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Review of J. W. Rogerson and John Vincent, The City in Biblical Perspective

J. W. Rogerson and John Vincent.
The City in Biblical Perspective
.
Biblical Challenges in the Contemporary World. London: Equinox, 2009. 132pp. $26.95.

The City in Biblical Perspective explores what the Bible has to say about cities and how that presentation can inform the practice of Christians with respect to cities. The book is divided into two parts, covering the city in the Old and New Testaments, followed by a brief epilogue.

J. W. Rogerson, Emeritus Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield, wrote part 1. Rogerson’s brief introduction notes that one cannot simply transfer modern conceptions of the city to Israelite cities in the Bible, and the city in the OT is an “ambiguous symbol” (4).

In chapter 1, Rogerson uses biblical and archaeological data to describe the physical and social aspects of the Israelite city. He shows that the Israelite city was a place of power, control, and class distinctions. Thus, the city provided a platform for the OT writers to critique the abuses that arose from these aspects of the city.

Rogerson shifts to the biblical perspectives on cities in chapter 2, showing that the OT does not present a unified view of the city. He uses the stories of Cain as the first city builder, the Tower of Babel, and Sodom and Gomorrah. He also draws on the Song of Songs, Psalms 12 and 55, and Lamentations. In all these texts the portrayal is generally negative or ambiguous. But with Micah 4:1-4 and Isaiah 2:2-4, he shows the city can represent future hope of peace and justice for all.

In chapter 3, Rogerson wants to show how we can make connections between cities in the OT and our own cities. The OT helps us both critique the failures and injustices of the city while offering images of hope, and, so, “issuing a call for creative thought and action” (43).

Rogerson is strongest when he shows how understanding the Israelite city illuminates the biblical text and when he draws out the ambiguous portrayal of the city. However, his presentation is clearly weighted toward the negatives of the city, and his sample of texts is so narrow that it is not clear that this is a fair representation. In addition, some of Rogerson’s choices of texts are questionable. For example, nothing in Psalm 12 indicates a city setting or problems unique to cities. He also makes leaps that are not warranted by the text and then draws conclusions from them; for example, that slave labor was used for the Tower of Babel. Finally, the brevity (two pages) of the “connections” section and its lack of concrete suggestions may leave those interested in this book for missional purposes disappointed.

John Vincent, a Methodist minister and founder of the Urban Theology Unit in Sheffield, wrote part 2. Vincent begins with an introduction (chapter 4) of the historical setting for the New Testament, and focuses on Greco-Roman cities as centers of power and control over the surrounding countryside. He also notes a shift in perspective that accompanies the transition from the OT to the NT. In the OT, those in power in Israelite cities were presumed to be God’s people and, hence, subject to him. But, in the NT, foreigners controlled Israel from the cities. The concept of the kingdom of God presented a challenge to those powers, but only to those with “the Gospel-informed eye” (51).

In chapter 5, Vincent discusses the city in the context of Jesus’ world, including cities within Galilee, Capernaum, and Jerusalem. He examines the various social classes, as well as the place of women and outsiders in ancient cities, and he highlights how the “Jesus movement” created an alternative community that subverted the traditional roles and expectations. Vincent also presents the unique perspective of each Gospel account on the city, and shows how each can provide resources for “making connections” to the city in our day.

Vincent shifts to the followers of Jesus and the mission to the cities in chapter 6. He discusses the social structures of the cities, the social makeup of the early church, and, again, how the Christian community subverts the traditional view of community.

In chapter 7, Vincent argues for an embrace of the alternative vision of community presented by Jesus and Paul in light of the challenges of today’s “global city.” He notes ways disciples today have sought to connect “God’s Project” of the NT to today’s society: embodiment (Jesus), subversion (Jesus), compliance (Paul in Rom 13:1-2), and replacement (Revelation). He finds the last two troublesome.

Vincent also wrote the epilogue, which offers guidance on “making connections” between the biblical text and our contemporary situation. He presents three movements in this process: (1) from our situation to the text; (2) movement within the text; (3) movement back to our situation. This process is designed to imaginatively draw us into “God’s Project”: what God is doing and how that calls us to respond, especially in light of Jesus as the embodiment of the kingdom of God.

Vincent’s discussion of the social world of the NT is helpful, and he rightly reminds us that the four Gospels offer different perspectives, and hence, different resources for engaging the contemporary city. He also helpfully highlights the alternative community created by Jesus and his followers. However, much of his discussion of the social realities of the period would not have been specific to the ancient cities. That is fine, and these general social issues can have relevance for addressing issues of the contemporary city. But in a book on the “biblical perspective” on the city, I would expect a more focused treatment. Also, in places, he needs a more careful, nuanced look at texts that he appears willing to dismiss as largely irrelevant to connecting to the modern city. This is particularly true of his treatments of Romans 13:1-2 and Revelation. Surely there are creative and imaginative ways to see these texts as working in concert with texts pointing to embodiment and subversion.

Phillip Camp

Associate Professor of Old Testament

Lipscomb University

Nashville, Tennessee, USA

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Review of Warren R. Copeland, Doing Justice in Our Cities: Lessons in Public Policy from America’s Heartland

Warren R. Copeland.
Doing Justice in Our Cities: Lessons in Public Policy from America’s Heartland
.
Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2009. 138pp. $20.00.

There has been a recent spike in literature that aims to inform Christians and churches how to engage in ministries of justice. To that corpus Warren Copeland contributes an easy-to-read, compelling exposition of his triumphs and struggles to implement justice in the public square. Copeland is Professor of Religion at Wittenberg University (PhD in social ethics from the University of Chicago) but more importantly has served several terms as mayor of Springfield, Ohio. He writes with raw honesty about his Christian commitment and public service, and how he wrestled throughout his career as a public servant to maintain integrity between the two. Copeland sees the challenges that cities face as fundamental moral issues not to be ignored by Christians. Politics, for the author, is a way both to express faith and also to test it.

Copeland first narrates his journey as a local politician and then mayor of his city. In his retelling he delivers to the reader an education in urban sociology, planning, and politics; thus, he helps his audience understand the interdisciplinary agility a public official must exercise and the inherent difficulties in attempting to act for the good of all. As a social ethicist employed by the civitas, Copeland strove for a principled approach in his service, but he admits that rare was the occasion when a decision was clear cut. Indeed, his nuanced discussion of political realities and the disparate values involved is a significant reminder that justice-seeking in a pluralist society often requires careful discernment.

In a second section he offers a four-pronged ethical framework for understanding cities, again illustrating the complexity and different values inherent in the administration of justice in city life. Copeland names three principles that guided his civic service and decision making: respect for the integrity of all people, concern for the disadvantaged, and commitment to the common good. These three principles feed into the larger goal of increasing freedom and diversity in the city, two components Copeland regards as crucial for just cities.

In his third and final section, the author outlines a political agenda for creating equity in the city. He advocates for the “3 A’s”: access to good jobs, high quality amenities, and affordable housing. He follows this discussion by detailing “3 S’s” for preserving the diversity within cities: space, safety, and quality schools. Copeland is impressive in the ease and scope of laying out his reasons for his policy proposals and demonstrating measurable results from his experience in Springfield. Time and again his discussion interacts with urban and political theory, providing valuable insight from a policy perspective on issues that will be familiar to anyone working among the disadvantaged in urban America.

One walks away from this book appreciating both the possibilities and problems of working for justice as a Christian in the public sphere. In an age when many seem to have lost faith in the political process, Copeland provides imagination and inspiration for a way forward for people of faith. Furthermore, he is quite realistic about the limits of church or any volunteer organization to tackle effectively the large scale issues in urban America: “Voluntary organizations provide a human touch and often a spiritual dimension that may be missing from government programs. However, we are not about to meet the huge needs of our urban communities through volunteerism. The decimal point is simply in the wrong place” (124). For Copeland, love of neighbor means some level of commitment to those structures that direct public life. Insofar as the reader agrees with Copeland’s faith in the goodness of public life, he or she will find this book a candid but hopeful portrayal of justice seeking at the crossroads of urban politics, sociology, planning, and Christian activism. It is a welcome primer for any Christian considering political activism in an urban context.

Nathan Bills

Doctor of Theology Student

Duke Divinity School

Durham, North Carolina, USA

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Review of Viv Grigg, The Spirit of Christ and The Postmodern City

Viv Grigg.
The Spirit of Christ and The Postmodern City
.
Asbury Theological Seminary Series in World Christian Revitalization Movements 2. Lexington, KY: Emeth Press, 2009. 256 pp. $34.00.

As a theologian, church planter, and urban missionary, Viv Grigg explores the question, “What is the relationship of the Spirit of Christ to the transformation of a postmodern city?” (10). The resulting work is of more than theoretical value: it ultimately introduces us to new and challenging conversations that will activate “transformational revival” in individuals and ultimately in groups great and small, public and private.

The book is divided into three parts: Framing the Conversation; Goals of Postmodern City Transformation; and Processes of Citywide Transforming Revival. The overall organization of the book is good. Each chapter builds easily upon the one prior and gives a sense of closure while also inviting the reader to further reflection.

The first section develops a theological framework for the study and introduces the “transformational conversation hermeneutic.” Several questions are posed, including:

  • Is God a rationalist philosopher or creative storyteller?
  • Is God or was God? . . .
  • Is God incarnate or cosmic? Immanent or transcendent? Local or global?
  • Is God or does God? . . . (21)

Books could be filled with analysis and dissection of these questions (and many have been), but this book does not indulge the intrigued. The author’s hermeneutics regarding the nature of God, per these guiding questions, set the course for this study, though mostly as guides, not as the destination. This section closes by providing additional framework, which is spent defining terminology and outlining the cultural and structural setting of the study’s case city—Auckland, New Zealand.

The middle section outlines the results that one can expect of a postmodern city touched with transformational revival. A second, “ideal,” city is introduced in this section. If transformational revival is the goal, then the socio-economic structure of a city that drinks of the river of life flowing through it will resemble another city of Scripture—the City of God. With “universal affirmation of the metanarratives portrayed” (62) in Genesis 1-11 the author explores several characteristics that any city transformed by the Spirit will possess. Drawing upon the nature of God, any city of God will then reflect these divine qualities: urban development marked by linear process and new growth; creativity produced by innovation and design; media and learning as cities liberated with communication; good[ness] as cities filled with value and aesthetics; community reflecting both authority and equality; structure as cities founded with purpose and justice. Posing the question of “transformation into what?” it is with these preceding characteristics that conversational engagement can take place within the postmodern city.

The third and final section of the book deals with the process through which transformational revival can be realized. Grigg first explores characteristics of past revivals in Auckland and then extrapolates them for the postmodern city. He gives nineteen transforming revival principles, beginning with the precondition of transforming revival, all the way to cultural revitalization. In between lies a progressive course of transforming revival that must move from individual to small group, from small group to wider structure, and from wider structure to whole culture. This final section is the heart of the study, as Grigg provides not just action steps but actual illustrations of these transformational revival principles in practice.

What I thoroughly enjoyed about this work is how the author donates a fresh perspective of missional thought and praxis to the growing number of homogeneous contributions on the subject. As our cities, cultures, and languages evolve, it is essential that our conversation does as well. While the church has a unique responsibility in the process of urban revival and transformation, I find it rejuvenating that the author emphasizes a highly pro-outward response. Incarnate and missional principles apply at every level of transformative revival; the church is to bring the conversation to the source of stagnated life. This book not only presumes an incarnational (“living theology”) approach to missions, it leaves little room for an alternative way forward in a postmodern society.

As a mission leader in Auckland, I feel particularly kindred to the direction and scope of this book. Where I cannot speak with certainty that the principles in this book will translate fully in every postmodern city, I do sense they are well measured and finely tuned to Auckland.

Though relevant, this scholarly book could be shorter, as some of the points could have been made just as effectively with more conciseness. I did not find the graphs and figures very helpful, nor the author’s numerous (54) injections of cameos into the body of text. Regarding the former, I felt they aided my understanding of the subject matter very little, and a few of the figures did not seem to correspond to the outline of text very precisely. Concerning the latter, they were disruptive to the flow.

I wanted to dance after finally finishing the book (and I did brag of this accomplishment to my colleagues), but over time I found myself more challenged and introspective, and perhaps a little fatigued. Even still, this book is a worthy addition to the conversation about world missions in postmodern cities, and though it may represent just a sliver of the pie, it has whetted my appetite and has me craving more of this beautiful and challenging dialogue.

Elijah Peters

Missionary

Auckland, New Zealand

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Review of Stanley H. Skreslet, Comprehending Mission: The Questions, Methods, Themes, Problems, and Prospects of Missiology

Stanley H. Skreslet.
Comprehending Mission: The Questions, Methods, Themes, Problems, and Prospects of Missiology
.
Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2012. 240 pp. $30.00.

The American Society of Missiology has just completed the second year of a three-year evaluation of the future of missiology as a discipline. The publication of Stanley Skreslet’s Comprehending Mission could not come at a more opportune time. His book is published as part of the prestigious American Society of Missiology Series.

Skreslet, Dean of the Faculty of Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, was asked in 2001 by editor Jonathan Bonk to survey a decade’s worth of dissertation research in English for the International Bulletin of Missionary Research. The result is this volume, which one reviewer predicted would be “the standard introduction to the field of missiology for the next decade, and every student ought to begin right here” (back cover).

Chapter one poses the question, “Who studies Christian mission, and why?” Missiology is defined by the author as “the systematic study of all aspects of mission” (12), and he notes that those who study mission include those who do mission (practitioners) and the university academics. He posits the following constants that distinguish missiological study from other academic activities: (1) the processes of religious change; (2) the reality of the faith; and (3) an integrative, multidisciplinary approach (13–14).

The bulk of the book is a survey of the literature through history in which the author notes various trends and directions. Skreslet identifies six themes and devotes a chapter to each: Bible and Mission; History of Mission; Theology, Mission, and Culture; Christian Mission in a World of Religions; The Means of Mission; and Missionary Vocation.

Through the past century, mission theology stopped at numerous way stations: missio Dei, shalom, liberation, reconciliation, and universalism. Mission in the postmodern era needs to be multidimensional and has to embrace “witness, service, justice, healing, reconciliation, liberation, peace, evangelism, fellowship, church planting, contextualization, and much more” (36, quoting David Bosch).

The History of Mission chapter is not intended to provide a summary of mission history, but a discussion of the subject from the point of view of historiography—“how history has been and could be studied or portrayed” (43). The section on Critical Ethnography is illuminating. These mission historians use “the techniques of microhistory, interpretative anthropology, historical anthropology, and sociology of religion. Ideas and influences from semiotics, feminist studies, and postcolonial literary criticism permeate these approaches to mission history” (59). Past mission history has to be deconstructed and then rewritten since much of mission history was written from the point of view of the male missionary, as if the local believers—and his wife—made little contribution.

The use of the social sciences in mission history is the subject of chapter four. Some of the headings include linguistics, cultural analysis, and religious and cultural change. How the social sciences are used in mission studies is informing and being informed by theology: “missiology poses to theology an implicit cross-cultural challenge that is getting harder and harder to ignore” (95).

One of the key themes in missiology over the past thirty years has been the reality of pluralism. How does Christianity interface with other religions? Is dialogue a valid approach? Does it lead to syncretism? Is prophetic dialogue possible? Some have suggested that the interreligious issues bearing on mission indicate that the theology of religions has become the “essential integrating principle” or “hub” of missiology (123).

