Twice as many volunteers as last year helped Camp Outreach - Indianapolis reach out to people in the Stringtown neighborhood. "Stringtown" is the first neighborhood west of downtown Indianapolis. The 1,200 households include a large number of young families and senior citizens who are wrestling with the impact of a very high unemployment rate, the pervasive use of drugs and a struggle to overcome years of neglect.
This year we painted homes, rehabbed two bathrooms, (one in an orphanage), rebuilt a porch, edged & cleaned out gutters, landscaped, repaired the foundation of a home, replaced screens and window glass and did flooring projects. We partnered with the Stringtown Neighborhood Association to collect junk that had been thrown into alleys and streets. The City of Indianapolis came and collected a huge amount of debris.
On Friday there was a event that caused concern - one of our young men was walking from a job site back to Ana's House (the local food pantry that has supported our efforts) and came upon two men beating and kicking a woman. He ran up to them yelling. As the attackers were backing into their car to get away, one of them leveled a gun at him. Our young man backed off as other neighbors came running out of their homes, one swinging a golf club. The attackers fled in their car. An ambulance and police came and attended to the woman.
We are both proud of this young man stepping up to defend a woman in need and sobered by the fact that evil is so rampant and with ministry, there can be some level of risk. I am reminded when Jesus talked of "the Good Samaritan" to describe what it means to love your neighbor in Luke 10, it was in the context of a robbery and a beating.
We also hosted a week long neighborhood vacation Bible school for kids - as many as 57 children came on a single day. That's twice what we had last year. We fed them (and other neighbors) breakfast and lunch. We had a Bible story, crafts, activities and they learned a song and a play about the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000.
On Sabbath, we had a neighborhood celebration. More than 150 people - over a hundred from the neighborhood - came out in the heat and humidity for "church" outside. Common Ground's music team played worhship songs, we had special music, the children performed their play (with costumes!), sang their song and I gave a short message on being a "Covenant Christian."
Afterward we served hot dogs, nacho cheese, beans and drinks while the kids played games outside. It was a fun day celebrating the community-wide effort.
We have more than "adopted" the Stringtown neighborhood. We are a part of the community. Over the past 9 months we have been hired unemployed men from the neighborhood to rehab an old home in Stringtown to become a Common Ground Ministry House. It will serve as a meeting place and will host several men at a time who are looking to reboot their lives through honest labor in a drug and alcohol free and Christian environment.
Camp Outreach is about connecting people with the basics of ministry that we as Christians are taught do. Once again this year we saw the healing of the heart that takes place when Christians go out of their way to care for the sick, the hungry, the poor and those imprisoned and oppressed by sin.
Enjoy the pictures from the link below - they only tell a fraction of the good done by Christians sharing the love of God with their neighbors
Camp Outreach - Indianapolis 2010 Photos