Taking the Love of Christ into the Streets of Charlotte

By Todd Sumlin   •   July 5, 2019

The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team was invited to join the Charlotte Mecklenburg Dream Center and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department for a local outreach event in early July in nearby Reid Park. Neighbors enjoyed food and a movie during the free event that featured a message of Christ’s love. Some even made decisions for eternity.
Reid Park is an historic neighborhood in the western part of Charlotte—just miles down the road from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association headquarters. The Queen City has made headlines recently for unfortunate reasons. In the first six months of 2019, violent crime has increased 18.5 percent. There were 57 homicides through June 30 compared with 26 during that time in 2018.
Chaplains, community members and volunteers form a huge prayer circle.
Chaplain manager Kevin Williams has been a part of RRT's law enforcement ministry since the chaplains were deployed to Ferguson, Missouri, for civil unrest. He's seen what the Adopt-A-Block program can do there and elsewhere, particularly as the Rapid Response Team comes alongside these communities to help with training. “This (Charlotte program) is three-and-a-half years in the making, but all along the way, the Holy Spirit has been moving in this community. And He longs to do that everywhere.”
Children were all smiles during the outreach event, talking and laughing with one another, chaplains, Dream Center staff and CMPD officers. The Dream Center adopted this neighborhood in spring 2016 and since then has been walking alongside area churches to help strengthen the community with the love of Christ.
Dream Center supporter Candace Salamone led the group of volunteers, chaplains and officers in prayer ahead of the Tuesday event. The Dream Center is in the community every single Saturday and Tuesday, but on this particular day, Salamone felt led to hold an outdoor movie night, complete with free food. The goal was simply fellowship, to get neighbors talking. She also focused on removing all barriers, and the Billy Graham Library lent air-conditioned buses to transport invited neighbors to the showing.
Chaplain Mennie Morrison spends time talking with one local resident about her life, her family and her community.
"Woodlawn" takes a look at racial and religious tensions after a high school is desegregated. Salamone said the Christ-centered film spoke to her because as a native Lumbee she was in the first generation of her family to attend a desegregated school. She knows what it's like to walk in that tension. She's watched family hold the police in contempt, particularly as loved ones struggle with addiction and violence. “I know there’s only one reason I am not in the same situation as many others in my family,” Salamone said. “That is because of what God has done in my life.”
Salamone, an active volunteer with the Dream Center, shared her testimony before the movie showing. She stressed to the adults of all ages who listened intently. “Nothing is wasted in the kingdom of God,” Salamone said. “The Word says that we overcome the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. That testimony comes from what we’ve been through, what we’ve seen.”
Local pastor Theo Schaffer, who also serves as a community liaison with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department said the statistics simply point to a brighter day. “I know it looks dark. I know it looks dire. I know the numbers are crazy, but God is doing a thing, and it's a Spirit-led revival," said Schaffer who helps with Dream Center discipleship efforts. "We emulate the prayer of the late great Billy Graham. We’re still believing God for a nationwide spirit-led revival and it’s happening.”
The best thing he can know in this upside down world is God loves him, and that's something the volunteers share consistently with their actions every week in the Reid Park community.
The Reid Park community is just miles away from uptown Charlotte, where in 2016 violent protests unfolded in the wake of a fatal police-involved shooting. CMPD takes community policing seriously and has been a part of the Adopt-A-Block efforts since they began in spring 2016. Law enforcement officials were there on Tuesday. Some played basketball with the kids while others listened to what their young neighbors had to say.
Free ice cream was hard to pass up on such a humid, 95-degree afternoon.
At the close of the movie, the audience was given an opportunity to make a personal decision for Jesus Christ. Several people made first-time decisions declaring Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Chaplains prayed with local pastors and equipped new believers with their own copy of God's Word to read daily. All were encouraged to plug into a local church.
Would you join us in praying that God would reveal the next Charlotte community for the Dream Center as well as raise up leaders and volunteers? Consider also asking God to raise up leaders and volunteers in your own area of the world.