Friday, December 4, 2009

MTI/Adams Engineering Awarded Small Business of the Year Award for State of Indiana!

In previous posts I have had the chance to talk about MTI/Adams Engineering and how they have partnered with MC3. Not only have they helped develop a training program to hire people from the Monroe Circle neighborhood but MTI and the Adams Family (Dan and Jen Adams)have been great friends of the community center. Jen also is the co-leader of the Cafe and Food Pantry for the last two years and has been invaluable to building teams and systems that allow us to provide a better environment for engaging both the families of the community but the volunteers that serve.

Earlier this week Dan Adams called and shared the news with me and I had the privilege of sharing how valuable and helpful their partnership has been to WNDU TV.

Here is the press release announcing the award.

November 10, 2009 (INDIANAPOLIS) — A South Bend-based company that provides friction welding technology and services was honored today as the state’s Small Business of the Year by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Manufacturing Technology, Inc. (MTI) was chosen from a field of dozens of nominees from around the state. MTI and other top small businesses were recognized at the annual awards luncheon held in downtown Indianapolis.

A fourth-generation family-owned business, MTI primarily builds machines that carry out the friction welding process (the solid state joining of two parts using frictional heat and applied force to create a forge-quality weld). MTI also sells the only line of frictional welders worldwide that includes all three major variations: rotational, linear and stir.

The company’s accelerated pace of business has flourished recently through acquisitions and overseas joint ventures. This year marks MTI’s most successful in history, with all major business metrics showing improvement over the prior years. And in the last five years, the company has experienced sales growth of more than 300%. Many of MTI’s nearly 125 employees have been with the company for 15-plus years, including Kevin Grewe:

“Through my years of service, it has been obvious that MTI is a family company with family values. That continued trust and respect put forward is evident by MTI’s employee dedication, as my tenure here is short compared to many. Being part of MTI is more than just a job, it is being part of something to be proud of; this small family-owned company has become a world leader in its field.”

MTI also gives back to its local community through various school-related activities for children and the Junior Achievement. In addition, it developed a skill enhancement program for the underprivileged to try to break the cycle of poverty.

“MTI stood apart for its commitment to its employees, continued innovation and partnerships, tremendous financial growth and commitment to its local community,” offers Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar.”

Companies recognized as finalists for Small Business of the Year were: of Indianapolis; Bremen Castings of Bremen; International Medical Group of Indianapolis; Task Force Tips of Valparaiso; and Unified Group Services of Anderson. This marked the second consecutive time Unified Group Services has been a finalist; all others were newcomers to the list.

Semi-finalists for the award were: Communications Products, Inc. of Indianapolis; enVista of Carmel; FlashPoint of Indianapolis; the M.A.I.L. Group of Lafayette; Omnitech Services Inc. of Valparaiso; and Safety Management Group of Indiana, located in Indianapolis.

“We are proud of the ongoing efforts of all the winning companies and the small business community at-large. These companies impact all of us. They contribute to many working families’ income, to the prosperity of respective communities and to the entire state’s economic competitiveness,” Brinegar notes.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Welcome an Old Friend and New Director of Monroe Circle LeRoy King

As of December 1st, LeRoy King will move from an amazing volunteer leader of MC3's The Gathering to Director of the Monroe Circle Community Center.

Anyone that has attended The Gathering on Tuesday nights knows LeRoy's heart and passion for the families living in the Monroe Circle neighborhood. He will now bring these same skills to help lead the kids, families and volunteers of MC3 to the next level of opportunity and hope.

LeRoy will assume the role of telling the story of MC3 on this blogsite and it is my hope that every now and then he will allow me to be a guest contributor every now and then. In addition to volunteering at one of my favorite hangouts (MC3 that is!) I will be working to help eliminate female infanticide and feticide in southern India via The Rhema Project.

Please help me welcome LeRoy King!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans and Punkin Pie!!!

Yesterday was a good day for eat'n! SonCity Kids at Monroe Circle and Edison Gardens held their annual Thanksgiving Dinner.... well more like a banquet!

