S. Michael Craven to Speak at Highland Park United Methodist this Sunday

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Michael will speaking to the Fellowship Class at Highland Park United Methodist Church located at 3300 Mockingbird Ln., Dallas, TX on Sunday, January 21st from 9:30 to 10:30. He will be sharing his personal journey from corporate CEO to ministry leader as well as his insights into poverty; what it is, what it isn’t and how the church offers the only real and lasting hope for the poor.

Prior to joining BridgeBuilders, S. Michael Craven was the president and founder of the Center for Christ & Culture where he worked for more than fourteen years, challenging the spiritual apathy and theological vacuity of the church through serious research, writing, teaching and speaking. His thoughtful commentaries on the intersection of faith and culture reached more than two million readers each week through syndication on Crosswalk.com, Christianity.com, The Christian Post and numerous other media outlets.

In addition, to Michael’s weekly commentaries and thoughtful essays, he published his critically acclaimed book, Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity with NavPress in 2009. Uncompromised Faith has been used to help countless Christians experience freedom from the prevailing cultural influences that have diminished the magnitude and power of God’s life-giving grace in the late 20th Century American context.

If you’d like Michael to speak at your church or event, please click here to contact his assistant, Pam de Armas.

BridgeBuilders’ After-School Program Awarded $75,000 “Challenge Grant” from the Rees-Jones Foundation

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We are excited to announce that the Rees-Jones Foundation has awarded BridgeBuilders a $75,000 Challenge Grant to help fund our After-School Program. Our After-School program currently has an annual budget of $301,000. The Challenge Grant requires that we secure $226,000 in order to release the $75,000 grant, thereby guaranteeing funding for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

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Founded in 2006 by Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones, The Rees-Jones Foundation is a private foundation that works with non-profit organizations, primarily in North Texas, to serve others and improve their quality of life and life circumstances in tangible ways. The Foundation works to defend the welfare of children suffering from abuse or neglect, afford relief to those facing mental health challenges, provide youth with opportunities for enrichment and character development, encourage healthy families and communities, enhance the lives of children, youth, and families dealing with disabilities, and promote the humane treatment of companion animals.

We are extremely grateful to the Rees-Jones Foundation and their investment in the children of Bonton and their team’s confidence in our After-School program’s impact.

Want to Help?

You can give a special gift in response to the Rees-Jones challenge and become a financial partner in our After-School program. You can contact Sarah Conner, Development Director to discuss.

Additionally, this is one of our largest areas of opportunity for those looking to volunteer in Bonton. These precious children are quick to respond to the loving attention that our volunteers offer and the impact of our volunteers is enormous in the lives of these children.

If you would be interested in serving in our After-School program, click here, complete the form and someone will contact you to discuss next steps.  

Bonton Tigers Basketball Teams start 2018 Season with a Big “W”

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One of our Bonton Tigers, Lewis

One of our Bonton Tigers, Lewis

We consider it a major win in our KIDS athletic program when our kids demonstrate good sportsmanship, parental involvement is increased, and we achieve victory on the courts. This weekend, five of our youth basketball teams started their season in the Lancaster Best of South Sports League (BOSS) with those three elements on full display.

This is our first year in the BOSS league, which satisfies a long-time goal: to be in a league that is more accessible to the parents and families of our athletes from Bonton.

Coach Shaun, Director of BridgeBuilders KIDS, had a proud moment upon seeing the stands full of families from Bonton for the first time! One particular 6-year-old, Lewis, conveyed the feeling of many of our kids as ran down the court, beaming with pride as he waved to his Mom, who had never seen him play beyond their little neighborhood of Bonton. As with many of us, these experiences are essential to forming the social bonds so necessary to family cohesion and support.

If you’d like to be involved in our KIDS athletic program, please click here to email Regina Suttle, Director of Volunteers.

Dallas Afterschool Praises BridgeBuilders’ After-School Program

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We are excited to be an approved after-school program and participating site with Dallas Afterschool. This important relationship affords BridgeBuilders unrivaled access to a vast array of support services that aid us in compliance with the highest performance standards, routine assessment, and measurement of our impact.

Dallas Afterschool does not serve children directly. Instead, they inform, train, support and evaluate afterschool sites that serve low-income youth. Their goal is to help afterschool sites such as ours achieve national quality standards. In short, this vital partnership ensures that the children of Bonton have access to exceptional afterschool enrichment and support.

Following a recent visit to BridgeBuilders, our Dallas Afterschool site representative shared the following report:

"The kids and their entire team have been absolutely inspiring to me. They've entered their 2nd season of afterschool programming and have enhanced their program significantly with support from Dallas Afterschool! This organization is doing amazing work and it is truly a pleasure working with them."

Why do we offer After-School programming in Bonton? Because, according to Dallas After-School:

"Currently, there is only enough free out of school time capacity to serve 4% of ALL children - so the vast majority of kids with the greatest need for academic and social/emotional support do not have access to quality afterschool care. Further, parents who desire to work and create a better life for their children are left to make a choice between full-time employment and the guarantee of safety for their children between the hours of 3-6pm."

BridgeBuilders’ After-School program is a vital tool in not only protecting these children from the deleterious effects of family breakdown, absent fathers, poverty, and crime but also equipping them to flourish academically and spiritually.

Want to Help?

This is one of our largest areas of opportunity for those looking to volunteer in Bonton. These precious children are quick to respond to the loving attention that our volunteers offer and the impact of our volunteers is enormous in the lives of these children.

If you are interested in serving in our After-School program, click here, complete the form and someone will contact you to discuss next steps.  

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?

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"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? Well...us 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
President

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!
 
Sincerely,
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