Read this month’s issue of the CCDA eNews for Noel Castellano’s article on church-planting’s growing adoption of Christian community development in poor neighborhoods.

I’m always suspicious about plans to establish new corps (SA lingo for churches).  For where and who?  Financially self-sustaining congregations in well served and well resourced neighborhoods, built on households with incomes, education, social standing?  Is this how we place a corps?

Educational reform will be the advocacy challenge focus for this year’s CCDA National Conference in Indianapolis, October 12- 16.  Many of you working in inner cities and other underserved communities realize that deficient educational systems pose the greatest long-term challenge to development of human potential.

Human potential.  When Jesus said he came so that humans would have abundant life (John 10:10), the verse beginning with a description of the thief who comes only “to steal and kill and destroy”, I remember the young people of Gary, west side Chicago and Detroit

Gifted and intelligent but with meager opportunities.  Critical thinking skills undeveloped because learning resources and support were not available at a critical time.  As young people grew older their options shriveled.  Jobs at the car wash.  Parking lot.  College, only an unrealized dream.

When you realize that your life will not be anything close to the possibilities shown in American media, that it will not be what you see others have, hope begins to slowly dry up.  You feel that something has been stolen.

Years ago an elementary school building sat empty in Gary, Indiana.  We dreamed about it becoming our school for the young people who came to our vacation Bible school, who eventually were at the corps building every time it was open.  They had figured it out.  The best option in a rough place was to be with us.  Recognized, respected, valued.  We were together, doing something good, and it was better than what was happening in the streets, neighborhoods, housing projects.

Salvation is not obtained by agreeing to bullet points in a gospel tract.  Even praying the sinner’s prayer.  Salvation comes this day to the houses and neighborhoods of young people and their families when it becomes life, abundant life.

Our school never came into existence.   But it has remained in our imagination and vision.

I drove past the school building a few weeks ago.  It is in use again.  But not as our school.  If it is experiencing today what seems to be the usual educational experience in American cities it’s almost as good as empty.