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2018 end of the year letter

Bryan Kelly, Founder and Executive Director

Bryan Kelly, Founder and Executive Director

I am deeply grateful to report that 2018 has been a great year at Common Ground Montgomery. We understand that there are so many wonderful nonprofits that are worthy of your investment, but we are thankful you have chosen us. Your support allows us to transform lives, families, and our community.

Over this past year, while I focused on expanding our efforts to other areas beyond Montgomery’s westside, Justin Hampton served as our local director and worked to make us more effective in our mission.

Recently, he felt a calling to devote his efforts towards the renewal of Montgomery’s Public School system. We are extremely grateful to Justin and look forward to seeing his future impact on our kids’ educational development as he works with the Montgomery Education Foundation. I have stepped back into the executive director role and I am excited to see God continue to use us for the transformation of our city.

This last year we established a new sending and training mechanism, Common Ground Alabama, in Birmingham. We helped establish our first plant, Common Ground Shoals, that is now seeing wonderful things happen in Florence, Alabama. We are on the verge of helping start a new kids camp in Montgomery’s southside (Camp Tenetke). This endeavor will not only provide an affordable camp and developmental experience for underprivileged youth, but will also focus on bringing kids together from all walks of life. Additionally, the Mercy House officially launched in October (as its own 501(c)3 non-profit) to help meet the needs of many through a daily presence that helps homeless families, latch key kids, and families struggling to make ends meet.

We are continuing to see the grace of God shared and shown in our midst, and that’s why I’ve included Quanda’s story from how she went from a parent with kids in our program to working at CGM.

Your giving has allowed us to put full-time people in a distressed community who continually show up and are present in a chaotic context. As Quanda has expressed so well, God loves to be present to us through people. He is using your generosity to show His love.

We are beyond thankful for your love and support because we couldn’t be here without it. Would you please consider a year-end gift and commit to a recurring monthly donation in 2019? Thank your for your prayerful consideration to help change Montgomery and beyond!

"you of little faith, why are you so afraid?"


"You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. (Matthew 8:26)

If anything sums up my December every single year, it has to be this verse. For the past three years that I have been at CGM - working as a fundraiser - I sweat the entire last month from the 1st to the 31st, all day, every day. This month is one of the most important determinants of how our fundraising year will end. It undoubtedly affects how 2016 will look – how many children we will be able to serve, the number of teachers we can hire, the types of programs we will be able to offer.  

There is a lot weighing on what comes in during December, not only for the month, but the year in its entirety. It is stressful to say the least. 

This is when I begin to doubt and worry. In the midst of all this, I pray and petition on behalf of the children, families and co-workers that I love. “Dear Lord, please see my heart and my efforts and use this year and the coming year to work in the neighborhood. Please see fit to bless us with the proper finances to enter 2016 so that we may love others well for yet another year.”   I plead, wrestle, and bargain. “If you just get us through this year, I promise I will work harder in 2016 and give you all I have.”

I prayed for a very specific amount during the month of December. It was a lofty goal and one that has never been raised in the final 31 days of prior years. But I was hopeful in November. The last week of December rolled around and I watched the deposits daily, checked online donations and went in to the office to review what had come in. And we were nowhere even close to the goal I had originally established. This when I felt like I was watching the giant storm on the horizon, knowing that it would pummel my boat all while Jesus sleeps. Everything would be flipped upside down. 

Thankfully I have a calm and understanding boss that is always there to listen to my concerns. I would talk to Bryan and throughout all of this he remained extremely positive and affirmed my fundraising efforts of the past 12 months. I, however, was still anxious and not looking forward to reporting our final numbers.

And then the winds calmed.

And the Lord showed me that the fear was in vain. He showed me that my faith was little. He showed me that He was in control. He is for Common Ground Montgomery and the Washington Park neighborhood and wants to see disciples made, trauma healed, people loved well, and families restored. 

I boast on His behalf, and His behalf alone, when I say that we met our December goal. I sit here today humbled by God’s provision and your generosity. Like the disciples, I find myself asking over and over again what sort of man is this? The kind of man that handles all of the storms of life and tells them to be calm. The sort of man that is constantly reminding us of His love for us. 

So these are not simply donations that I am entering into the database but gifts that are helping to grow the kingdom, investments in to people's lives. These donations are constant reminders of his provision and your submission to his calling.  Thank you to each and every one of you that listened to His voice prompting you to donate. It is because of you that the kingdom grows daily. 

the welfare of my community


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." 


investing for "real" returns


This morning I read the account of the widow who gave all she had ("gave out of her poverty") and I was lovingly convicted by Holy Spirit that I simply have not really lived that way in a while. Honestly, most sacrificial giving I have done with money, time, vehicles, my attention, or my stuff, has been from what I have left over after my own needs, desires, personal goals, offering at church, and other comforts and luxuries have been addressed; I give from excess.

I have been reminded recently of people in my neighborhood who have given from a true place of need. A real dilemma is presented: "If I give this, how will I eat? How will I pay a bill that is due soon? How will I feed and clothe my children?" There is no known avenue for replenishment of the resource they are contemplating giving. Frankly, that's not my experience. I can leave this community any time I choose. I can change my circumstances if I want to; many of my neighbors can't.

Yet, I "caught" some of them recently giving in the exact way, from the exact place, that the poor widow did in Jesus' presence.

I heard testimony of some of our high school kids on a mission trip to Ferguson, Missouri, choosing to give to help a homeless man.

I watched a mom with eight children (she is now facing eviction from her apartment by the way) choose to give a substantial amount of money to help a single mom find temporary housing to come off the streets.

I watched families in our housing program come forward and give "all they had" towards an emergency loan fund to begin to proactively look after our community, when most all had just testified that they were really struggling financially themselves.

I watch people give time and time again from a place that I haven't lived out of in a long time. That kind of giving directly connects us with our Father. It requires deep trust and intimacy with Him, and puts all of us in position to see His glory.

I really want to experience Jesus this way again. I am excited about His invitation to me inwardly and in His revealed scriptures to be rich toward mercy and invest in things that will not fail to bring "real" returns.