Wednesday, June 24, 2009
BASE Camp - Day Three+
Day Three+ of our BASE Camp experience is winding down and if nothing else I can honestly say I saw mountains moved today. Our theme for the day was "Witness," and our young people were very visible witnesses to God's presence in Southwest Baltimore.
For the past few years there is a rather large property at the corners of Pratt and Mount Streets that our group has been working on. The property is owned by Southwest Visions, one of the many organizations that Sr. Kitty is associated with. The intent when the property was originally purchased was to one day build housing for low-income families. But changes in the economy - at both the national and neighborhood level - thwarted those plans. The property sits in the shadows of a former Catholic parish, Fourteen Holy Martyrs. The building now houses a Baptist Church and Dismas House, the objective of which "is to aid residents in making a smooth transition from the penal system, or to act as an alternative to incarceration for those serving sentences of three years or less."
Since we have been working the property for a number of years (primarily to keep it in compliance with city regulations) our group has taken a real sense of ownership and pride in the work that we've done there. As we drove by on Monday morning it was evident that the property was in serious need of attention. Our group wasn't disheartened by what they saw - the saw it merely as a challenge, and one they were prepared to take on.
It took the better part of two days, but the work our young people did was extraordinary. Not only did they cut the very high and thick grass, they removed dozens of bags of trash and debris, moved huge mounds of vines, clippings and branches, weeded, swept and sweated buckets, all the while maintaining their good humor and enthusiasm. Throughout the day people stopped by the tell our youth how much they appreciated what was being done, and how impressed they were that this group of young people gave of their time and talents to make this part of Baltimore a better place for it's residents.
During our lunch break we heard from Stefan, a success story from Hezekiah Movement, yet another of Sr. Kitty's connections. Stefan spoke of his coming to America from his homeland of Trinidad and Tobago, and how he fell into a pattern of substance abuse and the darkness that enveloped his life. His rollercoaster ride through recovery and drug-taking came to a screeching halt when his 7 year old daughter - just two days in the United States - was murdered in front of him. It was a heart-rending story, but one of hope and trust in God. Stefan spoke proudly of his three years of being clean, and his efforts now to help others in recovery.
Each evening we have an assessment of the day and prayer, and each time we gather the youth speak of the wonderful experiences they're having. Most of all they have learned that Baltimore is much more than the Orioles and the Ravens; much more than Harborplace and Little Italy; much more than drugs and guns and violence. It is a city of people like them, people just trying to make it through each day. People that are warm and friendly and appreciate the efforts of our young people. People that need a little help to see the light of Christ in the world. People that have their hearts touched by the amazing witness of BASE Camp 2009.