“A woman came to Jesus with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. ‘Why this waste?’ they asked. 'This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.' Aware of this, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.’” Matthew 26:6-10
In one of the Gospels’ most dramatic scenes, a woman anoints Jesus’ feet with a jar of very expensive perfume. The disciples’ response is predictable. They’re indignant and angry with her “waste." Under the guise of stewardship and responsibility, the disciples put down this unnamed woman.
But Jesus sees the situation very differently. He defends her. Lifting her up as a model of Christian discipleship, he announces, “I tell you the truth, wherever this Gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (The Promise Effect, p. 26)
Reflect & Discuss
Jesus cautions his disciples not to miss the heart behind the act. The woman loved “wastefully” and Jesus affirms this expression of faith. Are you more like this woman, showing the Lord extravagant love, or like the disciples who criticized her “wasteful” display? Do you ever hold back on actions of worship or discipleship because they’re “a bit too much”? Share your thoughts on our blog.
Lord, I want to love and serve you fully. So if that means crossing some lines, offending decorum, being imprudent, or going over the top, so be it. Give me the courage to love you with all I’ve got.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10: 27
What I love about this command to love God and neighbor is the drama that precedes and follows this statement. A religious scholar is trying to debate with Jesus to argue about how a person can gain eternal life. To some this might seem surprising; but Jesus isnt interested in abstract conversations about the next world. Jesus appeals to the religious scholars knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures and asks him to answer his own question, which he does correctly.
Does that settle it? Not so fast. Scholars seldom want to settle on an answer that is so clear and practical especially from an untrained, upstart, itinerant preacher. He asks Jesus, Who is my neighbor? Rather than sharing a propositional statement, Jesus tells the compelling story of the Good Samaritan. He paints a living picture of what it means to love ones neighbor. And by using the Samaritan as a hero, Jesus reminds the listener that people who truly love neighbors are people who are willing to love across lines of race, ethnicity, and social class. (The Promise Effect, pg. 126)
We encourage you to open your door and look to the left, to the right and across the street and see how you can show your neighbor the love of Jesus. What small acts of love can you do for your neighbor? Share with us how you show love to your neighbor! Then, tell us ways you have taken the love of Jesus from your neighborhood to the greater community.
Teach me, Lord, to learn what it means to be other-centered. Remind me that my neighbor is of utmost importance to you.
By George Mast
As small, wooden crosses were erected in a grass park outside Camden City Hall with alarming regularity last year, a similar memorial to the city’s homicide victims sprang up in wealthy Moorestown.
The township’s memorial was 10 miles and a world apart from the streets where Camden’s record number of homicide victims were cut down in 2012.
But Money magazine’s best place to live in 2005 is no stranger to the struggles of those living in one of the worst.
For decades, Moorestown’s churches, schools, civic organizations, business leaders and families have without much fanfare supported efforts to better the city, through both donations and countless volunteer hours.
“The common denominator is this belief in children,” said Jodina Hicks, executive director of UrbanPromise, where the single-largest base of contributors for the Camden nonprofit has long been centered in Moorestown.
Moorestown’s support of UrbanPromise, the faith-based ministry that offers sundry services to Camden youth, began with a few individuals more than 20 years ago. It has swelled to entrenched support from a half-dozen Moorestown churches, businesses and civic groups. Churches and private donors help pay the tuition for youngsters at UrbanPromise’s two schools.
Moorestown youth complete UrbanPromise work projects in Camden and volunteer with summer programs. The township’s high school students currently help tutor in the city. The 100-member Rotary Club of Moorestown donates new coats to Camden kids and once bought new uniforms for a middle school basketball team in the city.
From 2008 to 2010, the rotary sponsored an after-school art program at the Sacred Heart Elementary School. Then a chair of a rotary service committee, Micki Ginsberg remembers the weekly classes as “magic.”
“What a wonderful way this was to expand the horizons of children. We felt like it was that idea of helping one student at a time. Even if they weren’t going to be artists, they learned beyond their borders.”
The connection between the two towns made national news in 2007, when ABC’s “20/20” compared comfortable Moorestown kids with poor youth who live minutes away in Camden. Anchor Diane Sawyer highlighted UrbanPromise, and the gap between two polar opposite towns narrowed.
But for Carol McWilliams and other Moorestown residents, the connection to Camden goes farther back than the Sawyer segment.
Two decades ago, UrbanPromise was a fledgling ministry trying to establish after-school programs for children. Hicks describes McWilliams, of Moorestown’s First Presbyterian Church, as an early “champion” who came into the city every day to help establish those programs.
