This Labor Day I was at my fiancé's family's cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin. It was beautiful, relaxing and rejuvenating and I totally planned on writing my post about it, but something got in the way. The whole 10 hour drive up and back the radio waves were full of stories about the pastor from Florida who was planning on marking the anniversary of Sept.11 by burning Qur'ans.
I got so sick of hearing about this man's hate-speech (for what I'd like to believe is just misguided ignorance). Then, when I got back I heard from a colleague about a pastor in his community planning on joining the burning and how my friend's day was taken over by media contacting him, trying to get comments on this sad affair.
So, for this post, I will have to put away the Wisconsin idea. Instead, I am so sick of hearing about intolerant Christians and how they pose as representatives for the entire religion that I just need to share-and hear-some good news. So, for this post, I NEED YOUR STORIES OF CHRISTIANS OR CONGREGATIONS ACTUALLY BRINGING WHOLENESS TO THEIR COMMUNITIES. This will be a short post and I will rely on y'all out there to brighten up this world with witnesses of Christ's peace and reconciliation. I don't know about you, but I need to hear that Christianity is about more than intolerance and division.
To get things going, let me share just part of a story that I have borne witness to. On September 9, 2010 (the day when this post was supposed to go up, had I not slacked this week) a group of folks from a variety of faith communities (and none at all), different ages and ranging from homeless and penniless to some of the richest folks in Nashville got together to unveil a huge apartment complex designed to create housing for homeless folks. But more than housing, this place creates communities, teaches people life-skills, offers some of the finest views of downtown Nashville and does all of this in an efficient, eco-friendly way.
The group that put this all together is called the "Campus for Human Development" and is an outgrowth of an organization called "Room in the Inn" (www.roomintheinn.org check it out to have your mind blown). All these things started with one man, a lowly, soft-spoken minister, named Charles Strobel who felt compelled to open his church to folks who were sleeping outside the church during cold nights. So he started by opening the doors of his church to welcome them in, made some coffee and made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for them. And the next night, he did the same thing. And the next and the next...
Now there are about 300 congregations in Nashville who offer hospitality, a cozy bed, warm meal, a safe space and companionship during the winter months. This ministry, called "Room in the Inn" provides about 20,000 beds each year to homeless folks, with an army of faithful volunteers found in all sorts of faith communities and now have a huge, beautiful campus of apartments and communal living for those on the margins of society...and it all started with a quiet, fragile priest opening his doors and making his favorite, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.