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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.

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.

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.

The 10 Challenge is embraced weekly at Liberty St. Apts. Durham

Teens from Liberty St. Apts with Lori Fisher and Amanda Hallsbrook, student volunteer-mentor, together at "Blacktop Games"

It’s common after weeks of serving together that fellow volunteers and mission team members would become friends. Shared experiences and challenges creates a unique bond between those who were there with a first-hand perspective.  After five years of weekly outreach and discipleship at the Liberty St. Apts. in Durham many of the children do not know life without a Good News Club® (here called “Downtown Bible Club”) on Tuesday night.  Many teens in this community have grown up in the club from childhood.  There have also been many workers, teachers, and volunteers during these five short years.  There has also been a church, First Baptist Durham, which adopted the community embracing the 10 Challenge from CEF Ministries.  During this journey many acquaintances were made and stronger friendships established.  It’s almost expected that this would happen between fellow workers.

But what was unexpected, yet so natural and biblical, most of the children, teens, and families have developed real friendships within this outreach team.  The team of college students, young professionals, and ministers feel the same way.  Friendships and trusting relationships have been forged at the margins of our city.  How did this happen?  The Gospel… of course.  It’s been shared and received.  Discipleship… yes, weekly Bible teaching, devotionals, and activities are conducted, but the team has consistently engaged the entire community, which has made the biggest holistic difference.

Through a working relationship with the Durham Housing Authority and team members attending the Liberty St. Apts. resident council’s monthly meetings, many extra activities, camps, field trips, and resources have been provided for the community.  The defining attributes of this developing friendship are not the programs, extra curricular activities, or even the resources provided, like painting lines on the community blacktop so that kids had a game surface they could enjoy and take pride in, but it has been the personal experiences and relationship shared which have enriched the team’s lives and the community.

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