We’ve arrived at that place again when I shirk my responsibilities of creating a thought-provoking piece of writing that intersects with our life and work and instead offer you a litany of to-the-point updates under the pretense that some of you really “just want to know the facts”. Coincidentally, you all seem to clamor for this by slamming my inbox with these appeals at very moment when I need the break most. So without further adieu, here’s the facts, Jack.
Over the last number of years, many of you have affirmed that I have a certain knack at presenting a different kind of world to you. It’s one that’s experienced daily by our friends who live on the margins both in Croc and also our neighbors in Argentine. I have sensed that one of my particular callings is to unearth the tragedies that humans have inflicted upon one another and to reveal ways in which God calls a particular people called the church to participate in healing these wounds by more than good intentions. I’ve been humbled to have been given platforms to do this in ways that I do not deserve and my Bachelor’s of Landscape Architecture does not merit. And I’ve also felt that I’ve hit a certain ceiling in being able to articulate what I see in the world and I want to know more and to offer those insights back to the church as a gift. Three weeks ago I received a gift that many of you have been in prayer for. I received a full scholarship for a Master’s in Global Development and Social Justice from St. John’s University. It is a part-time, online program that begins with 3 weeks in Rome with a cohort of students from around the world. Tuition, travel, food, lodging–all paid for. I leave tomorrow! I believe that this will only make the work that we’re doing here in Argentine, in Croc, and through Youthfront’s Something to Eat program all the more robust and enriching. Give thanks to God for this, we’re so excited (Emily too, though slightly jealous.)
There’s a quote from Gordon Cosby from the Church of the Savior in Washington DC that’s always been quite fitting for me. He said, “The most helpful experiments are accomplished by people who are too naive to know what they are getting into. The wise and experienced know too much to ever accomplish the impossible.” A couple of years ago, I was too naive to know what I was getting into and fairly quickly, we ran into the impossible. Alone, I would have walked away. But for some reason, there have been people (who are apparently just as dumb and naive as me) who have followed on this and believe in it. And over the last few months we’ve seen that impossibility become suddenly possible. We received an expedited approval and received official 501(c)3 status in March. For those who have attempted this, this is no small feat. A few weeks ago, the Franklin Center was nominated by the state of Kansas to the National Historic Registry, which means that we can now access tax credits that can pay for a third of the reconstruction costs. And last night we had an encouraging Franklin Center board meeting where we brought on new members and heard the shared passions for this project from local neighbors with more than 22 years of history with this place and a deep sense that they need to put all of their efforts into rallying others to be a part of this. I’ve seen God’s grace throughout this project and know that this place and the life that will flow in and out of here is part of God’s shalom that is budding all over our neighborhood. And I must say that none of this could have happened without Amber Booth moving back from Croc to work and live alongside of us here in Argentine. She’s been an incalculable blessing not only to us, but to our entire neighborhood.
For those of you who may be concerned that we’ve been striking out in concerning directions in our ministry as of late, be not afraid. This is temporary and we believe that currently, it is quite simply the best way that we can love our neighbors as ourselves. As my good friend and partner in crime, Jason Schoff said the other day that if we really want to love our neighbors as ourselves, shouldn’t we want them to have the same rights as me? Perhaps this is another thing that we were too naive to know what we were getting into. But suddenly, it seems like we’ve been put on the radar of every evangelical pastor in the city of the people to talk to about a Christian response to immigration reform. Leaders have been coming to us like Nicodemus under the cover of night because they have a God-given conviction that the church must not be silent, but they’re not sure what to do and how to have these conversations with the church. But God is stirring something deep inside these pastors and I think He’s bringing to light a new awareness of the pernicious nature of systemic injustice and how that gets woven into the very institutions and systems and patterns of thought even (and perhaps most alarmingly) within the church. I believe and hope that this new tribe of pastors is going to lead a new generation of churches that can reconcile with our past, our silence, and beyond the false dichotomies of sacred/secular, evangelism/social action, soul/body. It’s a true joy to be on this ride. I hope that you feel and know that this isn’t just our story, but it is fully yours too. Thanks so much for all your love, your prayers and support.