We believe that Salem/Keizer will be the
healthiest community in Oregon - truly the

Give Stuff--and Yourself!--for Christmas

November 2016


Here it comes again. “The Great Season of Benevolence.”  From Thanksgiving to Christmas, good-hearted people come out of the woodwork to serve meals, donate clothing and wrap Christmas presents for “needy children.”  (Urk, I hate that word ‘needy’ …)  Such kindness is treasured by folks experiencing hardships.  But ‘stuff’ during ‘the holidays’ is not an effective long-term strategy for helping kids, families and people achieve shalom (peace and well-being.)

I remember the Rotary meeting when I spoke about this.  Afterwards, a well-dressed nursing consultant confided that she had been homeless herself.  “When my daughter and I were living in a dive motel I didn’t need a ham, I needed a friend.  It’s not too hard to find food.  It’s near impossible to find somebody who will be there through the car break-downs, the overdue utility bills and the doctor visits.  If someone had simply been willing to babysit my daughter when I was working two jobs and taking night classes for my nursing degree, I’d have become self-sufficient  in two years instead of six years.”


There’s something about the breaking of the bread.


The Fancy Newsletter

October 2016

In a beautiful and familiar context, we remember the Passover (Last) Supper when Jesus took the bread and broke it, telling his disciple/friends of his upcoming passion and death. The breaking of the bread that night had both literal and figurative meanings; it also had both Old Testament and New Covenant connotations. Rich stuff. Well studied and celebrated.

I grew up in a great Salem church where Communion was celebrated every Sunday during the Eucharist. I worship today in a great Salem church where we take Communion once a month. From time to time I have pondered this contrast, not with any angst or criticism … but certainly with some lament. Was it just tradition and preference that caused me to yearn? Or something deeper.

One day I was reading a familiar post-resurrection story in the book of Luke. Cool story about two men walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus and talking about Jesus, his life, his crucifixion. A stranger (Jesus) joined them and the conversation continued … and deepened.

Seeking (and Discovering) God's Face

The Fancy Newsletter

September 2016





It’s a pretty familiar Scripture verse.  In some ways, perhaps even famous.  In recent years it’s been the clarion-call scripture for spiritual (and cultural) revival in America.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways -- then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

(2 Chronicles, 7:14)

I was in a small gathering this summer with some amazing people of prayer.  We were praying for the city, its people, our elected officials, the schools, the neighborhoods, the churches.

As we did, the 7:14 passage came into our prayer … and inspired beautiful phrasing around the facets of the verse: humility, prayer, worship, obedience, fellowship, repentance, confession, forgiveness, healing.  There was joyful yearning for how the coming Revival will bless; as well as candid frustration that it hasn’t occurred yet.

Bridging The Gap- 2nd Annual Event



The Art of Neighboring


August 2016


Block parties.  Barbecues.  Knowing your neighbors.  Concepts you’ve read about often here in the Fancy Newsletter. ‘Loving Neighbor’ and ‘Building Neighborhood’ are familiar phrases, not just in SLF lexicon, but all over Salem-Keizer nowadays.  How thrilling it was one Sunday to learn our church was about to embark on a six-week series entitled “The Art of Neighboring,” based on a compelling book.  I heartily recommend it for your summer-reading list.  It’s by a pair of pastors who discovered the richness of the Greatest Commandment lived out in 21st Century urban and suburban American neighborhoods.  It’s common sense … it’s what our grandparents did routinely … it’s what the scriptures proclaim … all rediscovered and redeployed for the Gospel transformation of people and place.

The premise is simple.  Get to know the people and families on your block.  The statistics are shocking.  Only 10% of people can name eight neighbors who live around them.  Only 3% of people know something about their neighbors beyond their names.  The book encourages us to “meet and love your neighbors.”  Not with Bible tracts and crusade invitations.  Rather, with the simple acts of daily life.  Learning their names.  Their kids’ names.  Listening to their stories.  Eating!  Sharing life around barbecues, football games, favorite recipes, gardening, school.  It doesn’t mean you become everyone’s best friend.  But it does mean you know them, you listen to their stories, and you’re there for them when they need you.

Herm's Hike and DJ's Dash Make the Headlines


Raising three busy boys, I’ve become accustomed to the “change ups,” you know when things come at you, forcing a change in plans.  So it wasn’t surprising when earlier this month I found myself running in the inauguration of “Bridging the Gap Salem Leadership Foundation 10K,” rather than resting at the beach.

The event was yet another example of how local nonprofits and partners are working together to better neighborhood health. The event was orchestrated by Salem Leadership Foundation Lightening Rod DJ Vincent who created a route that connected four schools, three churches, two parks and one neighborhood ministry.  Runners earned time off their finish time if they posed for selfies at each connection, which is a huge benefit the older you get, especially if you are racing sixth-grade cross-country runners.

