"Only the masses of simple, humble people and their growing spiritual power will be able to convert the atheists."

—Feodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

In the midst of the media marathon devoted to the death of Princess Diana, one magazine editor confessed that his initial reaction was, "What luck!"

Journalism is biased toward the negative because people tend to talk about what goes wrong. They are much more likely to chatter about Frank Gifford's infidelity than the millions of faithful husbands. When something is right, it doesn't seem like news.

But at CHRISTIANITY TODAY we have been called to report on what God is doing, and that cannot be summed up as "bad news." For all the church's ailments, its all-too-human shortcomings, it is still the body of Christ animated by the Spirit. That means the church is a source for good news.

While we publish a bimonthly column celebrating the good work of active Christians (Church in Action), in this special issue we want to proclaim the good news about the church more boldly and broadly. To remind our readers that God is alive, well, and involved in the world, we have gathered 100 stories of ordinary Christians and Christian groups doing extraordinary things in the name of Jesus and his gospel. These were not difficult stories to locate; we could have reported thousands. They are not the "100 Best." They are simply accounts of the ordinary, good work of the church, which was "created in Christ Jesus for good works" (Eph. 2:10). This is the gospel, and it is what is right with the church.

1. Kit Danley, Barrio "Mom"
Kit Danley is walking in the prison yard with Marcus Velasco (not his real name). She is white, 42, and light-haired; he is a 17-year-old Native American with black unruly hair and piercing dark eyes. Weightlifting and abstinence from crack cocaine has Marcus looking fairly healthy in his jail-issued T-shirt and khakis. He is serving his third sentence for selling drugs. Some look at Marcus and see only a steely gangster. Danley sees a sobbing young man whom she remembers as a child.

Danley, the indefatigable director of Neighborhood Ministries (NM), Open Door Fellowship's outreach to low-income Hispanics and Native Americans in center-city Phoenix, is no stranger to the Adobe Mountain Juvenile Detention Center. Marcus is the second gangster today that the prison chaplain has watched cry with Danley. They tell her how they hate their lives and inform the chaplain that when they get out, they've got a place to go to. They've got a church.

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They are referring to the outreach programs Danley has been running at Open Door Fellowship for 11 years. The church is a refuge to hundreds of low-income kids from the barrios. Here they get hugs, hear God's Word, and have someone to talk to about their struggles—alcoholic parents, neglect, drug addiction, siblings getting knifed in gang fights. Building relationships with such children is something Danley believes she "was born to do." Moved by the Bible's call to love the poor, she dedicated herself to urban ministry shortly after becoming a Christian in college.

Danley founded Neighborhood Ministries (NM) in 1981. Initially providing food and clothing to impoverished Hispanics, by 1986 Danley expanded the ministry to embrace Open Door Fellowship's philosophy of holistic ministry. So the youth programs were launched that year, and within a few years, over 200 kids were attending (about 400 come now).

Danley juggles the needs of volunteers and parents, puts out fires, sows the vision. The scribbles on crumpled notebook paper serve as her "to do" list. But in the midst of the chaos she remembers the crucial things: the kids' names and stories. Driving around Phoenix in her battered subcompact, Danley will spot a child and say, "That's one of our kids."

Danley starts early with the children, tenaciously tracking them as they move from one dilapidated apartment to another—sometimes 10 to 12 moves in a year. Fifteen volunteers spend over an hour each Monday evening driving NM's fleet of rickety buses and vans around the underside of Phoenix, collecting girls and boys. At church, Danley has organized an array of constructive, if unconventional, activities—like break dancing and fine-arts classes—to woo elementary school children away from "pregang" pursuits like sniffing paint and fighting with knives. "We don't want to just snatch a kid out of a gang," Danley says. "We want to start early enough in the child's life that he makes a decision not to join gangs at all."

Sixty to 70 teenagers also come consistently on Monday nights. They talk about abuse, kids dying, getting jumped, or getting pregnant. And they talk about God. Half of these kids are from gang families; some are gangsters themselves. Danley asked one 16-year-old why he came so regularly. He said, "Every day I feel like I'm looking over my back and wondering if this is the day I'll be shot. Monday night is the only time I ever feel safe."

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Danley and her husband have lived a few blocks from the church for 15 years. The street kids see her "as part of their world," Danley says. Sometimes they become part of her family. Victor Lopez, a 15-year-old former gang member who was in and out of juvenile detention, was released into the Danleys' custody a couple of years ago and lived with them for six months. Danley's extraordinary commitment is well known at the Juvenile Justice Department. Once when Victor was in court, the judge looked up from the bench and said "Well, Kit, what do you think we should do?"

