Wednesday, June 16, 2010

An Opportunity For Peace

This is a letter I sent out to many supporters of Anawim and community leaders in Portland.

,Anawim Christian Community
June 9, 2010

The Need of Rockwood
Rockwood is the north neighborhood of Gresham, and it is in desperate need. It has the highest crime rate in Oregon, and it has dragged Gresham to be called the most violent city in Oregon. There is gang activity, a large amount of thefts, a high rape rate and shootings are common.
In the East Multnomah County in general, homelessness has risen. In Gresham, there are approximately 300 homeless folks, when only 15 years ago there were about a hundred. These homeless folks are not, for the most part, people who have transitioned in. Rather, these are folks who were raised in Gresham, fell into bad times and stayed there, even though services for them are few, and they have not exactly been welcomed by the community.

Location, Location
One of the half dozen churches offering services for the homeless in Gresham is in the midst of Rockwood. Just about a mile away from the central crime area, nestled between low income and middle-income areas, stands the building of Peace Mennonite. It is known in the neighborhood by the large Red Barn in the midst of its 2 ½ acres. Peace tried to connect to the middle-income folks, but most of those who went to church attended the large drive in churches in Gresham and Boring. Peace’s congregation lost their energy and closed in May, 2010.

However, Anawim Christian Community, a community church for the poor and homeless still meets in that building, still serving the needy in East Multnomah County.

A Vision
There is the possibility of Anawim obtaining the former property of Peace Mennonite Church. The Mennonite Conference makes the decision as to who manages the use of the property. Anawim has a vision, not only for their own congregation, but for the community of Rockwood. First of all, we would make the property available for community use. We would have a produce drop off for the community and open the large area of soil for community gardens. We would establish a peace center, which would help educate and train people in non-violent ways of dealing with conflict. We would have a number of different ethnic churches, as well as a new congregation especially formed to target the needs of Rockwood.

We would also be able to assist the needs of the homeless-- needs that aren’t currently met. In cooperation with other churches, we can open up a day shelter for them three days a week, which would allow them a place to be outside of community eyes, to get a shower, to meet some basic needs and even to find some work. In the winter, with other church partners, we would be able to open up a small overnight shelter for singles, which would be the first of its kind in East County. And we would continue to provide a unique worship opportunity for the homeless.

Making The Vision Happen
This vision is only an opportunity. The Mennonite Conference still has to give us permission to manage the property. However, there are two ways you might be able to help us.

1. We need to show that we can financially support the property. That will cost approximately 2500 dollars a month that we don’t have right now. If we could obtain pledges from churches or organizations as to what they might be willing to give us to see this vision come to pass, we can assure the Mennonite Conference that we would be able to maintain the property and utilities for the usage we want to see happen.

2. We would like to obtain letters from community partners stating that they support this vision. If you live or minister in the Rockwood/Gresham area and would like to see a community center established for the well-being of the community, please send us a letter in support of this vision.
Thank you for your support. If there is anyone else whom you think might want to support this project, please pass this letter on to them as well.

Steve Kimes
Pastor of Anawim Christian Community

3733 N Williams
Portland, OR 97227

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