Wally Bryan’s Stories
99 &1 is an outreach of our YMCA—based on Luke 15
HIT Squad (Hopkinsville Inner-city Transformation) is an element of our Local Development Corp
I want to share a few recent stories; they are personal, and I share them NOT at all to say anything about me, but rather to give you some pictures of what could happen on a much larger scale if many more of us would learn more about the Christian Community Development Association’s model of how to employ new strategies to connect with the people who live more towards the bottom. Please go to CCDA.org, or call me at 886-5685, to learn about the October Conference in St Louis. How I hope and pray that many of us will attend this meeting. The approaches taught there are the best hope I’ve seen anywhere of how to really change a neighborhood/a city. Poor educations, crime, poverty—–they so tug a community downward.
This morning a very committed black man knocked on my door. He wanted to know if he might work with others to begin a men’s Bible Study at Challenge House #1.
This morning a weak-minded neighbor asked me for a ride to the Court House; she had overslept and might end up in jail if she missed her court appointment. Many times in the past I have given her rides. This time I said “no”. I don’t know if I did right or not. I told her to walk in the heat. She was not happy. I was too busy. Again, I don’t know about my rejection; I don’t feel good about it but I reason that at some point she needs to understand responsibility?
Last week a neighbor in this 8-plex where I live asked for a ride to the Walmart Distribution Center to pick up his check——much reduced by child support withholdings. I took him, this for the second time. I told him that next time he needed to plan ahead—that if I take him again I may charge him for time and gas. I did not feel good about that. It’s not easy to know what to do. He has a car, but it’s been “down” for a long time, and he’s behind on rent, and just truly struggling day-to-day. I am glad he works, and feel good that he is working.
Last week one night I drove my car over to Eastside(Attucks, Booker T Washington, the old Cayce Mill Supply area) and just rolled my windows down and talked to folks outside. Everyone was so nice. There is so little reason to fear. Fear may be one of the emotions that so keeps us disconnected. I talked with a woman who was so thrilled that she had recently been hired as a janitor at the new Martin Luther King, Jr. elementary school. She has no transportation, but definitely had the mindset that she would ALWAYS find a ride to work. I sure hope she does. I talked to another young man and asked him if he had a job. He said, “Yes, you told me about the Job Fair and I went to the Convention Center—-I have been working several weeks already”. I had no recollection of telling him about the Job Fair, but I do remember riding my bike all over town and passing out flyers for our Chamber of Commerce. I am not excited that I was a link to his job; I am excited that he has a job! I gave him a business card, and told him I’d like to take him out for a meal sometime—-to talk about how to manage the new income—and to build a new friendship. I doubt if he’ll call, but at least it was a positive encounter.
I received a call yesterday from a youth pastor, informing me that the students from his church had been so impacted by their outreach work this summer, and that they and other churches are now talking about a big Fall Break outreach, to help the poor and elderly within our older sections of town, and perhaps do some youth-to-youth work too!
Last week I was walking early, and came face-to-face with a young man walking toward me, toward a school bus stop. I stopped him and wished him a good day at HHS. To him I must have seemed mighty old. And what’s this guy doing over here? And why is he talking to me, and wishing me a good day at HHS. And why did he point to his neck and ask what is this? The answer to him was this: “this is your neck——–study hard today, and remember that everything below the neck is minimum wage———study hard and earn a much better income down the road—-get that knowledge into your brain! It’s no longer a muscle workplace”. Maybe he will study just a little harder than he would have?
Last week I was driving my car and heard a woman shout at me. She came over to the car when I slowed it. She’s in her 30’s and needs to be able to pass her driver’s test. She wanted to know if someone at Challenge House would help tutor her for the written part of the driver’s license exam. Sara Small just gained her license in Virginia, and has arranged to meet with her to tutor her. I hope that she is able to pass the test. She’s not been successful with past attempts. Maybe Sara’s tutoring will be her tipping point, and maybe not?
We hired a neighbor to mow/weed-eat at Challenge House. He smiled big when I passed him $20.
I was driving and a young boy threw his empty water bottle in front of my car. I stopped and demanded that he pick it up, that “we are trying to keep our neighborhoods less littered”. My guess is that he went down the road and tossed it again. I should have asked him to hand it to me, that I’d be happy to place it in a Herbie Curbie later, and “did he need a ride”. I blew that one! I could have created a positive relationship. Maybe I’ll learn from that mistake.
This morning while walking a woman asked for a job—–she is proud of her ability to cook. Maybe we can help connect her to a restaurant?
Challenge House #2 on Bryan Street is really coming along.
We really really really need to find folks who might be interested in living in one soon, or in some future one. If you have interest, or ideas, please let me know. Everyone can’t go into the Peace Corp, or into a foreign land to mission—-some of us can do it right here at home! It’s been HOT, and there is still so much to do—so many loose ends—so much complexity as to how to really help people, and not to enable them.
Thanks for your interest, and please, some of you/many of you——–think about the St Louis Christian Community Development Association conference.
I will always appreciate our Local Development Corporation for supporting the HIT Squad (Hopkinsville Inner-city Transformation) and our YMCA for supporting the 99 & 1 outreach (Luke Chapter 15). Out of their patience and encouragement, the Challenge House Movement was born.
It’s like a puzzle: sometimes you take the piece and put it where you think it needs to go, but it does not exactly “fit” so you remove it and in time you find the piece that fits that gap, and in time you rejoice as you see the picture on the box finally taking place at the puzzle itself! So it is with the Challenge House Movement. We have worked with the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, the Inner City Residential Enterprise Zone(IC-REZ), many churches, businesses, organizations, and individuals, AND WILL CONTINUE TO!
Challenge Houses are much more about rebuilding lives than about rebuilding houses. They are also all about building permanent quality relationships that will enrich lives, certainly including the lives of those who choose to relocate to live in the Challenge Houses. The Christian soldiers/servants occupying Challenge Houses will serve as important links to the children and adults residing in our older neighborhoods, providing friendship, spiritual truth, educational awareness, employment opportunity, and life-skill training. People will begin to regain connection and hope, and THEN we will begin to see neighborhood pride and stability reemerge!
Yes, there have been conflicts, hurt feelings, and misunderstandings. The only people who don’t experience these are those at the cemetery and those who are not part of the battle. Battle scars go with this territory, but let us reconcile and unite the best we can. The mayor had his Unity Breakfast. Hopkinsville really is divided in many ways, disconnected in many ways. The Challenge House Movement is all about bridge-building; it’s all about realizing that we all journey in a ship named “Hopkinsville”. Many are realizing the perils of paddling alone, the perils of paddling in different directions, the perils of not knowing our neighbors. Our Chamber of Commerce and Human Relations Commission did a good work with Study Circles; some people got honest and some unity came forth. Like Henry Snorton coached us to chant: “We want to unite”!
After living 40 months at the apartment, I am finally fully moved to Challenge House #1. Matthew Harris has proven, as a former resident of the Durrett Avenue neighborhood, to be a very valuable House-mate, getting out into the streets and mixing with his old friends, many living failed lives. I/We will move on one week’s notice once the right set of singles, the right couple, or the right family is selected to become permanent occupants. In the meantime, rent is being paid to help offset expenses.
Challenge House #2 is still in the construction phase; we all look forward to its completion later this year. Sara Small’s connection with so many of our youth played a big part in 50, or more, young people(along with their Youth Pastors and other adult leaders) working in our inner-city over Fall Break; Boys and Girls Club and Challenge House #1 served as their home bases. They earned $500 for Challenge House #2. Emerson: “When duty whispers low—-‘you must’—youth respond ‘I can”!
The Christian Community Development Association conference in St Louis was wonderful. I brought back many ideas, including a most interesting job readiness program: go to jobsforlife.com to read about it. We will be ordering video of some of the sessions, and will try to get it into the library section “Community Development” (over by the computers on the first floor). Hopefully some of you will visit there to read the books of Dr. Perkins, Bob Lupton, and others. It was good to have new “Challenge House Movement” literature available to share there in St Louis, and it’s good to have it for here too. It’s informative literature, and more and more are “seeing” how the CCDA.org model will work for our beloved city.
David Smith at Cornerstone Information Systems has helped us set up an affordable website: Go to ChallengeHouse.org to check it out. It’s a work in progress~
John Mahre continues to always come through with architectural help. Margaret Galloway and her Workforce Investment Act (WIA) young workers have played such key roles. John Cotthoff at Westate Construction, Inc recently gave us such a boost. It seems never-ending as to folks stepping up!
Let me know if you need a speaker for a small or large gathering, or if you have ideas, or suggestions. I am very upbeat as we enter this Fall Season. Thanks to you all who are so with us. We are always looking to enlarge our TEAM! Come aboard!
Please feel free to forward this to anyone who might be interested in this work.
There is seldom a dull day living at Challenge House #I until permanent singles, a couple, or a family commits to this inner-city work. I am thankful for having Matthew Harris as a co-occupant here.
I check the Challenge House phone for messages: “How are you doing, Wally Bryan; this is ___________, _______’_ brother. I was trying to call to talk to you—-I really need to talk to you—it’s very important. Wally, you know what I’m saying, I used to be in the streets ripping and running and getting into trouble, but I’m just trying to change; don’t want to run the streets no more. I’ve been doing good since I got out; I’m working at a Day Care around kids—-and I don’t want to do it no more. I’m looking for a new way of life and I really need some support—so if you could, would you please call me at ______”?
I dial the number. No answer.
Later, after being away, I check the phone for messages again: “How are you doing, Wally—this is ___________. I just got out of church and I see I missed your call—if you get a chance, will you please call me again. Again, I’m trying to change my ways Wally—I’ve been working at a Day Care and I just want to do what I can to help out in my community. I want to stay out of jail and stay out of trouble and I’m turning my life around and like everything going on with me. I could use your help and I’m willing to so whatever I can. Please give me a call again”.
I called him, and he was home. He lives close to me, but it’s raining. I drive to his house and bring him back to Challenge House to meet Matthew Harris. It’s dreary outside, but the paint colors and light make it feel warm inside, and I did adjust the thermostat too! Instantly it’s easy to see that our new friend is open and honest and seeking. I met him a little while ago while I was watering the new grass at Challenge House. I gave him my phone number. He followed up. Most don’t.
He has worn an ankle bracelet since his release from our jail on October 4th. His street friends don’t like to be around anyone wearing an ankle bracelet, so they leave him alone for the time being. He likes the routine of work and church, and indicates that the ankle bracelet has made him more responsible. He is age 28 and has 6 children. After a good talk, Matthew prays as we give him a used Bible, and mark the books of James and Philippians for his reading. He’s been playing church volleyball, and smiled as he told us that his church played the Jailer’s church recently, and competed against him (Brad Boyd). He has a sentencing hearing December 5th. I asked him if he was interested in taking part in a Bible Study about work: Jobs for Life. He said “yes”. We will see~ This is a ground war. It’s all about door-to-door, person-to-person, relationship one with another. Challenge Houses establish footholds for good, right close to where so much is bad. Christian hospitality works! People are hungry for a Better Way.This is not about me, or about Matthew, or even about our new friend. It’s about how so many bruised people are hungry for hope and change. Can you imagine the domino effect of just this one life changing for good? It could happen over and over again! I love the people over here. They love back. There is no reason to be afraid.
Feel free to forward this to anyone you want to. ChallengeHouse.org is our website. Thanks for your interest in this work. We like to give tours, and we are always looking for new ideas and people who want to help us. The number here is 886-8887. We appreciate every single person who has helped us!
This monthly report is early, but December promises to be a busy month, and I have some things on my mind and heart~
New Work Fellowship provided Challenge House with tickets to One Bethlehem Night, it’s dinner/play production. Aida Vega rounded up 5 guests to take, and I rounded up 3. As I drove there, one of my passengers, eight year-old CaPaul, asked: “Can blacks go to your church”? He lives here in my neighborhood and has figured out that Challenge House is a good place. He normally attends Hillcrest. Why he asked that question is beyond me, but he did. We had a wonderful time at the play; I honestly believe that several of the kids we took actually thought they were eye-witnessing the birth of Jesus! We stopped by our YMCA for a little play-time prior to driving to church at New Work. One of the girls under my care stepped on the scale. She’s probably less than 5′ tall, 10 years-old, and weighed in at an even 160. I was absolutely shocked and lost it with her. I warned her of bad food choices, diabetes, and more. I was so ashamed of myself. She lives in terrible poverty, right here on my street. I hope and pray that some loving woman can teach her the ways toward good physical health. She is worth it. Maybe I’ll get around to this, but I probably won’t: one of the children mentioned that he asked his mother about a Christmas tree, but she said, “No, my money is going to have to go for Christmas presents—not a tree”. Most of us have so much. Most of us stay disconnected from folks of poverty and/or different skin tones. Why? Maybe because it’s so painful to be up close and personal. Maybe it is fear. When we do address issues of poverty, it seems it’s usually with a quick-fix, and seldom with the one thing these “least of these” need most: personal long-term relationships.
Today I went to the funeral of the young man who recently died while in our jail. His dad, the Reverend Perry Greenwade, preached his son’s funeral. First Street Baptist was standing room only. I suppose that there might have been 8-10 white folks there. I don’t know if there was even one white pastor present. Our pastors don’t even know each other across racial lines. Perry preached Luke 15 about the father looking at great distance and seeing his son return: the grace of God. An invitation to accept Christ was given at the end of the service, and it looked like 5-10 young men and women went forward. Will they join a live church and be discipled in the Word? The harvest is ripe but the laborers are few. Many are realizing that the street culture is dead-end, but will there be enough non-scared Soldiers to our streets to rescue them? It was hot in the church today—it was SOOOOOOO crowded. Funeral directors gave out little fans; they included advertising from a Pay Day Loan Company. How stupid can people be? My fan even had a website printed on it: www.checkintocash.com. A city with PayDay Advance Centers so plentiful is in trouble. A brilliant marketing idea: pass out fans where the poor are congregated and hot! Does not our faith deplore injustice?
Did you read about the pro football player for the Redskins who was murdered recently? 4 young suspects are in custody. All, or most, of them had “My Space” Internet postings. It made me sick to see them with huge wads of money in their fists, and money laying all over them as they stretched out. Their postings were all about pagan street culture, materialism, and (indirectly) disrespect for women.
Every inner-city in America is in trouble, I suppose. Young black males seem to be sucked into bleak circumstances in droves, but it was a white young man who “snapped” in Omaha. Our country and our city are fragile: my opinion. We are cutting our fingernails while we are supposed to be at battle. No wonder we are losing. When will we wake up? What happened to the Onward Christian Soldier mindset? Is there a David Wilkerson preacher somewhere? The Cross and the Switchblade might be a good book for many of us to study together. Miracles CAN happen HERE, just like in his true rendering!
I know a young man who almost lost his job because he stank. I decided to try to find his home, and check it out. I knocked and a man let me in. “No, he’s not here—didn’t come back last night”. I looked around: clothes all over the floor, house in need of thousands of dollars of repair. I returned several days later. This time his mom was at home. “I just returned from up north, I think he’s at my sister’s”. I decided to discuss his body odor issue, to see if there might be a chemical imbalance problem. She assured me that it was just an issue of washing his clothes and body hygiene. I found him at his Aunt’s duplex, and brought him across town to his job. I so hope he keeps it, and presses on with his educational challenges. I need help. I need for others of you to think about how you might be more closely associated with relationships with the kids and adults I write about.
Restoring At-Risk Communities is first and foremost about people. We can no longer accept the disconnect we have here in our community. We MUST come together. Our challenges are of great magnitude. It will not be easy to stay positive with the on-going crime news that so often is headlines in our paper. But news is news. Who knifed to death the white man at Pennyrile Apartments? Why did the young man from Bryan Street shoot the young man on East 2nd Street? What has happened to valuing human life? What can we do to put character and education back on the front-burner?
Paul Watts, Gary Adams, Becki Wells, and I recently met at the Chamber of Commerce. The topic was a program we are learning a lot about, and hope to bring here to Hopkinsville. Go to JobsforLife.com to learn about it. We really need the churches of our nation to “see” that we help the poor most when we help them achieve job readiness.
The “Purpose” statement of The Challenge House Movement is “to make it easy for persons, couples, and families to live out their faith within an under-resourced neighborhood, and while there to share not only their Christ-centered reason for relocating, but to also help connect kids and adults to opportunities of education, employment, and life skills”. Do you know any Christians who have wondered about the Peace Corps or foreign missions, but are not out of country? Folks who might want to live and work close to those at the bottom here in our own country! If so, please call: 270-886-8887 or 270-889-3395. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves to allow our beloved city to fall any further. Together we CAN overcome these challenges, and be a beacon of light to cities, small and large, all across this land! Be a part of the Challenge House Movement. With all of my heart I believe it’s part of the solution!
Have a Merry Christmas, and let’s buckle down in 2008 and make it the year to remember: the year when splintered groups came together, communicated, and fought for Victory over poverty, crime, and decline!