Lot's of great food, friendships built and everyone went home to take a nap!

Also, on Saturday SCK Washington Gardens in Elkhart started the holiday season off on the right path with their first annual Thanksgiving Feast.

This time of year is always a good time to reflect back on how far God has brought you and all that He has provided. Just a few years ago, an old building on the corner of Taylor Streets and Western Avenue was quiet and dark with not much of anything going on with no hope in sight. Today, it is the cornerstone to community transformation. Same can be said about Edison Gardens and the amazing shifts toward a better day becoming the normal.

My prayer is that we will always take time to remember this journey and be very, very thankful!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Buzz is Up at MC3

Today we expanded MC3's after-school program to include LEAP remediation and Compass Learning. The volunteers were excited, the kids were adding volume and energy to the education center. I had a chance to briefly talk to Rebecca Mashon, LEAP teacher from Madison Primary Center as she was leaving. As she watched the volunteers from GCC, Bethel College and Penn High School walk the kids back to their homes all she could keep saying was this is going to be very, very good - I can't wait for tomorrow!

Amy Kring, our SCK after-school coordinator deserves so much of credit for where we are at. She has stood in the gap, believing in this kids and coaxing volunteers to invest their time and talent. She is doing something great and even state and local educational leaders understand she is leading something new... something exciting... something very, very special.

If interested... we and the kids still really need you!

Prediction - Deizmond will be a Great Man

This afternoon I had the privilege of having a late lunch with my friend Deizmond. We were celebrating his good grades on his report card. Deizmond has been coming to MC3 for the last couple of years and is a regular at the after-school program. We work on his history, math and reading homework. Lately, I've been helping him with a few speed reading and comprehensive techniques.

He is a bright young man that will go far. But his is not what impressed me the most. Deizmond will become a great man because he is already a amazing young boy with outstanding character and a sharing heart!

As we finished our meal he opened his backpack and pulled out a $5.00 McDonald's gift card he had received as a reward for hard work at school. He could have saved it for himself but he didn't. He asked if he could use it to buy 4 double cheese burgers - one for each of his four brothers and one for his mom. He wanted to share his success and his rewards with his family.

I have so much to learn from Deizmond. Most times I give from my excess. Deizmond gives from all he has.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dr. Tony Bennett to Visit MC3


Had a great turn out on Tuesday with not only Dr. Bennett visiting MC3 but Superintendent Kapsa, Principal Buysee of Madison School and several members of the media. Amy Kring, our amazing After-school Coordinator did an outstanding job.

Here is the link to the South Bend Tribune article. We also had great coverage on the local ABC affiliate.

Please join us if you are in the area on Tuesday afternoon. We have invited the news media to learn more from Dr. Bennett, Superintendent Kapsa, Principal Buysee and Coordinator Amy Kring on how we are going to impact the lives of 55 kids from the Monroe Circle neighborhood.

Media Alert

Dr. Tony Bennett, State Superintendent of Public Schools to recognize new partnership between Monroe Circle and South Bend Community School Corporation to provide after-school remediation program.

WHAT: Monroe Circle Community Center is expanding its after-school program to include Compass Learning (web-based learning) and LEAP remediation by partnering with the South Bend School Corporation.

WHY: 55 grade school children (1st thru 4th grade) have been tested and are presently 6 to 18 months behind grade standards established by state and federal guidelines. 90% of African males and 70% of minorities presently do not graduate from high school with their classmates.

WHEN: Tuesday, October 27, 2009, 5:15 p.m.

WHERE: Monroe Circle Community Center, 526 W. Western Avenue, South Bend, IN 46601

WHO: Monroe Circle Community Center was established by Granger Community Church through its separate not-for-profit organization (“EnterMission, Inc.) to provide individuals and families living in the Monroe Circle area with opportunities to be transformed from a people existing in a low-income, subsidized housing neighborhood to a vibrant community that cares for and dignifies the elderly and disabled as well as edifies, equips and guides people to a point of self sufficiency.