If the “why” of missions must be discerned, then the “how” of missions is also deserving of study. Skreslet treats The Means of Mission under the headings of Tactics and Strategies, Methods and Modes of Mission, Organizational Structures for Mission, and Financing Mission Endeavors. He concludes that “today, it appears that the means of mission is no longer the dominating subject that it once was within missiology” (166).

Regarding the missionary vocation, the author highlights several themes: (1) professional missionaries and the work they do; (2) missionary spirituality and the call to mission; and (3) probing how the missionary has been, and is, depicted. Within this third approach the missionary is seen in history writing, in biography, in fiction, and in film.

Skreslet brings his research together in his final pages, entitled “Missiology Reconfigured.” We are reminded that it was his intention “to present a representative sample of such research, in order to indicate the broad scholarly landscape [he believes] the field of missiology now encompasses” (195). He claims that missiology does not have a central concern comparable to that of theology of mission. His final conclusion is that the field is distinctive in its foci of “study on religious change, respect for the vocation of mission, and a desire to integrate knowledge about mission gathered from many sources and viewpoints” (197).

Comprehending Mission is much more than a survey or review of the literature. Yes, many authors and their contributions are noted (itself worth the price of the book). But where Skreslet shines is in the way he elicits themes before providing the outlines for the vast body of material he has studied. Any serious student of mission should have this book.

Doug Priest

Executive Director

CMF International

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Review of Mark R. Gornik, Word Made Global: Stories of African Christianity in New York City

Mark R. Gornik.
Word Made Global: Stories of African Christianity in New York City
.
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011. 368pp. $30.00.

Diaspora missiology represents a discipline of increasing significance in a world where populations are constantly shifting. The need for creative strategies, dynamic theological reflection, and ethnographic research is not only apparent but imperative if we are to engage our world as it is today.

In Word Made Global, Mark Gornik effectively responds to that need. He offers a rich ethnography that brings together a dynamic convergence of globalization, urban ministry, and immigrant studies. He approaches the city as an anthropologist, displaying a portrait of churches representing New York City’s most recent African diaspora. Gornik conducted a number of interviews while visiting these churches, and nearly every chapter offers a “thick description” of church activity reflecting his experiences as a participant observer. He includes photographs connecting the reader visually with the churches he studied. For the average ministry leader or seminary student who has limited contact with New York’s immigrant communities, the added visual illustrations provides additional texture.

Throughout the study, Gornik follows three African congregations in New York City. By studying a mainline congregation, Presbyterian Church of Ghana in Harlem, a congregation from the Pentecostal tradition, Redeemed Christian Church of God in Brooklyn, and a congregation from the newly emerging African Independent Churches, Church of the Lord (Aladura), he provides a sweeping profile of African Christianity on the North American landscape. However, by focusing on only these three, he also is able to provide for the reader an in-depth description of their faith practices.

In his introductory chapter, Gornik points out the significance of the global city and its dynamic relationship to African Christianity as a transnational movement of faith. Since there has been such little work done in the way of studying African Christianity in North America, his work makes a marked contribution to both missiological and anthropological studies. In addition, his emphasis on the global city as a signpost for both present and future movement of the church cannot be overemphasized. The movement of African Christianity is important to understand not only for the student of New York City or of globalization; African churches are being established in Providence, Atlanta, Houston, Washington DC, and beyond. Gornik correctly points out that New York City is the global hub, but African Christianity is getting a foothold all over North America.

Gornik organizes his reporting into three sections. In the first section, “Formations,” he discusses the pastoral leadership and the liturgy of these three African churches. Reading the chapter profiling their pastoral leadership, I was not surprised to find that the pastor of each of these churches carries a significant authoritative position, but I was also encouraged to read how ministry is distributed amongst the members in these churches. Because leaders are so busy with the demands of urban life and ministry, delegation is imperative and results in an active congregation. Gornik’s description of the pastor as a cultural broker or mediator is compelling. In a diaspora community, leadership moves beyond simple clerical duties to address all aspects of life including immigration concerns.

In the second section, “Engagements,” Gornik describes the prayer life, the Bible reading, and the witness of these three congregations. It was these chapters that I found most encouraging and challenging. In my experiences interacting with African friends in New York City, I am constantly struck by their understanding of prayer as our complete dependence on God in every aspect of life. I was reminded of this reality again in Gornik’s description. If there is a gift that African Christianity has for the American church (and I think there are many), it is teaching us once again to pray. In addition, their all-of-life understanding of faith and dependence on God through prayer may pose a helpful challenge for Western believers.

As a missiologist, I also approached the chapter on witness with a great deal of personal interest. From my own observations on the street, I wonder how effective these diaspora congregations are at connecting with the more indigenous North American culture; but while reading this chapter, I realized that I was applying the metric of my own American worldview. These African churches, Gornik points out, do not measure their success by how many non-Africans are in their assemblies. Rather they see their witness as an all-of-life experience and their workplace as their primary mission field. The emphasis is on their own act of witness rather than upon increased church attendance. While I wonder how their methodologies may adapt to the Western landscape, they are currently acting as bold witnesses. What I found conspicuously absent was any mention of their engagement or desire to engage with unreached people groups in New York City. These churches apparently have a desire and a bold vision to evangelize the United States—which should be applauded. However, there was little mention of interaction with other immigrant communities and especially any mention of engagement with unreached peoples, especially those arriving from other West African nations. I’m left wondering if such missional engagement is outside of the vision of these churches or was simply left out by the ethnographer.

In the final section, “Directions,” Gornik discusses the dynamics of relocating sacred space and the spiritual nurture of the second generation. African congregations stemming from movements within African Christianity recreate events they once held dear in their African homeland. These seem to be more an extension of the original events with ambassadors of their denomination in attendance rather than an imitation. I was surprised and encouraged by the chapter on the second generation in African churches. In my observations, immigrant churches often struggle with how to care for the spiritual formation of their youth who are caught between their parents’ home culture and their new host culture. Indeed, this theme is reoccurring in diaspora missiology. While the youth groups in Word Made Global represent small samples, their Christian identity is being forged despite enormous obstacles. I believe further research on the second generation in African churches would be a significant missiological contribution.

Overall, I found Word Made Global to be a great contribution both to missionary anthropology and to the body of Christ in general. The flow of Christianity in the global city offers a glimpse into the present and the future, and connecting this flow to African Christianity draws on a rich global history.

Jared Looney

Global City Mission Initiative

Bronx, New York, USA

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The Process of the Gospel

It is an inestimable privilege for me to “do God’s work” and to be a “fellow worker” with God (1 Cor 3:9).1 This high calling makes me very nervous, however, because I take doing God’s work very seriously, and I have always carried within me a deep fear of being counterproductive. Over the years, I have come to see that this fear has been beneficial, because it has motivated me to seek God more and has allowed me to become involved in very fruitful, multiply productive ministry.

One way of being hugely counterproductive is to do ministry in a programmatic manner. I am very convinced that ministry must not be carried out programmatically but rather through genuine relationships. The process of the gospel is not a program but a relational tool for doing God’s work. It creates a relational foundation for very effective ministry that will be multiply productive rather than counterproductive.

Earlier this summer, we took students from our Doctor of Ministry class on a tour of ministries in Greater Boston.2 We picked ministries that we felt demonstrated integrity, long-term practice, fruitfulness, and cooperative participation across the body of Christ. On our visits, I heard each ministry leader cite relationships as the most critical factor in their overall success.

Indeed, working through relationships is one of the primary ways God goes about his work. The Bible tells about one relationship after another that God established with individuals, families, cities, and nations.

God’s work of redemption requires that his message be planted among us, understood by us, and that it grow and bear fruit. This all comes through relationship. We know this is true, but I want to understand how God does it. What actions does he use to create relationships with his fallen children? How does he introduce, communicate, and affirm his message? And then, how does he go about planting his message in our hearts and nurturing that message to maturity? I believe that if we can get a handle on how God does his work, maybe we can learn to do our work in the same way. And if we learn to do things the way he does, I believe there is a stronger likelihood that our work as ministers of the gospel will bear the fruit God desires to see.

Consider what Jesus did during his ministry on earth and how he communicated the Father’s message to us. In other words, what is the process he used to bring us the gospel?

I identify six stages of the process of the gospel:

  1. Observation
  2. Positive Appreciation
  3. Relevant Communication
  4. Meeting Perceived Needs
  5. Meeting Basic Needs
  6. Multiplication

Here is what God did: God observed his fallen creation. Our sin condemned us to death. We were eternally lost without him. Because he knows us and loves us (positive appreciation), he sent his Son who communicated relevantly through his life, his parables, and his teaching. When Jesus walked among us, he identified and met our perceived needs with miracles, as he meets our needs today, and then he met our basic, core need through the atoning work of his death and resurrection. Finally, he prepared his disciples for his leaving, laying the groundwork for the multiplication of his kingdom through his church, made possible through the coming of the Holy Spirit.

These stages describe a pattern that God has designed to allow the power of redemption, working in and through living systems, to grow his kingdom. By definition, a living system is an orderly, highly complex, and highly interrelated arrangement of living components that work together to accomplish a high-level goal when in proper relationship to each other.3 When people come together, living systems like families, churches, cities, and nations are formed.

Because the process of the gospel helps us to align with and engage God’s living systems, it can be used not only for ministry with individuals, but with larger social systems, such as a local church or an entire city. This cycle can be repeated many times in ever-widening realms of influence, from an individual person to a neighborhood or a local community of faithful people, to the community of faith in an entire city, to many cities working together. It works in one-on-one relationships, in ministry development, in cross-cultural missions, in church planting, and in community organizing. With it, one can reach the poor and the rich. It can work in both sacred and secular settings. It can and has transformed entire cities and has allowed Christianity to grow throughout the world.

I call this six-stage pattern an archetype because these elements work together as a unit, an entire process that follows an enduring, stable pattern or model that transcends time and space across all human history.

For almost five decades through our work in Boston with the Emmanuel Gospel Center,4 we have found countless opportunities to use this approach, and it has helped us to avoid counterproductivity while consistently producing long-lasting fruit for the kingdom of God. The fruit we have seen God bring during this time is not insignificant. We have been privileged to experience an incredible revival in Boston that we call the Quiet Revival. In four decades, the number of churches in Boston has nearly doubled, from approximately 300 in 1970 to 575 in 2010. Also, the estimated percentage of the city’s population in churches has increased from about 3% to about 14% and has demonstrated many of the characteristics of healthy growth, including increased unity and prayer, trained leadership, and effective ministry that produces significant social change.5

It is an exciting place to be at work in God’s kingdom, and it is from this context of vibrant and sustained growth of Christianity that I write today. Let me first share with you how I stumbled across this pattern.

Discovery

The process of the gospel evolved out of suggestions originally intended for short-term student participants in urban ministry. To guide the students in properly relating to people in the community, I reflected on what had worked well for Judy and me in the past. Several basic characteristics of our relationships with our neighbors surfaced over and over again and I wrote a short teaching paper to help my students navigate relationships with our urban neighbors. It eventually became evident that the relational approach we suggested to these students was the pattern Jesus had followed in his ministry. Therefore, in using it, we would be doing what Jesus did. The “process of the gospel” was born as I realized that what I had originally penned as “steps to short-term involvement” was really something deeper.

Definitions and Warnings

Because living systems are at issue, readers must resist the temptation to take the easy way out, to try to make the process of the gospel into a program, rather than allow it to become an integral part of who they are. Those who make it into a program will be missing the point entirely, and missing the opportunity for fruitfulness, which is the goal.

Defining “Process”

A simple definition of process would be “a series of actions directed to some end.” Although that captures the heart of it, I see it as so much more. It is important to make the distinction between process and procedure as we are not talking about a new procedure for ministry, but an age-old process.

I view procedures as isolated steps we need to do in order to complete a task in a systematic, orderly way. Process is different. The goal of process is not merely to complete some isolated task but to see transformation or change in something, to move toward a desired outcome that is much bigger than ourselves and is beyond our control. While procedures are people-driven, processes are driven by the larger living systems we engage. For example, to grow tomatoes, we work within the rules and powerful forces that already exist in the environment, including the weather, the presence or absence of pests or diseases, the need for nutrients in the soil, and so on. We might follow certain procedures for growing tomatoes, but the actual process is very complex, and the result of all we do is really up to God.6

The same holds true for the process of the gospel. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Cor 3:6). So it is never about how well we follow the steps and do the task. Rather, it is about how well we work with the complex and interrelated processes God has already put in place. He is the Author of all life and the Lord of all living systems. In the end, he will get all the glory for all he has done.

Stage One: OBSERVATION

I love the city. I love to be in an inner-city neighborhood with all the people sitting on their stoops, the children in the playground, the youth playing baseball, the neighborhoods that seem filled with baby carriages, poor people, or elderly folk. My city has a pulse, and I feel it beating.

The highest levels of observation are required to perceive social systems, large or small, as living realities. When we are able to do this, we do not simply see streets and buildings, but a complex social organism called Boston, Philadelphia, or New York, for example.

The Old Testament prophets addressed entire cities and countries as though they had the characteristics of a living person. New Testament writers wrote to cities as though each city, represented by its one church, were persons who could receive a letter.7 They understood the “body of Christ” and the “kingdom of God” as living systems.

God himself models this skill of observation for us. Moses wrote, “God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them” (Exod 2:25). God’s compassionate observation of the children of Israel in slavery under Pharaoh moved him to action. His observation is very thorough. Is there anything about us he does not see? The writer of Hebrews says no. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb 4:13). He knows every intimate detail about us. “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt 10:30). He knows what we are thinking now and what we are going to think later. “Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely” (Ps 139:4).

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a full thirty years went by before he began his ministry. What was he doing for thirty years? We know little about those days, but we can be sure he was observing and learning about the people who lived in Nazareth and the surrounding region. Most of Jesus’ earthly life was lived in the critical observation stage, through which his Father was preparing him for the day when he would begin to proclaim the kingdom of God.

Observation is a humble skill. Anyone can do it. No college degrees are needed. But it challenges the greatest intellect to assimilate and make sense of what one sees. We study the situation. We try to see real people in the way they really operate. We pray, “Lord, give us eyes to see!” And here, of course, we are not merely asking for physical eyes but for deep insights, revelations, intuitive understanding, and subconscious vision.

Since the mid-1970s, the Emmanuel Gospel Center has had a full-time researcher on staff. Over these many years, Rudy Mitchell has gathered information on Boston’s neighborhoods and churches to help us see and understand what God is doing in our city. Not only has our research informed our own ministry decisions, but we share what we learn with others to help them make wise decisions about their ministry objectives. Today, a lot of our research incorporates team learning. By engaging others in the learning process, we work with the community to deepen everyone’s understanding of the issues, obtain new information, clearly articulate the issues, and assist those affected to develop and implement an appropriate response.8 The conversations that emerge from this observation and research process lead everyone involved to deeper understandings and positive appreciation of the people and issues involved. This paves the way for practical responses that make sense both to those seeking to serve and those being served.

No matter where you find yourself in ministry, become a learner. Humble yourself to be open to what God will teach you as you look around. We do not start by doing. We start by observing. Take the time to do the research. The deep understanding we gain from keen observation will naturally flow into the next stage of the process of the gospel, a positive appreciation of the people around us and their unique environment.

