By Jennifer Johnson
In 2012 Arron Chambers preached a sermon series on Nehemiah at Journey Christian Church and challenged them to do a “great work” in their community of Greeley, CO. At the same time, he and his wife, Rhonda, asked their four kids to pray about a great work they could do as a family.
“At the time, our youngest kids were 8 and 10 and loved going to the playgrounds in our neighborhood,” says Chambers, who serves as lead minister at Journey Christian. “They suggested we build a playground that all children could enjoy, including kids with developmental and physical disabilities.”
Although Greeley is a town full of outdoor recreation opportunities and a community with 2,800 physically disabled kids, very few of the playgrounds are accessible to children with wheelchairs, visual impairment, or other special needs. The Chambers family began meeting with the city manager, parks manager, and other community leaders and discovered the city of Greeley shared their desire for an inclusive playground but had struggled to make it a reality.
“They told us it would be a hard sell to convince taxpayers to spend more than $1 million on a playground when city money is so tight, but if a private citizen wanted to lead the effort, they would enthusiastically work with us,” Chambers says. “So our family has been the face and voice of it.”
They began by hiring Shane’s Inspiration, a California-based company that’s built 200 similar playgrounds across the country, and holding community gatherings where families from different parts of town, different racial backgrounds, and with different disabilities could provide input.
Although the project is budgeted at $1.3 million, Chambers says he’s not worried about finding the funding.
“The money will show up,” he says. “For me it’s about the journey and the relationships we’re building with the community.”
And while he’s not shy about sharing the story behind the project or talking about his faith, he’s also not making every meeting and every encounter “a religious activity.”
“I’ve become good friends with some of our city leaders and don’t know that any of them are believers,” he says. “But God has orchestrated the whole thing, and I’ll just keep walking through doors as he opens them.”
The team is raising the money now and plans to break ground in late spring of 2015 (you can donate at www.gofundme.com/b18p20). The finished playground will include a Native American village, a fort with climbing areas and pivoting cannons, an interactive maze, a sand play area, a sensory garden, and lots of slides, swings, and spinners.
“When it’s all said and done, this will not only serve our community, but it will be a symbol of unity and a permanent testimony,” Chambers says. “Our family will forever share the story of how God did this. It’s not just our work, but a witness to God’s great work.”