Thursday, December 18, 2008

Our First Christmas

This is our first Christmas in Mulberry House and we were hoping we might be able to celebrate in some awesome way. With the help of some of our friends, we are able to do just that.

Jack knows a neighborhood family of a mother, father, two young boys, and a young girl. This family recently applied for aid with Toys for Tots and Salvation Army, hoping to get some help with toys for the children. Sadly, because resources are limited in our community, these organizations often face the difficult task of turning some families away. Unfortunately, this family friend of ours was among the rejected.

Mulberry House spread the word and some of our friends jumped at the chance to help. Southpoint Church in Grove City, Ohio (and some other cool folks as well) donated toys, wrapping paper, and other items to share with the family. Take a look:





Each of the children have several gifts to open on Christmas morning, and the mom and dad got a few things as well.

We know that this family works hard to take care of each other, and they love each other very much. That is why it's great to be able to bless them with material things. It is even greater still to know them and delight with them in the birth of our Savior and King, Jesus Christ.

And, being the new kids on the block, Tim and I are going to pass out some Christmas cookies to our neighbors this week. We're looking forward to meeting some new folks and getting to know them throughout our stay in this corner of God's Kingdom.

Here's to peace on earth. And to quote that brilliant theologian, Tiny Tim: God bless us, every one.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Consp!re

We at the Mulberry House are happy to announce our collaboration with "Conspire!"

Consp!re is a quarterly publication that shares stories of community, revolutionary love, and creative new visions. Conspire! stubbornly insists that small, daily acts of faith, conviction, and integrity can change the world.

This is one of the projects that has spun out of the Community of Communities, or the nationwide network of communities that is being formed. When the project is up and running, the Community of Communities website will have a map of the United States highlighting intentional living communities across the nation. The idea here is to create a mechanism by which co-conspirators can network with one another. Mulberry House is a part of this community.

One way in which our communities can be united is through participation in a shared activity. To this end, each of the communities will contribute to the creation of the Conspire! quarterly journal (including Mulberry House).

Individual subscriptions will not be available for this publication; instead, each community will function as a distribution point.

The first issue is slated for release near Easter 2009. The theme of the first journal is "Resurrection Stories."

So, if you're interested in this new project, keep in touch with Mulberry House. We'll hook you up.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

30 Days on Minimum Wage

This video below is around 40 minutes long. Be warned, this is an episode of a television series that ran late nights on a cable network, so there may be some content that is inappropriate for some viewers (mainly some language in one or two spots).

In this episode, the host and his girlfriend willingly live on minimum wage for 30 days to experience life in a low-income community. I found it to be rather insightful.

NOTE: This episode was filmed in the Hilltop area of Columbus, OH, where I happened to spend last summer working with kids.


Friday, November 14, 2008

My Town

Here are some facts specific to the area around Mulberry House. (Our source is the U.S. Census Bureau)

According to the 2000 census: 3,129 families in Clark County are living in poverty.

In 2000: 5,531 Children were living in poverty in Clark County. Of these, 1,785 were under the age of 5.

Black and Hispanic children in Clark County were twice as likely to live in poverty compared with white and Asian children.

Clark County's infant mortality rate is 8.1 per 1000 compared to the state rate of 7.8 per 1000.

Birth rate to teen girls (ages 15-19) in Clark County is 90.6 per 1000 female population. Compare that to the Ohio rate of 75.1 per 1000.

Teen Birth Rates(per 1000 teens aged 15-19):

Netherlands- 5.5
France- 10
Germany- 12.5
Ohio- 38
United States- 41
Clark County (that's us)- 50

Manufacturing Job Loss from 2000-2004: 31.7% (3,697 jobs)

Total Job Loss from 2000-2004: 11.7% (6,798 jobs)

In 2003, 1 of every 60 homes experienced foreclosure. This represents a 69.4% increase in foreclosures between 2000 and 2003.

In 2000, Clark County had the number one foreclosure rate in the nation.

Where do people stay when they are unsheltered? People replied with the following answers: hotel, public park, alley, car, truck, RV, tent or in the woods, abandoned building, or with family and friends.

Specific to Springfield:

Population of Springfield: 65,358

Poverty rate: 16.9% of the population, 13.5% of families

In Springfield, 11,045 are living in poverty.

3,998 are children.

23.9% of those under the age of 18 are living below the poverty line. This means that roughly 1 in 4 children is living in poverty.

