Father of Christian community development brings message of hope

By wayne.steffen on March 18, 2013 @ 8:57am

"This is the first generation that values difference; that sees it as an asset," Perkins told students, faculty and staff at College Hour chapel March 15 in the Special Events Center.

The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution are "the greatest statements of human dignity," Perkins said. And today's young are the best chance of bringing to fruition the dignity stated in those documents. "It's what I've been longing for all my life," said the 82-year-old pastor, speaker, author and activist, "making the American Dream a reality." 

Perkins has seen the best and worst in his life. A sharecropper's son who grew up in Mississippi, Perkins fled to California at age 17 after a town marshal murdered his older brother. Returning to his home state to preach in 1960, his leadership in the civil rights movement resulted in beatings and imprisonment.

In Mississippi, Perkins and his wife, Vera Mae, founded Voice of Calvary Ministries, which sponsored a church, health center, leadership development program, thrift store, housing development and training center. In 1982, the Perkins family returned to California and founded Harambee Christian Family Center in Pasadena. Harambee operates after-school tutoring, Good News Bible Clubs, a technology center, summer day camp and youth internship and college scholarship programs. The Perkins' and others established the John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation & Development, Inc., to advance Christian community development and racial reconciliation worldwide. Among Perkins' nine books isLet Justice Roll Down, which Christianity Today calls one of the top 50 books of the last half of the twentieth century.

Perkins was in Fresno as featured speaker at the City Summit conference, March 15-16. Co-sponsored by FPU and the FPU Center for Community Transformation, the conference promotes the kind of community development Perkins pioneered. City Summit took place at Christian Temple, 535 N. Cedar Avenue, Fresno. In addition to College Hour, Perkins, met with faculty, staff, seminary students and guests in B.C. Lounge, part of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary.

With the passion of his life in his voice Perkins preached to the College Hour audience that caring for others will combat the sins of hate, greed and selfishness. "Passion for myself is addiction. Today we are addicted to ourselves," Perkins said.

God, however, wants people to work together with him "to keep this world solid and sound until his return," Perkins said. "What a privilege we have to work with God in this age."

The Internet gives people the power to preach to the entire world, but that's only half the battle—the rest is up to the youth, who give Perkins such hope. "We've got the mechanics in shape, what we need is young people with passion," he said. "This generation is ready."

For more information:

John Perkins at spu.edu/depts/perkins/john-perkins/index.asp

City Summit conference at fresnocitysummit.org

FPU Center for Community Transformation at transformcentralvalley.org/