Christmas in Bonton, Part 1

An important announcement about Christmas in Bonton 

As we have grown over the years in our understanding of poverty and effective poverty alleviation, one essential principle rises to the forefront: Never undermine the dignity of the human person by treating them as objects of charity!
To that end, we have been implementing incremental changes over the last several years in effort to modify some of our programs and initiatives that we realized were violating this important principle. You may have noticed that we stopped offering clothing giveaways on Christmas Day or that we limited the recipients of our “I Got Your Back” campaign to those families whose children earn these supplies through their participation in our After-School Program. These changes and many others like them have been necessary to Making Poverty History in a community diminished by a culture of entitlement and dependency.
So, this year we are implementing the final changes to Christmas Day in Bonton that have been in process for several years. I know that for many of you this has been a longstanding and cherished tradition. Rest assured: You will still be able to serve our brothers and sisters in Bonton during the Christmas season. We just want to ensure that we do so in a way that upholds their dignity, discourages dependency, and does not hinder the reception of the gospel.
To begin with, Christmas in Bonton will take place on December 16, 2017 so families in Bonton will be able to provide Christmas for their families at home on Christmas Day, rather than waiting in long lines.
Over the next several weeks we will be communicating more details and specifics about volunteer opportunities and other ways you can help. Please know how much we appreciate all your hard work and support during these many years and I invite you to continue serving in new ways that elevate the needs of those we serve for the glory of our Lord.
Yours in Christ,
 S. Michael Craven

Fall Event in Pictures

The food was delicious. The music was on point. The weather was perfect. We had an amazing time at our Fall Event, check out a few photos. See you next year!

Dewayne's New Bike

BridgeBuilders Resident Bike Experts Delton (left) and Michael with Dewayne (middle)

BridgeBuilders Resident Bike Experts Delton (left) and Michael with Dewayne (middle)

DeWayne is a recent graduate of the BridgeBuilders WORK program. Through our partner, Community Staffing Services, he earned a job at the Omni, is loving the job, and is doing great work.

We found out DeWayne was taking the bus and train to and from work every day, but that wasn’t enough to get him home, but in fact he was walking 1 hour EACH WAY to get to the bus, his nightly walk after midnight… just so he can have a job.

We reached out to Local Hub Bicycle Company and also received a donation, which together supplied DeWayne with his new bike, helmet, and lock.

We talk about the “material obstacles” of the poor. Every situation and every need is different. In DeWayne’s case, his next step to flourishing was simply the ability to get to the bus stop. Great job persevering, DeWayne, keep up the good work and let’s keep Making Poverty History!

What is urban missions?


"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 
Matthew 28:19-20 ESV

The Great Commission...there's a good chance you've heard it before.

At BridgeBuilders it is at the core of what we do. We are an urban missionary organization, taking the Gospel into the spiritually darkest parts of our city.

Since the great missionary enterprise of the 19th century, the American church has sent missionaries abroad to reach those who either haven’t heard or haven’t responded to the gospel.

However, you rarely—if ever—see missionaries being called and sent to places in America. Why? I think in large part because we tend to believe that America has been “reached.” Therefore, when it comes to the poor in America, our first assumption is that what they need most is charity.

Wrong! Especially when you begin to understand that the poverty common to the U.S. is fundamentally a spiritual poverty that has social, cultural, and economic consequences.

The inner cities of America are by definition an “unreached people group”when you realize that there is no indigenous, self-propagating, growth of Christian community (the Church) taking place. Although many churches exist in the impoverished areas, most are spiritually bankrupt and uninterested in reaching their community.
The whole of BridgeBuilders programming (Missions, Kids, and Work) is a missionary enterprise, designed to meet the particular needs of the inner-city mission field in the 21st century. The ultimate end of our missionary endeavor is seeing the church built up as people are rescued by the gospel.
By applying this missional strategy, and through the power of the gospel, we are Making Poverty History. Many are being transformed into new ways of thinking and living, and we follow that transformation by helping those in poverty overcome the many obstacles to flourishing so that they may achieve self-sufficiency, act responsibly, and live in the way that God intends.
We are BridgeBuilders and we are Making Poverty History, through God’s power and for His glory.

I Got Your Back

This past Saturday was I Got Your Back, our annual event providing much-needed school supplies both in Bonton and throughout Dallas. This event is impossible without the dozens of volunteers and friends like you providing the backpacks and supplies. On behalf of the 1,450 students and families who struggle to make ends meet...thank you!


A few IGYB Details

1,450 backpacks were packed and distributed throughout Dallas

  • More than 500 of those were distributed in Bonton
  • 400 backpacks were distributed through Prestonwood ministries
  • The other 550 were distributed through ministry partners such as Dallas Housing Authority, Dallas Police Department, local churches including our partner church, Restoration Community Church Dallas, and many more community-based organizations.

