Last winter, Frederico Brown was unemployed, homeless, and addicted to crack. He also had left his wife and children.

But Brown got a second chance. Thanks to a drug rehabilitation center at the House of Prayer Church of God in Christ on Chicago’s South Side, Brown says that “for the first time I have a purpose in life and I’m pulling my act together.”

Brown is an exception in urban America—parts of which, say some urban specialists, increasingly resemble Two-Thirds World barrios and favelas. In U.S. cities last year, the average unemployment rate was 8.9 percent; in some urban areas, the rate equals 50 percent. There are between 600,000 and 3 million homeless people in America. And many inner-city children are extremely vulnerable to pressure to use and even deal drugs.

For decades, Christian community-development organizations in the United States have been working to turn exceptions like Brown into the rule. But more than ever, they are being joined in that effort by similar groups historically associated with overseas work.

Steve Ujvarosy of International Urban Associates explains why: “Parts of U.S. cities, such as Chicago’s Cabrini-Green [housing], are war zones in some of the same ways as Addis Ababa or Mogadishu.”

Though none of the groups plans to diminish its overseas emphasis, many are exploring new ways to meet the needs of urban America—some doubling the resources spent on the effort.

Mission USA

“We have a lot of problems at home, especially in the cities,” says Jerald January, U.S. director for the Colorado Springs-based Compassion International. Though Compassion is devoting less than 1 percent of its budget to U.S. programs this year, that will rise to 20 percent during the next five years.

Compassion’s programs ...

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