NM aggressively intervenes in the lives of severely at-risk kids who already show signs of gangster behavior—kids like Marcus Velasco's 10-year-old brother, Joey. Joey and his three sisters lived with the Danleys all last summer after their alcoholic mother abandoned them.

The summer "was an intense experience," Danley admits. But friends helped out. Debbi Speck ended up taking Joey Velasco for a two-week stay at the Specks' cabin in the Colorado mountains. "Joey had the time of his life," says Danley. Debbi returned sobered by the realities of Joey's life. "I invited Debbi to be part of a team that was rethinking NM's academic programs," Danley relates. "And she told me, 'Kit, I want to save this kid.' "

Danley has trained 17 mentor-tutors and matched them with severely at-risk, destitute kids with abysmal home lives. The tutors visit their students at the school once or twice each week to work on reading skills and talk about how life is going. Speck tutors Joey. "Joey used to get sent home almost every day by the school's police officers and social workers for being uncontrollably disruptive," Danley says. Now, she reports, the teachers can't believe the transformation in his behavior. "Joey was losing his life, and he didn't know what to do about it, so he just acted out in rage. Now there's a peace in his life."

2. Chuck Singleton, The Abolitionist
Chuck Singleton has a dangerous mouth. Whether preaching to his congregation in Los Angles, lobbying the power brokers of Washington, D.C., or debating high-ranking leaders of the Nation of Islam at inner-city high schools, Singleton is not known for holding his tongue.

Yet, while some African-American leaders are entangled in hot debates surrounding affirmative action, racism, and other justice-related matters in America, Singleton has been targeting the deep reaches of the Sudanese bush to crusade against a more primitive social issue—slavery.

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In Sudan, Mauritania, and other African nations, thousands of black tribespeople are being enslaved, tortured, and marketed by Arab Muslims every day. Officials from both Sudan and Mauritania strongly deny charges of human-rights violations and point to various laws that prohibit the practice of slavery. But recent findings don't support their claims. Last year, two reporters from the Baltimore Sun joined a team from the Zurich, Switzerland-based humanitarian agency Christian Solidarity International in a well-publicized journey into Sudan, where the journalists spoke to Sudanese slaves of all ages and even interviewed a slave trader. The reporters purchased the freedom of two young boys, ages 10 and 12, whom the trader had in his possession. The cost: $500 per boy.

"It is an evil, an inhumanity, a crime against the spirit of man," says Singleton. "People are being abducted from their homes at gunpoint, beaten, raped, and bound in chains to be sold. The Islamization of Africa is a stated and sinister Islamic goal, which makes it not only a human-rights issue but a spiritual issue as well."

In his roles as senior pastor of the 11,000-member Loveland Church in L.A. (one of the largest black congregations in the U.S.) and founder of Harambee, a 20-year-old Christian humanitarian organization, Singleton, 46, has long been in tune with the needs of the oppressed and disenfranchised in America. But after learning about the modern slavery movement in Africa, Singleton added the goal of annihilating it to his expanding list of enterprises. Last year, Harambee (Swahili for "Let's pull together") launched the Congress on Modern Pan-African Slavery (COMPAS), an offshoot ministry aimed at combating the slavery issue. Its mission: the total abolition of global slavery by the year 2001.

Singleton believes the gravity of the issue demands that the American church respond with vigor. "The church must put it high on its agenda. The fact is, most of those slaves are Christians," he says. "They pray to the same God as we do and were washed by the same blood as we were. If the Methodists of Florida were being persecuted, then the Baptists of Iowa should be insulted. And it's the same with the body of Christ in other parts of the world. We should not stand for the persecution of our brothers and sisters in Christ, for whatever reason, no matter where they are. We may be the answer to their prayers."

According to observers and escaped slaves, the situation is tragic: Once a village is raided by Sudanese Arabs, the men are usually shot and the women and children are herded to distant sites where they are sold to rich landowners as slaves.

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Singleton, a husband and father of four boys, insists that Christians must confront the matter, because the enslavement of African Christians is part of a strategic campaign by Muslim nations to expand Islam throughout the African continent, and Sudan is the gateway. He says it is time for more black leaders to join in the fray. It is generally believed that many African-American leaders have been reluctant to speak out on the issue for fear of alienating Arabs and Muslims. Singleton is renowned for challenging Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's denial of the subject.

