The Illusion of Safety

Kara Schumann, Epsilon Fellow

2.28.17

The most frequent question I got asked when people outside of my community found out where I lived was, “Do you feel safe?”  This question has always left me feeling perplexed.  I am sure people’s motive behind their question was their care and concern for my well being, yet I invariably felt the negative undertones in their voice.  Their unspoken, thinly veiled philosophies and beliefs about my community left me feeling offended and confused. Kara Schumann

The root of my offense stemmed from their misunderstanding of the beauty and strength of my neighborhood.  Loving neighbors, front porch conversations, jump ropes, laughter, art, home-cooked meals, and strangers greeting you with inspirational words to brighten your day – these were not the images people had in their minds when they thought of my neighborhood and asked me “Do you feel safe?”

Fear drives a perpetual obsession with safety and security.  It’s everywhere.  We install home security systems, purchase firearms and avoid certain parts of town.  We “bubble wrap” our kids, determine where we will live based on crime reports, don’t travel to certain countries, and avoid “certain kinds of people”.   We do everything we can to eliminate potential threats.  We have a natural inclination to do all we can to control outside circumstances so that we might maintain a certain level of perceived safety. Is it wrong? Not necessarily.  Do we put too much hope in our efforts?  Absolutely.

I remember the first time I heard the concept of safety challenged.  I was in middle school and our history teacher gave us an assignment to interview someone who was involved in WWII.  I immediately thought of Elsie, my 90-year-old, white-haired friend from church.  Her husband had served in the army during that time.  I sat down with her for a couple of hours and listened to her recall story after story – each one oozing with wisdom and faith.  It has been nearly 15 years ago, but I recall even now her powerful words:  “I had to remind myself over and over again that my Don was just as safe over there in that war as he was driving his car down the street right here in town – the Lord is in control.”

With these words, Elsie rocked my little world.  I think back on her words often.  She was right.  The Lord is in control.  When everything is peaceful and calm, he is in control.  When chaos is all around me, he is in control.  He never promised us safety, or to spare us from pain.  Jesus says in John 16:33 “…In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

This is not an argument for recklessness, it is an argument for trust in his sovereignty.  Not only did He overcome the world, but he is with us in it.  Those who trust in Jesus are the most secure people on the planet, not because of our 401k’s, alarm systems or ability to “protect ourselves.”  We don’t get a magical pass from hardship and pain, yet we are secure because we are his.  Fear or an obsession with safety need not hold us back.  When we trust Jesus we are able to hold loosely to the idea of safety and comfort, and we are freed to live a life of joyful obedience.  


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Expanding Horizons: A Story on Developing Minority Leadership

By: Delta Fellow, Cynthia Lopez

11.14.16lopez

We were sitting on a bench in the main lobby at Covenant College. Juan and I had just met the day before in my last Community Development class as a senior and he had somehow convinced me to meet him for coffee, even though I wasn’t really interested in the Fellowship program.

He told me a little about his story; coming from Colombia, going to college, becoming a pastor in Denver. He then asked me about mine; coming from the Dominican Republic, going to college and then the doubts about what was next.

As we talked, one sentence stuck out and rang in my mind in the days and the weeks following.

“We are passionate about developing minority leadership.”

I had been in the States for about six years and had not given much thought to the idea that my development as a leader would have to look different. I came to Covenant on a leadership scholarship, the only Latina in my cohort, and I just read the same books and had the same discussions as the rest of my group. It felt a little odd to be learning about leadership from Shakespeare’s Four Histories and Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow, but what did I know.

I had never been in a place where my Latina identity was a conversation topic, much less what it could like.

Minority Leadership.

That’s me, I thought. I had no idea how I would be developed, but I was excited to come to Denver and find out.

Fast forward to a year after that initial conversation. I was sitting in an afternoon breakout session at the Christian Community Development Association Conference in Los Angeles, and I received a text from Juan.

