Welcome to a new series I’m calling Saints of Darkness. It will run on Mondays from now until May 18th and feature folks who are doing really interesting, creative, and important social justice work. The series is available as a free podcast that you can stream from this site or download either from iTunes or Podbean and listen to later at your convenience.
When I first met Jason Atkins I had my doubts.
Not about Jason, but about the success of the project he was working on.
It was several years ago and I was in Nashville with my youth on a short-term mission trip. We were working on various projects around town and one of those projects was this old, run down apartment complex.
Our job that day was demolition, which included ripping nails out of the ceiling, cleaning up years of accumulated filth from the floor, and clearing a forest of weeds that was slowly reclaiming the building.
As hard as my students worked and as passionate as Jason was about transforming this slice of urban blight into a home, I had a hard time believing this run down apartment complex would house anything other than rats ever again.
I’ve never been so happy to admit I was wrong.
This is that same slice of urban blight today.
It’s called Castanea and it’s an intentional community dedicated to economic, ecological, and racial reconciliation in Chestnut Hill, a tough neighborhood in downtown Nashville that doesn’t look much better than the “before” picture up above.
Despite it’s beauty, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea.
This isn’t the same old gentrification that is transforming the rest of downtown Nashville.
Along with being home to Jason’s family and the other members of Castanea, this oasis of hope works with Vanderbilt University to provide affordable housing for both future pastors and folks with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
If that was all Jason was involved with it would be amazing enough…but it’s not.
Castanea is right behind the campus of my alma mater – Trevecca Nazarene University – where Jason also graduated and now teaches in their Social Justice Program. But he doesn’t spend all of his time on campus lecturing in the classroom. In fact, a great deal of it is spent running Trevecca’s Urban Farm, which exists as part of the Social Justice Program to teach students about a whole host of issue ranging from sustainability and poverty to human trafficking.
Needless to say, he’s a busy guy.
But he was gracious enough to find the time to sit down with for a short interview that was as inspiring as it was brutally honest about what life is really like when you try to become intentional about life on earth as it is in heaven.
As always, you can stream the interview below or download it as a podcast to listen to later. Either way, I hope you take the time to listen to what Jason has to say. I promise it will be time well spent.