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.