“I have a dinner appointment with a Latina woman I want you to meet. Are you available?”

We had been listening to several women of color speak from the conference stage, but I was so excited to have a personal conversation and to get to know someone.

Her name was Dennae, early thirties, youngish looking, dark hair, light skin, much like me.

We made our way through the crowded hotel lobby, out onto the street, and as we walked to the restaurant we talked. She told me about what she did in Phoenix as the Executive Director of The Surge Network, and asked me about what I did for CrossPurpose and what I hoped to do in the future.

We sat down in the middle of a slightly fancy food court, and I just sat back and watched her describe her work to Jay and Juan, sharing the dream with them about what God might want to do in her city. I could tell she knew her stuff, loved what she did, and sought to humbly steward the amazing influence she had as a leader.

It was beautiful.

An hour and a half flew by. I almost forgot we were at a conference and that we still had to walk back in time for the main session that evening.

As we hurriedly crossed the street, Juan leaned over and asked “Do you know why I invited you tonight?”

“Ummm…”

“I wanted you to see what’s possible for you. I want to expand your horizons. That could be you in a couple of years! You have that potential!”

I was inspired. I felt empowered.

As minorities in ministry, we don’t always see people who look or talk like us in leadership, so one of the most powerful ways to develop and encourage us on our journey is to intentionally introduce us to each other. We need relationship.  We need role models. 

It meant a lot to me that Juan thought to invite me, that he spoke those life-giving words to me on the way back to the conference, and that he is looking for ways for Dennae and I to connect in the future.

I am so glad I am in a place where this is not just a part of a passing conversation, but the way we actually live.

I am a minority leader. And this is one of the ways I am being developed.


Cynthia was born and raised in the heart of the Dominican Republic, moved to Miami, FL in high school and then graduated from Covenant College with a BA in Community Development. Cynthia is a second-year Fellow who is passionate about leadership development and learning how a community can best love their neighbor.

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Rookie Status

By: Epsilon Fellow, Jenna Parker

10.11.16
parker1

I enter through the back, linger for a moment, and make a beeline when I spot a familiar friend seated towards the front. My head drops to check the time and my sense of accomplishment soars - only 3 minutes late. As per usual, I’m greeted warmly by those around me. Welcome to the cool row,” they say.

The service begins and my spirit lifts. Voices and hands raise all around, worship offered up in Spanish, English, and Swahili. People sway from side to side, clap their hands, and cry out from the deepest parts of their beings. The undercurrent of stories and experiences channel into an ocean of praise throughout the auditorium. In this moment, there is no denying that this kind of beauty makes a certain sound.

I glance to my left and to my right, absorbing the warmth found in the presence of this so called cool row.” These are individuals who have chosen to pursue Jesus, to pursue others, who have shared, encouraged, and welcomed me into this family. They have pulled me off the bench, put a jersey on my back, and now choose to call me teammate.

As part of the Epsilon cohort, I am not confused about the fact that I’m the newcomer at CrossPurpose. I don’t yet know all the best places to eat, and I still find myself making an occasional wrong turn down a one-way street.

In the spirit of vulnerability, I must admit that this esteemed rookie status” has not only highlighted personal strengths and wins, it has also surfaced a deep fear of inadequacy. This shadow of mine is no stranger. In fact, most days it feels like she must have received her PhD in the lies I am prone to believe. With each passing day spent operating within this community, I find myself in a space where I am encouraged to expose the lies and fears that take root in my heart. I’m finding that the deeper I dive into these looming shadows, the more evident the goodness of God becomes. In the midst of my darkest nights, his presence presses close. In the hottest of fires, he is the ultimate refiner -  drawing me out of my bondage and into his liberating presence.

I’m not certain what these next two years as a Fellow will look like. I am learning that there is no roadmap or ETA when you follow Jesus, only his promises, which are more than enough. I am sure, though, that I can trust a good Father, lean into him, and learn to dance in the center of the freedom he gives from even the immobilizing fears. 


