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Transformation through Connection

Here’s how one of Christ Presbyterian’s newest Missional Communities is making a difference in the lives of Nashville kids and teens.

Sometimes the most profound experiences can happen under the simplest of circumstances. 

This is the prayer of those involved in the new Preston Taylor Ministries Missional Community (MC) that formed last year among some Christ Presbyterian members in The Nations.

Originally founded in 1998, Preston Taylor Ministries was created to confront many of the problems that exist in the Preston Taylor public housing section of Nashville—such as drug use, gang involvement, teenage pregnancy, illiteracy, poor school performance and crime. 

Maddy Jenney, Kelly Bradway, and Helen Lee lead the Preston Taylor Ministries Missional Community.

Maddy Jenney, Kelly Bradway, and Helen Lee lead the Preston Taylor Ministries Missional Community.

Throughout the years the renowned organization has offered kids multiple avenues of support and relationship-building, including early morning Bible studies, lunchtime mentoring opportunities and after-school tutoring. 

A couple of years ago, the ministry realized an ongoing Friday night event could be a valuable addition to adolescents from the Preston Taylor community. The concept of a “Friday Night Lights” program soon launched to offer preteens and teens a fun and safe space to unwind at the end of the school week.

Kelly Bradway, a member at Christ Presbyterian Church’s Music Row location, had already served for several years as a lunchtime buddy mentor with Preston Taylor Ministries when an idea occurred to her and several other regular volunteers—including Maddy Jenney and Helen Lee—that forming a new Missional Community around this Friday night initiative would be a great way to lend support.  

The Missional Community now helps host a series of fun Friday night activities at St. Luke’s Community Center in Nashville, where students eat dinner together and participate in group activities such as kickball or dodgeball. Kids can later branch off according to their interests—some bake cupcakes while others may play board games or basketball. 

“We want these students to have a fun and safe Friday night while interacting with adults who care about them,” Bradway explains. 

Since Friday Night Lights began, purposeful connections between the Missional Community members and students have gradually formed. “It takes time to build relationships,” Bradway says. “At first these kids weren’t so sure about us. But we are starting to see them open up and share about their daily lives.”

Fall 2019 dates for the Friday Night Lights programming—volunteers welcome!

Fall 2019 dates for the Friday Night Lights programming—volunteers welcome!

While the idea is simple—a meal and some basic Friday night fun—the hope is that these evenings will provide a sense of belonging and rootedness that each adolescent kid desperately needs. 

“There are many difficult and dangerous circumstances kids can encounter if they go looking for connection or validation in the wrong places—including teenage pregnancy and gang violence,” says Bradway. “We want to affirm these students and provide a healthy way for them to be seen, known and encouraged. We long for them to realize that other people care about them and that they’re important.”

Reflecting on the ministry of Christ, Bradway says it was in Jesus’ own decision to “live life” with others that they came to know his care and compassion. “He hung out with people,” Bradway says. “He loved them. That’s what we want to do.” 

The Missional Community’s ultimate desire is reflective of Preston Taylor’s overarching mission, Bradway adds. The group’s prayer is for these students to know that they are valuable because they’re created in God’s image. They have God-given gifts and abilities. And through the power of the Holy Spirit, they can be an agent of reconciliation within their home, school, community and world.

Handmade with Hope

A new multi-generational Missional Community is enfolding moms and babies with love, one stitch at a time. 

In an era when efficiency and speed often are valued above all else, a small group of women has begun meeting monthly at Christ Presbyterian Church, Old Hickory Blvd location to practice the art of slowing and creating. 

Their circle is cozy. The ages vary. The women sit, exhale and enjoy a cup of coffee. They pull out yarn and needles. The work of their hands begins to quiet their hearts and mind. 

Jeri Melton proudly displays her handiwork.

Jeri Melton proudly displays her handiwork.

They’ll spend the next two hours knitting or crocheting together. This provides a pathway to connection as they impart wisdom, share laughter and pray over the baby blankets, washcloths, hats and burp cloths they’re making. All these items will eventually be donated to Nashville’s Hope Clinic for Women, one of our Missional Partnerships.

