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Jamie Casler

Opening thoughts from the Director of the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice “What sets Trevecca apart from other universities?” This is a common question students and parents ask when surveying the landscape of higher education. The answer can be found throughout Trevecca’s mission and goals which clearly state: “Trevecca Nazarene University is a Christian community providing education for leadership and service.” What does it mean to participate in a Christian community? At Trevecca, a Christian community consists of students learning how to integrate academic learning with a holy passion to serve those trapped in the trenches of human need. Through the transformational power of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of faculty, staff, and students, we prepare to join God in the depths of human suffering so that all creation might be reconciled unto Him. Thus creating a just and righteous community which reflects the Lord’s prayer “… on earth as it is in heaven.” This type of Christian community can be seen in Acts. Here we find a community of believers living out the two greatest commandments in scripture from Matthew 22:37: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…and… Love your neighbor as yourself” (NIV). The outcome of this sacrificial lifestyle was that “...there were no needy persons among them”(Acts 4:34, NIV). It is here that we see the transformational power of the Holy Spirit working through the lives of believers to redeem a broken community. In this issue, you will read how faculty and staff are providing opportunities for students to apply their knowledge and skills toward meeting real needs in the neighborhoods of Nashville. Whether it be on Trevecca’s urban farm combating the local food desert, empowering nonprofits to maximize impact or applying knowledge gained in the classroom toward meeting community needs, all students at Trevecca are provided opportunities to join God in creating Christian communities that lead to a just and holy world.

Micah Mandate Micah Mandate Volume 4 Spring 2014 Jamie Casler

Director of the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice

Jo Ellen Werking Weedman Faculty Editorial Supervisor

Stephens Hiland Editor-in-chief

Student Writers Tyler Comer Isaiah Fish Christy Ulmet Autumn Woodard Contact Information Micah Mandate Trevecca Nazarene University 333 Murfreesboro Road Nashville, TN 37210 615.248.1449

The Micah Mandate is the online magazine of the J. V. Morsch Center for Social Justice. Once a year we collect the best stories we've been telling about our community and print them here. The project, both online and in print, is produced by Trevecca multimedia journalism students. They write and edit content, design pages, manage the website and take photos. This magazine, a partnership between the Center for Social Justice and the multimedia program, is printed on 30 percent recycled paper. For more information about the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice visit To find out more about Trevecca's multimedia journalism program, email JWeedman@ or follow @TNUjournalism on twitter.



theatre 6

walden woods 8

abreu 9

boone 10

urban farm 12

palmer 14

castanea 16

NEP 18


Bees get degrees by Christy Ulmet Photo by Stephens Hiland man in a cotton jacket with a hood and a netted mask opens up a wood encasing to reveal a world of thousands of bees buzzing about. The worker bees are busy making honey, while the drone bees mate and the queen bee is on her own endeavor laying eggs. These bees have been up since sunrise and will be hard at work until sunset, filling the box they call their home at Trevecca Nazarene University with honey. More than 100,000 bees have made their home among the chickens on campus. Nearly two years ago, the university purchased 30,000 bees to expand the on-campus farm learning lab for Trevecca students. Trevecca Urban Farm, which includes everything from vegetable gardens to tilapia to chickens, is operated by Jason Adkins, environmental projects coordinator, through the


J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice. Adding bees to the farm was a way for Trevecca to respond to the increasingly endangered species while educating students on sustainability issues. Adkins hopes it signals the university’s commitment to caring for the earth. “To keep the species alive, we have to be beekeepers and raise up beekeepers. We want to teach beekeeping to others and get people interested and equipped to keep their own bees now or later in their lives,” Adkins said. Bees pollinate 80 to 90 percent of the vegetables American’s eat, but because of increasing use of pesticides, beekeepers are reporting sharp declines in the bee population. In the mid-2000’s, bee-

