Serve Charlotte: Urban Promise

by Julia Cedarholm

Guest post from Mercy Church member, Julia Cedarholm, South Boulevard Site Director at UrbanPromise Charlotte

Mercy Church, our city is hurting. The opportunity statistics of our city produce a feeling of hopelessness for many low-income families.  Ranking last for economic mobility out of 50 US communities, children born into poverty in this city are likely to stay in poverty for forever. Additionally, the disparity is rattling- 30% of Hispanic and Black children in Charlotte are living in poverty, while fewer than 5% of White children are in poverty. We know our city is experiencing brokenness. Yet, these statistics will only remain percentages in the back of our brain until we are willing to put ourselves in situations where we can connect a name or a story to a real-life issue.

UrbanPromise Charlotte, a Christian organization in the South Boulevard Corridor and West Charlotte neighborhoods, is working to fight these injustices and reclaim hope for a younger generation. Its mission is to provide Charlotte’s children and youth with the spiritual, academic, and social development necessary to become Christian leaders determined to restore their communities.  Through Afterschool Programs and Summer Camps, elementary and middle school students receive Literacy and Bible instruction, homework support, and participate in other enriching activities. Our StreetLeader Program employs local high school students to be the leaders of our Afterschool and Summer Programs.  They provide the essential emotional and spiritual support to the younger students. Additionally, StreetLeaders are equipped with college preparation workshops, discipleship, and leadership workshops so that they can develop into strong, educated Christian leaders.

Our students live by the philosophy that in a life full of many burdens and tribulations, they can lessen each other’s loads by helping to carry the burden of their friends (Galatians 6:2). StreetLeaders have formed an incredible support group, as they process the brokenness they live in as students of color in this city. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to witness 55 StreetLeaders vulnerably share their fears of living as immigrants in a place where their safety and security is not promised. They held each other as they shared in their hurt: fears of family members being detained and taken from them, anxiety about leaving the house to do normal things like grocery shopping, and the uncertainty of whether college would actually be a feasible option after years of preparing and studying.

Sometimes I feel guilty that I have the privilege of going home and escaping the hard realities of this city. I think of students at UrbanPromise that do not have the same luxury of allowing the opportunity statistics to just be irrelevant numbers. I think of a Kindergarten girl at UrbanPromise, whose mother was incarcerated at the beginning of the year. She cries often because she misses her momma and her five-year-old brain can’t comprehend why her mom won’t come home. I think of a third-grade student, who lives with his grandma and hasn’t seen his parents in 5 years because they are living in Honduras. He is unsure of whether he will be able to see them again and he misses them dearly. My heart has been wrecked by these stories as I watch these resilient students continue to wake up daily and confront the challenges of their world.  

Mercy Church, we live in a city and world infused by brokenness. A city where people so desperately need to hear about a God who offers hope and restores the brokenness in which we live. We are called to be a church for the people and city of Charlotte that is focused on spreading the gospel to the corners of our city. Are we putting ourselves in situations where we can form relationships with different types of people in this city? Are we putting faces and names to the statistics we so often hear in order to better serve our city?


If you’d like to learn more about UrbanPromise, we have two opportunities with Serve Charlotte (Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1) for you to get connected! Learn more and register today!