"There's a battle raging over leadership in the African-American community," Singleton says. "And I believe that black leadership has been and needs to continue to be from the church. Dr. King was a churchman. Richard Allen was a churchman. The church needs to maintain that mantle.

"Louis Farrakhan called together the Million Man March, but I compare that analogically to Ezekiel's dry bones," he says. "Farrakhan could call the bones together, but he cannot speak to the wind. Today, we need courageous men of God who speak by the power of the Holy Spirit to bring true leadership to African Americans, whether it be on slavery in Africa or the other issues of concern to the black community."

3. Several years ago Immanuel Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in McLean, Virginia, joined the national "I Have A Dream" program and adopted a class of 65 inner-city sixth graders to whom they guaranteed college tuition for high-school graduates. Last spring, 33 of the original class—just over half—graduated, explains the pastor, John Sonnenday. Immanuel partnered with Garden Memorial Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and volunteers from both congregations shepherded and nurtured the youth with educational, emotional, and financial support.

4. Frequent traveler Bruce McCorkle was struck by the lack of diversion for Christian business guests at hotels. As an alternative to pay-per-view pornographic films in the rooms or visiting the bar, the Hudson, Ohio, sales manager founded CrossRoads Connection. Every night, dozens of Christians staying in hotels go to their lobbies at 9 p.m. for prayer and fellowship.

5. After meeting Winston Cup driver Darrell Waltrip, who described the spiritual needs of his racing colleagues, Pastor Max Helton founded Motor Racing Outreach. Almost a decade later, 17 chaplains minister during 300 racing events annually to 16,000 people—mostly drivers, crew members, vehicle owners, and their families. mro, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, conducts regular chapel services, children's programs, Bible studies, and counseling.

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6. Brian Bakke, Gospel Painter
As director of New Flight Arts, a ministry of Uptown Baptist Church in north Chicago, Brian Bakke has found a way to redeem the urban landscape. UBC is a stately church just a few blocks from upscale real estate along Lake Michigan, but it shares the neighborhood with working-class people, the homeless, prostitutes, drug dealers, and street gangs, and over 60 ethnic groups and nationalities. The murals he creates with others appear on sides of buildings throughout the neighborhood and have been able to communicate the gospel in a way that transcends the diverse cultural identities of the neighborhood and even brings some unity to the various groups.

"This is folk art for the masses," he says. "It is very direct and very public. You hang your message out there and hope that people will understand." One mural, which he calls "Reconciliation Mural" (at right), communicates God's love for all people while evoking responses from curious onlookers. "One person after another walks up to us, asking,

'What are you doing?'
" 'We're painting Jesus.'
" 'What? What's this about?'
" 'Well, it's about how God made you and me, and he loves us both.'
" 'That's cool.' "

Bakke's work at UBC has included a variety of ministries, but New Flight Arts brings Bakke's ministry special distinction and encompasses a host of innovative programs: a one-week art camp taught by and for senior citizens in June; an interdisciplinary, two-week camp for children in August (incorporating dance, mime, theater, music, painting, drawing, and sculpture); an after-school art program for kids; a year-round art class for homeless women (which creates two murals per year); a computer class to teach youth marketable skills in graphic design; a ministry to graffiti artists and "taggers" who get in trouble with the law, challenging them to move beyond graffiti with their talents; an art-therapy program in a local hospital (with a mostly indigent clientele); and a mural company.

The mural "business" got started because there was a lot of empty space on the walls of UBC. "It looked very oppressive, very ugly," says Bakke. "So I asked the elders, 'Hey, can we do a mural here?' " This experiment turned into an annual event, with the children painting a new mural each year.

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Nearly 40 murals grace the walls of the church and the external walls of buildings in the neighborhood. Two future projects include a rendering of the Good Samaritan on the Salvation Army building and a picture of Jesus with children on a wall facing a children's shelter run by Jesus People U.S.A.

The mural on the thrift-store wall a block south of the church recounts the story of salvation from Genesis to Revelation and emphasizes racial reconciliation. Getting permission to do the mural was tricky, not from the store, but from the gangs in the neighborhood. There had been a rash of gang killings on that street, and the gangs used this wall to paint r.i.p. tombstones in memory of the dead. To paint over these "memorials" would show disrespect for the dead. "Six or seven kids were murdered on that street down the block," he says. "That's why we wanted that wall specifically as a redemptive sign in the community."