Jenna was born and raised in Rochester, New York. Her best days include large cups of coffee, shopping trips to Target and fresh avocados. Jenna recently graduated from Cedarville University with a Bachelor of Science in social work. While in the Fellowship, Jenna hopes to continue to press into and activate her passion for mobilizing individuals and communities to pursue the dreams God has imprinted on their hearts.

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The Power of Words

Delta Fellow, Kristi Graydongraydon

June 28th, 2016

“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.” -Pearl Strachan.

Every year as the warmth of Spring turned to the heat of Summer, a fresh wave of eager excitement would wash over me. Beginning in late elementary school all the way through high school I had the joy of attending a week of summer camp at Camp Patmos on Kelleys Island; a small island sitting in the waters of Lake Erie. Eventually I transitioned from star-struck camper into an active volunteer and leader. 

One summer after my freshman year in college I spent several weeks serving at Camp Patmos. The last day of camp had rolled around and campers were busy loading their belongings onto the bus that would drop them off at the dock so they could make their way across the lake and safely home. I stood off to the side talking with another staff member named Josh and observed the kids as they begrudgingly prepared to leave. I learned that he had graduated from the university where I was a student and casually shared my concern that I might not be able to return that Fall. At this Josh practically grabbed me by the arm, looked me in the eye, and insistently told me, “Before you leave youhaveto take a class with Dr. Jeff Cook becauseit will change your life!”  

The genuineness in his voice convinced me to take his advice. I didn’t know much more than that Josh really believed it would change my life because it had changed his. And that was enough to capture my curiosity.

Shortly after our conversation, I registered for the next class that Fall. .

My life has not been the same since. 

Fast Forward

Three years later, on a sunny Sunday morning in late June I walked into Providence Bible Church. As I stood about casually mingling with friends my eyes scanned the foyer and to my complete surprise landed on Josh from camp! Thoroughly shocked we joyfully embraced and spent some time laughing and catching up. I found out he had driven across the country with his youth group for a weeklong immersion into urban ministry here in Denver. 

As the day unfolded I was thinking about how amazing it was to see him that morning. Something about it really got the wheels turning in my head. So much had transpired in both of our lives since that conversation at camp. Then it dawned on me… I would not be here if it had not been for what Josh had said to me three years prior. Words that moved me to enroll in a course that God used to turn my world upside down, invigorate my faith, and set my feet on a path that has led me to this urban leadership development program. Words that eventually changed the trajectory of my life. 

The Immeasurable Wait

 

Seeing Josh provided a fresh reminder of the tremendous life change words can cultivate. I was working and sharing life with sixty neighborhood kids at the Denver Red Shield day camp at that time and promptly began to choose my words with more intentionality and thought than I had previously. I became consciously aware of the weight held within every interaction with those kids. No doubt, conversations over basketball shots and rebounds have replayed time and time again in some of their minds.

 

There are instances from my own childhood still etched in my mind. Like the time an opposing team’s soccer coach made a beeline to me after a game, shook my hand, and praised how well I had played and how he would love to have me play for his team. I don’t even know if we won, but I distinctly remember what that coach said and the confidence it instilled.

 

I recall my high school band director pulling me aside and explaining the reason he was being so hard on me was because he saw a depth of potential I was unwilling to mine on my own. He saw something in me I had not. His words changed the way I practiced and received critique and ultimately transformed my sloppiness into eager devotion toward becoming the best musician and leader I could.

 

Years after I graduated high school I received a text message from a young man I had not talked with since our graduation day. We had been students together for twelve years. Most of that time he spent as the butt of people’s jokes; a victim to years of cruel laughter. He texted me out of the blue to tell me I had written something in his agenda book nearly eight years prior that meant the world to him. Words that made him feel like he had value when most everyone else told him otherwise. I never knew how a few simple words scribbled in a notebook so profoundly impacted his life. 

