Photo Credit: Lisa Stockton Howell
It is often said, “A picture speaks a thousand words.”. Maybe that is true. But, when I see the pictures of the squalor which has become Brookhill Village I am left with very few words. Lisa Howell and Tracy Watt have documented, for the past two months now, the abysmal condition which exist in the Brookhill Village. Some of the photos captured by Lisa Howell are included here.

At the beginning of August, I became Pastor of South Tryon Community United Methodist Church. This church is located at the corner of South Tryon and Remount roads. The church is one of the United Methodist Church’s missions. Which essentially means that the primary purpose is to serve that particular community. Part of that service is to be a voice for the people who call this community home.

One of the first things that gripped me, even before beginning as the Pastor is the state of the “homes” in the community. On a sunny day back in June, my friend, Bert and I took a drive from the University City area of Charlotte over to look at the place that I’d soon call my home. What I saw was something from a documentary. There were homes that were missing siding and had broken windows and visible holes in the exterior of the homes. Even the homes which are still occupied by tenants are a throwback to a time long since passed. I am not sure that there has been any maintenance to these homes since they were built, thirty years before I was born: 1950.

Listen, I grew up poor in the Dudley Heights community of East Greensboro. Dudley Heights is a working class neighborhood with affordable homes. But what passes as affordable homes in the Brookhill community is something that defies reason. No person should be live in these conditions, no matter if they are poor. 

There is talk that development is coming to this intersection. That is likely true because you can go a block over and see the familiar apartment/condo buildings which have become ubiquitous in the Uptown area. But whether this development does, in fact, come (and whether that is good or bad) is not the matter of concern. The matter of concern, from my view, is how this community has been forgotten and caught in the web of gentrification and profit.

I have learned that the land (about 36 acres) is owned by the Spanglers but has been leased to a private company—who presumably operate Brookhill Village—for multiple years.

In our desire to continue to become a growing, thriving, and world-class city, we cannot forget about the folks who have lived in these spaces. We must take care to consider how our growth can contribute to the displacement of native Charlotteans—a rare category of folks here. Is growth a good thing, ultimately, for a city? Certainly. But should that growth come on the backs of our most vulnerable and, often, those with little or no voice? Certainly not.

I hope that we can get answers about what is happening on the southern corridor into Uptown. I hope, at the very least, the city comes in and demands that these buildings not remain in the state they are currently. Because, even poor people tire of seeing things like this. Even poor people want to have pride in the place where they call home. The Brookhill Community once was a place where affordable housing could be found. It seems, however, all that it currently offers is squalor and uncertainty. This should not be; growth has to be smarter…and more compassionate than this. Doesn’t it?

See Lisa's powerful photos here:

These endorsements are my own and should not be understood as an endorsement from any entity where I serve as an employee, board member, or other office. 

While I support these candidates in the primary I will enthusiastically work to get democrats elected in the general election whether my preferred candidates prevail or not.

So here we are. The day before Christmas. The advent of our savior is almost upon us. We have waited for him. We have prepared for him. And now we wait for him. 

We wait for him to come. We aren't fully sure of what he will bring when he comes. But we wait, still. We wait for him because we were foretold that his advent would bring with it deliverance.  We wait because with his advent comes hope. We wait because his advent brings peace. We wait because his advent brings joy. We wait because his advent brings love. 

We wait and we prepare. 
We wait. 
We prepare.

Exactly four weeks ago Kelly's and my lives were wrecked (in the best sense). We opened the door and let enter hurt. We opened our door and let enter fear. We opened our doors and let in guarded and skeptical hearts. We opened our door and let enter the unknown. Four weeks ago we opened our door and let enter joy. We opened our door and let enter joy. Four weeks ago we had two boys placed in our care. We officially became foster parents to two handsome, energetic, and clever boys.

For the past four weeks Christians have celebrated Advent (one of my favorites on the Christian calendar). Christians have prepared themselves for this advent. In our home we have prepared ourselves as a family by reading a daily devotion by Ann Voskamp. (I highly recommend this book) We have lit our advent wreath each Sunday. We have tried to be conscious of the hope, peace, joy, and love that this season of Advent points us toward. We have prepared our hearts.

Likewise, we prepared for those two fosters who came into our life four weeks ago. We started preparing for them well over a year ago. We attended the classes and soaked in all that we could (even the ridiculous parts). We prepared our hearts. We prepared our families and our friends. We readied the rooms. We prepared.

We prepared, as much as was possible, for those hurts, fears, and skeptical and guarded hearts. We have prepared and we are preparing. 