When he first started talking to the gang leaders, they thought he must be an undercover policeman—why else would a big white guy talk to them about the graffiti on this wall? But when the gang leaders heard that the mural would be about Jesus, they said they would respect that. And they haven't defaced the wall since it was done.

The Art Institute of Chicago asked Bakke to start art classes there for the homeless. But they backed away when he wouldn't compromise his commitment to art with explicit religious content. Several young people in the programs have gone on to art school. His work, especially work featuring homeless people, has been on exhibit all over the city of Chicago and surrounding suburbs.

"Art is communication," he says. "Effective art communicates effectively to any group at any level." New Flight Arts is communicating—and transforming lives (as well as walls) with the "painted gospel," offering hope and purpose, and brightening an urban landscape that can otherwise seem grim.

7. More than 165 teenagers and adults in Montgomery, Alabama, helped "crime proof" 33 homes—mostly of elderly or disabled persons—by trimming hedges, bushes, vines, and tree limbs that might conceal lurking burglars or vandals. Carla Hammonds, director of the Montgomery program of Neighbors Who Care, described the youth teams as enthusiastic and "on fire for Christ." NWC, a newer ministry of Prison Fellowship, provides social services and spiritual support to crime victims in ten programs nationwide.

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8. Countless indigenous tribes with unwritten languages are gaining access to literacy through former Wycliffe Bible translators Mike and Donna Trainum's innovative method of mass-producing literature in obscure languages. "Shell books," produced by Mike's newfound ministry, Foundation for Indigenous Languages, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, provides a layout and publishing framework into which lessons of any of the 6,000 indigenous languages can be introduced. This method, presently being evaluated by mission agencies and nongovernment organizations, enhances the literacy of remote groups by making reading material in the vernacular accessible for a fraction of the cost of book publishing.

9. Twenty-seven volunteer chaplains, all licensed and ordained clergy, form the Police Chaplain Corps in Minneapolis. At least one of these chaplains is on call 24 hours a day to assist law-enforcement officers with cases ranging from domestic disputes to suicides and death notifications.

10.Mennonite Central Committee shipped 200,000 pounds of canned beef and wheat valued at $3.2 million to famine-stricken North Korea this past summer. The shipments arrived just as the government's rations ran out.

11.World Relief has sent workers to the edge of Nicaragua's rain forest to teach farmers how to grow more food without further damaging the environment. Not only has production increased, but the forests are also showing signs of recovery.

12.Peacemaker Ministries of Billings, Montana, last year accepted as Partners in Peacemaking more than 400 denominations, organizations, and congregations that signed a four-part pledge to handle conflicts biblically, outside the courtroom.

13. Last year Gideons International distributed 38 million Bibles in 70 languages in 158 countries.

14. The fifth annual "Wheels for the World Drive" held last June in Oklahoma City pushed the five-year total to over $250,000 worth of wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches collected. The drive was sponsored by Living Hope Home Health Care, the Sabolich family, KQVC 800 AM / 104.9 FM. Donations were received through local churches and are being redistributed worldwide by Joni and Friends ministries.

15.World Vision estimates 1.25 million people around the world took part in its annual fund-raising "famines" this year, netting $20 million for real famine victims.

16. Last year the Southern Baptist Convention Foreign Mission Board commissioned 262 career missionaries to join 4,200 other missionaries already working in 180 countries.

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17.Every Home for Christ is taking up the challenge of Chief Pilane of the 250,000-member Bakgatla tribe in South Africa to deliver gospel booklets to the homes of every one of his people.

18. The Luke Society of Vicksburg, Mississippi, last year passed along more than $1.5 million in church and private donations to indigenous doctors and nurses in 16 economically depressed regions around the world. The society also connects these local doctors with Christian doctors in America.

19. Starting new churches is not easy on the Navajo Nation reservation where less than 10 percent of its quarter-million population is Christian. But by averaging one every five years, the Flagstaff (Ariz.) Mission to the Navajos has established eight churches there—all begun and led by Navajo pastors.

20.Kindred Spirits in Charlotte, North Carolina, maintains a database of trained volunteers who have survived personal traumas, like rape, incest, divorce, cancer, anorexia, and rebellious children, and who are willing to talk with others with similar problems.

21. Through billboards and public-service announcements in Florida, Adoption by Choice's hotline last year received 550 calls from women considering abortions. From these calls, the ministry placed 105 babies in adoptive homes.

22.Marriage Savers in Bethesda, Maryland, has helped more than 65 cities reduce their divorce rates through clergy networking and commitment to extensive premarital counseling.

Part one of five parts; click here to read part two.

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