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the next steps

BY CHAQUANA TOWNSEND

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31

As we are almost one month into the 2015-2016 school year at Common Ground Montgomery, one thing remains true across the board: We need the Lord's help as we prayerfully consider, ponder, and talk through the future of the lower school students in our After School Program. We need help as we continue to focus on structure and discipline and more academics.

I love to brag about the children we serve because they are truly a blessing to this ministry. The Lord sends us some of the most amazing little people on the planet and we want to steward these precious gifts well. With that being said, we want to run the After School Program for the glory of God; we want to encourage our children to take education serious because education is truly a gift from the Lord.

God has created us in His image to reflect how amazing and creative He truly is. Moreover, since we are made is His image, we are creative and amazing as well. It is through our education and learning that we get to see what we are good at and we want the children to tap into who God created them to be so they can flourish in a world that so often can tear them down.

As program staff at CGM, we are serious about aiding the Montgomery Public Schools in their journey to educate our future leaders. At the After School Program we have extended homework time. We shamelessly use reading and math aids from the Montgomery Public School pacing guide and edhelper.com to help our children grow in their learning.

Please pray for us as we seek to better our After School Program. More than our children having fun, we want to them to love learning and excel in it. May God grant us the strength and wisdom to love them well and push them to be the best they can be!

We are some of their biggest fans, and we will continue to persevere on their behalf because by doing so, we bring so much glory to God! 

rivers of love

BY CHAQUANA TOWNSEND

This past weekend I, along with 5 interns, had the privilege of going to Camp Chandler with the 1st through 3rd grade children. We spent 3 days in the backwoods of Wetumpka with young children who were excited yet ready to break free from structure. This past weekend was fun, challenging, and sanctifying, but one thing stands out the most in my heart: despite the challenges and difficulties of the weekend, my love only grows for the children I work with.

As a single woman, I get to participate in training up a child in the ways of the Lord. I get a glimpse of the labor, pain, and joys of being a parent as I work with children on a regular basis. It blows my mind how my heart will do anything to see them prosper, to see them thrive, to see them really walk with the Lord. However, as I think of the God-given love I have for these children,  I think about how much God loves me and stops at nothing to see me blossom and prosper in Him.

When I think about the faces of the babies I work with, my heart leaps for joy. They have literally changed my life and continue to push me towards the Lord. Moreover, I see more of God's love for me because He stops at nothing to pursue me and capture my heart. My love for the children I work with is imperfect and flawed, but His love is perfect. He never gives up on me and nothing can pluck me from His hand. He separates my sin as far as the east is from the west. He offers forgiveness when I turn to Him instead of condemnation. He shows kindness instead of impatience. My imperfect human love for the little ones is just a small glimpse of God's overwhelming love for me!!

The children remind me that God is fighting for me as I fight for them. They remind me that I am a sinner and need of a Savior because of my flawed perspective. I am constantly reminded that God is a loving Father,  yet His discipline is for my good. I am reminded daily that God is a Father whose love flows like a river; it never runs out. As Job so eloquently put, "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes..." (Job 42:5).

I see God in so many ways, and it pushes me to repent and turn to Him. I am so thankful for His amazing, overflowing love, and the conduit of the children at CGM to see it.

the welfare of my community

BY CHAQUANA TOWNSEND

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Jeremiah 29:7

I am completely convinced that God deeply transforms and rocks the lives of His people as they seek the prosperity and good of the neighborhood, city, or country to which He has called them. As many of you already know, God’s chosen people, Israel, were called into exile for 70 years in Babylon. The Jews were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar II. God used Babylon as His method of pronouncing judgment on the nation of Israel for their rebellion and idolatry. God gave His people clear instructions: He wanted them to engage and become a part of Babylonian culture. Why? Because as the city of Babylon prospered so would they.

Why does this passage resonate with me as I live and work in Washington Park?

One thing is evident here at Common Ground Montgomery: God’s hand is on this ministry. As a staff person at CGM and a resident of Washington Park, there is NOT a day that goes by that I am not aware of my deep need for Jesus and His overwhelming love for me. Not only that, He is transforming the way I speak to others, the way I look at His creation, and completely opening my eyes to how amazing He truly is. As children and parents decide to faithfully pursue Jesus, I am pushed and encouraged to faithfully pursue Jesus. As young girls share their desire to honor God with their body, I am encouraged to continue to walk in purity. As they prosper, so does my heart, soul, and mind. The more I think less about myself and more about the welfare of the parents and children in this community, the more I see the work of God in their lives. Washington Park is a community where God is doing a miraculous work, and my life is being utterly rocked by that! This community is saving me from pursuing worldly passions because I see the deadly affects of sin every single day. As one of our sweet girls put it, “God is good because He lives in my hood." 

