Here's your August 2013 issue of Shalom eNews

Communities of Shalom

SHALOM with Southern Style

Deep in the heart of Georgia lies the city of Macon, a vibrant community full of Southern charm and historical significance. Home to nearly 100,000 residents, Macon’s rich culture includes family-friendly festivals, historical museums, live theatre, beautiful municipal parks, nine colleges and universities, multiple media outlets, and a vibrant music and arts scene. This fourth largest city in Georgia became a Shalom Zone in 2009, when Mayor Robert Reichert learned about SHALOM through his Methodist congregation and contacted the National Resource Center. After identifying community leaders from six diverse neighborhoods, Mayor Reichert’s SHALOM team received training later that same year, and welcomed their first Shalom summer intern in 2010. Since that summer, Macon has welcomed Drew interns each summer session and Macon remains one of the most successful Shalom Zones in the United States. Fully supported by the Mayor’s office, Macon Shalom Zones are using Asset-Based Community Development to address the city’s poverty and promote economic viability for families and neighborhoods.

Originally from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and Grenadines, Master of Divinity student Debra Prescott spent the first part of this summer working with Macon Shalom Zones. She served primarily two communities, including the Bellevue neighborhood, where she facilitated youth listening teams who collected oral histories from community elders. One of Macon’s greatest assets is elder wisdom—the stories and dreams of older generations who can share with younger residents a lasting hope for communal transformation. Debra’s own gifts of networking and making community connections proved a vital resource for this storytelling project as she helped train young people to collect these stories. This project was extremely successful, and Bellevue celebrated their discoveries by hosting two community dinners in honor of the elders who participated and in gratitude for all who helped capture their dreams. These rich oral histories will be used in revitalization and communal identity projects for generations to come.

Debra also helped to energize Pleasant Hill, a beautiful, historically black neighborhood of single family homes. As Debra saw more of this community, she was struck by the number of abandoned houses and yards overgrown with weeds and vines. “I especially feel for the children who live in such despair,” Debra lamented. Her own story resonates with what she was witnessing, and this Divinely providential passion led to her testimonial leadership in Pleasant Hill. “I once lived next to an abandoned house,” she shared with the people of Macon. “One day I looked out of my window to see young teens jumping on filthy mattresses that were in the yard.” Debra told herself, “This is no way for children to live! I have to do something,” and she immediately contacted her city’s recreation department. Together with her aunt, Debra helped establish a safe place in her neighborhood for children to play. In sharing her own story, Debra appealed to the people of Pleasant Hill to “respond to what causes alarm!” Her prophetic call for “no condemned houses in a ‘First World’ country” motivated religious leaders to join the Pleasant Hill Shalom Zone and Mayor Reichert to visit the area in July. Mayor Reichert’s vision for “a more cohesive community that attracts opportunities, enhances the quality of life, promotes pride, and inspires hope” is felt in Pleasant Hill’s housing revitalization efforts, and moves the people of Macon toward Southern SHALOM!

Shalom Uganda

Near to the source of the River Nile in Bugolo, Jinja is home to Shalom Uganda. The rich biodiversity and religious landscape help characterize this Shalom Zone as an interfaith and well-resourced ministry meeting the needs of impoverished families living in this fertile land.

Pastor Baamu Moses leads SHALOM, and his gratitude for how Shalom has begun to transform this community cannot be overstated, “Whatever [has occurred] has not happened because we are entitled to it, [but because of] the almighty God and the various people who have had a hand in all this,” Moses acknowledges. “All this” is a robust and dynamic ministry in east Africa.

Shalom Uganda began in 2010, when Pastor Moses first learned about SHALOM from Dr. Caroline Njuki, Assistant General Secretary to Africa at the General Board of Global Mission in New York City. Pastor Moses wanted to meet International Director Michael Christensen, and so he traveled by road from Uganda to Malawi, where Dr. Christensen was scheduled to meet with the Malawi Shalom Zone. “It was a challenging journey,” Moses confesses, “but I made it to and from by God’s Grace.”

Upon meeting Dr. Christensen and learning about the Malawi Zone, Moses was “impressed by the work and development initiatives [he] witnessed” there. He returned to Uganda and immediately established a committee to prepare its community for SHALOM’s global mission to build community and transform the world. In June 2011, Dr. Christensen journeyed to Uganda to conduct the community’s first SHALOM training. SHALOM Uganda Graduates Singing the SHALOM AnthemMore than 100 people traveled from near and far to attend this exciting event. These trainees were diverse culturally, religiously and socially, and Moses recalls, “were active and enthusiastic! It further motivated me and continued a source of encouragement for me.” (Editor's Note: Photo is of recent SHALOM Uganda Graduates Singing the SHALOM Anthem)

One year later, Moses traveled to New Jersey to complete his certification as a Regional Trainer, and in October 2012, represented Shalom Uganda at the SHALOM Summit in Los Angeles, California. “These opportunities, together with the additional guidance I received from Professor Michael and Dr. Caroline greatly enhanced my capacity and understanding of the Communities of Shalom philosophy.”

Since its inception, Shalom Uganda has had a meaningful influence in its communities. After Moses mobilized community leaders and educated them on SHALOM, three sites agreed to join together and support Shalom Uganda. “We selected agriculture, vocational skills and health” as our priorities, Moses explains, which address the particular economic and social challenges faced by people living in Bugolo, Jinja.

Shalom Uganda’s agriculture focus is the coffee initiative—growing coffee as a source of income to improve the quality of life for coffee bean workers. Their goal is to plant and harvest 100,000 coffee bean trees, and reporting teams from the fields indicate approximately 20,000 are currently being harvested. Their high quality, organic coffee is marketed in local and international markets as Source of the Nile Shalom Coffee.”

Vocational skills are taught and improved through the tailoring program, which targets women and youth in the community. Through a recent grant for sewing machine purchases, community members can learn this valuable and marketable job skill.

The final priority on health is addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic. “The site is doing a tremendous job,” Moses reports. Community members are learning how to prevent the spread of HIV through training and counseling, and they are equipping others with skills to minister to those who are infected or affected by this disease.

In addition to acting on these three SHALOM priorities, Shalom Uganda aims to strengthen their sites. “We want to see more members recruited into the various sites and being actively involved in activities that will transform our community from poverty to prosperity, from individualistic to community approaches, and most importantly [move the community toward] unity in diversity” Moses says.

Shalom Uganda is well on its way!

Resources for Shalom Zone Training

Not convenient to attend a Shalom Zone training event? No problem. 
Now the training can come to you. Get trained at your pace and convenience. Check out the possibilities:

Where are You?

If you are not engaged with a Shalom Zone, why not? What would it take for you to be part of our international movement of "Transforming the World One Community at at Time"?  How can the Shalom Resource Center help you? Click here to email us your questions or greatest challenges. Or you can call us at 973-408-3848. We want to know how to serve you better in "Building Community Together."

News from Hilltop

If you are in the Columbus, Ohio area, Greater Hilltop Area Shalom Zone invites you for lunch this month on Tuesday, August 27th, 12:00-1:45 pm.

For more details and to RSVP your attendance, please email Greater Hilltop's Executive Director Julia Nielsen at HilltopShalomZone  or call/text (614) 398-1230.
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