keepers began to report the loss of 30 to 90 percent of their hives. Colony loss is not out of the ordinary especially in the down season for beehives, but the numbers were far from normal. Scientists gave it a name: CCD, otherwise known as Colony Collapse Disorder. The cause of this can mostly be linked to pesticides. When bees are sprayed with these chemicals, they cannot find their way back to their hives and they die. Longtime local bee enthusiast John Seaborne sold the bees to Trevecca. He has been selling bees to beekeepers for years, and received numerous phone calls from his beekeepers this past winter about more colony decline. Beekeepers nationwide reported losses of nearly 40 to 50 percent in the 2012-2013 winter season, said Seaborne. “Because of their size, bees seem insignificant. But if humans neglect them, humans are really neglecting

themselves. They are a vital part of the ecosystem,” Adkins said. Trevecca’s three bee hives each started with about 10,000 bees in them. The $300 investment has expanded to include around 100,000 bees.

“Because of their size, bees seem insignificant. But if humans neglect them, humans are really neglecting themselves. They are a vital part of the ecosystem” –Jason Adkins In an effort to get younger people interested in bee keeping, Adkins delegated a few of his farm employees to help with the hives and also appointed students to help with hive chores during the day. Brian Wong, a 2010 graduate of Trevecca, is back on campus helping with the bees as part of his job on the farm. Including students in the care of the bees and discussing farming and food justice issues both in class and on the farm is part of the environmental justice program on campus. “This is all part of the process of building a very par-

Photo by Stephens Hiland

ticular kind of education farm on campus,” Wong said. Several social justice majors have taken interest in the bees. Senior Brianna Rieck wakes up before sunrise many times during the week to help care for the bees. “(Adkins) is very intentional about what he does. He will bring you alongside him and have you do what he is doing to teach you. That’s the best way for us to be able to take what we’ve learned to wherever we’re headed to,” Rieck said. Rieck has been raising awareness about beekeeping by bringing her friends down to the hives to show them what the school is doing. Inside those mysterious little hives, bees are always busy at work, flying every which way as they get their tasks done. The drone bees, or the males, create the harmony of a family by mating with the queen bee. The worker bees scurry about as they yield their honey. While one would think the queen bee runs the show, it is actually the consensus of the worker bees that provides all of the decision-making for the colony, said Seaborne. “Each colony on its own is like one very dynamic organism. As a beekeeper, when you come into that space, you kind of interact with that community,” Wong said. In addition to exposing students to the plight of bees and teaching them beekeeping skills, Trevecca officials eventually hope the bees will be a food source for the community.


By the community, for the community THEATRE AS SOCIAL JUSTICE by Autumn Woodard


Photo courtesy of TNU Marketing

avik isn’t like a lot of 12-yearold boys. He lives at an orphanage and his head is covered in scars because of surgeries to remove brain tumors. When Allison Marcrom, a junior at Trevecca, asked how he deals with it all, he said, with the faith of a child, “It’s okay, because God is gonna heal me.” The orphanage workers couldn’t remember a time they had seen him smile. Then, after a long day of singing silly songs and dancing, the workers were left inspired and in awe. Tavik smiled. “I about lost it,” said Marcrom. “I just felt extremely blessed to be a part of that.” In May, Marcrom, a social justice and theatre major, spent three weeks living in Cape Town, South Africa. During that time she taught theatre to Tavik and about 30 other children like him at an orphanage. It was that trip that began her journey of transferring to Trevecca where Applied Theatre, a new minor in the Department of Communication, focuses on using theatre to serve marginalized communities and individuals, such as prisoners, the homeless and children on the autism spectrum. While some people think of the theatre as just Broadway and theatre seasons, Jeff Frame, pro-

fessor of Dramatic Arts and Communications, believes theatre can be used for social justice. He recounts a time when the Salvation Army’s ReCreate Café put on a production called “Walk in my Shoes.” People who were homeless and those who weren’t told their stories. But there was a small twist in the performance. Each performer presented a story that wasn’t their own. The homeless told stories of those who had not experienced homelessness and vice versa. “That’s just one example of applied theatre in the community. Not just for the community, but with the community,” Frame said. “It gives us perspective on problems that we might not be aware of any other way.”