Stage Two: POSITIVE APPRECIATION

The second stage, positive appreciation, means making room in our hearts to respect honestly and actively and care about people and their potentially foreign cultural context. There is a marked difference between respecting people for who they are and helping people merely because they have needs. In fact, if you jump in to help people because they have needs, without respecting and loving them first, you may be accomplishing nothing at all. Is that not what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor 13:3)?

If our relationship with someone is not based on affection that emerges from esteem, but is only built on our ability to give some service or thing to the receiver, there is danger that the relationship is paternalistic and dehumanizing. That kind of relationship produces short-term results or dependency or both, but not spiritual fruit. So, the rule of thumb is this: until you can first honestly appreciate people, do not try to reach them with your message or your acts of service.

Our model for positive appreciation is God himself. God’s unthinkably huge sacrifice, the selfless death of Jesus on our behalf, flows from his perfect love for us. Jesus expressed immense positive appreciation of people. He wept over them as “sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36). John said of the cross, “Having loved his own, he showed them the full extent of his love” (John 13:1).

The person or group we want to engage may not be willing to engage, either because of fear, hostility, ignorance, brokenness, lack of self-esteem, or some other obstacle. Positive appreciation is not necessarily reciprocal at this point, nor does it need to be. Jesus loved us and died for us while we were yet sinners (1 John 4:19). His giving did not depend on our positive response to him.

If we really care about people, they will sense that, and even when we make mistakes—for we will make them—they will forgive us because they know we care about them. We will offend and be offended; we will misunderstand; we will act defensively, prejudicially, or chauvinistically. But most people will eventually forgive us if they know we have a genuine love for them. As the Apostle Peter says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8).

Positive appreciation may not come easily. But the more we practice it, the more it is going to be perfected in us, though there will always be a huge gap between the way God loves and the way we love. This gap is a reality, not a problem. This is what the fallen world is about. As we walk through the stages of the process of the gospel, we must always keep in mind that we are in a redemptive process, we are always confessing sin and always submitting to God, who will show us what to do.

Stage Three: RELEVANT COMMUNICATION

I think the real goal of relevant communication is congruency—that what you think you are saying is what the other person is actually understanding you to be saying; and that what you are hearing is what the other person is really intending for you to hear.

Relevant communication creates a deep connection between people. Your words will connect, first to the matter at hand, but also to the heart of the listener. What you say will be practical and applicable. Your listener will have a sense of inner satisfaction that he or she is being heard, because what you say is congruent with their needs, their interests, their requests, and their worldview. At the same time, we carefully listen, hear, and receive from them.

God communicates through his “Word,” Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews makes this point clearly: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb 1:1–2). God spoke all of creation into being, and Job says, “God’s voice thunders” (Job 37:5a). When God spoke to Elijah, however, he spoke in a “still small voice” (1 Kgs 19:12). Our God is a God who speaks! And he is also a God who hears our cry, who is closer than a brother, whose Spirit intercedes and groans inexpressible words within us (Rom 8:26, 27).

From the beginning of our time in Boston, we would often have people living with us, whether they were people from the streets, ministry students, or fellow workers. The street people who lived with us taught us to be clear in what we said, because they were looking for honest love, and if we said something we did not mean from our hearts, they would pick it up immediately. They were our textbooks on developing integrity and transparency. If we said we would do something we really did not plan to do, we would see their hopes crushed, and distrust would creep back into their eyes. Many of the people we met had been injured in multiple ways, and trust was not easy for them.

Relevant communication goes beyond words. It goes into the depths of who we really are and how we are communicating who we are. Communication also involves nonverbal cues such as hand gestures and a listening posture. Relevant communication means knowing what people are saying and, to a degree, what they are thinking, and then carefully using stories and other ways to communicate clearly.

Are we listening well enough so that what we hear is really what people are intending to say? Are we speaking carefully, so that what we are saying is really what we intend to say, and our listeners are hearing what we intend them to hear?

Stage Four: MEETING PERCEIVED NEEDS

The Gospels are full of stories about Jesus meeting the perceived needs of the people around him. You know the story of blind Bartimaeus. When at last he stood before Jesus, the Lord did something very unexpected. He looked at him and asked what seemed to be an odd question: “What do you want me to do for you?” The man was obviously blind! But it was important for Bartimaeus to verbalize his own perceived need. Jesus waited for relevant communication that revealed the man’s own perceived need before he took action.

Bartimaeus was very clear about what he wanted. “Rabbi, I want to see,” he said.

“ ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road” (Mark 10:46-52).

Jesus came to provide the answer for our most basic need, that we would be redeemed from sin and death, but on his three-year journey to the cross he responded to many, many perceived needs that people were concerned about. The gospel is not only what Jesus said, it is what he did.

God has created us to help others. Paul says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10). Why does Paul say we are created to do good works? Surely it is not to earn our place in heaven. That work has been accomplished on the cross. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16; emphasis added). In a very real way, our good deeds, prompted by love, are the gospel message, without words. We do the gospel. At the same time, of course, we preach the gospel using words. God has given us his special revelation, and he wants everyone to hear and know what he has to say to us. The point is, we want the way we live to speak as loudly as our words.

Meeting felt needs is an important step, because it is incarnational ministry. For the recipient, it is spiritual reality experienced through practicality. “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (Jam 2:15). James makes it clear that our words are not enough, and actions, including helping to meet perceived needs, spring from faith.

Those of us in ministry are always faced with the immensity of human need all around us. There is no escape from the press of need, and knowing that Jesus is the answer to all our problems, we want to help in his name.

When Judy and I first came to Boston, we felt our lives were coming apart because of the craziness of trying to respond to the needs around us. Judy clearly remembers how busy we would be meeting the needs of just one person: taking her to the outpatient clinic, to the grocery store, to the social security office, to apply for food stamps and fuel assistance, to the welfare office, typing up forms and applications for her, and helping her deal with her addiction and relational problems. And that was just one of scores of people at our door every day of the week.

Here are a few things we learned along the way: after carefully listening to what the person or group say they need, it is best to choose a need that can actually be met. For especially those people who have lost hope many times, we cannot afford to make promises we cannot keep. Choose something you have every reason to believe you may be able to accomplish with and through their participation, and then pull out all the stops to make sure it happens. Make room for the person or group to fully participate in meeting the need. This should not be a give-away program. Their participation in the process will build their confidence and ownership of the solution.

Change must come from within, not from without. It is through helping to address a felt need that hope is built in people, and that hope will help them begin to surface their more basic, core needs.

Stage Five: MEETING BASIC NEEDS

When we move from meeting perceived needs to meeting basic needs, you may think that this is no big deal—that we just go from a focus on surface needs to deeper needs. But in reality, a seismic shift takes place as we move between these two. If you miss the importance of this transition, you will miss the power that comes from the process of the gospel. Your ministry may very well stay on the surface, and you may not see the abundant life you want to see take root and grow in the life of your friend.

Here is the best way to tell the difference. Perceived needs are identified by tangible solutions where the meeting of the need is finite. The solution does not internally transform the person, though it certainly brings a measure of hope and relief. The change is additive. But on the other hand, you know basic needs are met when the solution brings an ever-widening range of other needs also being met simultaneously and spontaneously. There is an explosion of life as one door after another opens in the person’s life. The change is multiplicative. When, for example, a long-term alcoholic becomes sober, a whole series of needs begins to be met at the same time. These may be physical needs, employment, family issues, a sense of self-worth and value, and gaining a purposeful life.

In meeting basic needs, the transaction is between God and the individual, and unless the individual participates with God in his or her restoration through willingness, obedience, and dependence on God, nothing of any lasting significance happens. We cannot force this. We cannot make it happen. God must do the heavy lifting. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain,” Solomon wrote (Ps 127:1). My role is to support and nurture the individual and make sure he or she is connecting to the broader body of Christ as God is at work doing things I cannot do and as he brings redemption and restoration. The basic need is only fully met when my new believer friend is nurtured within a new family of supportive believers that is part of the larger extended family of the body of Christ. Nurturing these family relationships is a good way to “engage God’s living systems” and is the heart of Living System Ministry.9

There are some basic needs common to all humankind that have arisen because of the fall, such as sinfulness, our fallen human nature, separation from God, and rebellion against him. Paul puts this matter very strongly. “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” (Col 1:21). Our most universal, core spiritual need, then, is for reconciliation with our Creator and the subsequent transformation of our sin nature.

We might think that the end goal of the process of the gospel is to see someone come to faith in Christ. But there is one more step beyond that. The sixth stage of the process of the gospel is multiplication.

Stage Six: MULTIPLICATION

Living systems thrive on their own as they receive the sustenance they need. Judy remembers that when our baby daughter was just two months old, a friend said to her, “Rebecca seems to be thriving!” Judy was beaming, very proud to be a new, successfully nursing mother. “And you probably did not have a thing to do with it!” he concluded, with a laugh. This took the wind out of her sails, until she realized our friend was really saying that our daughter was experiencing the natural tendency of living things to thrive when they receive normal care and sustenance. Naturally, there came a time when Rebecca moved out to be on her own and a time when our son, Ken, left home to start a family of his own. This is a normal part of nurturing a living system. We expect to release maturing systems to grow apart from us.

Multiplication in an organic system requires that we let go. Must I empty myself of short-term goals and focus on long-term goals? Must I release the future into the hands of other people when it is easier to organize and do it myself with my group in my way? These things are hard to do but they are necessary. We must empty ourselves of the short-term goals and individualism, both of which will hinder multiplication.

In multiplication, we want to envision those we have walked beside to do the “greater things” that Jesus talks about in John 14. “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). A goal in this is leaving in such a way that life flows from the people that we are working with, so they start reaching people we could never reach. Then we have been a part of a birthing process. We want to make disciples who will make disciples. As we follow the process of the gospel, we will, indeed, participate with God in the way he builds his kingdom. We experience what it means to be a co-laborer with God!

Completing the Circle

We started out wondering how God goes about creating relationships with us, planting the message of the gospel in our hearts and nurturing it to fruitfulness. Now, as we have come full circle, the effective engagement we sought for is complete. “The fruit that remains” is the goal, and multiplication is the fruit. The recipient now becomes the giver. The point of Jesus’ death and resurrection was to redeem a lost people who will then actually and zealously join him in his work. This is the gospel: “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:14). Yet, even now, multiplication points us back to where we started. Because the gospel is alive, this living cycle of redemption starts up again in ever-widening circles.

From multiplication to system-wide balance

The process of the gospel restores relational balance to society. Rather than drawing from flawed or self-serving institutions which rely on technological, financial, intellectual, or organizational capital, the process of the gospel both draws from and builds up what I call “relational capital.”10 While the process of the gospel effectively meets real human needs on every level, this process is not needs based, but asset driven,11 because it works out from a positive appreciation of everyone involved, liberally uses the assets that flow from healthy living systems, and, throughout the process, develops reservoirs of internal relational capital that nurture the growth and development of living systems.

Dr. Douglas Hall is the President of Emmanuel Gospel Center in Boston, where he has served with his wife, Judy, since 1964, and an adjunct professor with Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. Hall holds a diploma from Moody Bible Institute (1960), a BA Degree in Sociology and Anthropology (1962) and Master of Arts Degree in Counseling and Guidance from Michigan State University (1966). He graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1968 with the equivalent of a Master of Divinity Degree, and was granted an honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree from that institution in 1981 for his pioneering work in urban ministry.

The Halls with Steve Daman published The Cat and the Toaster: Living System Ministry In A Technological Age in 2010 (Wipf and Stock). Since then, the three of them and Rema Cheng have been a four-person writing team dedicated to developing Living System Ministry as a school of thought. Steve has a BA Degree in Psychology from Gordon College (1973) and a Master of Arts in Communication (television and journalism) from Regent University (1986). He has served as a missionary with the Emmanuel Gospel Center for the past 25 years. Rema has a BA in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley (2005) and is currently working on her Master of Social Work.

1 Scripture quotations in this paper, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New International Version.

2 This course is offered through Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary: http://www.gordonconwell.edu/doctor-ministry/Urban-Ministry.cfm.

3 We introduce the idea of living system ministry in our book: Douglas Hall, Judy Hall, and Steve Daman, The Cat and the Toaster: Living System Ministry in a Technological Age (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2010).

4 For more on the Emmanuel Gospel Center (EGC), visit http://www.egc.org. Judy and I have served at EGC since 1964.

5 See the research articles available at http://www.egc.org/churchstudies.

6 Isa 26:12 says, “Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us” (emphasis added).

7 For example, see 1 Cor 1:2, “To the church of God in Corinth . . .”; Eph 1:1, “To the saints in
Ephesus . . .”; Gal 3:1, “You foolish Galatians!” (here referring to a group identified by a geographical region).

8 Learn more about EGC’s applied research at http://egc.org/appliedresearch.

9 To learn more about Living System Ministry, visit http://www.livingsystemministry.org.

10 We will soon be publishing more on this idea of “relational capital.”

11 For more on asset-based community development as compared to needs-based efforts, see, for example, the Asset-Based Community Development Institute, http://www.abcdinstitute.org.

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Life Outside the Box

Life Outside of the Box

(Luke 23:32–33; Hebrews 13:3)

Before reading, listen to “Boxxed In” by Yaves
(used with permission):

I love hip hop music. I love the rhythm and the rhyme. I love the way an emcee’s voice interacts with the instruments on the beat. I love the word play, the metaphors, the allusions, and the double entendres. Most of all, however, I love the way hip hop narrates the gritty, tragic, and lamentable realities of life, about which some of us are honestly ignorant and which others purposely ignore. Now, to be sure, not all hip hop music functions in this way, but there are definitely artists through whom God is speaking to arouse our moral consciousness. There are rappers—yes, rappers—through whom God is speaking to expand our social and theological imaginations. If we listen closely enough, we will hear voices within hip hop that expose sin and evil—as well as any preacher—and speak truth to power—as well as any prophet.

Consider the song “Boxxed In” by a hip hop artist named Yaves. Dubbed “the Street Pastor,” Yaves aims to create music rooted in the word of God that speaks to contemporary social issues. In “Boxxed In,” he reflects on the dark realities of urban life in the United States.

They’re bringing them boxed in. Locked in.

Make more then do it over again.

They’re bringing them boxed in. Locked in.

Make more then do it over again.

My homies are boxed in. My brothers are boxed in.

My cousins are boxed in. My homies are boxed in. Boxed in.

Might we hear a message from God in Yaves’s lyrics? What does being “boxed in” mean and what does it reveal about life in the city? Might being “boxed in” have something to do with Jesus, the cross, and the gospel?

As a clever songwriter, Yaves presents “boxed in” as a term that contains multiple meanings. The most explicit of these he makes evident in the first two verses of the song, where images of violence, murder, and death pervade the lyrics.

Everyday drill, kill or be killed,

the ghetto is a box where they’re boxing over bills.

To be boxed in is to be bound by death. In a literal sense, it is to be boxed in a casket, to be physically dead. Figuratively, to be boxed in means to live with the fear of losing one’s life. This fear creates a psychological box that traps the soul. Being boxed in distorts the way one sees the world and severely limits the possibility of living the good life. I have heard young black men question why they should go to school if they will die before they can use their education. When this morbid perception meets the criminalization of discipline found in some districts, schools no longer function as life-giving communities but rather as perpetuators of the “box.” I remember when a close friend turned 25 years old. He remarked that he felt so blessed to see that day because growing up he was unsure of whether or not he would ever make it there alive. Unfortunately, rather than imagining themselves as college—or even high school—graduates, many young people of color who grow up in marginalized communities hold to the conviction that by 25 they will either be dead or in prison.

