Archives for posts with tag: Kansas City

I felt a twinge of guilt reading Cecilia Kang’s NYTimes article on unemployed Detroit residents trapped by a digital divide.

Charlie Cone advised us on all sorts of matters in Detroit including IT and internet.  Charlie was a retired Colonel who had helped set the Air Force on course into the computing age. During my final year in Detroit Charlie had suggested that our west side Salvation Army Corps investigate bringing internet into our neighborhood.  Agreed.  We began talking with those who could help make it a reality for the many families in our deeply under resourced community.  It stopped when our ‘moving orders’ came.  And it was not picked up by our successor.

A few years ago Michael Liimatta, who I met through our partnering with City Vision College, took off with internet access to underserved neighborhoods in Kansas City.  Michael is co-founder of Connecting For Good, “the only Kansas City organization with the sole mission of digital inclusion …to make sure our community’s most vulnerable members have the tools and the knowledge to use the Internet to improve their lives.”  Michael has moved on, now in Washington as the manager of HUD’s ConnectHome a pilot program “launched in twenty-seven cities and one tribal nation to reach over 275,000 low-income households – and nearly 200,000 children – with the support they need to access the Internet at home.”

Kansas City and many other places around the USA will benefit from ConnectHome.  Will Detroit?

Listen to last week’s interview of Michael Liimatta on KC public radio KCUR.


The Salvation Army prides itself on doing the most good.  Here is a dissenting view reported by the Kansas City Star.

It is a type of view we are hearing more and more of these days.  I believe that from a community development perspective it has merit.  Bob Lupton’s Toxic Charity is rightfully challenging a number of Salvation Army leaders to a new macro-perspective of charity.  This is a good healthy challenge.

However, several years ago at a CCDA conference I listened to Dr. John Perkins temper any criticism of offering a cold drink in the name of Jesus by publicly affirming what the Army does.  He said unambiguously that there also is merit in the Army’s direct service.  charity condemned

There is one aspect critics are missing.  When all is said and done, when we have practiced theoretical correctness with this latest new discovery on how to do urban ministry. there yet remain individuals who do not respond at the time or in the situation to the effort and resources we invest in a community development approach.  We have failed.  But they are still hungry, cold, without a friend.  And often threatened by worse, in danger.

Does a person need to develop a friend-capacity before we befriend them?  Ridiculous.  The grace of God extended through the action of his people, just as God extended himself through his Son sent into and given to the world, gives opportunity for response, to receive.  So it is with home, food, warmth.  Personal safety.  There are times and they are more frequent than we like to think so when we simply have to offer a cold drink, clothing, a jail visit.  Community development is effective but it has its limits as to what can be done just as there are limits to offering direct service to meet human needs. 

What it comes down to is this.  It isn’t a matter of either community development or direct service.  It is a matter of knowing when to engage in one or the other.  We need to ask after rendering direct service whether we can do something about the causes of that need we’ve just met.  And quite often before we begin to develop a community there are hungry, homeless, friendless people who need food, shelter and God’s people. condemned 3

Dr. Perkins uses the illustration of pulling people out of the river as they float downstream, saving them from drowning.  Then we ask ‘what’s going on upstream?’  Community development is going upstream to find out why they are ending up in the stream, and doing something about it. 

We help when people are in a situation of need.  And we need to help people find ways to avert those situations. 

So, is it direct service or community development? 


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A person could easily get lost in Minneapolis’ Skyway.  Michael Liimatta knows how to navigate it.  Michael attended seminary there and explained how the Skyway system connects ten square blocks of downtown Minneapolis.  A good place to hunker down during long Minnesota winters.

We met over coffee last month on a Friday afternoon during the CCDA Conference.  Michael works from Kansas City as Academic Chief Officer for City Vision College.  Four City Vision students currently serve as interns in St Louis at the Salvation Army’s Temple Houses on Arsenal Street.

Michael is also involved in closing the digital divide in Kansas City as co-founder of Connecting for Good.  Kansas City won the highly competitive Google FiberIt means that KC will have access to astonishingly fast internet connections.  Except for low-income neighborhoods:  42% of KC low income areas.  This is where Connecting for Good, the Kansas City Public Library and others are working to educate and organize neighborhoods to participate in Google Fiber.

Michael and others are featured in this KCUR roundtable discussion on Google Fiber’s effect on the digital divide in Kansas City.

There’s no debate on how crucial access is to the internet.  Job hunting.  Education.  Social networks.  Information.  When individuals and entire neighborhoods don’t have access it creates a digital divide.  It adds to the disparity many communities already suffer.  Especially low income urban and rural communities.

I wish you well, Michael!

Perhaps the one most recognized indicator of missional effectiveness in a Salvation Army corps is what happens on Sunday.

This afternoon I was on the phone with Major Charles Smith, Divisional Commander for the Kansas and Western Missouri Division.  Who mentioned that two corps in metropolitan KC experienced robust Easter Sunday attendances. 

252 attended Sunday worship at the corps in Independence MO; 26 seekers knelt for prayer.

Over 150 attended at the Kansas City KS Corps after an intensive door-to-door visitation in the neighborhood by officers and soldiers.  The corps was happy to see 24 kneeling for prayer.

God bless our corps in Independence and Kansas City.  Now, what happens next with these 400+ visitors, with these 50 seekers, will determine how effective we really are.  Keep them in your prayers.

Kimberly Thornton is now serving in Kansas City at the Bellefontaine Corps as the first intern of the Urban Ministry Internship Program. Kimberly is a student of the City Vision College. Check back for an update.

Captain Dale Simmons is now inteviewing candidates for the internship at the Bellefontaine Corps in Kansas City. He says it looks like they will be able to have someone in place by the first week of January.

Update 7/5/12 – The Urban Ministry Internship Program has expanded to four internships all based at the St Louis Temple Corps in south St Louis.

I met with Michael Liimatta, Executive Director of City Vision, earlier today in Kansas City at their new home on 31st Street, just a few blocks west of Troost.  The Salvation Army here in the Midwest will soon begin a pilot program for urban ministry internships with City Vision College.

City Vision recently moved to take up residence in one of several buildings of the True Light Family Resource Center.  After our meeting, Michael took me on a tour.  He introduced me to Pastor Alice.  Alice serves as senior pastor for True Light Church of the Nazarene, just two doors away from City Vision.  On the other side of 31st Street is their Resource Center.  Michael and I walked into the Center not long after lunch had been cleared away for a group session with women who are homeless in the Troost Avenue section of Kansas City.  Check out the True Light Family Resource Center website.

Michael introduced me as being from Chicago.  Alice said that she also is a Chicagoan.  We discovered that we both had worked on the West Side near the CHA Henry Horner Homes, Alice was at Mile Square Health Center when I served at Chicago Temple Corps.  Now she is busy at work in another underserved neighborhood.  Her husband, Philip, teachs at a nearby community college.  Michael says that Alice and Philip not only work at but also significantly invest their own personal resources into the ministry.

I mentioned to Alice that she should meet another transplanted Chicago West Sider, Captain Dale Simmons now serving at the Kansas City Bellefontaine Corps.

Alice showed us around the old house behind the Resource Center.  It’s one of several grand old houses lining Charlotte Avenue south.  Slowly, it has been renovated by volunteers from a number of suburban church members who have heard about True Light’s work.  Hardwood floors shored up and sanded.  New windows.  Tile floor in the bathrooms.  Fresh paint.  Pastor Alice wants to have it ready for this winter as a transitional home for some of the women she works with.

By the way, True Light earlier this month received a Passion Award from the Servant Christian Community Foundation.  Here’s a video feature of True Light; it’s the second in the top row.

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