Established in 1983, Hope Clinic equips women, men and families to navigate unplanned pregnancies. It also offers access to women’s health care, prevention education and support for pregnancy loss and postpartum depression. Additionally, the clinic provides medical care, professional counseling, education classes, case management, mentoring and practical support regardless of age, race, religion or ability to pay. 

As Nashville’s population has skyrocketed, so has Hope Clinic’s needs. A lightbulb moment occurred earlier this year when several women from Christ Presbyterian and other area churches who enjoy knitting and crocheting realized they could combine their love for the craft with a purposeful vision of creating items for new mothers in need of material assistance. This led to the creation of a Missional Community called Yarning for Hope earlier this year.  

The baby items made by the Missional Community are placed in Hope Clinic’s gift room. As the women at the clinic attend counseling sessions or educational classes, they earn points they can redeem.

Elly Hulst, Mindy Orman and Kathy Lamberson gather to knit and crochet at the Old Hickory Blvd location.

Elly Hulst, Mindy Orman and Kathy Lamberson gather to knit and crochet at the Old Hickory Blvd location.

Leah Rader, a founding member of Yarning for Hope, says she wasn’t sure at first if the women would want handmade items for their babies opposed to store-bought supplies. “Yet the staff at the clinic tells us our knitted blankets, burp and washcloths and newborn hats are some of the first things to get selected,” Rader says. 

Attached to each item is a tag that indicates it was made by Yarning for Hope. 

“Our prayer is that the tag encourages women—that they feel really seen,” Rader says. “We want them to know our group is aware of their needs and desires to walk alongside them in some small way.”

In addition to knitting or crocheting, Yarning for Hope also supports Hope Clinic for Women through assembling gift bags for new moms and praying on site for the clinic staff. 

“There are many ways to get involved, even if you don’t know how to knit or you’re a beginner,” explains Rader. 

Each item is tagged with the Yarning for Hope logo.

Each item is tagged with the Yarning for Hope logo.

The Missional Community has been a life-giving experience for Rader, who doesn’t live nearby her mom or grandmother. “I’ve formed friendships with women who are much older than me,” she says. “Their wisdom, words of kindness and encouragement have been a gift.” 

Adds Jamie Schoepke, another one of the founding members of the Missional Community: “It’s exciting that we can make others feel loved through sharing the talents God has given us.”

Missional Community Spotlight: Hearts for The Next Door

As a Nashville facility that provides rehabilitation services to women impacted by addiction, mental illness, trauma or incarceration, the non-profit known as The Next Door regularly relies on volunteers to help with needs such as stocking the supply closet, serving a meal or building relationships with the female residents.

From left to right: Faith Seibels, Katie Trokey, Mary Lampley, Jocelynne McCall, Wendy Martin and Leisha Nischan.

From left to right: Faith Seibels, Katie Trokey, Mary Lampley, Jocelynne McCall, Wendy Martin and Leisha Nischan.

Leisha Nischan began to experience all this when she started volunteering five years ago. A member at Christ Presbyterian Church, Leisha was part of a Missional Community comprised of individuals from several area churches who regularly engaged with The Next Door and offered support to employees and residents. But when a need arose to volunteer at the front reception desk, Leisha soon discovered the role included more than just answering phones and emails.

She started coming face to face with women as they took their first step through the front door seeking help, answers, healing and restoration. She saw the pain and desperation in their eyes. She witnessed how the facility functioned as a lifesaver to so many who felt they had nowhere else to go.

Leisha began to gain a deeper understanding of the suffering of others and the spiritual calling to meet them in their pain and serve as the hands and feet of Christ.

Many times, a woman would walk through the door with just one little bag, Leisha recalled. Maybe she was leaving a life of abuse, trauma or fear. Or perhaps she was weary from a long, ongoing battle with drug or alcohol addiction. She could have just been released from jail or was suffering from mental illness. I saw it all. No matter the scenario, these women were leaving their old life and attempting to step into something hopeful. They were done with the past. Their entrance through our doors represented the first day of the rest of their lives.

