The life of an inner city church is never dull. We are located in a neighborhood known for its gangs and crime. We decided to stop spending so much time trying to get our neighbors into the church building. Instead, we decided to go out to them. We began having our Sunday evening meeting outside in the field behind the church, not a regular service, but one designed for the children of the neighborhood. Through music, games, puppets, a bounce house and a Bible lesson the people of East Park Church began to get to know their neighbors. Over the years, we have opened our doors and shared our building with Kenyan, Spanish, and Arab congregations, as well as the girl scouts. Last year we hosted a pilot project, Project Aspect, run by the Tarrant County Probation Officers for high- risk juvenile offenders. On Tuesday nights our parking lot was full of police cars and vans and young people were given tools to help them live a better life.
The members of our church hoped to change the lives of the people in our neighborhood, but instead they changed us. Our normal, average, West Texas, ‘happy in our bubble’ Nazarene church is being transformed into a missional, inner city, gang loving, give us your trouble makers, inter-racial, multilingual hub of love. We sold our property in the "better" part of town and stayed put where we are needed the most. We have come alive. We have become a family.
It isn’t always easy. When God told us that the discipline problems in the school would go down...we didn't know that he would send them to us. We have plucked children off the platform, altars, and pianos. We have children that have never been to church. We have children that have never...ever...heard the Christmas story. We have watched our community children begin to lift their heads...and dare to believe that someone loves them unconditionally. If they see it in us...they will believe it about Him.”