Summer Week 3: Camden has become my heart

" One day, as I was walking down the street on my way to work, I noticed roses blossoming amongst wild and tall grasses in front of an abandoned house, and it reminded me that there is beauty in Camden, despite all the negative media portrayals of the city," Elise Neumann, the Urban Promise workgroup coordinator, said during her morning devotion.

I was a new intern when she said that, and I could not help but think of the decay I saw in Camden; boarded up houses, unbearable smells that come from sewage treatment plants built in the vicinity of tenements, the unfavorable statistics that ranked Camden on the top of the list of dangerous cities to live in the same year as they placed Moorestown, a town located only 15 minutes away from Camden, among the best places to live and raise one's children in, and several other unpleasant sights and numbers.  However, the more I talked to people who were born here and know more about Camden than what the media tells the public, I realized that roses really do bloom in Camden.

Despite having very little financial means, kids are always eager to contribute to programs that raise money to feed and shelter the hungry and homeless people in Africa. The love and heart of service for others that are found in Camden conquered the heart of one work group volunteer from The Free Evangelical Fellowship, located in Easton, MA. She was so pleased by her experience at UrbanPromise that she, and 6 of her fellow youth group members, came here for two consecutive summers. The following is what she said at the end of their stay here at UrbanPromise.

"Camden to me in the beginning was a city labeled with too many statistics for its size. Last year I was unsure of what I was going to experience, returning this year was all I dreamt about since the moment we said goodbye last year [2008]. God has taught me not to go into any situation with expectations. This year was amazing. A week of love is what I received. Camden to me has become my heart. Whether it is God or something else, it is amazing how the people here can care so much about so little. As I go back [home] I have found that I need to be more open to all aspects of freely giving and loving with the abundance God has given. One other thing I see is that through all the burden the community [has to bear] is shining. Over one year I have seen great improvement in many parts of the city. Some houses have been rebuilt, and there are more lively shopping areas."