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    Vision San Diego How may we serve the region?

    At a time when God is unwelcome in the public schools, it might seem ironic that a church-based organization has been painting the schools in New York City pro bono.

    The effort, now in its fourth year, began at a 100-year-old middle school — five stories high and an entire city block —painted by hundreds of volunteers from churches in 15 states. Thousands of volunteers have converged upon the city since then, painting dozens of schools which had not been painted for 30 or more years and would not have been painted any time soon.

    ³It was totally unexpected,² said Meredith Day, who worked on the project. ³That kind of help doesn¹t come very often. So for volunteers to come from everywhere — the principals, administrators, government officials, in their faces you could just see it was unexpected and appreciated.²

    The movement that spawned the painting project has now arrived to San Diego County. Workers such as Day are asking one simple question:

    How may we serve you?

    Vision San Diego is the follow up to New Hope New York and several similar campaigns throughout the country. The common denominators are the North American Mission Board and the Southern Baptist Convention, officially speaking, but the scope is much larger than any denominational organization.

    Mike Carlisle is the executive director of Vision San Diego. Unlike Day, the director of communications, Carlisle was not directly involved with New Hope New York. His experience spans church and business, from coast to coast. At this time he is returning to the state where he began his ministry career. He will help implement a movement that has worked wonders in the East.

    Carlisle talks about bringing churches and communities together to perform common goals.

    ³In most of our cases if we were to say, ŒHow do we reach San Diego?¹ we¹d have to think about that very individualistically. How does our church reach San Diego? How does your church reach San Diego — your church? It¹s almost like taking a box of toothpicks and dropping them on a table and that¹s kind of our strategy. They¹re not coordinated.²

    Vision San Diego, then, is a coordinator. It will serve the region by mobilizing volunteers and strengthening and starting churches. After three years, it will transfer leadership of all efforts and move along to other cities.

    ³We create a coalition of the willing,² said Carlisle. ³And again we¹re not trying to create any kind of superstructure. It¹s not about ownership or structure, it¹s about ministry. How can we collectively bring the strengths of our churches together so those toothpicks that are loosely arranged in all kind of disorder can be given some order?²

    Carlisle calls this the year of ³listening and learning.² He is hoping to meet with each of the county¹s 18 mayors and other public representatives.

    ³Once God opens a door and we see a project that has the apparent entry way into the heart of the city — it¹s something the government thinks is a great idea, it¹s something they can¹t do but would like to see done, it¹s in connection with the faith community — it has all the earmarks of it being a kingdom project.²

    Carlisle is meeting with leaders of various denominations and churches of all sizes. ³There¹s an amazing openness right now to saying, ŒLet¹s do something incredible.¹²

    Those interested in doing something incredible can participate for now in the ³listening and learning.² Contact Vision San Diego at (858) 444-4400 (toll free 877-817-4777) or visit

    Vision San Diego representatives are making their rounds throughout the region. In addition to transplants such as Carlisle and Day, there are several locals who are already well established in their fields, including John Welch (associate executive director), Daniel Cookson (director of church starting), Don Conley (church planting strategist), Hugo Campos (director of Hispanic ministry) and Thomas Bush (director of prayer ministry).

    Pastors and church leaders from around the country are being invited to the Seeing and Serving Vision Tours, which provide an opportunity to examine San Diego and its areas of need. Dates for this year¹s tours are Aug. 20-22; Sept. 17-19; Oct. 15-17 and Nov. 5-7. Early 2008 dates are Jan. 28-30, Feb. 25-27 and March 24-26.

    A tangible service already implemented is Community Sports Camps, the first of which completed July 24-27. Another is set for July 30-Aug. 2. Volunteers from Texas and Georgia will work with Upward Unlimited and Athletes for Education in pilot projects that will model future camps in San Diego.

    The influx of domestic missionaries is a sign of things to come. People will arrive from various parts of the country to come alongside the efforts of local churches here to breathe new life into efforts both existing and new. The guests will be housed in the homes of local Christians, in college dorms — wherever necessary. But this will happen only after the next several months of listening and watching.

    ³This is unlike any one we¹ve done in the past,² said Carlisle. ³We¹ve always focused on a city. But San Diego is different.²

    ³San Diego presents different challenges,² said Day, ³because of the 18 incorporated cities, and all the other areas in San Diego County.²

    The diversity in San Diego County is geographical, ethnic and economic. A Vision San Diego brochure points out that ³San Diego is also a city of contrasts, where one finds both great wealth and great need, usually within a few miles of each other.² Hence, ³America¹s Finest City² is not without need.

    ³The goal,² said Day, ³is to find what Mike calls Œgood works projects,¹ find out what those needs are. And mobilize volunteers within San Diego County and outside.²

    Rather than invent something new, it is quite possible that Vision San Diego will find a venture going on right here in the county and replicate it. Day cites a project completed recently by Shadow Mountain Community Church, which gave one of the schools a complete makeover — paint, landscaping, cleaning — and then hosted a celebration afterwards.

    ³It didn¹t have anything to do with us,² said Day, ³but we were there and it was the kind of thing we would look at and say, ŒHow can we help other churches do that kind of thing?¹²

    After meeting with cities and identifying needs, Carlisle hopes to have a point person, such as a local pastor, in each area. One idea is do a direct mail to each household in the county, personally addressed and unique to each region, listing specific service opportunities in that region.

    It will certainly take effort from a lot of people, and that effort is not limited to that of Southern Baptists or even Christians.

    ³I just really believe the truth is the truth,² said Carlisle. ³Rather than saying in the old paradigm, Œif you believe what we believe,¹ we¹re saying Œif you care about what we care about,¹ let¹s work together.

    ³Knowing that, if we work with the Muslim or the Mormon, or whomever, we have a chance to build a relationship and who knows where that could go. I¹m not afraid of a belief system. You can make friends, and fellowship is around where our heart is, and eventually that will lead to a conversation.

    ³Valuing people: I believe the spirit of Jesus, he heavily values people. He valued the lost people. He valued the woman at the well, valued the woman caught in adultery. He just liked people. And I think we¹re there.²

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