Springfield City Schools ranked in the top 100 poorest schools based on taxpayer income.

The poverty rate in the Mulberry Street neighborhood is 37.1%, four times the national average.

In 2003, the divorce rate in Springfield was 95%.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Thank You Post

Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have contributed to the Mulberry House. I want to thank them.

Dr. Preston Sprinkle- Thanks for the refrigerator and all those awesome books.
Alan Moore- Thanks for fixing our furnaces free of charge!
Corey and Jillian- Thanks for giving me all that stuff. It will certainly come in handy.
Dr. Carl Smith- Thank you for giving us those lighting fixtures.
Amplified- Thank you for your continued support, and for the cleaning day when you came in and de-loused the building.
Southpoint Church- Thanks for your continued prayers and support.
The Clarks- Thanks for offering your financial support in our time of need.
Several people (I don't know who did it)- Thanks for providing us with some space heaters when you heard about the failed furnaces. It means SO much.
Janet and Jerry- Thanks for the couch and tables.
Daniel Koranek- Thank you for the dresser!
My family- Thanks for not thinking I am crazy! Thanks for all the work you've helped me do on the house!
Dr. John White- Thanks for the help you so generously provided.

I will periodically return to this list and update it as people continue to give of themselves.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I want to know what love is

A funny thing happened on the way to the Mulberry House. I met Jesus on a street corner and took Him out to lunch (take a look at Matthew 25:31-46 if you’re confused).

Today, Jesus was holding a sign that said “Veteran- Broken down and Hungry. Please help.”

I saw him yesterday too, standing there at the intersection with two battered suitcases and a camouflaged coat. He had a hospital band around his wrist and his breath smelled of alcohol. I was, at the time, hurrying to the house to do some repairs. I passed by in my car, looking at the man with half-interest. I drove several blocks toward Mulberry Street, but as I hit the intersection of Limestone and John Streets, I got this strong sensation that I was supposed to go back and meet with the man.

For the first time in my life, I turned the car around and went back for someone I saw standing on the street corner.

When I got back to the spot, he was gone. I kicked myself for missing an important opportunity to meet a stranger and make him into a friend.

Today, I saw him again. I was heading to the house to do some more repairs.

I stopped at the red light, rolled down my window, and without hesitation said, “Hey man! How’s it going? I don’t have a lot of time because I am supposed to meet someone. But if you hop in, I will buy you some lunch.”

“That would be great,” he said. He then pointed at his two suitcases and said he’d have to take them as well. The traffic light turned green, and cars were lined up behind me, but I put on my blinker and opened the doors so he could climb in with his stuff. When his bags and cardboard sign where in place, he sat in the front passenger seat.

His name was Kenny. I offered to take him to any of the restaurants there, but he insisted that I choose. We pulled into Wendy’s because it looked less busy than the other places. He also insisted that I order for him, refusing to choose from the menu himself. I ordered a couple of extra junior bacon cheeseburgers, just in case he was still hungry.

We were there for about an hour and fifteen minutes. We ordered some food, sat in the lobby and ate together. Kenny has a knack for telling funny stories, and he had me laughing for much of the meal.

It turns out, Kenny was a sergeant in the army, and he even saw combat. (Homeless veterans are not uncommon: http://www.nchv.org/background.cfm). Kenny became homeless, or “broken down” as he kept saying, in the Buffalo, NY area and had hitch-hiked all the way to Ohio, trying to make it to Illinois where his mother lives.

“Where are you staying?” I asked him, when he said he’d been in Springfield for 4 days.

“In the weeds,” he said with a laugh.

There are some overgrown weeds alongside the highway. If you’re ever driving into Springfield from Route 70, take a look at the weeds behind the Shell station. Kenny had discovered that he could avoid detection from the police by climbing deep into these weeds and laying down to sleep.

His experience in Springfield so far had been interesting. He’d been stopped by the police, who agreed not to bother him if he stayed close to the freeway. Kenny said that was fine by him anyway; the man at the liquor store and two other people had warned him not to go too close to downtown or the “crack-heads would rob him.” It is really bad out here, they told him.

He pointed toward Mulberry House and warned me how dangerous it is to go into that neighborhood. I smiled.

He also told me how he spent Halloween. A man handed him a pumpkin as a joke. So, Kenny carved the pumpkin with his pocket knife. He climbed into the dumpster behind Big Lots, found a candle, and placed it inside the pumpkin. We laughed for a long time.

