Monday, March 12, 2012

ACU Honors College students and "food deserts"

CitySquare enjoys a growing relationship with Abilene Christian University. Over the weekend a group of students from the University's Honors College arrived in Dallas.  Their learning assignment:  develop a better understanding of "food deserts" and poverty in the city's southern sector. 

One of the students, Greg Jeffers, posted what follows to his blog last evening after a full day in the field.  His insights reflect an understanding and, even more importantly, a commitment to addressing the forces that keep so many of our neighbors pressed down. 

(Day 2) Justice and Food: Spring Break with the Honors College
Posted by Greg Jeffers in My Life, Travel

Greetings all!

Today was the second day of my journey with the ACU Honors College as we investigate questions of food distribution and justice. Today was packed full of exciting things.

We went to church this morning at a predominately African American church in south Dallas called St. Paul Baptist Church. This is one of the churches that actively partners with CitySquare. We were enthusiastically welcomed and were announced from the pulpit. Dr. Harbour was even asked to share a few words. It was definitely an experience. The primary focus of the service was on joy and trusting the Lord, even in difficult circumstances as well as on sacrificing what one has for the good of others. That message, in this neighborhood, took on an entirely different character from a similar message in, say, chapel at ACU.


After lunch we went to the headquarters of CitySquare. That’s where we met with Larry James, the CEO of CitySquare. CitySquare owns the building in which its offices are housed. It is a sixteen story building smack in the middle of downtown Dallas. The basement through the second floor is primarily for storage and rented space. The third floor houses CitySquare’s offices. The fourth through the fifteenth floor houses two-hundred apartments which CitySquare uses primarily to provide permanent housing to the homeless. The sixteenth floor has six condos which CitySquare is working on selling.

Mr. James and some of his staff instructed us about food deserts in general and in South Dallas particularly. There was far more information than I can repeat here, but let’s suffice it to say that the problem goes well beyond lack of nutritious food—it goes into health concerns, financial concerns, business concerns, and political concerns. Ultimately, of course, as Dr. Johnson pointed out later in the day, it delves into the way we understand who people are. If people do not have adequate food, then they are sicker. If they are sick, then they cannot work. If they cannot work, they cannot earn money to buy food. If a neighborhood starts to go under, then those who can do so, move. Those who can’t are forced to stay, and the neighborhood gets poorer. As businesses leave, people are left with little means of employment. The problems snow-ball. Our main focus is, of course, access to food, but all of these other things are questions as well.

We then went on a tour of Dallas with Mr. James. He drove us around for two hours as he displayed a masterful knowledge of Dallas and the problems facing its citizens. He would point to various locations or groups of houses and discuss what work was ongoing to restore things. What became readily apparent is that CitySquare is engaged in a Resurrection work. They are heavily invested in the restoration of the broken places. There are a thousand ways they are involved. They do development, health clinics, homeless housing, food distribution, financial training, health education, and so much more. It was actually sort of dizzying to keep up with Mr. James’ easy explanation of what all CitySquare is up to in the city. Something Mr. James stressed, however, is that there is so much more to be done.

To read entire post click here.


Anonymous said...

Does this AherstrCU group know how far left you are, and your Liberation Theology underpinnings?

Anonymous said...

Does this ACU group know how far left you are, and your Liberation Theology underpinnings?

Larry James said...

The world is not flat; the story of scripture is clear; the ministry of Kingdom people is not in doubt. So, your point would be anon 6:55? Most of us are done with your self-serving worldview.

Anonymous said...

When you say "us" what group are you referring to? Also, would you answer my original question?

Larry James said...

Our friends from ACU know me well; they read my posts, have heard my sermons, etc. "Us," in my view, would be those who read scripture thru the prism of Jesus and attempt to apply its truth in relevant ways to address injustice and the rights of the oppressed and marginalized, as did Jesus and the prophets before him, to say nothing of the Law and the writings.

Anonymous said...

Well say does Phil Schubert know that you are a "liberationist"?

Larry James said...

You'd have to ask him. Of course, I'm not sure exactly what a "liberationist" is. Tying the message of Jesus to social justice and the real life pain and oppression of people? If that is what you mean and if you believe I see God in the midst of such efforts, then yes, I am concerned about that being seen as part and parcel of the faith.

Anonymous said...

Funny - you knew what a liberationist was during our last exchange?

Larry James said...

I have never known what you think it means really.

Anonymous said...

They shall know you are Christians by your love ... or ... you shall know them by their fruit ... faith without works is dead ... or ... these and many other verses are plentiful in the Bible.

But I can't this find anywhere: "You shall know them by the correctness of their theology and purity of their doctrine."