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Let the City Leaders Rise! - Efrem Smith

Whenever I watch news stories about violent urban riots unfolding, my heart becomes deeply grieved. Unfortunately this has happened too much over the past year. The events that led to these riots are even more unfortunate, and I have come to realize that my heart grieves for a couple of reasons.

The first is the element behind violent urban riots is a marginalized people who feel voiceless, un-empowered, and believe that they have no other options to showcase their own grief and pain. I know firsthand the complex issues that cause a people to carry the burden of being marginalized within under-resourced communities. Marginalization can come from systems and dysfunctional institutions within urban settings that stand in the way of empowerment. It can come from a broken family system that sometimes is connected to larger broken systems. Marginalization can also become internalized in a way that goes beyond how an individual is impacted by broken systems. An internalized marginalization on this level can keep a person from taking advantage of opportunities right around them that could lead to a positive life of mission and purpose.

The second reason I grieve—whether it's over violent riots, gang violence, the murder of unarmed young men and women, or even the way abortion impacts the urban community—is because I reflect a lot on what would be different if more people in poor communities were fully empowered in knowing themselves as the beloved of God. I wonder what cities would look like if the Poor were equipped and empowered to serve as change agents in their own neighborhood. This reflecting has both defined my ministry calling and the mission of World Impact.

World Impact was birthed out of the Watts Riots in the mid 1960's. Out of this violent riot—which started from an altercation between the Police and an African-American family—a ministry began to bring an empowering Gospel to the unreached urban Poor. The ultimate end of this missional approach to urban ministry is to raise-up indigenous leaders who would transform their own cities. Could it be that a Christian-based, collaborative strategy that empowers the Poor would lead to a revolutionary transformation of the city? At World Impact we say the answer is, "YES!"

This is why Resourcing Urban Leaders is one of our Focus Areas. Our Global Ends Statement is: "the empowered urban poor advancing the Kingdom of God in every city through the local church." This is more than just a statement. It's both a transformative vision and the fruitful work that we've been about for over 40 years. Through incarnational evangelism, leadership and church planter development, discipleship programs for the incarcerated and mentor-based reentry initiatives, we are raising up an army of indigenous leaders with the moral compass and changed mind set to dismantle broken systems and build up beloved communities.

We must no longer look at the poor, marginalized and lost with judgement or pity. We must employ the compassionate and empowering love of Christ in order to raise up an army of resourced change agents. Although they don't appear enough on the news, there are stories of indigenous urban leaders planting churches, starting businesses and leading other ministry effort. Join us at World Impact to create more stories so that we might transform communities together.

 

Our Future Leaders - Lorraina Armenta

I believe in student leadership development.

One of the core beliefs that Urban Youth Worker's Institute instilled in me was the idea that developing student leaders is one of the most worthwhile ways to invest our time and resources. Who are we investing in? What are we doing to empower those under our leadership? Do we believe in our youth enough to entrust them with the work that we can hold so tightly?

World Impact believes in discipleship, too. We believe that genuine relationships with our neighbors and the mutual empowerment that results is one of the best ways we can lay the groundwork that will lead to church planting movements. And with lots of humility, we admit that it is usually our students and neighbors who know best. They know what it will take for the gospel to be understood in ways our community can receive.

This summer I have the privilege of investing in the development of youth and young leaders around me, both at the World Impact Teen Center and the Los Angeles Christian School. I am extremely excited to see what fruit may come from this investment! For the last few months, I have been working with Erron Harris and another teacher to prepare five students for a leadership trip to the East Coast. I have learned a lot since my first time leading this trip two years ago—which means that what we have been able to do with the students has grown tremendously!

These five students are competent, passionate, dedicated, and motivated. They are young leaders who desire to serve their classmates, churches, and neighbors. They are now aware of their spiritual gifts, their leadership strengths, and their abilities to contribute to a team. Please pray for us as we head to the East Coast this month to learn more about leadership and practice what we've learned.

Lorraina Armenta is the Spiritual Life Coordinator (overseeing Bible classes, discipleship groups, and chapel) at Los Angeles Christian School. 

 

Shared Experience, Shared Hope - Kathryn King

 

It was the end of our annual women's retreat. I was cleaning up some odds and ends while people were saying their goodbyes all around me. We had just finished our last service where I had run the PowerPoint, and the women were exchanging numbers and hugs. I had already said goodbye to most of the women I knew and connected with over the weekend when Mary Flin, our missionary in Topeka, tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to find her standing with one of the ladies she brought from Topeka, an older woman who was very quiet. Mary told me her name was Doriece and that she had just been diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

As I looked over to Doriece I saw her eyes fill with tears as Mary told me more of her story. I took her hand as I heard that the doctors were very harsh with her when they gave her the diagnosis and told her that she should prepare for the worst. These doctors left her with little hope and little information, so Doriece left the office feeling scared and alone. I gave Doriece a hug and she clung tightly to me. I had the opportunity to tell her my story–how I had multiple surgeries and radiation treatment for my thyroid cancer, but that I was told that it has a good outcome most of the time. I gave her the little advice I had from my experience, and I hugged her as she cried. She told me that I gave her hope, and I pray she left feeling loved and cared for.

As we said goodbye and exchanged contact information, my eyes filled with tears. There have been many times during this past year when I wondered why I had cancer. At times it seemed like pointless pain and fear had been brought into my life. I know that God has used it in my own heart to teach me things about Himself and to trust in Him. But if it was all for the purpose of giving this one hurting woman from the inner city of Topeka some hope, then it was worth it all. I am so glad that God gave me that glimpse of His plan. Doriece is a sweet soul who desires to shine a light in her city. I pray that as she goes through treatment, God continues to use my story to give her hope. 

Kathryn King lives and serves in Wichita, KS, with her husband Jordan and their two sons.