At CBA’s Unite 2016 conference, June 26-29, in Cincinnati, OH, the Christian retail market has the opportunity to impact lives for the kingdom by donating to a local ministry that serves in the heart of inner-city Cincinnati.

BLOC (Believing and Living Out Christ) lives and works in under-served communities to offer positive choices, build relationships, and strengthen students, families, and communities in consistent, stable, personal and long-term ways.

The idea for BLOC came about when Dwight Young and his wife, Stephanie, served as youth pastors. They felt that the young people they most wanted to reach didn’t attend church and weren’t active at school. Feeling God’s call on their lives, they left the pastorship and dove into urban ministry.

That was in 1998. At first all they had was their truck. Dwight would pull up on the streets of western Cincinnati and get to know the young people. He and Stephanie did a series of outreaches using local school gymnasiums. Then a local businessman took an interest in the couple and gave them an old church to house their first official after-school program.

Now 18 years later, BLOC works in four different neighborhoods, with six after-school programs, a jobs skills training program, an arts building, outreaches to women lost in addiction and sex trafficking, and two community meals programs.

BLOC’s driving force is to strengthen disadvantaged youth and families through student communities. Over 4,000 children and adults are served each month.

“Our afterschool programs are our most popular, with over 300 students a month in six different sites experiencing a safe, nurturing environment to relax, do homework (with assistance, if needed), have a snack, play a basketball game, or talk to a mentor,” Dwight explains.

“Our second most popular program is one of our newer ones, Weightless Anchor. This program operates a welcome center in a small pocket of poverty near downtown,” he explains. “We serve women who struggle with homelessness, addiction, sex trafficking, or mental illness by doing their laundry, offering them a place to rest, relax, have a snack, play a game, or simply take a shower. Once a week we have a sit-down, homemade dinner.”

The friendly atmosphere BLOC strives for at all of its centers helps draw the people they serve into relationship with them. “We find that by serving and loving, we have hard and troubled hearts opening up, sharing, desiring change, and finding Jesus.”

Young and his staff have a list of beneficial programs they would love to develop including equine therapy, a jobs incubator, a transitional home for women who are learning to live clean and sober, and a culinary training center with an urban commercial kitchen for teaching youth and adults.

Individuals, churches, local businesses, private foundations, and local government fund BLOC, but staffers hope the Christian marketplace can help supply resources to help with discipleship and spiritual growth.

“We could really use Bibles and other products to hand out to those we minster to, preferably the NIV geared to children, teens, men, or women as well as simple study Bibles,” says Young. “We also could use any urban-style curriculum for overcoming addiction particularly or for helping parents become better parents.”

Donations to BLOC will be taken at the CBA Unite 2016 event and online during event registration.

-Lora Schrock