Alumni Profile: Christy Norwood ’03
Christy Norwood ’03 grew up as a military “brat” who traveled the world, moving every year and a half. She’s had many people of different cultures and ethnicities cross her path, but it was ten minutes during a five-day mission trip to urban Atlanta when she “met a little girl with a soft voice and big brown eyes.” Her tear-filled eyes and pleas to be taken along haunt Christy to this day; it was that day that Christy found her calling and passion. “This little diaper-clad toddler in an instant changed my dreams of becoming a battling lawyer to an inner-city dweller, but I didn’t know how to make that a reality until one day I received a flier in the mail about a new community development program at Covenant College on top of Lookout Mountain, Georgia,” says Christy.
Today Christy is a community organizer/urban planner working in the community development wing of Charis Community Housing, and her job description is long and varied. Some days she can be found walking around the streets of South Atlanta to check on vacancies, code enforcement issues, new neighbors, and resources in order to update the physical map of the neighborhood, and along the way she can be seen talking with neighbors. Other days she might work with those same neighbors on a clean-up and beautification project. Christy is involved with recruiting new neighbors to intentionally live in South Atlanta and then uniting those new folks with the ones who have been there forever. She also stays in touch with city resources and departments and works on building connections with them by attending all the Fulton County City of Atlanta Land Bank Authority meetings. “I’ve learned how to ‘spec’ out the work for rehabs, put out bids and turn in the proper paperwork to the city,” she explains.
Her job also involves listening: “I listen to the neighbors. I am working on capturing the history of my beloved South Atlanta from senior citizens,” and “I get the fun job of listening to our target community and making sure we truly are a working partnership with the neighborhood—working to connect those who want to be intentional neighbors.” And she tries to “end every Friday by locking myself away and praying for the neighborhood and the work here.”
The definition of poverty that I learned during my studies at Covenant is foundational to all that I do"
Christy enrolled at Covenant College in the fall of 1999 as an economic major and urban community development minor, as the program had yet to expand to a major. “Somehow things worked out so that I was able to graduate as the first urban community development major,” she says. “I thank the Lord that He brought me to Covenant, as the program set a solid, priceless foundation for working and living in the inner city. The teaching transformed my understanding of what it means to be poor. It was life-altering to hear that poverty is not based on one’s income or asset level. Poverty is living apart from the fullness of what God intends. We are all poor. We are all broken. The solution to economic poverty lies in intentionally walking together to address all areas of our lives and world that have fallen short of what God intended.
“After graduating from Covenant College in 2003, God brought me full circle and sent me back to Atlanta – and I literally mean full circle. The neighborhood in which I live and work borders the former projects in which I stayed during those five pivotal mission-trip days. My ministry – FCS Urban Ministries (the umbrella ministry under which Charis Community Housing falls) – organized our projects that week and indirectly brought that little girl with tear-filled eyes across my path.
“Sometimes as I walk my community streets or fellowship with neighbors I wonder where this little girl is. What kind of woman has she grown up to become? Does she know the Lord as her Savior? Has she become another version of the adults who scarred her back with their cigarettes? Is she still living in sub-standard housing with children of her own – children who like her are dying to hear the words ‘I love you?’ Is my work in this South Atlanta neighborhood impacting her? Have our stories intertwined once again without either one of us knowing? Will she ever know that God used her tear-swollen eyes to make me who I am today and implant within my heart a love for community development that firmly is rooted in seeing hearts and lives transformed for the glory of God?”