Filled to Overflowing, Together

Filled to Overflowing, Together

On the last Tuesday evening before public school dismissed for summer, members of Chester United Methodist Church gathered with residents at the Broadwater public housing community for fun and fellowship and to launch the Library Box project. The church brought a large box and a few dozen books for kids to read during the summer. There would be no system for checking out books other than the honor system – take one, read it, bring it back, and take another. “We were asking people to watch over the box, to own the box,” the Rev. Sylvia Meadows, senior pastor of Chester UMC, said. “An amazing thing happened that blew my socks off. While we were there, some of the residents started bringing books to put in the box. We had too many books to fit in the box. How cool is that? ” That embodies the concept of asset-based community development (ABCD), which is at the heart of the Embrace Richmond mission to change neighborhoods from the inside out. With ABCD, it’s all about identifying strengths and gifts in a community and working with those community leaders to use their gifts and bring about change from within. ABCD resonated deeply with Chester’s UMC members, as they completed Embrace’s Mission Shift training. “It really connected with our church people,” said Dr. Jim Davis, Chester UMC’s Director of Spiritual Formation. ‘OK, Lord, what gifts have you placed here in the communities?’” Chester UMC members were deep in prayerful discernment for God’s will when two church members heard Wendy McCaig, Embrace Richmond’s Executive Director, speak at another local church. Soon thereafter, Chester...
A Wall of Gifts

A Wall of Gifts

By Essie Reinke On Monday, after a long afternoon of orientation and training, the Broadwater Community Dream Catchers Team of high school youth concluded our session by celebrating their gifts and talents. Part of their program this summer is to uncover the gifts and talents of their neighbors. What better way to start, than by discerning your own? We broke down “gifts and talents” into three basic categories – gifts of the head, gifts of the hands, and gifts of the heart. I gave them nine sticky notes and challenged them to come up with three gifts they had for each category. We had so many responses! So many, in fact, that they couldn’t even fit on the page!  From athletes and actresses, to scholars and fashionistas, to mechanics and weight lifters, there were so many gifts to celebrate. The end product, The Wall of Gifts, is beautiful, but the process in which it occurred was just as beautiful. At first, the students were struggling to come up with ideas of what they were good at. Everybody seemed at a loss. Then, they started working together, and I heard the students reminding each other of their strengths: “Remember that one time you helped me with my science homework?” “I wish I loved basketball as much as you.” “You were so patient that time you taught me how to make origami.” This wave of encouragement carried over to our gift sharing, where each individual stood up to share each of their nine gifts as they stuck their notes to the wall. The students watched and shared in the joy of their...
“God said, ‘You have an agenda. I have a plan.'”

“God said, ‘You have an agenda. I have a plan.'”

By Forrest White In the basement of All Souls Presbyterian Church, our Northside team leaders wrestled with a familiar question – Where have you seen God at work? Anita told of having heard God speak directly to her. “God said, ‘You have an agenda. I have a plan.’” God’s message brought Anita peace and clarity about her work and the ability to let go of her plan and allow the spirit to move in unexpected ways. For Sadie, it hasn’t been about expanding, it was about letting go. She shared, “I feel lighter, a whole lot lighter, and still able to love.” All Souls Pastor Brent, who supports this team of neighborhood leaders, praised God for protecting him when he fell from a ladder. There were bumps and bruises, but it could have been much worse. God spoke to him through a devotional written by Oswald Chambers. “Its basic message was, ‘Do you trust in God or trust in people?’” Brent said. Everyone around the table agreed. We need to focus our trust on God. Wendy told the leaders about her emotional morning, as a burden she had been carrying brought her to her knees during a time of prayer. “How do we take the pain of people hurting us and still love like Jesus?” Wendy asked. There was silence around the table. Wendy looked to Monica. “You embody that,” she said. “I see God in you.” Surely, God’s presence was in this place. As we move into the busy season of summer, seeking to reach young people who will be Dream Catchers who build relationships with their neighbors,...
Feedback from Our Latest Cohort

Feedback from Our Latest Cohort

I was at breakfast with my mentor, explaining what asset-based community development is. I put it in the simplest terms I knew how: growing and nurturing assets within a community to help it become self-sufficient and self-reliant; focusing on systemic problems rather than symptoms. And then it hit me: this is really good. I’d obviously believed in ABCD (I work for an organization that does it full time, after all), but it didn’t really click until I was explaining it. This is good. This is right. This is the most empathetic and genuine way to help rebuild communities. This is awesome. Over the past months, Embrace has had the chance to introduce some great new friends to ABCD through Mission Shift Training. We’ve covered it pretty extensively, but after reading the feedback from our latest cohort, we wanted to take the opportunity to share what we heard. “I’ve grown personally in my knowledge of the many efforts underway in the city. Hearing about success stories was the most rewarding experience of the training.”   “My understanding of and appreciation for these concepts has really grown. I want to share these ideas with everyone I talk to!”   “This class has fundamentally shifted the way I think about outreach.”   “As a registered nurse and as a teacher, it’s hardest for me to not set goals and plans for the individuals. Shifting to allowing them to reach decisions that are the best for them – and not what I think is what’s best for them – was challenging.” At the end of the day, this is what matters. It’s not...