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The vision for City Kids is simple – to visit under resourced sites and deliver a  comprehensive gospel impact. We are faced with many questions in our calling, but it is in our search for the answer that we strive to spread the Gospel to all. Is God powerful enough to keep kids away from gangs? Does the Word of God still accomplish what it says in the current day & age? What if The Church at Durham took seriously its responsibility for taking the Gospel to city kids and youth? What if for 10 years a collaboration of churches and ministries comprehensively served the 10 most physically and spiritually needy communities of Durham? …my recent medical update from my wife!


John Blake’s Recent Medical News from his wife Carolyn:

Hello everyone.  I wanted to thank you for your prayers and steadfast love for our family during this time.  To bring you up to date, last week on February 9, John had his scheduled MRI imaging.  When meeting with the oncology team later, the image was still indeterminate, possibly due to the 6 weeks of radiation, causing swelling and a cloudy image on the MRI picture. An indicator of the swelling has been John experiencing mild seizures and his speech somewhat worsened.

After meeting with the team, the approach now is to help settle the brain down and diminish the swelling.  So… on Valentine’s Day we begin an every other week (up to 4 months) infusion through IV of a drug which has been proven to provide decreased swelling/irritation as well as help John feel and speak/understand better.  All other therapies will continue as before, but our doctor is hopeful that this may give added relief to John during this time of recovery.

Praise God, John’s recent scan marker shows the tumor is a “good” one and responds great to chemo. Game plan is to begin a higher dose of chemo for 5 days, then 23 days off. What is determined there will give doctors an idea on whether we go through another year of every 1-2 months of MRI/recheck, or if the plan needs to be adjusted. 


For the past 10 years (…more 2010-2021):

For the past 10 years CEF Durham, along with a select group of collaborating agencies, ministries, and churches, have addressed the spiritual, physical, and social needs of 10 Durham communities. During these 10 years, the number of communities actually increased to 14, of which were being served. There were many stories of individual lives transformed by the Gospel and tireless volunteers consistently caring for these children and their families.

A few collaborators and volunteers burned-out along the way, while most labored weekly, yearly, to see the spiritual atmosphere change from darkness to light in many homes and throughout the communities where they served. Most of the children born and raised in these communities never knew life without their Good News Club.

Today, we continue to engage some of the same communities and others where crime and evil still dominate life, even if intermediately. There is still spiritual darkness, an orphan/poverty mindset within these communities where kids are not expected to succeed. These are the communities where the words: at-risk, under-resourced, and marginalized are still experienced everyday by its residents. These are the communities where God has been rejected, yet screams out to be glorified! This is where the Lord desires that the residents welcome Him back — into their homes and into their communities.

Sponsor City Kids for Camps:

Camps for City Kids are held for 4 consecutive days during summer months and school holiday sessions.  These camps emphasize putting God first in every aspect of play and life.  Building solid athletic skills and strong Christian character during drills and team play are expected of every camper.  Basketball, Soccer, and Tennis are regularly offered, but other sports like Wrestling, Baseball, Football, and Black-top Games have been held in the past. Sports camps, clinics, and tennis academies are typically held in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Fitness and healthy lifestyles are emphasized during all sessions. Presidential Fitness standards will be the age/sex baseline goal for all campers before the end of each camp season. For further camp details and a current schedule: Visit Upcoming Events and/or Call John Blake at 919.630.9434 — Though we meet with the kids in a variety settings, all of these camps emphasize putting God first in every aspect of play and life.


We are grateful and appreciative of all acts of love and provision from God’s people. As a result of your prayers, financial support, the many acts of kindness through John’s illness, and the ministries of CEF Durham, we continue to be strengthened and encouraged through this season. Medical bills have so far been paid, volunteers have stepped up for daily radiation runs for John, ministry activities are continuing through the diligence of our board members and volunteers, plus so many of God’s people have kept us in prayer – reaching out in such timely moments. Even with obstacles that we face, CEF continues to move forward in reaching God’s precious children. I’m thankful for this “2021 Thanksgiving Day Week” and from CEF Durham and see other updates from John Blake https://johneblake.blog I’m grateful for continued prayer and financial support to the ministries, board, and local churches for the communities, schools, and city kids in the local Durham Area Chapter of CEF.



