Monday, July 27, 2009

The Adventure

The Adventure

Over the last 3 weeks New City Phoenix has had 2 groups from outside of South Phoenix help do a neighborhood Vacation Bible School. We did this in our painting neighborhood where we have painted 7 homes in the last 5 months that are within a block of each other. Over the last 3 months I have been visiting with these grandmas and their adult children and their grandkids on a weekly basis taking donuts and just talking. I got permission from one of these families to use their front yard for our VBS. We handed out flyers a couple of times in the neighborhood. This is mostly an African American neighborhood with some Hispanic families a block over. We did go door-to-door and talked to a few people.

I didn’t have any idea as to whether any kids would come. I knew that some of the grandkids and parents might show up. We did the typical VBS program, i.e. lots of crafts, story, singing and of course snacks. We ended up with 15 kids that came during both sessions. We took the kids to a ‘cool’ pool to swim each time and then the grand finale was taking around 35 of these kids to the Grand Canyon with the last group.

While we were doing this VBS program in our painting neighborhood we were also doing a summer program with our South Ranch Habitat Youth. We did a Thursday night VBS with the little kids and a group study with the teens. We also did a Saturday event each week that ranged from doing car washes, (raise money for our events) go swimming and skating. A handful of these teens helped out with our VBS in our other neighborhood.

Many lessons have been learned through this first summer in South Phoenix with doing strategic activities. It is obvious that it doesn’t take much to get someone to come to something at least once. The key is how do you sustain something that not only is fun, but also has substance for these inner city youth and their parents. We have obviously won over the trust of these parents after doing the tutoring club this last school year. The youth now understand more fully that we are here to see the gospel impact their lives, their families and their neighborhoods. Yes, working in a multi-ethnic neighborhood does present it challenges. The VBS neighborhood, which was mostly Black families, saw only one Hispanic family come and because of a language barrier it was difficult to connect with the mom. The daughter and her little brother did enjoy what we were doing and participated. It isn’t easy to build trust and form relationships with different people regardless of your socio-economic background. The clear message is to keep trying and doing it and in time, God’s time, everyone can see their place and sense their acceptance and importance.

Yeah most people think I am just as hyperactive as my ‘kids’, which is probably true to a certain extent. God has given me a heart to be with these kids and teens to love on them with the gospel and be available to listen and walk with them through lives ups and downs. Many come out of difficult home situations, unemployed fathers, no fathers, always moving and seldom having the things that other kids have. I know at times I error by trying to make sure they have little treats or surprises that make them sense that they are special in God’s eyes. The journey before New City is to learn how to form partnerships with the families in our neighborhoods to help them help themselves and have developed gospel centered values. I know that it is easy to feel like there is no hope in life and that you have been forgotten by most. So pray with me as I seek to build a church and network of partners to love on these kids and their families and see transformation happen in their lives.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Do Cats Go to Heaven?

Rascal the wild cat who tamed my heart.
I have been raised a cat hater from birth. I truly believed, until Rascal, that the only good cat was a dead cat. I share this story in my blog because I just recently mourned the loss of our ghetto cat Rascal. I have always been opposed to letting cats or dogs just roam outside but my wife has always had different plans for the cats she, notice not we, have had over the years. So let me tell the story of Rascal and then his untimely ending and the hope that one day we will all meet again in Heaven.

My oldest daughter got married to her Jeffrey and just about a year after their life together end up moving in with mom and dad. This was actually a good thing and lots of fun most of the time. The only unwise move they made a month before going back into the parent's nest was to get a cat from the pound. This wasn't just any ol' cat but a gigantic beast type of feline that had the foulest personality. It was nothing for Rascal to hiss, slice you and attempt to gnaw on you in seconds. As things usually go with kids and parents and pets. The mom usually ends up raising them and when Heather and Jeff got their own place again so was the case with Rascal. They were going to take him back to the pound and obviously Anne wouldn't allow this so we inherit Rascal.

