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Two Cities and Three Diseases

In Baltimore -- like other major cities-- there are really two separate cities.
One city exists inside of the beltway, and a second city sits outside of the beltway. In Baltimore, this disparity can be articulated using any number of metrics (crime, homicide, drug abuse, government assistance, etc.).

Lets take education. Education is a pillar to any society.
If children are not properly equipped with basic tools needed to read, write and think critically, they are doomed for a life of dependence. Check out this quote from an April 2, 2008 article in the U.S. News and World Report:

"For example, only slightly more than a third of students in Baltimore schools earn a diploma, compared with 82 percent of students in the suburbs—the largest urban and suburban graduation disparity in the nation."

Did you catch that? The largest urban and suburban graduation disparity in the nation. Education is only one area where the reality of two cities exist in this metropolitan region but it highlights the harsh reality.

In Baltimore, there is a general divide between these two cities. The divide is the Beltway. Except for some pockets of refreshing charm, Baltimore's beltway is the dividing line that dictates if your child will have an 82% chance at graduation or a 33% chance at graduation.
So have no doubt, Baltimore is really two (or more) cities.

What are the challenges facing Baltimore?
Over the years as I've thought about home, I thought about the various types of people and the challenges they face. I considered, "What are the few things that really define the problem?" After all, if you don't have a clear idea of what the problems are, I don't believe you are the person to answer them.

In my estimation there are three "diseases" that plague these two cities and I want to spend my life finding cures. The three diseases are: Spiritual Darkness, Generational Apathy and Generational Poverty.

Spiritual Darkness: As a follower of Jesus, I have an enormous burden to push back spiritual darkness. Also as a follower of Jesus, I believe that the pushing back of spiritual darkness is done by bringing the light of Jesus into a community through the people of Jesus. It's by that light that many of the ills of society find their end. When the light comes, it brings with it justice, mercy, compassion, true identity, hope, future, promise, on and on...

Generational Apathy: Apathy is to me one of American Christianity's greatest evils. Apathy is not unique to Christians, however. Apathy is a byproduct of the American dream. It's the "what's next?" question that people have once they have bought the toys, gotten into the right neighborhood and are a part of all the right clubs in the community. Then their routine life takes over and before they know it they look at a calendar or a child graduating, and people say, "Where has the time gone?" As people look back on their lives, they cannot point to a greater cause than self preservation and self improvement. People feel a void. As people of Jesus, I believe we can become friends with some amazing causes in and around the city which may or may not be Christian in nature but work to break up the hard ground of apathy. There is common ground where we are both trying to help the same people. We will be getting to know the organizations with causes worth championing in Baltimore. We want to partner with anyone who is working to engage people plagued with apathy.


Generational Poverty:
It's been interesting for me to see so many Christian books, experiments, lectures and conferences addressing the topic of poverty. Many genuine people are involved in the cause. Our approach, however, is not solely immediate needs (while those who meet those needs are necessary and welcome in urban settings). One of the things that suburban or rural Christians don't understand is the mindset and web of problems that plague those who are stuck in "Generational Poverty." These are some deep-seeded issues. We're talking family structure, self worth, view of authority, education, jobs, health care, violence, mental health, and so on. Generational Poverty has a cycle that seems to spin so fast the gravity of which will not let a person go. There are so many areas of a human being's life that are tied up into generational poverty that it takes more than a conversation and the handing of a sandwich to help a person even see that his/her life could be better. So, in the future when you hear me speak of our desire to cure generational poverty, I'm not talking about sending a mission team once a week to a bridge to feed the homeless...I'm talking about addressing major aspects of the environment that continue to plague the people of Baltimore City. We're going to start with one story, then one block, then one neighborhood...all along the way, my prayer is that you will hear person after person who has victory after victory until we make a dent that the public must notice. From there we will begin taking these models and moving them to other areas of our city.


This is just a glimpse at our vision.
We're targeting three main diseases: Spiritual Darkness, Generational Apathy and Generational Poverty. We're not coming to Baltimore to get a few dozen people in a room to sing songs. We're coming here to change the lives of this city for generations to come the way we believe the people of Jesus should.


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For more info: TheBaltimoreProject.com

ALSO: Catch us on Facebook and Twitter.

posted by Tally Wilgis @ Friday, October 24, 2008

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