Thursday, December 17, 2009

Common Ground Update 12/17/09

A Year in review....

As I reflect on the last year I am extremely encouraged about the ways our ministry has grown. Some of the growth has been pretty drastic. Our team has grown from a staff of 3 to a staff of 9 (6 full time staff and 3 part time). We have staff focusing on men’s ministry, women’s ministry, biblical counseling (including family, marital, pre-marital, and abused and traumatized women and children), after school tutoring, bible studies, home building and renovation, college ministry at Alabama State, and other developmental areas of our community including job placement and financial crisis help. Last February we purchased an old building on 7 acres of land. We worked hard with folks all over the city to se e it renovated and begin to be used as our home base and a resource blessing to our community. It’s really amazing! Now, 100 kids show up daily during the week for our developing afterschool program. All of these kids stay for bible studies and dinner on Wednesday nights. Monday andTuesday nights we host women’s and men’s bible study. Also, thirty teenage and young adult drop outs come to our facility daily to work on their GED's and learn construction skills through the 'Youth Build' program. This year we have participated in an emergence of men being called out of gang and drug influences and into Kingdom living with Christ that has been a true demonstration of God's power. One is restoring his marriage, one got married a month ago, and two are pursuing marriage and look to be married over the next year! This is an incredible witness of God! God is truly using us together with the Montgomery Christian community as a light in this city. God is working! Thank yo u for joining in this effort at so many entrances!

a request.....

I am writing to request that you consider a year end gift to CGM. Like everyone, the economy has affected our giving. We still have $100,000.00 in renovation debt that we have 6 months to retire under a current loan. We also would love to start 2010 off in a position of strength as we forge ahead in new initiatives (and many creative ones are brewing!)

Thank you for prayerfully considering this. He is risen! I hope you enjoy and walk in that fact as we celebrate His birth over the holidays!

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Common Ground Update

Christmas Store 2009

Our store is next week. I thought I would take a minute to explain the store for you just in case you have missed our heart or have never heard the explanation of what the store is, and why we do it the way we do it. We chose the ‘store’ model rather than the ‘give away’ model because, for our context, we believe it is the most dignifying way to love our neighbors. We want to partner with parents and grandparents, rather than go around them by doing for their kids and grandkids. In our neighborhood we do have a high degree of households living below the poverty line. Our strategy is to provide a way for our neighbors to both contribute to their kids, AND be blessed by the opportunity the store offers to buy toys at reduced prices (30- 40% of the retail value). The discounts help tremendously. Last year, one of our neighbors was overjoyed as she shared that she was able to pay all her bills and buy Christmas presents for her children for the first year. We have learned a lot from the store and from our neighbors. When neighbors don’t feel like ‘charity cases’ they tend to be more open to real relationships. Many of the recipients of our store now volunteer at the store, doing everything from helping us purchase and price the toys, stock the shelves, wrap gifts, run the cash registers, and help with carrying the gifts to people’s cars. The atmosphere of the store is different also. Its fun… there is joy and real conversation and participation. It’s not an ‘us vs. them’ environment. It’s just us. Of course, we get taken advantage of. Some come to the store trying to ‘get over’ on us. Some have changed price tags out, lied, been rude and acted as if w e owed them something. But this is the exception, not the rule. The store is a blessing to our community. Last year over 300 kids received 3 presents apiece through our store. This year, we honestly anticipate over 600 kids to be bought for (if we have enough presents donated). Would you consider helping pull the store off this year? We really need toys, money, or gift cards to go towards the store.
Here are some quick helpful facts:
1. The dates of the store are December 14th-18th , from 4-7 p.m. daily. We will be accepting toys and money up until the night of the 17th.
2. The store will be held at our newly renovated building (1516 Mobile Rd.)
3. If you choose to buy baby dolls, please buy ‘brown skinned’ baby dolls.
4. You can serve with us by donating toys, helping us price toys, stock shelves, help with gift wrapping, and help carry out the loot to people’s cars.
5. If you buy toys, the age range is 1-15 years old, and you would help us tremendously if you would place a new price tag on the toy at 40% of the retail value. The price range is up to you.
6. Please call Kevin King 657-7049 if you can help. 

Basketball Court
We are kicking back off our new basketball court fund raiser as well. Would you consider donating a few bucks to complete this court? Check out the following video to see if you would be interested in adopting a few feet of our Also, please send the link to anyone you think in your address book that could spare a few bucks.                                  

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Just Like Me...

This is a blog post from my friend and staff partner, Nicole, that I wanted you to read:

"Did you know that there is FINALLY a Disney Princess who looks like all of the princesses in my neighborhood?! Imagine growing up and most of the stories you watch in the movies have heroines who don't look like you......"

One of my close friends( and staff family) sent the above statement out this week in an email to some of our supporters to help raise funds to send 25 of our young girls to viewDisneys The Princess and the Frog. I immediately began to weep in tears because she hit the heart of a issue that has been around in the black community for decades. Many of the little girls I talk with in our neighborhood and beyond have self image issues (including myself). It makes it difficult, and more of a challenge to ONLY see dolls, stories, and/or your positive role models to be of another race. In the African American community many times beauty is seen as having long straight hair, blue eyes, and lighter skin. I can remember growing up not wanting to play with dolls that looked like me, simply because it wasn't what was said to be "pretty". I cant even begin to imagine what a movie like this will do to many girls that have( or had) a mindset similar to mine. That my friends makes me excited!!

We( staff wives) are just overwhelmed with joy to take our girls to see this movie. Would you please pray for out time with these girls?? Pray that the LORD would make this such a precious time together, and as my friend says, pray that each girl will long to be princesses of the TRUE KING! 