Madison Primary School and the South Bend Community School Corporation will be providing certified teachers, non-certified support staff and curriculum that will better enable students to close their learning gap before it becomes insurmountable.

Additional volunteers will be provided by Granger Community Church, Bethel College as well as residents and parents from the community to provide not only a focused learning environment but one that has a low student to adult/teacher ratio.

Goal: To equip these students so that they move from the lower third of their class to 70% of these students will be testing on or above grade level by May 2010 and 85% achieving this level by January 2011.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sabado Segundo!

Yesterday afternoon I was visiting with Amy Kring's sister (Emily) who works in Mexico as a missionary to Mexican college students. She was sharing that they were trying to build a deeper and greater community impact and were struggling on how best to accomplish it.

Amy was telling her sister about our 2nd Saturday events and they thought they would give it a try. So last Saturday while the food pantry, cafe and SonCity Kids was going on at MC3 we were also sending teams to the VET Center at the Center for the Homeless, boxing food boxes at Feed the Children, working at Manowe and reaching into the Elkhart community at Washington Gardens.

Simultaneously, 2000 miles away in Mexico City followers of Jesus were playing with children at an orphanage, bring joy to seniors confined to a hospital and telling woman that have resorted to prostitition as their only means of survival that they matter to God. Emily shared that everyone was excited (staff, students and guests) and there was such a "buzz in the air" that they were already planning next month's event. As she retold each event the stories of Jesus came alive again in my mind.

I think when the walls of the church come down and we move from simply telling people who Jesus is to showing them who He is something spiritual almost magical happens and a Kingdom party can't help but break out!

Sustantivo Jesus por Sabado Segundo!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Notre Dame Swimmers Get Out of the Pool to Make a Difference!

Saturday, October 10, 2009 - 9:15 AM

What do you do when you are a college student, given the weekend off by your coach, no home football game to attend and its the forecast for South Bend, Indiana is cold, overcast and a chance of rain? A) Sleep in B) Head out of town with your friends to Chicago C) Go home to visit parents D) Wake up early to go build into the lives of 50 inner city kids.

If you are 15 guys from the University of Notre Dame Men's Diving Team you drag yourselves out of your warm bed, head downtown to the Monroe Circle Community Center and go "all in" when asked to befriend 50 inner city grade school kids during SonCity Kids/2nd Saturday. When most volunteers show up for the first time they typically step back and observe. Not these 15 keys - they jumped right in. They played board games, they painted tier own and the kids' faces, they kicked a soccer ball around the Cove parking lot, they shared their donuts with the kids so that the kids would have a little bit extra, they walked the kids back home at the end of the day.

They made a difference in the lives of these kids. They gave them hope for a better tomorrow. they allowed the kids to dream what their lives might be like. These guys brought God's Kingdom from Up There to Down Here.

You could see it in the faces of the kids from Monroe Circle. They wanted to be just like these guys when they grow up. Truth be told - so do I!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Congratulations Greg!

Greg finishes the Ironman World Championships in 13:52.05!!!

Last Saturday morning Greg ran into the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean to fulfill his dream of competing in the Ironman World Championship race held in Kona, Hawaii. A little less than 14 hours later he crossed the finish line after swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and then running a full marathon.

He competed for the families of Monroe Circle and the Monroe Circle Community Center. He wore a jersey with the MC3 logo to help bring awareness to the community center and our common goal to provide families an opportunity to move to a place of self-sufficiency.

Greg and his wife Heather are headed back from Hawaii today. In the next few weeks he will be speaking at The Gathering (Tuesday night 6:30 PM) as well as to the SonCity Kids and the adults working on their GED program.

Congratulations Greg! You are an inspiration to all of us!!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Second Saturday Makes A Difference

Second Saturday is joining forces with Make A Difference Michiana on Saturday, October 10th during their national volunteer serve day. Nationally, there will be over

One Million People

serving in their local communities - giving a helping hand to those that are in most need of help.

