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our summer interns have arrived

Every summer, part of our summer program includes bringing in college-aged students to run the Summer Camp and learn the mission and vision of Common Ground Montgomery while living in our community. It's the reason our interns are in the Summer Resident Mission Program - they live here, they learn here, they help here, and we hope and pray that as much as they may impact the kids in our summer program, that they also are impacted by God and what's on His heart towards people that are impoverished or marginalized no matter whether it's in a cultural, economical, or racial or ethnic sense.

So please pray for our current interns and the impact they'll have in our community and also on how they'll be impacted by our community. Please remember our staff and staff families in your prayers also, as we're in the same boat; ever onwards and upwards to, sharpening and being sharpened into, the image of God for the glory of God.

Below is a short excerpt from one of our 2014 interns.


BY ANNE RICHOUX

"A lot could happen today. Who knows, but You, Lord. You know everything and I praise you for that. Orchestrate everything so that you get glory. Chisel me. Prepare me for whatever lies ahead.”

I wrote this prayer last summer during one of the worst days of my life. As I reflect on it, I remember the fear I had in my heart about what would happen in the following days and months. It may not seem that way in the words I used, but I was upset, angry, and confused. I was trying to believe that God would work all things together for good, but I did not understand how what was happening would work out in any other way than terrible. Outside of trials like that one, I don’t have many journals that convey such a desire to trust the Lord while also being honest about fear and confusion.

While I was a part of the 2014 Summer Resident Mission, I remember learning so much about what it looks like to respond to trials in a way that brings glory to God. Interns arrived during a difficult time in west Montgomery. I remember talking to both staff at CGM and students in the program and being so blessed by their transparency about the struggles they were facing. Many were confused and hurting, but they did not hide this. I remember listening to a song with some of my middle school students about being able to just have one more day with someone. It was a beautiful expression of their pain in that moment, and we had some awesome conversations about the Gospel. Those conversations started simply with being transparent about how confused we were about why God allowed certain things to happen. I think a downfall of American culture is our tendency to put on this mask when we’re struggling. I’ve seen this time and time again, especially in the church, but it is so unhealthy. How can we bear each other’s burdens if we are hiding them from everyone?

I am so very grateful for what I was able to observe and learn while living in Washington Park. Transparency and honesty with others about personal struggles is so vital to our Christian walk and fellowship with each other. What I learned at CGM literally transformed the way I responded to the things I was dealing with last summer. Not only then, but really every day. 

2014 Summer Resident Mission team

2014 Summer Resident Mission team

     

the new kid on the block

BY LEONDRA "TRICIE" LAWERY

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

I am so excited to introduce myself as one of Common Ground Montgomery's newest staff members. My name is Leondra Lawery, but everyone calls me “Tricie”. I am a wife and proud mother of four children. I am a minister of the gospel and have served as a youth pastor for 15 years. A native of Montgomery, Alabama, I graduated from Jefferson Davis High School and Troy University in Montgomery where I received a Masters of Science in Education in School Counseling. Recently I received certification by the National Board of Certified Counselors.

When I graduated a several months ago, little did I know that God would lead me to CGM. It's funny how God works sometimes. It was actually at my graduation party that I found out about the Lower School Director position that was open. As I learned more about the position I began to pray and seek God’s direction. You see, this was not the path I thought I would take. It just wasn’t my plan. My plan was to find a school counseling position within the public school system. But God had a different plan for my life.

Now I know that all of those years of going to school at night after a full day of work, staying up all night long writing papers, studying for months for my certification exam was God’s way of qualifying me to serve the children of Washington Park at CGM.

I've only been working with the kids at CGM for the spring semester, but I can honestly say I absolutely love them all! This is the best job ever! I thank God for the opportunity and I pray that God will give me the love, patience, compassion, ENERGY, and creativity, to minister to all of my babies here.

new girl

BY LAURA BELL

A few weeks ago, I peeked inside the After School Program to see what all the fuss was about. I watched as the staff and volunteers played pick-up basketball with several boys and as a huddle of girls gathered around and listened closely in admiration to one of the volunteers who simply noticed them. After a few short moments, I realized what I was really seeing. I saw time – a gift and an investment that not only creates, but sustains the relationships that are the foundation of this amazing place called Common Ground Montgomery.