The Challenge House Movement is an outgrowth of our YMCA’s outreach (99&1 – Luke 15) and of our Local Development Corporation’s (LDC) outreach(Hopkinsville Inner-city Transformation-HIT Squad!). Challenge Houses improve real estate, but more importantly seek to build relationships that will shape people’s lives for positive advancement. Challenge Houses will always operate out of neighborhoods that are mismanaged. This is Peace Corps type work, foreign mission type work, BUT here in America! Our goal is to place men and women of faith right in the midst of “the least of these”. This is faith at work, and we need your help. There are many ways to help. Let us know of your interest~ A few days ago two young boys, ages 12-13, knocked on the door of Challenge House #1, on Central Avenue. They wanted to know what they could do to earn $10($5 each). I asked why? They answered that they wanted to go to some kind of “lock-in” at the skating rink. It was nearly dark, and I didn’t have even one idea for work. I turned them away—but with these thoughts: 1 They have QUIT asking for money, for handouts. With just a few contacts with AJ, here and there and over many months, I have seen his mindset change from beggar to worker. He earned $10 last week, working hard to clean the yard and to move heavy landscape pavers to the Workshop. 2 Our community so needs a massive summer work program for disadvantaged youth. This would make a huge difference! 3 The parents over here, most of the time, have practically no money. Jobs For Life is a job readiness program that our Y has purchased. It is being implemented in Memphis, Nashville, and many other places! When you hear more about it, please be open to ways you can help—or contact Paul Watts or Gary Adams or Aida Vega at our YMCA(887-5382). We plan to teach Jobs for Life out of Challenge Houses. This week Macksey, a man who stopped by Challenge House several months ago(desperate for change and help) stood before our Circuit Judge for final sentencing: trafficking in drugs. I stood with him, as did his mom, as did his young pastor(who used to rip and run the streets himself, but is a changed man now), as did his girl friend, and as did his employer. Both the Judge and Commonwealth Attorney heard from Macksey, and from most of us. In the end, it was “7 years”. Macksey took it like a man. Macksey had wanted to be the first enrollee in Jobs for Life. Maybe some day we will have it available at the jailhouse. This is what I think about Macksey: I think he is a changed man! Cedar Grove Baptist Church played a huge role in introducing him to The Way, and Challenge House (being right in his hood) linked him to the YMCA’s men’s Bible study, where both the Scriptures and new role models influenced him. I think Macksey will be a model prisoner, and will one day have his sentence shortened. I think he will return to the streets to help us! Only time will tell if I am right about this. Please pray for Macksey. He could be the link to reach many others! We have been able to work with Adult Education (Family Circle) to see Macksey’s girl friend re-enter the GED program—just a small step, but one that could have BIG results! Good things happen through relationships. Most of the people living in our at-risk neighborhoods are disconnected from the kind of relationships that can tip them ahead with character, education, and employment. That’s what the Challenge House Movement is all about! Challenge House #II on Bryan Street is nearing completion. In time, because of its position right in the middle of one of the toughest streets in town(and with many children nearby) stories will be told there too! Imagine with me: A network of Challenge Houses scattered throughout our under-resourced neighborhoods all across our city! If you can dream big, you can “see” outcomes from this work — outcomes that will impact this city right in its gut—outcomes so needed here!
As I sit in the upstairs, many-windowed, office at Challenge House #1, I look down at the happy sounds of teenage laughter. 4 girls walk down the middle of the street loudly expressing their leisure.
Briefly I wonder about who they are, where they are headed now, and what kind of future awaits them? Of course there is no way to know any of that. I wonder if they, and others, would stop in on cold gloomy days like this, if we had a little sign out front, “Welcome to all, come in now for hot chocolate, coffee, and soup”. Some day a string of Challenge Houses will loop our core-downtown—each neighborhood will know its House to be a place of true Christian hospitality. In essence, each neighborhood will own its Challenge House, and will come to know it as a point of light: faith light, education light, employment light, and life-skills light. Challenge House occupants will help to re-neighbor the older, declining neighborhoods of our city. This is important business.
God and Isaiah had a talk in Chapter 6.
God: “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us”?
Isaiah: “Here I am. Send me!”
I don’t think Isaiah was looking for a job. But, he was in His Presence, and he overheard the question. Without consideration, Isaiah volunteered! The nation Isaiah would preach to would not listen, but some individuals would. The cities would come to ruin, there would be abandoned houses and vacant lots.
I am about to walk to the Post Office. I will select the worst path. My soul will cry with wonder as to how the heart of our city’s oldest neighborhoods came to this state of being? House after house with a disconnected gas meter, signaling the heat source to be the stove top, oven, or a keresene space heater. I will notice many bad roofs and much wood rot. Could it be that the houses are falling apart because the lives of the people are? Are sins of commission the reason for this? Or, could it be sins of ommission too? Maybe who is to blame is not nearly as important as, “What can I do”?
Soon we will be teaching a job readiness class(Jobs for Life) right out of Challenge House #1, and in late April or May we plan to teach a GED class right out of Challenge House #1. People of faith, education, employment, and courage who offer themselves to people unlike themselves will benefit so much, and new relationships will likewise benefit those who struggle for better news.
I want to ask you to pray that we will find the right people to carry out the occupant role for Challenge Houses. Many people seem to want to go the the Peace Corps and foreign mission field, yet right here in America, in our own cities, we seem to want to toss the Gospel in from outside, rather than move closer to those precious children at the bottom, and the feeble adults who try to parent when they themselves have never been taught that skill. If you might be interested in doing inner-city ministry, please contact me. If you know of anyone from your past or current relationships who might be interested, please contact me. Challenge Houses may be occupied by singles, couples, or families. Saving the world seems like a good idea; so does the idea of trying to impact our own poverty, crime, and hopelessness.
There is really one answer. Luke 15 tells the story of the Shepherd leaving the 99 to go find the 1. Our YMCA effort, 99&1 seeks to do just this. There are many ways to help the “1”, if you want me to put your name down to help one way or the other, please let me know. Thanks so much, wbryan
PS news bits:
1 I had a great visit to Franklin, TN where I witnessed a racial reconciliation effort let by ministers. From a small beginning a black minister and a white minister have seen this effort blessed with growth and fruit.
2 Gary Adams and I attended a Jobs for Life graduation ceremony in Memphis. Words cannot express the potential of this program for our community!
3 Challenge House #2 is almost finished, and is beginning to look great.
PLEASE FORWARD TO ANYONE WHO HAS AN INTEREST IN FAITH-BASED ACTION AIMED AT LOVING THE POOR AND BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH THEM. CONNECTIONS BETWEEN OUTERCITY PEOPLE AND INNERCITY PEOPLE IS WIN/WIN! THERE IS GOOD NEWS, AND WE ARE COMMISSIONED TO SPREAD IT!
Christian Community Development, as defined by Dr. John Perkins(CCDA.org) is much about some Christians in this country intentionally moving closer to the people who are disconnected and poor, so as to build everyday and lasting relationships. From those relationships spring racial reconciliation, and distribution of faith resources, educational opportunity, and employment connections.
Two Challenge Houses are not completed. These are houses that were only a step away from the HIT Squad(bulldozer) but now are ready for singles, couples, and families who, rather than heading overseas to the Peace Corps or foreign mission fields, choose to stay in America and live out the Gospel among “the least of these”. I have written 60+ local pastors asking them to help us find Resident-faciliators for these two Challenge Houses, and we are also looking into out-of-town avenues for finding occupants. If you have any ideas, please contact me.
It’s true! Our YMCA is conducting the Jobs for Life classes right out of Challenge House #1 on Central Avenue. It’s amazing to witness the changes taking place among the students as they begin to “see” a better way of living, and a better way of seeking employment(and keeping it!). This is a job readiness course, and it’s being offered at our county jail too. Nationwide, thousands are taking part in Jobs for Life classes(JobsForLife.com).
It’s true! Beginning May 6th, GED classes will be taught right out of Challenge House #1 on Central Avenue. Rosemary Bradley will be our lead teacher, and we may need a few tutors.
It’s true! Soon Challenge House #2 will begin to offer neighborhood bonding opportunities and programs. There is no way to describe how hungry so many are to improve their lives, and the lives of their children. Special thanks to Jim Wisby and to Lucy Catlett for the lead roles they have played with Challenge House #2, spawned by vision and fundraising from Sara Small of Richmond, Virginia. So many here have helped too. There is just no way to name everyone, but it’s definitely a community project now!
We have way too much crime in our community, and way too much poverty. We can’t change what we tolerate. We must not tolerate further decline of our people and the neighborhoods in which they reside.
In my February Report, I mentioned getting ready to walk from Challenge House #1 to the Post Office, and how I would take a path that highlighted housing disrepair. On the way back I noticed this little boy running out of a house and away from me. I hollared “hi” to him, and he stopped to look at me. Instantly he ran back into the house, shouting this to his family or friends, “Come out quick, the Challenge House Dude is here”! I got a huge laugh, and thought to myself how wonderful it will be some day when other folks associated with living in Challenge Houses will be refered to as “Challenge House Dudes”! That’s my dream, and I hope it’s your’s too.
Just a few days ago, at night, as I was leaving Challenge House #1 to go sleep at Challenge House #2, I stopped to ask a man walking if he needed a lift? He got into my car, eyes blurry from alcohol. Amazingly, when I asked him where he was going, he said he lived on Bryan Street. Suddenly he recognized me as a former mayor, and said, “I want to thank you, you gave me a job tearing down old houses when you were mayor. I was just 14 or so, and I was able to buy my school clothes with that money”. I was stunned, and now blurry-eyed myself. This young man is 29 now, and he remembered working in 1991. These kids want to work, and so do the adults. As we exited the car on Bryan Street, at Challenge House #2, he hugged me, and we talked about Godly wisdom taught in the Book of Proverbs, and he shared that he loved to read First John. There is hope for this young man, and for so many others! We must build lasting relationships with them, right where so many “stay”.
Gary Adams and I took a walk in the neighborhood just a few days back. We stopped to talk to some little boys playing basketball on a goal with no net. Gary took them a net just a few minutes later. Once again, just little acts of love building foundations for big future changes.
We bought an old-fashioned push mower, rotating blades with no motor. We pay young kids to mow the grass at Challenge Houses. We want them to understand the relationship between work and pay. It was so neat to watch the bounce in the young man’s legs Friday afternoon, as he held the check in his hand and headed away from the yard he had just mowed!
I write this Report on May 16th; last night was graduation night for 2 men and 6 women! They graduated from the national job readiness class known as Jobs for Life. 12 or more began the Journey, but 6 stuck it out! I wish you could have heard their remarks at the graduation ceremony. Tears of joy wet my face. Our YMCA paid for the class materials and Gary Adams, Operations Director at our Y, directed the effort, including coordinating the efforts of volunteers and speakers. Employment is key, as we all know, to gaining financial stability. Financial literacy was included in the teaching strategy. Jobs for Life is Christian-based, with much emphasis placed on faith and character. The classes were held at Challenge House #1. The graduation ceremony included a fine meal, singing, a speech by Pastor Buddy Slaughter, and the presentation of framed certificates of completion!
Even though classes are finished for the 6 graduates, they voted to continue their bonding by starting a Bible Study out of Challenge House #1.
Jobs for Life is also being taught at Challenge House #2. 13 men and women began the class; 4 classes have been completed, and it looks like we may have as many as 7-9 who have what it takes to finish! Time will tell.
Rosemary Bradley is teaching GED classes 3 days a week(10AM to 1PM) out of Challenge House #1; she has 4 good students! It’s so awesome to see them ‘paying the price’ to further their educations.
Almost 4 years ago Mike Burman coined the phrase, Neighborhood Community College. Challenge Houses had not even been thought of then, and we did not know of the Jobs for Life curriculum, or imagine GED classes within walking distance of so many who are high school dropouts. My guess is that we have just seen the tip of the iceberg!
Look up the word, ’emergency’ in your dictionary. Now think of the term, ‘human emergency’. Do we have the spiritual eyes, and the spiritual pluck, to make a difference? I think the answer is ‘YES WE DO’!
Momentum is building, Christian soldiers are gathering. Faith at Work is a Fact!
People without faith are finding that God has not forgotten them. People who are hopeless are finding hope. People who lack educational attainment are working to change that. We are getting to know each other across lines of race, income, and education. That’s a good thing for a community!
A few days ago 3 middle school age boys knocked on the door of Challenge House #1, wanting to work—to mow the grass. The grass really did not need mowing for another 3-4 days, but how do you say ‘no’ to kids who have so little money, and WANT to WORK? I made a deal with them, even paying a little more than normal so the sum would be easily divisible by 3. We have an old-fashion push-mower, the blades rotate as you ‘push’; no gasoline/no oil–sweat! I wish riding-mowers had never been invented. There is not much need for muscles anymore. The boys shared duties, and those not pushing pulled a few weeds and stiff grass that the mower missed. Oh for the day when our city has strong work and/or study programs for her kids!—‘our future’ is what we often term kids. What about the summer months? So many have so little direction.
This morning, real early, I watered the plants at Challenge House #II on Bryan Street. It was cool and I had already had my morning devotional time. These are front-porch, middle of the street, neighborhoods, but no humans were yet stirring—a few cats appeared and disappeared, and song birds seem as happy here as anywhere. It made me feel good to know that I was giving the new plantings a drink, that they would be less thirsty this day. Then I wondered why we don’t water people right where they are planted?
Well, this is the goal of the Challenge House Movement: to discover men and women who want to do home missions, and to place them in an innercity Challenge House as their residence. From that base of operations, they will plant seeds of friendship and hope with both kids and adults. People will get to know each other. Dividing lines of race, income, and education will lessen. Many men and women and students who don’t prefer to actually live closeby to a Challenge House will nonetheless get very involved with helping to restore at-risk neighborhoods. They too will come into relation with those who live in poverty: maybe by helping them as GED tutors, maybe by helping them with the job readiness classes(Jobs for Life), maybe by helping them locate free/used furniture or fixtures for their homes, maybe by working with them to fix up their houses or yards, or maybe by hosting parties out of the Challenge Houses. What is your idea? Maybe some Sunday School Classes could reach out, or even visit Challenge Houses for future ideas. Maybe some churches could carry out a mini-Vacation Bible Schools out of Challenge Houses. Maybe folks could come teach some of the kids how to run good lemonade stands, or some other micro-business idea. Maybe some group could think of something neat to do out of the Workshop at House #1. Maybe some group could carry out a summer mini-reading program. Truthfully there is no end to ideas.
The harvest is ripe. Are there ways you can help?
And, like the good feeling I got when I watered the plants this morning early, you too will find inner confirmation that your efforts surprisingly paid back just as you gave. That’s in the Bible too!
Yesterday a man of about age 30 walked fast past the side of Challenge House #I; Matthew Harris and I were inside talking, and noticed him. I ran to the back door, and hollared his name over the Workshop roof. I could not see him;he could not see me. Voice recognition is an amazing thing. The Bible teaches it. In just a minute he knocked on the back door. He came in and enjoyed good conversation and encouraging words. He stays in the Salvation Army shelter. I first met him about 3 years ago. Mr. and Mrs. Fred May are buying his books. He enters our community college in August. He graduates from the Jobs for Life class on June 26th. He now regularly attends Bible Study at Mrs. Smith’s or the Challenge House. He had eaten a little breakfast at the Salvation Army. He left here with a smile on his face and a banana in his hand.
Inner-city News/Challenge House July 2008 Hopkinsville, KY
The YMCA newest outreach effort, “Jobs for Life” began its first class at the end of March 2008. On July 8, 2008 the 4th class of Jobs for Life began. The class has presently 10 participants with the possibility of one additional person. Presently there are two classes in session at the Challenge House on Central Avenue and South Side Church of Christ is conducting Jobs for Life classes at the
Christian County Jail. The word has been spreading and the interest has increased. We have seen great change in many people’s lives.
Not only are they gaining employment, they are renewing their faith in God and making changes in their lifestyles. A young lady that completed the course had many roadblocks in her life which includes a felony. She now has a new commitment to the Lord, scored very high on her TABE test and obtained a job at a large factory in the industrial park. Another participant’s mother at a graduation expressed her thankfulness for turning her daughter’s life around. A young man that graduated was hired by the YMCA and is an excellent employee. A retired schoolteacher that is graduating with the 3rd
Class will start teaching Jobs for Life classes in the near future.
There is a team effort by many organizations to help restore people’s lives. Kentucky Work Force Development along with the help of the Hopkinsville Chamber of Commerce provided a grant
for $5,000 for clothing, footwear and gas coupons for graduates. The program has brought more awareness to Hopkinsville of the needs of the poor and underprivileged. There has been collaboration and interface among many agencies.
The Aaron McNeil house has agreed to host a class in September of this year. Referrals have been coming from the Salvation Army, Sanctuary House, Drug Court, Juvenile Justice System and other agencies. A majority of the participants find out about Jobs for Life through those that have either taken the course or are associated with it.
It is a blessing to watch people restore their lives through faith in God and gaining the confidence and abilities to be successful in life.
Gary W. Adams
Jobs for Life Site Director
I am Rosemary Bradley and have been a Christian County Adult Education instructor since the fall of 2007. When I asked the director, Bev Thomson about locating another community satellite location at Challenge House #1, she didn’t hesitate to give the okay. Along with the off site locations of Oak Grove, Family Circle, and Woodland Heights, the Challenge House GED class would reach into a location where transportation to Adult Education classes at HCC is difficult.
