Drake, a relatively famous hip hop artist, has a song titled, “Started from the Bottom.” One line from the chorus goes as follows, “Started from the bottom, now we’re here. Started from the bottom, now my whole team’s here.” In this song he tells the story of how he went from growing up "in poverty" to establishing himself as one of the premier hip hop artists in the world—a world, according to him, in which he started from the bottom and now has wealth and fame beyond imagination.
First, let’s survey the city and people of Camden for one minute. Taking a ride down Broadway, we head away from the newly renovated Camden Business District to the Waterfront South section of Camden, NJ, affectionately known as “Over the Hump” or “Down Bottom.” We all know about the debauchery and desolation that Camden views as its claim to fame, but what you are about to see will surprise you—it will knock your socks off. As your car sputters to the top of this “hump," you will notice the industry that filled your eyes on the left rapidly disappear. Suddenly, you are assaulted by the vast array of nothingness—about a quarter square mile of vacancy. There is nothing left to drum up any recollection of a time before. This is quite unlike the Parkside section of Camden, where one is quickly reminded of earlier glory by all the three-story homes being renovated. This is "Down Bottom." There are no homes, not even any remnants of homes to be seen. There are no businesses except the occasional prostitution deal. This is "Down Bottom,” a bottomless pit of obscurity.
The psychological world would aptly say that those who have hit bottom will seek help. The world of “Down Bottom” is an awesome opportunity. My reality was that help. Through the gospel of Jesus Christ, God sought me when I was at my lowest point. God the Father, in his ultimate sovereignty, knew that a kid from “Down Bottom” would one day hit bottom, and he would need to reach down and save him. I’m forever grateful for that.
Now We’re Here
One fellow at the church was released from prison after a one-and-a-half-year sentence for weapons possession. For months, he walked closely with the elders in friendship, never professing himself to be a disciple of Jesus. One day, while he was still in prison, he reached out to one of the pastors to inform him that he had been gripped by Jesus’ saving powerful hand and that he was going to be teaching a Bible study in prison. This former thug from the city “down bottom” is now newly engaged and walking alongside his pastors and covenant community in the gospel.
During our new location launch, a lady came to the church with one of her four children. The previous month, at the request of her longtime boyfriend, she had planned on becoming a Muslim. Tragically, her boyfriend was killed in a motorcycle accident, which left her feeling suicidal and searching for healing and direction. As she rode past the church sign on the bus, Christ drew her to the church. This Camden native was “down bottom,” and the Lord reached her. Subsequently, she has been diligently attending the church, inquiring about the beliefs of the church, and has professed that she desires to walk as a disciple and learn about Jesus Christ.
Another fellow came to the church during one of our BLITZ (Bringing Light Into The Zones) cookouts. He was despondent, and as he walked past the cookout, one of our members invited him to join us for a meal. He hadn’t eaten in days, and was high on PCP. God gripped his heart that day and he was able to hear the gospel. Although he is still struggling with his addiction to PCP, he is able to clearly communicate the gospel and his need of it. Please keep him in your prayers as God continues to work in his life and as we assist him in finding a rehab facility. God has reached him from way “down bottom” and has pulled him up.
Drake makes the declaration, “now we’re here.” In other words, he’s arrived. “Here” for him is nothing but earthly opulence and hedonism. He has made a living off a fabricated, impoverished upbringing, and he claims himself as the source of his overcoming. He pursues his own pleasure on a daily basis. “Here,” for those of us really from the part of Camden called “Down Bottom,” is the eternal security found in Christ and the mission given by Christ. God is pouring out his Spirit on this city through his vessels at Epiphany Fellowship of Camden. So, with every conversion and every person who encounters Jesus Christ through one of our services or BLITZes at Epiphany Camden, we shout, “Started from ‘Down Bottom,’ now Jesus brought us here!”
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By R. Derrick Parks. © 2021 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org