“Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhood? In your neighborhood? They’re the people that you meet each day.”
Anyone who has seen more than a few episodes of “Sesame Street” knows that catchy refrain. As Karis settles into her new location on Ridgeway Avenue, meeting—and truly knowing—our neighbors ranks among our highest priorities.
Moving into a new neighborhood comes with seemingly boundless opportunities—and a few temptations. Churches can hinder their mission, and frustrate the very people they seek to love, when they attempt to reinvent the wheel.
Certainly Karis should dream big dreams for our neighborhood, and faithfully pursue the ministries God inspires. But our new neighborhood, and the First Ward more broadly, existed long before us. It is an area filled with distinct stories, significant victories, particular sins and established resources. Growing in our knowledge of this multifaceted place before we rush headlong into innovation both underlines love and respect for our neighbors and encourages our own sustainability.
With that in mind, what follows is a brief introduction to a few of the neighbors we’ll meet as we seek to love the area around our new location. These organizations are doing vital work and, in many cases, would welcome co-laborers. As we learn to love our neighborhood, a rhythms of coming alongside should supersede those of cutting in or trying to take over.
Consider learning from and living alongside any of these organizations:
City of Refuge: Works to help refugees resettle and flourish in Columbia
Granny’s House: Works with volunteers and local churches to provide afterschool programs and support for children who live in public housing
Worley Street Roundtable: Collaborates to consider the state of our local education system and implement ideas leading to holistic success for Columbia students
Boys and Girls Clubs of Columbia: Provides programming for area youth in the following areas: character and leadership development; education and career development; health and life skills; fine arts; sports, fitness and recreation
Fun City Youth Academy: Offers year-round academic enrichment and social activities for area children, including Saturday and summer academies.
Blind Boone Center: Provides afterschool programs for area youth, and other neighborhood services
Mrs. J's African American Centered Family Institute: Educates local children in black history
Also, get to know and pray for any and all of these schools that serve students who live in the First Ward: Hickman High School, Jefferson Middle School, West Middle School, Smithton Middle School, West Boulevard Elementary, Paxton Keeley Elementary. Other schools in the area exist and serve students from around Columbia (Douglass High School is one example).
—Aarik and Brooke Danielsen