Mosaic Update - Visitors from Tennessee

Tennessee visitors with NAIA interns

Tennessee visitors with NAIA interns

Baptists from Tennessee Visit Crown Heights

I recently had the good fortune to meet a small group of visitors from Tennessee who came to Crown Heights to support the Mosaic Baptist Church that meets at The Black Lady Theatre on Nostrand Avenue. There were four people in the group – Katie, Shelby, David and Craig. In addition to distributing cards giving information about Mosaic, they agreed to help Nostrand Avenue Improvement Associaiton with our programs. So on the morning of April 15 the four of them met two interns and me plus Carla McAlary. Carla has been trained in the Park Stewards program to learn how to take care of new trees, which are especially vulnerable to the vagaries of city life – dog feces and urine, cigarette butts, and motor vehicles that sometimes bump into the trees or rip off branches.

So with a group of eight, I broke them into three groups. I sent Craig and David off with Ronald to pick up litter on Nostrand Avenue between Eastern Parkway and Empire Boulevard. Chris took Katie to clean up the six blocks that the Lincoln Civic Block Association takes an interest in, and I went to look after the new trees recently planted on New York Avenue as well as Nostrand Avenue with Carla and Shelby. By luck or design the city had planted these three trees in places where NAIA had requested them through Participatory Budgeting. The three groups did their work, and afterwards I got the four visitors from Tennessee together at Colina Cuervo. I found out quite a few surprising things. For one thing, I tend to think of certain areas of the United States as prone to disasters. There is hurricane season in Gulf Coast area, towards the southern part of the Mid-West there are tornadoes, flooding occurs wherever there are oceans or big rivers, and earthquakes, drought and fires happen in California. It turns out Eastern Tennessee has had its problems too. The are around Savierville, where these people come from, just suffered a massive fire two years ago. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and 17 people died. All four of the visitors knew people who had been burned out.

Another point is that one tends to think of rural America as small. However, in several ways Savierville has outstripped Brooklyn. The First Baptist Church there has 1300 members and has not one church but a whole campus of buildings to house all the different things they do. And Katie manages two local magazines each with a circulation of 3,500, which puts Nostrand Avenue News in the shade with a circulation of 1,000. And if one tends to think of rural America as lovely but also a bit provincial, one would be wrong again in this case. The First Baptist Church has a program called 555. In the program the church reaches out to places within five miles of the church, it sends delegations to five places in the US, and sends five more to locales that are international. The four people I was talking to had been to a dizzying number of foreign countries – Thailand, Guatemala and Kenya, just to name three.

All four of the Tennessee people are very active in their church, but they also have done or are doing interesting work. Besides Shelby working on local magazines, Katie is a physical therapist, David used to be a rice farmer before becoming a full-time evangelist, and Craig has been a journalist focused on reporting about crime and the police.

The visitors were not going to be doing all work while in Brooklyn. They intended to visit the 9/11 site and the High Line in Manhattan, and they were appreciative of the fine food served at Colina Cuervo. They had many good insights about life in Brooklyn – more diverse, louder, and busier than they were used to, but these are world travelers who take it all in in their stride. I hope to see them again next year to find out what has been going in Savierville, but also everywhere else they have been in the meantime.

– John DeWind

Jonathan Judge