The first Challenge House GED class had 12 students. Some students stayed longer than others but for the students who persevered, there were some incredible rewards. One of the first students I had was a young mother who had limited childcare and no transportation. She walked approximately 6 blocks to Challenge House #1. Because of her lack of childcare, attendance was sporadic, but her dedication nonetheless was very admirable. If she did have childcare, she walked, rain or shine. I know of at least two days when she came in dripping wet. Her initial test scores were very good so she was able to take the practice GED right away. She scored well and needed only some basic math review to prepare for the official GED. She signed up to take the GED on Saturday, June 21st. I had taken her access code home with me so I could check her scores over the weekend. When I saw she had passed, I quickly printed out her scores and went to deliver the results. I hadn’t told her on the phone that she had passed, just that I had something to deliver to her. It was funny that the student’s mom had figured out what I was doing, but my student was totally surprised with the results. Once she gets transportation arranged she plans to continue her education at HCC.
Even though this second story does not involve one of the Challenge House students, it does have a Challenge House connection. Before starting the GED classes at Challenge House, the first week of May, I had been teaching at Family Circle located at the Head Start Center. One of my students there was a young man who was paralyzed from the waist down and rolled himself in his wheelchair over a mile to attend GED class there. Sadly, Family Circle closed its doors permanently on May 28th. Most of those students transferred over to the Challenge House GED class. That was not possible for the young man in the wheelchair. He was a very bright student who scored well on every subject except math. He was signed up to take the June 21st GED but really needed more math review in order
to pass. That’s where the Challenge House connection comes in. Adam Humphries, a young man who had helped Sara Small last year with Challenge House #2, had contacted Wally. Adam, a math major and home from college, wanted to help teach GED math. I contacted Adam and he totally took the ball from there. He picked up the practice GED math books and worked with our student every day until the test day. When the results came in and I saw the word, “PASSED”, I couldn’t have been more proud, proud of the GED student who persevered through incredible odds, and proud of Adam who dedicated his time and knowledge by going to the student’s public housing apartment in order to teach our student.
There are more success stories than these from the Challenge House GED class and disappointments as well. What carries all of us through these disappointments is the realization that we are there for those who wish to make a change in their lives. Even though it may be only “one starfish at a time”, to those who choose to help themselves, the successes can be life changing.
I am pleased to report that even though the Christian County Adult Education is going to be under new leadership with Hopkinsville Community College, the desire to reach out into the community with satellite locations such as Challenge House is still there. The current plan is to start Challenge House’s second GED class some time after Labor Day.
Here is some information on a new program working through the Challenge Houses. We are collecting materials that can be used for remodeling and fixing up inner city homes. If you are remodeling a kitchen or bathroom-we need the good, old cabinets, vanities, bathroom fixtures, light fixtures, etc. We need paint, tile, asphalt shingles, tile, carpet, doors, windows, etc.- anything that will make the homes look better and be more livable. We are also accepting furniture, appliances and all sorts of household goods. The city has provided a warehouse for storage but we do need a truck and volunteers to pick up materials.
Please remember our inner city neighbors as you plan your remodeling projects or clean out storage buildings and attics. This is all a part of our ‘neighbor helping neighbor’ philosophy. We have many talents in these neighborhoods and we have already seen a plumber helping install fixtures; a carpenter lending a hand; a seamstress reworking draperies and a roofer helping his neighbor!! Please help us as we try to find a way to empower these folks by offering ‘ a hand up, not a hand out’ God bless you all.
MUCH APPRECIATION TO GARY, ROSEMARY, AND PENNY FOR THE ABOVE WRITINGS. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO FORWARD TO ANYONE YOU WANT TO.
Tim and Dave taught bicycle mechanics to inner-city kids; I am certain that Tim and Dave received as much or more from their association with the students as the kids did from learning more about bikes. That’s just the way it works! I am certain that the New Work Fellowship students and adults received as much or more from their association with the inner-city kids and adults who they befriended during their 4-day/3-night stay at Challenge House#I as the adults and kids gained from meeting them. That’s just the way it works! I am sure that those from Living Hope Baptist Church who hosted an ice cream social (and one week later a Vacation Bible School), at ChallengeHouse #II, gained as much from meeting the adults and kids of that neighborhood as the kids and adults from the neighborhood gained from their ice cream,teachings, and other kindnesses. That’s just the way it works!
In the business world there is a saying: “No contact/nocontract”—meaning that business success is closely tied to newconnections. Challenge Houses have always been about breaking down walls andbuilding bridges, about the good things that happen when Christian hospitalityreaches beyond the walls of church buildings. Another saying from the businessworld: “The bee that gathers the nectar that makes the honey is the beethat gets away from the hive”—meaning those salesmen who get away fromthe office and out among the people are the ones who earn the most income. Jesusseemed to spend most of his time out among the common people. The above storiesall illustrate the good that happens when we venture into new territory!It’s win/win!! Go to ChallengeHouse.org to read more about how God isusing Challenge Houses to connect the citizens of our city.
No telling what I’ll leave out, but since I last wrote, these aresome of the “goings-on”:
Angel Food Ministry continues to use Challenge Houses as two of itsmany ways to get the word out—-a food bargain where $30 buys about double thegroceries! Contact Kurt and Susan Anderson for more information: 886-9848.
A Sunday School Class from First Baptist has used Challenge Houses forfree vegetable distribution.
Mrs. Smith, who teaches the inner-city/inter-racial Bible Study, overclose to Challenge House #I, enjoyed her 84th birthday!
The Bryan Street Neighborhood Association decided to use ChallengeHouse #II for its monthly meetings.
Our YMCA continues to offer job readiness classes out of ChallengeHouses; Jobs for Life is more than midway through its 4th class, andthe 5th class has begun! Each class is headed by Gary Adams, andconsists of 16 two-hour sessions, followed by the issuance of Certificates ofGraduation and a banquet! These are faith-based in content, and we havewitnessed transformed lives! Romans 12:1 and 2!! One of our graduates hasdecided to enter the community college, and another has decided to re-enterhigh school with the goal to change from past ways and achieve graduation! Manyhave gained employment.
One Saturday night, not too long ago, Matthew Harris, who resides inChallenge House #I, heard little stones hitting against the downstairs windows.It was deep into the night/early morning but he went outside to tell the boysto stop. They ran. Later they regrouped, and this time tossed a beer bottleagainst the brick. Matthew called 911 and the police caught some or all of theboys. Matthew suggested that the police just take the boys to their homes andexplain to the parent what had happened. We have no desire to see kids placedinto detention centers. This incident points out that we have much to do toreach young teenage boys, and girls too. We have made some good inroads withthe younger children, but need more positive contact and outreach to the olderstudents. We need and want your ideas/involvement.
The Workshop is under-utilized. It’s a huge asset. We need yourideas and involvement.
Upcoming Open Houses: Challenge House #I will host a neighborhood”Meet/Greet your new Principal” as an opportunity for students,parents, and citizens to meet new Hopkinsville High School Principal, DemetriaChoice.
This will take place from 5-7 on Monday August 25th.
Challenge House #II will host a neighborhood “Meet/Greet your newPrincipal” as an opportunity for students, parents, and citizens to meetnew Hopkinsville High School Principal, Demetria Choice. This will take placefrom 5-7 on Tuesday August 26th.
Principal Choice wants to get out into the neighborhoods, right whereso many of her students reside, to champion the importance of study and studyenvironment. We are so hopeful that these open houses will be well-attended,and that they will pave the way for more education outreach from other leadersand/or groups. These are “neighborhood only” events; not enoughparking spaces to make them community-wide. Both of the Challenge Houseneighborhoods feed HHS.
Living Hope Baptist plans to stay in touch with the kids and adultsfrom the Challenge House #II neighborhood with continued activity—the firstbeing Christian movies.
Hillcrest Baptist plans soon to start a youth Bible Club out ofChallenge House #I.
Cathie Buck, Julie Antee, and Lisa Bond plan to soon begin readingclubs out of both Challenge Houses.
A Sunday school class from First Baptist Churchplans to meet soon at Challenge House #II for its regular Sunday morningsession. The class members will “see”, first-hand, what theChallenge House looks like, but more importantly, how it can be used for theiroutreach dreams. Would your Sunday school class or youth group like to meet atone of the Challenge Houses?
Sometime in September or October we plan to implement some kind ofwork/study program for middle or high school age students. We envisionextracting some of the concepts taught in Jobs for Life classes and teachingthem to the students of the neighborhoods where the two Challenge Houses arelocated. Further, we hope to engage the students in some actual work, and somevideo teaching regarding good study habits and how to learn. We are thinking 7hours of instruction and work, over one Saturday, or two. The students wouldeach earn about $7 an hour, or $50.00. We have received a small grant fromAT&T for this work/study initiative. We think it will be good to put somemoney into the pockets of the students who partner with us in this work/study venture!
Challenge Houses are about:
Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ through relationship-buildinglove
Teaching that continuing education is a key way out of poverty
Work over welfare
Christian Hospitality—love thy neighbor and connect with him/her
We need more foot-soldiers. Will you, individually, enlist to help inone way or another? Will your Sunday School Class or your Church?
WBryan 886-8887 Please forward to those on your list who will beinterested in this work~~~
Continuing appreciation to our YMCA; they birthed the “99 &1” outreach (based out of Luke Chapter 15) which led to the birth of the Challenge House Movement. Glory to God! May we Christians bond together for His purposes.
A different kind of report this month~
I recently retreated to my old high school buddy’s house in Tennessee for and afternoon, night, and morning of paperwork, reading, and rest. I write/wrote this from there. He was out of town until about midnight, but I know where he hides the house key!
He battles depression—so likes to sleep late; I like to rise early. Last night and this morning I read First Corinthians Chapters 1 and 2, and My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers for September 6th and 7th. I was moved by both the Bible reading and the devotional readings. I am reading The Magnificent Defeat by Frederick Buechner. I encourage you to consider these readings.
I feel so full of the Spirit as I write. The house shades my back to the early morning sun. It’s quiet on the deck, except for the birds.
A few minutes ago a relatively large bird flew from one tall tree across the back yard to another—the bird just ‘squawked’ away as it winged its way between trees. All nature in the backyard had to take notice of his/her beauty and presence! 15-30 seconds later another bird, exactly the same species, made the same flight—but without sound one.
I don’t know if this was a gender thing or not. What I felt was that it was one bird ‘following’ another one(perhaps to safety); not chasing it. I am sitting here in peace, faith-filled and in union with God and nature. The hidden key allowed me to enter this place of respite.
Sometimes I am like the ‘squawking’ lead-bird; other times I am like the stealth-bird. Maybe it’s the same with you?
This I know: there is an ‘ebb and flow’ to life, and a purpose for God and man, for nature and earth.
When in union with Jesus out of us flow ‘rivers of living water’. I thank God for the multitudes whose lives have touched me downstream, and my prayer is that my life, and your life, will, by His Spirit, overflow and escape my vessel/your vessel, into the lives of others.
Jesus often gravitated toward those at the bottom, and those with wounds. May we too pray for connections with children and adults like this. May the Challenge House Movement offer meeting places to share the Good News, and to bridge gaps of income, education, and skin tone.
I thank God for this time of reflection.
My grandmother’s favorite Bible book was James. May the words I have written here somehow encourage you too to find ‘retreat’ from time to time, and may they bring you a measure of peace, purpose, and courage. May the words of James stimulate you to put your faith into action. Read James in your New Testament!
Hello to you ALL! Everyone who has prayed for our inner-city conditions, and the people who reside here, or who has given time or money is in one way or another a full partner in the stories I tell, and the information I share. There was not report last month, October. This report is different, in that the bulk of it is composed of a “Letter from Jail” that I received not long ago.
Before we get to the letter, just a couple of short stories: Yesterday I drove to the deep inner-city to take my newspaper to Mrs. Smith (the lady who
holds weekly inter-racial Bible Studies in her humble home), and to pick up a 10th grader to bring him to Challenge House #I for tutoring in geometry. Deon was not there — had already walked toward Challenge House via a different path, but there was a young boy(AJ) in the yard who came to my car to talk. He was the first little kid I met when I moved here about 4.5 years ago. He’s much taller than I am now, but still has a kid’s smile. Sadly, in most cases, this changes around 8th to 10th grade. This is what was on the shirt he was wearing, in large print: “If you see the Police Coming, WARN A BROTHER”. Can you imagine allowing a child to wear a shirt with that message? So sad~~~
Yet, the other story is so positive: Deon King, the 10th grader, walked to Challenge House, and there, Adam Humphries, a mathmatics major at Amherst College, near Boston, met him to tutor him in geometry. Adam had tutored him at HHS the last day of school before Thanksgiving, and here Deon is back for more help, this time on a day when there is no school. Deon had called Challenge House about a week or so ago, asking
if we knew anyone who might help him catch up with geometry. Marlin Anderson also volunteered to help, so when Adam leaves KY soon, Deon
still has support lined up. Deon is so on the right track; AJ may be so on the wrong track.
Below is a letter I recently received, from the Christian County Jail:
“23 Nov 08
How are you doing Mr. Bryan? I’m doing a little better since my head has cleared. I really appreciate the card because I knew it was from your heart. I don’t know what I was thinking when I committed those crimes. I wasn’t thinking at all. I remember taking a Zanax and drinking some gin, and after that, I really can’t remember. Just bits and pieces. I finally realize that I am an addict and an alcoholic and I need help bad. I’m also depressed a lot and suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorders. The combat in the military brought all of that on. I want to deal with these ASAP. I’ve always dealt with things alone and reject positive help. Positive help (The Challenge House) was staring me in the face and I was too proud to accept it. From now on I won’t reject positive help. You guys are helping people change their lives through God’s grace and mercy. I can remember always being a part of something positive every since I was a young fellow. Playing Bud Hudson Football, Varsity Football, and serving my Country. Those things I will always cherish. I want to be an essential team player at the Challenge House.
We can help each in all kinds of ways. I need all the help I can get. I still have dreams and goals that I want to accomplish but I have to take care of my issues. I want to go to the Volta Program and after that an aftercare plan. Nobody has really helped me do anything like this so I’m asking from the bottom of my heart. I know you’ve heard people cry out for help before just to get out of jail. I’m trying to save my life and I’m not playing. Being here has shown me the light. Beforehand I would just do my time and go on with my life. This is different. I’m older and realize a lot of years of addiction has ruined some of my best years. I’m 40 yrs old and I want to soldier for the Lord for whatever years I have left. Tell Gary Adams I said hello and be patient with me because I’m a great leader but I need guidance right now. I go to court 26 Nov 08. Hopefully, things will work out but I’m willing to accept what happens. Please don’t give up on me. You guys are great and I really appreciate you. Sincerely, _______________”
This concludes the November Report. Your suggestions, advice, and help are always wanted and welcome. W Bryan 270-886-8887
As the month of December draws to a close, and as the whole year 2008 ends, many thoughts flood my mind, heart and soul. So much more has developed this year than could ever have been imagined. I like that song, “Imagine”. There is so much we didn’t know, and so much we don’t know, but this we do know: a Hand far greater than mine/ours has directed us this month, and this year. Let me begin with a few quick stories:
A few nights ago I was showing a new friend Challenge House #II on Bryan Street. As we were leaving, a man walked out of a house across the street and over to my car door. I opened it, as he stooped in the street, so that he could talk to my passenger too. He said he was depressed, and that the occupants had given him a beer to calm himself. As he talked with us, about his Jobs for Life classes (before he stopped attending), and about other matters of life, he suddenly was inspired to reach into his pocket, pull out the bottle of beer, and pour it all out in the street. I think he was shocked at his own action, and so were we! We asked him to join us for supper at Applebee’s; it was fun to watch him enjoy his steak as we sat across from him, all 3 of us deep into wide-ranging conversation. He told us he would sleep in his truck that warm night, and with that “satisfied” stomach, I expect he slept well! I have hopes that his life will become stable. Who knows, maybe that “chance” meeting will be his “tipping point”! Of course, I don’t think for a moment that it was “chance”.
About 2 weeks ago I decided to walk my afternoon newspaper down to Mrs. Smith’s. She enjoys it, and I enjoy seeing her—usually daily. If you don’t know about Mrs. Smith, go to our website(ChallengeHouse.org) and read “Face of God”; it’s in the past news articles section. As I neared her home, I noticed a 24 year-old male in the front yard of a humble little home. I was moved to go over to speak to him. His eyes were glazed. I talked with him about Jobs for Life, the faith-based job readiness program our YMCA provides. As the short talk ended, I handed him my business card, and asked him to call me if he was interested in becoming more job-ready. He called at least twice. The next class does not begin until up into January, so I felt no sense of urgency. We spoke once, and he left a message at least once. He was reaching out; I was coasting. I placed his name and number beside my phone. I thought: “I’ll take him to breakfast or another meal one day soon”. Yesterday afternoon I heard this on the radio: _________ Anderson has been arrested for robbery at Kmart. I felt sick. I felt so like I let him down. This time of year is all about “stuff”, and he didn’t have any. A young man with few, if any role models, was reaching out for help, and I was busy with Christmas. There is something wrong with that picture. I hope I learn from it, and you can bet your bottom dollar that he will receive visits and letters from me and other Challenge House and Jobs for Life workers. I will so hope that this time of “mandated order” will become a time for him to begin seeking real and deep inner-change. I have faith for him. Only time will tell~~~
Well, I’d better fast-pace this letter from here on out. Just a few things I must mention:
Shiloh Baptist Church decorated both Challenge Houses for Christmas, and included neighborhood kids—the outreach element! Olivet Baptist held a Christmas party, including the pastor sharing the real Christmas Story. Perhaps as many as 100 were in attendance; it was “sardine” time at CH2. First Christian Church held a smaller Christmas party— targeted at beginning a reading club in January—mostly ages 5-9; the pictures show the kids are hooked already!