The restaurant was playing some music over the loud speaker. Suddenly, Kenny declared, “I love this song. It is Foreigner, they’re great.”

He was right. It was Foreigner singing, “I want to know what love is.”

Kenny started singing. I don’t mean he quietly mouthed the words… I mean he belted out the tune loud and clear so everyone in the place could hear him.

“I gotta take a little time/ A little time to think things over/ I better read between the lines/ In case I need it when I’m older.”

Word for word, he was nailing it. As he kept singing, the other patrons and the workers behind the counter were staring, pointing, and whispering.

“I wanna know what love is!!!!”

At this point, I was laughing even harder than before. Having been escorted out of restaurants with rowdy teens before, I am not easily embarrassed. I sat back and enjoyed the show.

When he found out that I am a minister, Kenny asked me, “Has anyone seen God?”

I told him that Jesus had seen Him (because He’s God), but other than that, no human has seen God.

“I’ve seen God,” he said, “Once when I was doing LSD.”

He burst out laughing, but I soon discovered that he sincerely believed that God had appeared to him in a bright light, inviting him with open arms: “Come to me, come to me.”

Theology is a funny thing in the city. Here was a man telling me that God had personally invited him to be a part of the family. Vision or no vision, I affirmed that God invites anyone who will to come to Him. Kenny then reminded me that “Jesus went through hell,” describing the crucifixion in detail.

I wanna know what love is.

We talked about all sorts of things: airplanes and UFOs, the times he got drunk with his father out by the old air force base near St. Louis, skydiving, the Iranian liquor store man who feeds stray cats in the alley, the “Laundromat chick” who does the same thing, and the door in Wendy’s that was locked (“Why is it locked?” Kenny asked, “I have no idea.”). He also flirted with more than his fair share of women before asking me to return him to the street corner.

He had no ID and said that he had no place to stay. I offered to help him get to the shelter in town, but he insisted that he was safer sleeping in the weeds by the freeway.

He said God will take care of Him (He will, by the way). Kenny shook my hand, thanked me profusely, and told me he’d make it to Illinois.

“It will take a minute, but I’ll get there.”

He dragged his suitcases out of the car and walked back into the weeds.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Power, Cruciformity, and "Fighting Back"

Dear [a pastor who contacted me with concerns about my last post],

Thanks so much for the message and for your support. It means a lot, and I appreciate your call for me to remain strong in the face of adversity. I hope I did not give the impression in my last message that I am surrendering. Absolutely not! I cannot surrender; there are some places in this world that once you've been there, you can never turn back. My ministry in the city is one of those places. Having looked into the faces of hundreds of men, women, and children who are in desperate physical need and dire spiritual need, I cannot give up.

I also agree with your comments about building hate and resentment by my choice of lifestyle. I am no stranger to such activity. I've made enemies, been robbed numerous times, and even had my personal property vandalized. There is a very real sense in which it is dangerous to stand up and follow Jesus, the unsafe-but-good Lion and Lamb.

I appreciate your thoughtful analysis of my last message, and I appreciate the challenge you gave me. I understand you took issue with my self-description of "powerlessness". Perhaps my use of the term "powerless" was not the best choice of wording, but even now I would still impart the same overall message. Let me make my main point right up front, then you can skip the rest of this long message if you want. I started typing and the next thing I knew, I had a novel! ;)

The point I'd argue is this: To proclaim powerlessness is not to admit defeat at the hands of the powers that be. Instead, to proclaim powerlessness is to admit our own inadequacy to remedy the brokenness of the world by any means other than the Gospel of Christ. Let me try and explain what I mean.

I agree with you that I am not "powerless" in terms of world resources. I certainly have more resources at my disposal than most of the families I work with in the inner-city. My family even has a lawyer on retainer. So when I said I was powerless, I did not mean that I was without resources.

I could easily, as you suggested, find a lawyer and take legal action against the furnace company. I could contact my state legislators, as you mentioned, or get the media involved. All of these are possibilities available to me in this matter. In my mind, the question is not whether or not these resources exist. The question is whether or not I should use these means and methods as a Kingdom citizen.

I often wonder whether my rights as an American conflict with my identity as a Christian (in some ways). Just because I have these means available to me (legal action, media attention, etc), does it mean that I should use them? Maybe it is possible for me to fight hard to get what is truly mine (the furnace), yet still do great damage to God's plans for this ministry.