More than 150 volunteers throughout the summer.

Special thank you to:

  • Prestonwood Baptist Church
  • Young Men's Service League of University Park, Highland Park, and Prestonwood

Things not go how you planned? too.

Do you win every battle you take on? Does every project turn out exactly the way you want? Ever have to “wait and see” how something turns out?...

Well, us too.

Earlier this summer we told you about three recent graduates of the BridgeBuilders WORK program: Elmer, Anthony, and Paul. 

Elmer, after completing the BridgeBuilders WORK Lifeskills and Employment Training, stepped in to stop a drug deal Anthony and Paul were involved with, urging them to go to BridgeBuilders. “It will save your life,” Elmer told them.
Fast forward a few months and we are simultaneously delighted and saddened that two of those three are still fighting to stay on the straight and narrow.
One student is employed and remains engaged with us at BridgeBuilders, another has an interview for a job today! The third seems to have returned to his old lifestyle.
Isn’t that real life though? You truly win some battles and lose some, and we at BridgeBuilders are no exception.
But let me be very clear…we will not stop fighting for the poor in our city!!
We will not get discouraged when we don’t win every battle. We will continue Making Poverty History every day, taking every person who walks through our doors, confronting their spiritual needs and their material realities.
Like so many of you, we crank up school this month! The next BridgeBuilders WORK Training begins this Monday, August 7. Will you partner with us in three ways?

  1. Will you pray for these three students, especially the graduate who is still fighting for a job, interviewing today?
  2. Will you pray for the upcoming WORK class? Pray that over the next few days hearts would be softened, so on day one they will be ready to grow.
  3. Will you partner with us financially this fall? We need your gift to continue providing this life-changing, and life-saving, program. Click here or on the button below.

I am so thankful for every prayer and every gift, they sustain us both spiritually and materially. Thank you for Making Poverty History!
S. Michael Craven

Closing the achievement gap

A couple days ago the Plano Star Courier published a great article about the achievement gap (Read it here). The main discussion point is the regression that occurs while young students are out of school for the summer. 

One portion jumps out for us at BridgeBuilders: 
"A two-month regression disproportionately impacts low-income families compared to middle-income and affluent families. And when students regress during the summer, come the first day of schools, some classmates progress while other fall behind."

Simply put, students in low-income households are even more susceptible to the effects of the summer achievement gap. This is why we run BridgeBuilders KIDS Camps throughout the summer.

Through the dog days, dozens of students, many of whom participate in our After-School Program during the school year, are getting exponentially more than the 10 minutes of recommended engaged learning mentioned in the article.

Check out a few photos below from a recent trip to the Microsoft STEM Lab at North Park Mall.


Keebe's First House!

Friends, one of our urban missionaries, Pakeebea “Keebe” Cummings, has achieved a major milestone; he has purchased his first home! After completing the requirements set by Habitat for Humanity, including saving the necessary down payment, Keebe became a homeowner this past Friday! 

This is an amazing achievement considering that up until several years ago, Keebe struggled with a debilitating addiction to PCP that denied him any prospect of a hopeful future. For years, Keebe’s addiction was so severe that he could hardly utter an intelligible word! However, by God’s amazing grace, Keebe was delivered from his addiction and now serves as a resident missionary for BridgeBuilders in the South Dallas neighborhood of Joppa (pronounced Joppee) where he is boldly proclaiming the gospel to his South Dallas neighbors.
I have rarely seen such a radical transformation in a person’s life. Today, this “gentle giant” from Bonton is attending seminary through our satellite campus of The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI), a two-and-a-half-year seminary-level program designed specifically for urban missionaries. Keebe is a serious student that labors diligently to grow in his knowledge of the Truth. God is using Keebe to reach many others in his community with similar struggles.
In support of our brother, I am asking you to consider celebrating Keebe’s achievement by helping him acquire some much-needed household essentials to equip his new home. As you can see, he has a beautiful starting point, but needs to fill this new home!

With his help, we have prepared an “Amazon Wish List” that you can peruse and purchase some of these essentials as gifts.
The fact is, Keebe lacks many of the essentials that most of us take for granted so I am asking you to invest in this dear brother’s life by blessing him with your love and support.
You can visit Amazon to view his list and purchase a gift so please join us is helping Keebe! Have your gift shipped directly to BridgeBuilders (coming to work will be like Christmas morning!) by clicking “Pakeebea Cummings’ Gift Registry Address” upon checkout.
You are making an investment in a wonderful man whom God is using greatly! Let’s show him he is loved!
S. Michael Craven

P.S. If you use Amazon Smile, be sure and choose BridgeBuilders as your non-profit to support, and we will also receive a small portion of your purchase as donation. Win win!

