loren Eric Swanson: Transforming a City—Urban-Suburban, Working Together

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Transforming a City—Urban-Suburban, Working Together

For the past few days I’ve been revisiting the book of Nehemiah—the quintessential manual for community transformation. Most likely this has been discovered before but I’m seeing it for the first time so it is fresh for me. The first observation is that those who rebuilt and restored the city of Jerusalem were not just those who lived in Jerusalem but were from the surrounding communities—the suburbs.
3:2 “The men of Jericho built the adjoining section…” Jericho was 18 miles NE of Jerusalem—about the same distance Boulder is from Denver.
3:5 “The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa…” Tekoa was 12 miles South of Jerusalem.
3:7 “Next to them, repairs were made by men from Gibeon and Mizpah…” Gibeon was 6 miles NW of Jerusalem; Mizpah was 4 miles West of Jerusalem.
3:13 “The Valley Gate was repaired by Hanun and the residents of Zanoah…” Zanoah was 10 miles West of Jerusalem.
3:16 “…ruler of the half-district of Beth Zur…” Beth Zur was 4 miles North of Jerusalem.
3:22 “The repairs next to him were made by the priests from the surrounding region.” The surrounding region was…well….the surrounding region.

Why would people from the suburbs expend their labor on the city? Most likely they were of the persuasion that in the walled city was their welfare. As Jerusalem prospered they, in the suburbs, would benefit from its prosperity.

The second thing I saw in chapter 3 was the mishmash (not to be confused with the biblical city Micmash of Nehemiah 7:31) of workers.
“Eliashib the high pries and his fellow priest went to work and rebuilt the Sheepgate…” 3:1
“Uzziel son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired the next section…” 3:8
“…Hananiah, one of the perfume-makers made repairs next to that.” 3:8
“Rephaiah…ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem repaired the next section.” 3:9
“Shallum…ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.” 3:12
“The Dung Gate (think about the servant-heart these people must’ve had!) was repaired by Malkija…ruler of the district of… 3:14
“The Fountain Gate was repaid by Col. Hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah.” 3:15
Beyond him, Nehemiah son of Azbuk, ruler of a half-district of…made repairs…” 3:16
“…Ezer son of Joshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section…” 3:19
“The repairs next to him were made by the priests from the surrounding region.” 3:22
“…and the temple servants…made repairs…” 3:26
“…the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house.” 3:28
“Malkija, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs…. 3:31
“…the goldsmiths and merchants made repairs. 3:32

It takes all kinds of people to restore a city—pastors, families, government officials, the business community, craftsmen…all kinds of people.

On May 31st of this year, my own church, Calvary Bible of Boulder engaged in its fifth year of Sharefest. This year 34 churches worked on 34 different sites around Boulder County and north Denver. Families and business people, government officials, teachers and pastors all pitch in to make a sustainable difference in the community. Here is the write-up of the broadcast from Channel 9 News in Denver. (http://www.9news.com/news/education/article.aspx?storyid=92798&catid=129)

DENVER - If cleanliness is next to Godliness, then Kevin Snyder might be one of many angels working from Boulder to Denver trying to shine buildings back into shape days into summer break. Sharefest brings thousands of volunteers to clean schools

"There's graffiti and tape on the outsides of these lockers," said Snyder, part of the 75 person cleaning crew at East High School in Denver. "It's obvious they haven't been cleaned maybe 3, 4, maybe 5 years. There's a Kerry-Edwards sticker inside one." Snyder is one of more than 3,500 volunteers working with Sharefest. Sharefest is a community service campaign started five years ago by the Calvary Bible Church in Boulder. This year, members of more than 30 churches are cleaning facilities for non-profits, Boulder Valley Schools and East High in Denver. "It's been a heck of a lot of fun doing this," said Snyder. "This is a beautiful, beautiful building."

"Sharefest is a way for churches in our community to come together as one," said Angie Hendricks, site leader at East High. "And, that's our goal, too, is just to come together as one body and to break those boundaries." Hendricks says there's a real reward in helping school districts and non-profit groups who are always struggling for money.

"We know they're under-funded," said Hendricks. "We know they work so hard."
Lafayette Rockette is the facilities manager for East High School. Rockette says the volunteer crew at his school saved his staff hours upon hours of extra work. "It was just great, just great," said Rockette. "You know, I could hug them all. Just give them all a big hug for what they did – just more than wonderful."

The crews did more than clean. They did minor construction, painting, landscaping and repairs. At East High, the home of the Angels, volunteers painted the school logo and colors in the coaches' training room. "It was just another Angel moment done by angels," said Rockette.
Organizers estimate for the first four years of Sharefest, volunteers contributed more than $1 million worth of labor and materials. "We're really here to serve Jesus Christ, that's our deal," said Adam Pitale, volunteer, while staring at the new East Angels logo. "Ironic."
That's why Snyder comes back to volunteer year after year. He does this for the schools and for the people. But, most of all, he does it for God. "Church is not a bunch of people coming in on Sunday and for the rest of the week going about their everyday business, never being concerned with what's going on around them," said Snyder. "This is church for us and that's why it's important."
(Copyright KUSA*TV, All Rights Reserved)


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