In the last verse, Yaves speaks to the connection between death and prison saying:

For homies locked down upstate, I had to graduate from O-State,

you feel me? I had to break the cycle of the prison pipeline,

for young black bodies buried in boxes made of pine.

If being boxed in means being bound by death, then prison is a social expression of the box. In honor of those who have been boxed in by physical death, Yaves proclaims that we must work towards dismantling the box of incarceration. The tragedy is that too many young people are either being boxed in a casket or boxed in a prison cell. In fact, research tells us that young black men have higher death rates by homicide than any other US demographic1 and that African-Americans, in general, are incarcerated at a rate almost six times higher than whites.2 While my friend’s feeling of relief at turning 25 shocked me, the sad and unsettling truth is that his feelings were not without warrant. Incarceration has become so prevalent in some communities that going to prison has become a rite of passage for many young men, a social marker defining their manhood. Yet, this is not a passage into life but rather a passage into death; it is the social marker of someone who is boxed in.

So what does it mean to be boxed in? To be boxed in means not only to live with the premonition that your life will end prematurely, either in a casket or in a prison cell, but also actually to experience the horrors of death and imprisonment. To be boxed in means to live a life bound by death and, therefore, to live a life full of despair.

How would God have God’s people respond? Does the church have a word for those who feel boxed in? The first response is actually no word at all, but coming to the critical realization—and subsequent lamentation—of the fact that being boxed in is a reality that many in the United States face daily. Scripture’s poets help lead such a response:

The cords of death encompassed me . . . the snares of death confronted me (Ps 18:4-5).3

Let the groans of the prisoners come before you; according to your great power preserve those doomed to die (Ps 79:11).

My eyes flow with rivers of tears because of the destruction of my people.

My eyes will flow without ceasing, without respite, until the Lord from heaven looks down and sees (Lam 3:48-50).

Although acknowledging and lamenting the reality of being boxed in is important, that is not all the church has to offer. Through the gospel, the church has more to say; namely that despite the despair, there is hope. God offers “boxed in” humanity a great redemption in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the hope for those who suffer from being boxed in because Jesus himself was tested by the powers of the box and overcame them (Heb 2:18).

Jesus knew what it meant to be boxed in. Throughout his ministry, he bore the burden of knowing that he would be incarcerated, an incarceration that would lead to his death. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells his disciples three times, “the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him” (Mark 10:33-34; cf. 8:31; 9:31). Even before Jesus’ birth, Isaiah prophesied about him, saying that he would be “a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity” (Isa 53:3). In the Garden of Gethsemane, as the hour of his arrest approached, Jesus was struck to the core with grief. In his anguish, he began to sweat heavily and threw himself on the ground in prayer. In one of the clearest examples of his humanity, Jesus asked God if it was possible not to have to die in order to fulfill God’s plan. Ultimately, although the burden of death weighed heavily on his heart, Jesus did not succumb to fear or despair but rather trusted God, saying, “Not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Beyond the psychological sense of being boxed in, Jesus also experienced the horrors of incarceration and physical death. After being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was taken before the high priest. During the trial, the Jewish elders and the chief priests mocked him, spat in his face, slapped him, and beat him, just as he knew they would. Since the high priest could not enact any legal punishment, Jesus was sent before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. Persuaded by fear of the masses and the threat of a riot, Pilate unjustly sentenced Jesus to death by crucifixion (Matt 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15). Jesus was not only a victim of state violence but also of legal corruption. Immediately, the governor’s soldiers humiliated Jesus by stripping him of his clothes and placing a crown of twisted thorns on his head. They also mocked him by kneeling before him and proclaiming, “Hail, King of the Jews” (Matt 27:29). Finally, before taking him to be crucified, they beat and flogged him. Thus, not only did Jesus live with the emotional burden of expecting the terrors of prison and death, he experienced those terrors as the reality of his life. In short, Jesus’ journey towards the cross betrays the experience of being boxed in.

What is the significance of Jesus’ incarceration and state execution—of his suffering as a “common criminal”? Theologian Karl Barth cleverly turns the question around: what is the significance of common criminals sharing the same suffering as Jesus? The Gospel of Luke narrates Jesus’ crucifixion this way: “Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left” (Luke 23:32-33). In a 1957 Good Friday sermon entitled, “The Criminals with Him,” Barth asserts that in the crucifixion, the criminals “find themselves in solidarity and fellowship with [Jesus]. They are linked in a common bondage that is never again to be broken.”4 One cannot imagine the crucifixion of Christ without imagining the crucifixion of the criminals with him. God forever places the image of a criminal at the center of history by placing one to the right and one to the left of Jesus during his execution.

To be at his right and left as he prepared to enter his glory is something of which Jesus’ disciples could have only dreamed. Two of them, James and John, boldly requested to have this honor, but Jesus responded by saying that only “those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matt 20:23) can sit at his right and left. While the two criminals are not exactly sitting with Christ on the cross, they are hanging with him. The imagery is striking. Might there be a connection? Could it be that God has prepared for criminals to sit at the right and left hand of Christ in his glory? Is this a foreshadowing of the communion to be shared in the kingdom of God? Later in his sermon, Barth describes the crucifixion scene as the first Christian community: “Christian community is manifest wherever there is a group of people close to Jesus who are with him in such a way that they are directly and unambiguously affected by his promise and assurance.”5 If this is true, then maybe it is no coincidence that as Jesus breathes his last—in order that humanity may receive a new breath of life—the two people at his side are criminals. Perhaps it is by God’s design that the first person to receive the promise and assurance of entering into the kingdom of God is the criminal to whom Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

By sharing in the suffering of those who are boxed in, Christ is able to offer humanity life outside of the box. Consequently, those who are called to follow this Christ should seek to stand in solidarity and proclaim unity with those who suffer in the same way—the way of their Savior. For this reason the author of Hebrews admonishes his readers to “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured” (Heb 13:3). This is not a call to sign up for a bid at Sing Sing or San Quentin, nor is it a call to sign up for water boarding sessions at Guantanamo Bay. Rather it is a call to remember that those who are boxed in share in the same suffering as Christ, and that if we do not stand in solidarity with them, we do not stand in solidarity with Christ (Matt 25:41-45). Christ suffered and died, “once for all” (Rom 6:10), so that being boxed in would no longer be a lived reality. Christ became human and experienced for himself what it means to be boxed in so that humans could live life outside of the box.

This life that Christ gives, this life outside of the box, this is the life of the resurrection. After dying on the cross, Jesus remained in the tomb for two days. Trapped in a “box” carved out of rock, it seemed that death had won. But early in the morning on the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit! Christ burst forth from the tomb, shattering the box and defeating death. This is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. By trusting in God and believing that God raised Jesus from the dead, we can rest assured that God will raise us as well. No longer do we have to live in fear of death. No longer do we have to be boxed in. In Christ, God has displaced the despair of the box with the hope of the resurrection. This resurrected reality is the reality of God’s kingdom, a kingdom Jesus described as being in our midst (Luke 17:21).

As the body of Christ, the church is charged to live as if the kingdom is our present reality. Although the fullness of the kingdom will not be fulfilled until Christ returns again, we bear faithful witness to that return by living as if Christ has already come back. This means imagining and creating a world where death no longer reigns. This means imagining and creating a world where the fear of death no longer distorts our vision of life. This means imagining and creating a world where every human being can live life outside of the box. For the good news of the kingdom of God is not simply hope for a future and eternal life with God beginning in heaven. The good news of the kingdom of God is hope for eternal life with God that begins on earth—right here and right now. The good news of the kingdom of God is heaven breaking in on earth and blowing to bits the boxes that entrap our souls.

Speaking as Israel’s prophets once did, to shake God’s people from their apathetic slumber, Yaves speaks to God’s people in urban communities across the United States. “They’re bringing them boxed in”—young people who live with a daily fear of death and imprisonment. “They’re bringing them boxed in”—men and women coming home from prison who are not being given a second chance. “They’re bringing them boxed in”—failing public schools that create communities lacking the social and economic capital necessary to thrive and flourish. “They’re bringing them boxed in”—racially biased media that demonize and vilify particular members of society. “They’re bringing them boxed in”—those who hang on the right and those who hang on the left of the cross of Christ.

Today, people of God, we must awake, rise from our slumber, and allow the light of Christ to shine on and through his body—the church. And may the Christ, who on the cross fellowshipped and communed with criminals, grant his church the same ability he granted them, the ability to live life outside of the box!

Brandon J. Hudson is a third year Master of Divinity student at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina. He is interested in the intersection of Christian ethics, the mission of the church, and urban community development. Brandon is a lover of hip hop, makes his own music, and has a particular passion for using popular culture to reach young people of color in poor, marginalized and underresourced neighborhoods. He wants to see the church become a community of moral virtue that can provide an alternative formation to the individualistic, materialistic, and nihilistic ethos of contemporary US culture. You can reach Brandon at brandonjhudson@gmail.com.

Listen to some of Brandon’s own hip hop here:

“By Your Side”

“Living Water”

“The Pianist”

1 Alexia Cooper and Erica Smith, “Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008: Annual Rates for 2009 and 2010,” US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (November 2011), 15, http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf.

2 Marc Mauer and Ryan S. King, “Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration by Race and Ethnicity,” The Sentencing Project (July 2007), 3,

http://sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/rd_stateratesofincbyraceandethnicity.pdf.

3 Scripture citations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version.

4 Karl Barth, Deliverance to the Captives: Sermons and Prayers by Karl Barth (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1961), 76-77.

5 Ibid.

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A Light to the City: the Missional Journey of Southside Church of Christ

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”1 Harry Dixon Loes wrote this popular children’s song in the early twentieth century. It is particularly fun to sing: it has hand motions, fun verses (like the verse, “Hide it under a bushel—no!”) and a biblical message based on Matt 5:14-16. But there is one verse that I grew up singing that takes the message a step further: “All around the neighborhood, I’m gonna let it shine.”

This verse implies that each one of us has a responsibility to shine our lights in a specific place. They should not simply be shining, but they should be illuminating a particular location: the neighborhood. Intentionality is required in order for this to happen. We cannot merely sit in our houses, but we must be present “in the neighborhood” if our light is going to make an impact. In short, if this song verse is going to be carried out, then we must genuinely love our neighborhood and be willing to enter into it, in order to shine our light.

This song is a good place to start in thinking about the missional journey of Southside Church of Christ.2 Over the past twenty-five years, a missional transformation has taken place within this faith community, to the point that this verse captures the heart of what Southside is about—the effort to shine its light within its neighborhood and city.

Southside Church of Christ began in 1892 in south-central Fort Worth when a small group formed a church in a growing area south of downtown. Originally, it was a church plant of the First Christian Church, but when First Christian introduced instruments, it split off and became the first Church of Christ (a cappella) in the city. The congregation grew and expanded over the next fifty years. Several well-known preachers filled its pulpit: Jesse P. Sewell (later president of Abilene Christian College), Foy E. Wallace, Sr. (the father of noted preacher Foy E. Wallace, Jr.), Horace Busby, and several others. In 1959, when the congregation’s elders made the decision to build a new facility, the resources were available to build a grand building within the ritzy area of Fort Worth. Initially, the building created some controversy because it was so ornate. At that time, Southside was in its golden era as a church, with a membership of over seven hundred people. But then the neighborhood surrounding the church building began to decline. During the 70s and 80s, people relocated to the newly forming suburbs, businesses slowly began to leave, and, as a result, the number of abandoned buildings grew. With this change, membership declined at Southside—to the point that it was questionable if the church would survive. Three key decisions/experiences, however, took place that slowly redirected Southside down a missional path.

First, the elders decided to stay within the neighborhood. The neighborhood had shifted to the point where very few members lived in the immediate area. The demographics had changed, and the surrounding context was mostly Hispanic, whereas Southside’s membership was primarily Caucasian. Additionally, the level of crime escalated and the neighborhood became unsafe. So, in the 80s, the church leaders entertained the idea of leaving the city for the promise of the suburbs, where the members lived and where they would be surrounded by a more familiar neighborhood. But after the elders discussed this option, the consensus was that the church should stay in the neighborhood and learn to minister to the changing community around them. Until this point in Southside’s history, many members considered mission as what someone does in another country or in another locale. But the decision to stay in the neighborhood marked a realization that a mission field was right outside the building. Slowly, this understanding began to seep into the DNA of the congregation as members started to minister to the neighborhood. One of the first efforts to engage the neighborhood was the creation of a food and clothing ministry that gave groceries and clothing to neighbors around the building. Also, area churches, along with Southside, joined together to create the South Central Alliance of Churches to provide a part-time social worker who would be housed in Southside’s building and could adequately dispense emergency aid to neighborhood residents.3

Second, in the early 90s, the church split. The leaders realized that a key reason for the painful conflict was not the perceived “issues,” but the fact that the congregation was internally focused. So the leadership made a renewed commitment to develop a more external focus and to be more accommodating to those who share differences.

Soon after the church split, a young lady, Jane Pearson, walked across the street to attend worship at Southside. Jane was a client of a resident alcohol treatment program called First Choice, run by the Salvation Army.4 This program was located right across the street from the Southside building. Southside had no prior connections with the program, but when Jane walked in, all of that suddenly changed. Immediately, the church recognized that there were women and children who were needy and broken right across the street! In response, members initiated ministries to reach out to the women and children in First Choice. Some volunteered to be mentors for the women. Southside women began studying the Bible with clients in the program. Eventually, the HOPE (Heavenly Options for Pain and Emptiness) ministry was born to provide a “safe place” for those struggling in addiction recovery.5 This story—which has become a common one told in the local church history—represents a critical marker in the missional shift that had taken place within Southside. The church began to focus outward. At a time when Southside was hurting and wounded from a split, God opened the congregation’s eyes to his mission.

These three key events inaugurated a process of ongoing missional transformation at Southside. Soon after, a number of the ladies became involved in a jail ministry in Tarrant County Jail, which included gifting The Life Recovery Bible to those with whom they studied. Dan Leaf was named the Local Missions Minister to lead the ministries geared for the neighborhood, particularly the HOPE ministry. Presently, the food and clothing ministry helps over 400 families every month, the jail ministry gives over 1,600 Bibles each year, and the HOPE ministry averages 70 during its Sunday group meeting. The Alliance assists dozens of people every month with various emergency items.

To help continue this transformation, in 2007 the leadership developed a revised vision statement for Southside: to be a place of Mission, Mercy, and Transformation.6 This statement was not a new direction for the congregation, but it gave vocabulary for the missional direction in which it was already heading. First, we desired for every person to feel a calling upon their life to be a missionary, or to be actively engaged in God’s mission. Second, we desired our congregation to be a place where every person was welcomed and could find mercy—both physically and spiritually. Third, we wanted to be a place where God’s Spirit is at work in transforming every person into the image of Christ. These three concepts provided focus, unity, and understanding for the congregation. They identified who the church wanted to be moving into the future.

