Sunday, March 18, 2012

Celebrating with South Street Ministries

South Street Ministries Celebrates 15 Years of Partnering 
for Christian Community Redevelopment

Christ Community Chapel local ministry partner South Street Ministries recently celebrated its 15thanniversary. South Street Ministries defines themselves as  “unlikely partners taking shared risks to renew our community for Christ’s sake.” Since founders Duane and Lisa Crabbs walked away from his steady career as a fireman 15 years ago to live in the inner city, help neighbors in need with re-development of the area, and share Christ to one and all, much has happened through unlikely partners in south Akron.

Georgia residents Robert Lupton and his wife were an inspiration to Duane and Lisa. Robert felt a calling some years ago to move into the inner city of Atlanta.  Lupton felt that if effective Christian ministry were going to take place, it would require knowing and understanding the people of the community firsthand. Much as Christ decided to “give up, go to and be with” men and women in need of a Savior, the Luptons moved into the inner city.
The Luptons have been used mightily by Christ for community development in Atlanta. They have leveraged the skills (e.g.: doing real estate deals, construction rehab for affordable housing for the poor) of people they know to help local community members renew their areas. This model of relocation prompted Duane and Lisa to do the same here in northeastern Ohio. 

When the Crabbs first moved into their house in south Akron, they met a local mailman who had come to know Christ in 1991. This former cocaine dealer had been praying for a ministry partner to come into the area. Little did he expect a white couple relocating from Cuyahoga Falls to be the answer to prayer! However, these unlikely partners devoted themselves to learning about the people in the community, their abilities, their challenges, and needs.
This ministry from the position of knowing and understanding the community has had a major impact in Akron, and the state.  South Street provides after school homework assistance, open gym, Bike Shop, urban gardens, community worship and other services to enrich the lives of neighbors in need. Consistent with Christian community development goals, South Street seeks to  empower neighbors in need with a “hand up”, rather than making them dependent with “hand-outs.”

When South Street celebrated its 15th anniversary on March 9th, Robert Lupton, founder of Focused Community Strategies, a nationally known Christian community development organization, served as the primary speaker. Lupton celebrated the dedication of the Crabbs and the South Street staff, while advising the audience, “If it’s a calling (to move to the inner city), you can’t resist it.” However, after building a new home in the inner city, Lupton discovered that gentrification (the trend of higher income folks moving into the city) all too often drove up property values. This in turn drove up the rent the poor had to pay to continue living in their communities. In many cases, the poor were forced to relocate. The injustice of this caused Lupton to marshal resources to build mixed income housing projects. Local poor people teamed with architects, lawyers and land developers toward this “gentrification with justice” vision. In Lupton’s view, when marketplace gifts are used for justice ministry, they are akin to spiritual gifts.
Lupton reminds us that the Bible’s early settings are rural, but that the setting becomes increasingly urban as seen in the book of Revelation. The culmination of God’s redemptive plan is seen in the City of Our God. Robert Lupton asserts that every talent it takes to run a city will be needed in the Heavenly City. He encourages us to think of the earthly shift toward urbanization as “a trial run for our job descriptions in the City of God.”

Toward the end of the South Street 15th anniversary celebration, Joe Tucker, Executive Director of South Street Ministries, stressed that young people are moving back into cities with a sense of mission. They see gentrification with justice as key to Christian urban re-development. Joe and his wife are also celebrating their recent purchase of a home in the south Akron area. Joe encouraged audience members to also take a shared risk for the good of the city, declaring, “We need your spiritual and marketplace gifts.”
The family of God is indeed diverse in terms of race, culture, economic background and skills and professions. This makes for “unlikely partners,” as South Street staffers say. However, through ordinary people of different backgrounds that are united in Christ, God can do great things for the renewal of the city.
If you’re interested in learning more about volunteering opportunities with South Street or other CCC Local Outreach ministry partners, please contact:
To learn more about South Street Ministries, go to: .


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