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Progressive Community Church
Progressive Pledge Form

Steve and Carol Montgomery
Montgomery Pledge Form

    I wish you would consider pledging to one of these causes. It's a way that you can literally invest in this adventure.

Progressive Community Church
56 E. 48th St., Chicago, Illinois
From the corner of 48th and Wabash, facing east.

    I was introduced to Progressive in 1985 when then co-worker, Lester Foster, invited me and my family. He was excited about his church. He said we would be warmly received. We took him up on his offer, although I remember having some typical suburban concerns about the neighborhood. I had never attended a black church service; my background is Presbyterian which is about as far to the other end of the emotional spectrum as you can get.
    I can't begin to tell you in how many ways I have been blessed by my association with this church over the past decade plus. I would like to give a small measure of that blessing back.

    This next picture was taken by turning 180 degrees and facing west.
In terms of Progressive's mission, these buildings are important...

    ...They are the Robert Taylor Homes, one block west of Progressive. The U.S. Census Bureau says more Americans living below the poverty line are condensed into a smaller space in these homes than anywhere else in America.
Everyone agrees that living in places like this is a nightmare. (See "Our America" on my links page.)
    Mayor Daley is in the process of tearing down these homes. He looks like a hero. Problem: arrangements have not been made to replace them. Oops.
    Rev. Martin foresees the possibility of 20,000 new homeless on the streets of this neighborhood, and these will follow the most recent demographics on the homeless; mostly young women with babies.

Progressive has made it its mission as a neighborhood church to be a safe haven for children of all ages.

    At almost any hour during the day, seven days a week, children from these high-rises can be found in a variety of programs at Progressive. Rev. Martin told one of my classes that children come into the church for day care and do not want to go home at the end of the day.
    'Safe haven' isn't just a phrase.
    Progressive several years ago ran out of room. They wanted to build on the vacant lot across the street from the church. They could not get a bank to loan them money. There are no black owned banks in the neighborhood. Progressive is now trying to start one.

    Being a teacher in the affluent western suburbs, I know that the prevailing  opinion in my county about this part of Chicago is that there are no good people down here. (This is an easy way to write them off.)

What makes your kids more deserving of a chance than these kids?

All the pictures on this page were taken February 28, 1999. It was the last Sunday of Black History Month and almost the whole congregation was decked out in full African regalia. It was beautiful.
One of the speakers on this day said, "You can't know where you're going until you know where you've been." Black history month is a very important part of the African American community, if for no other reason than that as a people they were systematically robbed of their history in a way no other Americans were. This gives them the opportunity to connect with it, in at least a general way.


This is Dominique. She told Rev. Martin she had something to say to the congregation and he gave her the opportunity to speak.
And that's exactly what she is doing in this picture. She is reciting, from memory, a Bible verse for every letter of the alphabet. Twenty six of them. You should have heard the ovation she got when she finished. Rev. Martin said, "And a little child shall lead them."
    (This would be an example of why church starts at 11:00 and ends promptly between 1:00 and 3:00. Lot's of things go on every Sunday.)

This is Reverend B. Herbert Martin, senior pastor at Progressive. He was born to sharecropper parents in the Mississippi delta (Bolliver County). He was called to the ministry where he has excelled. He has been not only a community leader but a city-wide leader and beyond. He served as chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority under Mayor Harold Washington. He is past president of the South Side branch of the NAACP, at one time the largest in the nation. He delivered a stirring eulogy at Harold Washington's funeral in 1987. He has had opportunities to move "beyond" Progressive, but is committed to this neighborhood. He lives in it.
He is a warm and good-hearted man; you see it in his eyes. But he is more than capable of preaching fire and brimstone. He preaches with POWER.

"Where there is no vision...the people perish"

    This is the mission statement of Progressive. (I wish it was the mission statement of my district.)

    This family came forward at the altar call and will be taking steps to join the church.
    I didn't take any pictures of the fantastic church choir, the Voices of Progressive. What fantastic musicians. I keep counting them because I can't believe the sound of a 200-voice choir comes from just forty. They just recorded a CD; when I get information on how to buy it, I'll include it here. It would be an excellent purchase.

