Written By Ferdinando (Turk) Turkovich
Being at CCDA was like coming off the battle lines for a hot meal, a hot shower and a change of clothes.
After coming back from the Christian Community Development Association Conference (CCDA), I feel like I have finally found my "war" to fight. Don’t get me wrong, I am a believer in Jesus Christ and therefore a son of Father God first and foremost. But I am also a warrior. I just battle differently. My weapons are not made with human hands, but are instead powered by God (2Corinthians 10:4).
Up until this last year or so I felt like I was drifting listlessly from one failed endeavor to another. I always believed that God had placed a calling on my life, but I just didn't know what or where that was. I do now after being with the team at CCDA. What I heard from the stage and in the workshops, was confirmation for what we do in our little community here in Aliquippa. That it is in fact the work of the Lord.
We live and minister out of relationship. One of our key roles is to be ministers of reconciliation. As ministers of reconciliation we are keenly aware of the current divides that we face as racial tensions come to the boiling point in our nation. We can see the injustice and fear that seems to press in on all sides. We can hear the cries of the marginalized from within even our own team. Cries against injustice, cries against the work of the enemy. But we can be agents of hope, hope set in knowing that our father cries alongside us, for us, and within us.
I found rest and a recharge at the conference; I found excitement and awe; I found kinship and rejuvenation.
It was there that I found confirmation that Church Army can and should be speaking, teaching, and encouraging our brothers and sisters across the nation and dare I say world. Speaking on how we do what we do, within the context of reaching the least the last and lost with the Gospel and bringing them into the service of the church. What we do and how we do it works. And if we look across the scope of all Church Army, we are each playing a vital role in the communities in which God as placed us. I sense God’s call on us to become united and help lead the charge for those coming after us. The Apostle Paul did this with several young men. Timothy being one of them. He then established him in leadership. I ask myself, who am I preparing to replace me? How can we leave those that come after us in a better place to launch instead of having to rebuild? All of this has caused me to reflect and slow down. To stop and look around at the gifts of people that are around me (since I can only speak for myself). What am I leaving them in terms of relationships? What are the connections that I am sharing with them, am I hoarding those relationships or am I living out of the belief that there is plenty in the Kingdom of God? These can be hard questions to ask and sometimes even harder to accept the answers.
So following the CCDA conference I came home with a lot of questions. But I was also reminded of something one of my Commanding Officers once told us as a unit in the dwindling hours prior to battle: “take it as you were given, and leave it better than you received it.” In saying this he left out the parts that I would often complain about. By accepting it as it is, I am therefore accepting it as a gift and if a gift then looking at it all of its potential. That is how I see Church Army Moving towards its potential in unification.
October 26th was my one-year anniversary with Uncommon Grounds Café. One year since I found my home. One year since I found my forever family.
This year has been full of ups and downs. I’ve had more clean time than this and I’ve had less clean time than this, but I’ve never had this much recovery. I’ve never had this much direction, never had this much passion and purpose.
A year ago, I started working as Creative Intern for Earth Angel Apothecary - one of our women’s ministries. This week I got to see our vision come full circle. Brenda was in the D.O.C. (Department of Corrections) program at Sheffield Towers. She started volunteering here at the Café and quickly became not only my close friend, but also family to me. Mrs. Angel was out of town, but instead of working an event alone, I asked Brenda if she would want to come. She jumped at the chance! This was my first time being first lead at an event and Brenda’s first event ever, but you never would have guessed that by the looks of it. Not only did she do an awesome job of helping me set up and work the table, she went above and beyond that. She was talking to everyone, spreading our mission statement, and she was even praying for people! She nailed it! I was so proud beyond words.
Brenda got news that she was getting released (from the Department of Corrections) so she came to the café yesterday to say “bye” and I’m so glad she did. I really do love her so much and I don’t want her to go because I’m selfish and I’m going to miss her too much, but I am so incredibly proud of her and so happy for her. I am so grateful that I did GET TO work with her.
Written By Scott Colburn
The Christian Community Development Association is a movement of diverse, socially progressive evangelicals. Its annual conference offers a lot of talks and workshops, on social justice and the "Matthew 25" works of mercy that are central to a life of discipleship. Plus, lots of awesome worship led by a diverse music ministry. Most of the UCG staff went to this year's conference, "Resilience," in Detroit in October.
I went to two workshops on Thursday that focused on using sociology to inform and guide ministry. I love this subject. Using observation and data to see patterns of behavior in society and to see the actual, rather than the stated, ideals and goals of a nation, has deepened my efforts as an urban missionary and evangelist with a strong love of the arts. I have to live with and try to understand people before I can effectively minister to them.
The first workshop looked at the use of data to identify community realities and needs. Knowing who is in your community, and what their needs are, is a first step to ministry. The presenter showed us data sources that show everything from how poor people are being pushed from the "inner city" that has gentrified, and to the near suburban margins, to the allocation of public and semi-public resources like parks, playgrounds, public transportation and grocery stores. He said that data helps us to answer questions like "Are veterans underserved and at risk in this town?" or "Do teenagers have anywhere to go and anything to do in our community?" Having specific data allows us to shape ministry responses and use our probably limited resources effectively. The presenter showed us a number of websites that provide this data.
The second workshop, "Crossing The Street," was about how gracefully to work across ethnic and class lines. The presenter was an Urban Studies professor in Seattle, a Chinese-American man who was really enthusiastic about the need for diversity in Christian Community. He told about Rainier Avenue, a Seattle street that is a dividing line between the "nice" and the "bad" parts of Seattle. His church is on that avenue, and it transitioned from a typical "white church" to a multi-ethnic church because older white parishioners stayed, instead of fleeing to churches in the suburbs, and welcomed Asian, African and Hispanic newcomers. He talked about a lot of the issues that face us at UCG--the need to "Cultivate a community of belonging" and to practice "radical hospitality." He said that those of us who are white, especially "professional Christians," need to join, not start, community transformation, and to seek creative partnerships with people in the neighborhoods we serve.
A big theme of the plenary sessions was weariness. For many in the diverse conference, the work of community transformation and social justice for the sake of the Gospel is an uphill struggle, especially in the past couple years of a bitterly divided America and with the continued threats of injustice, the Alt-right, and economic disparities that continue to harm the most vulnerable. There were some great, impassioned speakers, and while they voiced a lot of frustration and weariness, they had stories of hope and progress too.
Detroit is a city that is showing resilience, though that story isn't being as well covered as the story of the city's collapse and bankruptcy was. I was able to see a little of it, and even rented a bicycle on one of those credit-card operated bike rack kiosks for a mad ride from the big Art museum back to our hotel during rush hour.
A last note--on the way out of Detroit we stopped at a cowboy boot and western wear store called "Scott Colburn's Western wear." I felt like a celebrity, and had a nice visit with owner Sarah Colburn, the daughter of the founder. We may be 11th cousins, at best, but had some similar family stories. However, I realized that the UCG gang I was traveling with was a lot more like a real family to me. As diverse as we are in ethnicity, culture, age, and point of view, we are one in our love of the Gospel and the people we serve in Beaver County. Conferences in distant cities are fun, but they bear fruit back home, in the daily work of pouring coffee, listening to friends talking about their lousy day, and praying for our own beaten-up but resilient city.