Photo/Alexander Kuilan

Alexander Kuilan, who oversees volunteer work crews, works on construction sites and helps with social media at Kingdom Builders Construction (KBC), and Ed Jackson, construction manager at KBC, install flooring in a house in Philadelphia, PA. KBC is an MCC East Coast partner that offers a chance for former prisoners to learn vocational skills while providing construction services to congregations, businesses and individuals in the greater Philadelphia area.

For more than 17 years, MCC East Coast has been part of Kingdom Builders Anabaptist Network of Greater Philadelphia (KBN). KBN asks the question, “What can we as urban Anabaptists in Philadelphia do together in the name of Christ that we cannot do alone?” The network brings together almost 50 diverse churches and nonprofit organizations, where English, Spanish, Indonesian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Haitian Creole and many other languages are spoken.

Leonard Dow, chair of KBN, lead pastor of Oxford Circle Mennonite Church and a bishop in Lancaster Mennonite Conference said, “Too often in domestic Anabaptist urban areas of color, a key barrier is access. This includes access to finding like-minded partners, financial resources, networks and people that are somewhat comfortable in the midst of diversity including people groups, ethnicity, worldview and Biblical and denominational differences.” KBN provides that access.

“Our (KBN's) common vision of being the ‘shalom in the city’ and seeing our diversity as a gift was enhanced by MCC’s posture of learning, sharing of resources and overall desire to be of support.”

- Leonard Dow

Together KBN and MCC have collaborated on many projects, including providing workers at Philadelphia Mennonite High School, hosting peacebuilding conferences for urban youth and establishing an “Out of School Time Collaborative” that provides after-school and summer programming for students. KBN also has supported MCC by providing qualified and diverse personnel and supporting fund-raising and kit collection efforts.

In 2009, KBN and MCC also birthed a new program, Kingdom Builders Construction (KBC). KBC’s mission is to renovate and repair Anabaptist churches and ministry facilities in Philadelphia and provide home repair for elderly and low-income church members to help all stay safe, warm and dry.

“Philadelphia is the poorest major city in the U.S. with over 27% of its population living in poverty,” said Jay Johnson, executive director of KBC. “Because of this, small churches and homeowners cannot afford to address the repair needs on their buildings and homes. MCC's support enables us to spend more time in the community identifying work projects that can generate additional monies that will help subsidize the repairs of those in need.”

Check out some of Kingdom Builders Construction's recent projects here.MCC photo/Chinemelu Oguekwe

KBC spun off in 2015 to become an independent nonprofit. MCC continues to provide financial and programmatic support as well as a connection to churches outside of Philadelphia who send volunteer groups there in the summer. KBC seeks to bring people together from different locations, ages and skill levels creating relationships across cultural boundaries for the common purpose of serving together in God’s Kingdom. This aligns with MCC East Coast’s desire to connect and strengthen urban and rural churches and ministries.

In addition, KBC works closely with another MCC partner, Crossroads Community Center in North Philadelphia, to bring returning citizens (those released from incarceration) into the ministry. In fact, Crossroads’ prison ministry provides KBC with its entire work crew.

“One of the most difficult transitions for returning citizens is to find a job that provides a skill and pays a living wage. One of the core directives of KBC is to do exactly this. As individuals are released from prison, Crossroads and Christ Centered Church address the spiritual and emotional support while KBC provides the work experience,” stated Johnson.

MCC is proud to partner with KBN, KBC, Crossroads Community Center and other organizations throughout Philadelphia as it works to build the Kingdom of God in the city.

“Simply put, it is hard to imagine us being where we are without MCC East Coast," said Dow. "Likewise, we would also say that MCC East Coast wouldn't be where it is without KBN.”

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Across the East Coast and throughout the world, MCC works in partnership with local churches, just like KBN. We’re proud to say that the church drives the design of our programs, reflecting local needs and solutions. We recognize and believe that churches we partner with know their local context, have creative and inspiring ideas, and work hard to make a difference in their communities.