Dear Friends and Family,
By the time you receive this I will be in Australia. Melanie, my Mum, Joyce’s brother Jeff and I are traveling there for 3 weeks. My time will be split between being a chauffeur, tour guide and a consultant with various friends in ministry.
The month ahead will be busy. I will be going to Boston for 2 weeks for my last Doctorate residency and time of study. Then Joyce and Saiyeh will be heading to Puerto Rico for the first time with Saiyeh’s graduating 8th grade class to both look more closely at the culture and the place where her Grandma came from. Please pray for safety in our travels. Saiyeh is preparing for high school and has been accepted into one of the City’s top schools, CAPA, a performing arts high school. It was a big process to apply and a huge relief for her to be accepted. CAPA sends about 95% of their students onto college, as opposed to the local high school, where less than 30% of students finish school, 3% finish college.
The past few months have been exciting on multiple fronts. The Simple Cycle, a bike ministry that was birthed from Dan and myself had its grand opening, and is officially a functioning bike shop. Emma has been part of their most recent “earn-a-bike” program, building up her own green racing bike, along with 10 unruly boys. The most fun for me was watching her cruise past these boys on an uphill section of a recent ride as the kids were showing off what they had been working on. The Simple Cycle has had a great deal of support, ranging from Shirk’s bike shop out in Lancaster County to Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. The greatest support though has been in the way the local community has embraced and loved Dan and this ministry.
I’ve had an opportunity to do some teaching at the Center for Urban Theological Studies (CUTS), the primary training institute for African American pastors in Philadelphia. Developing a Missional Plan for Community Transformation is the name of the class that I teach. I also teach classes on demographic research, how to unpack communities. I find it humorous that they have an Australian teaching these things to pastors who have lived their whole lives on these streets. It is encouraging when I read papers from my students after completing our “community walks” which state… “I never realised what was happening in my own community” and “I need to get my congregation engaged with the community outside our church walls”.
Besides travel and class work, this summer we will again be involved with some urban-suburban partnerships. Every year we make small steps to better understand how churches and individuals can work together across ethnic and socio-economic boundaries to minister to each other. Too often there has been a paternalistic approach to missions in the City that has damaged the local communities. Those coming to “serve” may leave feeling good about their works, but those left behind can feel (like objects)objectified. We have been working for months on a series of events where churches and ministries in the city will serve with those coming in from outside the city to love the community.
In our 20th year of ministry in North Philly there are times when I feel as though we are just getting started. Developing relationships where people trust you takes time. Joyce was sharing at her home church recently and commented that what others label as missions, she just calls life. Who we are is so integrated into what we do. Our kids attend local schools, we go to a local church, we eat with people from our community. They are our friends, our teachers, our neighbours. There are many days when I don’t enjoy the city, but never a day when I don’t realise we are blessed.
Please join us in praying for more financial supporters. Our current level of fiscal support continues to hover around 70%. If you would like to help us move to 100% or would like to connect us with your church or others around you, please contact us, we would welcome that!!