Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mission, Vision, and Distinctives

In preparation for some training we will be attending this week, and because we should have done this a long time ago, I am working on defining Refugee Arts in terms of its mission, vision, and distinctives. Take a look at these and let me know your thoughts on a) if they line up with your understanding of our work and b) if you believe that they paint a picture of a biblical, effective ministry:

Mission: To open doors for the gospel by building mutually beneficial relationships between the Christian, creative, and international communities in Atlanta.

Vision: Refugee Arts will lead the way in uniting Atlanta-area creatives, church leaders, immigrants and refugees to meet one another’s spiritual, physical, and relational needs. Our work will multiply as we create practical ministry models, mentor young people, and empower leaders to impact their own communities.

Distinctives: The following characteristics, founded on the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, define the work of Refugee Arts.

  1. Relational: Refugee Arts is defined by its love for God and its love for other people. Because of this, we give priority to building and sustaining loving personal relationships. Relationships between God and men are the goal, the method, and the outcome of our work.
  2. Peaceful: Refugee Arts exists to foster peace in communities divided by bitterness, ignorance, and pride. We will encourage communication between parties and subvert widespread bitterness with healing love.
  3. Humble: Refugee Arts refuses to condescend to the people it works with. We will show the same love to the poor and needy that we show to pastors, artists, and politicians. And we will remain open to the love that others show to us.
  4. Hospitable: Refugee Arts sees the home as the primary ministry center. We will invite guests into our homes, and we will visit those who open their homes to us. We will seek to live generously, and enjoy the generosity that others show to us.
  5. Holistic: Refugee Arts cares about individuals and communities in a holistic sense. Our passion to spread the gospel includes practical, consistent demonstrations of the love of Jesus, who fed the hungry, healed the sick, played with kids, and addressed the suffering of those around him.
  6. Creative: Refugee Arts acknowledges that we worship a creator God, and that we can know and experience him when we are creative. Our work, words, and wrelationships (w added for alliteration) will all be avenues for us to practice creativity.

Slogan: “Reaching the Ends of the Earth in Atlanta”

Monday, March 22, 2010


I just finished a phone conversation with my younger brother, wherein we discussed the possibility of starting a saltwater aquarium-themed hip hop posse called the "Blue Tang Clan." We decided in the end that we are both too busy to make this dream a reality.

Back to the grind.
Melvin, although he has his share of issues (explosive temper and a total lack of filtration between his brain and his mouth), is generally open-hearted with Ruthie and me.

David and Omar go through cycles. They open up to me and have a good time at the activities center and at Communicycle, then they tend to rebel for one or two weeks after getting in trouble for picking on other kids (the main offense that Ruthie and I don't tolerate), then, after stewing for a while, they come back with or without apologizing, and we start over.

These little cycles have been testing my faith in our purpose here in this neighborhood, where it's hard to track any impact the gospel is having in the lives and hearts of the kids we work with.

But when I listen to the stories of my close friends and think back on my own journey, there were several mentors who showed patient, steadfast love to me without any results until years later. In fact, many of them probably have no idea how their love impacted me.

The model that Jesus gave us of caring for our neighbor requires a great deal of faith, because it doesn't normally create immediate results. While we do hear incredible salvation stories, and while the market-driven-church would lead us to believe that these stories are normative, my experience and much of what I read in the New Testament seems to call for something more than immediate results: we are expected to show faithful, whole-life care, tending consistently to all needs, from the spiritual to the physical, without expecting any thanks.

In short, it takes a lot of love to lead a soul home.

Friday, March 12, 2010

In the Neighborhood

Friday nights are solitary for me. Ruthie has her Refugee Beads class, and the car, all evening, so I usually spend the time at home, catching up on reading or watching a movie.

Tonight, I felt restless in our apartment, so I decided to take a walk, which was an admittedly bad idea, seeing as how the sky was cloudy and thunder echoed through the apartment complex. I threw on my hoody and headed out, walking across Buford highway over to a used bookstore.

Atlanta Vintage Books is a bit of an anomaly in my hood, a literary haven with all sorts of literature, a great bargain basement, and two friendly owners. Not what you'd expect in a neighborhood full of immigrants who struggle to speak English. I arrived fifteen minutes before closing, and the owner greeted me and invited me in.

We immediately began telling stories about spending Friday nights in bookstores or libraries, and we talked about our common love for reading, which sometimes overwhelms our desire to hang with friends or do usual Friday night things.

I headed down to the basement to see if they had any copies of the James Joyce books I hadn't read. No luck. I found three other books (The Ugly American, The Hamlet, and Heat and Dust) that interested me and returned upstairs to check out. The sky had turned completely dark in the five minutes I spent downstairs, and rain poured down across Clairmont.

"I gotta walk home in this," I complained.

"We'll give you a ride," the owner responded cheerfully. Only in our neighborhood, I thought, and gladly accepted.

On the way home, we talked about the joy of living in Atlanta's international village, our love for the mix of cultures in this city, and what Ruthie and I do in the neighborhood.

This is one of the joys of living here. I had an unexpected opportunity to connect with someone who shares my interests, and he showed me a kindness I had not expected. It wasn't a big event, but it brought some joy to me to connect with an odd little corner of our neighborhood, and enjoy an unplanned moment of friendship.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Newsletter Time

We've written up our latest newsletter, to be e-mailed out this week. If you haven't been getting them and would like to, drop me a message at the e-mail address to the right.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Short Stories

I have a policy regarding writing time: The only permitted form of procrastination is blogging.

So usually, when you see a new entry on this blog or BoMuMo or Ghost Town Revival, it's because I sat down to work on a complicated short story, and hit a wall. That is certainly the case today- usually, cranking out a blog entry loosens something up, and I can return to the short story with some momentum.

This year has actually been a good one as far as writing goes. Two and a half months in, I have one short piece scheduled for publication in a literary magazine, a pending assignment for a Christian magazine on a refugee I work with, and one more short story which, although it hasn't been accepted yet, is getting good feedback from editors.

My current project is a series of five interconnected short stories. The plan is to write them all as standalone pieces, publish each in a different journal or contest, then, if successful in that, compile them as the first section of a novel.

So far, I've completed and submitted the first piece, written the second and sent it out to friends for feedback, drafted a rather weak first draft of the third, and written half of my first draft of the fourth. It is here, at the halfway point, where I need to switch from setup to action, that I am stuck.

Because I started the piece in a voice which was excellent for exposition, a rhythm built for setup, and I have to make things happen now without breaking stride, which maybe I can't do. We'll have to see.

Anyway, I oughta get back to work, so thanks, readers, for joining me on this little diversion.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Break In

I took all kinds of meds and large amounts of caffeine to get me through a missions conference this weekend. Although I was feeling sick, I wanted to make the most of these opportunities. It turned out to be a rewarding time, and it seems like God ordained several connections that we made.

However, my illness caught up with me today. I spent the whole day in bed, and I didn't even feel like I could watch a movie because the the bright colors and noises hurt my head.

This evening, we got some bad news. Communicycle, the local bike co-op where I work with kids from the neighborhood to build their own bikes, had a break-in, and many of the tools went missing. They are valuable and not easily replaced.

Open Table Community, a church that has supported, encouraged, and hosted much of our ministry work, and the church that houses Communicycle, lost some important things in the burglary as well.

Ruthie is meeting up with leaders from Communicycle and Open Table to pray. They just moved into the neighborhood in January, and this could either galvanize the Church community or cause fear and division. We'll be praying for the former.