Christ Presbyterian Church shares a rich history of partnering with The Next Door. Church members have served on the board of directors, volunteered to lead bible studies and served in various capacities as volunteers. Under the leadership of a team recruited by Leisha, a rebooted Missional Community called Hearts for the Next Door kicked off in May. Its purpose is to partner with the staff of The Next Door in the mission of equipping women to move from the hopelessness of addiction, mental illness or trauma to the wholeness and hope of Christ-centered lives.

Upcoming opportunities for the Missional Community will include movie nights, game nights and holiday gatherings with the residents of The Next Door. An ongoing need also exists for donations toward the facility’s supply and clothing closet.

Leisha and her leadership team prayerfully desire to grow the new Missional Community, stating that, a tremendous opportunity exists to encourage women at The Next Door. Often, when they learn we are from a church, they ask for prayer. Many are longing for that connection. They feel like they can open up to us and often do.

Leisha said she and other Missional Community members receive ongoing encouragement from engaging with the women. The connections formed build empathy, understanding and friendship. 
While some of the women come from poverty or abusive relationships, others gradually slid into addiction based on tough circumstances, Leisha said. Some turned to drugs to cope with mental illness while others struggled in the aftermath of an injury where strong prescription drugs became addictive.

“Pain crosses all demographics,” Leisha said. “We see women from age 18 to those in their 60s. We see the affluent, the poor and the homeless. Brokenness can find us at any age or phase. That’s why we need each other.”

The Next Door is unique as it offers myriad services for women in need, including a 30-day residential treatment program, an outpatient program and an affordable apartment rental complex called Freedom Recovery Community for women who’ve completed recovery. The large facility includes a commercial kitchen, medical clinic, computer lab for job searching, large dining room and event space, conference room, a chapel and meeting rooms.

For more information, contact Leisha Nischan.

Missional Community Spotlight: New Hope Academy

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“There is no reconciliation until you recognize the dignity of the other until you see their view. You have to enter into the pain of the people. You’ve got to feel their need.”
- Dr. John M. Perkins, Christian minister and civil rights activist

Perhaps there’s never been a time in our recent history when true reconciliation among people from different ethnic or economic backgrounds is more needed. One local Christian school has found the most effective way to accomplish this mission happens when we reach the very youngest among us.

Founded in 1996, New Hope Academy (NHA) in Franklin is committed to building unity through racial and economic diversity down to the number of seats it fills in each classroom.

Fifty percent of the student body is comprised of non-white children from African-American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Native American or other ethnic backgrounds. The school relies on fundraising and local support to help offer financial assistance to more than 61 percent of its pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade student population, enabling children from a variety of economic positions to attend school side by side.

Headmaster Stuart Tutler said New Hope functions as a school where families can learn from each other and grow in relationships through an educational experience that priorities purposeful community and begins with embracing a key gospel mandate.

“We believe every single person who walks through our doors holds intrinsic value and dignity because of his or her God-given identity,” said Tutler. “We know Jesus has an interest in every individual person, including every single child. No matter their background, strengths or challenges, they matter to God. Consequently, they matter to us.”

Creating a culture where students, families and teachers continually affirm this perspective has become the secret to the school’s flourishing, Tutler believes.

Inspired by this vision, a group of individuals from at least a half-dozen churches formed a Missional Community to support the school and its pioneering work—called New Hope Academy Missional Community.

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Throughout the last two years, with support from its leadership team, the Missional Community has been involved in a mentoring program that pairs members of the Missional Community with a NHA student. For one hour each week, the mentors work individually with each child, building relationships through playing games, reading books, or working on math or reading skills. Upon completing the 2017-2018 school year, the mentoring program grew to include eight mentors from several area churches!