I will let my wife debate the issue of whether animals are redeemed and heaven bound but we all believe that Rascal had a conversion experience when we moved from our Chandler home in the suburbs to the inner city South Phoenix neighborhood three years ago. I can remember getting a lot of help with moving and deciding to leave all of the pets in the old house to get them all together in the van. I will never forget the look on Rascal's face when we returned to get him. He thought for sure that he was being left behind and abandoned. As usual Rascal had no intention of being forced into a cat carrier so Dave had the privilege of carrying him while driving the van. Obviously Rascal had a lightening bolt experience with Jesus because after we arrived at our new house he was a new cat that all of a sudden showed care and love for all even the dogs who would often chase him.

I have to be honest and say that Rascal still wasn't a overly friendly or lovey dovey type of animal. I would get ticked at him because he was the great hunter who would bring his prey to show his family more often than I would like. I can remember numerous lizards that only escaped because they understood the fine art of playing dead. The baby birds didn't fare as well. So this last week after a busy time with a group helping us do urban missions I really hadn't paid much attention to Rascal's whereabouts. So Sunday night just before collapsing in bed we remarked to each other where's Rascal. I didn't think much about it because our AC was on the fritz and I was real mad at the home warranty company for their inability to get us cooled down after three weeks of phone tag. The following morning I see Anne talking to the neighbor and was about to scream at her for not helping with something when she comes back with a tearful look. The inevitable had happened the remains of Rascal had been reported by the neighbor. She mentioned that there had been some wild dogs the night before that actually jumped over her fence into her yard. She had just returned from her walk and noticed a cat that had been attacked by these wild beasts.

We get a bag for the body and go for a walk on our bridal path to discover that this is our Rascal cat. He had been attacked by the dogs and was now no longer with us. I was mad that he had to end his life in this fashion. We got the remains and brought him back home. I prepared a spot for his burial and we awaited Heather and Jeff to come for dinner and then the service. I actually got flowers and made Rascal's little plot into a flower bed with a cross and his picture there as a reminder about the evil that is present in our world and the hope that one day soon this will be no more.

Rascal you were a wild cat that eventually got into my heart! We will miss you :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dave's special friends

I have been blessed over the last year with some special friends through our painting projects. My dream at New City is to connect with people who are typically forgotten or marginalized. This last year I have been given a heart for Ramona, a 70 year old Hispanic grandma who has renal failure and must do dialysis three times a week, Mr. Sanchez an 81 year old widower who presently is in an ICU with renal and cardiac problems and Art Carter who is 65 and wheel chair bound because of having a stroke five years ago. God has taught me much about listening and observing as I visit these friends on a weekly basis. I usually just drop in and either bring them lunch, fruit or something wicked like donuts. I know at first they must of thought I was crazy. Why would some yuppy looking pastor continue to bang on our doors. During this time I have become good friends with all of them I as seek to connect them with other people who can help them, i.e. Art needed some attorney help so Rhonda appears, Ramona and Art both need new evaporative cooling units and a David Grounds appears on the scene.

What excites me is to see how my 'kids' from the different things we do have a love and interest in my special friends. I attempt to bring them with me to love on these different seniors to help them see how important it is to respect our elders but to learn and laugh with all of them. It is true that Mr. Sanchez has read through the Bible I gave him a year ago but also at times has a foul mouth as he reacts to the stupidity of people around him. Art has gone from someone who would swear at God and deny his existence to a seeker who is generally interested in listening and learning.

So what's the point with my rambling?? Some day all of us will get old and might end up without any family or friends. There is an obvious path to pursue that will help us engage with a larger family - the church that could both be helped by our partnership and we would definitely benefit from some attention and tlc. Mr. Sanchez was willing to donate a slightly used evaporative unit to help Ramona not swelter in the summer. A small step but truly an act of compassion. Jesus did come to touch the lost, the last and the least. These will be the ones in heaven in the 'front rows' of the kingdom.