Casa Chirilagua is a group of people who are “learning together to love their neighbors as themselves” located in a latino neighborhood in Alexandria, VA. We are a Christian faith-based not-for-profit outreach that seeks to develop relationships with families to see the Chirilagua neighborhood transformed by Christ.
We seek to see God’s Kingdom established in the Chirilagua community.
1. WE ARE CALLED TO INVEST IN LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIPS.
· We remain involved in people’s lives for as long as they permit us to.
· We are regularly involved in the lives of transient families, enabling them to continue participating in our programs.
· Our programs emerge from the context of our relationships with specific kids and families. We try to both prevent individuals from choosing self-destructive lifestyles as well as to connect them to existing resources in the community to assist them in their specific need.
2. WE ARE CALLED TO HOLISTIC MINISTRY.
· As Jesus did, we address the needs of the whole person: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
· We respond to pressing material needs by connecting to local resources and partner churches and organizations.
· We encourage and support academically at-risk students through our after-school program Kids Club and our in-home tutoring/mentor-tutoring partnership with “Wright to Read”.
· We attend to the spiritual development of children through biblical teaching in our Kids Club program.
· We help women to grow in love of God and neighbor through our women’s fellowship group, Mujeres de Virtud, which provides biblical teaching, fosters positive and supportive relationships, and provides access to various social resources in the community.
3. WE ARE CALLED TO LOCAL, COMMUNITY-BASED MINISTRY.
· We reside in and intentionally identify with the Chirilagua neighborhood.
· As community members, we help our fellow residents define the community’s needs and priorities through daily relationships and the advisory committee in order to design creative, culturally-relevant, sustainable solutions.
· We network and partner with existing community organizations.
4. WE ARE CALLED TO MENTOR NEIGHBORHOOD LEADERS
· Made in the image of God, every individual has dignity and value. We identify the potential of each and create opportunities for them to serve their communities.
· Through faithful friendships over the long term, we nurture individuals in the development and wise stewardship of their God-given gifts and abilities, emphasizing character development and the principles of servant-leadership.
5. WE ARE CALLED TO AFFIRM THE VITAL ROLE OF THE LOCAL CHURCH.
· We view Casa Chirilagua as an extension of the local church, being an access point for the local church to give tangible expression to the it’s call to serve the poor, the oppressed, the immigrant and the lost.
· We affirm the central role of the local congregation in discipling new believers.
6. WE ARE CALLED TO DEVELOP CHURCH PARTNERSHIPS THAT UNITE THE BODY OF CHRIST IN COMMON OUTREACH EFFORTS.
· We encourage the reconciliation of native Christians from diverse socio-economic backgrounds with immigrant families by offering opportunities to participate in Kingdom-building work in Chirilagua.
· We provide opportunities for the building of cross-cultural relationships through which Christians can celebrate the diversity of the “peoples and nations” God has created.
· We seek to encourage cooperation among local congregations in addressing local needs.
· We desire partnerships with participating churches that are characterized by strong relationships between the CC board and staff and the churches’ leaders.
What does Chirilagua mean?
Chirilagua is a neighborhood in Alexandria, VA also known as Arlandria. However, if you talk to any of the mostly latino inhabitants, they proudly refer to their barrio as Chirilagua. When the Salvadoran civil war broke out in 1980, many had no choice but to leave their country and seek a new life. Many of those who came from Chirilagua, El Salvador settled in the Arlandria neighborhood of Alexandria, bringing a piece of their country with them and giving their new home a familiar name, “Chirilagua.”
Each of us has our own stories, experiences and people that have influenced our spiritual journey. We, the intentional community that started Casa Chirilagua, arrived at a place individually where we were hungry for something that we couldn’t necessarily articulate. We longed to be in a place where we could live out our faith in a more consistent, concrete, transformational way. We wanted to see our faith make a difference in our day to day lives and the lives of others. We were each seeking a way that we could marry our daily lives with larger issues in the world and church i.e. peacemaking, reconciliation, social justice, refugees, immigrants, homelessness, poverty, and the list continues. We understood that Christians had a role to play in each of these arenas and desired to find a way in which our personal faith could intersect on a daily basis with these important issues.
Close to each of our hearts was a desire to follow Jesus’ example of living out upside down Kingdom values. What does it mean, “The first shall be last.”? What does it mean, “Blessed are the poor.”? What does it mean, “Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk humbly with God.”? What does it actually look like to take Jesus’ words at face value and follow his example of hanging out with the marginalized of society. What would it look like to truly love your neighbor as yourself? Did He really mean what He said? And if he did, why weren’t we doing it?
Through divine providence, God arranged the circumstances for the lives of Emily, Julia, and Dawnielle to intersect through a conference and book talk near the end of 2006. They were drawn to one another through similar experiences in Latin America and a shared love for the Spanish language. They connected with people, books, magazines, websites, and other communities that helped to more clearly define the vision that God had begun to work in each of their hearts. There was a lot of uncertainty in the process and emotions ranged from excitement to fear. They grappled with moving, job changes, financial situations, approval of family and friends, etc., but they continued to meet regularly with like-minded people and filled their time with prayer, reflection, questioning, and talking with others who were further along the journey.
After eight months of meeting together, in July of 2007, the three young ladies took the plunge and moved into an apartment complex in the heart of Chirilagua, a latino immigrant community in Alexandria, VA. They were affirmed that God was working in the midst of their move, even down to the specific apartment strategically located in the center of activity and next to neighbors who would play a key role in their integration into the neighborhood community life. God’s sovereignty in that process, his leading and guidance each step of the way affirmed that they were exactly where they were supposed to be.
What started as 3 people moving into a neighborhood looking for ways to be the hands and feet of Christ on a daily basis, has now developed into an intentional community of 10 adults and 2 children, who choose to live in Chirilagua and engage the greater community through friendships, walks, meals, celebrations and life events.
Out of the growth of that intentional community and in response to identified needs in the neighborhood, Casa Chirilagua has developed into a not-for-profit ministry that reaches out to the community through Kids Club (an after school program), Mujeres de Virtud (a women’s ministry), and Chirilagua Connections (an access point to connect resources with needs).