First Baptist sent a small crew to take care of some deferred maintenance needs at both Challenge Houses.
Actually, as I think back over the last year, there must have been a dozen or more churches that associated themselves, in one manner or another, with Challenge House outreach! For this we are so grateful! We need more church involvement, and we dream of future Challenge Houses in other neighborhoods of our city!
December 10th was a huge day for The Challenge House Movement, or rather for the adults and kids who reside in Challenge House neighborhoods!
AT&T provided us with the announcement that we would be given 18 brand new Dell laptops, and two wireless routers, one for each House. Cornerstone Information Systems, as a part of this joint-venture, has provided two brand new HP printers, which will network to the laptops! ConnectedNation and ConnectKentucky administered the grant, and Mr. Renee True emceed the ceremony, which was held at our Boys and Girls Club. Public schools have been gradually ripped away from the older neighborhoods, and at a huge cost to our city. It’s sad, but it’s fact. On the bright side, we have received the promise of serious support by both our new superintendent and our college president. Clearly they are onboard, as are our workforce development folks!
After the ceremony ended, we held Christmas Open Houses at both Challenge Houses, with many outer-city folks and many inner-city folks joining together for good conversation and food. Thanks to Grace Episcopal Church for coordinating the “welcoming” and food service at both Houses.
HELP! If you have time, talent, or ideas—we need them! 18 new laptops are great for the kids and adults, but it one big added “Challenge” for us. You can only imagine!
December was great in that we had two impressive women visit us from out of state, one on December 12th and the other on December 26th. Both came here to explore the possibility of becoming a full-time Resident-Facilitator of a Challenge House. Resident-Facilitators will serve somewhat like neighborhood chaplains; we will always focus on kids, on education, on character, and on jobs. It’s exciting to think about the boost that will take place as individuals and families intentionally relocate to live more close to those many who reside in our rundown neighborhoods. I stand amazed at how many want to go to the Peace Corps and foreign mission fields, yet never consider our own hurting country. Well—guess what? That’s changing, and local missions are beginning to take on “developmental charity” instead of only crisis-relief charity!
We continue to lead many tours of the Challenge Houses, and the neighborhoods surrounding them. It’s so motivating to “see” the looks on people’s faces as they come to understand this work! It just makes sense.
Mrs. Smith is in a Nashville hospital, so the last 10AM Monday Bible Study of this year will be held at Challenge House #I, instead of in her home. Our utmost respect is with her, and our prayers. She has been the glue that has kept us together. She definitely has that “Onward Christian Soldier” mindset!
We will never be like the TV preachers. Our fundraiser efforts will be low-key and rare. If any of you WANT to help with a year-end check(or year-beginning check), it will be fully tax-deductible. Send it to:
Challenge House Incorporated
PO Box 462
Hopkinsville, KY 42241
The money will be used to reduce debt on a Challenge House, and/or for operational expenses. I take no salary, and do pay rent.
Cheers to you all, and Thanks be to God! Wbryan 270-886-8887
The January 2009 Report was so long that I decided to skip February. I’ll do my best to keep this one short.
We are so happy to announce that Aida Vega will become the first Resident-Facilitator for Challenge House #I! Aida graduated from APSU in December with a degree in Social Work. She has worked with our YMCA here for years, in outreach. She is known for her heart to “reach and teach” children and adults. Her job at the YMCA will be to direct outreach, and her duties will include overseeing the Jobs for Life classes, held from Challenge Houses and elsewhere. What a joy she is to work with, and what a boost to the Challenge House Movement is her willingness and desire to move into Challenge House #I. Her maturity and proven track record make her the ideal person to manage operations at our first House. Aida will move in before this month ends; I will move to Challenge House #II and work with William McAllister there until we find one or more permanent Resident-Facilitators for it. Once that takes place, we will give serious consideration to establishing Challenge House #III. Our goal is to establish at least one Challenge House in 6 Hopkinsville inner-city neighborhoods.
More great news: Christina Hand has also committed to living in Challenge House #I beginning around June 1st. She and Aida met for the first time the weekend of March 14th, and hit it off instantly! They will be House-mates, and work together, especially focused on the Durrett Avenue (DA) neighborhood of Hopkinsville. Her family joined her for her second visit to Hopkinsville; what a delight it was to see their hearts for her new mission work. She will graduate from Huntington University in Indiana in May, earning a B. A. in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. Her career objective was to find purpose “working with an Urban Ministry Organization”. She has a background working with children; her enthusiasm, education, and faith make her a great “fit” for Challenge House work. All of us are fully committed to helping Christina establish her roots here. Pray that more like her and Aida will join this movement!
Our GED classes, now under the direction of our community college, are going great. Seeing people walk here to study certainly is encouraging!
One Jobs for Life class just graduated 11; the other class will have its graduation ceremony either April 7th or April 9th. Every Saturday night Challenge House #I hosts a support opportunity for anyone ever associated with Jobs for Life classes. Troy Jent led the sharing and Bible Study this past Saturday night. It’s quite uplifting to see various students return for fellowship.
Warm weather brings much life to inner-city streets. It’s so heart-warming to see how so many children want to hang out at Challenge Houses. Yesterday I was at Challenge House #II on Bryan Street; probably a dozen kids came in and out, within an hour’s period of time. One little girl wanted me to know that she now lives at Sanctuary House (Spouse Abuse Center); I told her that I knew that was a nice place to live, and that I had heard good things about it, and that when I was real little, I went to church in that same building. They ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, played computer games on the Internet, asked for pocket size Bibles, read poetry, examined an encyclopedia, read a letter I had received from a former student, now in prison but turning his life around there, and almost all left with a back-issue of National Geographic magazine, and big smiles! Today at Challenge House #I, on Central Avenue, one young man walked by and asked for a job mowing grass (we will work with him, and others to share this work); two others came by for a candy bar and a drink, and for quick conversation.
The Challenge House Movement is an outgrowth of our YMCA’s “99 &1” program, based on Luke Chapter 15. We continue to partner with the Y, as well as the Boys and Girls Club, and many other organizations and churches.
We welcome your ideas and suggestions. The Challenge House Movement is a community cooperative movement, somewhat akin to “rebuilding the wall” as explained in Nehemiah!
Wally Bryan 270-886-8887
Challenge House #III—-Great News! We have been approached by a young couple, Heath and Paige Wilson, wanting to live out their faith from Challenge House #III. Guess what? We don’t even have Challenge House #III yet. But, by faith, we say that we are headed toward finding it! So—instead of “Build It and They Will Come”, as with the first two Challenge Houses, this time the process will be reversed. Heath and Paige will help us locate the neighborhood, then the house, then help with the renovation and decoration, and then move in! It’s exciting to think about how they will be meeting neighborhood adults and kids as the entire process unfolds! Please be in prayer for them, and for the type of “faith in action” that brings substance to vision. Heath and Paige led the New Work Fellowship youth team, last summer, when they moved into Challenge House #I, for 4 days and 3 nights, carrying out: Bible Study, projects benefiting senior citizens, and fun times of music and play with neighborhood kids! That was their introduction to the huge needs here in our own community, and a new Way to “missionary”.
Aida Vega is now well established in Challenge House #I, and Christina Hand can’t wait to graduate her Christian college and join her in June. What a team these two will be!! Aida now heads the Jobs for Life program, sponsored by our YMCA; Wanda Jones is right at her side in teaching this faith-based job readiness class. The latest class just completed it’s second lesson, of sixteen, at Challenge House #I. Rosemary Bradley is busy teaching GED classes, now under the leadership of Hopkinsville Community College; more and more inner-city residents are finding out about her classes. I love to hear the “stories of hope” that are told by Jobs for Life students, and GED students! Aida’s thoughts are behind re-starting Jobs for Life support groups, which will begin meeting soon in both Challenge Houses: men at one House and women at the other. We are hopeful that these gender specific groups will boost people in the areas of faith, education, and employment.
Penny Chewning continues her work on many fronts, including accepting donations of furniture and other items (which are used either in Challenge Houses, or given to neighbors to help them establish better homes for themselves and their children).
Some of us are in a serious mode of thinking and prayer as to beginning some kind of program this summer for inner-city kids; our focus is/will be work/study/mentor/shadow. We know that if we can connect these youngsters with real-world “work” opportunities, some of them will catch a dream for a life far better than had ever before been considered! In addition, we believe that it is crucial to find ways for these students to earn legitimate money. We all know the old saying about what kind of workshop idleness develops~
Warm weather is bringing hundreds and hundreds to our streets, most seem to have little guidance, direction, or hope. This is not a good prescription!
Our Literacy Council is bringing a wonderful event to both Challenge Houses and our public library, on April 25th at noon. The target audience is pregnant women and all mothers with children under age 5. The emphasis is on the importance of reading to your offspring, and how that so helps their young brains “stimulate”! Free books will be given to the parents and/or children.
In cooperation with our Boys and Girls Club, Mary Beth Brand is teaching, out of Challenge House #I, a class focused on rhythm; the kids love it!
Hillcrest Baptist has been involved in the Cash for Trash program, targeting proceeds to help inner-city youth. If anyone knows of church groups, or other organizations, who would like to help us earn money, please contact us. Hillcrest plans to start a Back-Yard Bible Club from Challenge House #I this spring/early summer.
Challenge Houses depend on partnerships, so hopefully other churches will begin to consistently reach out, using Challenge Houses as operation centers.
There is always need for help in reading and math. I don’t have the answer, but I do so believe that most kids here waste most of the summer vacation—so reading, math, and all kinds of other outreach ideas are welcomed in advance! If we are serious about closing the achievement gap, we must engage students all year! Hopefully our computer availability will attract hunger for all kinds of neighborhood education.
We continue to lead individual and group tours of Challenge Houses. The most recent group to tour was the Women’s Circle from First Christian Church.
Recently, one of our neighbors, an addict, came here to ask for prayer as his day started. He does roofing, weather and job permitting. A few days ago he showed up with a lawn mower, and mowed our grass for free. What an example of our reason for being here, among so many talented people, many of whom meet the definition of “the least of these” (Matthew 25:45).
Afternoon Sunday School has been taught the last 3 Sundays from Challenge House #II. The first Sunday 18 kids showed up, none of whom had attended Sunday School, or Church, that morning. Easter Sunday 10 showed up, and last Sunday 8. The times have varied from 2 until 4, with no notice other than spur-of-the-moment word of mouth. I can really “see” this kind of meeting taking place, in time, at all Challenge Houses. The need is clear, and the harvest is ripe! William McAllister recently taught “Sunday afternoon” class. His quote is this: “Christian Foundations are usually non-existent within most inner-city homes, due to lack of knowledge, and the mindset of their surroundings. But it’s evident that, from the consistent attendance of the kids, the hunger still exists—their willingness to participate, communicate, and give feedback on the message says more than words can express”.
Wally Bryan WWW.ChallengeHouse.org 270-889-3395
The Challenge House Movement grew from close association with our YMCA’s outreach (Luke 15–“99&1”) and the Local Development Corporation’s “HIT Squad”–Hopkinsville Inner-city Transformation.
A young 14 year-old boy expresses a desire to start a lawn mowing business. We help him find one solid customer for the summer. We take him to the bank to help him arrange a loan. The $230 check is made out to him. He goes to the teller to cash it. He takes the money to our local Sears and counts out something like $222.05 for the lawn mower and plastic gasoline container that he had placed “on hold”. Then Jalen pumps gasoline (maybe 4 of the 5 gallons it holds). He invested every penny of the $230, but he’s in business, and out asking for more work. One of the main goals of Challenge Houses is to help establish a mindset of “work over welfare”. This young man was out of money, but he had a pretty prosperous smile on his face at day’s end!
A 12 year-old girl attended Sunday afternoon Sunday School at Challenge House. We talked about joy and smiles from God. She said, “I don’t like to smile”. Clearly the reason is that her teeth are so bad. We worked with her leader at Sanctuary House, and the next thing we know Dr. Nunn is in the picture to help her with dental issues! This work is all about connections ~ This young girl has been through so much, but before long she is going to love smiling!
A drug addict knocks on the door of Challenge House. He hands me a 5 dollar bill. What for? “You all have really tried to help me, and I appreciate it. I just want to make a small contribution to your work”. What do you say? I took it because this is the way the Kingdom of God works! I deposited the $5 into the non-profit account of Challenge House Incorporated. This man lives in poverty(all poverty isn’t black by any means). This man has nothing but a broken heart. This man gave what he could. We continue to hope and believe that his wounded soul will be healed.
You are a part of every story I have told over these years (Go to www.challengehouse.org to read others). Your encouragement, prayers, money, and/or other help have boosted this inner-city work for 5 full years now; Challenge Houses, Boys and Girls Club founding, and Jobs for Life classes are just the tip of the iceberg as compared to the “unseen” progress the next 5 years hold forth. We must not quit. We must continue to advance! Hundreds, even thousands, of souls will be restored to hope and future. To God be the glory! These are His plans(Jeremiah 29: verses 7 and 11). Read it!
This has been a cooperative venture, with both our YMCA and Local Development Corporation playing important roles. The City’s HIT Squad (Hopkinsville Inner-city Transformation) continues to clean up some of the worn-out housing stock through demolition. When I give tours these days what we see is still decay, but not nearly to the extent seen by those taking tours 5 years ago. I hold out hope that the Neighborhood Associations, partnering with Churches, businesses, and Challenge Houses, will take off and fly! This has always been a “we” effort, and a “HE” effort. I am excited about the future. I believe that God will reward a City that begins to remember “the least of these”; I believe that God will reward a City that “remembers its poor”. Commands and promises really do mean what they say!
With appreciation and respect, wb
Some stories, some news, some encouraging, some discouraging: such is the stuff of life everywhere worldwide, and right here too in Challenge House neighborhoods.
At a Sunday afternoon “Sunday School” class, we talk about the love of God, and how He helps us overcome, and heals us, and how the broken-hearted loved to come to Jesus. An 11 year-old boy says this, “My heart has been broken so many times”. He does not say another word, and quickly I move the class forward so that the other kids don’t question him. At age 11, as I remember back, my life seems perfect. One of the most difficult things to bear is a wounded child, and I discern that there are many in our town. Jesus loved the little children by welcoming t hem and associating with them; somehow we too must come into their lives, and they into ours. This means more consistent contact with them and their families. Challenge House work is focused in poor neighborhoods, but we know that kids and adults everywhere need love and care.
The concept of Challenge Houses is to place believers right in the heart of at-risk, under-resourced neighborhoods, and to live out the Gospel right here in our own city. Those of us who live in Challenge Houses build relationships with our neighbors, and we then help connect them with outer-city people and resources. Here are some examples:
Derek Smith held a soccer camp at the Stadium of Champions in June. His parents called Challenge House to see if they could scholarship two kids, which meant not only no camp fees, but also it meant taking the two shopping for soccer balls, shoes, and protective gear. All we did was hook them up; the rest is history. A young boy, and a young girl were “connected” and we got out of the way. They took care of everything, including transportation!
New Work Fellowship contacts us t o see if we know of kids who might want to attend their “Sports Camp”, which was a twist on regular Vacation Bible School. We found 5 kids, and they transported them, day-to-day, to New Work for sports and scriptures. How easy was that! How valuable was that!
Teachers from MLK elementary school contact us about a summer reading program. They follow up. Last Tuesday 15 kids, the “Lunch Bunch” showed up to eat and practice reading. All Challenge House residents did was to share the news, i.e. “Build it and they will come”! Every Tuesday through July the teachers will come, and I think the kids will too!
Our community college decides to offer basic testing(TABE) from Challenge House #I, the kind of testing that many factories require before hiring. The college will provide a teacher to teach the content of the test, and then administer the exam. We get the word out everywhere, but only 8 adults register to attend. Guess how many showed up? Zero. How discouraging is that? Remember the song-lyrics, “Where have all the children gone”? My questions are: where has all the ambition gone, where has all the ‘get up and go’ gone, where has work ethic gone, and is it possible to restore these attributes????
We hire a young boy to push-mow the grass at Challenge House #II. The pay is low, the job is hard, the sun is hot. This skinny little kid restores my hope. He rests, he drinks, but he does not quit! He finished well! Will we finish well? Will we of faith get into the battle as we age? Will we “fight the good fight”, or will we “take it easy” down the stretch? There are questions for us to answer too.
Challenge Houses are close to downtown. It’s easy to walk downtown from both Challenge Houses, and it will be easy to walk downtown from future ones too. The most difficult step is the first one.