Over the past few years, more opportunities have arisen to reach out to the neighborhood. In the past five years, Southside developed a relationship with a nearby school, Daggett Middle School, and adopted it as a part of the local Adopt-a-School Program.7 Daggett’s students are primarily Hispanic and 90% of them are categorized as low-income. The congregation also began a new ministry to college students called Frogs for Christ, as TCU (Texas Christian University) is only two miles away from the building. In 2011, Southside, along with JPS Hospital, the Fort Worth ISD (Independent School District), and the South Central Alliance of Churches, created a partnership to start a school-based health clinic on Southside’s property. This clinic serves children in the neighborhood by providing inexpensive healthcare. Also, in the same year, the congregation completed an expansion of the church facility to allow more space for the pantry and clothing ministries as they outgrew their former areas. This year, we are launching a community garden and are also starting a partnership with a nearby family justice center that seeks to deal with family violence. Church attendance has grown as Southside has caught a vision of being a church that shines its light within its neighborhood.

Yet this transformation has not happened easily. Besides taking a lot of time, we had to learn several lessons (and are continually learning) as we walk this missional journey. First, we had to learn to choose people over tradition. My favorite story along these lines is one of a recovering addict who came to Southside and sat down by one of our older ladies. The addict was a little embarrassed because up and down her arms were scars from shooting up heroine and other drugs. This older lady, with pure grace, leaned over and said, “Don’t worry. Jesus had scars, too.” We have had to recognize that people—broken people—are more important than what our tradition dictates. We must put their needs above our own. Southside has learned from Jesus’ habit of often placing the needs of people over the rules or traditions of humans (e.g., Mark 3:1-6). We had to learn that if a person attends our worship and is dressed differently or their looks do not fit our typical “church mold,” that is okay.

Secondly, we have had to learn to choose faith over fear. When the opportunity came up for Southside to partner with JPS Hospital and Fort Worth ISD to create a clinic on our property, immediately questions, risks, and concerns surfaced. What about the long-term financial sustainability? What about tricky medical issues, such as prescribing birth control? What about the liability? What about raising the money for the initial start-up? Someone has said, “Faith is being in a situation where, if God doesn’t show up, we are in trouble.” Our culture has tutored us on how to calculate risk and liability, so that even in church leadership, the first question often asked is, what does our insurance company say about this? But at Southside, we have learned that God expects his children to step out in faith, even in risky situations. Just like Peter, we hear the voice of Jesus say, “Come,” and, despite physics telling us we will sink, we must obey and walk toward our Master (Matt 14:22-33). There have been many occasions in which people have questioned the dangers of being in our neighborhood. Occasionally, the liabilities are brought up of welcoming in addicts and the poor. Sometimes those risks have been difficult to handle. Several times, items from our church building have been stolen. But when God opens a door for his people to step through, we must follow him. So when the leadership discussed the new clinic, we knew where God’s direction was pointing. And over and over again, as new community ministries have begun, God has been faithful, not only in protecting his people, but also in blessing them for following in faith.

Third, we have had to learn to choose discernment over planning. The corporate world is built around efficiency, control, and strategic planning. Good organizations have viable business models that work effectively. Certainly some of those principles are good for church leadership as well, but sometimes God works counter to the current corporate culture. Case in point, in Acts 16:6-11, Paul thinks he and his companions are to go to Asia, probably to Ephesus. It seems to make good sense, but God stops them. They decide to go to Bithynia, another good plan, but God stops them again. Instead, Paul receives a vision that reveals that God desires for them to go to Macedonia. At Southside, ministry opportunities have arisen, not through strategic planning, but by being aware of what God is doing: an addict who walks across the street; an invitation to teach in jail; a college student wandering in seeking God; a neighborhood leader who approaches the church about starting a clinic. The list goes on and on. I have had other church leaders ask me, “Steve, tell me about the programs at Southside.” But what I want to say is that it is not the programs that bring missional revitalization. It is just listening, looking, and discerning where God is moving and seeking to join him there.

While Southside has been on this journey for many years, there are still several potholes that we must avoid. How do we develop a sense of family among people who are diverse economically and ethnically? How do we reach out to the upwardly mobile young professionals that are flocking back to the city in droves? How do we keep Christ’s agenda of self-sacrificing love central when it is so tempting to think like selfish consumers about church? How do we develop greater diversity in leadership: training ministers who are non-white, elders who are recovering addicts, and teachers who come from backgrounds of poverty? Today, if one were to draw a circle with a three-mile radius around Southside’s church building, that circle would contain over 100,000 people. Within that circle would be homeless shelters, million-dollar homes, college students at TCU, the county hospital, a Hispanic shopping mall, and bars that cater to the homosexual lifestyle. How do we, as a church, minister within a neighborhood that is incredibly diverse and growing more so every day? I do not have the answers to these questions, but I do know that God has called Southside to be a light in this neighborhood.

On top of our 1959-built church building is a tall steeple that shines a blue light out into the neighborhood. At one time an anomaly for Churches of Christ, today it is a powerful symbol for Southside. As Southside was beginning this missional journey, there was an occasion when the steeple needed to be repaired, so the light was shut off during that time. Immediately, some of the residents at First Choice became worried. They asked the women coming to mentor them, “What has happened to the light in the steeple?” They explained that it was being repaired and would soon be shining again. The residents were quite relieved because, as they explained, every night when they said their prayers, they turned toward the light in our steeple. For mothers in recovery seeking to turn their lives around, that light represented the hope for new life that could be found in Christ. Today, the picture of the light in our steeple represents who we are at Southside—a church that is committed to shining the light of Christ within our neighborhood and city.

Steve Cloer has been the preaching minister at Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX for the past 6 years. He and his wife, Lindsay, currently have three children, Joshua, Bethany, and Lydia. Steve is pursuing his Doctor of Ministry degree in Congregational Mission and Leadership from Luther Seminary. He can be reached at scloer@sscofc.org.

1 Alton H. Howard, ed., Songs of Faith and Praise (West Monroe, LA: Howard, 1994), 1016.

2 Throughout this essay, I will use the word “missional” to describe the shift at Southside Church of Christ of conceiving its identity as being derived from the mission of God. For more on the use and understanding of the “missional” concept, see Craig Van Gelder and Dwight J. Zscheile, The Missional Church in Perspective: Mapping Trends and Shaping the Conversation, The Missional Network (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), 8.

3 For more on the South Central Alliance of Churches, see http://fwscac.org. The social worker offices in the Southside church building.

4 For more information on the Salvation Army Rehabilitation Centers, see

http://satruck.org/rehabilitation-program.

5 The HOPE ministry began offering group meetings for recovering addicts on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings as a part of our regular Christian Education curriculum.

6 I became the preaching minister in 2006, so the grammar of the rest of the essay will reflect my involvement at Southside.

7 For more on this special program within the Fort Worth ISD, see http://fwisd.org/ppe/Pages/aas_about.aspx. The past two years, Southside has received the Golden Achievement Award for her involvement with Daggett Middle School.

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Three Stories from the Streets

Brian Ochieng’s Story

My name is Brian Ochieng, and I am fourteen years old. I was born on 17 July 1993. We are four children in the family. The first-born is in his third year of secondary school in Undugu Society in the Majengo area; his name is Omondi. Then I am next. The third-born is a girl whose name is Rispa; she is in class 3 of primary school. The last-born is young; I have forgotten his name. My dad’s name is Mike; he died last week. Charles called me into his office and told me the news of his death and told me that plans were being made for me to attend his burial upcountry. My mum’s name is Jane, and she works in town as a waitress.

We used to live in Dandora. I went to school in Huruma Primary School; I was in class 4 then. In class I used to come to position 9 or 11 out of 22 students. My dad used to work in Kericho; he came home about two times a month. We never spent much time with him at home. There was only one time that I saw my dad after I had left to go to the streets. He saw me on his way home from work. He stopped and asked me why I never wanted to go back home. I was so mad at him; I told him I didn’t even miss being home. He never said a word back. I never saw him again, and now I have heard about his death.

One day, Mum was outside washing the clothes. She came inside the house and lit the lamp because it had gotten dark inside. As I was running around, I happened to break the glass of the lamp. It came to my mind that Mum was going to kill me or hurt me. I decided to run away from home, not knowing where I was going. I left for Mathare and got exhausted from walking so long. I saw some wooden stalls where they sell vegetables and I got under one and rested there. That was as far as I could go. I was too scared to go any farther. So I parked myself at the stall for the night. I slept hungry since I was new there. It was my first night on the streets; I was almost twelve years old.

The following day I heard people talking about looking for work in Eastleigh, so I followed them. As I was walking along, I met two young boys and they looked so friendly. They asked me my name and told me theirs—John and Ken. They told me they lived on the streets, and they were collecting plastics to sell later and get money to buy food. They told me if I wanted to, I could join them. Since I had no other plans, I decided to go together with them. I thought God brought me some angels to show me around.

They gave me a sack to put my plastics inside. Later we went to weigh them at a shop; they weighed John’s at 36 shillings, and for Ken’s it was 18 shillings, but for mine I only got 6 shillings (I had only collected 1 kilo). Ken and John encouraged me by reminding me it was just my first day, and as time went by, I would become good at collecting. John, who had a lot of money, went to buy chips [French fries],1 and then he shared his meal with us. They brought me to their base where they spent the night. It was just out in the open, under a veranda outside The Chips Café on Tenth Street. Sometimes, when it rained, we would sleep under some old trucks in a garage area.

They welcomed me to stay in their base; there I met other boys—Kama and Chalo. I covered myself with a blanket John had and he told the others to go and beg for their own sacks because he was sharing his with Kama and me. I felt so cold. I really regretted running away from home and wished that someone could just come for me. I was so afraid when I thought of going back home, so I just decided to stay.

The next morning, we all went to collect plastics. The plastics were easy to carry but they did not bring a lot of money. I had no hope since last time I got only a kilo. That new life was so strange to me. I didn’t like it at all. But when we went to weigh them, I had collected three kilos, and I got so happy! Then John and Ken showed me where we could watch a movie from morning to evening, all for 5 shillings. I used the remaining money to buy chapati [bread] for my meal. Then we went back to the street base.

The next day we got up early again to search for plastics. After work that day, they told me to try using glue. So I did. I really felt pain in the throat when inhaling. I felt so dizzy that I could not see the road clearly when crossing the road. I was almost knocked down by a matatu, but my friends pulled me to safety.

Irene talked with Brian’s mother. As it happened, she was in the matatu that hit Brian. She saw them take Brian away and felt so bad, so embarrassed, and didn’t know what to do. She just stayed in the matatu. She feels guilty.

On glue, I felt so high and loved that funny feeling. I really wished I could just do it from that first day on. But after I was using it for a long time, it did not do me any good. In fact, it brought me more health problems. I was feeling so much pain in the chest. I had used it for just over a year when one day I could not breathe. My friends rushed me to St. Teresa’s Hospital. The doctors told me that the only help they could give me was to advise me to stop sniffing glue; there was no medicine for my problem but that. I decided once and for all that I would never use it again. I promised myself and I have not, up to this moment.

One time I got really sick after being rained on so hard. I was taken to the Sisters’ Hospital in Huruma and was given some treatment. Then the boys took me to Boni from Made in the Streets and told him my problem. They wanted to see me well in a few seconds. He gave me some medicine and told me to come back and see him if I wasn’t better. I really did feel better, and I went back to his place and thanked him.

My best friend was John. We always shared things together, like money, clothes, and food. Whenever he collected some garbage from a café and went to throw it away and got some money, he would share. One day he got paid by a lady who also gave him some clothes; he gave me some. One time we went to the City Park, and he found 50 shillings on the street; he gave me 20 shillings and reminded me that we had planned to go to the Gikomba Market when we both got money. We went and each of us got a sweater to keep us warm during the nights. It was during July—the cold season.

At the base, I felt so bad when it rained on us. The Tenth Street base was an open space, so we all got wet when it rained. One night it was raining so hard, and we ran to Fourth Street base where there was shelter outside a pool table place. There we met other boys who were parked there. They told us their names—Chalo, Ababa, and his brother. Young boys are always kind; they never chased us but instead welcomed us, even though the space was small. We all squeezed together and spent the night there. Those boys always mop the place each morning in order to be allowed to spend their night there.

I continued collecting plastics and metal. But I got so tired from carrying metals on my back for long distances. It was especially hard for me now that I had developed chest problems. I looked for car tire springs; you could sell a kilo for 10 shillings. One day I made 60 shillings; I was so excited. Then a friend told me of a plan for saving. If you made good money, you could deposit some of the extra at a trusted kiosk. I heard about a man who sold an old mountain bike for 950 shillings, so I was planning to buy one. So every time I went to search for plastics and metal, I saved 50 shillings or more. I saved up to 800 shillings, but then I was taken into Made in the Streets, and I didn’t get to go to the shop and get my money. I hope it is still there.

One time Kama showed me how to beg on the streets. I kinda liked that work instead of searching for plastics. Begging was so easy and not tiring; some days I made like l20 shillings! Even on a bad day, I would still get at least 60 shillings. So begging was great, compared to when I searched all day for plastics and metals and only got paid 40 shillings, and for that my energy was all gone from carrying heavy stuff on my back. Kama also showed me how to beg for jombii [leftovers scraped from customers’ plates]. People at a café would put some jombii in a plastic bag and give it to us after we swept up the café.

The master of our base was Wambua. He was so different from other masters. Instead of harassing us all the time, he was on our side; he defended us whenever we were being beaten. There was a time when I was begging, and after I got good money, one of the older guys from the streets came to me. He demanded I bring him some cigarettes; but then he wanted more. When I told Wambua, he challenged that guy to a fight. The guy was a coward and ran away.

Once I was put in a Pangani police cell together with my friends Kajiado, Kirubi, and Kama. The three of them had run away from an orphanage called Good Samaritan. The lady who worked there as a cook showed the police where we were staying on the streets. It was around 8 pm; the police came from behind and arrested us and took us to the police station. We stayed in the police cell all night and the next day. Lucky us, one of the policemen was Kama’s friend. So just before we were about to be punished, that policeman took our case himself. Instead of being beaten, we were taken to pick up some maize which had fallen on the ground from a truck—the maize sacks had torn. We bent down and collected it all. Then the police gave us a meal that was delicious—sukuma [greens], cabbage, and beef stew. We ate till we were full. Then they released us. Before we left, they warned us that we should not ever attempt any robbery. They said even if we know the policeman, he would still shoot us dead right there. I really took the advice well. I lived on the streets for three years, and I never thought of stealing.

I got rained on so hard on a cold night and no one cared. Everyone was walking on the streets minding their own business. I was shown Made in the Streets by Ababa; he took me there and I met some of the teachers—Mbuvi, Philip, and Robin. They welcomed me, and we played games like basketball and many indoor games. We also had lessons from the Bible and they advised us to stop using glue.

A visitor named Erikah came with some guys from World Wide Youth Camp. They showed us a lot of fun in a one-week camp. We did artwork, and we painted and played games. They always went with us to a posh restaurant called Lova Café. We took a shower and changed into new clothes. I felt really special.

Larry Conway is also a nice teacher. He always came to visit us at the base, and sometimes he would buy each one of us half a loaf of bread and a packet of milk. He would tell us we could be eating at the Eastleigh Centre, well-balanced meals, every time we went there for the programs. He always invited us to come to the programs.

We kept coming to the Eastleigh day programs. Philip told us if we behaved well, we would go to the Kamulu boarding program. I really wished to go there because I was so afraid of the police. So finally one day, we were asked to report to the Centre and come with birth documents. My mum said she did not have any, but she would be happy if I was taken into the boarding program. But she was not pleased to see me. She never said a word to me; at least I was happy that she never reminded me of her broken lamp glass. I thanked Jackton who promised me that nothing bad would happen to me. He told me I should not be afraid of the past.