Make A Difference is a charitable organization but they would not necessarily classify their mission to be faith-based but we are excited to stand beside them as we lend a helping hand to those in our community that have been marginalized.

As always one of our core sites is Monroe Circle Community Center where scores of volunteers will be helping serve guests in our cafe, helping them carry their food box to their car or across the street, playing with kids from the neighborhood (SonCity Kids) and giving hope to everyone we meet.

Plus, about the time we finish our work on Saturday morning, Greg Macklem will be wading into the Pacific Ocean wearing the MC3 banner to start his swimming leg of the Ironman Triathlon World Championship. Pray that Greg will stay injury free and possibly he will be able to tell the story of MC3!

If you are already serving at MC3, come on the 10th and maybe even think about bringing a friend to volunteer beside you. It's a great way to introduce them to MC3 and Up There Down Here!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Greg Macklem Rides for MC3

Greg beats the odds and is selected to compete in the Hawaiian Ironman World Championship Triathlon!

I think Greg's story is a remarkable one. I heard his story last week for the very first time. Two years ago, he was sitting on the sofa (several pounds overweight!) in the comfort of his home, munching on a bag of potato chips and watching others fulfill their dream to finish the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii.

An Ironman Triathlon consists of swimming in the ocean for 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and then running a full marathon of 26 miles 385 yards - add a time limit, strong winds and 100+ degrees and you realize how difficult the Hawaii Ironman is for most trained athletes.

He asked his wife if she thought he could do compete in a triathlon and she told him she thought he could if he began training. So, he got off his duff and began to train with a friend. Last month he competed in a Triathlon in St. Louis and completed an application to be randomly selected in a lottery for a very few slots in the Hawaiian Triathlon that have been reserved for the "normal" athlete. To his amazement he was one of the 200 people (from thousands) that was selected to compete! So, next week Greg and his family will be leaving for Hawaii to get ready to compete in the race of his life.

As I listened to his story I thought how it paralleled the storyline of so many people trying to break the cycles of generational poverty living at Monroe Circle. They make a commitment to change the direction and focus of their lives and begin to take steps in that direction. Like Greg, early on no one seems to notice and if they do they have their doubts that you will even make it. The volunteers at MC3 may times see themselves as that friend, that mentor that will encourage residents along their journey. The lesson I learned from Greg is that you need to get up every morning and push toward your goal even when you just don't feel like it.

And here's the rest of the story. Greg is riding for Monroe Circle. He will be wearing a MC3 jersey and he will be telling our story and that he was inspired by many of the people from Monroe Circle that have overcome much larger obstacles than competing in a triathlon.

You can also follow Greg's trek on Facebook under a cause called Greg4MC3.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Volunteers Needed for After-School Program!!!

Last night we had a meeting with Principal Busyee of Madison School to workout the details for our after-school program. Amy Kring started off the meeting with the announcement that we ALREADY have 52 kids signed up for the LEAP program. South Bend Community School Corporation is providing the teachers but we need a lot more volunteers. Several students from Bethel College have committed to help plus a group from Riley High School. However, the number of kids is increasing from 12 to 15 kids per day to over 50. Plus, we are doubling the number of days the after-school program will operate.

We would like to have one volunteer for every two kids. We are asking volunteers to commit to serving one time a week (Monday thru Thursday) from 3:30 to 5:00 PM. Our goal is to use this time to help remediate these kids so that they are leading their classmates in every area of accademic achievement.

We are holding a volunteer informational meeting on Monday, September 14th from 6:00 to 7:00 PM at the community center. We need your help. You do not need to be a professional teacher - just a willingness to help. Your time and commitment to changing the destiny of many of these kids is a reality. The moment is now - are you willing?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Great Steak and an Even Better Story!

Partnering with Ruth's Chris Steakhouse

On September 15th and then again on September 29th we have invited nearly 60 business and civic leaders to hear the story of the Monroe Circle Community Center over a great meal at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. As I shared in a previous post, the management team of Ruth's Chris meet with us late last year and wanted to find ways to have greater impact in the community and wanted to underwrite the entire costs of inviting 120 people for a dinner meeting at their fine restaurant.

