Transforming a City
By Jackie Picken (Elijah Magazine) | December 21, 2011
Check out the complete article at the following link: http://www.elijahmagazine.com/2011/12/21/transforming-a-city/
Cali, Columbia, a city of 2.8 million, known as the Cocaine Capital of the World was hostage to the violent grip of the ruling drug cartel, until desperate believers “surged into local soccer stadiums to hold all-night prayer vigils.” Things changed after that.
Papua New Guinea, the residents of Karawa village gave up their longstanding tradition of Devil worship and “burned their fetishes in deep repentance” before the one true God. “Economic life improved almost immediately – salty water turned fresh, gardens thrived, and abundant sea-life returned.”
African populations in Uganda and Kenya cry out to God for deliverance from corruption and the devastating AIDS epidemic, and God answers with power. He heals them in every way, even of AIDS. Now the epidemic is all but gone, as is the corruption, while the people give all glory to God – publicly and officially – dedicating themselves and their nations to Jesus Christ.
Manchester, Kentucky, USA, once known as the “Pain Killer Capital of America” is now called the “City of Hope.” A part of Clay County in Appalachia, known for its never-ending feuds causing more than 160 deaths, Manchester had one of the poorest, most drug-addicted populations in the U.S. – until the people said, “Enough!” then gathered en masse in a downtown park, and gave their town over to God.
All these stories are told in vivid documentaries called Transformation videos, produced by the Sentinel Group of Lynnwood, WA, “a Christian research and information agency dedicated to helping communities to discover the pathway to genuine revival and societal transformation,” according to their web site, www.glowtorch.org.
Haverhill, MA: Marlene Yeo, Pastor of Community Christian Fellowship (CCF) of Haverhill, MA, author of “Where is God on Tuesday?” believes we, too, can reclaim our cities for God and see dramatic transformations in our own back yards. Now, with her team, she’s doing it.
Yeo, wife of Lt. Harry Yeo, mother of three adult children, and grandmother of seven, says, “I had a nice life,” but then God had bigger ideas. For ten years as a youth pastor she worried about the current generation of kids. Their lives were empty. They were worried about being liked (popular), about their clothes (brand names), about who got what for Christmas (especially the latest electronics). “These were the all-important things in their life,” she says. “I started praying and asking God to show me how I could help them get a Biblical world view.”
Then she watched a Transformation video. That was her answer. Yeo attended a conference given by members of the video team, called “Citywide Transformation.” One of the speakers said, “Christians pray for revival, but transformation is seeing God invade an entire city. It changes government, agriculture, crime levels, marriages, addictions – everything changes.” At that time, in 1999, eight communities were experiencing transformation. Now, there are 358.
“I started showing the video to the kids at our Friday Night Prayer,” says Pastor Marlene. At that time, she could barely get them to stay for more than 20 minutes. Through the video, “an impartation of intercession came upon the kids,” she says, “and it evolved into a three hour session of prayer, from 7:00 to 10:00 pm. After that we went on the streets on Saturdays.”
City Transformation DNA
In 2002 Marlene Yeo met Dough Stringer, founder of Somebody Cares America. Struck by Yeo’s great sense of mission, especially to her own city of Haverhill, he said, “I sense the Lord has placed in you a deposit of city transformation DNA.” Later that year Stringer came to Haverhill himself, paying his own way, and stayed at the Yeo’s family home.
He walked the streets with her, met the people, and saw the vision. Part of Somebody Cares’ vision is finding the destiny of a city and helping the city fulfill it. Dough says, “When you wash the feet of the poor God will visit that city.”
With that DNA flowing abundantly Pastor Marlene Yeo is washing feet every day. In partnership with Doug Stringer and Somebody Cares International, she opened Somebody Cares New England (SCNE), incorporated in 2003. Things have started to change on the streets of Haverhill ever since. God is quietly bringing about transformation, one soul at a time.
The former Mayor of Haverhill, Bill Ryan, and Detective Dave Hall of the Haverhill Police Department said the crime rate is down in their city since Pastor Marlene and her community outreach started their street mission there. Here is a list of services SCNE offers:
AHEPA Outreach: Every Thursday we offer the elderly light housekeeping; we spend a little time assisting women with manicures, make-up and hair care – just visiting! Being a friend! Offering prayer.
Washington Sq. Outreach: Once a month we provide dinner to the elderly/financially distressed residents at a local housing complex.
Food Pantry: The last Thursday of every month, we are open to any Haverhill resident in need.
Cafe Outreach: Every Saturday, we serve the homeless and financially distressed breakfast & lunch. We also show a movie, and board games & card games are also available.
Monday Holidays: We provide daytime shelter and meals at the Community Action Drop-in Center for all State and National holidays.
Christmas, Thanksgiving & New Year’s Outreach: We provide breakfast, lunch, give-a-ways, games and a movie.
Summer Block Party: During the month of August we host a huge Block Party, open to all! We provide lunch, music, bouncy room, face painting, pony rides and massive product give-a-ways.
Emergency Relief: For those who are in emergency situations, as our resources allow, we offer groceries, clothing, blankets, socks and personal care items.
Beauty for Ashes
Everyone who comes through Somebody Cares’ mission doors is greeted by Pastor Marlene’s big, bright smile and served with an effervescent energy that seems to come from an endless Source, which in fact it does, as she and her team at CCF and SCNE would attest.
Inviting people into a real, living relationship with Jesus Christ; fostering it with prayer and faith in “His power to accomplish what our best efforts cannot produce – changed lives,” this is the foundation and the power of what this community does every day on the streets of Haverhill, MA.
Pastor Marlene and her staff minister to the whole person, offering various courses and ministries. There is something for everyone who comes to CCF or SCNE, whether it’s food, clothing, family ministry, children’s ministry, a course on emotional healing, to name just a few. Everyone is warmly welcomed, and is invited to participate in all the good fellowship.
“We see everyone who comes as a guest and a gift,” says Matt Legere, who heads up the Connections Ministry. They make sure everyone feels welcome, and gets “connected” with others, helping them to quickly gain a sense of belonging. Matt and his wife Heidi also direct the recently begun Family Ministry. Summing up how he feels about CCF and SCNE, Matt says, “This is the first time I’ve seen somebody do what I’ve only ever heard people talk about.” And it’s growing. He says, “Working with Pastor Marlene’s been just wonderful. It’s the DNA of what she does and as you look around and see all the volunteers both young and old, you see the DNA duplicating.
Somebody Cares New England, a 501c3 non-profit organization, gets all its support from private donations. ”We are totally dependent on donations,” Pastor Marlene says. “We have no other means of support.” By God’s providence they have been able to keep going and growing, and now they have moved into a new building, a big, beautiful place, deeper into Haverhill’s roughest neighborhood – just what Pastor Marlene prayed for!
“This is the area where the gangs live,” says Yeo. Until now, the area had no soup kitchen and no outreach center. The building was a funeral home. “People used to come here to mourn a death,” she says. “Now they will come to ‘exchange beauty for ashes.’ They’ll come here to be comforted with the ‘oil of gladness’ and in place of death find new life.”
The Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… to comfort all who mourn, … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair… They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations…. 7 …and everlasting joy will be theirs. – Isaiah 61:1-7