West Dallas Housing Crisis

Last week D Magazine posted an article about the housing crisis in West Dallas (check it out here).

Of note in the statistics reported in the BC Workshop housing report, "The median sales price of recently constructed homes rose from $145,00 in 2011 to $522,000 in 2016."

The simple fact is it is becoming more and more difficult to live affordably in Dallas. As a result more and more people are being forced to South Dallas, where housing is more affordable.

This is one of many reasons that we are focusing our efforts of Making Poverty History in South Dallas. There is an urgent and tremendous need for us to, as we say in our mission statement, confront the spiritual needs of the “poor” and resolving the material realities that prevent them from flourishing.

This is Amazing!

Throughout November and December we communicated with you our $500,000 year-end giving goal. Last week I shared with you how we had “reached” our year-end goal of $500,000, explaining that we received $496,779.55. Of course, we considered that to be “close enough” to be a success—who wouldn’t? This was, after all, our largest year-end campaign ever. However, we did ask the Lord for $500,000 and the Lord was not only faithful; He was precise!

You see, this week we discovered that one of our donors had attempted an online donation of $4000 on December 31, but was unsuccessful due to a technical glitch. Thankfully, that donor opted to mail their gift thus bringing our year-end total to exactly $500,779.55!

We asked the Lord to provide (at least) $500,000 and that is precisely what He did! This $500,000 goal was set after a great deal of consideration and prayer. We asked the Lord (and you) for this amount because this is truly what we needed to finish 2016 in the black and provide the necessary funding to see us through the first quarter of 2017.

I share this in the hope of encouraging you in your own faith to remember that God is good and He can always be trusted! Praise be to God who is our only hope in everything!

Your servant in Christ,
S. Michael Craven


Now that the chaos of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us, it's time for our favorite day: Giving Tuesday! Giving Tuesday is one of the biggest giving days of the year and we are excited to once again participate as part of our Year-End Giving Campaign.

As we've mentioned, we are working toward our goal of $500,000 at year-end (we're making great progress thanks to you, see the graphic below), in order to enter 2017 in strong financial standing. We need YOUR gift today, to help us continue our progress toward that goal.

Join the millions of people worldwide that will give on #GivingTuesday by clicking here or on the button above or below. Thanks so much for joining us in this fight, Making Poverty History.

We have already raised $177,000 of our $500,000 goal. Let's keep it up!

We have already raised $177,000 of our $500,000 goal. Let's keep it up!

Giving Thanks to God: Recovering a National Tradition

As we, once again, approach this national day of “thanksgiving” I thought it helpful to reflect upon our nation’s long history of acknowledging and giving thanks to the Almighty God.

On October 3, 1789 George Washington issued the nation’s first presidential proclamation in which he called the nation to set aside a day for giving thanks to that “great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be….”

President Washington gave under his official hand the following words:

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor…

Furthermore, President Washington acknowledged that he was joined by the Congress in his appeal to the nation.

Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God…

This presidential proclamation represented—in unequivocal terms—the government’s call upon the people of this nation to acknowledge and give thanks to God. These were not benign religious platitudes but unambiguous statements reflecting the consensus view of life and reality, which acknowledged that there is one God; the God who has revealed Himself in Scripture, in nature and in the person of Jesus Christ. Sadly, much has changed; today our government institutions panic at the slightest reference to God and crumble in the face of every challenge to remove religious perspectives from the public square.

This weak-kneed posture stands in stark contrast to the ideals set forth by our Founding Fathers. Consider President Washington’s concluding appeal in his momentous proclamation:

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations…, and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue (emphasis mine).

Seventy-four years later, in the midst of the Civil War, President Lincoln would issue a similar call to the nation acknowledging the nation’s many blessings from the Lord, “…who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” President Lincoln, like our first president, would once again call the nation to a day of national thanksgiving and repentance with these words:

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience…and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

America, in its folly, has been in the process of reordering its national identity and severing dependence from the God who gave it birth and blessed it for so long. Therefore, it seems that we might be well served to recall the proclamation of these great men set aside for this Thanksgiving holiday and once again give thanks to Almighty God for His longsuffering patience and pray for mercy toward this nation.

To all our friends, the BridgeBuilders family wishes you and yours a most blessed day of giving thanks!

