ban•yan noun: A tropical Indian fig tree (ficus benghalensis), often widely spreading because of the many aerial roots that descend from the branches and develop into additional trunks. From a distance it looks like a grove of trees, a forest of tropical figs. Come closer and you discover that the branches are all inter-connected. The trunks grow out of the ground separately but their limbs are joined together. Leafy foliage stretches heavenward toward the sun while on the underneath side their limbs send down aerial roots in search of moisture and nutrients from the soil. As these descending shoots take root and grow, they mature into trunks that send new branches skyward to join their extended family. The process repeats itself over and over again. The banyan tree becomes a banyan grove.
A banyan is very different from an oak tree. The oak sprouts from a single acorn, fights its way up from the forest floor and, if it can secure enough sunlight from among competing seedlings, emerges as a sturdy, towering hardwood. Its overshadowing dominance discourages other trees from growing within its drip-line. A mature oak is a stately specimen that can endure for a hundred or more years.
The banyan tree does not grow tall like an oak nor is it as majestic. It stays closer to the earth, content to stretch its rooty limbs outward over an ever-expanding terrain. Its grain is not handsome and straight like that of the oak but neither is it as vulnerable to lightning strikes or hurricane-force winds.
FCS Urban Ministries has developed much more like a banyan than an oak. Over the years it has grown into a family of inter-connected ministries. Each member develops its own support network that draws life-giving resources from different ground. It has no high-visibility vertical structure to attract public attention and draw in substantial funding. Rather, it grows by increments close to the soil of community, one ministry emerging from another. Some programs reach out faster and farther than others, depending on their visionary energy, cultural climate, and some indeterminable mystery hidden deep in their DNA. Other programs seem content to mature at a slower pace.
Like a banyan, FCS draws its life-sustaining nutrients through a support system that extends far beyond the parent tree. Over time, it is even difficult to determine from which trunk the grove-family first originated. Each member is viable in its own right, yet made even stronger by its interconnections with the family. In times of economic drought, the work of seeking out new aquifers is shared across its expansive root system. When winds of adversity whip against one program, the others are there to provide stability. When lightning flashes, all members may feel the threat but, unlike higher profile organizations, none fear that a hostile assault will topple the entire ministry.
The network of programs, non-profit corporations, partnerships and informal relationships that comprises the FCS family of ministries is less an intentional organizational strategy than a natural convergence of callings. To some it would appear haphazard and, in truth, no one but the Creator knows where new shoots will appear. Though it is difficult to project a five year plan, it is an environment that spawns and incubates visions, allows them to develop at their own pace, and encourages them to emerge toward their created purpose.
To those who are our faithful supply-sources, the FCS family offers our heart-felt thanks. We are grateful for the confidence you have placed in us that has allowed us to grow steadily, modestly, without a lot of fanfare, for nearly thirty years. We appreciate your investing with us even when the soil we have chosen is rocky and the environment hostile. Thank you for being the essential, life-giving nutrients for our ministry.
Adopt-A-Grandparent • Atlanta Youth Project • Atlanta Youth Academy • Charis Community Housing • Charis Property Management • Common Focus • Community Chaplaincy • Community Fellowships • Developing Futures Scholarships • East Lake Commons • Family Store • FCS Community Economic Development • Gaia Gardens • GlenCastle • GlenTech Co-op Program • God’s Farm • Homeownership Program • Home Resource and Furniture Center • Mission Year • Moving in the Spirit • Strategic Neighbor Program • Summer Camp
P.S. If you would like more information about any of these ministries, please let us know. We don’t have a glossy annual report to send you but we do have good descriptions of each program as well as annual audits.