By Larry Lloyd
Special to The Commercial Appeal
The Memphis Leadership Foundation is celebrating its 25th year of service. When I’m asked to explain the foundation’s mission in Memphis, I refer people to this Biblical passage from Jeremiah 29:7:
“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
The prophet was addressing the exiles in Babylon, urging them to seek the peace and prosperity — the shalom — of Babylon. We at the foundation have dedicated our lives to pray for our city and to seek its shalom, actively developing leaders and ministries that are instruments in God’s hand to make a positive difference in under-resourced communities.
We embrace a “theology for the city.” We see cities like Memphis as sacred, a means of God’s grace. Memphis is means of God’s grace to all of us living here. Our city is, indeed, a place of peace and prosperity and we continue to seek that for all our brothers and sisters who have not yet experienced shalom.
Just think about our city. People from all over the world come to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for care. We are a hub for international distribution. Our medical center is second to none, and that includes our children’s hospital, which pours out grace and healing to thousands. We are one of American’s most generous cities when it comes to sharing with our neighbors.
We have challenges, too, like every urban center in the world. People come here looking for hope, for jobs, for anonymity, for community and opportunity. The homeless come because they might find shelter. The immigrant finds her way here for possible work and a future. Cities are amplifiers of grace as well as magnets for the least, the lost, the left behind and the left out. It’s always been this way for the city.
That’s why the community of faith, people of good will and institutions work together to form a network of hope and grace for our city. For, after all, we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. What we’ve witnessed over these past 25 years is what can happen when we get engaged with our neighbors.
The foundation is proud of its work with Streets Ministries, Memphis Athletic Ministries and the Urban Youth Initiative giving thousands of young people a brighter future.
The staff at Christ Community Health Services, who treat tens of thousands of our most vulnerable citizens with quality, affordable health care.
MultiNational Ministries and the Refugee Empowerment Program serving the strangers and sojourners in our midst who come to our city of good abode looking for hope and opportunity.
Economic Opportunities and the Memphis Economic Development Partnership who are giving ex-offenders and the unemployed a chance at dignity and self reliance through employment.
Neighborhood Housing Opportunities rebuilding neighborhoods and giving families an opportunity for safe, affordable housing.
We could name literally thousands of people who are working in churches, nonprofit ministries and programs who are trying to make the Jeremiah passage a reality in Memphis.
It will take us all working together and working tirelessly to realize such a vision. We’ve been at it for a quarter of century and will be at it, God willing, for another 25 years. It will take more than money. It will take more than government.
It will take each one of us loving our neighbor as ourselves to make Memphis a place of shalom for the future.
For more information about the Memphis Leadership foundation, visit our new website at memphisleadershipfoundation.org.
Dr. Larry Lloyd, a Faith in Memphis panelist, is founder of the Memphis Leadership Foundation.