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NEW Resource! Housing: A Practical Guide to Learning, Advocating and Building

A New Resource on Housing!

The United States faces a looming crisis in housing, the second in barely more than a decade. The job losses and other economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have many of us facing an increased risk of eviction and foreclosure; at the same time, there is a marked shortage of available housing within reach for most Americans. The problems of homelessness and housing insecurity are ongoing and growing. Solving them means developing sustainable solutions for the long term, rather than temporary fixes for a current crisis. This church has a clear imperative to help those of us experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. The church also has a big opportunity to make a difference.

This new resource from ELCA World Hunger will help you get started in learning about homelessness and affordable housing, advocating on issues connected to homelessness and affordable housing, and even building affordable housing!

Download “Housing: A Practical Guide for Learning, Advocating and Building” from https://www.elca.org/Resources/ELCA-World-Hunger#New. Check out other resources from ELCA World Hunger on the same page and at https://www.elca.org/Resources/ELCA-World-Hunger#HungerEd!

Who Is This Resource For?

This resource is for congregations concerned about homelessness and affordable housing. For congregations new to this work, this resource will provide step-by-step guidance on how to build awareness and capacity around the root causes of homelessness, how to become an advocate for affordable housing and people experiencing homelessness, and, finally, how to build affordable housing. For congregations already involved in this work, the resources in this guide can help with congregation and community education, training new volunteers, and refining your current project.

About This Resource

This resource contains three sections: “Learn,” “Advocate” and “Build.”

The “Learn” section contains activities and information to educate congregations and groups about the complex issues of housing and homelessness. If your group is just getting started, use the information and activities in this section to learn more about a wide variety of topics: common myths about homelessness, effective responses to housing insecurity, and the historical impact of the discriminatory practice of redlining. This section also introduces common terms used to describe housing insecurity and homelessness.

The “Advocate” section contains information and activities to help participants become effective housing and homelessness advocates. It includes helpful information on the roots of Lutheran advocacy, housing policy, insights from leaders and more.

The “Build” section contains a guide on how to build affordable housing, with helpful information about choosing a team, forming a nonprofit, funding a project and more. There are also checklists of the tasks necessary to create a successful affordable housing project.

Learn More

Interested in learning more about affordable housing, homelessness and learning from some of ELCA World Hunger partners about this important work? Check out the latest Hunger at the Crossroads webinar on Hunger and Housing here: https://vimeo.com/726168452

Get Connected

If you use “Housing: A Practical Guide for Learning, Advocating and Building” or have questions about how to use the guide, get in touch with us at hunger@elca.org.

Note: the housing guide is having some issues with sizing in peoples’ browser windows. If you have this issue, try downloading the resource to your personal device!

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Hunger at the Crossroads: New Webinar Series

 

banner with title of webinar series

We know that hunger is about more than food. Understanding hunger – and working to end it – means seeing the many ways hunger and poverty intersect with so many other issues, including climate change, food production, access to housing, racial justice, gender justice and more. In “Hunger at the Crossroads,” a webinar series hosted by ELCA World Hunger, we will explore these intersections and the ways we can be part of God’s promise of a just world where all are fed.

New webinar sessions will be posted below. Participants do need to register beforehand, so check back and register to attend!

Who

The webinars are open to anyone passionate about ending hunger and eager to learn more. In each session, we will dive deeply into the topic, with presentations from ELCA World Hunger staff and partners and time for questions and conversation.

Upcoming Webinars

graphic with title of upcoming webinar on Housing and Hunger scheduled for June 29 at 6pm central time

“Housing and Hunger” with Brooke De Jong (ELCA World Hunger) and featuring a NEW! resource on housing – June 29, 2022 at 6:00pm Central

Previous Webinars

“Sexuality, Gender Identity and Hunger” with Rev. Heidi Neumark (Trinity Lutheran Church, New York, New York) and Rev. Joe Larson (Fargo, North Dakota) – August 12, 2021 at 6:00pm Central

“Climate Change and Hunger” with Ryan Cumming and Brooke De Jong (ELCA World Hunger) – October 27th, 2021, at 6:00 pm Central

“Hunger and Poverty by the Numbers: Where Are We at Now?” with Ryan Cumming (ELCA World Hunger) – December 9, 2021, at 6:00pm Central

How

Registration for “Hunger and Housing” is now open! Visit https://forms.office.com/r/Qeixntchp8 to register. Registration for future “Hunger at the Crossroads” sessions will be available soon. Follow ELCA World Hunger on Facebook and Twitter to get up-to-date information, including dates and links for registration. Questions about “Hunger at the Crossroads” can be sent to hunger@elca.org.