Our initial question was, "who in their right mind would want to turn down a dinner for two at on of Michiana's finest restaurant?" Plus, we have a great story to share.

So, we hand delivered each invitation in a Ruth's Chris "doggie bag" along with a video message from Mark Beeson inviting them and their spouse to this special event.

Simply, we are going to share the story of the Monroe Circle Community Center and our belief that together we can change the culture of a community. And, we are going to ask how they might want to get involved.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

When No Hope Leads to Despair

One of the privileges I have is to also help lead teams to southern India and work with people very similar to families living at Monroe Circle and nearby neighborhoods. In both communities life seems to be so fragile and sometimes what seems to be the smallest event creates crisis. I think it is in part due to the reality that both communities live on the edge economically and both have been stripped of their self leadership and marginalized by the communities around them.

The lessons I learn and the principles of change seem to be many times cross-cultural so the exciting aspect is the keys to community and individual transformation work worlds apart. Here is one girl's story from 9500 miles away but sadly repeats itself right next door.

Monjue lives in the small Irala colony located just outside of Kalavai, India. I'm beginning to better understand that my agenda is many times not God's primary purpose. You see, I had the chance to lead a team from Granger Community Church to help build a community center, hold conversational English classes and start a micro business in this village. To ensure everything was in place for the team I arrived a few days early to meet with our Indian ground team on Thursday, July 30th. Our plan was to organize the job site so the team would have a great experience. Because Raj (our Indian director) was having neck problems he decided to go directly to Kalavai instead of making the 6 hour trip to meet me at Bangalore airport.

If Monjue was born in the United States she would probably be strongly considering submitting college applications to places like Notre Dame, Stanford or Columbia University. But on this Thursday morning, Monjue picked some poisonous berries and went back to her family's hut and ate them and waited to die. Her best friend found Monjue and ran to the construction site to see if anyone could help save Monjue's life. Raj was there because he had a stiff neck, was preparing for my early arrival and because of these series of events helped save Monjue's life.

You see, Monjue had given up at the age of 15. Her father had left the family six months prior. Her mother had to sell their family's small goat herd to buy food. Her mom was then "contracted" to watch someone else's herd with compensation coming in the form of a baby goat - but only when it was a twin birth. Monjue left school to watch the goats so her mother could look for day labor (and at best earns 80 cents per day if hired) to buy enough food to feed the family. Goat only gives a single birth, Monjue's mom is frustrated, believes Monjue should have taken the goats to "greener pastures" and takes it out on Mongue by beating her. Monjue gives up and tries to kill herself.

A week to the day that Monjue tried to end her life we were visiting her as she watched over the herd. It was over 100 degrees and only 10:30 in the morning. No shade anywhere and because of the lack of rain it was very dry and not a lot of grass to be found. We ask Monjue what she thinks about on these long hot days while watching over someone else's herd. Monjue sits down and begins to quietly cry. She shares that she thinks about going to school and learning so that she might have a better life but realizes this is not a reality in her world. She must watch the goats so her mom can go to town each day in the hope of making less than a dollar for a day's work.

It is because of young girls like Monjue that I am so passionate about a personal mission of mine, The Rhema Project. Not only is the life of unborn (feticide) and newborn (infanticide) baby girls of high importance but we must identify organizations that help educate and empower Indian women. Indian women of all ages are devalued and viewed by the Indian culture as a financial liability yet most times they carry the burden of providing and caring for their family.

I still believe God can with a spoken word allow miracles to change the course of a person's life but most times I think God arranges our steps to have Kingdom impact. I think the life of Monjue was spared because of a series of small steps by Raj and the GCC team. My prayer is that The Rhema Project will not only give Indian girls like Monjue life but hope for a better tomorrow. My prayer is also that we will have a similar impact on the lives of the kids that live at Monroe Circle.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Secrets Out!