In Christ,

S. Michael Craven

Launching our year-end

It is just one week until Thanksgiving, and you know what we’re thankful for…? YOU!
That’s right, each and every donor and volunteer at BridgeBuilders plays an important part in this great mission: making poverty history.
This is also the time of year that we launch our year-end giving campaign. As we’ve said many times, this is a vital time of fundraising for non-profits like BridgeBuilders. Click below to hear more from Michael.

How Relational Poverty Manifests Among the Materially Poor and the Materially Secure

As we so often say, material poverty in America is not an economic or financial problem; it is first and foremost a relational problem. As Christians, we approach any problem with some essential facts about reality, namely that we are all broken—sinners against a Holy God—and in desperate need of a Savior. But what do we mean when we say “broken?”

In Genesis, chapter 3 we are made privy to a break in four successive relationships essential to living in harmony with God, ourselves, each other, and creation—what the Bible calls shalom. It is the absence of this harmony that results in all suffering, deprivation and sorrow that accompanies the “human condition.” It is also for the reconciliation of these relationships that Christ came, suffered, died and rose again.

In Genesis, chapter 3 we learn that where Adam and Eve once shared intimacy with God, working in partnership with God as co-regents of His creation, we now find Adam and Eve hiding from God (v. 8). Fear and guilt have replaced intimacy with God and as such mankind is now alienated from God, cut off from the source of life; we are spiritually dead.

When God asks, “Where are you?” Adam responds by saying, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (v. 10). Nakedness in the Bible is associated with “shame,” something Adam and Eve have never experienced until their sin. Where they were once secure with themselves they now feel shame, which leads to insecurity, fear of rejection and all of those things that render us with a sense of inadequacy. This is a principal source of our idolatry.

Once confronted with their sin, Adam’s first impulse is to blame others; “It was the woman you gave me!” (v. 12). This is the root of all conflict, from interpersonal squabbles to national warfare. Humanity is perpetually at odds with one another.

Finally, in verse 17, God describes the consequences to their relationship with creation; “The ground is cursed because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.” The struggle to survive will become the normative state of mankind and all of his efforts will be met with hardship and obstacles to flourishing.

This is the story of human history and would remain our ultimate condition were it not for God’s great mercy. That is why the truth of Jesus—God incarnate—is good news indeed; it is the only hope for humanity and the world that God created.

When working to alleviate the conditions of material poverty it is important to understand this truth. Any attempt to bring remedy that fails to consider these facts is doomed to failure because it has no foundation in the Gospel!

Every single one of us is born with a broken relationship with God, ourselves, others and creation. However, among the materially poor and the materially secure this brokenness manifests in very different ways. For the materially poor, their broken relationship with God often drives them toward the worship of false gods or “spirits.” In the modern urban context this is often revealed in a false “religiosity” that pursues the “health and wealth” gospel—an idea that for obvious reasons holds attraction for the poor. Among the materially secure, this brokenness either results in atheism; “I don’t believe in God” or a practical deism; “I believe in God but he isn’t really involved in my “practical” daily affairs.” For these, the sacred-secular divide becomes a way of life. The materially secure are tempted to first trust in our own abilities and resources to provide for ourselves and achieve personal peace. Many of these may even call themselves Christians, attend church regularly, etc. but in reality they live largely independent of God until those things that they have trusted in fail. The danger here is that the gospel can be treated as an “addendum” to an already well-lived life.

(diagram courtesy of The Chalmers Center)

In terms of the broken relationship with self, the materially poor suffer a marred identity having little to no self-confidence. They feel diminished and utterly inadequate to rise to the demands of life. On the other hand, the materially secure is tempted toward pride and when dealing with the poor can develop a “god-complex;” “I can solve your problem.” Imagine the potential impact on these two parties when they interact. The poor are reminded of their inadequacy, which only deepens their already broken relationship with self and the materially secure are emboldened in their pride in the form of self-righteousness.

The broken relationship with others results in inter-tribal conflict among the materially poor and respect is earned through violence and domination— “disrespect” is the unforgivable sin. Among the materially secure the tendency is toward self-centeredness, “I don’t need anyone; I’m a self-made man!”

Finally, the broken relationship with creation manifests in a failure to exercise dominion among the materially poor, resulting in social chaos, family dissolution, criminality and the like. For the materially secure, we too fail to exercise dominion and instead tend toward becoming workaholics. Again, believing that we are “masters of our domain” because that’s what modernity has conditioned us to believe.

The point is this; it is incumbent on the Christian to conduct an honest self-assessment, recognizing the universal effects of sin in our lives and the sinful inclinations that our particular social, economic and cultural conditions reinforce. Such knowledge should produce a holy humility among the materially secure, which is essential to working among the materially poor so we will see them as equal image-bearers in need of the same saving grace and walking together as we all seek to discover our new identity in Christ.