CEF Durham Director and Board

I’m completing my 4th week of radiation and daily chemo. Though I’ve lost some hair, cannot speak clearly (surgery and radiation), and have low energy days, I’m doing well, PTL! Dec. 13th will be my last treatment at the Duke Cancer Center before the Christmas holidays. Then, I’ll have a dental and thumb procedure before a scheduled MRI diagnosis (re: tumor) in January 2022. We’re believing and trusting that the MRI will show all clear… SEE MORE

Community-based strategies for biblical transformation…

https://www.facebook.com/CEFDurhamArea

All repairs and custom wrap were completed back in 2015. Blacknall Presbyterian volunteers clean up and tune up the ministry trailer for another year of outreach events and camps.

After 14 years of use and thousands ministered to at outdoor events, sports camps, and block parties the CEF mobile stage with a thumping sound system is in great need or minor repairs and major detailing. The sound system has already been in/out of the shop. The electrical connections, cabinet repairs, and a complete re-detailing “wrap” of the trailer’s exterior still need to be completed. The retail price tag will be $3,000+. CEF is appreciative of your prayers and gifts for this project. READ MORE

Update on this 2014 ministry project

Back in 2015, all funds and necessary equipment were secured to totally repair and restore the CEF ministry trailer and mobile stage. The trailer exterior displays a new graphics wrap to identify CEF and what it does when visiting communities and city parks. Sports camps, clinics, academies, Good News Clubs, and community events are enhanced by the stage and sound system contained in the trailer. CEF was able to add a second trailer, custom-made, during the same year to carry sturdy 3v3 basketball goals and accessories when conducting basketball sports outreach events. Special thanks to Michael Harley for driving and delivering the trailers and for the volunteers at Blacknall Presbyterian Church in Durham for keeping to trailers and contents clean and repaired.

CEF basketball trailer and 2 goals in the background

Chuck Swindoll wrote a book back in the 1980s entitled Strengthening Your Grip. It was a huge help to me as a young man whose walk with the Lord was growing rapidly. After 20 years of seeking God’s direction, God led me to direct the mission of CEF in the Durham area which in turn taught me to become a missionary to families as well as kids. ImageAs a practitioner of the Gospel, I’ve realized that we hold a tighter grip on the Words and Ways of God some times more than others. I’m also thankful that I’ve learned and trained our mission team to operate in the truth that it is God Himself that maintains the grip and holds us.

Thus, our grip upon reading, studying, memorizing, meditating, and applying the Words of God strengthens our grip on the reality of His power and presence in our lives. When we pray and serve the Lord, there is an outflow, or loosening, of this “grip” which helps to minister God’s love, value, and desire for others to know Him for who He is and what He has done. This is a season in which we are experiencing this truth. CEF’s desire and manifestation of a stronger grip has become apparent as it collaborates weekly with local churches and individual Christ-followers for the sake of children and many local communities. I write today that you can know the heart of the CEF work and to ask, “How is your (our) grip?” CEF is one of many places where you can strengthen your grip.

Goals for kingdom building in under-resourced communities of Durham progress

We continued our work this summer in select under-resourced communities of Durham via 5-Day Clubs, tutoring, camps, and one-off neighborhood events.  Through the efforts of local and out-of-state mission teams much kingdom building was accomplished as youth and adults served and taught in 7 of 10 target communities.  Children and many of their families heard and saw the Gospel in action.  McDougald Terrace, one of the target communities, which was not included above in the “7” is very close to the heart of CEF and one of its staff members, Dr. David Johnson.

Dr. David Johnson

These are David’s words recently shared with his church, Christ the King Moravian.

“Even before our Faith in Action project at Burton Elementary, I have felt God’s ‘nudging’ about getting involved with an ongoing ministry to kids in that area.  The huge McDougald Terrace apartment area was the target for several outreach events over recent years [also this summer], and I really enjoyed being involved there.  God has placed a real desire in my heart for an ongoing Good News Club® (GNC) for kids, and other ministries for youth and adults.

I’ve met several people with a desire to minister in this community.  Some of these people wish to target adults and youth, and we do need more people committed to serve kids.  However, I think there is a clear path now for starting to lay the foundations for a [sustainable] GNC for kids.  This will involve exploring options for a meeting place, developing relationships by attending Residence Council meetings, and assembling a team of people with a commitment for serving weekly for at least a year…

Somehow I have both a spiritual sense that the time is close for this project, and a worldly sense that the details are  starting to come together.  Please pray that we would have success in arranging a GNC meeting site, and that the team would be formed soon!”