We now have signage at MC3 thanks to Tim Markley and Markley Enterprises, Inc.

Each building now has a street address, Monroe Circle Community Center new logo which was designed by Marty Friend and a building usage identification sign for the cafe, food pantry and educational center.

Now, we will no longer need to explain to people that the community center is located just a few blocks west of where Gates Chevy World used to be or just across the street from Fred's Transmission or if you know where St. Hedwig Parish and Community Hall is located you have gone to far!

The graphic design was completed by Lisa DeSelm who works at Granger Community Church in the communications department.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Off to Kalavai!

MC3 inspires KC3

Next week a team of 10 volunteers will be headed to India to begin construction of the Kalavai Colony Community Center.

The colony of Kalavai is a small village where 65 low Irala caste families live - they have been outcast and most times overlooked until a team arrived to help rebuild the village last January.

Kalavai is located in the southern most state of Tamil Nadu, India in the district of Vellore and is approximately 150 miles west of Chennai, India.

It will take the team 3 hours to drive to Chicago (O'Hare Airport), 21 hours flying from Chicago to Bangalore with a stop over in London and a 5 hour bus ride from Bangalore to Kalavai. Since housing is extremely limited the team will be living in tents and bathing in a well with a water level 40' below grade level. The first step is always the most difficult!

Team members include Dan Blacketor, Chad Anderson, Daniel Scott, Les & Velma Rassi, Nancy Leist, Todd Hollingworth, Nancy Tucker, Denise Walsh and Kevin Maggert.

The idea for a community center was birthed when Raj and I were talking how we could help the community break free - education, micro-business and literacy are essential to having any chance of hope for a better life. Raj, our director of Life Mission India has seen and visited MC3. He has seen the transformation and wanted to see if that was possible for a people group 9,500 miles away from the famlies of Monroe Circle. If it worked in Indiana could it possibly work in India?

During our stay we will also be offering conversational English classes, literacy training and micro business development. We probably won't call the afternoon program SonCity Kids but I like the way "Pasangal Kadavul" (Children of God) sounds!

You can follow along on the GCC India Team Blogsite

Volunteers Needed for After-School Program

SCK Expands After-school Efforts

We have the opportunity to make huge strides in our SCK After-school program that will begin later this fall. For the last couple of years we have been helping kids from the community with their homework, reading skills and investing into their lives.

We will be partnering with the South Bend Community School Corporation to install the Compass Learning software and the Madison School LEAP program to Mc3. Watch for more details but we need volunteers that would be willing to work with primary school aged kids (6 to 12) once a week for two hours. You don't need to be a certified teacher because the school corporation is providing several teachers to oversee and instruct.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Food Pantry Volunteers

On the first and third Tuesday mornings (as well as on the 2nd Saturday) of each month the cafe and food pantry at the community center comes alive with activity. Volunteers begin arriving at 7:00 am to begin to set up and turn on the coffee pot. Donated pastries from Panera Bread begin to arrive and by 8:30 there is a small line in front of the door.

Shannon Papp or Jen Adams informs the volunteers of upcoming events or anything special that is going to happen at the pantry that day and Mark Swartz prays us in.

Unlike the early days when guests would rush in do to the fear that there just might not be enough they now come on their own schedule and almost everyone sits down and enjoys a cup of coffee and a little bit of conversation. Today, like most days there is much laughter and joy.

Fred Tschida who ran Ko-op 65 before MC3 renovated the building still shows up early. He and a few others stood in the gap for years many times using their social security and retirement to help buy food for hungry people. Even though he is not feeling 100% as he fights an illness he still engages in friendly banter with many of the guests (and volunteers) before he helps them check out.

Hardie Blake and James Summers from Project Impact stopped by to visit. They were sharing of the exciting things they are doing on the far west side with vocational training and job placement.

On his way out the door at the end of the day, Mike Swartz was sharing how much it means to him to be able to serve at MC3.
"I always leave with more joy, happiness and contentment when I leave than when I arrive - no matter how much I try to give away God always seems to give more back. This place, these people mean so much to me!"

