In the worshiping life of Church for All People we are currently focusing on what it means to have an abundant life. In John 10:10, Jesus taught saying, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” The HEAL Initiative at Community Development for All People embraces this gift of bringing abundant life to our community as a sign of God’s presence in our world. In the last year, we embodied this vision in the following ways:
- For a community that suffers from food insecurity, we shared more than 590,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- In a society where people often feel isolated, we accompanied people to live into an abundant life through individual and small group health coaching.
- Where healthy practices have not been modeled, we provided over 400 hours of health and nutrition education. As a result of this programming, nearly 60 percent of participants report eating healthier and close to 40 percent report exercising more frequently because of what they have experienced.
- In a neighborhood that suffers from some of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, we empowered and celebrated First Birthdays with more than 100 families.
- Seeking to build relationships, we created a Health Zone at the newly opened Reeb Avenue Center. From these relationships, the community at Reeb created their own walking club.
- Reaching young minds, 40 scholars at Freedom School graduated from Cooking Matters and shared what they learned in a day of social action health fair.
- Two cooking matters classes took place at CD4AP with a 93 percent graduation rate
- Parties on the Plaza focused on building health in our community while our staff continued to live in to policies of creating a healthy workplace and programming.
Each of these bullet statements is more than a statistic, but carries with it real human experiences and impacts. On Monday mornings at the new Reeb Avenue Center, what began as an intended health and nutrition class has turned into a close-knit group that journeys together toward wellness. In our last class in December, a member of that group shared what this all meant to him. After only three months of meetings he said, “I now have a dozen friends. Everyone else I know smokes crack, does drugs, and lives unhealthy lives. These are the only healthy friends that I have.” Together with our partners, and our relationships with our community, we are creating healthy ways for people to live, embodying the vision of an abundant life.
As we move in to 2016 and look toward the future, I pray that the vision of abundant life will not only be for those engaged in our direct programming, but for our whole community. This will require focusing more deeply in addressing social determinants and how we can be a part of solving issues like food insecurity and reducing health disparities. While that goal may sound idealistic, I believe that connecting with work already being done around housing and education, and with partners who share a similar vision, can make the vision of an abundant life a reality for the entire South Side of Columbus.