 

No Small Thing

King Solomon penned in the book of Proverbs that “the tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21). Like a stone tossed into still water, the ripple effect words create is far vaster than the eye can see. Each of our memories preserve countless stories of how the words of others have influenced who we are today. Such power with which each of us have been entrusted. Such power every one of us expend every single day, either for good or for harm.

So, thank you Josh. Thank you for how you shared your words with me at camp years ago.

You were right. My life has been changed.

 


Kristi was born and raised in the land of thee Ohio State Buckeyes (Findlay, Ohio). She has always loved sports, hiking, nature photography, music, reading, cooking/baking, and good conversation. Kristi is determined to be a lifelong learner who seeks opportunities outside of her comfort zone…and she audaciously intends on climbing every 14er in Colorado.

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A Loving Rebuke

By: Delta Fellow, Johnell Moodyjohnell

May 31st, 2016

I was raised in the Black Church. There will always be a special place in my heart for the way in which it shaped my character and spiritual life. It was there that I came to faith, there I learned to love the Bible and God's people. I learned to minister in music there, and to serve in the wide variety of events focused on ministering in our community. But if you asked me how specifically we were discipling and developing people in the church and the community, you would have found a clueless look on my face.

My response at that time might have been something like this; “Most people come to church on Sunday morning and Wednesday evenings, get preached to and go home until next week.  More serious folks actually become believers in Jesus, get baptized and join the church, and then eventually find a ministry in the church to serve in.” That was my total concept of how ministry was supposed to operate.

However, as I grew into a mature young adult in my Christian faith, something was missing that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I began to question if this was what ministry was truly about, or whether there was more to it than what I had experienced up until that point. This became a real problem.

The Impact

Because of this, I grew more dissatisfied and despondent about church. It appeared I wasn’t alone in this either. Many of my friends and others who grew up in my same age group gradually left the church. After a while, I fell in line with the others who were bored, and left also. I was seeking more in ministry and felt there was no longer a place for me.

The question now became though, where do I fit in ministry? I did not want to join another traditional Black church, and I didn’t want to just run to a local mega-ministry where everyone in my age group had landed. At that point, I didn’t believe that a church committed to holistic community development existed, and if it did that ministry was not in Denver.  

The Solution

After much time passed with my constant desire for something much more in ministry, God brought ministry leaders into my life who challenged the model of ministry I had. Theses leaders actively and intentionally spent a bulk of their time in the streets, and not in the pulpit. These leaders engaged with the community, knew all of the needs and built significant relationships with the people. I was shocked!  I felt that God was using them to restore my hope. I saw for the first time what I was looking for in ministry, and felt I could get involved in a meaningful way.

I spent a significant amount of time doing ministry with a church that focused on Christian community development, and then at a Christian Community Development Conference I heard a profound statement: 

“Today’s American Christian churches are more concerned with their program than developing their  people.”   -John Perkins

That statement spoke a lot of truth into what I have been feeling for many years. At the Center for Urban Leadership Center, where I am now, I get to learn and experience the philosophical foundation that teaches a solution on how to get beyond being just a Sunday morning church. The principles of Christian Community Development are infused in the DNA of this urban ministry that focuses on the people and community, not just the Sunday morning program.    

What I have come to learn and believe about effective urban ministry is this:

1. Ministry must be holistic.  A holistic approach that intentionally focuses on developing every aspect of a person’s life (i.e. spiritual, social, economic, cultural, etc.)  is essential. Ministry is more than a Sunday morning service. The church must care for the whole person!

2.  The church must open its ears to community needs. We cannot just assume that the church has a fixed solution for the community because they preach. Listen to the people!

3.  Empower the people. The community must learn to solve their own needs. There is a place for relief ministries, but the church must empower and develop people to become self-sufficient. Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish he will eat for a lifetime!

To really impact a community for God, churches must get beyond simply providing good Sunday morning programs. Just owning these three basic principles listed above would enable churches to be far more effective in seeing the gospel’s impact. It is my heart’s desire to see the church go beyond its four walls and truly do life with people as Jesus did his twelve.

