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The Well Community Church hosts event to inform, connect communities

This is the second article in the two part series covering the sessions hosted at Discover Fresno. Journalists Andrew Rieker, ’21, Carston Salezler, ’21, Addison Schultz, ’21, Kamryn Schultz, ’19, and Sam Cross, ’19, attended the event at The Well Community Church. o visit the first part of The Feather’s coverage of Discover Fresno, read Discover Fresno encourages engagement with local organizations, pt. 1.

The Well Community Church hosts Discover Fresno, Feb. 9, an event to inform and connect attendees with local organizations impacting Fresno, as a followup to Hope Fresno 2015. Over 200 people gathered at the church for a morning of engagement and discussion. The Breakout Sessions were hosted by Every Neighborhood PartnershipPregnancy Care CenterFresno Rescue MissionESA Love Inc.Youth for ChristCity without OrphansChrysalis House Inc.Westside Church of GodSaint Rest Baptist Church and other community leaders.

Sam Cross | The Feather Online

Over 200 people gather at the Well Church for Discover Fresno, Feb. 9.

Director of Missions at The Well, Kyle Guerrero shares insight into the The Well’s efforts in supporting organizations and individuals impacting the community of Fresno.

“We had a huge building campaign called Cultivate,” Guerrero said. “Out of Cultivate and all of the money we fundraised, the first $500,000, we want to give back to the local community. Out of that $500,000, a lot of the people that are going to be at Discover Fresno are going to be recipients of that.”

For the next three years, organizations will have access to $10,000 a year as a grant process.

“That’s just saying, ‘Hey you guys are doing great stuff in the city,’” Guerrero continued. “‘It’s gospel-focused and focused on the needs of our community. We want to help propel that financially.’”

Keynote speaker Neighborhood Church pastor Joe White began the morning with a keynote speech with the event splintering into separate groups discussing various issues. Attendees had the opportunity to attend two breakout sessions.

Pastor Joe Buitrago is a part of a Saturday morning sports program where he plays with kids and get to neighborhoods while sharing the gospel. He explains how important Discover Fresno is to those who know little about what’s happen in and around their own community to benefit others.

“Discover Fresno is an opportunity to get to know the city and what God is doing in the city,” Buitrago said. “It’s a cool place to come and learn how to get involved in the city. There’s different organizations we will be partnering with like human trafficking, adoption, racial reconciliation. They are impacting (the city) because they are actually people from the city. They are actually on the ground doing the work.”

In the following podcast, Kamryn Schultz talks to Rosa Torres about her Discover Fresno experience.

Every Neighborhood Partnership

Every Neighborhood Partnership attended the event Discover Fresno. The session was run by ENP volunteers Jenessa Hefler, the Literacy Mentor Director, and Saturday Sports Director Brian Semsem. The focus of the session helped attendees learn the ENP secular version of discipleship and mentoring. The acronym given to help remember the steps was GRACE. 

The first step was represented by G. The first step ENP suggested when reaching out to others was to Give. What they meant by give was that the recipient of the mentoring should feel like the mentor is investing in the mentee and giving of their time.

The second step was given by the letter R. The second step when mentoring, should be Respect, as many people close up if they feel that the mentor lacks respect for them. The idea behind this is that if you take the kids seriously they will real with you also.

The letter A represented Assist. The idea behind this letter was to help navigate the choices of the kids and to provide support for the kids and what they are interested in. The other idea behind it is to stand up for the kids to show you have got their backs.

Connect was the next part of the acronym. The point behind this letter was that the people investing in the kids should connect them with people that also take interest in the same types. Preferably experts or other people with more experience in that field. This can also mean introducing them to peers that share their interests.

Encourage was the final step. This was focused around challenging the kids to push their boundaries. While the kids might need encouragement, the goal is to help the kids realize that they can push their physical boundaries in order to achieve great things.

The Well Church invites community members to attend Discover Fresno in a tweet, Jan. 29.

ENP’s mission statement is to connect churches and other community partners with elementary schools, and equip them to serve through their active presence in every neighborhood.

ENP’s vision is to see our city holistically engaged, so our schools are supported, children excel, families are healthy and whole, and our communities thrive.

To volunteer with ENP you can visit their website to sign up.

History of the Pain and New Signs of Hope in Southwest Fresno

Representatives of Westside Church of God and Saint Rest Baptist Church, Cherella Nicholson and Tiffany Mangum came to Discover Fresno to talk about the history and current state of community of southwest Fresno. Nicholson reached out to southwest community members who shared the lack of businesses and abundance of vacant buildings in the region.

Mangum shares the frustration of Southwest Fresno residents because of lack of investing in their community.

