The Brisben Center Start with what’s strong – not what’s wrong. By David Cooper, MSW, MDiv, CPM January 2023 Ordinary Resurrections is a book about children in the years of hope. It was required reading in my social justice studies of 1999. I was deeply moved by the stories of systemic struggles and the inspiration of children in search of peace, stability, loving family, and good neighbors. I wanted to understand and transform systems that create and perpetuate injustice – especially those impacting children and families.
Decades later and from my experiences in communities across America and abroad, my motivation is unwavering. However, my understanding and applications of justice have developed. By doing “to” and “for” others based upon perceptions of their needs can inadvertently undermine self-worth and purpose. An alternative is that by starting with what is strong, not what is wrong, building upon unique qualities, talents, and motivation among individuals, families, and their neighborhoods, amazing outcomes can and often do emerge. A term to describe this perspective of social justice is Asset Based Community Development (ABCD).
ABCD starts with discovery of a person’s unique physical, mental, financial, and social abilities. Then, building upon personal capabilities, motivation, and accountability, a results-based path (Bridge to SelfSufficiency®) is developed to measurably yield full human potential and neighborhood wellbeing (shalom). I apply ABCD as the Executive Director/CEO of the Brisben Center.
The Brisben Center, also known as the Thurman Brisben Homeless Shelter, is an 80-bed facility serving the homeless of Caroline, Spotsylvania, King George, and Stafford counties, and City of Fredericksburg. Over the past seventeen years of its 35-year history, the Brisben Center has sheltered and provided services for over 7,000 homeless persons (about 40% are children). The center provides temporary shelter, nutritious food, and a host of wraparound services for adults and children. We coach shelter residents to discover their unique capabilities and measurably apply them to achieve transformative results. Together, we endeavor to resolve the roots of homelessness equitably, measurably, and sustainably.
There are many ordinary resurrections emerging from the ministry of the Brisben Center. One of these is a young woman who, with child, was a resident of the center at age nineteen. Now, the woman is a successful real-estate executive, business owner in Washington DC and serves on the Brisben Center board of directors.
Doing justice with mercy and humbleness (Micah 6:8), requires an equitable mixture of capabilities, motivation, and accountability (responsibility) among individual, family, and community: shalommaking. The yield is discovery and application of God-inspired and endowed strengths, working “with” one another to achieve what author Jonathan Kozol calls ordinary resurrections in the years of hope.