at the National Day of Prayer, Evening with Tim Keller, and the Duke Summer Institute contemplated the challenge of reaching a city for the common good and specifically how to express the Kingdom of God within every sphere of life in Durham.  What would that look like?  Who must be involved?

  • D.L. Moody stated over 150 years ago,  “Water runs downhill, and the highest hills are the great cities. If we can stir them, we shall stir the whole country.”
  • Tim Keller lays out 10 key points necessary to reach a city, which includes involving diverse segments of the greater Body of Christ working towards the same goals for evangelism, prayer, collaboration, and fellowship.
  • Jonathan Dodson discusses 3 ways to renew a city by dwelling in the city as a redemptive community: make good culture (contribute to your city within your neighborhood), redeem social ill (embrace our community), and share a whole gospel (We need to be thousands of tiny threads that strengthen and beautify our city domains.

Instead of sucking life out of the city, the church gives life to the city in the social sector.  It has a socially renewing presence.  How is this done?  Here is a current example of how this is happening in one neighborhood, which is making an impact on the city of Durham.  The role of an indigenous neighborhood to impact a city flows through its experience of following biblical models of community development.

Welcome a Mindset Change

After making a move to Carver Pond Apts in North Durham to help her mother, Sandra Underwood was robbed, assaulted, and saw kids in the neighborhood committing crimes in the open.  Her first reaction was “…what have I gotten myself in to?  I’m gettin’ out…”  But, with some encouragement, Ms. Underwood made a major faith decision to stay and help the kids who live at Carver Pond Apts despite the risks and hardships.

Her decision was indicative of her changing mindset about God and herself.  Her decision was not typical.  Most residents would have fled the neighborhood or stayed and returned evil for evil.

Embrace Community Activism

Her friend, Wendy Clark, immediately connected her with CEF Durham for help.  After the Director, John Blake, made a few phone calls and shared his vision for reaching city kids in under-resourced communities, Ms. Underwood had a plan along with an initial ministry team.  Within 2 short weeks the Butterflz after school program began with community interest, yet had only 5 kids attending.

Sandra Underwood and kids at Butterflz after school program enjoy hugs!

However, it did not take long for the value of Butterflz to increase. Currently, 23 children are enrolled and regrettably the staff must turn kids away every week due to the lack of space and adult volunteers.  Kids at Carver Pond must be accepted into the academic and Bible club program, which meets weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Retired teacher, Lou Brogden, works diligently alongside Ms. Underwood to run the Butterflz weekly club.  Other residents of the neighborhood have begun to help as their eyes have opened to their needs and realized the assets within the community to meet them.  Today, these neighbors are engaged in a collaborative effort of meeting some of the needs as they join their assets with others for the sake of their kids.

Celebrate Breakthrough and Small Victories

Recently, the Carver Pond management agreed to create more space for the club.  Underwood and Brogden are rejoicing!  They received this great news  only a week after holding a successful fund raising talent show featuring the Butterflz kids.  Their hard work and fund raising will allow the group to enjoy a field trip this summer and purchase supplies for the Butterflz after school program.

Here is tangible evidence of a community with great needs beginning to turn around because neighbors indigenous to the neighborhood have engaged a shared problem.  Here is where the concerned friends of these neighbors came alongside and are collaboratively bearing the neighborhood’s burdens.  Here is one example of how a neighborhood can inspire and give hope to its own city.

Press Through Constant Challenges

Over the summer months a major clean up and reorganization job will be conducted in the old Carver Pond community building.  This free-standing building will more than triple the space currently used for the Butterflz program, but more volunteers and support are still needed to complete the project and meet the staffing demands for the Tuesday-Thursday program.

The program continues as the management and Butterflz staff press through these challenges.  As the city takes notice, its citizens are getting involved with the Carver Pond Butterflz project.  Everyone learns how to press through this challenge, which will prepare them for the next challenge − which will come.