John 15: 7 says,
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (ESV)
As Christians, we say we believe what Jesus said, but do we really believe He will do whatever we wish if we just ask? Do we believe He can restore our inner cities and stop crime and violence and the erosion of the family and the drug problem?
Do we really believe that?
I spent the past weekend in Omaha, Nebraska, being a part of Jesus doing just that. I joined a group of extraordinary volunteer missionaries from GoServe Global who had partnered with ABIDE ministry in North Omaha.
ABIDE has been in existence since 1989. Ron and Twany Dotzler say God led them to an abandoned building in North Omaha, (a place where the black murder rate was twice the national average at the time) renovate it, move in, and be the light of Christ to the neighborhood.
Their home became a lighthouse to the neighborhood.
Since then, the ministry they founded has renovated dozens and dozens of homes in low-income, high crime neighborhoods in Omaha. ABIDE Christians moved into those homes and (according to an article in “Omaha” magazine) ” began a holistic, grassroots tactic of “adopting” neighborhoods. With partners and volunteer power, the nonprofit began mowing lawns, cleaning litter, fixing abandoned properties, and more. They got to know neighbors personally. Relationships were built and change followed. People felt safer. Crime went down.”
In fact, crime went down so much that the local police came around to ask what they were doing –because it was working. Even the FBI came asking the same question. Statistically, ABIDE can show that neighborhoods with a lighthouse see a 75% decrease in crime. Dozens and dozens of homes have been renovated, over a hundred neighborhoods adopted, and innumerable volunteers have helped in those efforts. The goal is to have a lighthouse in all 735 blocks of North Omaha.
But ABIDE’s, strategy doesn’t just involve fixing up homes. There’s leadership training, fitness training, basketball, dance, a food bank, and a ministry that has supplied 4,024,435 diapers to moms in need so far.
Yes, Jesus wants children to have an ample supply of clean diapers.
After I had spent the morning in the basement of a future lighthouse working on the plumbing, I and the GoServ Global volunteers were invited to lunch at the Dotzler’s home. It was an old brick structure that had previously served as the boiler plant for a hospital many years ago. Pictures on the wall showed it was a ramshackle, fallen-down abandoned building begging for a wrecking ball to eliminate it as habitat for giant cockroaches. But God provided materials and people to turn it into a beautiful home.
As I sat at their table, invited to share in the fellowship of people who had taken King Jesus at his word, a song by Cory Asbury we’ve played on Kinship Radio many times kept running through my mind. Ron had been a chemical engineer before becoming a pastor and being drawn to this ministry. He and Twany certainly could have just donated some money to support any ministry they chose. I told them the song running through my head was “Reckless Love” and I asked them, “Wasn’t your decision to move into a low-income, high-crime neighborhood to try and change it kind of reckless?”
They laughed and, while avoiding actually using the word “reckless,” made it very clear they’d do it all over again if they had the chance because Jesus really does change the world.
And, when King Jesus says “ask whatever you wish” we should not doubt for one moment that He really can do it.
John 15: 8-9
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”
Photo of a renovated house and volunteer crew used by permission from ABIDE ministry.