Philip took me for age assessment and found out I am fourteen years old. I also went for an HIV test, and it was negative. Mbuvi went out and bought bedding for us to take to Kamulu. We would be staying in a dormitory. I really felt so special. We got there and took a shower, and we were given new clothes and a good lunch. I am happy that God has helped me. Now I am in MITS changing my life. I know God will surely bless me.

Brian was baptized 8 Nov 2009. He has been a servant—for at least a year and a half, he has been coming early to the learning center and sets up all the chairs for church service, just because he wants to. He is in the catering skills course and enjoys working.

New update (July 2012)—Brian has become the caféteria manager for MITS. He also serves as a supervisor for one of the boys’ residence halls. He develops good relationships with visitors who come to help at MITS. In 2011 eleven of the students asked him to lead them in a study about Jesus and about baptism. The whole ministry is proud of what Brian has become and is accomplishing.

Moses Mwangi’s Story

I am fourteen years old, and I was born on 14 July 1992. I am Kikuyu by tribe. I have five siblings; one brother, John Kang’ethe, works in Mombasa as a conductor on the coastal buses. Another is James Kioko; he is 16 years old; he has a different father, a Kamba by tribe. Another is Stephen Karanja; he is 15 and in a boarding school at Ngong Secondary School. I forgot to mention my sister Lucy Wambui, who is 20 years old and works in a salon, braiding hair. Then there’s my twin sister Eunice Wambui.

My father’s name is John Gichugi. He is a mechanic. I don’t have any idea about my mother’s whereabouts. My aunty told me the trouble started when my dad came home to Kiambu and found that the TV set and his cell phone were missing. When he asked my mother why she stole them, she said nothing. Dad beat her up until she confessed that she had sold them, but she was willing to give him the money to buy them back. My dad was so furious and just wanted to call it quits.

One day I happened to take my mother’s purse, which had some money, and went with it outside to play (I was about four years old). A man came by and he asked me to give him the purse, and I did. He went to a shop, bought me two candies, and kept the rest of the money to himself. I did not realize what had happened because I did not know how much money was in it.

My mother came running out and looking for me and asked me if I had taken her purse from the table, and I said nothing since I could not talk. I was slow for my age, so I could only say a few words. Therefore, I just nodded my head meaning that I did. She asked me where I put it and some of my friends told her that I gave it to a man and he left five minutes ago after buying me some candies.

She got so mad and pulled me in the house saying that the purse had a lot of money and the man was lucky to get himself a good lot of money because of my stupidity. She got a rope and she tied both my legs and hands and then hung me from the roof trusses, with my head facing down. She took a panga [machete] and beat me with its flat side and made my body spin ’round and ’round until I got dizzy. I screamed out so loud because that was the only thing I could do.

The neighbors came to the door and begged her to stop, but she told them she had every right to discipline me however she wanted. She told me never to repeat such a thing in my whole life and to remember what she did to me. She then left me hanging up there, and unlocked the door. She went on with the cooking, not minding what could happen to me up there. Fortunately, my dad came in and saw me up there; he quickly got me down and untied me and put me on a seat. He then turned to my mum who was busy stirring her food and he asked her what evil thing she was doing to a young child who was helpless. She tried to explain what I did to her, but my dad was too angry to listen to her. He instead told her that if anything ever happened to me, then she would regret it her whole life.

Two days later, my mum beat me up again. This time, she took a hot spoon and burned me on my legs. When I told my dad, he sent her away and told her never to come back. She took my twin sister with her. That was when my dad decided to send me to his sister to stay with her. My dad took me to his sister and asked her to take care of me; he told her he would be sending money to take care of me, and my aunty agreed. From that time, I slowly began to talk, until I was able to talk well. Unfortunately, my dad was not able to keep his promise; he only brought money when he thought of it. Therefore, my aunt was unable to take me to school. Her husband never liked the idea of my coming to stay with them in the first place. So he was always asking his wife to send me back to my dad, who lived just a few kilometers away. My dad came to see me once a week.

My aunty loved me so much. She always told me stories about her friendship with my mother. They were brought up together in the same village, and they went to school together until my dad came and asked for my mum in marriage. Even though she never took me to school, I never blamed her but rather my uncle. My aunt’s husband despised me for no good reason. He told me that he was not my father and I should go back to my dad. He didn’t like it when I played with his kids or ate with them. He thought of me as a burden to the family. He always looked for a mistake to accuse me of.

So one time he finally got me. We were playing together, his three kids and me. There were two older and one younger. I happened to hit one of his kids with a rock, and he ran back in the house crying. His dad came out so fast and demanded an explanation. But before I said a word, he hit me on the head with a chapati rolling pin. When I woke up, people were standing around me. My aunty had come back home, and her husband was trying to help me wake up. She was asking what happened and my uncle wasn’t answering. Later, I talked with my aunty about what had happened. She knew her husband didn’t like me, but there was nothing she could do. She told me to be very careful. I hated him for beating me up. So I decided to leave their home and go live in the streets. I was about 5 years old.

I went into Kiambu town; as I walked along, I saw a vegetable stall. I decided I would come back at night and sleep there. I did, but it was a cold and scary night. It was still better than staying with my uncle. I stayed at that stall for three weeks. I would beg food from kiosks and from people. There was a woman who had a house there, and she had kids my age. The first day, she gave me some food and told me I could come again. I lied to her and said my mother had left to go upcountry and she had never come back. She said she could be giving me food but that I needed to find a place to stay. I always went to her house for breakfast and supper.

On Christmas Day, I saw a family that was well off. I decided to visit them to get to eat a Christmas feast with them. But when I walked in the compound, the woman shouted at me. She said, “Who invited you?” I tried to show her I was just a beggar, but she chased me out. On Christmas Day, I starved. Everywhere I went, people chased me away.

That same week, I met a boy named John Kamau. He also lived on the streets, but not close to where I was staying. He knew I was new to the streets. He showed me how to get a gunny sack and how to collect bones and scrap metal. He showed me where to get them weighed for money. I liked his idea, and so that was our daily routine. One kilo of scrap metal went for 6 shillings [almost a nickel in American money]. A kilo of bones would bring 18 shillings. So in a day, I collected like 4 kilos of scrap metal and 3 kilos of bones. I spent the money to buy some food and gave the rest to Kamau who insisted he keep it for me. He used me by taking half of the money that I worked for. One day I tried to ask why he treated me that way; he said he deserved respect because he brought me from living at that old vegetable stall where I could have gotten eaten by a wild animal. So I just kept quiet.

One day I saw a lady, and she invited me to come live with her family. I refused because I remembered what my guka [grandfather] had told me long ago. He told me about kids being kidnapped, and he told me not to accept favors from strangers. He told me about a boy who almost got abducted by a man; this man was offering sweets to a boy. And that boy almost got in the car with the man; but a woman saw him talking and she ran up to him and saved him. My grandfather said people who take children like that are devil-worshipers. So I was very careful about talking to strangers.

Kamau told me I was very old-fashioned to live in the rural area. I asked him what would be a better place. And he told me he would take me to Nairobi city. He assured me that there we wouldn’t go hungry, even for a single meal. There was full life out there to be had, he was sure. I asked him how we would get there, since we were so broke that day. He told me to wait and see; he said he had a lot of plans. So we walked along the roadside.

Soon, we saw a car passing by and he waved to the person who was driving. The man was kind enough to stop the car and pull down the window to ask us what we wanted. Kamau was so clever; he lied to the man that we had come to visit our shosho [grandmother] since the schools were closed, but then as we were going back to the city, we met a man who grabbed the fare we had in our hands. Kamau told him that our shosho did not have any money left to give us and we really needed to go back since the schools were about to reopen. The man bought his lies and told us to get in the car. He warned us about traveling alone, since we were so young and could get lost. He asked whether we knew the place we were going to. Kamau gave him the name of a place called Eastleigh. So he took us there and dropped us at the stage [bus stop] for Route 4. He asked us if we would be safe there. We thanked him and Kamau told him our house was just a few meters from the stage, and the man went on his way.

From there, Kamau led me to the city centre on foot. Kamau just wanted to confuse the man who gave us the lift. We did not really have relatives there. We arrived at a base near the bus station called Juu Kuwa Juu (Up by Up). We had saved 80 shillings from our jobs in Kiambu, so we went to a food kiosk and ate a meal of ugali with cabbage and stew. That only cost 30 shillings per plate, so we spent the rest buying some clothes from nearby hawkers. I stayed at that base with Kamau about a month. He taught me how to beg very well. He showed me how to sit down on the street like a real beggar and to say, “Please sir, buy me some breakfast.” Some people threw money at me, like 5 or 10 shillings. The bad thing about begging is in the evening when I finished my work of begging, the older boys would come and grab all the money I had got. I would cry but nobody came to help me. Kamau was with me but he was also little, so he could not help me. He was faster than me, so when he saw the big boys coming he would run and leave me behind. It was tough on me, but I survived.

One day when the older boys were taking my money away and I was screaming, a guard from a nearby supermarket came and chased them away. He had a club. He even got my money from those boys. He brought it back to me and asked me to count it. I told him I didn’t know how to count. He told me he had seen how the older boys mistreated me, and he said I would be safe around him. He bought me a pair of black shoes, a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, and a blanket. And he taught me how to count, from one up to one hundred. We became good friends, and I thanked him a lot. So every time I begged, I took the money to him to keep for me. Whenever I wanted to buy food or something, I would go back to him to get money. My favorite food was ugali and sukuma wiki [cooked greens and a mush made from corn meal]. I was happy to get a new friend who protected me and taught me math.

One time as I was walking the streets in town, I met two boys. One was named Eddie and the other one was Ken Owino. I was almost as old as they were. I was seven years old. Ken looked even younger and he was acting like a child—he was crying loudly. I went up to them and asked if I could help. Eddie told me that Ken had followed him to town and was now crying to be taken back. I went with Eddie (Shiravo) and took Ken back to Bondeni in the Mathare slum. Then we wanted to go back to town. Ken cried again when he was going to be left. So we tricked him by giving him money to bring us chips [French fries], and then we left.

The city council started harassing street boys and hawkers, calling them “idlers.” They were arresting so many of them. My friends and I were able to run away before we were caught. We went to Eastleigh and stayed on Ninth Street. There I learned to beg for jombii [leftovers, food scraped from plates in cafés]. I finally tried that food after starving for some days. I saw there was dirt in the food, but I had no other options. I especially liked Ethiopian dishes.

I decided to live together with Eddie in a base there in Eastleigh. My first days in the base were so scary, and I didn’t like it. The older boys liked gambling for money, and whenever a strong boy was defeated he would refuse to part with his money, and then they would all start to fight. The fight would go on to be a big one, such as they would break soda bottles and cut each other with them. There would be blood all over the base; the ones who were hurt did not go to the hospital even if the cuts were big. They called themselves “survivors.” I used to sleep on a carton box, and I was lucky to have a blanket that my friend had bought for me. The other guys did not take it from me, and I did not feel cold at nights. We lived, five of us, in that base.

Later, I decided to make my own base, and some of the guys followed me. By this time, Ken followed us to join our group; and he behaved in a mature way. Daytimes, we would go to Mathare to watch videos, which cost us 5 shillings for three shows. One day I followed them to a rehabilitation centre called Made in the Streets. There was a program for young boys going on there twice a week. Then one time there was a boys’ intake for the boarding program in Kamulu. I liked making money more than anything else, so I was left out and missed the chance while I went to collect scrap metal. My friends Cugia, Bravin, and Nzioka were taken in.

I did not use any drug until I came to Eastleigh. Bravin taught me how to use glue. He said that I would not remember any of my worries and I would feel so high. So I took his bottle and sniffed the glue, but then I coughed so hard and threw it away. Later I started wanting more, so Nzioka took me to Mlango Kubwa where I bought a bottleful for 15 shillings. I sniffed it for a long time until it affected my throat, and my voice became hoarse. When I shouted, my voice would be gone for hours, and I would only be able to whisper. My tongue was too heavy to say even a single word, and I started to stammer. I sniffed glue for almost six years. I made sure I bought half a bottle daily. I was addicted and could not go for a day without glue.

So I started up my own business of selling glue. I would go to Gikomba Market and buy a five-liter container; this cost 300 shillings. I got ideas from the sellers on how they measured it for the street boys, so I was good. Whenever I was sober, I sold it for 1,000 shillings, thus making a profit of 700 shillings. But when I was high on glue, it was a total loss because I would give out more than usual or I would start dozing and the boys would measure for themselves for free. Once I took my 700 shilling profit and bought myself a bicycle. I went to where a man was repairing bicycles and paid for it. But when I came to collect it the next day, I found that the man had disappeared with my bike, and I never saw him again.

I also went on to sell bhang [marijuana]. To get money to start my business, I sold for Bravin. He paid me 40 shillings per day. In a day I sold about eight rolls of bhang. I sold each for 10 shillings. I would take the 80 shillings to Bravin. Days went by, and I became clever. I was looking to start my own business. I knew he bought one roll for 5 shillings and sold for 10. One day I sold one roll for 20 shillings to a man who looked like he had lots of money; he did not even bargain. In fact, he took 50 rolls of bhang and paid me 1000 shillings. I was supposed to give Bravin 500 shillings but then I only gave him 300 shillings; I remained with 700 shillings—all for me. And Bravin still paid me 40 shillings for selling! I lied to Bravin that the smell of 50 rolls of bhang made me high, and I just put the money down and someone picked it up and took it. Later, I took the money to a kiosk owner; he was a Meru by tribe and he was my good friend. He kept the money safe for me.

So I had my own business for selling glue and bhang. I was buying a roll of bhang for 5 shillings and selling for 10. I was making good money. I took my money with my five friends and went to Majengo area and rented a small mud house. It was 500 shillings per month. I went and bought two cooking pans and a cooking stove. We shared expenses. We all tried to work hard not to eat jombii but rather to eat nice clean food cooked by ourselves. We would go to the Gikomba Market and work for the fish sellers to carry the fish scales and trash out to the garbage area. That would get us paid each 30 shillings plus be given a fish as a reward. We would take the fish home and cook it and share it. We went on this way for some time.

One day, the shosho of Ababa (Titus) came to our house and took our cooking stove and went with it to her place. The next day, Wambua left the door open and our bed was stolen. Then we had no bed to sleep on and were just wondering what to do. Wambua took our cooking pans and went with them to weigh them at the scrap metal shop. He sold them for 200 shillings. When we found out and got mad at him, he just told us he was really broke and needed money. So we went to live in Tenth Street base, now that we had no furniture or cooking stuff and no money for the next rent. Ababa went and asked his shosho why she took our cooking stove; unfortunately she was drunk. She hit Ababa on his head with the liquor bottle and he bled so badly. There were some police on patrol and they saw it happen. They arrested his shosho and some rushed him to the hospital to get some stitches. Ababa’s shosho was released after some hours and given a last warning. The chief said she was not in her right mind and needed to go to the mental clinic.

