Mercy Street: Effective Help for Poverty

December 30, 2006


The Mercy Street Project matches every child in a small West Dallas community with a Christian adult beginning in the fourth grade and continuing through high school graduation. It doesn’t require a lot of money. It’s not run by politicians. It’s not a short term dump-and-run project. The Mercy Street Project stands out as a model of churches doing a noble thing. This project is transforming lives in a small community in a big way.

Here’s how bad the situation was. One high school had 394 freshmen, but over the following four years 300 of them dropped out of school. The average SAT score was 753. The Dallas Morning News commented on this neighborhood in 1992:

“If Dallas has a netherworld, it is in the bleak area west of the Trinity. Maligned, misunderstood, a place of crime, poverty, disease, and neglect, this is West Dallas.”

mercy-street-logo.jpgThere are 2672 children in this community needing mentors. Many are already assigned, but many more volunteers are needed, particularly men. 85% of the mentored children are fatherless.

Why does this long-term commitment approach work? Because the personal involvement of one caring adult develops non-cognitive skills, as research has shown. These skills are influenced by 1) Support, 2) Empowerment, 3) Setting of Boundaries & Expectations, and 4) Guidance in the Constructive Use of Time. These influences by the mentor, in time, will cause discernable changes in five non-cognitive areas. These changes lead directly to improved educational and behavioral outcomes. The benefits are far reaching and measurable.

Churches such as Park Cities Presbyterian, West Dallas Community, Highland Park Presbyterian, First Baptist Dallas, Highland Park Methodist, Northwest Bible and Watermark Community have joined or are joining this effort. Churches who want to participate should contact Bill Farrell at

The Mercy Street Project is encouraging to me because it is a way “religion that is pure and genuine in the sight of God the Father” (James 1:27) shows itself. Also, the outpouring of caring without fanfare demonstrates what God likes to see: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Arrogance vs. Confidence?

December 26, 2006

A  thoughtful question came to me from a Christian in the community.  He asks, “What is the difference between confidence and arrogance in the Christian walk?   I’m giving this some thought this week.  How would you answer the question?  What are your thoughts?

Using Hanukkah as an Illustration of Abuse Recovery

December 5, 2006

hanukkah-lights.jpegIt’s an illustration that honors the meaning of Hanukkah and provides an image that gives hope to the adult survivor of physical or sexual abuse. Hanukkah celebrates the reclaiming of the temple in Jerusalem from those who spoiled it. By analogy, the body of the Christian is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Abuse recovery involves the reclaiming of the dignity and godly function of the body having been cleansed from its spoilage.

hanukkah-temple.jpeg A full explanation of Hanukkah is provided by Yeshuat Yisrael. While the celebration of victory is exciting and glorious, the picture of the abomination of the temple is horrible. Listen to the similarities between the atrocities inflicted on the temple by the Seleucids in 164 BC and those inflicted on the victim of sexual abuse. Under the delusion of making peace, the marauders stripped the temple of its gold and valuables and forced the Jews to worship Zeus and sacrificed a pig on their altar. Thus, the dignity and sacredheart-broken-abuse.jpg purpose of worship was spoiled. Similarly, when a young girl is violated, she grows up feeling contaminated and spoiled. She is stripped of her dignity. Her dignity as a uniquely designed individual is exploited for the conquest of someone who, for the moment, is more powerful and uncaring. Forces of ruin and destruction seem to reign supreme.

Periodically, over the past 30 years of counseling, I have witnessed the encouragement this analogy offers to an abuse survivor. Since the abuse is over, she is no longer a victim. When she realizes that she can lead her own Macabeean revolt, take charge of her temple again, cleanse it and purify it ceremonially, and experience a renewed function for which she was designed, then she is ready to celebrate. What a glorious picture of victory and restoration, two themes that are always close to the heart of God.





Setting the Tone for Christmas

December 4, 2006


2006-nativity-front-300-pixels.jpgEach year on the day after Thanksgiving, our family of five assembles this manger scene in our living room. (Click here to see the stages of construction). One morning while I was drinking my coffee and staring at this year’s version, a new insight came to me.

I thought how sad it was that when our Holy God arrived into our world that was characterized mostly by sin and selfishness, there was hardly room for him. We weren’t ready for him. We had very little to offer him. We hardly knew who he was or even that he was coming. In fact, Herod tried to kill him.
By contrast, when we want to come into his world of holiness purity, he not only makes room for us, but he also welcomes us, provides all we need (like covering for our2006-nativity-side-300-pixels.jpg sin), and rejoices in the interest that we show him. I am constantly overwhelmed with how a holy and just God has found a way for unholy and unjust humankind to come into his presence and enjoy a personal relationship with him. It was Jesus us who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” What a life! What a way to celebrate a Merry Christmas!