 A start would be for the church to remind itself “It’s not about us, it’s not about you, but it’s about Jesus.” If the church has Jesus at the forefront of everything it does and operates from a holistic position, the church will be doing what he has called us to do. 


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Unpacking My Baggage

By: Cynthia Lopez, Delta Fellow

April 26, 2016lopez

What is your least favorite book in the Bible?

It’s OK, you can tell me, I won’t judge.

I’ll go first. Mine used to be Acts. I grew up in a denomination that used the early church’s experience with the gift of tongues as a prescriptive for all believers at all times. It was an environment that made you feel “less-than” if you hadn’t been blessed with this gift. For most of my life as a believer I felt incomplete. Spiritually immature. Like God was holding out on me.

Proof texts from Acts were always a part of the conversation, and so I just began avoiding those chapters and verses. A part of God’s Word was hijacked and was no longer a source of His Truth or a reminder of His love, but rather the birthplace of division, doubt and insecurity in my mind and heart.

It was a chilly Tuesday morning a couple of weeks ago and as we all found a seat around the conference table.  My friend Taylor opened up his Bible to lead our study that morning.

“We’re gonna be looking at Acts 1: 1-11 and then hop over to chapter 2:1-13.”

Noooooo.

These chapters talk about Jesus’ ascension after His resurrection, the promise of the Holy Spirit to the disciples and His coming upon the disciples like tongues of fire on the Day of Pentecost.

My knee jerk reaction kind of surprised me. I guess I hadn’t really worked through this stuff as well as I thought I had. Turns out I still carried a lot of baggage from growing up in that church environment.

We all went around the room, reading a couple of verses each, and then we split off to read and pray individually before coming back together to share what we’d seen and heard in the passage.

“What did you guys see in this passage?” Taylor asked when everyone returned.  

After a couple of seconds of silence, I spoke up. I opened up my inner baggage and let the group see it’s contents. I talked about my church background and the ways I saw some of these verses misused and misquoted. As I talked about my experience with these chapters and this particular book of the Bible, it dawned on me that one of many by-products of being a part of a multi-ethnic, multi-denominational community is that I am surrounded by people who have had totally different experiences.  They could speak into this!

“How were these verses talked about when you guys were growing up?” I asked.

People went around and shared their experiences. Some grew up never talking about it, others only talked about it sparingly or during retreats once a year. But whether these verses were pillars of our theological upbringings or not, we were all thankful that we served a God who empowered us through His Spirit by dwelling in us. Regardless of what we believed about the gift of tongues, we all rejoiced in the Spirit’s power to bring down linguistic and cultural barriers, to make the circle wider, to make children of God out of spiritual orphans and to, in our diversity, make us one, in Him, through Him and for Him.

These chapters and verses that I had been avoiding for years reminded me of His Truth, His love and of the incredible blessing it is to be part of a community that can enrich and broaden each other’s understanding, disagree harmoniously, and help each other with our baggage. The fact that we all come to the table with differing experiences and interpretations of His Word means that our baggage all looks different, and that we can help each other unload it.

What was once the birthplace of division, doubt and insecurity in my mind and heart has become a constant reminder of the Spirit’s unifying power, our shared faith and the assurance we find in Christ. This is the beauty of a diverse community gathering around the Word of God and trusting His Spirit to show up and open our hearts to hear His voice.

“You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness. But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift.” Ephesians 4:4-7 (MSG)


Cynthia was born and raised in the heart of the Dominican Republic where she ate some variation of rice and beans. Every. Single. Day. Growing up in the DR gave her both an awareness of poverty and a sense of powerlessness when it came to addressing it. In May 2015, she graduated with her B.A. in community development from Covenant College. Studying community development ignited a passion and calling in Cynthia, replacing her sense of powerlessness around poverty with a sense of hope for those experiencing it.


 

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