Archive for March, 2010

A City Movement

How does a gospel movement move beyond one neighborhood or one church and sweep through an entire city?  That was the question of a recent conference I attended here in Miami called City to City. City to City is a network made up of major leaders of churches in large North American cities (those with more than 1 million inhabitants).  This gathering was attended by leaders from California to Mexico, and from Canada to New York.  Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Church in Manhattan, was the keynote speaker for the conference.  Tim was here in Miami to encourage leaders to pray and work toward starting a gospel movement in their city.  What is a gospel movement?  Chuck Colson, who started Prison Fellowship Ministry, explains what happens when people in prison begin to turn to Christ.  As people begin to follow Jesus, their behaviors begin to change.  As the number of Christians in a prison increases soon the whole tone and tenor of the prison is transformed.  There is a tipping point in this process when there are enough Jesus-followers in a particular prison that the nature of the prison is changed deeply and extensively.  It happens when more than 10% of the prison population becomes involved in ministry, serving others and sharing what they have received.  Something of an explosion takes place.  It becomes a movement.

What does it take for this to happen in a city?  According to Keller, there must first be an effective way for communicating and embodying the gospel tailored to the specific city.  At the same time, there must also be a number of church planting movements taking place across denominations.  Finally, there are other systems or networks that support the growing synergy.  They include:

  • Kingdom-centered prayer.  United prayer movements in the city.
  • Specialty evangelistic ministries thrive (such as high school or college campus ministries).
  • Justice and mercy ministries.  (Christians begin to ask, “How can I make the city a better place to live?”)
  • Faith and work initiatives emerge.  (Christians begin to gather based on calling.  They ask for example, “What does it mean to be a Christian lawyer in our city?”)
  • Artists.  Christian artists begin to resource each other and support each other.  We begin to see an renewal of the arts in our city.
  • Education and family support institutions emerge such as counseling centers and schools.
  • Leadership development.  As system emerges to identify and train new leaders.
  • Over lapping leaders who begin to share a passion and love for the city.

Now Keller also suggests that as these systems develop there is a tipping point for the city, a time with the city becomes deeply effected by the gospel.  How might our church partner with other churches and ministries in Miami for such a gospel movement right here?  How could you best be part of this movement as God raises up leaders for the future?

Breaking Through to Community

As we sat down for our community group, one of the couples made a difficult admission.  The rubber tires on their car had begun to separate making it dangerous for them to drive. It was a surprise that they shared this bit of information because, well, we just don’t admit our needs.  We certainly don’t reveal them in public.  But something had happened in our community group after we’d been meeting together for a few months.  People became honest.  We learned about kids not doing well in school. Parents shared their anguish about their son who was experimenting with marijuana, and yes, the family in financial trouble began to open up.  Our group had begun to break through to true community.

The way it works is this: As new groups begin there is false community.  People all look and sound good.  There is no evidence of deep needs or wounds.  People are polite but not real.  This is not true community.  When people are guarded and afraid of coming out of hiding, it is hard to love each other and support each other.  But when people begin to trust and share their lives with each other, then God does amazing things among them.  The night the couple shared about their financial struggles with our group, two other couples pitched in to buy them new tires.  Our prayers also changed.  They gained a new honesty and intensity that we’d never experienced before.  The result was a depth of relationships that we all agreed we needed and personal and spiritual growth we never anticipated.

This is one reason why I am such an advocate of community groups.  Yes, Jesus commanded us to come together in community.  That should be reason enough.  I think our group experienced at least part of the reason Jesus asked us to do this.

2Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6

Granada is starting 19 new community groups beginning the week of Easter.  Our hope is that more and more of our church will benefit from Life Together.

Another Haiti Update

Many people have stepped forward to help with the development project in Mirebalais, Haiti.  We are seeing a collaboration that hopefully will result in the emergence of a new community for the Haitian people.  Here’s what has happened most recently.  First, the design plans for the container homes have been completed and are being turned into construction drawings.  (See the picture below that gives you an idea of what each housing pod will look like!)

Second, the prototype for the container homes should be constructed before Easter.  The parts need to be fabricated here and then put together on site in Haiti.  But, we will first build a model here to make sure everything works.  Third, we will be working with local Haitian contractors to prepare the footings and then using teams from Granada and other churches to do the welding and fitting of the containers once they are in place.  As much as possible, we’d like the the project to be a cooperative one.  We expect those who will be moving into the new homes to put in sweat equity, that is be part of the construction at the site.

Fourth, the land has already been provided by city leaders to GCA (the ngo we are partnering with) for these homes.  This plot of land looks to be about 200 acres.  The initial site plan will call for the development of homes and infrastructure for 3,000 residents.  This will include a community square, three churches, four schools, and facilities for government.  Wells will be needed for water supply and also bathrooms for sanitation.  (At present the site has no electricity or running water!)  As you can see there is much work to be done.  It will only be a matter of weeks before the first homes are constructed on the site.

