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People here call our church Graffiti. The official name is East Seventh Baptist Church, but we don't use the name much. The story goes that a group of college students from Alabama on a summer mission trip were bothered by the graffiti on the mission's storefront. So, they painted over it. The next day, the graffiti was back. They painted over it again, and again the graffiti returned.

This happened several times, until one person in the group said, "Why fight it? Jesus Christ can be a message written on the wall, too. Let's call the place Graffiti, and put our own message on the neighborhood."

So, they did. Bright, clean, colorful, jazzy.

One of the neighbors wrote in the corner: "The world is coming to a new beginning." Perhaps it was, but it was a long time coming.

When I moved into this neighborhood with my wife and two toddlers fifteen years ago, life was about one thing: survival. The drama included two characters: homelessness and drugs. Today, life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, ...

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