Here's at least a picture of part of the rhythm section:

    Well, I've tried to give you an overview of this fine church and its fine people. Please consider helping them by sponsoring me as I ride across the country.
    And to those of you who live within driving distance of an African American church, step across that line. You will not be sorry.

Pledge to Progressive Church

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Steve and Carol Montgomery
(Missionaries with SIM in Niamey, Niger)

The Montgomery Family
(clockwise from lower left: Abigail, Ben, Seth, Stephen, Carol, Susanna, and Keziah in the middle )

These are my friends, Steve and Carol Montgomery, and their family. Steve and Carol and their two youngest children (Seth and Keziah) are in Niger working for SIM.

When I approached Steve about the possibility of doing fundraising for their work there, he said he didn't think it would be such a great idea because of the perception today of missionaries as nothing more than destroyers of indigenous cultures.
I guess I'll go out on a politically incorrect limb and disagree. Steve and Carol are helping a people in great need in a way that virtually none of us are willing to commit to. They work incredibly hard to improve the daily lives of the people they are with, at great personal sacrifice (see the malaria section in their newsletter below). They present the Gospel of Jesus Christ because they believe it represents a universal truth. They do not force anyone to accept it by the sword. They do this because they believe that the eternal condition of the soul is inestimably more important than the temporal condition of the body. They try to show the life of Jesus Christ in the way they live their daily lives.
I believe they are worthy of my support.
If after you read about them, you do too, then go get your checkbook and write something.

Steve and I met as teammates on the wrestling team together at Wheaton College in the late 1960's. Steve was a thinker and I was attracted to him because he thought all kinds of stuff. Even if half of it was just nonsense, he was always turning something over in his mind. Steve struck me as a kind of a Renaissance Man. And he has always had a wonderful sense of humor accompanied by a great laugh.

Our friendship developed. We roomed together our sophomore year and the friendship developed even more. It was beautiful to see Carol come into his life. She was exactly the kind of tempering agent he needed. (and she'd be the first to admit what a temper she has:-) I was honored to serve as best man in their wedding in 1970 and returned the honor the following year when Steve was best man in my wedding.

The Montgomery's have never lived the "American" life. From the very beginning of their marriage they showed a commitment to Christian living that extended way beyond lip service.They have spent most of the last twenty-five years raising their family in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago's far west side. During that time they have been involved in a number of local ministries: intentional Christian community, lay church and outreach ministry leadership, pastoral counseling, and technical and organizational consulting. It was also during this time that they suffered the loss of their fourth child, Sarah, who was born with severe congenital heart defects.This sad loss opened their hearts up in a new way to the needs of hurting children, leading to an involvement in foster care.

Stephen's vocational experience over the past 30 years has been in software systems development technology, general management, and lay pastoral work. Most recently Stephen worked at NationsBank-CRT in Chicago as a Senior Systems Engineer, with a focus on Software Development Systems and Infrastructure.

During most of the past fourteen years, the Montgomerys have been part of Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Evanston, Il, where they are now members. In that context they have lead and pastored small groups, served in a thorough pre-marital counseling program, and promoted long-term missions. Stephen has served on the board of directors of Circle Family Care, Circle Christian Development Corporation, and New Moms, Inc., all Christian inner-city ministries in Chicago.

In 1990 God breathed new life into their long-standing interest in missions and began leading them toward ministry in Niger, West Africa, an exciting process that culminated in a year of blessing for their entire family as short-term missionaries at SIM's Galmi Hospital in Niger. There between July 1992 and June 1993, they combined technical work with informal activities, nurturing, coaching and encouraging co-workers. This year of ministry together as a family, before the older children started to move out on their own, made a deep impact on the whole family.

This great experience was one of the components of a growing sense of calling to return to Niger. After a three and a half year return to life in Chicago, the Montgomerys came back to Niger with SIM, this time as long-term missionaries, and this time leaving two of their five children behind in college. The Montgomerys have been back in Niger this term since December 1996. After five months of Hausa study, they helped out doing general administration and medical work at SIM's Galmi Hospital for just over a year.

This year Stephen was asked to serve as SIM Niger's Deputy Area Director for Niger's western region, and they have moved to Niamey to help with SIM Niger/CAR Area Administration.

