Who is Refresh KC?
One Sunday in July 2007, Pastor Bill Sunberg arrived with his family at his church in Toronto, Canada and quickly noticed numerous police cars across the street directly in front of the church. What they discovered was that the night before, at a birthday party, there was an incident. It was summer. Music was playing. Food was served and the size of the party quickly grew bigger than planned. Unfortunately, members of rival street gangs showed up and before long they started shooting at each other. In the middle of a party with 60 or so people standing around. There was one fatality. Ephraim Brown, an 11-year-old boy.
As the church members gathered on the street corner to pray, neighbors from across the street came out of their homes and joined together in a moment of crisis. Over the next few days the community continued to rally together; preparing meals to be shared together, getting to know neighbors we didn't know before. Neighbors helping neighbors.
As the conversations spread across the back fences and down the sidewalk, the constant refrain had two verses. “We should make sure this never happens again in our community!” And, “I wish we could find something positive to bring the community together instead of waiting for a tragedy to build the bridges.”
Out of all of this, a community center was formed that included programs and ministries to reach out to the youth in our community; sports programs, after school programs, GED programs, summer day camps, etc.
The community named the community center, Ephraim’s Place Community Centre. For two reasons. First, they did not want to forget Ephraim. They wanted to remember what it was that brought us together and launched all of our community action. The second reason, however, is more significant. The name Ephraim is an ancient Hebrew name. It was given to a son of Joseph while living in Egypt. Remember Joseph’s story; sold by his brothers into slavery, falsely accused and put in prison. He had a couple of bad years to say the least. But then a son was born. He named him, Ephraim. A name that means “blessing from adversity.”
Blessing from Adversity
So what does all of this have to do with RefreshKC.
Refresh started in Toronto as a direct response to the community conversations that happened after Ephraim died. All of it mirrors how God worked in that community in the face of tragedy. Sharing meals together. Meeting people we didn’t know before. Neighbors helping neighbors. And the question, “How can we work together to meet more needs?”
RefreshKC began as an extension of Refresh in Toronto. Pastor Bill Sunberg thought the concept of Refresh could be transferred to communities in the U.S. Bill is the brother-in-law of Dr. Carla Sunberg, President of Nazarene Theological Seminary (NTS). He knew of Carla’s desire for NTS to be involved in the community around the NTS campus. The idea was pitched to the Blue Hills Neighborhood Association. They loved the idea and signed on to be a pilot program for RefreshKC in 2016. From that humble beginning, NTS partnered with other organizations for that first RefreshKC program.
The plan now is to continue to expand RefreshKC into more communities in the Kansas City area. If you are reading this, you are considering joining with us to bring blessings to our communities.
With every RefreshKC, adversity is giving way to blessing. Blessing from Adversity.
It's not about the paint, but it is about the paint, but it's not about the paint.