“She got Moorestown to embrace UrbanPromise,” Hicks remembered. “For someone like Carol to be so believing and investing in the work ... was pretty amazing. She got her church to support every single new ministry or program that we have started up over the years.”
McWilliams, the church’s missions coordinator, said her work in Camden stems from a strong faith commitment and knowledge of the need that exists.
“While we realize there are needs all over the world, there are needs right within...miles of us.”
Perhaps nowhere has the tie between the two towns been more entrenched in recent years than around the kitchen table of a Moorestown accountant and his wife. It was there at 6 p.m. dinners that Doug and Candace Sell and their adult children decided to make a 16-year-old Camden teen part of their lives.
Late in 2010, Louis Santana was heading back to prison when the couple stepped in. Doug Sell had met the teen the summer before at an UrbanPromise program and he made a bold pitch to the juvenile court judge hearing Santana’s case: Instead of sending the teen to a juvenile prison for three years, put him in the Sells’ custody.
The judge consented and Santana has lived for the past two years with the Moorestown family.
“They didn’t just take him in,” Hicks said of the Sells. “He is their fifth child and that’s never been questioned.
“They just really love him.”
Doug is understated about the commitment, joking that Santana is “doing hard time with the Sells.” But for a teen who grew up providing for himself on the streets, a structured suburban family represented a world of change.
“Eating food at a dinner table at 6 p.m., I thought that was like a TV thing,” Santana said. “I never got to experience that until I started living with Doug.”
With his mother imprisoned at age 11, Santana’s early life was spent hanging around corners where at least a dozen of his friends have been killed over the years.
“I just thought I would continue the cycle,” Santana admitted. “Once I got in the cycle, I didn’t think it would ever stop. That’s all I saw. All I saw was crimes and murders. It became normal to me. Once that becomes normal, it becomes part of you.”
But the support of the Sells, which included intensive tutoring and Doug’s continual positive feedback, has changed that outlook to one of hope, Santana said.
“That showed me that there are a lot of people who care. There is someone out there who does have a heart,” he added.
“That’s what made me strive and keep on going.”
Santana completed his high school courses and will graduate from UrbanPromise this spring. In March, he plans to travel to the ministry’s Honduras site for an internship. When he’s not putting in hours at a tire shop in East Camden, he works with UrbanPromise programs in the city.
“I think he has done very well,” Doug said of Santana.
At an UrbanPromise after-school program in North Camden Thursday evening, Santana playfully chased a youngster down a playground slide. A hat emblazoned with block letters “CAMDEN” was perched atop his head as he and the program leader led the kids in a game of dodge ball.
Santana’s work in Camden has meant less time spent with the Sells. His court-mandated arrangement with the family will end when he turns 19 in July.
But Santana expects his connection to the Sells will never go away.
“They definitely are a second family,” he said.
Day by day
I come to UrbanPromise
And I ask myself
Why to do I keep coming back
Well I come back because
Yall helped me to realize a lot.
Before I came to UrbanPromise
I didn't think
I could do anything
My self-esteem was low
I didn't think
I was anyone because I was always bullied
I was always call the ugly, slow girl
People always told me
I wasn't going to achieve anything
Ive been stomped in the dirt too much
And look where it got me
Then when I met new friends
And other people
UrbanPromise became my
Second family because I called everyone
My brothers and sisters
One thing I know
No matter how crazy or weird
I acted yall never judged me
You always encouraged me to
Do good and achieve my goals
And to tell yall the truth
UrbanPromise helped me to have faith
And to believe because I didnt have that
But UrbanPromise saved my life
I could have been one lost child
After I started taking control of my
And when I looked in the mirror
I said I am something
I am beautiful
I can do it
So all the people
I have hating and stomping all over me
So if you dont like me
Brush it off and get over it
I am a different person now
And I am in love with the new me
And no one
Is going to mess that up
By: Brianna Shephard
UrbanPromise Academy’s Robotics Team earned top honors at the First Robotics Competition at the NJ Liberty Science Center on January 5th, 2013. First Tech Challenge Robotics teams throughout the state of New Jersey compete and are recognized for their achievements in robot design, creativity, innovation, team performance, outreach and enthusiasm. Giving awards for outstanding achievement builds self-esteem in students and is a great way to encourage them to continue pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Team UPA outperformed all competitors to receive the “Motivate” award as they exemplified outstanding spirit and enthusiasm. They demonstrated spirit through the Domo Inferno mascot and team enthusiasm. In addition, they made a collective effort to make First Robotics known throughout their school and community.