“We’re all connected to social justice, it flows through every major.” -Jamie Casler, director of the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice

In the spring of 2012, Trevecca made its first venture into applied theatre with the production of “The Jungalbook,” a play geared toward all audiences, including people on the autism spectrum. “The Jungalbook” was supported by the Autism Society of Middle Tennessee and the Brown Center for Autism. During the performances, actors used minimal costumes, special lighting and included audience involvement to appeal to

people with autism. Additionally, the fall musical “Honk!” was one of the first of many productions to have a sign interpreter during one of the performances. Frame tells his majors who sense a calling to take their acting or production talents to the field of social justice to find a community in need and ask if they’re interested in participating. “If they say yes, help them find their voices. Fight oppression and express yourself in ways you haven’t discovered yet,” he said. This was Marcrom’s favorite experience in South Africa. Children were able to tell their stories through theatre, story-telling and singing, she said. Children in grades three through 11 also acted out fairytales. Despite the obvious cultural barrier, most of them were familiar with the stories. Props and costumes were all made by the children which added to their excitement, she said. “I want to get my hands dirty and invest more to the children,” she said. “I want to be a mission.” The theatre program is one example of how other majors can incorporate the ideas and values of Biblically-based social justice, said Jamie Casler, director of the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice. “Few are called to be pastoral ministers, but we’re all minsters of God,” Casler said. “We’re all connected to social justice, it flows through every major. My goal for the center is for a student to leave Trevecca and ask, ‘How can I connect my major to social justice?’”


Walden Woods: creating community by Christy Ulmet rofessors and alums are out walking dogs, jogging around the neighborhood, and enjoying the morning. Trees are lined down the middle of the streets and sidewalks inviting pedestrians to stroll through. This is what the new proposed neighborhood just east of campus may someday look like. The project, Walden Woods at Trevecca, dreamed up some 25 years ago, is underway. Two new houses stand completed on Nance Lane as the front of what will someday be known as Walden Woods at Trevecca. The goal of Walden Woods is to help create a sense of community, provide scholarship funds for students to attend Trevecca, and impact the surrounding neighborhoods. “Our goal is not to be a gated community on campus, but to be a part of Nashville and to be a part of the local community, economically and socially,” said Trevecca Provost Steve Pusey, who is one of the first residents of Walden Woods. “It strengthens who we are as an urban community. We want the university to be good neighbors to the community. We hope it will help rejuvenate the area. It’s part of living and working together.” Walden Woods will cost $13 million to build. Plans call for 12 single-family homes, 24 row houses, and 120 condominium units. “Sixty families have expressed serious interest in the project so far,” said David Caldwell, executive vice president for finance and administration. Dan Boone, Trevecca’s president, estimates 200 new residents will live in the neighborhood. Caldwell, along with others, have envisioned


this community living space for years. “There have been a lot of comments from folks that would like to live around the campus. There are just not that many places available in the surrounding areas,” Caldwell said. “We’re hoping that there are a lot of people interested in the college, be it employees, retirees, alums, or people that just appreciate the school that would move in there.” Walden Woods will not only benefit the community aspect at the school, but it will also help the school provide scholarships. When a person is ready to build in the neighborhood, they will sign a contract with a builder to complete the work. The homeowners will execute life estate agreements with the school, giving them ownership of the home until the day they die. Once the residents pass on, the property would revert back to the school. What the school envisions is to have 10 to 12 life estate trusts in the community. Every time one of those properties rolls over, the new proceeds would go into new scholarship funds. The money used to purchase the home by its next owners would go back to the school as endowment scholarships in order to help more students attend Trevecca, Caldwell explained. “Hopefully, short term, it creates money to pay back the school for its investment in the land and then some. And hopefully long term, it is a vehicle that generates consistent income for the endowment scholarship fund,” Caldwell said.