As the “new girl” on staff I am discovering that only 10 years ago, this place and its small staff (at the time) was the new ministry in town. I find comfort knowing that CGM’s beginning and mine perhaps share similar experiences. A shared feeling of being unsettled combined with the effort of reaching and (sometimes) missing, along with the anxiety and discomfort of being in a new, uncharted place. That’s when the gift of time steps in and the places that felt so stark and new have a lived-in feel, like my favorite pair of tennis shoes. A sense of direction and a joyful expectation of good replace the nerves that once sought to overwhelm my peace and confidence.

Today, the children who are a part of the ministry of CGM don’t have to wonder what they are doing after school or if the staff and volunteers love them. The newness and uncertainty is gone and home has been found in a little building in the middle of the Washington Park neighborhood, and this new girl has discovered that the newness inside of her spirit is a beautiful season filled with God’s unending distribution of peace. I used to think that I understood honesty. I used to think that life wasn't complicated if you just “did the right thing”. I used to think that loving a person who didn't think like me was too hard. I used to think that I understood how to love people well, speak to them clearly, give honest answers, and share the gospel… I used to think a lot of things until I became the new girl at CGM. 

I've found a culture of people who think beyond my initial thoughts, a group that holds beautiful ownership of their values, and live out their hearts through service and love to a community well deserving of the Lord and His goodness.

In my 3 short months here I have learned the value of walking into places that seem awkward initially and discovering the places of my heart that have never been touched, but merely masked by the idea that faith is or should be comfortable.  Nothing is comfortable when it’s new, but nothing changes or becomes anything spectacular without journeying through the new places and finding home instead. 

tasting the difference

BY CORNELIUS "CJ" JACKSON

I do not profess to be a master chef. In fact, I have little cooking experience to brag about. (Well, I can whip up a mouthwatering pot of cheese grits.) Nevertheless, even with my subpar culinary skills, I can more often than not detect the lack of certain ingredients in a dish—particularly those additives that I have become accustomed to appreciating in that meal.

In the same way, some of my "babies" in the After School Program at CGM have recently been making me aware of some missing elements in what I have been dishing out to them.

A little over a week ago, one of my eight-year-old students asked me why she never saw me at her school. Then later that week, a group of young boys questioned my perpetual absence during their lunch periods in the school cafeteria. And just yesterday, two ten-year-old girls were earnestly committed to practicing a dance routine when I walked by. As I passed them, one called out, “Pastor, are you gonna come to our performance when we do our dance routine?”

I slowed my pace, but I kept with my purposeful stride that suggested that I was busy and in route to something important.

I wasn’t!

I didn’t want to make an impromptu promise. But I felt their eyes affixed on the back of my frame—cajoling me like a super magnet to turn and face them; to answer them.

“Pastor!” the other girl cried out.

I turned and quickly replied, “Let me know the day and time, and I will see!”

In that moment, the requests, invitations, and inquiries of the past couple of weeks began to register. You see, one of our staff members who used to diligently go into the schools and frequent our students’ extracurricular performances resigned from CGM to return to graduate school. In the weeks since she’s been gone, our babies’ palates have been sensitized.

They were used to a personal presence - an encouragement - a familiar ingredient that they presently sense is lacking. And I now know that if I relegate my responsibilities to my CGM babies to mere on-campus labors, then they will complain as if their pancakes are devoid of syrup; that their macaroni has no cheese; that their cake is missing the icing.

I have taste-tested my dish and I believe I can do better.

Pray that my scheduling can accommodate a lunch visit, a spur-of-the-moment classroom stopover, or an evening performance. And even consider getting involved — by becoming a volunteer!

Who knows, you might prove to be that missing ingredient for some of our CGM students.

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

BY SUMMER WILLIAMS

"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.