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Last updated October 02.

Sept. 30, 2013 issue

Construction ministry opens doors to touch lives

Philadelphia man shares love that was shared with him

By J. Fred Kauffman Kingdom Builders Anabaptist Network

PHILADELPHIA — With his construction skills and compassionate heart, Edward Jackson has touched many lives in Philadelphia and beyond.

From left, Ed Jackson, Sam Beiler and Dan Umstead, director of Kingdom Builders Construction, on site in New Orleans.

From left, Ed Jackson, Sam Beiler and Dan Umstead, director of Kingdom Builders Construction, on site in New Orleans. — Photo by Kingdom Builders

Jackson grew up in Philadelphia’s Fairhill Community, once known as “the Badlands” because of high crime. As a child he remembers two white women walking the streets, encouraging kids to come to their programs at Crossroads Community Center and Second Mennonite Church.

“They looked suspicious,” he said with a smile. “And I thought they were nuns.”

Jackson has many other memories of Crossroads as well, including “B.J.,” a tall, bearded African-American man who once served as director.

“He really cared about us,” Jackson said. “What made him stand out is that he would come to get us on the corners with no fear of the violence. He ministered Christ to us.”

As a young man in a tough neighborhood, Jackson got caught up in the street “hustle.” But four years ago he reconnected with Pastor Juan Marrero, whom he knew from his former street life. Marrero had become director of Crossroads and pastor of Christ Centered Church.

“Most people who want to leave street lifestyle have to move out of the neighborhood to get away from the people, places and things that got them in trouble in the first place,” Jackson said. “Pastor Juan and I are still in the ’hood, though, and that is a testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.”

He said when he surrendered to Christ, God started opening doors.

“One of those doors was Kingdom Builders Construction,” he said. KBC is a joint ministry of Kingdom Builders Anabaptist Network and Mennonite Central Committee.

“Working with KBC has been a ministry blessing and a financial blessing,” he said. “It has elevated my skills while working and serving with KBC director Dan Umstead. KBC has also blessed some ex-offenders with jobs when there were very few opportunities, and it has helped some elderly home owners with home repairs.”

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