Dear CCDA Familia, Feliz Año Nuevo!
I can’t remember when I was more excited to begin a new year. After being away the first three months of 2015, I am feeling rested, energized and excited to lead CCDA into a new year of serving you, our members, as you labor to love those on the margins for the glory of God.
I don’t have to tell you that too many of our neighbors living in under-resourced communities are having to endure greater hardship than ever before. Violence is more pronounced; poverty is on the rise with many of our neighbors trapped in low-paying jobs. Social unrest rages. Yet, in the midst of our challenges, there is a new energy rising up in our communities calling for change. Change to educational inequity. Change to the injustices of our criminal justice system. Change to our nation’s broken immigration system. Change to business as usual in our City Halls, State Capitals and in Washington DC. And, it is young men and women who are leading the charge.
While at the age of 56 I feel as passionate as ever for the work of Christian Community Development, I am so pleased to see the strong, passionate leadership that so many younger CCDA leaders are providing at this crucial time in our movement’s history.
Our CCDA Cohort leaders are creating impact and change in their communities and in our association. Young Latino dreamers are courageously fighting to dismantle an immigration system that threatens to destroy their families and upend their dream of being integrated into our society. Young Black poets and activists have made Black Lives Matters a force to be reckoned with, and the impact they are having in Chicago, Baltimore, Ferguson and throughout the nation is stirring life into the work of justice in our nation.
Clearly, CCDA has embraced the work of confronting injustice as Kingdom ministry, and it is hard to imagine doing ministry in poor communities today without a solid Biblical theology that fuels our struggle to make our communities and cities safe and filled with hope, especially for our children. As Amy Williams and others working with street-involved youth would remind us, we need a new generation of “Hope Dealers” to arise in every vulnerable neighborhood of our nation!
I would be remiss if I did not remind us today that while protesting and confronting systems that hurt the poor without a voice is essential 21st century Kingdom ministry, our CCDA familia has always understood the importance of living amongst those we serve; not from a safe distance, but from a posture of incarnation and presence. All of our efforts for change must continue to be rooted in incarnation. We are a community of believers who restore neighborhoods from the inside out.
Our toil to rebuild neglected neighborhoods is often slow, difficult and not sexy. Our efforts to help men and women who have lost connection with the living God through our churches is not easy, but we know it has eternal consequences. We stay focused on loving God and loving our neighbors—even when we get discouraged. We create jobs and do all that we can to see our rural and urban communities revitalized, because at the end of the day, we know that working alongside our neighbors to create healthy neighborhoods is at the core of our DNA as CCDA practitioners. We stay for the long haul. We overcome our differences to be reconcilers. We see leaders from the community soar. We take huge risks for the King and His Kingdom. We love those that society ignores. We nurture our own families, whether we are married or single. We become the beloved community that offers hope in our divided world. We saw the powerful witness of that in Memphis, and we will experience it again in Los Angeles later this year.
During this season of Epiphany, we are reminded that God entered the world to offer His love to the nations, beginning with the most despised and marginalized. In the same way that people wondered if anything good could come from Galilee 2000 years ago, people today may ask the same question regarding struggling ‘hoods all across our nation. We answer, “Yes.” God is doing great things in our communities, and we have a deep hope in the midst of our struggles.
Brothers and sisters, we have greater opportunities than ever to be agents of God’s love in 2016. May His spirit energize and empower each one of us to do just that, all for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Noel has worked in full-time ministry in Latino, urban communities since 1982. He has served in youth ministry, church planting, advocacy and community development in San Francisco, San Jose, and Chicago. After serving on the Board of the Christian Community Development Association for many years, he established the CCDA Institute, which equips emerging church leaders in the philosophy of Christian Community Development, and currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer and President of CCDA. Noel is the author of Where the Cross Meets the Street: What Happens to the Neighborhood When God is at the Center, which blends the art of story with firmly rooted theology and time tested praxis. Noel and his wife of 30 years, Marianne make their home in the barrio of La Villita in Chicago, and have three grown children; Noel Luis, Stefan, and Anna.