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In 1997, author and pastor Bruce Deel was asked to leave his present position and shut down the derelict Mission Church in Atlanta, Ga., located in one of the city’s most impoverished, crime-ridden, and drug-controlled areas. 

Deel realized that he was “a white Christian pastor from rural Virginia who now lived in the Atlanta suburbs—in other words, “an interloper with no real knowledge of the streets.” Still, he chose to stay and do all he could for the desperate people he met, rooting his efforts in an attitude of radical trust—trusting people, “not in the person who they will be, but in the person they are.”

Slowly, Deel’s efforts, along with numerous volunteers, began to create positive change as prostitutes, drug dealers, strippers, and others living on society’s margins learned of the Ghetto Rev, as he was nicknamed, and the fact that he was committed to staying and living among them.

Twenty-two years later, what began as twice-weekly meal offerings to the neighborhood grew into the City of Refuge, a “one-stop-shop” of social services to help people transition into healthy, wholesome futures.

With honesty, humor, and many gut-wrenching stories, Deel shares his failures and triumphs, and those of the people he met and served. Today, City of Refuge is still rooted in the principle of radical trust.

Trust First is written for Christians and nonbelievers alike. Maybe that’s why Deel doesn’t often overtly state his reliance on God at every turn but hints at it, and, in his acknowledgments, gives God all the glory for what was accomplished. Another reason might be that the book is published by Simon Sinek’s Optimism Press, which focuses on building a better world by building better leaders—something that definitely implies self-reliance. It’s clear that all that Deel and his organization have accomplished could only have been achieved through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. (Optimism Press)

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