I spent a few days at the CCDA conference in Raleigh. That is the Christian Community Development Association if you don’t know, and I commend this organization to you. It grew out of the life work of John Perkins. His life story is worth investigating. The conference gathered a diverse group of people from across the country and some from around the world. The number of speakers and workshops was overwhelming. I only got a small exposure to a few of them and their wisdom.
The biblical theme verses for the conference were taken from Jeremiah 29. There is a well-known and often mis-interpreted verse from Chapter 29, and I am sure you can recite it. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV) As one modern commentator said, “It’s not about YOU!” That verse is a multi-generational promise and the “you” is plural. It is a group of people, a nation, or perhaps an extended family. Another well-known verse is: But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7 ESV) Verse 7 is a nugget of wisdom and a call to serve your neighbor, your city, those whom God has placed you among.
I’m taking these in reverse order for another verse caught my heart, verse 5. Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. (Jeremiah 29:5 ESV) I had read all this before, but that verse just came to life. I am building a house. I am building a house in a community that many people would not like to be in. They would compare it to the exile in Babylon. I have an advantage since I don’t consider myself being exiled to Trinity Gardens. God has placed in my heart & soul, a love for the people and the place. I have made a choice (with God’s prodding) to make this move. God, through his prophet Jeremiah, was telling them that their exile would be long. Don’t sit in a tent and plan to leave soon. Build a house and dwell there. Plant gardens. Provide for your family. Verse 6 even tells them to take wives in the community and establish families.
I heard a speaker at the conference remind us to be patient. He said plan on a 15 year ministry in a place. Don’t plan on a couple years or you may as well not start it. Too many pastors and other folks who commit to communities of need become weary and they burn-out. They give up and walk away from the calling to a particular place.
I ask for your prayers as Charlene and I put down physical roots in a place to stay a long time, perhaps the rest of our lives. Pray for others that are doing this in communities across our nation. The speaker who urged patience and long term commitment has earned the right to say it. He is approaching 40 years of teaching and pastoring in a community of need in the Chicago area. He is not just making a recommendation. He is speaking from life experience.
By the way, I’m not sure if my formerly swampy lot will sustain a garden like verse 5 commands, but my pastor, Scott, and my friend, Lachavian, sure had a blessed garden during 2014. They took it to heart and planted the garden as well as building the house. The produce was good!