When God created man, He did so with the intention that man would live in perfect harmony with his Creator and with the rest of natural creation; however, man’s disobedience fractured the relationship and opened the door for pain, heartache, disaster, and even death to enter the world. God’s original intention has not changed—He still desires that His children enjoy the fullness of all He has to offer.
The Garden and the Ghetto is a collection of stories that illustrate the continued effects of obedience and disobedience, as well as essays that teach us how to return to a garden existence with the One who made us. Just as disobedience pushed mankind out of the perfect environment Father created for him, obedience is the key to once again living in a spiritual place where the abundance of His blessings are real every day. The stories are based on the lives of men and women with whom we have shared victories and defeats at City of Refuge through the years. Some have decided to live in a pattern of “long obedience” and continue to thrive. Some are still in the process of deciding which way to go, and others chose their own way.
The results of the decisions made by Russell, Roxy, Shawn, Vanessa, Harold, Greg, and Dennis are representative of all of humanity. Some choose to rely on the words and pictures of God; others choose to believe they can make their own way. The results speak for themselves
A young man navigates his way downMayson Turner Road, crosses the railroad tracks and turns in toChappellForest, a neighborhood notorious for drugs, prostitution and other malevolent behavior. He is driving a white fifteen passenger Ford van and he is on a mission. He has deliveries to make. He sits straight and tall in the driver’s seat – very serious about his duties and absolutely committed to his mission. A worship song drifts from the van’s speakers and the driver taps the steering wheel in time with the rhythm and hums the melody.
His name is Gregory Tyrone Washington, Youth Pastor at The Mission,A Placeof Refuge. The teens in his group call him Pastor Greg. He has evolved from talented athlete to culinary prospect, to street thug and drug dealer, to state prisoner to street feeding volunteer, to laborer in the Compassion Atlanta warehouse, to Youth Pastor (otherwise known as father to the fatherless). He still rolls into theAtlanta’s worst housing projects and makes deliveries – only now he delivers young people back to their homes from youth services, discipleship classes, camps and outings. Today they have been to a ball game.
“HeyBrandon, you’re home, buddy” he calls to a young passenger on the seat behind him.Brandonmakes his way to the side door to exit, thanking his Youth Pastor for the day out and asking him about tomorrow’s activity. Greg doesn’t answer because someone walking from the apartment toward the next building has caught his attention.
He studies the young lady and whispers to himself, Is that who I think it is?
“Brandon, who is that lady right there?” he asks.
“Oh, that’s my momma” the boy answers. A tear rushes to Greg’s eye and he drops his head to the steering wheel to hide it. He covers his emotion well and asks Brandon his mother’s name. “Nicole” the youngster answers.
In a voice on the verge of cracking and breaking, Greg tellsBrandongoodbye, but sits for a moment staring at the front door after it closes. He remembers the door and the people who lived behind it fifteen years ago when he regularly delivered mini-baggies of crack cocaine and took what little money they had for it. He remembers a young girl who would sometimes answer the door and recalls the raspy, demanding voice of her mother calling from the shadows, “Nicole, who is it?”
“It’s somebody for you” Nicole would reply.
What have I done? Greg asks himself. The answer quickly comes:
It’s not about what you have done, but what you are doing and will do. There are two paths before you. One leads to the ghetto and the other to the Garden. Trust your own ideas and make your own way and you will one day realize the path leads only to death. Worship at the Tree of Knowledge and you will fight battles that are not yours, and you will ultimately lose.
On the other hand, hear My voice and do what I say and you will experience My Peace, Power, Provision and Protection all the days of your life. Worship at the Tree of Life and you will discover the great purpose for which you were created and will find the strength and courage to respond in obedience to it. My Life is all you need.
For thirteen years Jeff Deel has been part of the senior leadership team at City of Refuge in Atlanta’s worst neighborhood. Prior to coming to Atlanta, he served as director of the Institute of Caribbean Missions and pastor of the Claremont New Testament Church in Jamaica. Jeff and his wife, Tracy, live outside Atlanta and spend their lives in kingdom service and keeping up with their seven kids.