Here are those things you can pray for.  First, pray that the project will be a means of true community development.  We believe that true spiritual community is only possible through Christ and that it will provide a model for the kind of community that can transform life in Haiti. It is a relatively easy thing to build homes, but a much more difficult endeavor to bring the community of Jesus in concrete ways.  We feel this is a unique opportunity to do so.  Pray for wisdom for the planners and leaders who are sharing in the work.  Second, pray for resources.  The plan we are developing is the best plan be have seen to provide permanent housing for the Haitian people.  But, it does cost money to implement.  Ask God to give us grace in the eyes of foundations and individuals that can turn the plans into a reality.  Those with whom we have shared the plan are excited about it and want to be involved.  It will have to become a movement to be truly successful.  Third, find ways to get personally involved.  You can do so by praying, giving, planning, and going.  Keep posted for opportunities to be part of one of the teams going to Haiti this year.  We are currently working to train team members in welding and the other skills needed to complete the homes. Contact Granada’s Serve the World office and speak with Dave McCloud if you’d be willing to help.  Also, if your business or organization might be willing to contribute financially for the cost of construction, we would like to know so that we can get details to decision-makers. The estimated cost for a home for a family of six is $1,000.  We can build pods of 10 homes for $10,000.

Container Pod Home Design

Google Earth Image of Site for New Community

Google Earth Map of Site for New Community

A New Community for Haiti

What is happening with plans for assistance in Haiti?  There’s a plan afoot that is coming into focus more each day.  The mayor of the city where we are bringing assistance is providing land to GCA (Great Commission Alliance, the NGO we are partnering with) for the establishment of a model village.  This space is planned to provide relief for refugees and a permanent community to allow them to rebuild their lives.  This new community will be planned from the ground up in an area of nearly 100 acres.  We will work with Miami leaders to develop the site plan that includes permanent housing, a church, schools, and also business opportunities.  The mayor hopes that by settling people in new villages, they will be able to relieve the desperate situation of over-crowding in the city.

Granada members have assisted in the development of the plan for permanent housing using containers.  The reason for using containers is that such housing is inexpensive (as little as $800 per family), safe during earthquakes and hurricanes, and that it can be quickly put together on site.  There are a vast number of options for using containers for housing.  We have developed a plan for a pilot project to bring the first homes to the new site.  We hope to complete this project in the next few weeks, but much work remains for the plan to come together.  All of us feel a sense of mission in this, and we thank God with each new development.

Of course, we want more than housing and food for the people of Mirebalais.  We want gospel transformation for their community.  We do not want Haitian life to return to normal.  We want a new life for them.   There is much that needs to be done.  Please pray for completion of the site plan, for teams be formed to travel to Haiti and assemble the new homes on site, for the financial resources to develop the site, for the people of Mirebalais to welcome this plan as their own, for an open door for the gospel, and for people to turn to Christ for life and hope.  This is an exciting time for us all.  Thank you for being part of the work through your prayer, serving, and giving.  Please let me know if you have questions, or if you wish to participate in this project in any way. We are looking for team members willing to visit and oversee the work.

Example of what can be done with containers.

Developments in Haiti

After a long delay without a post, it’s time for an update on ministry developments in Haiti.  Granada is partnering with GCA (Great Commission Alliance) to bring relief and gospel ministry to the Haitian people.  The work is centered about a 45 minute drive outside of Port-au-Prince (PAP).

Why station ourselves outside of PAP? The earthquake brought about a mass migration of refugees from the Haitian capitol to the surrounding cities and towns.  A million people have fled.  Mirebalais is a town of 200,000 people that has nearly doubled in size because of the influx of people.

Where do the people live when they arrive? Many live with friends and relatives adding to the already cramped conditions of housing in Mirebalais.  Many more simply live outside, some under tarps but most with no shelter.

What is being done to assist them? First, a feeding program has been set up in Mirebalais to provide food for displaced families.  Second, tent villages are springing up in and around Mirebalais. The mayor of the town has offered land for these villages to be constructed.  There is a race against time to get the housing in place because the April rainy season is soon upon them.  Granada is involved in spearheading a project to provide more permanent housing.  Tent-housing may be the only way to get shelter for so many people so quickly, but we are devised a permanent housing plan this is inexpensive and can be quickly provided.  Some of our Granada members have come together to design and build housing using empty shipping containers.  This would allow us to move quickly to meet the need and so do so in the most cost effective way.  (A home for a family of 5-6 can be provided for about $800 to $1000.) We hope to have the first prototype completed in the next couple of weeks and then transported to the site before the rains begin.  Please pray for these efforts and for all of the planning and logistics involved.

How can I get involved? First, if you are part of Granada you already are. Gifts given to the Serve the World (STW) team are being used to provide containers of food for the feeding program and to do the planning of the container village.  But, these are the first days in response to this crisis.  The need is Haiti is staggering and will not melt away in the next few months.  It will take years to rebuild and we believe that this is a God-ordained moment to change the future of Haiti.  We will continue to receive gifts of money and food for this work going forward.  We pray for continued generosity so that the work can go forward.  Second, we will also be taking teams to assist in the work.  The STW team will work to keep you informed about the latest initiatives and also the teams going to Haiti.  Third, pray.  Prayer is not the way we win the battle.  It is the battle.  It doesn’t take long when visiting Haiti to realize that the need is greater than any of us can meet. We depend upon God for the hope of Haiti.  The people of Haiti need God’s grace and mercy above all else.