I have imagined for years what it would look like if Jesus was walking, teaching, healing, loving people, and doing miracles in Phoenix. What neighborhood would he pick to live in? Who would be the major recipients of his compassion and mercy? It’s a wonderful exercise and puts some pressure on me, because I want to be an imitator of God, as his beloved child.
Sometimes when I teach the story of the Good Samaritan, I describe the dangerous road of Jericho upon which Jesus centered his remarkable story. In the time of Jesus, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho (16.5 miles) was notorious for its danger and difficulty and was known as the “Way of Blood” because “of the blood which is often shed there by robbers.” Van Buren St., from 52nd St. to 83rd Ave. is exactly 16.5 miles and Neighborhood Ministries is right in the middle of an infamous and, at times, dangerous road. Our neighborhood has been the backdrop for our 37 years, where we have attempted to be imitators of God, walking in love here, as Christ has loved us.
This love was supremely demonstrated in His willingness to give Himself up for our sake and pay the price necessary to save us. God’s love cost Him much – the death of His only begotten Son – this costly love is the model of what is needed in our neighborhood. Imitating our Creator means that we will pay a price in love – as we will have to surrender our own well-being at times in order to advance the good of others.
We are not just recipients of God’s costly love, but participants and observers of it. A dear young couple who grew up here at Neighborhood, fought hard and long to get custody of their nephew, raising this child practically from birth. This young life, at age 14, was cut short, passing away in his sleep from an undiagnosed heart condition. We officiated the funeral, reflecting on the love of God which was poured out for this young man through his adopted parents who relentlessly fought for him to have a stable and protected life. Their loss is beyond imagination. Costly love.
Many of our leaders invest years in loving a young person, walking alongside them through their traumas and chaos. We keep up with each other, knowing our exposure to the extremes of human pain can cause secondary trauma in ourselves. Therefore, we have become a trauma-informed ministry, both to understand the pain of our kids and families, as well as our own. It shakes us to our core, when someone who grew up in this mission and was invested in by many lovers, goes off the path and blows their life up. We bear the scars of costly love.
I was asked by a news reporter this week if we have examples of success in our mission. She asked because she was aware of what it must be like to be part of a neighborhood that experiences more heartaches than most. My mind went through a catalogue of the intense stories from the past few weeks, while also pulling out images of those who stand in strength and hope. I said “yes, we do”, recognizing almost instantly how much life had been exchanged together, how much sacrificial love was the ingredient in that “yes”. Just this year alone, these were some of our successes, each one representing a life that is an overcomer…
- 153 High School Youth participated in after school programs at Sueños Youth Center.
- 11 people work at NM that grew up here as kids and youth.
- 18 Students graduated from High School, Community College/University in 2019.
- Served over 250 students with discipleship and worship opportunities, computer access, tutoring, mentorship home assistance, paid summer internships and leadership development opportunities.
- 100 children: ages 0 to 5 years were served Katy’s Kids & Family and Child Academy.
- 626 kids participated in Kids Club & Summer Camp, with the support of over150 volunteers.
- 6,237 parent volunteer hours were reported – these adults are leaders in many of our programs.
- 127 Individuals were assisted in securing employment that earns a livable wage.
- 321 Individuals participated in Neighbors at Work Hiring Events.
- 137 Parents and children were served by Parenting Por Vida.
- In 2010 we had 30 teen moms under 18 in our programs (one was 12) in 2019 we had only 1 teen mom. Teen pregnancies have significantly decreased.
Love, by its very nature, is costly. We are required by grace, the grace we are recipients of, to love with a love we have been showered with. It has been our calling and privilege to have become lovers of God and lovers of this neighborhood despite the cost.
Will you enable us to continue by partnering with us today? Your support reminds us to not give up, not to surrender to the tough weeks or painful realities, but to seek to be imitators of God, as beloved children. And to walk in love, as Christ loved us.
P.S. While it’s true that love is always costly, it doesn’t have to be financially costly. Our state is unique in that we have an option to give love and hope for free through the Arizona Charitable Tax Credit. If you haven’t yet given up to the $400 for those filing singly or $800 for those filing jointly, there is still time to give a gift that changes lives and apply that gift against what you owe in taxes for 2019. Thank you and God bless!