One day as I was selling bhang, a plain clothes policeman came by and pretended to be a customer. He knew about my business and he arrested me and took all the rolls of bhang as evidence. Later, the judge went over my case and found me guilty. I was taken to the jail in Kericho. There were old men and young boys in separate parts of that jail. The guards there were so lazy. Instead of doing their work, they sent the prisoners. One morning the guards called me out and sent me to buy some milk from a nearby dairy farm. They knew it would be hard for me to escape because Kericho is in the rural area and the jail is far from town. They thought I was too young to know the way back home. I behaved so well and they kept on sending me daily. I went to buy milk for about a week and earned their trust. They did not know I was smarter than they were, and I only wanted them to think I could never escape. Early one morning as usual the guard gave me a 5 liter container and 600 shillings. I left and hurried to the bus stop; on my way I stopped at a house and pulled off a T-shirt and trousers from the clothesline. I changed and just left the prison uniform there. I stood at the bus stage and prayed for a car to come soon. A matatu came and I boarded it. Unfortunately the conductor was a man who had been to the cell two weeks before (on a case about a road accident). I was so afraid, and before he could say a word, I handed him half of the money I had and winked at him so he would know he was being kind to take me to Nairobi. He told me I was very clever. I kept the rest of the money to start up my life again.

After arriving at the Nairobi bus station, I took matatu #9 up to Eastleigh. I went to the Twelfth Street base and I took my 300 shillings and bought a big container of glue. I went on to the shop where I save my money and I withdrew some money to buy myself clothes. My life went on.

About two weeks later, I was sitting outside a hotel and there was a car parked there. Unfortunately someone had stolen the car’s side mirror. I was sitting there with my friend Sadam eating jombii. But when the owner of the car saw us there, he accused us of being involved. He shouted for help and the place was suddenly crowded with people. We really got some bad beatings. Some took the electric wire and whipped us on our bare chests. It was really painful. I thought I would die that same day. They left us lying there on the street. Our friends came and carried us back to the base.

Another day, we were just sitting at the base, and our friend named Ali picked a wallet from a man. He brought it to the base and opened it up in front of us. The wallet had 6,000 shillings. He went and bought each one of us a packet of chips. So Wambua thought to trick him into taking 6 tablets of piritons (a drug to make him sleep). But he didn’t take them; he knew it was to make him sleep. But that night when he was fast asleep and snoring, we searched his pockets. Unfortunately he had given out his money to someone else to keep for him. We were disappointed but we knew it must be someone in the base. So we kept on searching the others who were asleep. We finally came to Zakayo whose leg wasn’t well covered with his sack and we saw the socks he wore looked puffed. So we figured it must be Ali’s money. It was. We took it out and divided among us who were awake. Wambua was the master of our base and I was his closest friend. So he first took 2,000 and gave me 1,000; then we divided the rest among the others. We saved some for Zakayo, so he wouldn’t tell Ali who took it. Later each of us went for a driving class at the garage. A circular distance was 100 shillings; we spent almost all of it on driving. I spent the rest of mine on buying myself a special dish—half of a grilled chicken with chips.

Another day, I went with six guys to steal some spare car parts from inside the Air Force compound. We cut through the wire fence and entered the garage, and we took everything off an old car. That’s when we saw the patrol; they had been watching us the whole time. They fired some bullets in the air to scare us, and some ran after us with their dogs. The dogs surrounded us and we could not escape. Our punishment was to sweep the whole area where they had their gym. Then they gave us some scrap parts. Wambua took the old engine and ran away from us, as usual. I took the four doors of the car and left the other parts for the other boys. We all took them to our friend who had a garage. I sold the four doors for 500 shillings. Our friend was so nice; he gave us his phone number so we could call him whenever we were arrested, and he would come to plead for our release.

I always stole things because it was just in me. There was a day when we passed by a garage owned by an Asian. It was near a stream. We saw some scrap car parts, mostly springs. So we cut through the wire fence and took the springs. Wambua was so clever; he tied the springs around his waist and ran very fast, leaving us behind. The man shouted to his workers to run after us. Wambua fell into the river; it was full of water, and it swept him away with the springs tied on to him. I was about to get through the cut fence, when Sadam grabbed my trousers. So I was caught along with the other boys. The man was so angry with us for stealing his things. He told his workers to bring the petrol and he poured the whole container on us, as we were tied and told to lay down. He told them to bring some old tire tubes and a match box, so that he could burn us to death. We were really crying and pleading with him to have mercy on us, but he kicked us with his boots. Just then his wife came and found us all. She pulled her husband aside and asked him not to burn us, but to set us free. He listened to her and he did let us go. He warned us that if we ever went there again, then he really would set us on fire. But, it’s like our hearts were hard. Later Sadam and I went back there, took our car springs, and went to sell them.

Sometimes when you are a survivor, your conscience just kinda dies. It’s like you don’t feel really threatened or feel pain. All you ever want is money, money, money. One of our friends was older than us, almost 18 years old. He went to steal some car parts from the police station. We told him he was risking his life, but he thought he was daring and tough and an expert. His family had come for him several times and pleaded with him to go back home, but he never listened to them. So this time around, he was very unlucky because the police shot him dead on the spot. The family came to look for him two days later, and we told them the bad news. So the only thing they could do was go get the body and take it to be buried on his father’s land upcountry.

One day as we were walking along Pumwani Lane, we saw a very beautiful house. In that compound were three big dogs, which looked like bulldogs or German Shepherds and their seven cute little puppies. Every day we passed by that place to play with them. There were also two cars; one was a Toyota pick-up and the other was a Mercedes Benz. But every time we passed by, we saw no life in that house. So we decided to watch the whole night and see who the owner was. He never showed up. The dogs started to starve, and the puppies did not have strength to stand up.

We decided to get in and steal the dogs to sell. We got in and killed the big dogs by hitting them on their legs with big rocks then hitting them with a panga [machete]. A man passing by saw us killing a dog, and we told him the owner was paying us to kill them because they had gone mad. We only wanted the puppies, because if you take a big dog to sell, people will steal them from us and then tell police and others that those dogs belong to them and we were stealing them. They would frame us, and the police would believe them because it’s clear to everyone that German Shepherds are expensive to get and take care of. Thus they would know they weren’t ours. So we called big dogs like that “bad luck dogs.” We dealt with the puppies. Wambua got the big portion as always just because he was our master. He took three puppies and left us to share the rest. I took one and ran to sell it quick for 500 shillings.

We went back to the house to see if there was any person there. But still it was the same. So we got up the courage to get into the house. We broke the lock and got in; it was full of expensive furniture. We saw that the owner was really gone, so we thought first about the cars. We broke into the cars and removed all the valuable materials like the starters, wheels, everything we could get loose. We could not get the engines out. We sold those things to our friend at the garage. We asked him to lend us a hacksaw so that we could go to the house and cut the furniture into small pieces and sell. We gave our garage friend the TV just for free. Back at the house, we cut the stools, coffee table, sofa set, and things into small pieces and put them into our sacks. We sold them as firewood. We took everything in that house except a heavy file cabinet. We sold all the pans and utensils to the blacksmith as scrap metal. We sold his suits and shoes too.

As I said earlier, our consciences were dead, completely dead. We stayed away for a month, then we passed by that house again. It seemed as if that man had just come back from a trip. So we went to the door and talked to him. We lied and said that we had gone to report a robbery case that happened at his place a month ago. We told him exactly what had happened, except that we were just watching outside and there was nothing we could do because we are just small boys. We said the thugs were a big group. He thanked us for reporting the accident. But then he said, he was at least happy that the thugs did not find his money that had been hidden in the file cabinet.

The man said he was most sad about the cars, especially the Toyota which was new. So we told him we had come to ask for any remaining scrap car parts and also to show him where he could sell the remaining engines. He took us to be thoughtful and smart, but poor and young. He sent us to find a break-down vehicle. We had already planned this with the man working at the garage. He was expecting us anytime. So we made a plan on how the two cars would be pulled to his garage and he would be ready to buy the two engines. When the break-down pulled the cars to the garage, we introduced him to the garage man. We stepped outside for them to negotiate the prices. The garage man bought them for 15,000 cash. He gave us 8,000 shillings to share among us. We were four of us; Wambua took 2,900 and we went with 1,700 each. The man thanked us once again but spoke some curse words about the thugs who had stolen from him.

When I was away for a time, I came to hear that Wambua was taken to Made in the Streets boarding centre. I felt left out again. So I took over and became the master of the base. The others respected me just like they did Wambua. I made sure I went to sleep when everyone else was asleep, very late.

When I was in the streets, I liked almost everything, except being involved in a base fight. This happened very often among boys. I tried hard to keep away from fighting. I only fought when I was pushed too far. I liked it when it rained because any place that was flooded became our swimming pool. We liked flooded areas and playing in the water. I even got used to the cold nights.

Then I left to go and live in downtown again, with my two friends Sadam and Brian. We used to sit in our base that was just out in the open; we would beg for money from passers-by. We called our base “the base of six” at one time, but then others left and we were the three of us again. A beautiful woman used to pass by our base all the time, and we begged her for money. She liked us a lot and called us her children. She would ask us to come to her place and she gave us lunch. She was a Somali lady, and she always wore gold and diamonds around her neck, and in her ears and around her wrists. Whenever we went to her place, her house-girl prepared us nice meals like chicken and chapatis. We kept going there so often and we became close to her. She was open with whatever she did. When she took off her expensive jewels, she put them in her briefcase which she opened with a code.

Sadam’s older brother was a professional thief who was training his younger brother. He gave Sadam a master key to enter into the woman’s house. So Sadam came and told us his plan. The woman’s house-girl always left work at 2 pm (we knew the whole schedule). We were set to go and steal her expensive jewels, forgetting all her kindness to us. We pretended to knock at the door to confuse the neighbors who might be suspicious of us. They were used to seeing us together with the woman, but that time we were just Brian, Zachary, Sadam, and me. We opened up the house without any trouble, got in, and went straight for her briefcase. She valued her jewels because the briefcase was very unusual; it had three steps of opening. The first step was to open with a key, then put in the code, and again open it. We did not mind the first lock, because we had a key. But it took us a very long time, almost 30 minutes, to get the right code. We finally opened it and only took seven diamond jewels. We were afraid to take all of them. We thought she wouldn’t know that some were missing, and therefore we could go back for more later. We locked the briefcase again and left the house.

The neighbors saw us leaving, but our minds were just on how rich we were going to be. We rushed to a place in town and sold all the jewels for 21,000 shillings. That was quick money. We Knew that they were worth more, but it was a quick, clean deal. Otherwise, we might try to sell them and end up being framed. The woman noticed her missing jewels; when she investigated, she was told that we were there two days ago. We left our base and moved to a different base. We had not used any of the money until we were sure that everything was all right. A week later, we forgot that we were suspects and that the police were looking out for the “bad boys.” So when we got high on drugs, we went back to sit in our old “base of six.” And just a few minutes or so later, we saw a policeman with the woman, and we knew we were caught. She was so mad at us and cursed us, saying how ungrateful we were for taking her kindness for granted. The policeman called us bastards and little devils.

We were arrested. The judge swore we would never get out until we paid back the money and apologized. We were taken to the Shimo la Tewa prison in Mombasa. That prison is on an island. We were taken out there by boat, and we saw we could not escape. It was risky to swim in the sea because there are some dangerous animals like sharks. We were told we would stay there for a year. We ate good meals, but the work was too hard for us. There was a project of cleaning the sand they got from the sea. If you didn’t work hard, you got beaten. Life in that jail was never fair. The older guys grabbed our food and we could do nothing.

We were in there three weeks, and I had a talk with Sadam and Brian. I asked them to give out the money we had from selling the jewels. We were so clever because we had put the money inside our underwear’s seams and sewed it. You couldn’t see it. So I asked them to cooperate and they agreed. But we had to figure how to do this, since we had told them we had no money in the first place. I told them to leave it to me, that I would take care of everything. They all gave me their money. I waited for the big man at the prison, a judge I think. He told the guards to let me out. I went with him to his office. I went in and did not say anything, but I just gave him the cash—21,000 shillings. When he saw the money he smiled and asked me what I needed. I told him all we needed was to get off the island and be dropped in Mombasa town. From there, I told him, we will know what to do next. He asked me if we were going to repeat the same thing, but we swore to him never again to do such a bad thing.

On the following day, at 6 am, we were released and told to get in the boat. We finally reached the shore and were free again. The guards told us to go and never steal again. We ran so fast so they could not change their minds. I really thanked God for making me a free boy again. I had been in different jails, but this was the worst. I had heard stories of talking mermaids who pulled you into the sea. I never had a good sleep there. I had nightmares that the island could be swallowed in the sea and we would all drown and die. In Mombasa town, Sadam went his own way. We did not mind his leaving us because we all wanted to get back to Nairobi as fast as possible. We all split up, so we could ask for a free ride to Nairobi.

I tried talking to a bus driver. It was late in the evening. Being a survivor, one has to lie. I told him I had come with a friend of mine the previous day, but then I lost him, and I was left all alone and didn’t know anyone in Mombasa. The driver asked me many questions, but he finally let me get in the bus. All during that long journey, about 13 hours, I was just swearing never again to get involved in stealing. In the bus I begged for some food from passengers. Some kindly shared their food with me. When we reached the city early in the morning, I was so glad. I went to the Twelfth Street base, and I met the other boys. They asked me where we had been for so long. I told them the whole story. I told them that being in prison was like being in hell. I told them I was never going to steal again. Some laughed at me and asked me if I had ever gone to hell.

They thought I was joking, but I tell you I was very serious about my turning point. Whenever I passed by garages and saw iron bars or scrap metal, I would close my eyes so I would not get tempted. I decided that I wanted to change my life. So I started going back to the boys’ program at Made in the Streets. They were always talking about quitting drugs and how it was harmful and could even lead to death. I thought it over and looked back on years of buying and selling glue and bhang. I remembered how much money I made, and I thought that quitting would bring poverty into my life. It really was a tough decision to make. Then I met one of the street boys named Njoro; he was really affected by using glue. He couldn’t do anything for himself because his hands shook so much. He was miserable; he even needed someone to feed him or he would starve. And you know that in the base, everyone minds their own business. I decided to get off the streets after I saw that everything was meaningless. So I started going to Made in the Streets for the weekly boys’ program. There I was able to learn the Word of God and get food too.

At MITS, we were taught basics in math and English, and we were taught the Word of God more than anything else. We were told about God’s great love. We played games like basketball and football. I always prayed to be taken into the MITS boarding program, because most of my friends were already there. I was just left at the base with mostly new boys. Then it was as if God heard my prayers. There was a new intake of students. I sat down and told myself that if I missed this chance to go to the boarding centre, then it will be the third time, and I wouldn’t like it at all. After that I never missed the boys’ programs. Lucky me, I was included in the list of selected students. I was so very happy to hear that! The teachers told us to come the next day early in the morning.

I was there at the gate by sunrise. We were all taken together to Kenyatta Hospital for the age assessments since most of us did not have a clinic card (or any document). The X-ray showed I am fourteen years old. Then we were taken out for lunch at a nearby kiosk.

We were told to come the next day to leave for the boarding program in Kamulu. The next morning, I just got up and did what I always did—go to collect scrap metal with Patrick and James. In just a short time I made 30 shillings. Then we remembered and rushed to MITS. We were so afraid that they would not let us in. But they did. They sent us to take a shower and gave each one of us a T-shirt and trousers. They even gave us vaseline to apply on our faces. Then we watched a movie and ate supper together. We went to bed, waiting for the next day.

By then I was not using drugs. I had already quit after seeing Njoro’s case. I was already changing my life. The glue had already broken my voice; even now I can’t shout. As we were on the way to Kamulu, I thanked God many times for taking me from the valley of death. I realized my life was messy. But he rescued me. On reaching Kamulu, I knew it was real and I was not dreaming.

