Inner-City Community Development, The Love of God, and Being Still

Ok, so maybe I am going to write a little bit about what I’m doing after all. This is going to be a long post. I am starting to write this on Monday night around midnight, and will resume it (and plan to publish it) on Tuesday night. I apologize in advance if this doesn’t flow very well. I started it Monday night, am finishing it up tonight (Tuesday), and have moved some things around and can’t seem to make it transition well. Oh well.

Being Still, and the Love of God
The Lord is teaching me a lot right now. I was sharing with two of my close friends up here that I have been encouraged in two areas. The first is that I have been encouraged and burdened recently with taking the time to slow down, to be still and know that God is God. The second is on the love of God. As I mentioned last week, I am reading through a book written by Brennen Manning called “Abba’s Child” and that the third chapter is entitled “The Beloved.”

God has a way of bombarding you with a message that he is trying to get across to you. I’m not quite sure why God wants so much right now to tell me that he loves me, but he does. And it’s a wonderful reminder. I think that this goes hand in hand with the importance of being still and sitting in God’s presence. I think I quoted this in my last blog entry, but I will quote it again: Manning writes in chapter 3 the following. “In solitude we tune out the nay-saying whispers of our worthlessness and sink down into the mystery of our true self.” Wow.

This message came at me from a different angle too. I recently began reading through a devotional written by Paul Kooistra, entitled “Supper’s Ready.” I didn’t really know what to expect, but I did want to gain some consistency in my life. Come to find out that the whole thing – every single day – is on God’s love. One thing that stuck out to me in Day 2 is the last sentence that he writes: “Understanding God’s love becomes the key to understanding all of reality.”

As I was thinking about God’s love for us, I envisioned an atmosphere of love so thick that a knife could cut through it. This is what the maker of the universe is: He not only has love. God IS love.

With these thoughts in the back of my head, I had the day off today (Monday), because I worked on Friday (Happy late 4th of July, by the way). So I rode my bike a few miles away to “The Arboretum” – which is 300 acres of forest, grass, gardens, and walking trails – smack dab in the middle of Boston. The place is gorgeous, but more importantly, it is peaceful. There I was able to relax and do some reading, and ride my bike really fast down some hills. Honestly it was great to do something different and go exploring.

Inner-City Community Development
I work for TechMission. However, I have been able to get plugged into another community development initiative that has nothing to do with TechMission.

I have been thinking recently about ways to get involved more in my neighborhood. Quincy Street Missional Church is a very small, informal church that is just down the road from where I live in a broader neighborhood area in Boston known as Dorchester. As a whole, Dorchester is known as an area of lower-income residents and high crime. However, I am completely safe here – and I love it here.

Quincy Street Missional Church meets on Saturdays, and is an outreach for the immediate neighborhood in which I life. My housemate Ben, and another good friend, Nathan, and I are very involved in Quincy Street. Ben and I just moved to the neighborhood. However, Nathan has been living here for over a year now and helps to direct a mentoring program for the kids in the neighborhood. Living just 1 block away from the church, Nathan has joined with other young adults from outside of the community, and they have made a commitment to form relationships in the community by living in and being a part of it.

On Monday night I joined up with Ben, Nathan, and our good friend Andy (who has also made this commitment of time investment and relationship building), and we took some of the kids from the Quincy Street Missional Church area (more on this in a second) to a burger place called Five Guys. This was also a good time of doing something different. Half way through the evening, it hit me that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. There I was, a graduate from college, and I started wondering to myself when the last time was that I had spent time with kids (other than a couple of random times), and was wondering how in the world to act, talk, discipline, etc… I think it scared me a little bit because I realized that I have spent so little time in the past with younger kids, and that this is something that I think would be beneficial to me.

The Christian Science Monitor actually wrote an article about this community recently and how people like Nathan and Andy have been already working with the people in the neighborhood. The house Nathan and his roommates live in is literally just down the street from my house, and Ben and I have decided to join this community by investing in it, and building relationships with the people who go to the church, and by hanging out with the kids in the neighborhood.

The church actually meets on Saturdays at noon. After the service, we all hang around and share lunch together that members in the community have cooked. The food is always delicious. But what is so cool about this church is that the community members are investing in the church, and it is so informal that anyone is welcome to attend, and some community members are working at the church all week long.

In addition to the church function on Saturdays, the building is actually called “Ma Sis’s Place” and is used as a small, informal thrift store so people can buy things at low prices throughout the week. Ma Sis is an elderly lady who has, as far as I know, always lived in the neighborhood. She owns the building and has a heart for her community.

Nathan, Ben and I sat around beer on Monday night after taking the kids to Five Guys and had a very good conversation about this stuff. It is very cool for me to be involved in this community and to watch what is happening because of my educational background in Community Development. I have a lot of “head knowledge” in this stuff, but I have very little experience. I mentioned in several of my posts last summer that one thing I struggled with a lot was pride in what I was doing – pride in what I know and in what I was doing. But yet, I know NOTHING. A familiar Proverbs comes to mind – knowledge puffs up. May I never forget my place. Oh Lord, break me and humble me.

Despite all of this, it is VERY cool for me to watch the relationships that have been formed. In our conversation last night, I mentioned to Nathan that I am very concerned about seeing community development interventions (from the outside) move forward only with the blessing of the community, and only with community members’ participation. Outsiders must have deep, deep humility as well. Bryant Myers writes about this possibility if we are not careful: “The non-poor understand themselves as superior, necessary, and anointed to rule. They succumb to the temptation to play god in the lives of the poor, using religious systems, mass media, the law, government policies, and people occupying positions of power.”

What’s so cool about this is that I can see Quincy Street Missional Church doing their with humility and with the community’s blessing and with the community’s participation. I can see the outsiders working within the existing church structure for positive change. And, yet another thing that’s so cool about these observations, is that I am getting to see my education come to fruition in Inner-City America. While I studied Community Development with an emphasis in international, developing world contexts, the principles that I learned can still be applied here.

I really look forward to learning more and getting more involved with Quincy Street.

Grace & Peace,
David

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