Watch the recordings of previous “Hunger at the Crossroads” webinars here: https://vimeo.com/showcase/8758461.

 

We hope to see you “at the Crossroads”!

 

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Ending Homelessness in Virginia

 

The following is an excerpt from “‘Big Dreams’ of Ending Homelessness in Virginia,” featured in Living Lutheran.

 

Last year, 25-year-old Maya (last name withheld), who lives in Virginia, was expecting her first child. Collecting unemployment due to COVID-19, she was staying with her parents when she got into an argument with them; they wanted more money to lodge her. After the altercation turned physical, Maya knew she had to leave the home for her baby’s safety. Two weeks before her due date, she was sleeping in her car.

Maya asked around and soon heard about ForKids, a nonprofit and partner of ELCA World Hunger that serves 14 cities and counties in southeast Virginia to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty for families and children. Soon she connected with a caseworker, Lisa Ellsworth, who shared these words of comfort: “After having the baby, you have a room.” ForKids set Maya up with emergency housing to come home to from the hospital.

This year, ForKids received a Big Dream Grant from ELCA World Hunger. Larger than World Hunger’s typical domestic grants, Big Dream Grants are designed to support ministries with transformative projects that will make a significant difference in their communities.

Photo courtesy of ForKids

To read more about this transformative ministry, check out “Big Dreams of Ending Homelessness in Virginia,” a recent article by Alex Baird in Living Lutheran, your source for news, reflections and stories from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and its local and global companions.

All photos courtesy of ForKids.

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A Year Like No Other

 

St. Matthew Trinity Lutheran Church’s Lunchtime Ministry offers a warm meal, hospitality and community to neighbors in Hoboken, New Jersey. This important work is supported in part by a Domestic Hunger Grant from ELCA World Hunger. Stanley Enzweiler is the Program Manager of St. Matthew Trinity’s Lunchtime Ministry and has worked with the ministry since 2016. In this post, Stanley reflects on the uncertainty and stress the community faced in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic – and on the hope, hard work and perseverance that has kept Lunchtime Ministry going. You can read a previous post from Stanley here.

March 16th, 2020, I didn’t want to open the door. The guests, I knew, were crowded outside, ready to rush in, grab a seat, and line up for coffee. They were expecting a long, leisurely morning with steaming cups of soup served to their tables by volunteers who knew their names. At Lunchtime Ministry (LTM), a soup kitchen/drop-in center in the heart of Hoboken, New Jersey, everything is free: the coffee, the wifi, the laughter, and the community. Today, all that was about to change.

I unlocked the door. “Hang on, everyone,” I said. “You have to come in one at a time. Wash your hands, and then I will give you a bagged lunch. We’re serving everything to go.”

For years, LTM had been a pillar of stability in people’s lives. We were open every Monday to Thursday, holidays and blizzards be darned. Some of our guests had gone through the same routine every day for years.

But that weekend in March 2020, the country had shut down around us. A new world had arrived. The virus could be anywhere.  Masks were not yet required, and people argued about whether gloves did any good. Instead of saying “Goodbye,” we told each other to “Stay safe.”

LTM was shutting down too. Our priority was keeping each other healthy—but avoiding COVID was just part of the picture. It was cold outside, and our guests had nowhere to go.  Some of them stopped coming to LTM, and I still don’t know where they ended up.  One woman sat down on the floor in front of the coffee machine and refused to leave.

We worked with the Hoboken Shelter and the local welfare office to lodge some of our older and less healthy guests in hotel rooms. As much as this helped space out our homeless population, several of our hotel guests continued to come to LTM every morning. That’s how much our community mattered.

