I was visiting with some friends the other who knew me when I was a pastor in Haskell, and they asked, “So, what is it you’re doing now?” It’s a fair question.
I work for a Christian faith-based non-profit organization called Connecting Caring Communities. As our mission statement says, “Connecting Caring Communities (CCC) exists to built meaningful relationships that foster safe, caring and whole communities.”
What that means is both simple and profound. Simple, because God created humans to exist in relationship, with Him and with one another. Profound, because it’s not easy to do.
As far back as the Garden of Eden, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” In that context, of course, He was speaking of the relationship between husband and wife, but the principle applies to life in general. God Himself exists in a perfect relationship, the beautiful mystery of the Triune, Three-in-One Being, of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. And He created us to exist in relationship with Him and with others.
Unfortunately, those relationships were damaged along with everything else when our first parents sinned. As Christians, we would say that Jesus came to rebuild those relationships, to provide a way for us to have our relationship with God restored, and to show us how we ought to live with one another.
When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He was in the synagogue in Nazareth, and read Isaiah 61:
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor... For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.
When Jesus was asked about the most important commandment, recall His answer in Mark 12: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. And the second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
In other words, the most important thing is to recognize the relationship with God on a community level (OUR God), on a personal level (all YOUR heart, soul, mind, strength), and on an interactive level (love your NEIGHBOR).
Or as 1 John says, “No one can claim to love God, Whom he has not seen, if he cannot love his brother, whom he has seen.”
So at CCC, our goal is do anything and everything we can to help build better relationships with neighbors, and to help neighbors build relationships with each other. We do that through several different strategies, including what we call a “Friendship House.”
A Friendship House is just that: it’s a house where a CCC staff member lives with his or her family. Our house is in the College Heights neighborhood of North Abilene, near Hendrick Medical Center. CCC also has Friendship Houses in the North Park neighborhood, and in the Valley View neighborhood. We work with our neighbors to get to know them, to help them get to know each other, and to work together to build a stronger, better, safer community for everyone.
We do many different things at the Friendship House, including an after-school program, summer activities for neighborhood kids, block parties, prayer walks, neighborhood cleanups, and more. But these activities are NEVER done as ends in and of themselves; they are all done with the goal of meeting neighbors, building relationships with neighbors, then mobilizing those relationships to grow a better neighborhood. We want to allow those relationships to develop naturally and organically, listening to each other and growing together.
What does this mean?
- It means that CCC wants to work with neighbors – we don’t ever want to be a bunch of outsiders who come into a neighborhood with an attitude that says, “Hi, you’re broken, and I’m here to fix you.”
- It means that we value relationships above things. We believe that by building relationships, we can restore the fabric of our community, and ultimately, our society.
- It means that we seek mutually-enhancing relationships. In other words, we don’t want to maintain a traditional service provider – client model. We want to walk beside our neighbors and learn from each other.
- It means that we seek to build on the strengths inherent in every neighborhood and work with neighbors to grow and develop new strengths that can benefit the entire community.
Some people call this community development, or intentional neighboring, or missional living, but really, it’s just living out the Kingdom principle of showing our love for God but loving one another. When we do this in gentleness and humility, we discover that we don’t have to “take God to the neighborhood” – He has been here all along, waiting for us to love people in His name.
Want to know more? Our website is currently undergoing to a major rebuild, but you can go to WeCareAbilene.org for more information, or you can visit us on Facebook. We appreciate your prayers, and if you feel so led, we can always use additional financial support.
Meanwhile, let me encourage you to come along beside us by getting to know YOUR neighbors, where YOU are. Proverbs 27:10 says, “A neighbor nearby is better than a brother far away.” Love the people God has placed near you. It seems to me that if more of us would do this simple thing, the Kingdom of God would grow and spread beyond our wildest dreams.