On June 11, volunteers from GreenTree Church helped us with some community clean-up. We have partnered with GreenTree on a number of projects, assisted greatly by our friends Bill Duggan and Nancy Prott. Bill and Nancy believe in what we're doing here and have encouraged others to work with us.
We have been turning our attention to community clean-ups because there is such huge need there. There is frequent illegal dumping occurring in our neighborhood. There are many neglected vacant properties and lots, and simply a lot of maintenance needed for things like signs, sidewalks, and streetlights. We connected with a few city departments to help out with the clean-up and bring attention to the other needs of the neighborhood. We see this as a vital part of Pastoring our Community. We don't have to do everything, or re-invent everything. City services exist for a reason, and we should utilize them whenever possible. This puts more eyes, attention, and resources on the area in general, and helps problems be brought to light. It also can clear up communication between residents and city departments and officials.
All this is a natural living out of the Gospel. The Gospel is about God's design, His heart, following wherever He leads. The “currency” of the Kingdom, if there could be such a thing, is love. And Jesus said the greatest form of love is sacrificial. What is it to a man if he does a good deed knowing he will be repaid, or to love a friend that has always been kind? Those are easy actions. The Gospel calls us out of an easy, self-centered life, and into a life of sacrificial love where the nations, and even our enemies, are blessed. It is always pointing to something bigger than ourselves.
But back to the work. One prevailing aspect of the day was the HEAT. We didn't break 100, but the heat and humidity started early and didn't let up. That didn't slow us down too much.
We had two vacant lots designated for brush and bulk trash. We began moving the debris to those locations. We did a lot of trimming along the alley. There were weeds, overgrown trees, and simply all kinds of mess clogging up the space and making it appear unkempt.
|A fraction of our trash pile|
We had weed trimmers, pruners, chainsaws, blowers, hatchets, shovels, and rakes. We even used a large tarp to help move the loose leaves and brush.
It took 11 people two and a half hours to clear one block of an alley. Just imagine if this were repeated across the city, every weekend. While it still may appear to be a “drop in the bucket”, it might be enough to initiate so much more.
|Bill Duggan with the weed whip|
The connection between trash and crime has been well documented (here's one study http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/UCLA-Study-Finds-Trash-Graffiti-1469). This alley is an excellent example. Besides physical evidence of crimes (needles, etc), there have been shots fired along the alley, and of course the dumping itself. Most poignantly, a car involved in a downtown murder/carjacking was dumped in this very alley. The trash continues to communicate to people that no one cares, no one is watching, none of this matters.
Unfortunately, about 4 days after the group left, someone else dumped construction debris in the alley (luckily, on top of a pile of brush that has already been reported to the city for removal). This was frustrating. A few months ago, we hosted a different volunteer group. After cleaning this very alley, one of the volunteers asked, “Isn't some of this work meaningless?” Now, she meant it in the best way possible. I don't think she was being critical or judgmental, but was trying to see how picking up trash fit in to what we do. So is it meaningless? In some ways, sure. There will always be more trash. There will continue to be selfish and inconsiderate people. Weeds will grow back. But even Jesus said we will always have the poor among us, and I certainly don't take that as a reason to cease ministering to them.
No. It is not meaningless. We were able to unite groups of believers into an act of selfless service...sacrificial love. This alone declares that the neighborhood is not a dumping ground or a wasteland. We cooperated with city services and got attention and resources to the area, and continued to open lines of communication with them. And we did clean up the place, which is meaningful not only to residents that live along it, but for the kids going to and from the elementary school located at the end of the alley.
|After our work, we had lunch together|
Sun Ministries will be hosting more workdays this year. To get involved, check our facebook to sign up and stay informed, or email Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org
Scheduled Work Days