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Conversation with Bryce

I think that one of the biggest questions and concerns people have for us is about the influence of our community on our children.  I agree that it is a bit scary, but we have a high commitment to be constantly processing life with our kids, and so far, I am pleased with the results.  I thought I would share some encouraging moments with our oldest, who asks a lot of questions and is always paying attention... :)

Conversation #1: Bryce with a neighbor friend who was spending the night:

"Bryce, you wanna ... mom... dad..... sleep........?"  (who knows what he wanted to do!)

(Looking at him very seriously,) "No, cause that would be disobeying."  

Conversation #2:  On the way home from school in the van:

"I am SO thankful that I get out of school at 12:30 instead of 3!  I would have like 3 more hours of school today!  And it's a christian school, so that's good. That is a long time for those kids to be under the influence."

"Under the influence of what, Bryce?"

"Sin!  You know, the kids who get to go to bible study on Wednesday nights, that's all they get.  Then they have to spend all those hours in school under the influence.  Why don't they go to a christian school?"

How would YOU answer that question?!

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Common Ground Update

Real Men Rising Up From the Ashes & a Common Ground Christmas Store
December 2, 2009
Real Men Rising Up From the Ashes

Men, rising from the ashes…..

I would like to introduce you to 5 emerging leaders in our neighborhood. All five are fairly new Christians. One of them was shot in the stomach two years ago, and returned the favor shortly thereafter. Another was serving a life sentence in prison as a third strike offender before being released on parole. Another was shot in the chest a year ago while high on cocaine, lying in a pool of his own blood; he looked up and accepted that he was going to die as he blacked out with friends and family watching. A fourth man has opened up a barber shop across from our building and struggles to make ends meet with a legitimate business while many of his friends sell drugs. The fifth man is 19 years old , is a talented young artist, and is battling the temptations of the streets and the struggle of a past of abandonment, and the loss of his mother at a young age. All of these men have grown up on our streets. They have not had the experience of the presence of a father in their lives. The ‘odds’ aren’t stacked in favor of these men. They are not ‘qualified’ to do a lot of things. They have a history of pain, violence, destruction, abandonment, oppression; and yet…. God has redeemed them.

They have a hunger for God, a deep love for those who are deceived and broken in the community, and a passion to demonstrate God’s Kingdom. All of these men are involved in a bible study that Alonzo Brown, one of our staff, is leading on Tuesday nights across the street from our facility at a barber shop. They are recruiting other men from our streets to attend the bible study. It is real…. raw… and a beautiful expression of testimony, struggle, vulnerability, honesty, and a clear declaration of the Gospel every week. We are sharing life with these men. God is teaching us much through them and the wisdom he has granted them. We are coming alongside them to offer what we can to train and ‘disciple’ them in their walk with Christ. They are coming alongside us to do the same as they share their gifts, perspectives, experiences and wisdom with us.


We sat around our office the other day and talked of what God was doing in our lives and neighborhood. I listened as they shared how God was using them to talk with young boys who come in the shop. They spoke of deterring young kids from ‘gang’ fights, of destructive decisions, and hopeless behavior. Four of the five men are now standing up as the ‘first’ generation of fathers. They are accepting responsibility to raise their children ‘in Christ’ and be there for them. One of them recently lamented, “We have never seen what a father looks like. We are having to break these patterns and learn to father our kids.” When they speak of what God is doing on our streets their eyes light up. They dream of what can happen as we live out the Kingdom of God together. They are the rising leaders. I have never seen anything like watching them share their faith in the street. It is an extreme blessing to participate with them and to be used by God to invest in them. If you want to be encouraged, come over and visit these gifted andpassionate men of God. Please pray for Charles, Corey, Jeremy, Jermaine, and Irvin. It is powerful for our neighborhood kids to see these men begin to ‘stand in the gap’ and model what real men look like. Resurrection is a beautiful thing.


 Common Ground Christmas Store 
This year will be the third year that we will have our annual ‘Christmas Store’ in the neighborhood. Will you consider being a part of it? We took some wisdom from others who have gone before us in other urban contexts and decided that we would open up a Christmas ‘store’ rather than ‘give away’ free toys to kids. Rather than going around the parents for Christmas, we decided to allow parents in our neighborhood the same joy that you and I get when we get to see our children open the gifts that we were able to contribute towards for them. Knowing that many of our parents are not able to provide much and still pay the bills, we open up a store where toys are sold at 30 to 40 percent of the retail values. We take in donated toys, money, and toy store gift cards and set up our store in the ‘hood. The ages to be bought for are 1 year old through 15 year olds. This year it will be at our new building! You can help in a lot of ways. You, and any social or business group you are a part of, can either donate money, buy toys, or donate gift cards from Wal-Mart or Toys R Us, to Common Ground Montgomery and we can stock our shelves accordingly. You can also serve by helping stock and re-stock shelves, price toys, help us go and buy the toys, help us ‘gift wrap’ toys during the store after ‘check out’ and help carry the toys out to people’s cars. Sorry, but we already have two or three feisty neighborhood ladies who run the cash registers! Trust me… they are best suited for the job. 


Christmas Store Quick Facts:
Store dates and hours: December 14th-18th from 4-7 P.M.
Location: 1516 Mobile Road, Montgomery, 36108.
Drop off dates: From now till the 17th of December (please call for coordination)
Number to call: 657-7049 Kevin King
Thank you for your prayer and partnership. I am humbled to be on your team.
Bryan Kelly Founder, Common Ground Montgomery 

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