I think of a man named Boyd and something he wrote in one of his books. He made the distinction between seeking power OVER someone and seeking power UNDER someone. I think his distinction is very helpful for believers to wrestle with.

To sue the furnace company, or seek some legal action against them, I would seek power over them. I would confront them, do battle with them, and force them into submission. In this instance, I would be using power to get a position OVER them... I'd force them into submission so I can get what is mine. (Understand, it IS rightfully mine. I have, in fact, been wronged. But there is still the question of what methods I should exercise in seeking restitution.)

Power UNDER them is a different scenario. Do I have power? Yes. But should I use power structures of this world over others to make sure I am never wronged? Or use brute strength to undo every evil that is done to me? I have found in my Christian walk (and you can disagree with me if you wish) that power under others is the best model.

I know that many people see this as being passive inaction. This is not the case! It is the meek and peaceful who will inherit the earth, says Jesus. If someone forces me to walk a mile, I should walk two. If they steal my clothes, I should give them my outer coat (cloak) as well. God's strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). Do a search in Paul's writings for "weakness" and see how often it turns up. God tabernacles among His people and displays His strength not when His people are trying to show off their might and strength, but when they are admitting weakness... or "powerlessness" as I called it in the last message.

Jesus and Paul were not saying, "Be doormats." They were teaching that our power does not rest in our ability to fight for ourselves, but in God's ability to set things right. We have power, but a different kind of power than the world uses. So, I tend to shy away from asserting myself to set things right. Where do we get this idea of asserting ourselves and fighting to defend our rights, anyway? I can't think of a place in Scripture that tells us to assert ourselves, but maybe you can think of something to help me round out my viewpoint.

Now, I DO have power to boldly proclaim truth, yes, so long as I do so in love (Eph 4:15). I can speak the truth of Scripture with some degree of authority. Yes, I can seek justice for the oppressed. But do I have the right to assert myself and demand that I am treated right at all times? I am not so sure. If anything, I am called to expect mistreatment at the hands of others and to bear it with humility and patience.

Now, some would say that God will grant justice for the oppressed, but only if we "go after" wrongdoers through legal action, media attention, etc. And you may rightly feel this way... that God will provide justice through the means of courts and state legislators (which He can). So, the methods you mentioned could be the way through which God sets things right. I am pretty sure that is what you were getting at, right?

But, again, I would classify many such endeavors as seeking power OVER people. We must seek justice, but not by playing by their rules, or "sinking to their level" by using their means and methods to "win." Instead, I speak the truth, denounce injustice in every form, and live with integrity, waiting for God to fight the battle for me (this is not passive, but a very active way, which is different than the methods of the world). The prophets spoke out against injustice quite boldly, but they did not assert themselves in the sense that the tried to undo the wrongs committed against them. Most of them experienced persecution and unfair treatment at the hands of others. In Revelation, we see the martyrs longing for God to act on their behalf (they themselves having submitted to mistreatment).

I have power, yes, but I try to utilize it UNDER others, boldly standing opposed to evil. But I do not assert myself OVER others to reclaim what is mine, no matter how much evil is done to me.

"Cruciformity" it is called by some... living a Cross-Shaped life. Just as Jesus emptied Himself and submitted even to death, we must empty ourselves in service and love and humility, even if it means great loss and death for us.

Allow me to clarify as well, when I suggested that inner-city folks are powerless, I did not mean that they have no voice. Everyone has a voice. I meant that the voice people have has been suppressed by those in power. So, then, they don't need me to fight for them; God will see to their protection as the Protector of the poor and oppressed (Psalm 14:6; 34:6; 9:9; 82:3). He works righteous for all the oppressed (Psalm 103:6). But they do need me to shout the truth on their behalf, kind of like the prophets did. Blow the whistle and say, "Hey, world, this is evil!!!!" I like how you said it in your email, "Make some noise."

My comment about the health care system was meant to get at exactly what you were saying... that those who are in charge are seeking profit at the expense of the weak. And, yes, this will continue as long as fallen people are in power.

This is why I place little to no faith in the power of our government to fix problems such as these. Yes, the government can help, and it is a necessary component of the work we do here in the city, but it is by no means our salvation. You'd say that too, I think, that our government is not our hope. Instead, we as the church should live differently and address these problems by bubbling up from the bottom... bringing power up from under folks. Then the kingdom will spread like a mustard seed.