Not long ago we walked 8 kids downtown to Fourth Dimension, a faith-based 12-step outreach to teens. What a great night the kids enjoyed, eating and singing and fellowshipping within such a positive environment!
Our YMCA’s summer program, each year, offers a performing arts component, and this year again, the kids carried out a fine performance at the Alhambra Theatre! Over a dozen “Challenge House kids” walked there to witness, “The Pirates of Penzance, Jr., or the Slave of Duty”. Not surprisingly, some of those same kids showed up for the most recent Sunday Afternoon Sunday School Class!
Thanks for your support and interest. We are in this together. A Special Forces soldier isn’t much without outside communications and provisions! Your role is important to us!
Peace be with you, wb
Fly-Swatter! My neighbor across the street gave me the perfect gift! There have been hundreds and hundreds of visitors coming into Challenge Houses this summer, and it seems that house flies seem to think that they are invited in too! So, thanks Elaine, we sure have used your gift!
A woman knocks on the door asking for information on when and where the next GED class will be held.
A man knocks on the door wanting to talk about his anger-management problem with his girlfriend, and that leads to a session where a Christian woman buys a meal for the girlfriend as counseling takes place at McDonald’s.
Teens knock on the door wanting to check Facebook connections on the Internet.
This is why Challenge Houses are located where we are: close to the kids and adults who live in our older neighborhoods. Many of the poor in money are so rich in spirit—somehow they just “keep on keeping on”! We learn from them, all the time sharing our mindsets of: new life in Christ, the importance of education, continuning education, and work-over-welfare!
Bible Study Classes, GED Classes, and Jobs for Life Classes go hand-in-hand with “loving our neighbors”. So many of you are a part of The Challenge House Movement in one way or the other, and all of the rest of you are continuiously invited to join our effort!
The Christian County Board of Education recently voted to have their carpentry students build us a brand new Challenge House. Construction will begin in September, and the House will be completed by May. How big is that! The House will be constructed at the Trade School site, and then moved to a vacant inner-city lot somewhere within the Inner-City Residential Enterprise Zone(IC-REZ) area. Our minimum goal is to place one Challenge House in each of the 6 IC-REZ neighborhoods. Believe with us that that will happen! Broken people cause broken neighborhoods; inject faith, hope, and love into more people and watch things begin to change!
Because of a “work grant” from AT&T, we have been able to carry out a work program for teens: Attitude Training & Teamwork. Two middle school students and 16 high school students just completed a “boot camp” about work at Challenge House #I, and will be placed at real work assignments out in our community. All who excel and complete the process will receive “congratulatory checks” in the amount of $250. How big is that to these kids just before school begins again!
Partnership: Boys and Girls Club, Little River Cycling Club, and Challenge House recently teamed to put on a bicycle-safely rodeo. 50 kids had a great time, and each left with a Certificate of Completion and a pass to Tie-Breaker Water Park! Smiles galore!
Hillcrest Baptist youth take part in the “Cash for Trash” program, and once again donate the proceeds($750) to Challenge House. We are so grateful! – as we have many expenses to cover each month.
I walk into a store downtown and a businessman opens his wallet and hands me a $100 bill; he’d just read the story about the 18 kids taking the “Work over Welfare” two-week program, and wanted to show his support for Challenge House work.
I open a letter from jail; an inmate had inclosed a $5 bill because he supports Challenge House work.
Lunch Bunch is the name of the program headed by MLK teachers; they meet every Tuesday at Challenge House #II, feed the kids, and then carry out a reading program! Last month’s newsletter(June) reported that 15 kids showed up for the first Tuesday. The following Tuesday(now July) was 24, and the one after that was 30! Summer reading is important, and so is lunch if you are hungry!
Aida Vega and Christina Hand, House-mates at Challenge House #I where they hold the title of “Co-Resident-Facilitators” are doing great jobs! Their presence, hospitality, and outreach are adding so much to the Durrett Avenue (DA) community.
Heath and Paige Wilson pray patiently for the Challenge House they will occupy, along with little Gracie, at some future point (hopefully this year).
A “special forces” component of a Sunday School Class at First Baptist holds a neighborhood cookout at Challenge House #II, just out the backdoor of the church. Scripture were read, songs sung, fun enjoyed, and stomach’s fed. UMMM—sounds a little like Jesus to me!
The Bryan Street Neighborhood Association continues to hold their meetings at Challenge House #II, and we hope other neighborhood associations will follow suit in future times.
We continue to lead tours of the inner-city by both car and bicycle. Let me know when you are ready to ride; we have spare bicycles—ask Judge Self or John Peck!
Our YMCA Board, which helped birth our inner-city outreach that led to Challenge Houses, Jobs for Life classes, and so much more, met at Challenge House #I for its July meeting. This coincided with the AT&T program teaching work-ethic to 18 teens; we are so grateful to our Y, and we invite other organizations to hold meetings from Challenge Houses.
Thanks for reading this long report, and yet I know that I left out so much of what is “happening” in the hood.
wb 270-886-8887 www.challengehouse.org
Please forward to your friends who share your heart for “remembering the least of these.
Stories, observations, and news bites:
Hammer and large nail: Yep—that’s all it took! We can be so wrong in the little things, and in the big ones too. Was this big or little? I really don’t know. With an affectionate voice I speak out to one of my teenage friends, “Juan, pull those pants up so your butt doesn’t show”! He looked bewildered, and then says, “My belt is too large”. He walks over and shows me his belt. Truly it was way over-sized. I had every emotion from embarrassment for both him and me, to gladness that we were about to “fix” the problem. I retrieved a hammer from the toolbox (one of the donations from the Frances Fairleigh Estate), a large nail, and headed to the back yard with Juan. Together we made a new hole in his belt; he smiled as he walked back to the street, pants at his waist! I hope that was relationship-building. A million times I’ve had that thought: “Pull those pants up”. From now on I’ll think twice~~Have you had thoughts like I did?
His brother is the young man who we helped birth a lawn-mowing business. You may remember reading in the May Report about the business venture where the young man gained a bank loan, went to Sears and purchased a new push-mower, and launched his business! Well, just recently the banker notified me that Jalen had repaid the loan in full, and now “owns” the lawn-mower! A pretty positive business experience for a 14 year-old!
Edgewood Baptist Church holds BackYard Bible Clubs at the two Challenge Houses, and both members and kids smile a million smiles!
MLK Elementary School leaders hold two separate events at Challenge House #II: one was Math Bingo, and the other was a follow up to its “Lunch Bunch” reading program held this summer. Parents attended too. Education back to the neighborhood—-ummmmmm—-a pretty time-tested idea!
August 14th—time 1:00 PM—notice two boys in the street! School Day! Signals go off in my mind! “Hey guys, come on in for a minute. What’s up”? The story goes that one over-slept, and the other is out early for a doctor’s appointment. So one hops in my car and I take him to Hopkinsville Middle School; hopefully the other went to his doctor. Later that night I come to realize that all 4 students in the family overslept and all missed school. Yes, let’s close the “achievement gap”! How is that going to happen when so many miss school for no good reasons? Sadly, I’ve seen this happen a lot for this young school year, and “yes” I do report it to the respective schools. Eyes in the streets! Yet another time-tested idea which is coming back! I’m very impressed with the cooperation between us and our schools.
“Read and Seed” is a tutoring program spawned by New Work Fellowship. Mondays from 4:15 to 5:30 adult women show up to help kids (5th grade and under)with reading, math, homework, and certainly they “seed” into them the love of Christ! “What if”? What if we had other groups come on other days? Such is the Body of Christ! Something kind of special about programs that lead to sustained relationship-building! Think about that~
The Sara Bell Bassett Sunday School Class at First Baptist takes it upon itself to provide pounds and pounds of drinks and snacks for Challenge House kids. I remember I was always hungry when I got home after school. Even an old brain remembers that! I think I remember reading where Jesus fed and shared. A pretty time-tested idea! Thanks be to God! There is something special about Christian hospitality~
Pastor Brad Fancher from Restoration House wants to meet with me. That makes me glad. We walk the streets, and what we see makes us sad. Maybe the “sad” will turn to “mad”, and more and more of us will enter this battle for the hearts and souls and minds of the kids and their parents. “We can’t change what we tolerate”; I’ll never forget the impact that quote made on me. Thanks, Pastor. Remember how we felt as we walked the steps of the nasty interior hallway to the second floor of that apartment house? Sickening~
Matthew Harris invites you to attend “Mrs. Smith’s Inner-city/Inter-racial Bible Study Mondays at 10AM. Guaranteed: Come once and you will never forget it!
William McAllister, Resident Facilitator at Challenge House #II, oversees “work for pay” at the house on Bryan Street owned by the neighborhood association. Solid relationships are built. Time-tested idea: work along side of someone and watch friendship bloom!
Forthcoming in a few weeks-Resident-Facilitators at House #I, Aida Vega and Christina Hand, will send their own report, and it will include pictures!
Challenge House #III will be at 123 South Fowler Avenue. I like the one, two, three address! Perfect for Challenge House #III. This House is behind the Subway on West 7th Street, at the corner of West 2nd and South Fowler. Heath and Paige Wilson will become Resident-Facilitators there. This will be a major renovation. I hope that many partnerships will form to raise the funds and carry out the work to bring this House to even more than “its former glory”! The first day I went there, to meet architect John Mahre for his ideas, two little children were standing on the front porch. Before we knew it, two teens were there too, looking for work, and a young mother strolling her baby, stops and talks, and leaves saying “I need my GED”. We can help make that happen!
A major Christian Community Development Association national conference will be held in October in nearby Cincinnati. Would you consider attending? Go to WWW.CCDA.org to read about it.
Thanks for reading this long report, and for your heart for this work here in America, here in Hopkinsville. Maybe someday this concept will travel to other cities. We are in it for the long-haul. We want to become “time-tested”. Thanks be to God!
The Challenge House Movement is about faith, education, and work-over-welfare. It’s also about neighborhood hospitality and simple friendships. So much is going on I could write pages, but want to keep this extra short this month. The last report I wrote was Aug/Sept—so will try to fully catch us all up in Dec. or Jan. or with details~
2 students and 2 adults went with me to a country retreat in TN; all were blessed. Sunday afternoon classes for kids help make up for them almost always missing church, though some kids end up attending with adults they meet at Challenge Houses. Bible Study continues from time to time, and we look forward to some Christmas parties that include strong focus on the birth of Christ. Many one-to-one sharings of faith take place~
Our YMCA continues to offer Jobs for Life classes with deep changes as to how its students view work! There are no adequate words as to the importance of this outreach. Aida and I have had a good talk, and she wants to continue targeted Challenge House volunteer work even as she leaves our YMCA for work at Holiday Park School. For that we are most grateful!
We have learned a lot with our after-school tutoring efforts, and hope to refine and expand them in 2010. It’s exciting to see how laptops are more and more being used for school assignments and on educational sites after assigned homework is completed.
Two Awesome Stories about GED:
(1) Recently Rita passed her GED. Rosemary Bradley, Instructor, writes: “One of our Challenge House students passed the GED Saturday. She was very diligent in coming and always walked from 13th Street. It makes me feel especially good about her because of her dedication and the fact that she would not have gotten her GED without Challenge House because of her lack of transportation”.
(2) Rosemary continues, “Tamela also got her GED. She has been meeting with Margaret McDonald every Thursday for about 17 months. She really needed the individual attention and English expertise that Margaret had”.
Margaret herself wrote, “I just want to tell you that this has been one of the most gratifying experiences I have ever had. Someone told Pete that he might have a job for her! If anyone is considering being a tutor for someone who is studying for their GED, I just want to tell them that they will gain as much, if not more, than the person they are tutoring (by being a part of such an endeavor). I really believe that all she needed was for someone to take an interest in her”. I may be wrong, but I believe I remember that Tamela came to GED after first being involved with Jobs for Life back when Gary Adams started teaching it. It’s neat how the two adult programs are working together.
The formation meeting of the expanded Challenge House Board of Directors seemed long overdue and right on time too! Its members (no order) are: Troy Jent, Reese Bailey, Hill Ferguson, Frankie Dudas, Bill Munday, Lynn Clark, Holly White, Julia Crenshaw, Don Bullen Jr., Becki Wells, Regina Bibbs, Rosemary Bradley, Penny Chewning, Michael Stokes, BJ Melvin,Jesmun Wills, Susan Ahart(considering),Leon Oldham, Raymond Burse, and Mary Smith.
Challenge Houses #III and #IV are right around the corner, and I will update you on progress soon! We face many challenges and see many opportunities. Please pray for this movement, that it will be deeply grounded in both loving our God and our neighbor.
We are trying to raise funds for monthly expenses, debt retirement, and the two additional Houses. If you know of anyone who wants to invest in this kind of outreach please have him/her/the organization mail a check to:
Challenge House Incorporated,
P O Box 462
Hopkinsville, KY 42241-0462
Donations are tax-deductable.
Hello again! The last report was December of 2009, so much has taken place this winter, and I want to update you with a few stories and many other “goings-on”.
A stranger approaches. I am out in the neighborhood, and he walks toward me. He says, “I really need a job”. We stand and talk. Suddenly tears stream down his face. He apologizes. I say, “no problem”. He says, “I lost my job; worked for a landscaping company for 13 years. I am out of hope”. He cries some more. We talk, and I learn that he is 42 years old and loves his daughter. We embrace and pray. I tell him about Jobs for Life classes, and invite him to the Salvation Army that night for the Hand-UP meal and preaching. He shows up with his 7 year-old daughter. I tell others about his landscaping background. 2 families have already said that they would give him some part-time work. He was disconnected and out of hope. What will his future be? I don’t know, but I pray that we will become neighbors, that our community will better learn the good that comes to all when folks of different races, income brackets, and educational standing begin to know each other as fellow sojourners. He has a name: Marlin Alexander. I like that name. We all have names. Oh to know more by name. The Shepherd knows names~
Our work is neighborhood-based. It’s about connecting with people; it’s about becoming good neighbors; it’s about pouring hope into people; it’s about re-building “community”. This is development work as opposed to quick and easy charity. We need more and more churches to partner with us.
Holiday Park School and MLK School both have tutoring days at Challenge Houses. Challenge House #II now has “Math night” on Mondays. HHS Principal Choice will be in the neighborhood this week —maybe even door-to-door—urging parents to enroll their teens in Math Night and other tutoring offerings. The laptops are so used! Mondays at 4PM we have “Early Childhood Learning” for ages 3-6. Dr Elizabeth Toms, Sandy Cavanah, and Betty Smith help. One day a week tutors from Edgewood Baptist tutor. Community College GED classes and YMCA Jobs for Life classes are on-going at Challenge House #I. Living Hope Baptist continues its long standing commitment to Sunday afternoon Sunday School. Neighborhood Watch, 4-H, and Neighborhood Association meeting take place in our Houses from time to time.
AT 7:50 AM I hear a knock on the door. I open the door and a known drug addict stands there. He has a $5 bill in his hand. He says, “I want to donate this to Challenge House”. I ask, “why”. He answers, “I see such a change in neighborhood children”. He asks for prayer before going to his job that day. I am glad he felt comfortable coming to Challenge House; maybe this was one step in his journey toward deliverance.
A different neighbor comes over. He smells terrible. He has no heat or water. I ask if he would like to take a shower. I wish I could describe the look on his face after his hot shower. He used our GE washing machine to clean his clothes. This is your story! Every person who helps Challenge Houses in one way or another is a part of every story, and believe me, the ones I tell here are just a fraction of the many more stories!
As I type a graduate from Jobs for Life calls and agrees to meet me for breakfast to talk about his unemployment, and agrees to go to Mrs. Smith’s Bible study afterward. He offers, “I don’t have a Bible”. I’ll take him one, but we need some easier to read ones~
I look out the window, as I type now, and notice the usual teen boys in the streets, waiting for the school bus, smoking cigarettes for breakfast. I look forward to the day that we will better connect to them. The odds are so against them, yet we must find THE WAY to build relationship.
One female teen went to Crysalis, the teen version of Walk to Emmaus. We want more to have this experience. Yet, without much close by follow-up, will her life really change? We don’t know, do we?—or do we?
A teen boy, 10th grade, knocks on the door at 8:10. “Mr. Wally, will you take me to school? I overslept and missed the bus”. Sure, I took him to school, and gave him a healthy candy-bar for his pocket. I also reminded him that most everything from the neck down is minimum wage, and to study hard in school to fill his mind with knowledge.
Challenge Houses serve as residential houses, but also fill the role of mini-House church, neighborhood school, and work-over-welfare center. I truly believe we have to go back to the neighborhoods to really effect change. Poverty of faith, poverty of education, and poverty of welfare dependence all breed more of the same. What are we going to do about that?
A neighbor comes over and shovels all the snow from our sidewalk! He won’t even let us pay. He fixes our broken stools. He won’t even let us pay. There sure are some fine people living in the hood!
Progress Report: Challenge House #III is a major renovation project; it’s located at 123 South Fowler Avenue over in the West Side Neighborhood. Heath and Paige Wilson will be the Neighborhood Ambassadors there, and Heath is the Construction Manager of the project. It will be ready to occupy in late spring.