We've been talking about what it would take to open the cafe to the public each day for a few hours. Guests could enjoy a cup of coffee or cold drink, a pastry, engage he conversation with business people and city employees on their way to work, maybe login to the internet or have a small group study.

Better days are ahead because good people stepped in and we serve a great God!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Kingdom Breakthru Sighting!

Yesterday afternoon Amy Kring, Jo (Blacketor) and I had the chance to meet with the superintendent of public schools for South Bend, James Kapsa, Al Large, Mary Chris Adams and Madison School principal, Mrs. Buysee. We have been dreaming and praying how we better equip the Monroe Circle kids that participate in the after-school program. How do we help them become some of the "best and brightest" in their school? How do we use our time to not only build essential and meaningful relationships with these kids but how do we help remediate and then excel their learning abilities?

So, I got to sit back and watch Amy passionately share what her team is doing and the impact they are having on the lives of these kids at Monroe Circle. You can hear in her voice - you can see it in her actions. I watch as Mr. Kapsa listens and smiles.

Then, it is his turn and here is what is says. "What you are doing here is remarkable and we want to do whatever we can to be a part of it! We want to bring Compass Learning to the kids at Monroe Circle." (Price tag = $15,000 to $20,000, our cost = 0, value = priceless).

Then, Principal Buysee jumps in. "We want to bring our LEAP program (after-school remediation) to MC3. I think we can also find two to three teachers that will not only work with these kids but train your volunteers." (Price tag = $7500 to $10,000, our cost = 0). "I can identify the kids that participate at MC3 - they are more engaged, attentive and respectful when they come to school - why wouldn't we want to be a part of that!"

I truly believe almost everyone is attracted to what God's Kingdom brings. They may be a government official, a school administrator or a principal. Just like the Hindu business man that wants to donate property in Kalavai because he can see with his own eyes the change, people want to be a part of God's "goodness and greatness." I think it is our job as followers of Jesus is to attempt to identify where that might be and bring our friends to the party.

Let's get this party started!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

MC3 meet KC3

For the last several weeks I have been traveling around southern India in the state of Tamil Nadu. Starting in Bangalore we traveled to Danishpet, Salem, Trichy, Chennai, Kalavai and many other small villages in between. Our goal was to visit people, places and organizations that are concerned with female infanticide, fetacide and the overall devaluation of women in India.

After my last trip to India in December 2008, Brad McElya and I started a cause called The Rhema Project which you can learn more about on Facebook. Shortly, we will be launching a website so that we can better share the story to a larger audience.

One of the key reasons that infanticide is practiced in southern India is education. Education of the individual - especially the girl as well as the poor throughout India. In a small village outside of Kalavai we helped rebuild 12 homes during our December 2009 trip. Last week I was able to visit this same village but it really was not the same village. It went from a group of people connected only by location to a vibrant, caring community. You could see it, smell it, touch it and most importantly feel it.

This summer I have the chance to return with a team of people that will build a community center on the edge of the village. It will be the home for after-school classes, vocational training opportunities, senior care and the hub for ongoing community transformation. Raj, our director of Life Mission India commissioned a rendering and jokingly referred to the community center as the Kalavai Colony Community Center or KC3.

One of the reasons Raj was so passionate about purchasing the property and building a community center in Kalavai is that he had personally experienced the transformation that occurred at Monroe Circle. He witnessed the love and compassion in South Bend and wanted the families of Kalavai to experience the same.

During the announcement ceremonies of KC3 a local Hindu businessman approached Raj and shared that he has been watching this community for the last 6 months and has been so moved by the difference he wanted to do something - so he donated a piece of land to be used by the villagers however they best needed to use it.

When glimpses of His Kingdom appear it is so attractional that regardless of your religion or worldview you are drawn to it. I think many times we "Christians" are so concerned that we need to convert someone before they can become engaged in Jesus' work here on earth that we miss not only great potential but missed opportunities to introduce people to the real Jesus.