It continues to amaze me how many opportunities there are for becoming more involved in our adopted neighborhood of "Stringtown."( Stringtown is the first of the near west Indianapolis neighborhoods just west of downtown and the zoo.)
Our April outreach to neighborhood children had about 30 kids. Every time we do this we connect with more kids and become better friends with others and their families. Some of the neighborhood mothers helped this time with the crafts. As more people from the community become involved it truly represents a neighborhood effort to connect children with God and Jesus.
We added something new: music. Haun Dau and I played our guitars and sang simple children's songs with the kids. Interestingly, many of our kids had never heard some of the most simple and common of Christian songs. Now they have and when we closed our little "service" together we all sang together. I know, you never knew that I could play the guitar. Remember, I said "simple" songs!
In April my wife, Jennifer, with Stephanie Smith, Jeff Parker, Haung Dau and I finished our first series of English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for this year. We made some great friends and helping our Spanish-speaking neighbors learn English has been good for everyone. Now I need to learn SSL - Spanish as a Second Language! (Seriously, I need a good Web/computer Spanish language training package - anybody know a real good one?)
We're excited about Camp Outreach this year. At the Church of God (7th Day) ministerial conference I attended last week I was able to discuss what ministries their congregations were doing. Those congregations that were growing were heavily involved in ministries to the poor. With our friends at the Lord's Pantry and the new Stringtown Neighborhood Association we have more opportunities than ever in helping a poor neighborhood. In fact, I met the pastor of one of the Spanish-speaking COG7 congregations not too far from us and their young people may join us for Camp Outreach this summer. That may help us connect with a sizable part of the neighborhood in a much better way.
The Ministry House continues to progress. The plaster walls were all covered with sheet rock - now the big task is taping and mudding them in preparation for painting. What we have left is wall preparation, painting, putting in flooring (tile in the bathrooms and kitchen, laminate in the rest of the house), tiling one shower, kitchen cabinets, downstairs HVAC, the front porch, siding and landscaping. Sounds like a lot - and it is, but boy has there been a lot already done. It truly will be a great place for services, small group studies, education and helping a few neighborhood people at a time "reboot" their lives and get a fresh start.
Thanks to everyone who has been helping. If you'd like to get involved in our ministry or learn how to start an inner city ministry, join us for our "Camp Outreach." Some people can't get the whole week of July 11-17 off, so they are coming for a couple of days during the week or close to the weekend.
For years I was taught to focus on the intellectual side of our Christian faith. I can tell you that adding the practical, physical "loving your neighbor" aspect of a hands-on ministry has given new life to my beliefs, greater depth to my faith and excitement to my life. I'm not saying this as an advocate of being selfish here. Rather, I want to give credit to God for opening my eyes to see another side of His will. It never ceases to amaze me how much better my life and the lives of those around me are when I am more obedient to God.
If you are involved in a healthy ministry you already know what I mean. If you aren't, "dip your toe in the water" and see what God has in store for you. If we can help, give me a call or drop me a line.
Pastor, Common Ground Christian Ministries