Challenge House #IV is coming along nicely. It’s being built by the carpentry and electrical students at our Vo-Tec School. This House is being built onsite, and will be moved to the East Side Neighborhood.
“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link; a city is only as strong as its weakest neighborhood”, Steve Shields. We are trying hard to link this city with Challenge Houses, and to make it stronger. We need your help!
Thanks, Wally Bryan 886-8887
It’s April 27th; I just returned from a night-time walk downtown. I stopped in a bar restaurant and enjoyed a steak sandwich and French fries; as much as I enjoyed the food, I hated the smoke. I spoke to the bartender about her life and met two Army wives, and then their husbands, both heading to Afghanistan by week’s end. I shared Jesus with them all and told the soldiers I wish I could go in their place. I usually don’t go to bars, but I am really glad I did tonight. The conversations were real, pleasant, and different.
As I entered Bryan Street and walked toward Challenge House #II, I spotted one of the girls who had been to the farmhouse retreat Saturday. I stopped to talk as she smiled broadly, and I asked, “what did you like about the Retreat”? She instantly said, “The groups”. We talked more and she shared that the 10 split into two groups of 5, and talked about self-esteem and violence. She then said that she really liked the Social Worker students from Austin Peay, and thought maybe she’d like to go to college one day and be like them! How powerful is that! Earlier in the week, I asked another young lady what she liked about the country retreat. She said, “Every single second of it”! I think we are seeing that one way to really help these students, and adults, is to get them out of the hood, from time to time, and to planned retreats.
Today I noticed a man crying. I went over and talked to him. He told me that his age is 34 years. He had serious personal problems and smelled too. But I could tell that he was a tender man, and I asked him to tell me more. He shared openly and needed me to take him to get some clean clothes. I brought him back to Challenge House to take a hot shower (I heard him sobbing again while in the shower). Afterward gave him a Bible recently supplied by a Sunday School Class at First Baptist. Thanks to all of you who gave Bibles; we now have just the right amount to last a while! I wrote the man’s name in the Bible and marked Jeremiah 29:11, and also marked Psalms, Proverbs, and James. I told him about Reese Bailey at our Kentucky Community & Technical College System—that he should call him about improving his education so as to gain employment, and I told him about the May 12th ACTS education summit at our Hopkinsville Community College, and I referred him to Chris Childers to learn more about the next Jobs for Life class, to be held soon at Challenge House # I. I so hope he follows up with the reading and the education opportunities.
Earlier today I helped a man (practically homeless) earn $20; we shared lunch together here at Challenge House # II. We have known each other for a while now, and I am believing for a better future for him.
Today Janey Pitts from New Work Fellowship decided that her youth group workers would mow three lawns on Bryan Street tomorrow afternoon; one is where the homeless man stays with no water or electricity, one is for a good neighbor who is sick, and one is for an elderly man. High grass at all, but it will be low by this time tomorrow night! Janey had also heard about “an Extreme Room Makeover” performed for 3 young girls Saturday by believers from First United Methodist Church–the Great Day of Service—and wanted to see it. I am glad she got to see it because I also got to see 3-4 kids from that family who missed school today. Clearly, none of them was sick. So sad~
Sunday, April 18th members of a Sunday School Class at Hillcrest toured all 4 Challenge Houses and learned more about how we have a mission field right here — that it does not always have to be overseas.
Sunday School this past Sunday was once again a packed house! The leaders from Living Hope Baptist have established such loving relationships with Challenge House kids. One of them went to their fish fry this last Saturday!
MLK and Holiday Park school teachers continue to offer tutoring from Challenge Houses, and Edgewood Baptist has a solid after-school program too. Likewise, the teachers on Monday (age 1stgrade and under) continue to stimulate brain cells! Math Night is getting better all the time. Set Free Ministries and Fourth Dimension are both within easy walking distance, and I see them playing a part in coming months. Both Challenge House neighborhood students are engaged in building Soap Box Derby cars, and certainly, are excited as they relate to their adult leaders! Another successful GED class is about to conclude. I am telling you this: Our community has bought into the Challenge House Movement, and many lives are being enriched.
Much is planned for the coming months! AT&T had it right with its slogan, “Reach out and touch someone”. Every day of my life is a good day. I love seeing the connections all of you are making, direct and indirect. This is not about me; it’s about what happens when people come together under the banner of His Love. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Who is your neighbor?
Every person involved with this Challenge Housework has his/her own stories! Everyone who supports building and operating Challenge Houses is making our city into a “Connected Neighborly Hopeful Community”, and that’s a very good thing! Cheers to you all, and to our Almighty God.
A slice of pie(good term)/A slice of life(good term).
One DAY/Bits and pieces of one DAY: How is it measured? What does it mean? Friday, last day of public school, May 28th, 2010:
David Collins and I begin a morning walk at 5:30. The 45 minute walk takes us past many sleeping churches, and close to many others. At the end we take a careful sad “look” at the state of Bryan Street, at its falling down housing stock, often, but not always, a direct result of falling down people!
Our neighbor, Elaine Love, shows up with coffee for us, and we have a nice kitchen talk about how to better our neighborhood.
Quid pro quo—Latin—(this for that). Could it be that the “Quid Pro Quo” concept (something given for something received) matters? Could it be tied to dignity? A homeless man staying at our Salvation Army walks over. We had met him through David Ancil, who met him two nights ago. David gave him some hope, and we do too. (We gave him one of our new Bibles yesterday).The 19 year-old is trying to raise money to get back to California, so we put him to WORK. The Challenge House Movement is about loving people into Christ, about the importance of raising educational goals, and about Work-over-Welfare!!! This young man hand-cleans our floors, takes our nasty rugs outside and hand-scrubs them—then positions them in the sun to dry, and even cleans our ceiling fan. You will pay him a living wage for his labor. I’d bet my bottom dollar he feels good about this work-for-pay as compared to us just giving him money. William McAllister, Neighborhood Ambassador with Challenge House #II, works some with him too, and also helps him with matters related to selling some of his few possessions. He’s on his way to earning his way back to California. In the meantime, he’s feeling your love and your care, because it’s you whose help keeps Challenge Houses open, and the Challenge House Movement in the advance mode!
11:05 and I meet Terry Hoffman, a man who has a heart for the “least of these”, and who has close ties with our Emmaus Community. We share at our public library where he checks out a book authored by John Perkins, and then comes for his first visit at Challenge House #II on Bryan Street. Aida Vega, Challenge House Neighborhood Ambassador at Challenge House #I, shows up with a large tray of ham biscuits, left over from the last day of school at Holiday Park. Kids and adults eat off them all day long!
Lunch is at Second Baptist—Taster’s Luncheon—in support of Relay for Life. A wonderful meal, and good visits with so many I have not seen of late!
It’s early afternoon, and elementary age children are out of school for the summer and full of glee! Patricia Smithson Ludwig and sons, Jonathan and Jeremiah, had gifted us with flavored ice-treats, and we enjoyed sharing them with so many little kids who love to come to Challenge House~
Our Salvation Army friend continues to work.
Nikki Radford brings us leftover Chinese from a United Way lunch, and I decide to take a plate to Mrs. Smith, now 85, over in Durrrett Avenue. She so enjoyed it! I caught the Joy of the Lord from her, and feed off her daily.
The redhead kids show up, with two half-siblings—five in all—hungry. The Chinese meal continues to feed, and the kids leave with big smiles and faces needing washing!
It’s now 7:15, and Adam Humphries shows up to talk about a possible new program we would begin this summer, “Math Challenge”. (Jaquavion, age 9, sits at the computer as the rain storm “hits”, happily learning on the website:brainpop.com).
Adam and I talk for 45 minutes, and then decide to hit the streets. In no time we have 4 young males, all about to be in 11th grade at HHS, sitting at the living room table at Challenge House #II. Adam just completed his junior year at Amherst in Massachusetts; he’s a math major. He wants to teach some inner-city kids this summer, and then have them help form a Math Club, so that next school-year we can have Math Night one night a week at one or more Challenge Houses, with students recruiting students!
I go to the kitchen and listen to them share their desire to be in a program like this, and quiz Adam about college! They eat ham biscuits too.
It’s 10 PM now, and I finally check email again. Harry Todd, Mr. Basketball in KY in 1958, has found my email address, and expresses interest in Challenge House, and how the Emmaus Community might help!
Time for bed, but what a slice of pie/slice of life DAY!—chocolate was my perfect flavor-choice at the Second Baptist Taster’s Luncheon. God inventedslice of pie days—chocolate ones! Expect you agree~
One day: How is it measured? What does it mean? Friday May 28th! Thanks foryour parts in this day~it “mattered” to a lot of people!
If you want to read a national article just published about Challenge House, just go to: https://www.ccda.org/erestorer-may-2010-inspire
Hello to All! As always, much is going on at Challenge Houses, and thanks to you for that.
We have been extraordinarily busy; I have not taken time to write a regular report in June or July, but we have a short treat below!
Heath and Paige Wilson, temporarily residing in Challenge House #I on Central Avenue, will soon be moving to Challenge House #III (123 South Fowler Avenue) to become Neighborhood Ambassadors for the West Side of town.
Not long ago I asked Paige to give us some idea of activities at Challenge House #I, and this is what she wrote:
Here are some of the things that have gone on at CHI this summer:
Jobs for Life Class (a Bible Study about Work-over-Welfare—YMCA offering)
Math Challenge (Accelerated math with low student to instructor ratio)
VBS (the VBS is going on this week and yesterday they had 15 children attend with hopes for more today. They also have been working on a house up the street. You can ask Aida more details about the VBS, I’m sure she has stories.)
We have hosted several teenagers from the neighborhood over for dinners and fellowship since we have lived there. Our hearts are drawn to kids and teenagers so we have opened up our house multiple times for those children living in the neighborhood. In fact one night a few months ago, we had a knock on our door late at night. The person at the door was a teenage boy who had nowhere to go. So we took him in, fed him, and let him get some sleep. The next day we had him and a friend over for dinner again and played a game together after dinner. I will never forget the look on his face as we told him we were going to sit at the dinner table together and eat as a family. It was like he had never experienced a family dinner like that. We had such a good time getting to know him and his friends. We haven’t seen him again for a long time and sometimes you wonder why God brings people in and out of your life so fast, but we just have to trust that His ways are always higher than ours and we might not ever know the reason for meeting that young man until we get to heaven!”
Our goal is to have at least 6 Challenge Houses scattered throughout the older neighborhoods of our City, and to find others like Heath and Paige, who have servant hearts, to become Neighborhood Ambassadors living in them, and building relationships, as well as coordinating programming.
“Bottom of the pile.” How and Why do so many in our city wind up there? This should be a profound question, and one all of us ought to ponder, along with this question: what am I/what are we—going to do about it? Will a turkey at Thanksgiving or a Toy at Christmas really ignite the Spark it takes to move a person to hope and change? Over 6.5 years now I have circulated among the poor and near homeless (and sometimes the homeless) and the one thing that strikes me is hope. How do so many still have it, and how did so many lose it?
What has to happen to a man to get to the point in life of pushing a grocery cart throughout the hood-streets looking for cans? He was once a baby, once a child, now it appears he’s a loser. Is he out of hope, or does he still have hope? I don’t know. This is the season of THE BABY, THE CHILD, THE Victor. What would happen if we made all of 2011 about Him and His Way? I have heard a lot of sermons about faith and love, and not too many about hope. What if in 2011 more of us put faith into action and love into action? Maybe the byproduct of that would be the spread of hope! How neat would that be!
I am thankful for The Challenge House Movement, and I believe it’s God’s Idea. Where we have come is way beyond me, and where we are headed is way beyond us all. We must press on! We can’t quit! We can do all things through Christ. We can turn this city upside down exactly the way the early disciples did their cities! The Book of Acts is so powerful. Its message is timeless.
This has to be one of the most giving cities anywhere: Our Rotary Auction, Our United Way, The Big Church Buildings, Successful campaigns all the time helping people in need—all of these point to a giving spirit. Our school system often seems to get the “hit” but it produces so many outstanding students. With our help it can produce more. This past summer we held a “Math Challenge” project. One young man went from a 14 to a 21 on his ACT practice test for the math section, and another from 18 to 22. These inner-city kids can learn too. More of us must be there for them, including programs run from Challenge House locations.
In some ways we are a disconnected city: The Challenge House Movement seeks to connect those students and adults who live in our oldest neighborhoods, and who may be under-resourced and/or hopeless, to those of us who want to share a vibrant overcoming faith, along with the keys to lifelong education and work-over-welfare. The more we connect, the more we share and the more we give of ourselves, the less crime we will experience, the less busy will be our Emergency Room, and the less trouble we will have within our schools. Can that be wrong? I think not! So———-
“It’s your move!” Sometime in the games of chess or checkers, one person has to remind another that “It’s your move.” That BABY, That CHILD, That VICTOR—for a reason we know—God moved Him from Heaven to earth, to live among us and to show us how to experience life abundant. The Challenge House Movement is about some people moving to our older neighborhoods, and becoming old fashioned neighbors. Sure we have Sunday School programs, after-school tutoring programs, and jobs programs, but also we just hangout and build relationships. Then:
*A 9th grade girl knocks on the door and asks for help with Algebra I, and we find a retired math teacher to come help her, and
*A grown man down the street knocks on the door asking if I know of someone who can give him counseling, and we find a close by counselor who has an intern working, and the connection is made, and then the man says he wants to attend Bible Study, and before we go to it we first make a stop at a downtown church, where there is an alter in the empty weekday sanctuary, and he cries his heart out, and then goes to Bible Study over in Durrett Avenue and shares his joy—his burden lifted (at least for that day), and
*I stop in the street to talk to a man, and he so needs a job. I have him call our YMCA about the next Jobs for Life Class (which will be held in January at Challenge House #III) and his face lights with hope! These stories will be multiplied countless times! Believe with me~
All of us can’t move to these older neighborhoods to a Challenge House, but we all can be in support of Challenge House with money donations and/or personal involvement. I believe God gave us the term “challenge”. We all need to challenge ourselves about our goals for the rest of our lives, and we need also to challenge our people here in Hopkinsville to be all we can be in the areas of faith, education, and employment. That’s what we try to do from Challenge Houses.
Speaking of moving, soon I will move away from Challenge House #II. Leigh Ann Simpson and her 8 year-old son will replace me. I have always wanted others to experience stories like I do, and then to share them with us all. That will be happening a lot! The year 2010 has brought us 3 families to occupy Challenge Houses as Neighborhood Ambassadors. I couldn’t be more glad. All are faithful and committed to our Lord’s command, “Go.” We are learning that “go” does not just mean to the foreign mission field.
Carlo and Heather Gentleman and two children serve at House 1.
Leigh Ann Simpson and son serve at House 2.
Heath and Paige Wilson and two children serve at House 3.
House 4 is under construction, and will come into operation in 2011.
Hopefully tonight some Challenge House neighborhood children will walk downtown to see the live Nativity Scene, and maybe tomorrow night too. Let’s work together to lessen the number of our kids and adult who are at “the bottom of the Hoptown pile.” Merry Christmas to you all, and if any of you want to support Challenge House with your year-end gifts (or monthly offerings), our address is:
Challenge House Incorporated, PO Box 462, Hopkinsville, KY 42241
The Body of Christ is mighty! Thanks to so many of you who help us in one way or another. Though I won’t be residing in a Challenge House, I want you all to know that my commitment with both my time and my money has never been greater, and I’ll be in the streets often to help advance the cause of Christ—knowing that you are with me and the Neighborhood Ambassadors as we work among “the least of these.” Also, I will be looking for speaking and teaching opportunities, so let me know if/when I can share with one of your groups, churches, or organizations~and so will all of the new Neighborhood Ambassadors be looking for these opportunities too~
Wally Bryan www.challengehouse.org 270-886-8887
Charlie Majors could not read or write. Mrs. Smith read for hours a day, and wrote beautifully. I attended funeral services for both this month. Charlie was 62; Mrs. Smith was 86. My skin tone is light; they each had darker skin. Who cares? Did not God make it. Maybe he made it that way so we would grow to see past it? My formal education is way above theirs, but I learned far more from them than they did me. My net worth exceeded theirs, but knowing them made me rich. Until a few years back, we lived in different neighborhoods; we did not know each other. That was my loss more than theirs. Charlie was baptized in Little River. I was baptized in a Big Church. Christ Jesus brought us together at Mrs. Smith’s Bible Study. Though homebound, she did more to connect folks of our city than anyone I have ever known. Our Challenge House goal is to build a “Connected Neighborly Hopeful Community!” Hats off to Charlie and Mrs. Smith!
I talked to a poor mother of many children. She told me her second grader make the honor roll. She attributed part of his success to his tutors at Challenge House #2. I walked into a tutoring session not long ago, after having not been there for a long time. I am old. It seemed that every child there wanted to give me a hug! Love is what bridges skin tone differences, levels of education differences, income and net worth differences, neighborhood differences, age differences, ALL differences! I thank God for each one of you, who each in your own way, strive to “make a difference!”