In a lot of ways, the government we live under is irrelevant. I become somewhat unpopular when I say that sometimes, but I have found it to be true. The Bible is not an American book, so it compels me to live as Christ lived regardless of the nation I live within. If I lived in Communist China, I would be called to live like Christ. If I lived in socialist Europe, I would be called to live like Christ. I happen to live in America... I must live here like Christ.

So, I cannot quite agree with you statement about placing hope in democracy. Yes, democracy is a blessing, and I love to operate within its provisions in this country. But I can't say that it is what I should hope in. Democracy is not necessarily a God-given provision, in my mind. In fact, Deuteronomy and Leviticus institute God's government for Israel with some socialistic tendencies (like Deut 15 and Lev 25, dividing up crops for the poor and such). The early church in Acts 2:44 and 4:32-33 seem to operate like communists (not entirely of course, but in some ways). All that to say, the actual form of the government over us does not matter much; what matters is the way we operate as Kingdom people of God within our system of government.

I don't live as a Christian BECAUSE of the United States, I live as a Christian IN SPITE of the United States. (This is not to say that I am against America, for I am not against America). Some parts of our government are really cool, and I love being able to live here. I am especially thankful for the men and women who have worked so hard to preserve the privileges and rights I exercise. But I still can't say that I can endorse one style of government as the "good" form, although some forms of government are clearly bad. Democracy, for example is good, but there are good elements of other forms of government as well.

Wow! I wrote a bit too much on the topic, perhaps. But I guess these matters take time and patience to work through. I say nothing here with final authority, so if you'd like to discuss it more, I would be more than happy to do so. You won't bother me by replying, or refuting something I say. Part of being the body of Christ is being able to disagree well. I hope I made sense, and that I was not offensive. And no, don't worry, my chops have been busted far worse than that!

Thanks again for your kind and thoughtful comments,

Peace to you,
Jack

Monday, October 27, 2008

On Injustice and Broken Furnaces

We live in a world that is unjust. Those who are in power often manipulate and dominate those who are in a position of weakness, making a profit off of their powerlessness. Because "they can," they do.

We have just experienced such a phenomenon in our work at Mulberry House.

The purchase of the home came with a 1 year home warranty that is supposed to cover all mechanical failures that occur after the closing on the house. We were repeatedly assured by the realtor and the home warranty company themselves (even in the agreement document itself) that ANY mechanical failures in the home which occurred after the closing date would be covered by the warranty. According to the papers, everything in the house is covered except for counter-top microwaves, which they classify as the owner's responsibility. Having this warranty in place greatly influenced our decision to buy the house.

A furnace in the house failed within the past few days. This furnace was fully functional at the time of purchase and in the weeks immediately following (we have more-than-sufficient documentation from the home inspector testifying to this fact). Again, we purchased the house with the assumption, on the testimony of the inspector and the realtor, that the furnace would either fully function after the purchase or be replaced in a timely fashion.

We followed the correct procedure, paying the $100 deductible and having an approved technician come to the house. We even received word by phone last Friday that our furnace was covered fully under the warranty and that it would be replaced. Great news indeed!

This morning, however, they called us back and canceled their previous approval saying, "Because the furnace is old, it was foreseeable that the furnace would fail." Therefore, we are disqualified for any replacement of the furnace, any parts and labor, or repairs. In short, we get nothing.

Their reason is this: in her report, the technician mentioned seeing some rust in the basement. The home warranty company says that because rust is a visible sign of potential problems, we should have foreseen the failure of the furnace before buying the house. Because rust was present, regardless of when the failure occurred, they never would have covered our losses. We have been disqualified from any service and are responsible for all expenses.

They have refused to send out another repair person to reevaluate the furnace and we cannot get our deductible of $100 back (despite the fact that no services of any kind were performed for us). In other words, we paid them $100 to come out to the house, agree that they were liable and approve us for service, then change their minds and pocket the money without helping at all.

There is no appeal process available to us. By classifying this as a "foreseeable problem", these furnace "experts" have trumped any claim we might make. This little loophole was just enough for them to LEGALLY wriggle out of their obligations. Note, these experts made the decision to cancel our claim from an office miles away, basing their decision entirely on one word in a report.

Sadly, this is how our world functions. Decisions are not made based on the fulfillment of promised outcomes but on the preservation of a large profit margin. Much like our current health care system, the claims handlers never ask, "What is the best solution for the parties involved?" or "What am I obligated to do?" but rather "How can I make sure that I don't take a loss on this?" and "How much money can I make?"

