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.