At the Foot of the Cross in the Middle of the World by John Barton

Recently my college roommate, Uganda teammate, friend and brother in Christ John Barton gave this talk at Rochester College. John and his wife, Sara, have radically committed their lives to Christ. They were the first of our friends to huddle us up and call a play that would change our lives. They said, “We’re going to Africa to do mission work. We’d love for you to come. But we are going with or without you.”

None of us could bear the thought of them going without us, and John in particular would surely need some help paying for several basketball courts in our future home. So we decided to go along.

Since that day, John and Sara, have continued that “play” and have been blazing a trail that others have followed. In particular, John is interacting in the U.S. and encouraging our Ugandan friends through Kibo and other ways to interact in loving, honest, and humble ways with Muslims and others who do not share our same view of Christ and the cross.

In this talk, linked below, you will find a view of Christ and the cross that is a powerful contextualization for today of these words of Apostle Paul:  “but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” (1 Cor 1:23-25)

Howard and Sam Dig For Gold in Tennessee

Howard Claude in 2004

Ron and Gidget lived in a trailer park on Nolensville Road in Nashville, Tennessee called Claude Country Village. It was the owner and namesake of Claude Country who introduced me to the Marcinkos. But before I tell you more about Gidget and Ron, I want to set the scene and show you this village where they lived and give you some background that only the owner of the trailer park could give. This is a story about many people but this particular chapter is about two men from Arkansas seeking their fortunes in Tennessee. One was a born-salesman named Howard Claude and the other was founder of a rising star in retailing; a man named Sam Walton.

When I lived in Nashville, Tennessee, I commuted past a large trailer park that most people barely noticed. Virtually invisible to bypassers, the residents lived in mobile homes tucked back in a holler with a bluff behind that overlooked about forty acres of land. I asked many people who drove along Nolensville Road daily, “Have you ever noticed a trailer park near the corner of Old Hickory and Nolensville Road?” They would invariably say, “There’s a trailer park there?”

There was a rumor a big box retailer wanted to buy the land the trailer park sat on, and I wanted to know what would happen to the nearly one hundred residents if they had to move to make way for a new development.

I finally noticed the park in 2004 because I read the Tennessean daily, and the business section was reporting that Walmart was looking for a new location to build a Supercenter. Land in Nashville over the past few decades had become like gold but the terrain is very rocky and hilly and often very difficult and expensive to develop.

Over months of considering different large tracts of land, the news came out that Walmart developers were considering purchase of a mobile home park on Nolensville Road. City Council Member Parker Toler had already made some enemies with his aggressive push for development of a Target and shopping center on a wooded knob near I-65 on Old Hickory. Now he was quoted calling the little trailer park on Nolensville Road a blight, a clear set up for removal and development of this land for a large retailer.

In addition to Claude Country, a bar called Eddie’s Southside Bowery, and a Phase One Used Auto Sales flanked the entrance and were included in the assessment by Toler, that this area was drug and violence infested and needed to be removed and businesses developed and tax base improved.

One day driving by the park I decided to pull in and talk to the owner and find out if the park was indeed for sale. [following the new model of www.wadehodges.com, where readers pay 99 cents to finish a good story, you can tape four quarters to a postcard and mail to me if you want, or just click below and read free].

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Outsider Interviews

From Publishers Weekly: Inspired by and supported with a foreword by David Kinnaman, author of the bestselling unChristian, this tandem book/DVD puts faces on Kinnaman’s findings on Christianity’s image problem. In four cities, the authors interviewed Christians but also agnostics, atheists, Muslims, gays, and other groups Christians are believed to reject. At the heart of the problem, they’ve discovered, is a Christian “swagger” that repels would-be Christians. They advocate the persuasive power of listening and truly liking people, choosing to use the word “like” rather than the overused “love.” In their words: “Jesus is the God who likes people.” Each chapter includes tie-ins to the DVD interviews and a reader’s guide for discussion. The book’s narrative, which recreates the road trip the authors took to do their interviews, seems self-indulgent and boring. But the combined impact of the book and DVD is stunning: the authors have heard and noted important ways Christians can improve their outreach by being more like Jesus, who meets people where they are. (July)