Student launches non-profit to serve Hispanic families by Autumn Woodard ince Ray Abreu moved to the United States in 1993, she has been aware that being from a different culture and speaking a different language can make life in America difficult. Her dream was to help people in her situation, but she never imagined being a student at Trevecca would mean taking a project for a class about non-profit management and turning it into an actual non-profit organization. Abreu, a senior social justice major, is now the executive director of La Familia Resource Center, an organization in Madison, Tenn. that serves the growing Hispanic population just north of Nashville. Abreu took her class assignment seriously and researched and proposed an organization that would help meet the needs of Hispanic families. After turning in her proposal, Iris Gordon, Abreu’s professor, arranged for her to have an office and some office support on campus to actually launch La Familia. “Ray’s understanding of community issues and commitment to action was impressive,” Gordon said. “She is demonstrative of the passion and commitment required to sustain a leader���s focus and determination when launching a new organization.” Soon, Abreu was given some office space and other start-up resources she needed. “I had a dream a long time ago,” Abreu said. “But I never thought they would say ‘Oh, okay. We’re going to give you an office and you can open the business in June’.” The J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice tries to create an environment for students to explore and practice applying their talents to solving real-world problems, Gordon said. In addition to teaching courses, Gordon also oversees the Neighborhood Empowerment Program (NEP) at Trev-

ecca which offers services to non-profits in the community. “Incubating the launch of La Familia provides an exciting opportunity for the NEP to serve our diverse community while continuing to equip and develop a talented social justice student,” Gordon said. La Familia has since set up operations at Bethel Hispanic Church of the Nazarene. On any given day Abreu and her small team of volunteers might be found translating resumes, offering English classes or helping clients find jobs they are qualified for. “I know the struggle of the Hispanic population,” Abreu said. “I see here in Tennessee that they lack resources for the Hispanic community.” Over the summer, Bethel and La Familia celebrated their new partnership with a festival filled with Latin music and food, yard sales and a bouncy house for kids. They also offered a free clinic on new immigration laws by a local immigration attorney. The Center for Social Justice at Trevecca also donated 150 backpacks filled with school supplies that were given to children at the festival. In December, La Familia partnered with the Center at Trevecca to provide toys and food for 10 families for Christmas. While Abreu wants to offer job and education support to families, she also is committed to teaching her clients about her faith. She offers Bible studies because of her belief that building a successful life in America is based on three things: God, family and education. It’s a plan that is working, Gordon said. “Due to Ray’s servant leadership, La Familia has proven fruitful even during the start-up stage of development,” she said. For more information, visit


A president’s mandate:

serve our neighborhood

by Isaiah Fish hen President Dan Boone first came to Trevecca in 2005, he walked onto a campus that was seemingly hesitant about the local neighborhoods of Chestnut Hill and Napier/Sudekum. Now, eight years after Boone’s arrival on campus and five years after the establishment of the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice, living and working in these neighborhoods is part of the mission of the university.


Photo courtesy of TNU Marketing

For Boone, a major first step was a change in how the school viewed its neighborhood. He quickly recognized that opportunities for education and field placement were found in the immediate vicinity of the school. “We are no longer going to apologize for our neighborhood. We’re going to turn it into our classroom,” Boone says as he looks off into the neighborhood from the patio of the Hardy Alumni Center. Trevecca is located half of a mile down Murfreesboro Pike from the J.C. Napier Homes and Tony Sudekum Apartments, consistently rated two of the poorest of Nashville’s public housing communities. The 16,040 people who live in these homes have a median income of $9,000 a year. Ninety-nine percent of the children at nearby Napier Elementary School qualify for free or reduced lunches. The neighborhood also is located in Council District 19 of Nashville. According to a police summary of crimes for the district for the year 2012 published by the Metro Nashville Police Department, approximately 11.6 percent of all violent crimes in the city occurred in this district. To put this into perspective, of the 7,709 violent crimes committed during the year, 895 were from District 19. It’s in these conditions that Boone and fellow leaders at Trevecca are seeking to embrace the communities while trying to understand what true Kingdom living looks like for the school. “We need to move our education as much into the center of the world as we can. The more hands on we can make it, the more un-cloistered we can make the educational experience, the more like the church that we are in that sense,” Boone said. It is not just about community service for Boone. Putting students in the real world while they are still in college can help shape their education and vocational training in powerful ways, he said. “How can our footprint in Chestnut Hill and Napier-Sudekum homes improve the edu-