As the summer went by, we borrowed an idea pioneered by some restaurants in Hoboken and opened up our own strEATery: outdoor tables and chairs where guests could sit together and enjoy to-go food. This gave us back a taste of the community we had missed so much. In Autumn, we began reopening for volunteers and asking our community to donate hot dishes, which we served in to-go cups.  And when temperatures dropped, we opened back up inside. We have limited our capacity in accordance with statewide regulations, and we have continued to enforce hand-washing, masks, and social distancing. Of course, it is much more work serving people inside than providing food to go, but having our community back has been worth it.

We have worked closely with other local services, including the Hoboken Shelter, the city’s food pantries, and the county’s clinics. We have provided our guests, volunteers, and community members with onsite flu shots, health screenings, and, this spring, over 150 COVID-19 vaccines. Individuals, schools, restaurants and spas from across the country have overwhelmed us with their support, donating food, hygiene items and money; spreading the word about LTM; and providing moral support. At least once a week, I hear from a former volunteer who wants to say hello and see how they can help.

 

This has been a year like no other. We are not used to thinking on our feet and changing things up at LTM, especially not when lives hang in the balance. But everyone has had to adapt this year, and through it all, LTM has continued to be there for our guests. We have provided as many services as we can while keeping our population healthy.

Who knows what the next steps will be?  Regardless, we’ll take them.

God’s work through the guests, volunteers and community members at LTM still continues – and continues to thrive! As of April 2021, over 500 vaccines have been distributed through LTM and its partners. With more community members protected, LTM has been able to offer more events at its site, including screenings for HIV, blood pressure, and glucose levels, haircuts for guests, assistance signing up for health insurance and housing, and fundraisers to keep the ministry going.

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Celebrating Big Dream Grants in 2021!

 

We are excited to introduce the four recipients of ELCA World Hunger Big Dream Grants for 2021!

ELCA World Hunger’s Big Dream grants, one-time gifts of $10,000 to $75,000, support ministries in the United States and Caribbean as they pursue innovative and sustainable approaches to ending hunger. Together, we celebrate the ways God is working through these ministries and their “big dreams” for their communities.

Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic repercussions have brought into focus the weaknesses in the systems and structures intended to ensure that basic human needs are met. In the United States, unemployment, under-employment and healthcare costs are high, and hunger is on the rise. In 2021, ELCA World Hunger’s Big Dream grants will support ministries that are boldly working to uproot, transform or re-envision the structures and norms that perpetuate disparities in access to resources and result in 77% of low-income Americans living without the savings to cover costs when an emergency arises.

Introducing the ELCA World Hunger Big Dream Grants for 2021:

Posada

Pueblo County, Colorado

group of people from PosadaFor 33 years, Posada has been providing shelter, housing and supportive services to people experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless in Pueblo County, Colorado.  The focus of Posada’s service delivery is the provision of housing and supportive services, which includes referrals for food assistance, food banks and more, with a special focus on food items for youth. The mission of the agency is “to provide housing and supportive services that empower homeless individuals and families in Pueblo County to become self-supporting members of the community.”

The Big Dreams Grant from ELCA World Hunger will help Posada implement and strengthen their Senior Housing facility through the creation of a safety net to support unhoused older adults. Posada addresses the needs of homeless individuals, families, youth, veterans and, now, older adults to break down barriers, reduce inequality and build strong relationships that move us toward a just world where basic needs of all are met.

MOSES

Detroit, Michigan

MOSES is a faith-based, grassroots-led community organizing nonprofit serving residents of Detroit, Michigan, and its surrounding region. An interfaith, multi-racial and regionally-focused organization, MOSES especially emphasizes the leadership of laypeople and clergy from member congregations based in Black communities in Detroit and other southeast Michigan communities. MOSES identifies as a Black-led organization, and their overarching ministry is to develop the civic skills of marginalized residents so that they may act upon their values in the public arena. By focusing on grassroots leadership, MOSES remains rooted in their commitment to addressing needs that are directly expressed and identified by members of marginalized communities. To this goal, MOSES’ priority issues are based upon direct input from community leaders.

The Big Dreams Grant will help MOSES achieve its long-term objective of reforming the ways in which water is sourced, delivered and billed in southeast Michigan, in order to end water shut-offs in low-income neighborhoods. This work is critical in ensuring access to clean water in a city that has experienced crises in access to water over the last decade or more.

