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It seems like almost every time I go on a mission trip, I end up with a new best friend. And, for at least five of those times that new best friend has been a pastor.


It’s kind of spooky, actually.


Last week, I spent four days in and around Baltimore, Maryland, and –sure enough, I have a new best friend. She’s smart and funny, artistic, energetic, joyful, wise beyond her years, has excellent people skills, and loves Jesus.


Her name is Emily and she is nine years old.


I met Emily (not her real name) at the Christian Community Center, in a neighborhood called Sowebo, which is so named because it’s on the southwest side of Baltimore City.* Just over the railroad tracks to the south is Pigtown.  Sandtown-Winchester is nearby. 


These are among the poorest neighborhoods in Baltimore City. There are blocks and blocks of crumbling, abandoned, and condemned row houses inside the city. Shops, corner markets, and even liquor stores stand boarded shut and covered in graffiti with notices of condemnation fastened to their doors. 


Census data from 2017 shows a median income of  $24,662 for this area. A little over ten miles away, in wealthy and affluent Howard County where many residents typically commute to and from Washington, DC, and its high-paying government jobs, the median household income is  $129,549. 


The contrast is startling. 


The city’s public school system is scandalously ineffective. Last year, a teacher snuck out test results that showed 77% of high school students were reading at an elementary school level. Almost half of high school students were reading at kindergarten and first-grade levels. 


Almost 60% of the households with children in Sowebo are single-parent households. In Howard County, it’s less than 20%.


Even worse, Baltimore’s crime rate is higher than Houston, Cleveland, Atlanta, and even Chicago. At least one ranking system cites Baltimore as the most crime-ridden city in America.


In the middle of all of this, Pastor Tom Homans and staff run a ministry where up to fifty children safely play and just be children. The playground has a slide and swings and a basketball court. Inside, they sing praises to the Lord, learn Bible verses, and on three days of the week during the summer, they go to a pool and splash, swim, and play in a beautiful pool provided by someone who spent her childhood at the Christian Community Center.


Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are also involved.


According to their website, the Christian Community Center started in 1952. It’s funded by donations from individuals, families, and churches. It has a Board of Directors and was officially incorporated in 1991. “Mr. Tom,” as the children call him, has been with the ministry since 1988. 


It gives kids like Emily a chance. 


She gave me a guided tour of the place, introduced me to her friends, let me be in charge when appropriate (rarely), drew me some delightful pictures, told me about how much she loves her daddy, and listed all of her many pets –including a snapping turtle named “Mr. Snappy.” It was clear Emily was happy here, that she and her friends were learning things that would help them as their futures unfolded, and that she was loved.


The Christian Community Center is unique in that it’s located in a part of the country where there is arguably the greatest contrast between rich and poor in the entire nation. But I also know there are countless Christian ministries all over the world motivated by the power of the love of Jesus Christ to do the good works the Father planned for us to do since before He spoke this world into being. Kinship Radio is one of them. There are other examples all around you, everywhere.


So be encouraged, brother and sister. No one ever changed this world more than Jesus Christ and He is continuing to do so.


Emily and I talked about many, many things in our few hours together. I told her she had tremendous potential and then explained that the big word I just used meant she was going to go on to do great and wonderful things in her life. She promised to never, ever forget that Jesus loves her. And, just before Emily and I parted ways, when she learned that I used to smoke cigarettes, she said, “I’m never, ever going to smoke cigarettes because I’m a Christian.


And when she said, the word, “Christian,” the tone in her voice carried with it the joy and wonder and power as wide and far and long and deep as the most dedicated, Holy Spirit-filled pastor I could ever hope to meet. 



Today’s Praise

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (NLT)



*Locals differentiate Baltimore City from Baltimore County, which encircles the city.



Photo from The Christian Community Center website. Used by permission.


Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Another Dan says:

    What a great ministry. Great things are happening all over our land. It’s just we are often not told about them in a mainstream media that focuses on bad news.

  • Cheryl Langworthy says:

    WE ARE SO BLESSED….AND we don’t stop & realize it nearly often enough!! Thanks for a great report on Baltimore!

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