In 1997, I was living in Birmingham working as a business analyst for a consulting firm. One evening, I saw a flyer announcing the national conference for the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) was coming to Birmingham. Intrigued, I took a day off work and went. I had no idea how that one day would change the trajectory of my life.
Started by Dr. John Perkins, Wayne Gordon, and several others, CCDA is an international association of churches and ministries committed to bringing life and hope to under resourced communities. Each year over 2,500 people gather to be inspired and equipped to provide solutions to material and spiritual poverty in their cities.
It was at that annual gathering in Birmingham, I learned about a small organization in Raleigh, NC, later called Jobs for Life that was equipping churches and businesses to help people in need find meaningful employment.
17 years and several conferences later, now as the CEO of Jobs for Life, I found myself on stage during last month's 26th annual CCDA conference in Raleigh-Durham discussing the complexities of creating flourishing communities.
What intrigued me back then and continues to intrigue me now about CCDA is its willingness and even vigilance to ask hard questions. With so many in our neighborhoods and cities devastated by the impacts of poverty and hopelessness, the fight to create flourishing communities requires real solutions to hard questions.
But that same week, Raleigh-Durham was ranked 3rd in another list. It is 3rd among cities where poor neighborhoods are growing the fastest.
If we're not careful, the idea of flourishing will be realized by only a few of us, not all of us. Without a connection or relationship with those on the margins, we can not only live our lives totally oblivious to the pain and despair experienced in our own neighborhoods, but our ignorance and apathy can even exacerbate the problem.
Thankfully, there's hope. As evidenced by our recent time at the CCDA conference, people of all colors and backgrounds are finding common ground to tackle hard questions with life giving solutions knowing the God we serve is a God of peace, mercy and justice.
We saw this at our workshop, when people visited our booth, when we gathered for a BBQ dinner (NC bbq, of course, is there any other?), and when we worshipped together 2,500 strong in the Convention Center. (See photos of our time at the CCDA Conference at top of page).
Laboring for the flourishing of all people brings with it a promise:
"But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." - Jeremiah 29:7
What could be any better?