Thursday, April 3, 2008

The CORE Church of Troy and community development

Our associate pastor, Ron, and I sat in on the North Central Troy community development meeting, which took place last night. Ron has a college degree in community development and commented to me afterward via e-mail, "it does not touch on the core issue of how to make a city wonderful, change the people, by bringing the life changer, Jesus Christ, into their lives."

I wholeheartedly agree with Ron's evaluation. Nehemiah saw and accepted the challenge of rebuilding a city in ruins. He rebuilt people who together rebuilt the city of Jerusalem. That's where our role comes into play. As city officials and community residents do their part, we are there to introduce them to "the life changer, Jesus Christ." That is where our facilities and our presence in Troy's North Central community will bring glory and honor to the One who sent us there. For two years we have been preparing soil and planting seeds. I was reading, recently, about the process of breaking up fallow ground and preparing it for producing a crop. It takes time and lots of TLC before once fallow ground will begin to produce a crop. The old soil needs to be turned over. Fertilizer and nutrients need to be added. Then seed goes into the ground and so on.

For many years the soil in North Central has been fallow ground. No one has been there to break it up and work it. We still have a lot of work to do before harvest time. God is giving us the tools and the workers to reap a bountiful harvest. In His time we will begin to see the fruit of our labors as the neighborhood kids we have been connecting with start asking questions (they already are) and find the answers, and then lead their families to Christ.

We are engaged in a different facet of community development; the kind that will breathe the grace, peace and hope of Jesus Christ into the lives of people living in this inner-city neighborhood. While city officials work on the physical landscape, we are given the task of developing the human landscape...and there you have a Biblical picture of community development.

We were invited to this meeting by our friend and neighbor, Thila Bell, who is one of our neighborhood association leaders. We have gotten to know Thila, who has become to us that "person of peace" we read about in Pauls encounters, as recorded in Acts. Also in attendance at this meeting, in addition to our mayor, were other city officials, community development experts, neighborhood leaders, business and homeowners, and several clergy. For two hours we sat and listened as various key officials, one by one, shared their vision and strategy for what they see as crucial in revitalizing the North Central neighborhood. Then they invited those who were in attendance to ask questions. Their goal in these neighborhood meetings is to develop a list of priorities as well as a team comprised of city leaders and interested citizens who will work together to see these priorities become tangible projects that will result in a better neighborhood.

Many great ideas were shared by both city officials and citizens. However, I was disappointed that no one spoke up for the families and children who live in this neighborhood of interest. Since it is 90-95% residential then it should be a high priority, in my opinion, to offer some sort of plan to improve the quality of life for these low income families with limited opportunities, many of who are left behind senior citizens. I have to say that I was not surprised with the scope of ideas and topics that were presented and discussed. The mayor is interested in increasing the city's tax base and in what the majority of the people want, which is a clean, safe neighborhood where they can live and raise their families. It will be interesting to see where all of this leads. The CORE Church of Troy is blessed to be a part of this community development process.