Coming Together to Bring Hope and Change

In late 2017, Bernadette Gruber (Director of Domain Development at 4Tucson) learned from TUSD (Tucson’s largest school district) that Booth-Fickett Middle and Elementary Schools were struggling. Historically, these schools were strong on the East side of Tucson. Of late, the schools now were experiencing high staff turnover, alienated parents, and low morale among the faculty. There were discipline problems, including disrespect of teachers, fire alarms being set off, and at least one teacher being assaulted by a Jr High student. Key teaching positions were not being filled as the reputation of the school had suffered.

Bernadette called Al Albritton who worked for the school district. They met with the school principal and decided together that prayer for God’s help was needed. So Bernadette and Al arranged for Jesus Followers to come and pray. Starting in January 2018, people walked the halls of the school every week until the end of the school year. The prayer team was comprised of 2-3 teachers, a few students, some retired teachers, and several adults who cared about kids. Warren Anderson’s “Pastors’ Partnership” group heard about what was happening and sent pastors to pray too. This team regularly walked the property and the playgrounds. They offered to pray personally with administrators and teachers they met in the hallways. This prayer was never refused. There was much blessing and gratitude expressed by the team for the faithful work of all the staff of the school. There also was a crying out to the Lord to intervene and bring justice, peace, and stability. The team also prayed specifically for more churches to come alongside Fountain of Life Lutheran Church, a church partner who helped and supported the school. Prayers were offered that God would be sovereign over the leadership of the school and change, exchange, or rearrange the staff of the school for the benefit of all who love the school.

The 2018-2019 academic year brought a new year and a new administration. The principal is new, as well as other staff and faculty. The school has a new beginning and there are many signs of hope. Also, Immanuel Presbyterian Church has stepped up as an additional church partner with the school. They have long partnered with Fountain of Life to do Haven Totes for students. Now Immanuel has become even more involved and recently re-did the faculty lounge. Covenant Generations Church, across the street from Booth-Fickett, is also considering investing in the school.

God answers prayer, especially when Christians collaborate and prayer for the “peace and prosperity for the city” (Jeremiah 29:7).

By: Dan Johnson, retired pastor

Confessions of a Former Congregationalist

I love the church of Jesus Christ! Since becoming a Christian, I have grown in my love for Jesus, but also for his church—which for many years was essentially my local, specific congregation.

You see, I’ve never been a strict congregationalist, I’m actually a card-carrying Presbyterian. And while the Presbyterian tradition has a long history of emphasizing inter-church connections—beyond the local congregation—, something I’ve always endorsed, appreciated, and upheld… I still maintained a laser-hot passionate focus about the local church—MY local church… which I love… which is the church I pastor… which is my family in Christ. Get the picture?

Thirteen years ago our church was asked to host a new Middle-Eastern Fellowship on our campus. It was a slam-dunk God-thing of Kingdom expansion. Palestinians, Egyptians, and other Arabic Christians were now with and among us, and we began learning new ways of Christian culture and service that was marvelous.

Eleven years ago some Africans walked across our parking lot, asking if we could provide a worship space for them to sing and praise God in Kierundi, Swahili, and Congolese languages. It was a slam-dunk God-thing that was faith-expanding for the rest of us. To date we have received over 80 Africans who have joined our church and leadership teams. These sweet African brothers and sisters propelled us to link with other refugee ministry partnerships in town, so that we would serve and help in smarter, more Kingdom-sized ways.

The journey for me continued: I have had rich opportunities to work with the Gospel Rescue Mission, and to help in guiding us into a much bigger, collaborative Center of Opportunity, where the mission has stepped up to serve with other Christian ministries, agencies, and community groups to provide a better, smarter, and more Kingdom-sized response of care to our city. My participation in 4Tucson has been a joy of even more Kingdom-expansion.

And now? Looking back a bit, I see how God has moved and led me to a J17 place! A place that promotes that there is a Church of Tucson, that belongs to Jesus, that extends beyond my own specific congregation; one church, existing in the unity of our Savior, for the sake of his holy life-inducing mission. My J17 place is a place where Jesus prays for unity in his church, and his prayer has changed my life and is still enlarging my vision! I am no longer a mere congregationalist! I now celebrate the adventure of Jesus’ prayer in John 17, a prayer that will find its fruit harvest as described in the Book of Revelation:

There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9ff)

By: Rev. Dr. Andrew Ross, Pastor, Northminster Presbyterian Church