God has many people in this city

Harley, Blake, and Lopez team up for holistic discipleship at Hoover Rd Apts in Durham

Even with strong reports of ministry in these communities there are still ongoing challenges of poverty, orphan mindsets, and weak indigenous leadership where CEF ministers.  However, several Durham communities have seen their resident leaders push against such challenges.  CEF will feature some of these leaders from communities where God is blessing ministry efforts during a special dinner event on Sat. Oct. 1, 2011.  Lou Brogden, Michael Harley, Christina Rice, and Sandy Underwood are a few of these leaders who will speak about the 10 Challenge and what is making a difference in the lives of kids, their families and their communities.

“City Project” summer interns help CEF and others

Traditionally, our summer missions team would have just returned from Christian Youth in Action® training and have begun 6-8 weeks of 5-Day Club® ministry at random sites across the Durham area.  Urban workers from around the country would have already departed Durham surviving another urban boot camp.   However, this summer a very strategic decision was made to focus on what God has put before us rather than for us to add to the plate He gave us.

IMG_5069 (2)

What does this mean?  It means, that CEF and its friends, who minister in Durham, are committed to all necessary strategies and tactics available to us for kingdom building.  It means, our yearly calendar and schedules may not match God’s, so what should we do?

God’s Calendar for us in Durham

During the early summer God scheduled CEF staff and ministers to continue its work in 10 under-resourced communities of Durham where the indigenous are being discipled to lead the outreach.  There are so many wonderful things happening through these efforts that, unfortunately, there is not enough space here to describe.  God allowed me to recruit and engage others from Durham to attend the Duke Summer Institute where we grappled with current and historical issues in Durham as well as navigating a course of biblical reconciliation for our city.  The PrayDurham initiative has taken me to the State Capitol in Raleigh, NC to meet with the NC Call to Prayer caucus.  I will be meeting with leaders of PrayNewark in their city during early July to learn how they mobilized their city to pray through a street adoption strategy as we are doing in Durham.

We’re enjoying breakthrough with several projects

God has also placed before us eight intelligent and committed interns from The City Project, a Campus Outreach effort of the Summit Church in Durham.  They serve on 4 teams focused on 4 projects, which CEF, BlessDurham, and World Relief are engaging.  They are helping us break new ground in ministry by (1) revamping our sports outreach—setting up camps and clinics for this summer thru next spring 2012, (2) reformatting and building our data bases for the blessdurham.org web site, which will impact PrayDurham and connecting the churches/ministries of Durham, (3) are doing research and development of a business plan for operating food and ice cream trucks for ministry to inner city communities and to refuges, and (4) joining the Butteflz team (Bible club/tutoring) to teach and administrate its summer programs.  All have provided needed breakthrough this summer, which will propel us into 2012 on a solid foundation for sustainable ministry.

The traditional mission of CEF in the Durham area continues in mid-July and August with club ministry, sports camps, community block parties, and teachers being trained. What a great summer not being bullied by my own calendar and agenda.

HEADLINE for January 17, 2011

This year’s Martin Luther King Day of Service was very successful. 35 staff, volunteers, and residents worked together for the sake of others in the Cornwallis Rd Apt community of Durham, NC.  CEF ministers there each week with Christina Rice and the Youth Life Foundation staff.  The diverse gathering on Jan. 17th tackled several projects at the Youth Life Center based upon Dr. King’s question: “What are you doing for others?”  Residents, like Jamar (below), were side-by-side working with teens from Kings Park International Church, students from NCCU, UNC, UVA, parents from the community, CEF staff and board members.

Jamar (lft) and John (rht) standing with many of the 35 volunteers after supper at the Youth Life Center

After successfully completing four of the five projects, the adults and children enjoyed a meal catered by Boston Market, then had a quiz game about Dr. Martin Luther King.  Though muddy, cold, and tired, all felt good about the 3 hours together helping others and honoring the life of Dr. King.  Aiden, who attended with his father, Stephen Ehmann (both seen in separate pictures below) said, “It was hard work but it was worth it to help other people.”  I think Aiden really got it.

Aiden, Delrontay, and other kids organized and shelved books in the YLC library with the help of two local school teachers.

Stephen Ehmann helping a neighborhood child with their supper after removing old AC units, landscaping, and clean up at the Youth Life Center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CEF encourages others to take part in next year’s MLK Day of Service.  For the best results, interested groups should begin planning now.  This is a wonderful way to engage and support our communities where city kids live.  CEF is more than happy to partner with you.  MLKDay.gov offers guidance and good ideas as you think forward to 2012.