Spring is here. If we plow the ground, and plant flowers or vegetables in hopes of a good garden, but don’t water the garden when rains don’t come, or don’t weed it as it begins to grow, why are we surprised when it comes to look so sad, and its production is slim? Think about this: “Every neighborhood is either managed or mismanaged” just as gardens are either tended or not tended. Neighborhoods link to make a city, just as links of a chain make a chain a chain. Weak neighborhoods eat at the vibrancy of our city. Why are neighborhoods on the decline? It must be because the people are—because a community can’t thrive where there is disconnection, where “love thy neighbor” is missing, and where there is so much hopelessness. A cord has prongs, but until it’s plugged into the wall socket, it does not matter.
We only live a little while longer on this planet. Our garden is our city. We need to manage it with love, with the LIGHT that replaces darkness when the cord is plugged in. Will you pray about your part within the Body of Christ? We must become intentionally different if we really do want a different outcome!
Flash forward: its Saturday now, and before 5 AM. I drive by the downtown shed, shine my headlights and flashlight into it, and shout, “Steve” at the sleeping bag bulk I can barely see. After 15 seconds of no movement, I decide to drive away—just did not think it wise to go shake a body which might be the wrong one! Was that body that man?
Flash back: it’s Monday. I took a night-walk. I faced a man. He stopped me. We talked. I turned round. Now we walked in the same direction. A lot took place, including him telling me where he had been sleeping. He spoke of his shed-mate, who he described as “weird.” He felt uncomfortable there, but did not follow my tip of a downtown prayer garden where he could sleep alone and maybe feel safer. Thankfully, it’s been a hot week. He said what he really needed most was underwear, deodorant, toothpaste, and a brush. The next day he got all that, and a little Bible, and a shower. Yes, we have homeless here, but maybe not that many. What we have “many of” is adults and children just a half-step away from “the bottom of the pile.” I suppose many of those are more the focus of our work. His age is 38. He did show up for “Hand Up” at the Salvation Army Tuesday night. That was a step in the right direction. We are supposed to walk in the same direction! God’s
I am informed that two preachers want to ride bicycles with me for a long inner-city tour. So much more is seen when one walks or bikes, verses the car—and always bike tours include conversations with people “along the way.” I hope more preachers will take time to learn the smelly gut of Hopkinsville. What’s at our center is not all that fun to get to know: the Justice Center, the jail, Parole and Probation, Department of Juvenile Justice, Child Support, Public Defenders, Social Workers—no telling what I have left out. Steeples and store-front churches everywhere: The Body of Christ—our only hope. Did we not follow the command? Did we forget to make disciples? Maybe foreign missionaries will come here to help us. What will it take to wake up? Read a little of Jeremiah the other day—just the first few chapters—easy to see him as the “Weeping Prophet.” Didn’t Jesus weep over his city? When will we? Where is the urgency? I don’t claim that I myself have it~
No report last month, so a long update here on Challenge House observations, work, outreach, and partnerships!
God bless the school teachers. I was mayor 9 years and then taught school. Teaching was a much more difficult job. If Ebonite was delivered a huge haul of flawed plastic, how in the world could they produce perfect bowling balls? We must help the teachers by much more community support— somehow reaching and teaching the “least of these” children—those whose parents can’t or won’t—
Thank Goodness that The Pritchard Committee for Academic Excellence continues beating the drums for every child: “every child” is a tall order. We must—many of us—find ways to influence kids even where so many live: like Challenge House neighborhoods. Recently a young student from Indian Hills School has been tutored at Challenge House #III by women from First Christian, and a recent UofK graduate tutored a teen at the same House. Both may be too little too late for this school year. No, I don’t believe that. Every interaction matters! As school winds down, we must express thanks for tutoring at Challenge House #I and #II through associations with Holiday Park, Millbrooke, MLK, and the Bryan Street-Crockett Street Neighborhood Association, as well as to the women who lead “early childhood” outreach at Challenge House #II.
Soap Box Derby has proven to be a great way to influence inner-city kids. Story: Easter Sunday this little 12 year-old runs up to me at church. Big hug. He was so happy. I hope the family that purchased him the new suit got hugs too. They are the ones who deserved them. I was so dense. I never would have imagined how building a Soap Box Derby car would result in the kind of relationship that led to a new suit, or a church smile that wide! Good things are happening! The harvest might really be “ripe.”
The weather is finally warm, and so many are in the streets now. So much unemployment, especially with the young. So many bad decisions. So much drug and alcohol use. So few daddies. Awful language and music. The good thing about the magnitude of the coming crisis, the present crisis, is maybe that we will see that the only solution is the God Solution. Problems here are too big and complex for us alone to solve. Trust me on that one!
Fourth Dimension (4D) teens continue their outreach to the Challenge House #II neighborhood, as does Living Hope Baptist with its history of consistent witness and care. YMCA leadership continues to boost our efforts. Baptist women’s WMU carried out a wonderful neighborhood outreach for us. We are nothing without partnerships. Hillcrest women meet at Challenge House for study and prayer. All of these with an eye toward neighborhood resident involvement. New Work Fellowship consistently, on a number of fronts, adds to our efforts. First United Methodist Church’s Great Day of Service accomplished mountains of work at Challenge Houses on April 16th. Many members from other churches stand behind our work with both money and time. This local broad-based mission work is making a difference in lives here in Hopkinsville.
Austin Peay State University conducted a Retreat Day in Clarksville; 39 Challenge House kids traveled there for it—the social worker students at APSU are so committed to our work! Southside Church of Christ and First Baptist both have youth-group projects set this summer for Challenge House neighborhoods! Toni Riley is working with Challenge House Neighborhood Ambassadors to plant tomatoes in as many as 50 Challenge House neighborhood yards! The Department of Juvenile Justice is looking at Challenge Houses with a serious eye toward group sessions with its youth/parent clients. The Youth Leadership program recognized Challenge House with a much-needed $500 grant in support of summer work classes.
We are planning some major teen job programs for this summer; programs that have the element of “boot-camp” about them, and where work ethic and perfect conduct yield both job shadowing opportunity and pay for inner-city teens. We hope to also offer money management classes.
We have enjoyed past intern help from Western, APSU, Murray, and HCC, and look forward to more help. We need it from as many as have the time and heart. Could that be you? It looks like we are building relationships with Lindsey Wilson College, and other counseling agencies, as to being able to refer kids and adults from our neighborhoods to professional help, when appropriate.
We are You. We are about faith, education, and work-over-welfare; relationship-building is the key to programs, and to personal one-to-one growth. We need your help, including names of men and women who might want to live in a Challenge House, and carry out local mission work from their House. Thanks, Wally Bryan Feel free to Forward
“99&1”—Read Luke 15
The last few months have been the busiest ever for Challenge House Neighborhood work—as you know, our focus is on faith, education, and work-over-welfare, and in the process of our work, and being outside “in the streets” meeting people, many relationships are established, some which will literally last a life-time. Though our work brings us many projects and programs, it’s always the resulting relationships that seem to matter the most! Attached to this email is a short video—on the newscast from about the 8:40 mark to the 12:29 mark—hope you take time to watch it too.
*It appears that 16 students are about to graduate from our annual AT&T (Attitude Training & Teamwork) program. Partnering this year with our YMCA and its “Teen Jobs for Life” outreach, each student will receive up to $150 for his/her performance in this Bible-based “boot camp” program about WORK, plus job shadowing in such professional areas as: physicians, nurses, engineer, law, and insurance. 4 students completed “Math Challenge,” a different program that will assuredly guarantee a fast start to high school advanced math when school soon begins again! We are able to pay these students because of a student-based grant from AT&T; most will use their earnings to buy school clothes and/or shoes.
*Child Evangelism Fellowship sent one adult and two teen girls to Hopkinsville; they stayed at Challenge House #III, but carried out daily Bible teaching at all three Houses for every day of a 5-day July week. This outreach touched several scores of kids, and offers huge follow-up potential!
*A Girl Scout troop was birthed at Challenge House #III; 4 girls attended the first meeting, and the potential is easy for 12-15.
*Lunch Bunch outreach at Challenge House #II was successful again this summer!
*Challenge House #I carried out a student-directed Dave Ramsey class.
*Dave Clark from Christian Community Development Association (ccda.org) from Chicago visited Hopkinsville, and shared with a number of us regarding their interest in our work.
*World Magazine featured Challenge House work in its June 18, 2011 edition, and declared our work in the running for its Annual Hope Award.
*Important neighborhood improvement projects (scraping and painting, tearing down old backyard dilapidated storage buildings, a garage, as well as gutter cleaning, yard work, and fence line clean up) were carried out by these groups: KY YMCA (Youth Corps) from Frankfort, First Baptist youth (VBS too) and Southside Church of Christ youth. Incredible differences were made in different older neighborhoods surrounding downtown.
*Second Baptist carried out Little Red Wagon Reading program at Challenge House #III; many children were touched, and were given books to take home!
*Living Hope Baptist continues it weekly Sunday School classes at Challenge House #II.
*Hillcrest Baptist has been very active (and in many ways) at Challenge House #I (including Soap Box Derby and VBS)), and has also reached out to kids in the Challenge House #II neighborhood; further it took one young boy on its Florida trip with the youth; this young man gave his life to Christ!
*First United Methodist is very involved in helping Challenge House #II, and its Soap Box Derby outreach has been phenomenal, including starting a small lawn service directed by Challenge House neighborhood children—teaching them the importance of work, and money management.
*Set Free Ministries continues its influence in the Challenge House #II area.
*New Work Fellowship continues its long-standing support of The Challenge House Movement, including on-going discussion for possible birthing of Challenge House #V, which would be located somewhere within the Canton Pike neighborhood.
*WMU continued its outreach into the Durrett Avenue neighborhood via its quilt-making with 4 neighborhood women—neat relationships being born—and with its outreach to children with games, snacks, Bible stories, and back-packs filled with school supplies.
*The Body of Christ certainly is alive within this local mission work, and I shudder to think of the church and church-member help that I failed to list. We welcome future help from other church bodies, and need it very much. We have only scratched the surface of what I believe will happen. Thousands live in our older neighborhoods, and many of these are at the bottom of the Hopkinsville pile. Together we can be the hands and feet to bring them HOPE, FAITH, LOVE. Our work is just a fraction of all that goes on, and we continue to see other awesome work at Trilogy Center for Women, Salvation Army, Sanctuary House, YMCA, and Boys and Girls Club. We must all work more closely together than ever before. Our community’s future is at stake!
*Fourth Dimension’s interest in Challenge House teens is making a difference, and we are so thankful to them.
*We had a good time distributing Brice Long concert tickets within the older neighborhoods of our city; having a good family entertainment time like this is so appreciated by folks who normally don’t have the money for plain old hot-summer fun-nights!
*Sometimes it’s just summer snacks, and other times it’s food to a neighbor, or a kid or adult at our table at a Challenge House, or local restaurant.
*Sometimes it’s a verbal boost with a Bible verse, and other times it’s passing out Our Daily Bread devotionals, or a letter to an inmate. More and more I see the need for neighborhood discipleship opportunities; so many don’t have transportation.
*GED classes, courtesy of Hopkinsville Community College, will begin again at Challenge House #I this fall.
*A number of children are now going to church with Challenge House Neighborhood Ambassadors, or with members of local churches who have met children via the inner-city Challenge House connection.
This is a long report, and it could have been pages more. This is a “we” effort, and you are a part of us. Thanks, and may we all gather strength for the battles ahead. We were not promised an easy path, but if we “branches” stay in union with the “Vine” we can do all things needing to be done.
Sincerely, Wally Bryan (270-889-3395) Feel free to forward this email, and feel free to offer us your ideas, suggestions, and advice.
This Report, unlike others of the past, deals with fundraising. The story-filled content, I believe, sets forth the importance and value of the Challenge House approach which focuses on developing and discipling kids and adults. Please feel free to forward this email to anyone who might be interested and/or who might be willing to help fund it.The mailing address is at the bottom of this Report/Letter.
A local pastor and I are riding bikes and I spot a 12-year old girl; I ask her, “What has Challenge House meant to you?” She replies, “It’s helping my mother become a Christian.” Then I ask, “what’s it meant to you?” She says, “Fourth Dimension teens come do Christian dance at Challenge House, and now my sister and I belong to it.” Challenge House work often involves us connecting with other positive people and outreaches; all adults and kids want to “belong” to something. We invite people to belong; to be a part.
A neighbor-man in his late 40’s has been encouraged by his connections to Challenge House, and although he struggles with money, he recently wrote a $20 check to our non-profit. I accepted it. He wanted and needed to give it! His heart was generous.
We are about being our neighbors keeper, and you are (or can be) an important part of the words, “We/our.” I take no salary or pay—once a year we send out this mass mailing. Our checkbook is open to any and all of our supporters; no secrets. We are all about challenging local students and adults to be all they can be in these areas: faith, education, and work-over-welfare. Continue the Challenge House Movement via your donation!
Many people don’t have transportation but they can walk to our Houses, where we offer GED, job classes, after-school tutoring, Bible studies, and much more–Girl Scouts/Story: I hear a knock on the door at Challenge House 3, and when I get there a mother and daughter are there. “I want to get my daughter signed up for Girl Scouts right now so she can be with her Scout friends!” A quick phone call and Mary Jo, one of the leaders, took the ball. We do a lot of hand-offs!
Not long ago I received an email from a young man who was caught up in a Gothic cult here. Through Challenge House connections we helped him escape, and he just shared his story with me—now he’s in another state and enrolled in college. Neat email if you want to read it. Challenge House Neighborhood Ambassadors (those living and working from Challenge Houses) make so many contacts as part of day-to-night presence in the hood. We never know when someone is ready for escape from the confusion of the streets.
Have you ever seen a pancake, or cornbread, that looked so perfect, only to check out the bottom side to see it burned? Sometimes I think that’s the way it is in our city: part of us looks so perfect, and part of us is so wounded. We are about bringing the resources so many of us have (faith, education, job knowledge) to those who lack. We are not a hand-out agency, we don’t enable kids or adults; we try to develop adults and kids. I saw this recently when a young woman (whose mother always asks me for money) asked me for work instead! I instantly gave her a yard and house-keeping job. She asked the right question! She earned some gasoline money, and with dignity! We don’t take government money. PLEASE write a tax-deductible check, or send one monthly. We need your help!
Quote: “The answers to many of our problems lie just beyond the fences we build around our thinking.” The Challenge House Movement is “beyond the fence” thinking. Be with us! We need each other! Steve Shields: “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and a city is only as strong as its weakest neighborhood.”
It’s been building up in my soul to write about him.
He was my neighbor, but not too sure I was my “neighbor’s keeper.”
Tony died the day after Christmas. Read to the bottom to know him~
First, just a few weeks ago, around 8:30 AM, I hear a knock on the door at Challenge House #III. I open the door and the 8th grade girl, who lives right across the street, was standing there. She had never before been to Challenge House, but she knew it was a place she could get help. She was sick, not going to school; all her siblings had gone to school, and her mom to work. She was home alone. She was hungry. She did not have a phone. She wanted to borrow mine. I stepped onto the front porch and listened as she called her grandfather. In no time he was here, with plans to buy her breakfast at McDonald’s. Little things matter. The idea of Challenge Houses positioned within at-risk neighborhoods—some didn’t believe—now we see—the idea works. We must not tire. By God’s grace I believe that 2012 will see Challenge House #IV finished (over close to Pennyrile Apartments public housing) AND the start of Challenge House #V (somewhere in the East Side of our city). Also, we believe that our expanded relationship with our YMCA will result in more programs being offered from all locations.
Sometimes it’s programs, but always its relationships. Maybe one of the best ways to change our country, and our world, is to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8)—and to carry out these requirements right here—-close-up and personal! At times I sure fail. How about you? Let’s do more of this justice, mercy, and humble walking here in our city this year. Let’s do it shoulder-to-shoulder TOGETHER. Let’s change people’s world view. May the ripples begin here and now!
The little girl had dark skin; Tony had light skin. She was about 14; Tony was mid 40’s. Skin tone and age don’t matter to the Bible’s definition of “neighbor.” Both lived in my low income neighborhood. I am richer because, for just a little while, I was their friend.
The day after Christmas, early morning, Tony contacts me. He worked all night at Hampton Inn as the beloved night auditor. He was off at 7AM and wanted me to meet him at North Drive McDonald’s at 7:15. Tony, in the few moments of late night and early morning non-busy times, read books like BONHEOFFER: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. Though poor, this was one very exceptional man! We met at McDonald’s (he lived directly behind it on West 2nd street in a little white house); I walked there from the Challenge House in West Side (123 South Fowler Avenue). We warmly greeted, then sat down. We talked, and he read me the December 26th daily devotional from Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest. Time to go. I shook his hand. He gave me a man’s hug. 20 minutes together.
Tony walked to his little green truck for the 50 yard drive to his humble abode. I talked to a few men eating beside us, and headed to the door to walk back to Challenge House #III. Tony had made it home, and gone inside. He had come back to the street side to bring the garbage.
Tony died right in the street. He died right in front of his rental house.
