Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sandtown

I (Katy) wanted to share this great article that Kristian recently wrote for a newsletter here in the City, on behalf of Hope for New York, where he works. He and some friends through HFNY went down to Baltimore to help rebuild homes. Here's the story...

"In the 1960s and 70s, urban blight devastated the American inner-city landscape. In Baltimore, the neighborhood of Sandtown was particularly affected as the economy lagged and jobs were lost. Successful and affluent neighbors moved out while drugs and crime moved in. Soon, a once-thriving urban center was full of abandoned, vandalized properties, plagued by increasing poverty and a growing sense of hopelessness.

This is where, by God’s grace, New Song church was born in 1986.
A group of people with a commitment to restoring hope and a vision of a neighborhood revitalized led the way. Today, over 250 formerly abandoned homes have been renovated by the sweat of volunteers and the finances of generous donors. In partnership with Habitat for Humanity, New Song will complete at least 250 more—500 in total!

Since 1993, Hope for NewYork has sent a team to Sandtown each June for “Blitz Build Week.” This year, 15 volunteers piled into minivans, hammers and speed squares in hand, ready to bring urban renewal to this once-forgotten neighborhood. The first night was filled with fellowship and fun as the team learned a Maryland tradition—how to break apart and consume steamed crab by the pound! After a good night’s sleep on cots and air mattresses, the
week of work started at 7:00am Monday morning (we would need every bit of that sleep to prepare us for 9 hour days in 95 degree heat!).

The renovation projects are ongoing, and one can sometimes last for months or years. Fortunately for us, at the end of this week two properties were completed and ready for dedication! Two families would now be able to purchase, interest-free on a thirty-year note, newly redesigned and renovated homes, which just months before stood as scar tissue on the city’s face. In return, these families will invest in the building of other homes in Sandtown with their time and labor—what Habitat likes to call “sweat equity.”

Set against the backdrop of the constantly increasing individualism and materialism that marks the American metropolis, Sandtown is a beautiful model of sharing, sacrifice, service, and above all, love. It is a gospel model.

The Apostle Paul once encouraged Timothy regarding the church by saying, “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Tim 6:18-19)

It’s amazing to see so many people down in Baltimore taking hold of true life.

Sandtown’s Blitz Build Week is a beautiful example of the church learning what it means to treasure the kingdom, to treasure the shalom of God in our world, to treasure our neighbors. The houses weren’t build by experts; they aren’t perfect. Neither are our motives for building them. But that’s how the Kingdom comes—a bunch of really imperfect people following the leadership of, and receiving grace from, a spectacularly perfect King.

Thanks to all who participate in and support this ministry! For details on how to get involved with HFNY’s volunteer opportunities, visit www.hfny.org."

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