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Christian Summit hopes to bring churches together to act

From working with church and charitable leaders on community issues, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich proposed having a faith-based summit to develop a call to action related to four concerns:  jobs and the economy, quality of life, safety and security, and public health.

Organizers suggested the summit, “Change for Spokane,” be Christian-based to build relationships among churches.

Christian Summit Spokane
Participants join in a closing prayer at the Christian Summit.

Aware of efforts to address the issues, Ozzie told about 200 at the Christian Summit Sept. 14 at Whitworth University, that there have not been sustainable solutions because groups aren’t working together.  They duplicate efforts and compete for resources.

“I pondered what would happen if everyone came together, pooled their resources and talents, and developed a plan to address the crushing needs of our community,” said Ozzie.  ‘‘We can make a difference in our community and in the lives of those we serve.  If we love God with all our heart and mind, and love our neighbors, we will end violence.”

The value of the gathering will come in about six months “when we see we have done something, but the work will not be all done in six months,” he said.

At the close, Rodney McAuley, of Youth for Christ, invited people to surround Ozzie and offer a prayer of gratitude for his vision and for “the kairos season”—opportune time—of the gathering to transform individuals, corporations, the community and beyond.

“I am thankful for this opportunity to translate hopelessness into hope and expectation,” he said.

The Rev. Ian Robertson of Central United Methodist Church and its Change for the Better program, said, “When we come together, we often say what we need.  Instead, we need to look at what expertise we bring.

“Americans are generous,” he said.  “I’ve seen miracles.  If there’s a lack, we can turn to God.

“Change for the Better offers a place for people to get off the streets.  We place volunteers to clean under the freeway and do piece work with Goodwill to earn money,” he said. 

The priorities emerged from discussions with 130 community leaders in the county, Ian said.

Speaking at the summit, area leaders described what breaks God’s heart and what brings God joy in Spokane County.

Ozzie said people break God’s hearts when they spend too much time online and denominations divide as left and right, competing rather than working together and pooling resources.

Police Chief Frank Straub is concerned about people wandering aimlessly downtown, disconnected and disenfranchised by the community.  “Often solutions may be the cause of other problems.  For example incarceration is not a solution for the mentally ill, young people, transients and poor, meth addicts,” he said

Adrian Dominquez of the Spokane Regional Health District reported on a 2007 study, “Health Inequity: Moral and Ethical Implications of Disparity.” The study reveals that social factors—income, education, race and neighborhood—affect health.  It is online at

Adrian suggests looking beyond the traditional medical model to consider prevention by addressing social factors behind diseases.  People with better education, jobs with benefits, living in nice neighborhoods have less illness, he said.

Ben Cabildo of AHANA and Unity in the Community believes entrepreneurship is an opportunity for low-income people to share in economic development.  He recognizes that income levels for most are going down and economic development does not help the poor, because the poor and church leaders advocating for the poor are not at the table of people making decisions about the economy. 

He hopes the summit will spark a new model of economic development that includes church leaders and the poor, that includes funds for homeless and low-income programs, work-force readiness, small business incubation for homeless people and incentives for corporations to hire homeless people.

Rodney said churches can be involved with at-risk youth as Youth for Christ is—by providing child care, after-school programs, youth car washes to raise funds for school supplies and neighborhood clean-up initiatives. 

He challenges churches to offer relational circles as a holistic model and to proclaim the Gospel by acting on it.

Dave Ross of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints public affairs office proposed that congregations unite their neighborhoods through block watch and neighborhood watch.  They help neighbors know their neighbors and prepare for emergencies.

Colville physician Barry Bacon said churches can help people connect to solutions for wellness.  He helped his community develop a pilot project this year to bring chemical dependency treatment to the Stevens County Jail.  For six years, he has worked with GetFitColville, which has helped people improve their health and lifestyle choices, and do an “extreme health makeover” in nutrition, meal practices and exercise.  Participants together have lost more than 7,000 pounds.

Ben Stuckart, City Council President,encourages churches developing more local food sources, such as planting community gardens.  Aware that many children qualified for free and reduced-price lunches, he worked with Communities in Schools to prepare backpacks of food for students to take home over weekends.

Ben proposes that churches mentor children, developing one-to-one relationships and that each church adopt a homeless person.

Participants set up neighborhood teams to network with congregations on the priorities. The regional groups will meet regularly to carry on the process, signing up volunteers from churches to participate.  In January and May, area groups will report on what they have done. 

For information, call 675-4394 or email

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