(Niger backcountry)

Steve and Carol can be reached by email at If you write, keep your messages short and don't expect an answer. The last thing they need is letters they feel they need to respond to. But I think it would be great if you would drop them a note of encouragement, especially those of you who know them.

If you would like to learn more about the country of Niger, this 'Niger Page' produced by the University of Pennsylvania African Studies Department is fairly comprehensive.

The following is a copy of Steve and Carol's newsletter from Niger, February, 1999. (I have added the bold-face type.)

Dear Friends and Family,

Well, here's the New Year ahead of us, full of enormous challenge and possibility. Unless you live in a bubble, and I don't know of anyone who does, life on planet earth is continually full of opportunities for growth! With God's help we will grow and not grow bitter.

The last three months have been extremely busy, full of people opportunities and challenges galore. God is good and we have seen Him resolve some difficult situations with positive learning for all. Others remain to deal with, and we look forward to seeing God work in these situations, also.

Surely the highlight for us, though, from a purely human perspective, was the two weeks that we had all together as a family over Christmas. What a wonderful gift! We talked and sang and traveled and played together to make up for the last two years, and to hold us until the next time.

We traveled out to Galmi together for Christmas and had a good and squashed ride together in our little five-passenger Peugeot. It was a bush taxi minus the chickens, and engendered more than one bemused stare by passing vehicles. The little car didn't run too well on the first half of the journey, so we were regularly passed up. After a flat tire necessitated stopping in a town to get the puncture fixed, Stephen decided to inquire whether there was mechanic there, also. Oh, yes. This boy will take you down to the garage. So we left the tire and drove back following the boy's dogtrot until we got to a spreading Neem tree with a little wobbly table under it that held a few tools: the garage. Hey, but it's results that matter, right? The guy dove under the hood and within twenty minutes he had the car humming again, and once we got our tire back we were on our way without problems, and have driven fine ever since.

It was great to see all our old friends in Galmi, both expat and Nigerien. There seemed to be a steady stream of visitors at the door coming to greet someone in the family. We did a quick trip over to Maradi on the Saturday after Christmas to see Ben's old pancake eating pal Luke, now grown into a strapping young first grader. Ben had hoped to see Ishaya, his best buddy from back at Galmi in 92-93. Nobody had known where he was that day, though, so Ben had just left a small gift for him at the Matthew's, Luke's family, when we left there. But as we were driving back to Maradi out of Soura, there he was, just walking along the road. What sweet timing, and a warm flashback to the past, to see them briefly back together again.

Now Ben is back in Japan, Abi is back in France and Sus is back in Chicago, and we are here, feeling a good bit like the house echoes, but getting used to it again. God is good to have given us this time together and we are grateful.

Please pray for Stephen and me as this new year starts. We are both feeling quite weary under our respective loads and need clear direction and fresh strength for each day, as the needs well outstrip our human resources. For those of you that enjoy getting a more descriptive peek at life here, I will try to give you that again in our April letter. This January it's a bare bones letter! Sannu! (Sannu is an all purpose word whose meanings range from "Hello!" to "Sorry!" "Sorry" is the meaning employed here. ;-))

Many of you have asked us if we will need more financial support now that we will be staying until June 2000 or 2001. SIM's pool system means that we will not have to return home early for lack of support, but it does mean that everyone in the pool will bear the burden of those whose support dips low. So, if you are currently a regular or sometime supporter and are able to continue giving, that would be great. (A big thank you to those of you who have already indicated that you can continue financial support.) If you aren't able to give at this time, would you please pray with us for God's provision?

A personal thanks is in order to those of you who prayed for my recovery from malaria in November. (Most of us who work here eventually join the malaria "club"!) And a big ongoing thanks to those of you who are praying regularly for us personally and for the needs here. How we need it! Which reminds me, if you are not currently getting our Prayer Matters which goes to the prayer team folks, and you would like to know how to pray more specifically for Niger and for us as we work here, let us know and we will put you on that list. And please don't forget that we want to be praying for you, too. Let us know how.

Many Blessings to you all!

Carol and Stephen

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