cation that we give to our students?” That’s the question that Boone wants all majors and departments to ask themselves. During the last 10 years, the school has increasingly become more participatory in engaging its community. The graduate physician’s assistant program is involved at a walk-in clinic at nearby Mercury Courts. Social justice majors are tending neighborhood gardens that dot the community. Students in both graduate and undergraduate education programs are active in the local schools. Students are exposed to dozens of local community organizations that seek to build relationships with the school’s neighbors such as KidPOWER, an after school program for students who attend Napier Elementary. Trevecca students also served in the immediate aftermath of the historic 2010 floods in Nashville which devastated parts of Napier. Furthermore, the beginning of every year is marked by a freshmen service day during which new students are dispatched into the neighborhood to clean Browns Creek, work in the community gardens and pick up trash in the neighborhood’s public spaces, ensuring that freshmen are exposed to the reality of the area around them. The main anchor of Trevecca’s community involvement is the Center for Social Justice. The center was established five years ago, and administrators initially faced scrutiny for using the term “social justice,” which can be a political buzzword.

Nevertheless, Boone stands by the name of the center. “The church had the term ‘social injustices’ a long time before Rush Limbaugh got a hold of it, so I refuse to give up on that term,” he said. “When a college generation wants to change their world, they often Google ‘social justice.’ I want them to find us in that mix, because if there are not Christian understandings of social justice available for a younger generation, then they may well choose some of the forms of social justice that I don’t believe are fully redemptive, that stop short of empowering the neighbor.” Christian organizations often have a reputation of filling a temporal need such as an empty stomach or patching a roof, but there is a failure in addressing the systematic issues that plague those in need. “The goal of Christians is not to escape this bad world but the goal of God is to redeem this world. These neighborhoods are the eventual site of the new heaven and the new earth,” Boone said. All of this service and activity isn’t just for self-gratification or media coverage, Boone says. Instead, participation in the local neighborhoods is irrevocably tied to a proper understanding of God, and thus is qualitatively redemptive. “We view God more through the lens of love that suffers in the middle of humanity than a God of an iron fist who overpowers evil,” Boone said. “The way of Jesus in the world was the way of suffering love...he laid down his life in service and it was utterly redemptive.”

Photo courtesy of TNU Marketing


Trevecca Urban Farm An outdoor classroom in the city by Tyler Comer 12

Photo courtesy of Jason Adkins

t’s 12 p.m. on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon and Jason Adkins is leading a group of Trevecca students to the Perk Community Garden. While walking to the garden, he lists facts about farming in America, each as shocking as the previous. “Thirty percent of the food around the world is wasted. We don’t have a food crisis, we have a distribution crisis,” Adkins said. “Less than half a percent of people now grow their own food.” The 3-acre garden is part of the Trevecca Urban Farm, a growing cooperation between the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice, local schools, business owners and community members. The farm is part of the lab for the environmental justice program and the goal is to teach about food justice issues through growing, distributing and teaching about local farming practices. “We aren’t feeding the community, we are teaching people how to grow food on their own,” Adkins said. The garden produces about 70 pounds of vegetables a week including; beans, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, and several different types of corn. Volunteers from all over the world have come to work on the farm to learn about sustainable farming practices. Over the summer, Trevecca partnered with Metro Nashville Public Schools to work with a high school academy that focuses on agricultural and the environment. The program brought 25 students from 11 different countries to campus for a weeklong farm camp designed to teach students everything from working in a greenhouse to composting. Students had the option to become farm interns at the end of the camp and spent hours helping on the farm and leading volunteer groups. The educational goal of the farm is to get at the roots of food security issues. Adkins cites Henry David Thoreau who once said “for every 1000 people hacking at the branches of a problem, there is only one person hacking at the roots.”

