The Word on the Street has the potential to be a book about two theologians who volunteer at a soup kitchen, feel good about themselves, and write heart-warming stories about their experiences. But we find that Charles Campbell and Stan Saunders have discovered a treasure, and that the journey into "the field" requires slogging through mud, spending nights out in the cold with homeless folks, cleaning porta-potties, and no small amount of soul-baring regarding one's personal struggles, shortcomings, and need for forgiveness.
The two theologians from Columbia Seminary have teamed up with Atlanta's Open Door Community, a group of African Americans and whites who live together in a Christian discipleship community. They struggle with racism, let the homeless sleep in their backyard, provide meals for the poor at the Butler Street Breakfast, and serve lunches at their home. They wage an ongoing campaign for no-cost health care for the poor at Grady County Hospital, and they fight for public space for the homeless at downtown Woodruff Park. The Open Door is a community that prays, studies God's Word, serves the poor, and protests injustice.
Campbell is direct about his misgivings, that he is "serving as yet another white male ‘gatekeeper' for many poor African Americans." He has "come not to a greater confidence in my own ‘good works,' but to a deeper awareness of my personal sins and complicity in sinful systems, as well as to a greater dependence on the grace of Jesus Christ. What a revelation this has been!"