City Uprising in Baltimore

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Our City Uprising team on the cobblestone street in front of the 1840s Plaza where Gallery Church meets. Front row: Sarah Smith, Christian Morgan, Katherine Williams, Lexi Hobgood, Selena Gonzalez, Nicole Ashley, Amy Barbee, Brenda Nave. Back row: Pamela and Ryan Williams, Jonah Haney, Stephen Vineyard, Evie Mode, Matt Smith, Belinda Baker, Tony Mode, Chris Barbee.

On Sunday morning the group attended church with the Gallery Church, which meets in this historic building called the 1840s Plaza on South Front Street in downtown Baltimore. The Gallery Church is the initiating church for the City Uprising in Baltimore.

The gathered congregation in this third floor room was overwhelmingly young, and we learned that many were associated with Johns-Hopkins.

We had climbed rather ornate stairs in this old building to the third floor. The crowd continued to grow, and with numbers swelled with the several out-of-town mission groups in for the City Uprising, we filled it to overflowing.

The church is right in the central area of Baltimore, which is crowded and showing signs of decay, but it is also across from the huge Johns Hopkins medical complex which looks like it covers six blocks, maybe more.

"You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Matthew 7:5

The pastor, Ellis Prince, was from Georgia and Ryan & Pamela had known him at West Ridge Church. He used an 8-foot plank to illustrate his sermon on judging or envying others.

We took communion around small tables in groups, and with pairs blessing each other and dipping the bread in the cup.

We passed through the huge Johns Hopkins medical complex on our way back to our house for a pizza lunch.

The group had arrived on Saturday evening after the long drive from Mableton, GA, and had settled into this house, which was called the Mission House. It was located at 3023 Taylor Ave, Parkville, MD, about 6 north of downtown Baltimore as the crow flies. They told us that it was built in 1911, and the patterned tin ceiling in the dining room seemed consistent with that age. The girls slept in the basement and the guys put down their sleeping bags in the garage behind the house, shown below.

Don Barbee, Chris's Dad, was our chef for the week, and we certainly didn't go hungry. He also pulled the trailer with the luggage, bought groceries, and helped organize all our meals. Thanks, Don!

On the main floor of the house were the kitchen and dining area, and a large room we used for our meetings. Dave and Matt were living on the top floor and working in ministry to the area surrounding the house.

We headed back downtown for the evening worship service at 1840s Plaza. We met in an even bigger room on the 4th floor, but with more influx of volunteer groups, we packed that room to the walls. Our group was in the extreme back corner.

Pastor Ellis Prince spoke and then we heard from a tall african-american man named Joshua who was deeply involved in the inner-city ministry.

The group leaders from the volunteer groups from around the country were called forward. I count 14 groups from as far away as California. We were given some vision of what we would be doing in the city of Baltimore over the next three days.

Monday, June 24, 2013

We took a group picture with our newly issued T-shirts just before we headed out for Moravia Elementary School for our day of service there.

Don's kitchen was in full swing and by this time we had all had breakfast at the Mission House.

After a brief meeting in the big room, we got our water bottles and prepared to head out to our school.

We drove to Moravia School and met our coordinator from Gallery Church and circled to pray.

A lady from the school walked up and joined us while we were praying, and seemed so glad to see us. We learned that she was Katy Lyons, the Librarian, and we were to hear more from her at the church.

We gathered inside the school and were told that our task was to paint two large lunchrooms.

Soon we were busy putting a bright yellow-orange coat of paint on one of the large rooms. Tony and Christian are on one wall at left, and Jonah on the right. Behind Jonah is Belinda with one of the guys from Central Presbyterian of Baltimore who were working alongside us. We were a part of one of twelve projects at nine schools on this day.

Stephen, Pamela and Katherine work with one Central Pres guy on the front of the cafeteria, while Rod and Selena work with two more Central Pres workers on the back wall.

Evie and Christian cooperate to get some of the top trim painted. Tony commandeers a table so he can get up to the top trim at the back of the room.

Evie, Stephen and Jonah on the job as we turn this room into a much brighter one.

Above, Nicole and Selena doing their part to brighten up the room.

Amy Barbee, Katherine Williams and Lexi Hobgood painting on one wall of one of the two dining rooms we painted.

Pamela and Brenda take on some of the taping jobs.

Belinda, Evie, Tony, Chris and Nicole on the job. With this many dedicated painters, the job went pretty quickly.

Nicole, Stephen, Chris, Evie and Tony put the finishing touches on this dining room. It certainly looks brighter than it did. The array of rollers and pans are testament to the number of hands involved in the process.

All hands now move to the upstairs lunchroom, which is being painted bright orange. Stephen and Jonah work on the back wall.

Sarah is certainly making a dramatic difference in the color of that wall!

Don had made up sack lunches for us according to the choices we had written on the sacks at breakfast.

About this time, Don showed up with our lunches, so both groups joined in a prayer circle to ask blessing on the food. At left is Joe Strube, the leader of the Baltimore Central Presbyterian group.

After lunch we made short work of the upstairs lunchroom and were finished in early afternoon. In the evening we made our way back to the downtown Gallery Church for worship. Tony drove the van and we took our van with Ryan and Pamela with us. In going to worship this time, we had something to celebrate in the work done and the new relationships made.

We got to hear from Joshua again, whom we had come to respect for his enthusiasm, passion and deep involvement in the problems and needs of inner city Baltimore.

He introduced a lady from HopeSprings who explained about HIV and helped prepare us for our task in the city tomorrow.

Joshua Smith introduced to us the Police Commissioner of Baltimore as a man of God who had a heart for the city and had worked through the churches toward safety for the city. The Commissioner was limited by his uniform from saying too much in a faith testimony, but his presentation was very impressive.

Another surprise for the evening was the testimony of Katy Lyons, the Librarian at Moravia School where we had painted today. When Joshua invited her up to give testimony, I recognized her immediately as the lady who had come to stand right beside me in our prayer circle this morning at the school. She gave testimony of a time of deep discouragement with teaching and then a time of redemption when her church and her Lord had lifted her up. She had just gotten a grant for a new library at the school and expressed her gratitude for that blessing.

It was also interesting that Brenda had gotten to have a conversation with her at Moravia School during the day. One of the tasks on our list at the school was to help organize the library, and Brenda had been assigned to that task. It turned out that with her new grant for the library she had been able to get it all in place before we arrived, so that task was not necessary. But Brenda was privileged to talk with this remarkable lady.

We made our two-vehicle caravan back to the Mission House, tired but feeling like it had been a blessed day. It turns out that President Obama had made a surprise visit to a kindergarten class at Moravia Elementary on May 17, just a little over a month before our work there. So the school had had quite a bit of excitement.

It appears that the person escorting President Obama into the classroom is the Principal with whom we visited briefly while we were painting. He came by and expressed approval of the bright color we were producing in the lunchrooms, and may have had a part in choosing the colors we used.

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