Tony and I had talked. He was working poor. At first he was “too rich” to qualify for Saint Luke. He and I figured out that he should try again since his wife was now working less hours than when he first was rejected. Betsy had it worked out. All Tony needed now was a letter from his General Manager stating income level. Tony, that morning at McDonald’s said to me, “Wally, I am going to write that letter myself, and just ask the GM to sign off—that will make it easier for him.” Always thinking of others–Tony! Heart Attack. Instant. Pauper’s funeral. I watched him lowered into the ground in a cardboard box. He didn’t even have a real preacher at graveside service, mostly attended by his co-workers and a few family members. Yes he smoked. Yes he was overweight. Maybe I would have been that way too had I been in his shoes. I wish I had taken him to my doctor. I could have afforded to pay for a good physical exam for him. I didn’t.
In these streets I see hundreds just walking—aimlessly. Jesus told Peter to feed the sheep. He made him a “fisher of men.” So many here don’t have any health coverage, and it seems even less health knowledge. So many with dental issues. I hope that from Challenge Houses we can begin to offer health related programs: stop smoking groups, exercise classes, AA groups, nutrition classes, and more. Our main aim has always been to help people along the path of “faith, education, and work-over-welfare.” I want to begin to work more on the physical health side. Please pray that way with me~
Coffee CONNECTION is located at 910 South Main Street, right in the center of all the neighborhoods we serve, or want to serve. It’s a place to gather, to mix, to even find “common grounds.” Yesterday a man was there trying to do a math problem—he was trying to prepare to take a job test. A man there helped him understand how to solve the problem. He smiled real big! A group of men and women were in the back taking a Jobs for Life class. A homeless man came in, and watched the jobs class in session, and then talked to Emmanuel, the volunteer that hour for keeping the coffeehouse open. Emmanuel had his Bible open. I liked watching them talk.
Please come join us. I found out that the homeless man stayed in a neighborhood where we hope to place Challenge House V—the East Side.
Challenge Houses and Coffee CONNECTION work closely together, and more and more churches are seeing that we must do more than feed the hungry, which we must really get to know them as friends and neighbors.
We need volunteers at Coffee CONNECTION so as to keep it open more hours of the day and night. Think of all those lonely folks at bars downtown; maybe some will stop to sober up if we are open some night hours. All food and drink products we give away. We are donation-based. We need many people to come downtown to Coffee CONNECTION. We have Internet. We have mighty good conversations there. It’s much larger than most guess, and there is room there to make it whatever you want to, for yourself, or for your group. Please visit us!
Wally Bryan –
I love the word “We.” If “we” stay with this new concept of inner-city work, “we” will see changes that will make our City a Better Place, and will make our country, and our world, a Better Place.
WOW! What an exciting week we have had! Last Sunday our home church commissioned us as neighborhood missionaries, pledging to support us in deed and in prayer. Since we are Southern Baptists, this was followed by a potluck lunch:) Then, those that we able walked the block and a half or so to our Challenge House, where we encircled the house, hand in hand, and prayed over it and all those that will be affected by the ministry taking place in it. What an awesome experience this was! Such a sweet fellowship with our church family.
On Monday night, ladies from the Beth Faul WMU group came to the Challenge House and cleaned it from top to bottom. These awesome women came straight from work, cleaning supplies in hand! They did everything from vacuum and dust to clean the refrigerator shelves. Another blessing to know that my family could move into a clean house.
Two retired men from our church donated a 40+ hour work week to paint the entire downstairs of our CH. This will be the common area of the house that will be used by any group that comes in to have a meeting or Bible study. Such a relief to know that it is freshly painted and ready for whatever this ministry brings our way!
On Thursday, we had a buyer put a contract on our “old” house. The circumstances behind this buyer choosing our house and the details of the purchase contract leave no doubt that God was in that situation! We will have a couple of extra weeks to finish moving out the last of our stuff, and maybe even have a moving sale, before the new owner takes possession. (We are waiting on an outdoor storage building to be installed at the CH, so we had to leave behind everything in the attic and garage of the old house)
Yesterday, Saturday, was our big moving day! We had 9 men from church show up to help with the move. We were done in a couple hours! My mom and I were even able to get a good bit of the kitchen unpacked!
Even today at church the blessings continued to flow. We had several people approach us about wanting to reseed the front yard, having a friend remove a tree stump in the backyard (which is holding up the progress of our outbuilding), and just blessing us with gift cards! We feel so loved as God continues to use our church family to confirm this life changing decision!
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38
Jail to Challenge House—let me write it differently: I picked up an inmate—I know he’s a skilled carpenter—I took him to the construction site of Challenge House #4, over by Pennyrile Apartments public housing. It was early—probably 6:30 AM—Before he exited the car to begin work, he suggested, “Let’s pray”—we did, and then he handed me a $10 bill. He wanted it to go to Challenge House. I deposited it to our non-profit account! Good start to the day! He had lived in a Challenge House neighborhood and knows how we try to help kids and adults. He’s excited about #4, as am I!
I see a man at the PowWow—big smile—he lives next door to a Challenge House; he comes toward me, “Guess what? I am going to the Bus Stop and off drugs”! He wanted me to know and I was so glad to hear.
I see a teen boy. I first knew him at Challenge House #2; his family then moved to the neighborhood of Challenge House #1, and most recently to the neighborhood of Challenge House #3, but I saw him right across the street from Challenge House #4. I asked him for a basketball schedule so I can go watch him. He smiles! Yes, there is a reason for multiple Challenge Houses. My heart’s desire is to see Challenge Houses in all of our older at-risk neighborhoods — for each neighborhood to have the Challenge House Advantage—for the people all to know that “just around the corner” is a House where you can grow your faith, where education help is just a knock away, and where a mindset of “work-over-welfare” can be developed.
I was at Millbrooke School—3 little kids run to me—all smiling. They have moved to the area of the Health Department (someday that area will be Challenge House 7). I knew them at Challenge House #2. They miss it. They remember the love of so many~
The AT&T program reached close to 45 teens this summer; 38 earned money from making it through Boot Camp about work, and job shadowing. So many business and professional people provided work-shadow sites! And so many men and women spoke to these teens and/or provided lunches for them. Awesome! Something special about this summer’s teen outreach!
Berea College recently held a “College Night” at Challenge House #3. Afterward one young man said to me, “That was amazing”! Students, along with some parents, learned about college “up close and personal”, in the living room of Challenge House #3. Thanks to Wynn Radford for his key role. “A letter in the mailbox”—Invitations were sent to the AT&T teens!
“All day every day” it’s about children. We always try to remember them. I am reminded of a verse: 1st Thess. 2:7 “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children”. I suppose the word “care” is key to reaching kids. Recently I saw the movie, Unconditional; go see it! It’s about the kind of work we do. You are “we”!
Our YMCA’s offering, Jobs for Life, is currently being taught at Challenge House #1. We hope to soon teach GED classes at Coffee CONNECTION, downtown where the Challenge House office is located.
Challenge House #1—Nate and Ellen Ragsdale and children will soon move here to become Neighborhood Ambassadors. They and we are excited!
Challenge House #2—Leigh Ann Simpson and son continue as Neighborhood Ambassadors. What commitment! Tough street~
Challenge House #3—Brad and Lori Kirkman continue as Neighborhood Ambassadors. “Radical” living! —with strong backing from Second Baptist.
Challenge House #4—located off North Elm close to Pennyrile Apartments near Glass Avenue—we are seeking singles or a small family to become Neighborhood Ambassadors here. Should be ready by late fall!
Challenge House #5—located on Crockett Street behind Flynn’s, Lone Star Pawn Shop, and Farm Bureau—should be ready by early winter. We are so excited about the partnership between First Christian Church and Challenge House. We will be seeking singles or a small family to become Neighborhood Ambassadors here.
Challenge House #6—we are believing for this House to be established somewhere on the East Side of Hopkinsville.
Challenge House #7—we are believing for this House to be established somewhere in the Canton Street neighborhood.
Most likely this will complete the chain! “7”. Steve Shields: “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link; a City is only as strong as its weakest neighborhood”. Lord, may our links be strong!
We are neighborhood based. We seek first to build relationships with our neighbors, and then to offer programs from Challenge Houses that will boost both children and adults. Come help us! Wally Bryan 270-889-3395
Please help us spread the message by forwarding~~~
56 degrees inside. Mom and 4 children. Landlord short on funds. Central gas heater broken. We find out. Things begin to happen. So many involved. Fuses for her fuse box—so portable electric heaters work again. Big kerosene heater provided with fuel, Fire Department comes through with smoke detectors. This family was able to tough it out without moving; so important as 2 of the children walked to school, and are involved in after-school activities. So often people speak of where they “stay”; so many move so often. The younger children feel loved and accepted at Challenge House 3. But will these come to see the Light of the World? We will present the Good News in the declining neighborhoods. That is our main mission. While there we will also teach the importance of lifelong learning/education, and the reasons why “work over welfare” is the proper mindset. Please come along side us. We have established bases of operation right where so many of our poor reside. We have a foothold from where to launch! Challenge Houses 1, 2, and 3 are in full operation and numbers 4 and 5 will be ready this spring.
Valley Forge was winter war; the Battle of the Bulge was a winter battle. War is everywhere. Not long ago a soldier stayed a night in the apartment-just home from Afghanistan—rented his own place the next day-said it got cold over there!
Most battles seem to wait until times of spring or summer. When will we battle? Spring is here. Challenge House neighborhoods are alive again!
But read the paper, or listen to the news. So many who are troubled reside in the hood—spend so much time “in the streets” where our Houses are located. This is local. This is “We.” Will we see the urgency to faith-act?
Not government, but the Body of Christ—this is the hope to make “Our City” a Better Place.
There is so much war in the Old Testament: conquering and being conquered. Joshua, Judah, Othniel, Deborah, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah-so interesting the way God controlled history (read about them in Joshua and Judges). Good and evil, back and forth, over and over again. When will we battle? Is our city worth fighting for? Did Jesus battle? What about in the temple when he got mad! “You can’t change what you tolerate”. Why do we tolerate so many of our kids living so at the bottom?
They are precious in His sight. They are “worth it.” Life is so short. Will we
of Christ be men and women of valor when it comes to spiritual warfare? Will we finish strong, or just be like the world? What if many churches adopted Challenge Houses close to them? Warfare right out the back door, or a protected fort with no offense? I really don’t think true Christianity is supposed to be about self—or self protection. It’s to be about others! Fear not! Do not be afraid. These terms are everywhere in Scripture. Why don’t we listen? Our Commander said, “Go!” Not sit~
Robert E. Coleman writes in Master Plan of Evangelism: “—-Disciples must be brought to maturity. There can be no substitute for total victory, and our field is the world. We have not been called to hold the fort, but to storm the heights”—I deeply believe that we can storm the neighborhoods, and see evil flee in the face of good/God! Pray about all of this.
I was reading in my Bible this morning: II Chronicles 34:1-3.
A boy begin to “seek the God of his father, David’, and 4 years later began ‘purging” his country of its pagan practices.
I encourage you to look it up~
In the apartment and in this small office, I have a plaque which reads:
Today, Will you be for Others?
“Give ear to the cause of the poor and the children without fathers; let those who are troubled and in need have their rights. Be the saviour of the poor and those who have nothing: take them out of the hand of the evil-doers”.
(Psalm 82:3-4-Bible in Basic English)
Children and Teens have special summer focus at Challenge Houses.
We have been having everything from a reading club to BackYard Bible Clubs.
This week we begin Child Evangelism Fellowship at Challenge Houses 1,3, and 5; every day Monday through Friday 1.5 hour sessions—3 a day!
May the little children listen, learn, and come to “seek.” There is something about that word.
Next week we begin the AT&T program (Attitude Training & Teamwork); it’s a Boot Camp about work, followed by on-site job shadowing in areas of specific student interest. For many teens, this is the first time ever to really connect with job generators, and witness how people dress, act, and perform “at work!” All who graduate will receive checks of $150.00.
17,16, 15, 14 “Boot Camp” about work-started with 17; only 14 teens made it through the first 4 days—1-a-day was booted (late to work, for example).
Challenge House #I and #II combined to offer this “real world’ program—much Jobs for Life content, along with many community speakers. Each student job shadowed the second week—teens worked in areas of personal interest such as:
Court House (law),MansfieldAnimalHospital, Tom Bell State Farm, Coldwell Banker, Sisk Auto Mall, The Place, Harper House,JennieStuartMedicalCenter, Toms & Toms physician, and Police Department. AT&T provided student checks of $150. Incredible program that is life-changing! Challenge House work focuses on faith, education, and mindsets of work-over-welfare. These teens came to realize that overcoming the roadblocks of poverty is closely associated with vibrant personal relationship with the God, and staying in school (and excelling).
This same Boot Camp/Shadow will take place soon at Challenge House #III.
A mother of 7 loses her children until she becomes “fit” to properly care for them. A grandmother takes the youngest 3; families at First United Methodist take the oldest 4. These families came to first know the children at Challenge House #II -Tutoring/Soap Box Derby-“know” changed to love.
A drunken woman weaves along downtown sidewalks. Someone at Coffee CONNECTION gives her some food and kind words-She offers a hug-walks on-So many wounded-so many with little joy-So many need love (God).
The Social Work Club at APSU offers a country retreat. 15 inner-city teens leave the Saturday streets, and enjoy a taste of South Christian. They break into small groups to discuss important matters like dating violence, bullying, and team-building. Education and character are front and center.
I wrote some men I know in jail and prison. Here are quotes taken from the letters they wrote back: “I really did like that letter you sent. It touched me in a spot I never felt. I need your help seeking employment when I get out”.
“I am glad you wrote some Scripture down for me because I prayed a prayer not long ago and it’s like the answers to my prayer were in the verses you wrote down-so that’s a blessing. Love you and love the card you sent”.
“I guess change only matters in the Lord’s court. Here on earth you are still judged by your past actions. I am at the lowest point in my life, and I need to ask you to include me in your prayers. I hope you stay in contact with me when I get sent off to the federal pen. Thanks for the positive influence you have given me time after time. One thing for certain I want you to know is it wasn’t a waste of time or energy spent with me”.
“It’s crazy how I got a letter from you today and your talking about God. Just yesterday me and God had a long talk.
`Quotes from 4 young men. 8 years ago I moved fromAlumni AvenuetoDurrett Avenue. God has brought so many along to help. Thank you! I thank HIM. Challenge Houses were not even thought of then. God gives us such good ideas, and then brings the Body of Christ together to make them happen! These 4 young men will be released back—sooner or later—into our neighborhoods. We have so many Bible Studies and services at the jail, but no real jail or prison “after-care” programs upon release. I long for those follow up opportunities. Hope and Pray with me that we can establish these in Challenge Houses or at Coffee CONNECTION.
Students came from Belmont Hill inBoston—they came here and worked. Huge tear-down projects were completed in Challenge House III neighborhood under the direction of JR Habon. Most of the time we spend trying to build up people, but tearing down dilapidated structures in at-risk neighborhoods cleans them up, and gives hope to those who “stay” there.
Challenge House kids take a trip to a farm inToddCounty, and fellowship in God’s country. It’s important, from time to time, to get them away!
Mother Theresa: “It is very fashionable to talk about the poor—unfortunately it is not fashionable to talk to the poor”. The Challenge House Movement is about getting close enough, on a consistent basis, to get to know our neighbors—to love God and them. The two Commandments. Dr. John Perkins of Christian Community Development Association once said, “Know that you are called to do this work: God calls us into the pain of the people so we can shepherd them to relief”.
“All the downtrodden can do is go on hoping. After every disappointment they must find fresh reasons for hope”. Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
Please help us spread hope! Feel free to forward.
“Mr. Wally’ he said, ‘I have something I want to ask you; How come you do what you do”? I was caught completely off guard. I had taken him, a senior in high school, to a community concert, along with a senior girl. (I had gotten to know both through a faith-based summer teen “work-over-welfare” program, known as “AT&T”). After the concert ended, including both teens getting to go backstage to meet the singer, he asked me to give him a ride home, real close to Challenge House #1. Right before we arrived at his house, that question was asked.
I stumbled. I said something like this: “When I was 20 I gave my life to Christ, and though I have had my share of sin and misdirection, I just want to finish strong by helping as many of you young men and women as possible’. I told him, ‘I believe in you; you have what it takes”. That was it, he got out, and I drove home. Last Friday night.
Really that question could have been asked of any of those living in Challenge Houses (Neighborhood Ambassadors), and their answers would have been close to the same in content as mine. I feel uncomfortable writing about me. Please know that I know it’s not about me. It’s an amazing tapestry that God has woven; looking backward over the last 10 years + is vision in reverse: catching a current glimpse of His Hand, and many hands, your hands. It really is the Body of Christ—it really is faith in action—it really is the Holy Spirit gluing us believers together “for others”. I wish every city had Challenge Houses~
The young man is musical in interest; I’m not. He’s tall; I’m short. I’m light-skinned; he’s dark skinned. I’m 67; he’s 17—50 years difference. So what! The next day, Saturday, he had a session at the 913 Building studio, and I dropped in to watch him with his teacher, James Dillingham. James asked him to make up a quick song. He did! He sang something like this: “Thank you Mr. Wally, and Thank you Mr. James”—and some other really neat words of appreciation—good rap!
This world system is killing, stealing, and destroying way too many of our young. All of you who back this ministry are part of the rescue. Every 1 counts.