UNC students serve in Durham before spring semester begins

A group of UNC students sacrificed their last few days of winter break to develop a heart for the city of Durham and serve with CEF in under resourced communities. RUF campus ministries, led by Daniel Mason, gave of their time, energy, and heart for 15 hours each day the week of Jan. 4-7. The group experienced a bus tour of Durham, tutored at the Youth Life Center, and helped kids at the Liberty St. Apts complete a photography project they began last March.

UNC student assisting child writing a caption for the photos he will submit to the kid's club project.

The students were usually divided into three teams, which participated in prayer walks, Good News Club flier distribution, and began service projects to be completed during the MLK Day of Service Jan. 17th. The 15 Tarheel students were able to meet, listen, and Q/A with community, business, and ministry leaders at Joe’s Diner in Old East Durham. The next day they meet leaders from World Relief, DurhamCares, Carpe Diem, and BlessDurham. After a full day and Good News Club® on Friday, the group reflected over their experiences with CEF staff at the Tobacco Road Cafe’.

This and other current information can be obtained at http://gospeltokids.org web site of the CEF Durham Area chapter.

Having fun touring 10 under resourced communities in Durham with UNC boot camp students via CEF.

Over the past two years I’ve been captivated by the Scriptures and conversations with other Christians about the reality of authentic revival and spiritual transformation of our city. The discussions were usually filled with passion and restlessness. Leonard Ravenhill says in Why Revival Tarries, “The two prerequisites to successful Christian living are vision and passion, both of which are born in and maintained by prayer.”

A deep longing for a fresh move of God was evident in those people. I began to intersect with others from many perspectives and walks of life, which had passion, vision, and compelling prayer lives. Truly a revolutionary spirit was emerging in Durham.  Chris Rice and Emmanuel Katongole called this a “deep restlessness about what it means to live faithfully in a broken and divided world” in their book, Reconciling All Things. Embracing this reality I began to investigate my ministry history with CEF as well as my own life.

Reflection

Despite the great work of churches and ministries over the years, why was I not sensing an imminent revival ― a change in apathetic attitudes outside or inside the church? Why was there little evidence of biblical transformation, in which I believed in and hoped would come? Was it too late? What was missing? Was I even thinking clearly or biblically?

I had no conclusive answers for these questions. I self-examined my own vision, passion, and prayer life by asking: Was I contributing to this spiritual malaise? Could in fact, our ministry be partly responsible for God withholding His blessing to our city? But during this struggle, I was soon reminded in another discussion, “Do not mistake God’s presumed inactivity as His lack of involvement or interest in our city.” His Words in Psalms 11-19, Isaiah 57-61, Mark 8, Luke 10, and John 4 as well as from trusted friends began to bring me needed wisdom and a clear understanding about what troubled me. I was also blessed with how to evaluate our ministry teams and an action plan to implement  ― it was simply ten biblical expressions of God’s Kingdom.

Realization

After the evaluation, questions were answered like: What was missing?

1. Focused prayer for spiritual transformation of the specific communities where we ministered.

2. Godly relationships with the indigenous people living in those communities.

3. A comprehensive, collaborative, and biblical ministry plan that fostered sustainability and Christian community development.

Evangelism with follow up and some special outreach events had been our plan through Child Evangelism Fellowship® for many years. It was done well. 80,000 lives were touched and heard the Good News and many of those received Christ as Savior during the past 17 years. But it was incomplete. Even when we conscientiously followed Micah 6:8 and Mark 16:15, I realized we were  falling short of expressing the Gospel as Jesus had instructed His disciples to do when He sent them out to every town and place where they were to go.

Refocus

I realized the focus of Jesus ministry and the heart of God was on people. Their worth, dignity, and living situation dictated ministry. My vision was sharpened on how God valued the people we were reaching, even in the most resource-challenged communities of Durham. As our team refocused, no longer were the people seen as objects or goals of our ministry, but essential conduits and leaders for the transformation of their own communities.

During the past two years, both ministers and residents have been enriched when they prayed, blessed, listened, learned, and ate together. This biblically relational approach has allowed us more effective evangelism, discipleship, and leadership development. Spiritual transformation becomes evident when these ten expressions of the Gospel are implemented. Now everything CEF Durham does will be community-based and guided by these 10 Keys of the Kingdom.

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