Rudy Carrasco — Urban Ministry & Development
Urban Christian Minister, USA
Solutions that we lob over like a scud missile, where we do drive-by ministry, those are not going to be very effective.
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Rudy Carrasco—Urban Christian Minister
Rudy Carrasco has served close to two decades in urban Christian ministries with the intention of expecting great things of at-risk and gang-influenced young people and training them for success. He is the former executive director of Harambee Christian Family Center in Pasadena, California, an associate director at Partners Worldwide, a regular lecturer for the Acton Institute, and a member of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Alumni Hall of Fame. He serves on the Advisory Board of the Christian Community Development Association and on the on the board of directors of TechMission and World Vision U.S.
Rudy Carrasco—Writing and Leadership
A graduate of Stanford University with a B.A. in English, Rudy Carrasco’s essays have appeared in such places as the Los Angeles Times, Christianity Today and Religion News Service. He also has contributed regular columns to the Pasadena Star-News, Youthworker Journal and Outreach magazine. In 1996 Christianity Today named Carrasco one of fifty Leaders under the Age of 40 to Watch. In 2001 he was among a small group of Hispanic religious leaders from around the country who advised President George W. Bush on faith-based initiatives. And in 2002 he was inducted into the Hispanic Scholarship Fund's Alumni Hall of Fame.
Rudy Carrasco—Subsidiarity and the Gospel
His commentary on stewardship of our talents and the poor can be found in the Effective Stewardship DVD series, produced by Acton and released by Zondervan. Both in the DVD series and in his writing and speaking, Carrasco emphasizes the principle of subsidiarity, the idea that helping the poor is best done by people close to the problem, not by distant bureaucrats. He also emphasizes the life-changing power of the Gospel and the importance for Christians to practice face-to-face compassion as well as leadership mentoring.
A Poor Boy Finds Purpose in Sunday School
My mother died when I was six and my father left us before that. My sister raised me and I didn’t know what was going on in the world, but when I got taught in Sunday School class that I had a heavenly Father, immediately I was located. I went from being a displaced Mexican kid in East L.A., lost in the suburbs of L.A., to being somebody who was connected to history, a past, and to a future. And so that completely changed everything, and now I had to get up and go do something. Because of Christian faith, I and other Christians around the world begin to believe that people are fully capable of great things.
God Cares about Slums
There was a moment when I realized that I could be a part of making dramatic change in, among the poor. I was ten years old listening to a Bible lesson in Sunday School, flannel graph, The Walls of Jericho falling down, and I heard Joshua say, ‘Shout, for the Lord has given you the city. The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord.’ My ten year old unsophisticated mind said, ‘God cares about cities?’ And in that moment, my heart leaped back to East L.A. We had left East L.A. after my mother died when I was six, but my heart was there. I wanted to see something happen in that place where I had been born, the place that I loved, and the place that I feared because it was a dangerous place and I understood that God wasn’t just about heaven, and pie in the sky, and personal salvation. God could do things with cities, and I said, ‘Okay. I want to be a part of that. I want to be a part of a God who loves me and cares about a place in order to transform it.’
Urban Ministry—Learning from his Mistakes
I could write a best-selling book on all the stupid things I’ve done out of good intentions where I thought I was helping the poor and I was actually making the problem worse. We have a Teen Jobs Program that we operate at Harambee. But for years, I made the standards too low. We did not want kids to get fired from our jobs program and turn around and sell drugs on the street. So we were afraid to fire anybody and years later, the fruit of that was that our young people didn’t understand that rules had to be followed. They were adults getting fired from every job that they took, so we turned it around and we said, ‘Okay, we’re going to apply some standards here, and we’re going to fire people.’ And we’ve seen great results because people respond and they want to grow. They know what’s inside of them.
Subsidiarity is a complicated word that’s actually very basic and it’s a wonderful concept. It says that, that an issue or problem should be dealt with by the people who are closest to it.… Solutions that we lob over like a scud missile or something where we do drive-by ministry and help somebody for a minute, those are not going to be very effective. They’re not going to deal with the root issues.
The Challenge of Face-to-Face Compassion
What’s most difficult about loving the poor and reaching the poor is that in order to be effective, it means that we’re going to have to get very personally involved for long periods of time. We’re going to be challenged. We’re going to experience a great amount of pain. That’s why I’m grateful that Jesus had dealt with so much suffering because we are going to suffer when we try to effectively love somebody.
Made in the Image of God
Every single person on the face of the planet is created in God’s image. Everybody has the same heavenly Father. Everybody has capacity, talent, and ability. Everybody has responsibility. Everybody has stewardship responsibility. I don’t care what dirt hovel you’re living in, in Brazil or Mexico City or Manila. You have a responsibility to be a steward of the resources under your control because you have a heavenly Father who has put great things inside of you and that’s waiting to be called out and developed and extracted.
The Poor are Stewards, Too
There are thousands of scriptures, as many of our Christian leaders have pointed out, that directly speak about how we’re supposed to treat people justly, that we’re supposed to look out for the concerns of the poor, for the orphan, for the widow…. But even more broadly than that, we have to keep in mind that every scriptural mandate, or every blessing, or every curse, every challenge that comes from God applies also to the poor. It’s a subtle point, but we can take, for example, scriptures that talk about stewardship, and the responsibility of the individual to be a steward over creation, to be a steward over their own family, over themselves. And it’s subtle, but I think—and inadvertent—but we often don’t apply those scriptures to the poor. None of us thinks about a poor child, living in a dump, in the most horrid conditions, none of us thinks about that child as having stewardship responsibility. But the fact is that that child does.
The Limits of Government Charity
People have a lot more faith in government than they should, and they should pay attention to all the really bad things that come out of large programs that are managed by bureaucrats who are at a distance, who are not personally involved in a situation. Really …people who administer public housing should live in public housing.