However, the judges were not done with recognizing the performance of the team as they determined that Team UPA was worthy of second place for the “Think” award. This award judges the team’s journey as recorded in the Engineering Notebook. The notebook must demonstrate a clear understanding of the engineering design process through pictures and CAD drawings that detail the stages of the robot’s design. The notebook must be well organized and illustrate collaboration and co-ownership by the team members.
Team UPA currently ranks 20th in the state of NJ. UPA was represented by Alexandra Gonzalez-Notebook Captain, Domo mascot (12), Joseph Palma- Team Captain (12), Rajuan Hailey-Assembly Engineer (10), Joshua Joseph- Programming Captain (10), Danielle Bemberry- Team Organization (9), and Dr. Cortney Bolden- Coach (UPA Comprehensive Science Teacher, Safe Passage CTC), Saki Wilcox (Safe Passage CTC), and Samuel Marlowe (Logistics Support).Special thanks to our partners, Safe Passage CTC and sponsors, Lockheed Martin and Dan Higgins Flooring.
CamdenForward School’s book club—affectionately titled “Auntie’s Book Club”—has started off with a bang! This year’s club, led by our executive director, “Auntie” Jodina Hicks, began on November 30. Running strong for over a year now, the club has progressed from seven students to the entire school (over 100 students).
Because book club is so large, students are assigned to a small group—or “team”—led by an UrbanPromise staff member or volunteer. Each participant is encouraged to read at least one book a week and introduce it to the team. Team members then decide which student will discuss his or her book with Jodina on stage after their small group discussions. Book favorites include the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, Robin’s Country by Monica Furlong, and The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.
The most recent club, held on December 14, saw some exciting new features, including the “Young Author’s Group,” comprised of students interested in writing their own stories and sharing them with the school. Perhaps the most interesting addition to Auntie’s Book Club is the participation of Amos and Jackson, two golden retrievers who belong to UrbanPromise’s creative director, Shannon Oberg. The two have joined a small group of struggling readers who are reading aloud to the dogs in order to gain confidence and improve their reading ability.
Partner with UrbanPromise and the Camden community for our upcoming Martin Luther King Day of Service!
Last year over 300 children, teens, and adults from the South Jersey area participated in our 2012 MLK Day of Service. We’re hoping for an even greater turnout on Monday, January 21 and to engage in a wider variety of projects—a Camden park cleanup, an art project for the community of Newtown, CT, and several collections for local residents.
But we need your help to pull it off!
Consider joining us on January 21 and/or sponsoring our service projects by donating the following:
Art Supplies - To create “art of hope” for the community of Newtown, CT and children in local shelters and hospitals:
- 150 sheets of 11x17 copy paper
- 2 rolls of contact paper
- Candy molds
- Construction paper
- Markers, crayons, glue
- 10 boxes of colored pencils
- 25 pieces of poster board
- 5 rolls of duct tape
- (25) 18x24 stretched canvases
- 130 plain colored t-shirts
- 65 small condiment containers
- 20 loaves of bread
- 4 cases of apples
- 5 containers of hot chocolate
- 2 boxes of tea bags
"How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." (Luke 1:18)
Starting in September, Cortney made a major life change. With a Ph.D. from North Carolina A&T State University and years of experience as an engineer, she left her high-paying, secure job and began teaching at UrbanPromise. Since her first day, she’s infused her classroom with an enthusiasm for science and her vibrant faith. She also started the school’s robotics team—something our youth have never experienced before. Cortney’s passion is so infectious that students now want to spend their weekends building robots and learning mechanical functions. I see new life in their eyes.
Cortney came to UrbanPromise because God touched her heart; she felt called to educate and inspire urban youth. She said yes to God.
According to the Gospel of Luke, the Christmas story actually began with the angel Gabriel's promise to Elizabeth and Zachariah, a couple well beyond childbearing years. The two had never been able to have children—and didn’t think it possible at their elderly age.
For more information about the robotics team wish list please contact Dr. Cortney Bolden, UrbanPromise Academy comprehensive science teacher, at (856) 382-1230 or email@example.com.
A big THANK YOU to Association Headquarters for hosting an awesome Christmas party at their office for UrbanPromise's Camp Freedom AfterSchool Program. We are blessed by your partnership!
UrbanPromise is excited to share that we've received a $1,000 grant from the Dermody Properties Foundation for our Emergency Family Fund! This award will help us provide financial assistance to families in need, particularly around this holiday season. Learn more about donating to our youth and families and the giving efforts of Dermody Properties.
Thank you, Dermody Properties!