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We Gon’ Be Alright | By Byron McMillan

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“Our country is going to hell in a hand basket!” screams the news headlines making up the 24-hour news cycle that increasingly seems to rule our lives.  Once again, one year after the death of Michael Brown, we were glued to our televisions waiting for something catastrophic to happen in Ferguson, and other cities in our nation in response.  But is this our fate? Is this the truth of our situation? Is anything good happening out there? Is there any hope?

Yes, there are powerful forces marshaling for the common good in our cities and rural areas, but there are also powerful forces marshaling for the opposite. A wise person once told me to follow the money if I wanted to know what’s really going on in any given situation. So follow this:

The so-called liberal or conservative news media is owned by 6 mega media companies that control 90% of our information. 

As Matthew Cooke points out, those companies are owned by the very rich who benefit by selling conflict not truth. There is a direct monetary incentive to keep us all at each other’s throats.

The best way to combat this is to turn off your TV and social media for a while and get to work.  Start mobilizing around organizations, ministries and churches focused on the common good of our communities and helping people to flourish. Jobs for Life is one organization working in Ferguson, MO that has provided practical tools to help address poverty, begin reconciling with each other, give hope and restore the dignity being suppressed by our conflict-driven news media.

There is much in which to be hopeful! So get moving and remember, as Kendrick Lamar reminds us,

“If God got us, then we gon’ be alright!”

Byron McMillan serves as the Director of Content and Training at Jobs for Life in Raleigh, NC.

A Local Pastor’s Perspective on Ferguson | An Interview with Pastor Ken Jenkins

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From the Managing Director

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ferguson community in light of the recent tragic events that have taken place. We also recognize the tensions involving race and violence that have plagued other communities including Baltimore, MD and Charleston, SC. Through the PovertyCure Conversation, we aim to affirm the dignity of every individual and to promote a dynamic conversation: How do we actively cultivate human flourishing and decrease material poverty? This requires that we proactively seek others’ perspectives. I recently had the opportunity to spend time in Ferguson, MO and to get to know Pastor Ken Jenkins, of Refuge and Restoration Church in St. Louis, who has been actively involved in the community response in Ferguson.

To benefit the global PovertyCure conversation, I asked Pastor Ken for his unique local perspective as a leader and pastor in a neighboring town of Ferguson. I asked, “What do the church and other Christian leaders need to hear about Ferguson?” I encourage you to read his response and consider how you can take leadership in community reconciliation.

Pastor Ken Jenkins:
What the Church and Christian Leaders Need to Hear about Ferguson

“The recent events of unrest in Ferguson and other cities in our nation are simply opportunities in the midst of chaos. The drama of the chaos unfolding before us presents a set of unique circumstances, which ironically, places the church in an influential position. The key is, that in the midst of this chaos, people are willing to come to the table, giving us a chance to be an influence as church leaders. This empowers us to leverage our leadership. In what was once the norm, the church received pushback and opposition from secular leaders in efforts to initiate change. Today that is no longer the case. Now, everyone anticipates local church leaders to lead the conversation about ‘fixing’ situations like Ferguson.  

This specific part of the ‘Ferguson conversation’ has uncovered a great need to bring about sustainable change that will impact our communities for generations to come.  

We can no longer ignore the problems that exist in our neighborhoods, and in our cities. For so long we have driven past homes that do not look like ours; people who don’t resemble our friends, while judging their existence and behaviors. We don’t have that privilege any longer. This cry for help has been replaced with rage in the streets, threatening our homes, our businesses, and our lives. The only way to bring about change is to open the lines of communication between the church, the community, and corporate leaders.  In the midst of this chaos lie opportunities.

The church is able to see through the clutter of the chaos, while revealing unique challenges.  The solutions to these challenges require community engagement that creates a way of life that will last longer than an outreach program or a jobs event. Only at the root of this chaos will any agenda be impactful. It is a healing of minds and hearts that must occur in order for true change to happen.  

As in scripture, Pharaoh needs someone to interpret his dreams. Joseph was that man. God is positioning us to provide opportunities in a holistic way.  It’s like the gospel being lived out versus just preaching on a Sunday.

There are a few core critical areas where the greatest needs exist. These are: education, employment, and housing. We must deal with the disproportionate synergisms that currently exist and work towards achieving balance along with equality.

The church must begin engaging leaders to start developing authentic relationships giving the church influence in all sectors of the marketplace. Those communities that have been previously overlooked can now be given chances to change the course of their lives, the course of their families’ lives as well as their communities in which they live.  

In the Jobs For Life (JFL) program, we develop relationships with the corporate sector to give chances to those who have been previously overlooked. In developing those relationships, it holds business leaders accountable. This thing is relational. We can still walk out our faith and create a win-win for everyone.”

Ken Jenkins is the pastor of Refuge and Restoration Church in St. Louis, MO, and currently serves on the executive board of PovertyCure partner, Jobs for Life.