 

perseverance

BY CHAQUANA TOWNSEND

Rejoice in hope, persevere in tribulation, faithful in prayer.
Romans 12:12

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A theme that has been prevalent for me as I work in ministry is this: Ministry is hard!

As much as I adore the parents and children I work with, there are times when I am sorely discouraged and ready to throw in the towel. There are times when the children frustrate me to the point of anger and parent relationships cause me to be distant, afraid, and cold. There have been times when I questioned whether or not I should leave Common Ground Montgomery and go elsewhere for employment. However, when my heart gets weary and I am in a place of hurt, pain, frustration, and confusion, the Lord quickly reminds me of why I came here in the first place.

One thing I look back on is the heart and passion he has given me for this precious community. In the summer of 2009, I was a summer intern for the first time with CGM and it radically changed my life. Coming from the inner-city myself, CGM gave me a deeper compassion and heart for the children, women, and men, living in the inner-city. I knew from my very first summer God was calling me to be a part of Washington Park in a very special way.

As I built relationships with parents and children, a deep love and burden grew and grew even when I was away from the ministry. I knew God was going to use the community, staff, and relationships built with volunteers, interns, parents, and children, to continually shape me into the woman he has called me to be. I am so much more whole, renewed, free, and content, despite the daily difficulties (personal and ministry) that I face. God is doing a great work in me, and I am so grateful!

Despite the inescapable difficulties life and ministry bring, I am hopeful. Why? Because God’s presence and hand is on this ministry. He is radically changing lives and I am a living testimony of that.

And so, I am determined to persevere now more than ever! Why? Because God has called me to directly invest in the loves of some of the most beautiful, talented, funny, smart, and amazing children and parents. They give me hope; they brighten up my day because they remind me that the same God that saved me can save them. They remind me that God is a protector, comforter, King, ruler, and creator. Their smiles bring me so much joy! I literally see the image of God in them, and I am amazed.

I will continue to persevere in prayer. God hears the cries of his people, and I will continue to give all things to Him in prayer. He is saving, restoring, renewing, radically transforming my "hood" and I am blown away by what I see! For those of you who want to give up and throw in the towel, please remind yourself of what God has called you to do.

an all satisfying god

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BY CHAQUANA TOWNSEND

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

This season in my life has been one of the most encouraging and hopeful seasons of my life thus far! At 25, I have tasted the deep waters of the King. I have sat with Him and allowed him to minister to my broken places. I have truly found the one my heart longed for, and I want more and more each day.

Let me explain: The Lord has shown himself to be true, mighty, and everlasting! I am tasting freedom more and more each day (there are many chains that Lord still has to break in my life); even though life can be painful and hard to deal with. As a single woman who longs to find her worth and value in Christ and not in physical beauty or attracting the opposite sex, the Lord has comforted me in the midst of deep pain and constant struggles. Growing up in the inner-city myself and experiencing deep and painful physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, I have to fight the lies of the enemy and the lies I tell myself every single day. I am constantly at the Lord’s feet begging Him to give me strength. I have experienced peace when my heart was waging war. I am slowly but surely trusting God to really satisfy me and continually heal me where it hurts. 

Two of the things I struggle with the most are: control and fear of Man (people pleasing). As I stated in my last blog, the Lord has freed me from needing the approval and acceptance of Man; however, my flesh is tempted to revert back to fear and the idolatry of Man. Although I know I don’t NEED to be accepted and approved by people, my heart WANTS to be accepted and approved by them. 

Moreover, I try to control every area of my life using discipline, devotion, and sometimes manipulation, in order to protect myself from others and to get what I want. God is showing me the areas in my life where I have put Him off of the throne and put myself, other people, and other things, in that place. With all that being said, my sin struggles have pushed me to the throne of grace. They have pushed me to find my all in all in Jesus and nothing and no one else. I am fighting lies from the enemy, the desire to control my life, and fear of people and situations. However, he is fighting the battle with me. He is leading me beside the still waters and giving me living waters. I have peace in the midst of storms; I have hope in the midst of pain. 

Never in a million years would I have ever dreamed that I would taste what it means to be satisfied in Jesus. I pray that I continue to go to Him to be satisfied even when my flesh wants me to do otherwise. Satisfaction in the Lord is a constant, minute by minute, day by day pursuit of Jesus. May we actively desire, long, and fight to be completely satisfied in Him.