“Some would easily blame the city, but what happened was we were not empowered ourselves to make change,” Mangum said. “I think it came from a realization that we could do nothing outside of city hall. What’s happened over the years is residents, through all this frustration, realized we can do this ourselves.

“It’s not about what we don’t have and who’s held out on us,” Mangum continued. “It’s about the realization of who we are and what we do have to better our community and ourselves. It’s a different approach. Going back into where we started, there’s a lack of equity and inclusion in the broader approach.”

Despite recent investment and revitalization of the downtown Fresno Fulton district, Mangum sees that much of the southwest region has been overlooked.

“Southwest (Fresno) is directly adjacent to the downtown area,” Mangum said. “Southwest has had some impact but not necessarily life changing or altering. Downtown is kind of its own community. It stands separate from chinatown.”

For more about the north/south divide in Fresno, read Living to see the dream, community remembers Martin Luther King, Jr. and Residents discuss Fresno’s north-south divide.

Racial Reconciliation

Breakout Session: Racial Reconciliation was hosted by ENP organizer Andrew Feil and a panel including, Monique Jackson, Carolyn Flores-Conrad and Manuel Contreras. Andrew Feil asked numerous questions to the panel and then would receive a response directed to the audience.

Manuel Contreras is on staff at World Impact. World Impact is a Christian missions organization committed to facilitating church-planting movements by evangelizing, equipping and empowering the unchurched urban poor.

Feather journalists attend the Discover Fresno event engaging in conversations about issues within the city of Fresno.

World Impact’s purpose is to honor and glorify God and to delight in Him in the inner cities by knowing God and making Him known. Contreras shares how he got wrapped up in a early gang life and how that inspired him today to work with inner-city kids.

“I join a gang at 10 years old,” Contreras said. “I became a leader and accidentally not wanting to be a part of that. I told my mom congratulations. She said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said I got initiated and this isn’t the kind of initiation that you get A’s in.

“By God’s grace I got saved at 18,” Contreras continued. “I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior. But I began to miss those kind of people. They would ask me, so your doing that Jesus thing? And I would say yeah. Then I became a missionary.”

Monique Jackson is on staff at ENP. She invest into inner-city kids lives daily. She shares how reconciliation can bring culture, race, and ethnicity together.

“I think reconciliation, celebration of diversity, reconciliation comes with knowing that we are one in Christ in the in God’s eyes, that we are all his children,” Jackson said. “We are all his children and there is diversity to be celebrated. So we are one.”

The panel explained how we as humans are all children of God, we are from the same father. So let us act like it. To treat one another as we would want to be treated.

Love Thy Neighbor

Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA) is an organization that mobilizes Christian churches and individuals to transform lives and communities, focusing on loving your neighbors and engaging with those around you. Executive Director Alan Doswald and Loving our Neighbors Project Coordinator Paul Haroutunian both spoke on the importance of community and how others can get involved with the organization.

Carston Saelzler | The Feather Online

Andrew File speaks during a Discover Fresno session.

During his years of ministry, Doswald loved and served in his community, from helping elderly people in rest homes, to visiting prisoners in state prison. Through these experiences he was able to see firsthand how God’s love changes the lives of so many people. He founded ESA in 1982 and began to influence others to spread the love of Christ to those who do not know about it.

“The most important commandment is, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, second is love your neighbor as yourself,’” Doswald said. “You want to serve God then serve your neighbor because God doesn’t have any needs. All of us have neighbors all of us can build relationships. When I look at it I say this is one of the best ways to do evangelism.

“You can use almost anything to start a conversation with your neighbors,” Doswald continued. “The way I reach my neighbors is I walk down the street. My main struggle is turning the conversation to spiritual things and caring about their eternity too not just the here and now. We aren’t trying to proclaim the gospel to them all the time. Trying to build relationships because in relationship the gospel will pop up.”

Haroutunian then spoke about the three P’s: devote yourself to Prayer, Partner with God and Proclaim it. With these actions, people can connect and love on others while also leading them to Christ’s love.

This is second article in a two-part Discover Fresno series on how how students, teachers, parents and area residents can get involved, partner and connect in critical issues that are affecting greater Fresno.

The Feather continues it’s coverage of local issues affecting Fresno. For more on the coverage of community issues, read Living to see the dream, community remembers Martin Luther King, Jr. and Residents discuss Fresno’s north-south divide. Last year Cross also wrote a two-part series on Fresno homelessness: Fresno residents reflect on homeless crisis, pt. 1 and Fresno residents reflect on homeless crisis, pt. 2.

To visit the first part of The Feather’s coverage of Discover Fresno, read Discover Fresno encourages engagement with local organizations, pt. 1.

Carston Saelzler, Andrew Rieker, Kamryn Schultz and Sam Cross contributed to this article.

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