My Voice: To Renew the City, See People’s Gifts
By Jaunine Hackmon
Since moving to Holland, Michigan, I have enjoyed working in community development through neighborhood initiatives, the arts, and youth development. This work shows me a beautiful picture of the way God is renewing communities and creation as his kingdom draws near. By offering my skills and passions to be used by God, I have been able to play a part in restoring the lives of individuals and of the Holland community as a whole.
I have come to believe that at the core of community development are two ways of seeing. First, it’s essential to recognize people as beings created by God. Second, we must acknowledge people’s gifts—the gifts God gave them when he created them.
Building relationships and improving access to resources are ways that I work to see that the gifts and dignity of all can be fostered and supported. I seek to understand people who have different life experiences than I do, rather than dismiss ideas that seem foreign to me. Doing so allows space for us all to work and live at our full potential.
In my work as program assistant for CultureWorks, an arts and design nonprofit for youth of diverse backgrounds, I have experienced how community development goes beyond providing a service or meeting a basic need. Ultimately, community development helps people further develop their gifts. Some of the students I work with come in with so much brokenness—but that brokenness begins to mend as I help them come to believe in the gifts that God gave them. As I do my part, God then works to bring unity among us in order do the work he has called us to do together.
There is not an easy or tidy way to do community development. Our world is full of broken systems that often oppose the people I have worked alongside. In the mess and struggle of this work, I trust God to guide the outcome of my efforts. When I find myself tempted to harbor a sense of personal accomplishment in the transformation taking place, I try instead to give God the glory. I am thankful that this is the way God has called me to give witness to the coming of his kingdom and the restoration of all things.
Jaunine Hackmon is a member of Pillar Church, a dual-affiliation church of the RCA and the Christian Reformed Church in North America in Holland, Michigan.