There were twelve boys and eight girls in my group. My experience was not that new to me since I had been there before, during Mbuvi’s wedding six years ago. There was improvement in the buildings and in other things. I had also come for the Made In The Streets 10th anniversary about two years ago.

I hope to pursue mechanics. I am happy to be with my friends, Cugia, Omondi, and Bernard. I enjoy all the subjects they teach; mostly I like the Bible and the SRA lessons. The SRA lessons help me learn how to read and write. The Bible classes help me learn the Word of God and have more knowledge. I like daily morning chapel, and I enjoy when we come together to sing choruses. It has really helped me to grow because I can now sing many songs without looking at the book.

I am very glad to be here because I am sheltered, and I feel safe. They offer education and equipping with the Word of God by going to church Sundays. In the streets I did not know anything to do with church. I am happy to have a family, and I eat well and have no regrets.

My greatest joy is that I no longer get beatings like those that I used to get when stealing from people while I lived in the streets. I was already tough because of what I went through, and I never thought I would stop stealing because all I thought about was making money. I preferred stealing to begging, because being a beggar was not fun; and besides, I could get rich just by stealing once. I only thought of making big money.

I would like to thank God, for I could not do it on my own. It was because of his grace and great love for me that MITS chose me. I had no place to go. I do not know what to offer to him as a thanksgiving, but all I do is to tell people what he has done to me as a sign of my praises to him, because he deserves it.

I would like to thank all the donors for their kind hearts and for giving to this ministry. May God bless them for helping us to have a better life. My sponsor’s name is Marita Barnett, and I have a photo of her kids. I would like them to come and visit us in Kenya.

I thank the Coulstons so much for their great love for the street kids. I thank Darlene for teaching me the SRA lessons and teaching me new things. Charles has taught me a lot about ethics in life. He taught me how to live right and shun the wrong. He once caught me stealing some passion fruit. The fruit was not ripe yet, and I was just cutting them and throwing them on the ground. But then he called me and asked me if I thought I was doing the right thing, and he sent me to go and confess what I just did to Darlene. At first, I thought of running away, but I just thought twice and went to talk to her, and she told me I did a good thing by going to her.

My advice to my fellow students is that they should obey the teachers and work hard so that they will obtain a bright future and that they should never think of running away, because there is no hope in the streets.

Moses was baptized on 30 Nov 2010. He really wanted to be baptized. He did say it was a hard decision. But afterwards, he told Darlene, “Now I need to go back to the streets and tell some of my old friends about Jesus.”

In 2011 Moses trained under one of the MITS team members in masonry. Now he works at MITS and serves under John Wambu, who is our sixty-one-year-old property maintenance manager and a member of the governing committee of MITS. We dream that Moses will take John’s place some day.

Caroline Wanjiru’s Story

My dad died when I was about five, and later my mum brought home a man that beat me. This man, after realizing that my mother was fine with the way he beat me, went on beating me up very harshly. I only got to go to school up to class 3. There wasn’t any food for me at home, so I just begged for food. I was in the streets during the days; when I was about twelve, I went to stay in the streets full time.

My best friend Esther and I ran away to start our lives on the street together. We went and begged for some food from a Somali café; they gave us some leftovers—macaroni, meat, rice, and banana, all mixed together. Street kids call this food jombii; it’s food scraped from customers’ plates. I didn’t like it, but it was free.

After that, we went down to Warui’s place in Mathare, and we were lucky we didn’t have to pay the rent to sleep there, because there were so many girls in his house that night. (The rent is to sleep with a guy.)

So I became a real street girl. Another girl, Wamaitha, taught me how to have glue all the time by asking the street boys to buy for me in exchange for sleeping with them. And I learned how to trick the boys. First you get the glue, then walk around some together. He huffs a lot and gets confused, and then you run away from him. I did this every time my bottle of glue dried up. But sometimes it was me that got confused from huffing and I would stagger, and then the boy I had previously tricked would force me to have sex. My friends did this too, and they sometimes got raped by many boys at once.

One time Warui’s girlfriend, Jedidiah, ran away from him. He was so angry and grabbed me and took me to his house and said I would have to replace her. It was getting dark and he had already beaten me several times; my lips were swollen like mandazis [doughnuts]. I was crying and pleading with him to let me go and swearing I knew nothing about Jedidiah.

He took a wooden stool and hit me on my knees so I couldn’t walk or run away; I still to this day have a big scar there. He went on tearing my blouse and my skirt off, and I was screaming so loud, calling people to come to my rescue. But people just came in and out of the house quietly since they could do nothing to help. He was the master of the ghetto.

At last God answered my calls and another famous man in the ghetto, called Kamau, “Snake,” came to my rescue. Warui had locked the door from the inside, but Snake broke the door down. When he got in, Warui was not afraid of him and told him to go away. Snake said he wouldn’t leave without me. I was so relieved to hear him say that. But then Warui told Snake to sit down and watch him having sex with me.

So they started fighting, and Warui pulled out a knife and wanted to stab my stomach, but he missed, and I hid myself behind Snake, and then the knife stabbed Snake’s hand and it started to bleed. But that didn’t stop him from fighting, and Snake pushed me in a neighbor’s house to be safe, and both of them gathered their gangs, and the fighting went on. It lasted about two hours and finally Snake told me to come out and that they had beaten Warui until he was unconscious and locked him in his house. Then he told me to be very careful where I went on the streets.

By then it was about 10:30 and I went to a place where they were still giving food to street children at their gates. I took my food and went to the base to sleep. In the streets so many things usually happen during the night, and that night Esther and I were chased by boys who were carrying a tin of feces. They threatened to throw it on us if we didn’t sleep with them. But we ran so fast to a place where the night watchmen allow us to lay down our sacks and sleep there, and they protect us from the boys.

One night we went to that place where the watchmen are, but there wasn’t one there. We were so many girls and we decided to crowd all together and sleep very close, so that whenever the boys came to harass us, we could chase them away by screaming. That night we had no gunny sacks to sleep on, but Muthoni had a sack for her baby and we put the baby in the middle of us to keep her warm. The rest of us just slept without sacks, as we were used to it.

We had our bottles of glue and were just huffing, and then we saw some boys come; they were clean and dressed smart. They were laughing at us and asking why us beautiful girls sleep outside in the cold. We just ignored them. But in the morning when I woke and was reaching for my glue bottle, I saw that one of those boys had slept with one of us girls. I pinched Esther and then we started laughing at them. The girl pretended to be shocked and shouted at him. We called him names and told him to go for prostitutes next time but not to us.

That morning we went to a shopkeeper who was our friend and asked for cakes that are too old to sell. Esther and I decided to keep some for Mzee Kondoo so that he would allow us to have some rest before the evening comes. He always lets street girls spend the day at his place. I was really lucky that Mzee never wanted me to sleep with him; he used to say I might be an HIV victim. He said that because I was really skinny and tall and thus looked funny and sick. He didn’t really like me and used to call me names. To get to stay there, I always brought food for him.

In the evening, we went back to the base and Wamaitha showed me another boy at the Wanga base; his name is Kamaunde. She told me to go and ask him to give me a bottle of glue and to add on five shillings to refill my bottle when it dries up. So I did, and he accepted the deal when I told him to come back for the service. A few days later he came back and quoted what I had said. I refused, but then he told me he was asking politely, and if I refused, he was going to take it by force and call some guys to rape me all together. I was very afraid of a group rape, so I gave in. I was angry with Wamaitha, though.

base life had now got into my blood. I could now go to boys and ask them for “bierre” whenever my bottle dried up and then pay them back by sleeping with them with no fear at all. I was now addicted to huffing glue, and I did not care about anything, let alone my body or my life. I was hopeless and homeless.

One night when we were sleeping at the girls’ base, some big boys came to Esther and me and threatened to rape us if we wouldn’t give it to them. It was about 2 am. One was called Chacha and the other Rashid. Esther told them they could touch her only if she had taken their money sometime. But then Chacha reminded her that he had already bought her a 20 shilling package of chips and a cake that cost 30 shillings, and so she needed to pay him back. Esther and I decided to trick them by telling them we had agreed and they could get in our sacks. So they did. Just then Esther said she had to go for a short call [toilet] and I said I would escort her and we would come back. Fortunately they agreed and let us go.

When we went out, we saw Advella, and we told her what had happened. She said she had also taken their money, and we should run away. So we did, but just when we started running, they saw us and came after us, so fast. We ran and ran and ran up to the MITS Center and begged the watchman Mutonga to let us in; but he refused and said there were fierce dogs inside the property. We left there so fast and ran to Mauryn and Irene’s place, and we stopped at the gate and yelled and shouted for them. But their watchman chased us away. Then we ran to the house of Advella’s grandmother. We told the watchman that some boys had caught Advella because she was not as fast as we were, and would he help us. Finally, someone who was kind! He agreed to go back with us and rescued Advella from those men.

One day at MITS I was talking to Darlene, and she asked where Esther was. I told her I had left Esther at Mzee Kondoo’s place because she could not walk and her legs were very swollen due to some boils like the ones that killed her sister. Esther was very scared. She asked me to bring Esther, and she got some first aid there.

Life went on, and I had almost given up. I didn’t go to MITS for a time, and then one of the teachers called Njue came to look for me at Mzee Kondoo’s. He wanted to talk about going to MITS boarding program, but first I must take him to my mum. So I took them to the base where I was sleeping at night; it was called Simon’s base. Finally I took them to find my mum; she’s a hawker, selling plastic bags. When we were parting that day, they gave me twenty shillings for dinner. But then I went and used ten shillings to buy glue and ten to buy some chips.

I am now living at the Kamulu Center, and we are all seven of us girls. We could have been eight, but one girl who was pregnant and HIV+ was taken to a home in Kisumu. I was taught some education classes and the Bible too. I really tried to change my behavior and to become a good girl. I was still rude but I really tried to change. It’s just that it was hard; Maggie and I fought.

Finally the staff gave me my last chance; if I didn’t change in two weeks, they would have to take me back to my mum. I just prayed and told God that I tried but couldn’t. I told him he would have to do it. And he did!

Caroline Wanjiru finished her basic studies with Made in the Streets and completed a two-year internship at Narcisse Hair Salon in the Sarit Shopping Center. She is now employed full-time at that salon and is a happy, confident young woman. She is a trusted employee and is very grateful to her boss, Nargis, for love and support.

Made in the Streets is a ministry devoted to rescuing children from the streets of Nairobi, Kenya. You can learn more about MITS on their website: http://madeinthestreets.org.

1 Editorial asides are offset in square brackets throughout the article.

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Review of Susan S. Baker, ed., Globalization and its Effects on Urban Ministry in the 21st Century

Susan S. Baker, ed.
Globalization and Its Effects on Urban Ministry in the 21st Century
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Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009. 358 pp. $15.99.

Globalization and its Effects on Urban Ministry in the 21st Century is a festschrift honoring the life and contributions of academician and urban ministry practitioner Dr. Manuel (Manny) Ortiz. In tribute to his areas of passion, and in hopes of addressing “issues that are at the forefront of mission dialogue in the 21st century” (1), the book examines four overarching themes: globalization, reconciliation, church planting, and leadership development. Many scholars and practitioners from around the world (including Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, and North America) are included in this work, making it a truly global contribution.

In the first section, the challenges and benefits of globalization are examined, with specific attention being given to economics, technology, politics, and culture. Susan Baker (ch. 1) argues that the continuing shift of Christianity to the south, in combination with globalization, requires new kinds of partnerships to be formed. Because globalization results in increased “interconnectedness,” “compression,” and “deterritorialization” (21), the global church must join together in order to reach the world for Christ (58). This is particularly evidenced by the chapters from I. W. (Naas) Ferreira (ch. 3) and Michael Eastman (ch. 4). Where Ferreira excellently assesses the difficulties globalization has introduced to the African continent, Eastman shows the renewing benefits globalization has brought to the church in London.

Because globalization brings peoples into closer contact and produces a number of economic, social, and political inequalities, a significant topic to address in relation to globalization is reconciliation. Mark Gornick (ch. 7) argues that “justice, mercy, and reconciliation” are “at the heart of ministry in a global world” and thus, “If you want peace, work for justice” (146). Though the section opens with a reprint of Ortiz’s 1995 lecture, “Commitment to Reconciliation,” an article that seems a bit dated, it concludes with more contemporary (and helpful) evaluations of reconciliation efforts among Chinese Americans and Protestant Christianity, ethnic factions in Northern Ireland, and those in the Balkans (particularly Serbia).

The final two sections provide the most practical and helpful information in this book. Kyuboem Lee says church planting is “the strategy of choice” (193) to reach the increased numbers in the city, as well as the increased number of cultural groups that are found in cities. The church should be a place of personal and cultural renewal for immigrants coming to urban centers (191) and church planting provides a means by which new people can be brought into contextual churches, bringing renewal to the universal church, while also seeing organic growth among specific people groups. Among the areas of church planting examined are the power dynamics of cross-cultural church planting teams, the importance of house church movements in the city (as demonstrated through examples from South America), and new forms of church planting that include “hybrid” strategies which draw multiple churches from a variety of theological backgrounds together in collaborative partnerships for the sake of the ethnic communities they wish to reach.

Rounding out the book is a concluding section on leadership development. This section opens with an evaluation of current “emergent” leadership patterns. Timothy Witmer (ch. 14) praises emergent leadership styles for bringing renewed emphasis on servant and team leadership, but he cautions us as well. Emergents often seek to “flatten and remove structure” (i.e., hierarchy), and the result of this might “compromise the biblical principles of authoritative leadership and office” (265). In chapter 15, Jonathan Iorkighir reframes the way contemporary African theological education should be formed so that it remains biblically-based, while also being “theologically valid and contextualized to the realities of Africa” (277). The final chapter of the book highlights the key components of mentoring. To win our cities, Pedro Aviles argues, leaders “must fully adopt . . . the missional mandate to raise young indigenous leaders for local churches and for the city” (304). His chapter offers a mini-manual for developing these indigenous leaders, beginning with a summary of the biblical and theological basis for mentoring as a means of leadership development and ending with practical steps for raising and releasing indigenous leaders.

Among the strengths of this book are its global authorship and its assessment of each specific theme (each of which could be its own book). Many of the chapters provide rich case studies of the topics at hand, and the global scope of these chapters enrich the reader’s understanding in both profound and practical ways.

My biggest critique of this book is its lack of cohesion. While the chapters provide keen insights and helpful data, very few of the chapters address urban ministry specifically. Most are bifurcated, focusing solely on globalization or solely on urbanization; few combine the two. The inclusion of a reprinted article from Harvey Conn (1990) on contextual theologies seems out of place, and nowhere did I find the thesis of the book adequately addressed. After reading the book, I am still wondering what effects globalization specifically has on urban ministry. In light of this, I am not convinced that this book can be used as “a stand-alone textbook” (1) on the effects globalization has on urban ministry. (Perhaps a change in title might help resolve some of the confusion I feel.) That said, this book does provide helpful information and contemporary case studies on issues relevant to ministry in today’s world; thus, as a festschrift for Ortiz, I believe this books succeeds in honoring Ortiz’s legacy and expanding our understanding on topics close to his heart.

Rochelle Cathcart

Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies

Lincoln Christian University

Lincoln, Illinois, USA