I hope I don't sound like I am just whining about my lot in life. I wanted to share what it is like to be in a position of powerlessness... to be exploited for personal and corporate gain... to be cheated and lied to... to be robbed, with no legal recourse... to be angered and frustrated and saddened... all of it completely "legal".

Now, pause for a moment and think about our friends in the city who experience this sensation regularly. When you are poor, things happen TO you. You don't wake up and plan for the future... you wake up and brace yourself.

Pray for us, my friends. We have a friend who does furnace repair. He is going to help us out. Hopefully, we'll have heat before temperatures get cold enough for pipes to freeze. God will provide, as He always has.

I write to you very conscious of the brokenness of things... but also very conscious of God's unchanging promise to set right all that is wrong in the world.

Lord, Haste the Day.

Peace to You,
Jack

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Steps: Both Forward and Backward

Backward:
We closed on the house last Wednesday. By Thursday morning, someone had smashed out our front door. They used rocks to smash a glass storm door leaving a shards of glass all over the porch, sidewalk, and entryway to the house. They also punched some holes in the wooden door behind the storm door. Something must have scared them off, because they did not gain entry into the house. The realtor took down the "For Sale" sign the day of the closing and I noticed a lot of neighbors watching me go in and out over the past few days... apparently one of them wanted to welcome me.

This was a discouraging find for some of my family members who came out to see the house only to find a pile of broken glass. But I was actually expecting some damage within the first few weeks. While it is frustrating, it is by no means a surprise.

Forward:
We secured the front door, changed the locks, and covered the hole in the door with a metal plate. We also updated our ADT security system to ensure that no one enters the house without our knowledge. The light we put on the front porch also seems to have helped. Until someone is in the house 24/7, we need to take some extra precautions to protect the property.

Backward:
The furnaces were not in working order. They also were not vented properly.

Forward:
A good friend of mine, Alan Moore, checked out the furnaces for us and was able to let us know what is wrong with them. He repaired them FREE of charge! I owe him a debt of gratitude. Once we secure the final part we need, the furnaces will be in working order in time for winter.

Backward:
The electricity only worked on the lower level of the house. The upstairs had no lights or power, meaning appliances, outlets, and the thermostat could not function. There is an old fuse box upstairs and we could not determine where the problem was coming from.

Forward:
The electric company was able to fix the problem... they had half the house shut off since it used to be a duplex. Now there is electricity in every room and running water on both levels.

Backward:
I almost died under the weight of a refrigerator... twice. Dr. Preston Sprinkle graciously donated an old refrigerator to us. My dad and I underestimated the weight of the fridge and attempted to take it up the 12 steps that lead from the street to the house. I ended up on my back with the fridge laying on top of me. I managed to stand back up without knocking it down the stairs, but I fell on the next step and the fridge landed on me again! I hope the neighbors got a good laugh...

Forward:
We got the fridge inside. Now we just need to clean the thing!

There is more that could be discussed... like the library we have already started in the house with probably close to 500 books... or the night I spent by myself in the house with no heat and no security system to protect the house from intruders after the door had been broken... but suffice it to say, things are moving. Exciting times! Your support is appreciated.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

No Turning Back

After 11 weeks of struggling with lenders, real estate agents, and lawyers, 2 and a half hours of paperwork at the closing, and no small amount of spiritual warfare, I now have the keys to 125 W. Mulberry Street! That's right. We own the place (or, the bank does, to be precise).

This is very exciting, but also scary. The vision suddenly became a bit more concrete.

For a list of our needs, see the "Specific Needs" posted in September on this blog

Special prayer needs (which require actual prayer):
1) We are in the process of gathering furniture and other items for the house. We have some things on the way from awesome donors, but pray for wisdom and discernment as we seek more supplies.
2) We are still in need of committed disciples to move into the house, as early as January. Many have expressed interest, but few have committed.
3) Dr. Jeff Cook's "Marathon for the Poor" is this Sunday, October 19th. Pray that his dedication and perseverance will result in great gain for the community surrounding Mulberry House. Visit www.changinglivesnow.org to donate to the cause.

