Posted on : Friday June 13, 2014

Darrell Web, a volunteer, cleans floors of a new outreach center called Transformation Center in Brooklyn, Md., as part of the annual Crossover evangelistic outreach preceding the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. The center is part of the vision of Streetlite Church in Baltimore. The church’s vision is to “intentionally and strategically establish a ministry presence in the impoverished neighborhoods throughout Baltimore and community throughout the world.” Photo by Matt Miller.

By Myriah Snyder

BALTIMORE (BP) — From Federal Hill, Baltimore’s beauty is astounding. The streets near the Inner Harbor are teeming with tourists and busy locals. Families play at the park, people jog along the sidewalks and boats dot the still water on a beautiful Saturday morning. Baltimore truly appears to be “Charm City.”

But as one ventures away from the appeal of historic Baltimore into the nearby Brooklyn community, the scenery changes drastically.

The buildings, although possessing a tarnished beauty, become dilapidated; iron bars shield the windows. Buried beneath the rough exterior, the neighborhood is plagued by drug abuse and prostitution. Poverty and hunger riddle the area.

Situated across the street from the local Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints is a rundown former Methodist church that, beyond its history, is about to become a beacon in the community.

The leadership of Streetlite Christian Fellowship, in conjunction with other Baltimore-area Southern Baptist churches, is attempting to spread God’s light to the community through a project called the Transformation Center — a ministry hub providing such services as a Christian school, counseling center, daily meals, gymnasium to keep children off the streets and a Thursday night worship service.

Joel Beever, assistant pastor at Streetlite, described the Transformation Center as “catalyst for change in Brooklyn.” Streetlite’s vision for the ministry hub is that it would become a “toolbox in the neighborhood” to “unite all the churches in Brooklyn.”

Beever continued, “We just know that there is a lot of need in this community, and we just want to reach as many people as we can with the Gospel — with the Good News — through every method .”

The sense of community that Streetlite is attempting to cultivate gained momentum through Crossover Baltimore even before the Transformation Center is operational.

The evangelistic outreach prior to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Baltimore provided two Virginia churches, Kingsland Baptist and Bermuda Baptist, an opportunity to partner with Streetlite for a day to help cast the vision.

The volunteer groups from the Virginia churches spent their day cleaning and preparing the building and praying for the work they believe God will do within the community.

“What we are expecting God to do here,” Jim Austin of Kingsland said, “is much more than cleaning the Transformation Center. What we’re expecting God to do here is allow us to see how we are participating in preparing a place from which the Gospel will go into the Brooklyn community of Baltimore.”

Fellow Kingsland member Scot Tomlinson, speaking of the Transformation Center, reflected, “I think it’s vital; I think it’s key. I think the power of the Gospel coming from this place will transform this.”

“Knowing that I had a teeny tiny part of it, you know, that’s what it’s all about,” Joan Chauncey, also of Kingsway, said.

Those at Streetlite were grateful for the help during Crossover. Megan, who has attended Streetlite for over a year, voiced her hope that the Transformation Center will provide “rehab for the heart.”

Myriah Snyder, who will be a senior at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky., is a summer intern with Baptist Press.