Tag Archives: asset based community development

Putting the Pieces Together: Affordable Housing

Every time we teach Unity Works, I think I learn more than the participants.  For those of you who do not know, Unity Works is an 8 week interactive workshop series designed to address some of the most challenging issues facing our city. Our goal in facilitating these workshops is to help congregational groups be more intentional, innovative, and thoughtful regarding how they engage in missions activities locally.  This particular workshop series is focused on the issue of homelessness in our city and we were invited to facilitate this series by members of Commonwealth Chapel.

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Filed under Community Development, missional church, Unity Works Reading, Urban Ministry

Beyond Handouts: Moving from Relief to Development

Vegetables in Whole Foods Marketphoto © 2008 Masahiro Ihara | more info (via: Wylio)There is a food scarcity issue in our Hillside community. Most residents are not working, some do not even receive food stamps, there is no food pantry within walking distance, most do not have a car, and the closest grocery store is more than four miles away.

As I shared in my post “The Irony of Being Called a Socialist,” Embrace Richmond’s mission is community development not handouts.  I have been researching ways to address food scarcity that moves beyond emergency relief to actual personal and community development.

When doing Asset Based Community Development the first question you ask is “what does the community have to work with?”  The answer to that question is easy…time.  Less than 30% of the residents earn the majority of  their income through employment.   We also have AmeriCorps members who are eager to serve and a growing group of residents who serve faithfully every week.  In addition, we have congregations who would be willing to collect food and help with transportation.

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Filed under Community Development, missional church, Unity Works Reading, Urban Ministry

The Irony of Being Called a Socialist

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”

Dom Helder Camara, Brazilian archbishop

I grew up in a small town in Central Texas.  My father was the eldest son of first generation German immigrants.  His father died when my dad was thirteen.  My grandmother was disabled and unable to work outside the home, so my father went to work at the local drive-in restaurant.  He worked there from the age of thirteen until his death at age fifty-five.  He moved from car hop, to fry cook, to manager, to part owner in that time.  Like my dad, my mom became a business owner, starting and building several different businesses over her life time.  At the age of sixty-three, she is still growing her business and creating jobs.  I was born into poverty but watched my parents accumulate a fair amount of wealth.  I am a product of the American capitalist dream.

So as you can imagine, I found it quite ironic that a former friend ( I say former because he unfriended me on Facebook  after insulting me), decided to call me a socialist on my Facebook page.  I had posted a link to a Steven Colbert clip titled “Glenn Beck Attacks Social Justice” which I thought was funny.  It was this link and another post I wrote titled “Social Justice is not a Political Statement” that drew criticism from this former friend.  As I have been praying about this, I find it absurd that anyone could see the work we are doing as socialist is nature.

I was at a Communities First Association Conference this week in New Orleans with more than twenty Christian Community Developers from across the country who use Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) techniques in their work.  When I shared my frustration with being called a socialist, another community developer shared that he had received a call from a friend warning him that ABCD was really a part of Obama’s hidden socialist agenda.  Which is equally as absurd as me being a socialist.  ABCD is simply an approach to doing community work that looks first at the assets in a particular community instead of the needs.  In ABCD, you focus on the gifts, callings and capacities of the individuals who live in communities. You then work to link those assets together in a way that the people are empowered to transform their community themselves.  The whole idea is to create systems that empower people instead of creating dependency on the government or outside agencies.  It is exactly the opposite of what the fear mongers are espousing!

My dad “pulled himself up by his bootstraps.”  The reality is that not everyone’s bootstraps are the same length or strength.  As a Christian community developer, all I do is help people and communities discover they have bootstraps and find ways for them to lengthen and strengthen them.  If that makes me a socialist in some people’s eyes, then I think they need new glasses.  The lenses offered by Glen Beck and others are most definitely causing a distortion of the facts.

Apparently sanity has not been restored and fear continues to rage across this nation when people who are simply trying live out Jesus call to care for the poor are being called socialist simply because they think a comedian is funny.

I want to encourage all the other Christians out there who are seeking to live their call to help those with less than adequate bootstraps.  I pray you find others who share your passion and commitment.  I pray also that God continue to fuel the missional movement that is awakening Christians to their call to love all their neighbors, even those who have not benefited yet from our dream releasing capitalist system.

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Filed under missional church, Urban Ministry

The Start of Some Beautiful New Friendships

Through the last several posts, I have been sharing insights from “Friendship at the Margins” by Chris Heuertz and Christine Pohl.  One distinction made in the book that I found helpful was that of cause verses community.  Most efforts to address the needs of those trapped in poverty are cause focused; hunger, homelessness, unemployment, substance abuse, etc.  However friendship based ministry requires a community focus and the realization that in an impoverished community you are likely to address all of the issues or causes named above.   Community focused ministries by their very nature are generalized around the many needs of a specific group of people verses specializing in one specific cause.  In a world of specializations it is often difficult to be a generalist. The key to being a good community focused ministry is learning to connect to the specialist.  The best connections are made in the context of friendships.  This week several new friendships began.

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Filed under missional church, Stories from the Street, Urban Ministry