The first commitment was to be contextual in whatever work we would seek to do in a community. This means that we would seek not to enter a community with a preconceived idea of what that particular community needed, but instead, we would research – a phrase we used called landscape analysis – to understand what challenges are already being met in various ways, and what are the gaps and opportunities where we could step in and actually be a valuable and welcomed resource to make a positive difference. In the past four months, we have focused our research in Carpinteria, CA, a multi-ethnic community (predominately Caucasian and Latino) with an interesting mixed history of rural agrarian workers from Latin America along with Hollywood stars escaping the craze of Los Angeles. We have met with the principals of the public schools, executive directors from every major non-profit in town, pastors, youth leaders, public servants, and community leaders to learn where are the gaps for kids who seem to be falling through the cracks in society. We have been blessed with the joy of offering a financial gift to Carpinteria Children's Project for their summer program as part of this local research. We also recognize the need for us to learn Spanish.
The second commitment was that we would seek to be collaborative. This means that we are not interested in competing with other nonprofits doing meaningful and effective work, but instead, our desire is come alongside and support work that is already being done and figure out how we can collaborate with organizations that resonate and are open to relationships with us as we serve the common good together. This has led to emerging partner relationships with Hope Refuge, Better Together Ministries, St. Joseph Catholic Church, the Henri Nouwen Society, and other overseas partners with whom we love and feel called to partner in the gospel for the sake of children at home and around the world.
In November, we had the joy of hosting Rosemary Mbogo along with three graduates and kids who were rescued from one of the slums of Nairobi and were raised at ByGrace Children’s Home (one of our family’s long-time mission partners), for a “friend-raising” gathering in Carpinteria. We shared food and stories of God’s transformation of lives across the world. To sit in a living room together as friends in Christ from Kenya to the United States is an overwhelming feeling of how big our God is, and no matter how far from one another we may live and experience life, each of us who knows the power of the Holy Spirit shares in the experience of spiritual renewal, redemption, and the transforming power of Jesus Christ.
The third commitment was that we would go slow as we seek to discern the guiding voice of the Spirit who is leading us into uncharted territories. For me, personally, there is angst that causes me to want to jump into every interesting idea and opportunity that comes my way. This is very dangerous when setting out on a journey of building an organization from the ground, up. Many different opportunities come our way, nearly every day, and the challenge of filtering out opportunities in order to build a ministry that is sustainable and transformative is a very real challenge, especially to the ego which wants to see programs, people and success all the time at vastly increasing numbers. This past fall we have been reading together, “An Unhurried Life” by AIan Fadling, which has helped us to keep the long view in mind for this work and our approach to it in our first year.