In a surprising recent report by Al-Jazeera America we see an inspiring glimpse of what restoration looks like. The article, Downwardly Mobile for Jesus, tells the story of younger evangelicals moving back into the city, not out of a desire to enjoy the attractions of city life, but out of Christian commitment to make a difference in poor neighbourhoods. The story focused on families in Baltimore’s Sandtown neighborhood, a 72-square block area where the median household income is less than half the national average.
Matthew Loftus, the Chief Resident at a Baltimore hospital, moved into the community in 2009 with his family. Loftus and others like him are not dreamers or people seeking an adventure before getting on with their “real” lives. Instead, they are people moved by a vision articulated by long time Prison Fellowship board member John Perkins. That vision is dubbed “incarnational ministry.” As the name suggests, it takes its inspiration from the fact that God became flesh and shared in human suffering. Or, to put more colourfully, Jesus “did not commute back and forth from heaven.”
The institutional expression of this vision is the Christian Community Development Association or CCDA. The CCDA starts from an obvious point: the world is not as it should be. There is brokenness all around us, most visibly in communities like Sandtown. The CCDA says, “God longs to work through us to help restore things to the way they were intended to be.” In the case of people like Matthew Loftus and his family, the calling is to live among those whose community He is working to restore. Not as a know-it-all or as a “white saviour,” but as a member in full standing of the community.
While people like Loftus bring “more education,” “more wealth,” “more connections” and more expertise into their new communities, they are intent on encouraging local leadership. Thus, CCDA “relocators,” as they’re called, started a Habitat for Humanity chapter that has built 300 houses and a school. Both are now run by longtime Sandtown residents. Part of the work of restoration is reconciliation, and as Al-Jazeera suggested, this may be the hardest part of the CCDA vision to implement. As a sign of this reconciliation, relocators like the Loftus family worship alongside their neighbors at the appropriately named New Song Community Church.
Maybe not all of us are called to relocate physically but we are called to – like Jesus – come alongside those who are broken-hearted; and this starts by redefining whom we call our neighbour.
Source: BreakPoint.org; Christian Headlines
BIBLE STUDY: Isaiah 58:6-11
Day 7 – PRAISE: God that these young Christians are prepared to become “missionaries” living among the down and broken-hearted.
Day 8 – PRAY: That these Christians may forge relationships that will bless the community, bring many to Christ, and bring godly healing to the area.