100 chickens

20 Fainting Goats

6 Pigs

220 tilapia

thousands of worms


Aaron Palmer STUDENT ON A MISSION by Isaiah Fish


Photo by Stephens Hiland

t’s 7:20 a.m. on a brisk Wednesday morning, and Aaron Palmer pulls up to the Room in the Inn headquarters blaring a playlist of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. He shuts off the truck and walks through the parking lot into the main lobby, shaking hands with a couple of the nearly 100 participants, or clients of the organization, that are sitting in the lobby. After meandering through the crowd for 10 minutes, an announcement blares over the speaker throughout the lobby. “The morning chapel is now open,” says an anonymous loud voice over the public announcement system. The chapel is a small room to the side of the lobby, and about 15 chairs are lined up around the walls. In one corner is a bookcase with both a Star of David and a Christian cross, and the opposing wall holds two canvases painted with prayers of Room in the Inn participants. “Oh Lord of Peace, hear our cry in the night and bring an end to war,” reads one prayer on the canvas. This is Palmer’s routine every Monday and Wednesday morning. The senior social justice major in Joy Wells’ Introduction to Community Service course is required to

complete 60 hours working for a local nonprofit. As an intern for Room in the Inn, Palmer leads a 30-minute interfaith chapel twice a week for homeless adults in the city of Nashville. This particular morning, the scripture reading comes from John 8, the story of the woman caught in adultery. Four participants have come today, which Palmer says is a good day in terms of numbers. “We’re going to read from John 8 this morning,“ Palmer says before two guys in the room cut him off. “I know that one by heart. I know that one by memory,” says Jack, one of the participants. After spending nearly four years studying in the social justice program, Palmer has found himself drawn to those he calls “in the margins of society.” “These men are told all the time by the government and society how lazy they are, how they’re all drug addicts, messed up, not worthy, and should be feared because they most likely have a criminal record,” Palmer says. “I have taken it upon my own self that when I lead morning chapel, that it will not be a place that reminds them of all the ways they ended up on the streets, but of the simple fact that they are loved and it is to them that Christ offered his kingdom through grace.” So that is precisely what

he tries to do every morning that he leads chapel. Jack tells a story of his own regarding his suicide attempt in 1999, when he tried to jump off the Shelby Street bridge downtown. “These are the stories that I hear on a daily basis, for which I am very thankful and indebted to these men for allowing me to recognize God’s grace for myself,” Palmer later says of Jack’s story. These powerful stories day in and day out stir Palmer on a deep and profound level, forcing him to reconsider how he understands his own faith in relation to Christ and the outcasts in society. “The thought that has come to me since leading chapels and working with this population is that Christ isn’t just in the least of these that I would prefer him to be, but he is in the very person that I am the most repulsed and ashamed by,” Palmer says. His service at Room in the Inn has helped train him for the full time job he started in January at the Nashville Rescue Mission. He says his time with the men at Room in the Inn has changed him. “At the end of the day, I wanted to not just fulfill a classroom assignment but wanted to form friendships with these men. Forming these friendships and close bonds has been the best education in understanding the systems and cycles that are present in our society that perpetuate homelessness and keep people out,” he says. “It is in these relationships that I have found my role and vocation in this world, as a person who advocates for the rights of people who have no voice and as a person that proclaims the coming of the Kingdom to them.”