Thanks for your continued prayer and support.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sodom: Our Biblical Model

In the book of Genesis, we read about a city known as Sodom. Of course, when we think of Sodom, we think about the great evils committed within her borders. In Jude 1:7, we read that Sodom was marked by pervasive fornication, perversion, and immorality in the sight of the Lord. In Ezekiel 16:49-50, we read that Sodom was arrogant and unconcerned for the poor and needy. For these reasons, and others, God judged Sodom for her wickedness and destroyed the city with fire and brimstone (Gen 19).


Without question, God was sovereign over the destruction of Sodom and it all fit well within His plan. But could there have been a different fate for the city?


In Genesis 18:22ff, Abraham asks that very question about Sodom. “Lord,” he says, “If there were 50 righteous people in the city, would you destroy it then?”


God answers that if there were 50 righteous people in the city, He would not destroy it. Abraham goes further, asking how God would act if there were 45 righteous people in the city. Again, God answers that He would spare the city on behalf of 45 righteous ones. Abraham continues to ask, and God continues to affirm that the presence of righteous people is grounds to delay judgment. What if there were 40 righteous people? 30 righteous people? 20? 10?


Again and again, God makes it clear that the sanctifying presence of His people in a sinful land is enough to preserve that land.


Sodom Remixed

From the beginning, God’s chosen people were intended to be a light to the world, a blessed people through whom the whole world would be blessed (Gen 12:1-3). Jesus affirmed this to His followers, reminding them of their identity as salt and light in a dark and dying world (Matthew 5:13-16). God’s people are to be dispersed throughout the world, preserving the earth and shining as a beacon of hope in the Name of the King.


Imagine if the children of Israel had taken this calling seriously from the beginning. What if the city of Sodom had righteous families scattered throughout the municipality? What if every block had an ambassador for the king? What would happen? Well, we know from Genesis 18 that God would have preserved the city on behalf of those who represented Him.


Our goal is to build the New Sodom. You see, I could easily move into Springfield with 7-8 other committed disciples, and we might do some good in the city. But in the end, it would still just be a bunch of “outsiders” who came in and crashed the neighborhood. Because this project will not be the end-all of ministry work, it must signify a beginning. What if there was one committed group of disciples in the city? What if there were 2? How about 3? 4?


Springfield is undoubtedly a city of great need. Greater still are the plans God has for His people there. I could stand up and say this every day from now until the Day of the Lord, but unless the world sees it demonstrated in a tangible way, the message will make little sense. Our doctrine only makes sense in light of the lives we lead.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Candid Post on Ministry Affiliation

So, explain to me why this community is not a non-profit, ministry organization:

We are not a ministry organization. We do not intend to be. We are simply a house for people to live in, in community. While the members of the house will engage in service throughout the neighborhood, they are not ministry employees. House members may come from all walks of life and may be employed outside the home in any way they see fit.

I admit that much good is accomplished by ministry organizations. In fact, I am employed by a ministry organization and will continue to work in this capacity as long as possible. But it is necessary to keep a strong division between any organizations with which I work and this house project.

I will openly give warning of the danger inherent in working through the vehicle of a non-profit organization. To engage in ministry in the city is to engage in politics. The quest for funding leads to fierce competition between ministry organizations. Visions are sometimes compromised or clouded as the organization does what it needs to do to survive. Insecure leadership and diverse partnerships cause a “survival of the fittest” mentality in which some people feel the need to tear others down in order to survive. There are ministerial turf wars, and rarely do we play together as well as we should. This is an unpleasant truth, and it often makes me unpopular to comment so candidly. I will negotiate this minefield as I need to, for I do not think it necessary to abandon this track altogether.

The community, however, is no place for such battles. We will seek to avoid such tensions in any way possible. We will seek to partner with many of our neighbors, and we intend to seek their best interest at all times. But, whether it be the patronage of a foundation or some sort of outside ownership, no outside influence should set the agenda for our community.


This freedom is important to us. Accountability structures will be put in place, but we must avoid the dangers of corporate sponsorship.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Could this be the place?














Here is the home we are currently looking at:
125 W Mulberry.

This picture was taken in front of the home facing south. You can see an alley to the right of the house; this connects to W. Pleasant. Behind the house and to the right is Inside Out Ministries. If you go to the left, you will find St. John Missionary Baptist Church. Standing on the front porch (facing the photographer) you can see downtown.

This house has plenty of rooms, an attic, and a small basement. It is a converted double, so it has 2 bathrooms, 2 kitchens, and 2 interior staircases. There is also a fenced-in backyard.