We know that the ultimate goal for these two particular kids is for them to be reunited with their biological parents. And nothing is more important than that. Nothing. Not our comfort. Not our broken hearts (which is inevitable). Not our own baggage. Our goal is to love these kids fully and without reserve until their bio parents can do so. We know that every child deserves (and I try to use that word very sparingly) to have folks who will love, protect, and "speak into" them. We want to do that.

Many have asked us (genuinely), "How can you do that?". That's a great question. It's a question that I ask myself. Each time M9 waits at his bed at bedtime waiting for me to throw him into bed. I asked myself that question each time M6 nonchalantly snuggles up against me. I ask that each time I hear them laughing. I ask that a lot, honestly. How can we? We can't. But we are compelled because of faith and because of love to rely upon the one who can: Christ in us. (Col. 1:27)

"We're foster parents; this is really happening." That is what I kept thinking after our social worker gave me a call the Tuesday prior asking if we would "take" the boys. That is what I continue to think whenever when I am going into their rooms to wake them for school. Well that and, "I wasn't red-dee".   I am not sure that I will ever be ready. But I am sure that Kelly and I have taken the dive and we are relying on the one who remains ready. 

Christ is coming. Let us prepare.

May we each prepare. May we each wait. May we each look beyond ourselves and our own interest and ask God, "For what shall I prepare? For what (or whom) shall I lay down my life. My wants. My comforts. What is "the good of others?Come, Lord Jesus; we are waiting.

Kelly, Quinton, Adri, and me. Quinton was our first child.
We love him so much. 

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Am I?

I am Ferguson.
I am Michael Brown.
I am Darrin Wilson.
I am.

I am undone.
I am dispirited
I am irate.
I am.

I am filled with fear.
I am filled with courage.
I am filled confusion.
I am.

I am filled with despair.
I am filled with hope
I am filled with fear.
I am.

I am filled with guilt.
I am filled with passion
I am filled with apathy.
I am.

I am found in the aftermath.
I am found in justice's pursuit.
I am found in mercy.
I am.

I am found in the problem.
I am found in the solution.
I am found in the struggle.
I am.

I am found in the dark.
I am found in the light.
I am found in the apathy.
I am.

I am found in the riots.
I am found in the peaceful protests.
I am found in the desperate tears.
I am.

I am a black man; I matter.
I am a white man; I matter.
I am a child of God; I matter.

I am a bringer of Grace.
I am a bringer of Hope.
I am a bringer of Peace.
I am a bringer of Love.

I am all of these things.
I am all of these things and I am in search of the better way. 

May this first day of Advent bring with it the assurance that in the midst of despair and utter chaos we have Christ. We have hope.
We do. 
We do.

"And even if the sun should grow dark

...even if the moon refuses to shine
 ...even if the stars should fall from the sky
 ...we will have Jesus, 
...Light of the World, to shine brightly in our hearts, lighting our way." 

-Dean McIntyre  

In three days we will celebrate the day that our country declared to its imperial rulers independence! We love these three words here in America:


But what is freedom, really? What prompts freedom? Why have we been given freedom? What role does Holy Spirit play in our freedom? 

We will explore each of these things on Sunday at the 11:00 service at University City UMC. Come on out and let's explore "Freedom" together. 

Here's a hint: Faith expressed through love are major components of the freedom Christ offers. Galatians 5

Oh and, Go USA! #IBelieve 

It is told that William Wilberforce found his clarifying call and objective in life: The suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.

My prayer for me and my prayer for you, is that we will find our clarifying objective. May we each find that which sets our heart and passions aflame and write a story which speaks far after we die.

Martin Luther King, Jr. did it. Mahatma Ghandi did it. Mother Teresa did it. Mammie Goodwin did it. Dee Mosely did it.

How will you do it; how will I do it?

What great thing will we give ourselves to accomplishing?

What wrong will we commit to right?

For me, I think it is to be one who gives folks permission to hope and to be one who gives voice to injustices. Come what may, I want to be about *that* life. I want the decisions for my future to be filtered through those clarifying perspectives.

Each Tuesday, I say to my Storyline Lifegroup, "If we take this seriously and commit to putting the time into this study, I am convinced that it will be life-changing." It is true. I feel like there is clarity coming into my life that is good and refreshing.

Find your sub-plot in God's epic story, friends. Let's be about that life.

May the peace of our Lord, Jesus, be with you.

More about Storyline here:

The Storyline Blog
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