Moving in by Christy Ulmet

Intentional community makes a home in the neighborhood he day has finally come: movein day. Four families, 13 people, are realizing the dream of being able to call Castanea their home. Castanea, an apartment building located just northwest of Trevecca’s campus, is a project that began nearly six years ago, when a group of people


had a vision of what an intentional Christian community in south Nashville’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood would look like. The group modeled their community on a national movement known as New Monasticism. “It means living in close proximity, sharing living space and possessions, daily prayers, and common meals, common work all on a mission,” said

Photo by Stephens Hiland

Jason Adkins, Trevecca environmental projects coordinator and resident of Castanea. “These things were taken up by Christians across denominational boundaries who wanted to break through the dividedness of Christ’s body and live in solidarity with people from different denominations and church traditions.” The group’s main goal in moving into Castanea was to promote environmental, economic, and racial reconciliation. Amanda Burt, one of the residents, said that moving into the neighborhood was something she felt called to. “When we prepared to move in, we thought ‘How can we live here in a way that would be good for our existing neighbors?’” Moving into Castanea allowed Burt and the residents of Castanea to become a part of the neighborhood. Located at 12 Garden Street, the building was purchased in February of 2010. The Castanea group members combined their resources to purchase the foreclosed complex from a bank. The group created a page on Fundly, an online fundraising website, in order to help raise $18,000 for the project. The group also partnered with Urban Housing Solutions, an affordable housing provider in Nashville, in purchasing the property. Four units are owned and occupied by the Castanea community, while the other four will be rented by Urban Housing Solutions to low-income residents. Move-in day for the resi-

dents came after a six-year wait, but not before encountering a few problems. The project site was broken into a few times. The group also experienced other difficulties, like initially getting support from a bank to take out a loan. Now that the four families live in Castanea,

they are taking the opportunity to enjoy their new space in the neighborhood. “It’s a freeing feeling. We can reevaluate why we’re here now that all of the building is done and we’ve moved in. It’s really amazing to just step back and see it altogether,” Burt said.

Photo by Christy Ulmet

Photo by Stephens Hiland

Photo by Christy Ulmet


Empowering a community Nashville non-profits find resources on campus

Photo courtesy of Joshua MacLeod

by Isaiah Fish atricia Cross sits in her East Nashville office, glancing out the door to the studio where children will soon be practicing ballet. For 13 years she has dedicated her life to directing Rejoice School of Ballet, an inner-city ballet school that serves around 100 low-income students. She is the artistic director, fundraiser, grant writer, teacher and operations director. Like many non-profit leaders, her vision for her program is bigger than she has the time or skills to grow. Enter Iris Gordon. Gordon runs her own successful management consulting business in Nashville. She is also a professor of non-profit management in the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice at Trevecca and director of the Center’s Neighborhood Empowerment Program (NEP). It’s the Neighborhood Empowerment Program that brings leaders like Cross and Gordon together. The NEP and the Social Business Lab Consulting services at Trevecca offers technical services, board training and classes to non-profit ministries who could never afford to pay for such services, which are valued at a starting cost of $5,000. “The problem that many organizations working with justice issues face is that they are filled with the heart and passion, but they don’t have the skills and resources they need,” Gordon said. NEP serves as a bridge between non-profits and experts in a variety of fields, including law, finance, business, and the nonprofit sector.


It also helps make the resources of the university community at Trevecca available to local non-profits. “(Our clients) have worked with a web designer from Trevecca that would cost thousands of dollars,” Gordon said. Clients have also had access to meeting space, office support, volunteers and interns. On a spring evening more than 10 years ago Gordon was driving down Murfreesboro Road on her way to Trevecca. She witnessed a drug transaction on the way to her graduate class at the university. “I began thinking about the incredible impact a relationship would have on both the university community and the surrounding neighbors,” she said. “I was captured by the idea that transformation could occur in the community if the Trevecca hill was leveled and all the resources of the university were available to the adjacent neighbors through authentic relationship.” Since then, Gordon has formed partnerships over the past several years with around 30 organizations in Nashville who are dedicated to resolving social issues and do work such as resourcing children in local public schools, teaching English to Hispanic community members and mentoring boys whose fathers are absent. NEP consistently works with around seven to 12 organizations at a time each semester. “We have the opportunity to leverage service learning. We can use entire classrooms and different professors to do the work, so we’ve been able to accomplish so much of the literal relationship between the center and the different departments and the university,” Gordon said.