2,694 square feet of exciting potential...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Word on Residents

Mulberry House has the capacity to house 8-10 residents. We have a few openings at this time.

Residents will be committed to a lifestyle of simplicity, service, outreach, and communal living. Interested persons should become acquainted with our House Constitution to gain a general understanding of the rhythms of our community. If you'd like to know more, contact us by email or phone using the contact information located on the right-hand side of this page.

Residents live "dormitory" style with 2-3 people per room.



How Do I Help?

LIST OF ITEMS NEEDED FOR THE HOUSE:

1)Household Toiletries such as... Hand Soap, toilet paper, paper towels, bath supplies, toothpaste, shaving supplies, soap, deodorant etc [to be utilized by community, etc. we keep some on hand in our community closet and it is used in our house...thankfully]

2)2-3 twin-sized beds [could be bunk beds]

3)Groceries [if you have food you don't want, you can help us cut costs by sharing it. Or, you could always give a gift card for a local grocery store]

4)Board games

5)Gently used toys [to be distributed among neighborhood kids in future venues]

6)Gently used [fill in the blank] that can be used by someone else


Donations of money: If you would like to contribute financially to this project, you are welcome to do so. However, please note that we are not a non-profit organization and that any money that comes in will go directly into our house account for general living expenses (unless otherwise stipulated). Your donation of money is basically a gift being shared among friends (no receipts or write-offs or whatever at this time).

Did we mention that we love you today? Because we do...

There are several other ways to get involved:

1) Pray!!!!!!!!

No brainer, right?

2) Back this project through donations of time, money, and resources.

We have a clothing/supply closet that always needs replenishing. If you have clothing, toiletries, toys, hygiene products, or other items that you'd like to share with others, we will gladly accept them.

We also accept donations of items to be used within the house itself. Household items, cleaning supplies, and toiletries are always helpful.


Contact us by phone or email if you'd like to donate.

3) Use your imagination.

We know that many of you love this project, but you are unable to join us in the house. This does not mean you can't be involved! We want you to be a part of this project by praying, planning, and dreaming.

Would you like to be a part of a community event? Would you like to perform a service project at our house? Would you like to get plugged in to some community ministries in our neighborhood? Just come hang out in the house? Contact us and we'd be glad to talk with you.


4) Spread the Word.

We love meeting new folks. Let people in the area know what we are up to.


JESUS LIVES. ACT ACCORDINGLY.

FAQ

***Updated***

1) What is the name of the community?

We shall call ourselves... Mulberry House. Riveting name, eh? :)

2) How are you being financed?
We aren't, aside from the bank. I was able to get a mortgage loan with my father as a co-signer. After 6 months, the co-signer will be removed and I will be the sole purchaser. The monthly payments will be around $475.

The idea is to keep the cost for residents as low as possible so residents will be free to spend maximum time in the community. Therefore, contributions and donations will be used to supplement the monthly costs.

3) Once the home is officially acquired, who will own it?

I operate on the principle that God is the only true owner of anything. So, God owns it.

On paper though, the home will be in my name.


4) Shouldn't a church or ministry org being buying this house?
Well, I thought so at first, but now I am not so sure. Many churches I spoke to were not convinced that this idea was a good one, so they were very hesitant to jump on board. Others loved the idea, but could not afford to take on a home purchase at this time.

From my perspective, I needed housing anyway. With the price of rent nowadays, it made more sense to buy. So, I figured, why not use the home I am buying to initiate this project?


Somebody always has to go first...


5) Who are you affiliated with?
Since no church or organization is taking ownership, we are essentially an entity of our own.
We plan to partner with many ministries throughout the city, as many as humanly possible. But I see no reason to become a non-profit organization of our own, at least right away. After all, we are just a bunch of folks living together and being good neighbors. Call it "roommates and beyond".

6) When are we kicking this thing off?
Well, I have already paid for room and board at Cedarville University for my final semester, and I can't get the money back. So, between now and December, I will live on campus.

During the Fall 2008 semester, the groundwork for the community will be laid, furniture and appliances will be gathered, and work on the home will be done to ensure that it is ready for occupancy by January of 2009.


7) Are you crazy?

A little.


8) Aren't you moving kind of fast?
Not really. Several of us have been working toward this for years. Now that things are beginning to materialize, more people are being clued in.

9) How do I learn more, get updates, or give feedback?
Feedback is hugely welcome. Email Jack at jlegg@cedarville.edu

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