“The holidays are very hard and stressful to the poor. It just reminds them in such a powerful way just how needy they are and how much they feel like someone looking in at a feast but are not invited.”
David Russell-Director, Burlington Street Ministries
At Christmas time when many of us look forward to a special time with family and friends, we can easily forget that many in close proximity to us are left on the outside looking in. I recently came across two stats about Burlington that reminded me of how true this is for many of my new neighbors and what an incredible opportunity we have to serve them as we start this new church:
- According to the annual Point In Time Survey, the homeless population has more than doubled in the past two years- from 424 in 2008 to 916 in 2010. Over the same time period the number of homeless children has increased from 86 to 256. (Footnote: the PIT Survey only counts the homeless who are willing to be counted. The actual numbers are always much higher.)
- According to the Boston Globe, since 1989 approximately 5000 refugees have resettled in VT with the majority living in the greater Burlington area. Since 2000, African refugees include 542 from Somalia, 174 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 137 from Sudan, and 113 from Burundi. Refugees from 29 African countries are represented in the Burlington area.
On a personal note, this Saturday we’ll hit the 4 week mark as new residents in Vermont. As you can imagine, it has been an adjustment starting over-navigating a new community, making our new house a home, developing new friendships, and building a new ministry from the ground up. In the midst of these expected adjustments, God has encouraged us so much with how He is already at work in Burlington and the doors He is opening for us. Below is a snapshot these open doors and how you can pray for us:
*We’ve been especially encouraged by the way a few churches and ministry groups have reached out to us. Three groups that especially stand out are St. Timothy’s Anglican Mission, Kids Alive, and the Green Mountain Baptist Association. They’ve gone out of their way to extend true Christian fellowship to us and let us know we are not in this race alone. Please pray that we’ll continue building kingdom focused relationships with other gospel centered ministries in the area.
*This past Sunday I had the opportunity to speak at New Life Community Church in Northfield (about an hour from Burlington). I was blown away by how over the past two years this church has gone from 0-55 people in an area where evangelical churches struggle and often shut down. God gave me a glimpse of what He can do when we stay committed to serving the community and sharing the gospel. Please pray that we will be equally faithful with the opportunities God provides to serve and share. As we are faithful with the “small” opportunities, God will provide more.
*Through Kids Alive, a ministry to the children of Burlington’s Old North End, we have the opportunity to sponsor a Burundi family for Christmas (two parents, eight children, and two grandchildren in one home). This family has been through so much- since leaving Burundi they have traveled as refugees through Tanzania and the Congo before finally settling in Vermont. Please pray that we’ll be a blessing to this family and that God will lead a refugee family to become a part of our core group soon.
*In the next couple of weeks Awareness to Action, the nonprofit I helped start in NJ, will become legal in VT. With Burlington’s growing community needs and being a haven for social & environmental entrepreneurs, I believe A2A provides a great platform for connecting with community service organizations and mobilizing both ministries and secular groups to serve. Please pray that God will give me wisdom with how to best utilize A2A and help me build relationships with secular groups desiring to get more involved in community service.
*Monday I had the opportunity to meet with the Volunteer Director at COTS. COTS is the premier organization addressing homelessness in Burlington and they’ve opened the door for me to volunteer at their Day-Station- a warm place during the day for the homeless to get off the streets, find assistance, and get a free lunch. They’re also excited about me mobilizing others to serve through Awareness to Action. Please pray that God will enable me to build meaningful relationships with the staff, volunteers, and clients and provide opportunities to share as I serve.
*This Friday afternoon I’m attending a volunteer orientation with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program. Christin and I are hoping to serve as “family friends” who help new refugee families adjust to life in Vermont. Please pray that God will give us favor with the VRRP leadership and connect us with the right family.
*Also, please continue praying for our financial support. God continues to provide for all of our needs. At the same time, our goal is to raise an additional $1000 per month over the next few months to cover salary and insurance- before the arrival of child #2 in May. Our hope is to focus my time and energy on starting the church and developing the A2A community service platform without having to take on another job. We also believe that raising my salary for the first two-three years will allow us to focus the limited offerings of a new church on community outreach. Details are on our partner page.
As always, thank you for your continued prayers! We hope each of you experience the joy and peace of Jesus this Christmas!
Kevin, Christin, & Jude