Last year, for example, graduate students in the information technology program were able to create quality websites for six different nonprofits. First, Gordon starts a strategic planning process with organizations that begins at the vision and mission development and continues through developing resources. Clients are walked through the legal process of becoming a 501c3, the formation of a board, and even the forming of a website and online presence. The first thing that Gordon does is an organizational assessment, which takes a critical look at all aspects of the nonprofit. “We haven’t had a lot of people come to us and be able to pinpoint what their issue is,” she said. “When you go to the doctor and say ‘I think I have a cold,’ hopefully he says, ‘Well, a cold can be many things. That’s just a symptom.’ Once we do the organizational assessment, we generally find that their problem is just a symptom of what the bigger issue is.” From there, the clients work with a myriad of individuals to be developed holistically, so that they are empowered to take on the justice issues in a way that is more sustainable and impactful, Gordon said. For Cross, Gordon’s work through Trevecca has meant training for her board and a course on using accounting software for her organization. These are the things that Cross hopes will help her expand her dance school. “I’m a dance teacher and a director of dance and I’ve run this non-profit successfully for 13 years but we

are just sort of at a plateau and I’d really like to be able to serve a lot more kids because this is so important to them,” she said. “To be part of what is happening with (Gordon) is so enlightening to me. It’s an honor to have someone of her skill walking alongside us.” Debbie Murphy, executive director of the Nashville Community Outreach & Resource Center agrees. Her organization has been working to empower Nashville’s homeless and disadvantaged for 10 years. A couple of years ago some internal changes were threatening the longevity of the organization. The NEP worked with the group to assess the issues and develop a plan. “The commitment of the Neighborhood Empowerment Program during our challenges and obstacles enabled us to endure organizational restructuring, leadership transition, relocation and more,” Murphy said. “God used NEP services and support to build a better NCORC that will continue to serve for many years.” Gordon is thankful for the ability to offer her skills and resources to people and organizations working on issues near to her heart. “I’m very thankful that we can equip and empower individuals, organizations, and ministries struggling to utilize very limited resources to address social justice issues,” she said. “It’s been a full circle for me, literally. Starting out looking for opportunities to bring the two worlds together, and now having the opportunity to facilitate that engagement and seeing the fruit of it? It’s very enjoyable for me.”

Neighborhood Empowerment Program serves several non-profits in Nashville including: Castanea

An economic and community development organization.

Napier Elementary School Family Resource Center

Committed to increasing the well being of children and families of the Napier community by coordinating social services that address multiple barriers hindering healthy and productive lives.

Stronger Than my Father

A mentoring organization building a foundation of responsibility, discipline, and hope in the lives of urban fatherless young men and enabling them to become well-balanced, mature men in their family and community.

End Slavery Tennessee

To create a slave-free Tennessee and holistically restore survivors of human trafficking.

La Familia

Educating and equipping Hispanic families for a prosperous future.

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The J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice classroom pic to come

A biblical response to social injustice

An academic major at Program offerings • Nonprofit and congregational leadership

Students gain practical skills to work in service organizations— faith-based nonprofit, church outreach, missions, or social service agencies—including the skills to identify injustices in the world and creatively address unmet needs.

• Public policy

Students prepare for law school, for work in government or social welfare agencies, or for a career in research institutions.

• Environmental justice

Students prepare for careers working on environmental issues with businesses or government agencies or corporations, or in local, state, or national agencies responsible for protecting the environment.

For more information contact Jamie Casler 615-248-1449 •

Micah Mandate | 2014