By Chris Meehan, with reporting by Claire Holovaty. Photos by Ellen Putzier, Edna Malone and Sam Mertz.
About 100 neighbors and Action volunteers gathered to celebrate 10 years of People of Praise life in Shreveport’s Allendale neighborhood on August 2. A banner hanging above the empty lot where they met for prayer and food offered a theme taken from the Scriptures—We are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). The celebration included a praise dance by neighborhood girls and a barbecue and potluck.
Christians in Mission team leader Nathan Barrett stood on a chair and offered some reflections on unity. “When we pray together we become more one in Christ,” he said, “and that helps the whole neighborhood and the whole world.” He urged neighbors to commit to praying the Lord's Prayer with someone else that week.
Some Allendale residents at the celebration had seen the community’s presence in the neighborhood grow over 10 years, beginning with a few men living in a rental house and slowly expanding to a team of 20 men, women and children living in six new homes built by volunteers. Neighbors offered their reflections on what the People of Praise has meant to the area.
“The People of Praise has made a big difference,” said Diane Burks, who met community members soon after they arrived in 2002. “I sit on my porch and watch the boys at summer camp. The People of Praise members give kids respect, patience and love. And they get respect back. This is what we’ve needed. I hope the People of Praise stays for a long time.
“People of Praise members listen when you talk to them,” she added. “They don’t just quote Scripture. They explain it.”
“Father, make us one. That’s my favorite prayer,” said long-time Allendale resident Ed Allison, echoing Nathan’s message. “There used to be a cultural division, but that’s been broken down. This is God’s work. The People of Praise are my best friends.”
Neighbor Angie Simmons said, “The People of Praise has brought a lot of people together—for Bible study and prayer nights. There used to be a lot of fighting—now you don’t see that. They taught my son how to build a doghouse and they keep my boys out of trouble. The People of Praise has a friend in me.”
Since 2002, the community has sent 49 volunteer teams to Allendale. Volunteers have donated 60,000 hours of labor, built six new homes on Yale Avenue, completed 65 home-repair projects for neighbors and organized 10 years of summer camps for local children. Shreveport branch members helped house, feed and entertain many of the volunteers. “At times, it’s been a stretch for a small branch like us to do all that,” says branch leader Jack Lynch, “but it gives us life. Action’s presence energizes us.”
Joan Pingel, who moved from South Bend to Shreveport in 2004, says that some neighborhood changes are not easily measured. “Time is the key to some changes,” she says. “Even some folks that haven’t been so friendly respect us because we’ve stuck it out. They know where to turn if they’re in trouble, or where to send a friend in need.”
The barbecue also marked the end of this year’s summer camp. The camp set a record for attendance when 62 campers came on June 29. Most days about 40 children attended.
Campers enjoyed a day of Olympic-themed events to wrap up this year’s camp. The activities included opening ceremonies featuring flags and the lighting of a torch which campers relayed around the neighborhood. Games included relay races and a “soak your counselor” event, along with football, basketball-dribbling, long jump, a bean bag toss and jump rope. At the closing ceremony, the girls resurrected an ancient Greek tradition called "The Path of Victory." The girls on the winning team wore red ribbons around their heads and walked through two rows of girls tossing flowers before them.
Colleen Murray, who led the girls’ activities, noted that the camp ran very smoothly. “I think the girls have been coming long enough that they know what kind of behavior we expect,” she said.
Sam Mertz, who directed the boys’ section of camp, said that this year’s campers were more willing to be reconciled after a disagreement than in his two previous summers as a counselor. “They’ll do it—even if they resist at first. What we’ve been teaching has been sinking in over time.”
Barbette Brophy says:
August 7th, 2012 at 8:04 PM
I am so blessed by the very REAL thing God is doing through the POP presence in Allendale. It is such a reflection of the life we have lived in the branches, only taken to the next level, taking it out to others!!! Thank you to all of you who have given up so much for the sake of the Gospel. Barbette
Carmen Fraga says:
August 7th, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Congratulations on your ten years of loving your neighbor and changing the "face of the earth"! I am continually inspired by your witness and service. May the persons in this place be such a "light of Christ" that all the world will hear of it and rejoice! Amen!
Love, Carmen Fraga
Edna Malone says:
August 8th, 2012 at 9:27 AM
It has been a huge blessing to be a part of all that the Lord is doing in Allendale. I have especially loved getting to know the children and adults and loving them with the love of Christ.
Dan Brewer says:
August 8th, 2012 at 11:20 AM
Way to go, Allendale brothers and sisters. We are so proud of you and thank God for your sacrifices. You are doing great work!
Louie Grams says:
August 8th, 2012 at 2:51 PM
Congratulations on the tenth anniversary of God's continuing work through you all in Allendale. It's a gift to all of us. May our lives in every branch speak the Gospel as boldly and lovingly as you live it.
Marcie Rosencrantz says:
August 8th, 2012 at 4:06 PM
Congratulations on the tenth anniversary , you are doing a mighty work for the Lord.It is a gift to all of us. God Bless you all.
Tom McNichol, Sr NoVa says:
August 8th, 2012 at 4:57 PM
Who could have ever imagined that we would have come so far i,n our outreach in Allendale? I know who! Nick, Sean, JT, our leaders who encouraged them to do so, all those who followed the leading of the Spirit to go out. Since Jesus first proclaimed “ the Kingdom of God is here and now”, brothers and sisters, heeding his call, have continued his mission. Thank you brothers and sisters for reaching out to the residents of Allendale…your efforts have borne much fruit. Can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will bring in Allendale!!
Paul Putzier says:
August 8th, 2012 at 9:28 PM
A wonderful work of God, carried out by the hearts and hands of so many over the last 10 years. Our Father's City in Allendale is an inspiration.
Margaret Sak says:
August 9th, 2012 at 7:20 AM
What a wonderful work is being done! Thank you Allendale teams for all your efforts, bringing Christ and the life of the People of Praise to this corner of the world. God be praised!
Tom Duddy says:
August 10th, 2012 at 1:21 AM
We honor all past and present members of the Allendale on-site residents, as well as all our brothers and sisters in the Shreveport branch who have supported this work faithfully despite their many other responsibilities and commitments. You all have done a wonderful work, and Mary and I honor you for your dedication, perseverance, courage, steadfastness, and many many sacrifices. The light of Christ has come to Allendale, and it is a beautiful thing.
Aloha, Tom & Mary Duddy
Francis Potts says:
August 11th, 2012 at 5:26 PM
Congratulations to our brothers and sisters in Allendale.
Your steadfast work of sharing the presence of Jesus to the residents of Allendale speaks well of His blessings in your life these past ten years of service.
The love shown in the sharing of your individual gifts has helped to build-up the Body of Christ. You are a witness of Christian love to all of us in the People of Praise.
Peace be with you+
POP - Corvallis Branch
Nancy Grams says:
August 17th, 2012 at 2:13 AM
What an inspiration all you who serve and have served in Allendale continue to be to the rest of your brothers and sisters throughout the People of Praise! May the Holy Spirit renew you and encourage you for the next 10 years. Alleluia!
John Vogel says:
August 27th, 2012 at 7:05 PM
The words and photos took me to the joy of Handel's Messiah, but not to the Hallelujah Chorus. Instead I was reminded of two choruses,
Their sound is gone out into all lands,
and their words unto the ends of the world.
(Romans 10: 18; Psalm 19: 4)
Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their
yokes from us.
(Psalm 2: 3)
How blessed we are to have the privilege of serving the Lord.
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