Church seeks to revitalize neighborhood
Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor
October 22, 2008

Church seeks to revitalize neighborhood

Church seeks to revitalize neighborhood
Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor
October 22, 2008

Hardin Baptist Church, a predominantly white congregation in Dallas, has launched an effort to revitalize an African American neighborhood in the southeastern part of town.

Austin Rammell, the church’s pastor, said there was a reason for the church’s decision to help empower the community.

“I wanted them to do some sort of cross cultural ministry right here,” he said.

Rammell said Dallas is a small town with big city problems. Southeastern Dallas is becoming known as a place to buy crack, “along with everything else that goes along with that,” he said.

“It’s the highest arrest zone for the police department,” he said. “It’s the area everyone talks about.”

The project is a “win-win” because it equips the church to do ministry and allows them to see all people as God sees them, Rammell said.

“It’s a neighborhood that has the potential to be revitalized,” he said.

Rammell said the project can be a type of “Lazarus moment.”

“We’re doing this because Jesus is the absolute pinnacle of love, and we’re in love with Him,” he said.

Rammell said Jesus always made a “major splash” when he arrived in a new area to show that God was in love with His creation. The revitalization can be that type of moment, he said.

Rammell said he wanted the church to help in ways that someone who does not go to church would understand. Hardin was a traditional Baptist church that has transitioned in recent years to try to reach out to young people who wouldn’t normally come to church.

He said he got the idea after praying at the dedication of a Habitat House. As he left he realized that there was no reason a church couldn’t take on a Habitat house project.

Rammell talked to church leaders, and then cast a vision about the project.

“There was such excitement,” he said. “It was awesome.”

Rammell said church members embraced the project.

“People pestered me to death wondering when we were going to get started,” he said.

The church bought three lots and held a ground breaking to announce the Habitat project and other initiatives in May.

“We believe if we can do it right, it’ll inspire other churches to do the same,” he said.

Rammell said the Habitat houses are an important part of the revitalization efforts because home ownership helps bring economic empowerment. But the church also plans to offer after school programs, GED classes, job placement and financial training.

Church members also want to have home-based classes on how to be a better mom or better dad and help the community grow.

Rammell said the community is very tight knit.

“Everybody knows everybody,” he said.

The church is raising money for the first building project now. Rammell said the congregation is getting close to the $15,000 needed to start the first house. He hopes work can begin in November.

Rammell who formerly shaved his head and face, has pledged to not cut his hair or shave until all the money is raised. After it is raised, the congregation will draw names, with the winner getting to style Rammell’s hair and beard in a manner that he must retain for a week.

One church member plans to dye it Clemson orange. Another will turn it red, white and blue.

“We’re having a lot of fun with it,” he said.