Kit Danley founded Neighborhood Ministries in 1982 and remains the President of the organization today. Kit’s passion to bring authentic change and renewal to the urban community led her and her husband, Wayne, to live in the city and raise their two children there. She has become a champion of the people we serve.
Because of the commitment by the Danleys and others to live in and serve the urban community, we have built a culture of trust in the city, laying the foundation for the positive, enduring work that has now spanned three decades. In 2001, we moved into The Neighborhood Center, the newly developed campus of an 8-acre site at 19th Avenue and Van Buren, in the heart of downtown Phoenix. The Neighborhood Center is now the hub where relationships with children, their families, and city-wide partners join together to make a difference for hundreds throughout the community.
The two 14-year-old girls were canvassing the neighborhood for VISTA, going door to door to let residents of the public housing complex know about the services soon to be available at the new health clinic at 16th Street and Van Buren. The students, Mary Katherine “Kit” Fellman and Maryanne Warren, were from Scottsdale High. Inner city Phoenix was a strange place to find these affluent students on a Saturday. Even more to the point, these girls were not of the kind one might have thought of as VISTA volunteers.
In his book, The Making of a Leader, J. Robert Clinton writes: “Mature ministry flows from a mature character, formed in the graduate school of life. Ministry can be successful through giftedness alone; but a leader whose ministry skills outstrip his character formation will eventually falter.” After studying the life histories of many key Christian leaders, Clinton has concluded that most go through periods of intense suffering early in their ministries.
Such “trials of fire” produce disciples who have learned to trust God, manifest a deep intimacy in prayer, and express deep qualities of “love, compassion, empathy, and discernment.” In short, suffering can be a vital preparatory period in forming leaders who can last. For Kit and Wayne Danley, the mid-1980s were such a time of preparation. As Wayne puts it, “I was being broken and so was Kit.”
The day began as a fairly routine one for Mike McBride, an electric serviceman with SRP, Phoenix’s main power company. It was his job to do field inspections. One call on the west side, to the home of Jorge and Rosa Macias, put him in a particularly familiar environment: meeting an immigrant with limited English. Mike and his wife Belinda, members at Open Door Fellowship (ODF) since 1983, were heavily involved in the Hispanic ministry.
Belinda volunteered as a coordinator at the Food Bank, where she liked nothing more than trying to establish a rapport with the women who came for aid. For the McBrides and the rest of the team, the Hispanic outreach was about evangelism as much as meeting practical needs. Food Bank volunteers were trained to share not just bread, but the Bread of Life.
Toward that end, Mike, Belinda, and other volunteers studied Spanish and boned up on their Latin American history. Then they started paying home visits to people who’d come to the Food Bank for help. In time, the home visits and the love shown through the Food Bank bore fruit: small women’s Bible study groups emerged.
16-year-old David Carrasco lay in a pool of his own blood in the parking lot of the Circle K. His life hung by a thread. He had been stabbed in almost every vital organ except his heart. Ian Danley’s heart raced as he crouched by the body awaiting the emergency medical technicians drawn by a 911 call. His mother Kit arrived a few minutes after the cops. Her eyes saw the yellow police tape and her ears heard the officers talking in code into their walkie-talkies. But her heart railed against the scene: No, not again.
Charles Dickens opens A Tale of Two Cities with the famous line: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Something similar could be said of Neighborhood Ministries’ “wandering years.” On the one hand, the period from 1997 to 2001 was marked by seemingly endless logistical challenges, as staff and volunteers sought to keep ministering to hundreds of urban children, using other people’s facilities (with some grumbling on both sides). On the other hand, it was time of amazing provision and spiritual breakthrough. If you think that sounds a little like the story of the Israelites in the wilderness, you’re right.
Marcos Marquez hid out from police for over a week after stabbing David Carrasco. He’d done it after “church”—Neighborhood Ministries’ Monday night high school gathering—and it felt like sacrilege. He’d stained his hands with blood. And he’d carved his gang’s symbols into David’s back—a boy who wasn’t even active in the rival gangs, who wasn’t really an enemy. Now, after many tortured days and nights, the guilt was just too much. Marcos turned himself into the police. He was 17 years old.
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