In addition to the mentoring program, the missional community group also helped host several annual events, including a parent dinner in August and a school-wide Cinco de Mayo celebration in May, which drew 400 people and allowed many Hispanic and Latino parents to share their culture with the school as they cooked for the large crowd and offered a variety of games and crafts.

To learn more about the New Hope Academy Missional Community, email Karen Simpson.


 

Missional Community Spotlight: Habitat Nashville

Serving, connecting and transforming. These three words perhaps best describe the work of Habitat Nashville Missional Community, a diverse and vibrant group that launched three years ago to support the efforts of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville throughout Middle Tennessee.

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Christ Presbyterian member Anna King, who helps lead the group, grew up watching her parents volunteer with Habitat, an organization known for providing affordable housing to families in need. Often, these are adults who hold down either a full-time job or several part-time jobs but still find safe housing out of their reach. Habitat supports these families by helping them build homes and awarding interest-free loans.

“The full scope of the mission also involves fostering relationships, building community and preparing families to become financially responsible and care for a home,” King said.

This Missional Community, composed of both founding members of Christ Presbyterian as well as church members and friends who are newer to Nashville, plays an integral role in each of these areas. This month, the group will participate in its fifth “build day” as they gather on a weekend to construct a home for a family who has completed Habitat’s rigorous application process. Most of the homes are located in an area of Antioch where Habitat has built a total of 130 properties in four different neighborhoods since 2012, said Danny Herron, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville and a church member at Christ Presbyterian.

The families building these homes are representative of Antioch’s diverse population. One of the neighborhoods sits adjacent to Antioch High School, where the student body is comprised of families who speak 26 different languages as either their primary or secondary language of choice at home, Herron said.

Part of what makes the process meaningful is the way Habitat functions. Future homeowners must first help build a separate Habitat house before beginning construction on their own home. Often this occurs on their own street or somewhere in their soon-to-be neighborhood. As multiple homes are built in the same community, families who will eventually live as neighbors cultivate a sense of belonging as they help raise walls and hammer nails.

While assisting the Antioch residents to build connections and new homes, Missional Community members have also drawn closer and discovered a sense of purpose and passion in serving others. College students, young adults, professionals and seniors from Christ Presbyterian and other churches across Nashville have collaborated with the Missional Community on construction sites and designated days when the group volunteers at ReStore, the home improvement retail arm and donation center that Habitat operates to sell new and gently-used furniture, appliances, home goods and building materials.

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Another facet of the Missional Community’s role is financial counseling to future homeowners. Members of the Missional Community work with Habitat applicants to offer expertise on how to manage money, live within a budget and eliminate debt.

Former Christ Presbyterian member Don Drummond, who passed away in September 2018, served actively as a budget coach in the years before his death.

“He desired to share his financial knowledge and skills to better the lives of others,” King said. “His compassion was evident through all of his service.”

Herron realized the impact of Habitat on Drummond’s own life when, upon his death, Drummond’s wife, Fran, requested gifts be made to the organization in lieu of flowers.

“I was touched by not only what the Drummonds meant to the Missional Community, but what the community meant to them,” Herron said.

Other Missional Community members also participate in offering Habitat families homeowner-readiness skills as they prepare to care for their new home. Missional Community member Kelly Zetak initiated a homeowner engagement program last December while the group worked to build a home for Nashville resident LaShonda Smith. Their aim is to stay engaged by offering additional ongoing support in securing and maintaining new homes when needs such as addressing a leaky faucet, lawn maintenance or home winterization arise.

Zetak, who has participated in Habitat for Humanity for more than 25 years in four different states, is grateful to be part of the Missional Community at Christ Presbyterian.

“Through God’s loving and compassionate grace, we’re partnering with Habitat to provide positive change in the Nashville area,” he said. “People from all walks of life are being transformed as they experience true hope and personal success.

“Scripture reminds us that Christ came into the world not to be served, but to serve others,” Zetak continues. “Our prayer is that we would model this behavior and provide a loving and lasting outreach to all the communities we serve.”

To get involved with the Habitat Nashville Missional Community, email Anna King.