Spirit of Acadiana: Christian Community Development

Relationships Key to Uplifting Poor Communities
Posted at 6:26 PM, Jul 16, 2021

LAFAYETTE, La. — "It's called a 'Christian Community Development' class, and over the weekend--here at Bayou Church-- folks have come together, all walks of life, to help move the needle, to realize that we are much better together than when we're apart. Leading the way, Dr. Jimmy Dorrell.

"The call is to get out of our place of safety and security and enter the pain," explains Dorrell. "The word 'compassion' comes from two latin words, 'enter' the 'pain'. And so the harder part for a lot of Christians who do care for the poor is how do you get up out of a place that is nice and easy, and go in the middle of the struggle of 'what does it mean to not have a meal for my kids today'?"

"Some of the stuff we're talking about today and tomorrow," says Dorrell to the crowd, "is deep and systemic, and there are questions and issues we've got to talk about that are sometimes painful."

Dorrell---- a legend in revitalizing neighborhoods and establishing relationships among the poor in Waco, Texas--- says the key to improving everything, particularly in community development, is forming strong relationships and partners, listening and sharing.

Organizers from Bridge Ministry, Hope for Opelousas and New Hope followed that message when they teamed up to bring Dorrell to Acadiana.

"A lot of people don't get involved because they don't know what to do, how to do things, so Jimmy's giving us some practical ideas of how we can engage the poor and make a difference," offers co-organizer John Newman of the Lafayette nonprofit New Hope.

"Relationships is what it's all about," adds co-organizer Loren Carriere of Hope for Opelousas. "God created us to be relational creatures. And whenever we kind of pull ourselves away from certain parts of our community, we have no way to know who certain people are. And so for us, being able to do relational work is what it's all about. It's what Jesus did."

Dorrell's goal is to motivate the 75 attendees to get out into Acadiana's poor communities, continue their work, and maybe turn things up a notch.

"The priority of the kingdom of God costs us more than just writing a check," adds Dorrell. "It is engagement, it is relationships and we find out when we do that, we change as well."

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