The race brought together 45 sponsors and 55 volunteers to raise $29,000 for the foundation and support their work that includes programs like School Serve.

It followed in the footsteps of SLF Lightening Rod Herm’s Hike last fall where Herm recruited pledges from West Salem community partner and neighbors as he hiked much of the Pacific Crest Trail.

The beauty behind these neighborhood-centric movements is they build collaboration and relationships between churches, schools, business partners and city neighborhood associations, which result in a plethora of connections that support improved health and academic outcomes in the neighborhood.

Kids connect with reading buddies, middle schools recruit mentors and high schools recruit volunteers for their Aspire programs, which help prepare students for the college application process. By building community events that center around activity and healthy eating, it’s a win for everyone.

An Invitation to the Fancy Dessert

Giving Thanks for my Friend Rockin' Robby Kasino

He wanted to be a radio disc-jockey with his bachelor’s degree in broadcast media from the University of Northern Iowa. His alter-ego was Rockin’ Robby Kasino, and he had a novel in the works. He loved animals, especially dogs. Animals don’t criticize, he once told me. They love you unconditionally.

I met my friend Rick Levitt at Grant Community School in 1999. We were volunteers in the Fantastic Fridays afterschool program, which set the stage for the many fine afterschool programs in place today. Rick signed up as a general volunteer, but had big ideas for a radio class and a Karaoke class. He was always on time and very dependable. He was awkward socially, which created some cautions and concerns. But you could always count on Rick … until the drinking started. Rick was a teetotaler when we first met—his girlfriend had significant addiction issues and he didn’t want to follow the same path. But when she broke up with him, and broke his heart, he turned to the bottle to ease his pain.


It turns out Rick had mental-health issues and deep hurts, which were made worse by his drinking. He had a complex family history, which included a loving mom but fathers who were lousy dads. He longed for positive role models and friends who would see past the awkward (and increasingly angry) attitudes. Despite my inclination to lean away from Rick and his dysfunctions, I felt the Lord urging me to lean in. At first I had the misguided and prideful notion that somehow I would help solve Rick's problems. It took a while, but I began to realize that God was working on both of us.


SLF Fancy Dessert - June 24, 2016

SLF Fancy Dessert
June 24, 2016
6:55 PM
Our 20th Anniversary Celebration

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Practice (Serve) then Preach (Politics)

With politics dominating the headlines and the newscasts, I’ve been thinking about a meeting I had several years ago. The community organizer from Portland was putting together a faith-based coalition, and he wanted to identify the key players in Salem. SLF is always willing to help, especially when the topic is churches serving neighbors in need. We chatted. We shared stories. It was affirmed that Salem-Keizer is ahead of the curve when it comes to ‘church and state’ working together. I also learned that the spectrum (Mainline, Evangelical, Catholic) of churches who are working restore shalom (peace and well-being) here is much broader and deeper than most communities.

Suddenly, he jolted me with a question: “What is SLF’s political agenda?” I told him about our Vision (Salem becomes healthiest community in Oregon) and our Mission (people-of-faith and people-of-goodwill collaborating). “That’s great,” he said, “but what’s your political agenda?” I explained that we have strong working relationships with elected officials and government agencies. Still, he persisted. “How many activists do you deploy to galvanize the grassroots? How many marches have you organized at the Capitol? How much legislation have you formulated with lawmakers?” Um, none, I answered haltingly. “Then how can you have any influence?” he asked. “How can you help the poor if you don’t have a political agenda?”

Safe Families -- Your Family -- Can Make a Difference

Jennifer and I were privileged to be a ‘safe family’ before there was a Safe Families for Children. It was 2004.  Our boys were students at Grant School right across the street. We were volunteering there (still are!).  SLF was soon to be a partner in the “No Meth/Yes Foster Care” initiative that would transform the community in so many ways—a legacy that still has impacts and influences today.

One of Samuel’s best friends was named Crystal*. We got to know her and her family through the rhythms and intersections of grade school. Her parents were nice, but something was wrong. Crystal was coming to school late, often hungry, in clothes that were increasingly mussed. Mom was often late to pick her up from the after-school program; sometimes she was on edge and volatile. We soon learned that meth, pot and alcohol were plaguing both parents, who had recently split up. (*Not her real name)


One day Mom was at our door. High. Someone had reported her and DHS was investigating. The estranged Dad was unfit to take custody. The girls were headed for foster care, and the whole “No Meth/Yes Foster Care” concept went from ‘macro’ to ‘micro’ for us in 48 hours. In order to keep the girls together and Crystal in her neighborhood school, DHS and Mom were looking for a Grant-area family to take the girls in – maybe for a few weeks, maybe for a few months. Mom asked Jennifer and I to be that family. She signed a make-shift permission slip giving us authority to make certain decisions. We were fingerprinted and quick-certified by DHS, and the girls came to live with us.

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