MOSES is also working to counter the trend of divestment from Michigan’s public health system by building public demand for increased state investment in public health infrastructure. MOSES is doing this by working to make affordable access to clean water (water equity) and renewed investments in public health central areas of focus in the 2021 Detroit mayoral campaign. At the same time, MOSES is working to build capacity to drive increased investment in public health infrastructure. They are also working with a coalition to establish a graduated income tax structure in Michigan that will protect people living in poverty and create the opportunity for much-needed investment.

Church on the Street

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Church on the Street is a Synodically Authorized Worshipping Community (SAWC) of the ELCA and a vital ministry in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with a primary focus of being the church with people living with poverty and homelessness. Church on the Street (COTS) works towards equality, peace, justice and advocacy while offering a place at the table for everyone to be fed physically and spiritually.

Responding to the pandemic, the “small” ministry of COTS has served in big ways. COTS has deep, genuine, ongoing relationships that have enabled them to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people in the community, especially when larger organizations have not been able to provide services to them. The Big Dream grant will enable COTS to double their work in the city, meeting the immediate needs of neighbors, advocating for justice and creating a system of change alongside community responders to best serve those in need.

ForKids

Norfolk, Virginia

ForKids is committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty for families and children in Norfolk, Virginia. Their integrated services are vital to the safety and well-being of families in their community.

When schools closed for the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, ForKids partnered with Mercy Chefs, local restaurants and individual donors to deliver over 8,000 meals to ForKids families in the region. Their Housing Crisis Hotline geared up to meet the unprecedented call volume which peaked at 935 calls in a single day. The Hotline now handles over 3,000 calls weekly, and ForKids is partnering with multiple cities to administer over $5 million in rental assistance to households experiencing a COVID-related financial setback, in addition to expanding emergency shelter placement. The team has been working diligently to keep families connected to social supports, academic support for their children and other vital resources.

The Big Dreams Grant from ELCA World Hunger will support a digital storytelling campaign to help public officials and community leaders make informed decisions about the issues contributing to hunger and poverty in their region. It will also support the construction of the new Center for Children and Families slated to open in March 2021. The Center includes the Regional Services Headquarters, a 135-bed family shelter, an expanded 24-seat Housing Crisis Hotline which will double call response capability and an education center with the capacity to tutor up to 120 children in creative learning spaces. With a full-service kitchen, ForKids estimates they will be able to provide over 31,000 meals each year. The Center will connect more than 85,000 individuals annually to services when complete. The Center will also be the home of a long-awaited dream: The ForKids Research & Advocacy Center.

Even amid challenging times, we know that God is at work in new and surprising ways. Through these transformative, holistic and integrated ministries – and the generosity that makes Big Dream Grants possible – we can see the impact of this work, and be part of it, in communities near and far. Thank you for your support of ELCA World Hunger as we work together to respond to hunger and poverty in the United States and 59 other countries around the world. To learn more about ELCA World Hunger’s approach, visit ELCA.org/hunger.

 

Big Dream Grants are part of ELCA World Hunger’s support of local and regional ministries. Through Domestic Hunger Grants, Big Dream Grants, Daily Bread Matching Grants, and Hunger Education and Networking Grants, we accompany partners throughout the United States and the Caribbean. Each year, several ministries that exemplify the values of transformative, holistic and integrated work are invited to apply for Big Dream Grants.

 

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Fair Housing and Everyday Jericho Roads- ELCA Advocacy Action Alert!

 

Brooke De Jong is the Program Assistant for Hunger Education with ELCA World Hunger. Previous to this position she worked managing grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for a housing agency in Chicago, IL. 

When it comes to responding to homelessness in our congregations, often there is a will but not a way. We would help if we only knew how to do it safely, if we could guarantee that our money was not going to support an addiction, if we had more time to understand best practices and so on. Fear causes us to freeze and walk or drive past the neighbor in need on our everyday Jericho roads. We all have been the Priest and the Levite when we wanted to be the Good Samaritan. And sometimes we have been the person victimized on the hazardous road, waiting for our Good Samaritan.

However, many congregations do great work. They support shelters, make kits with important items such as clean socks and personal care products, act as warming shelters in the winter and more. Some even actively advocate for fair housing and oppose laws that criminalize poverty. Some of us have even made personal care kits or stood on a picket line – but still drive past the person with the cardboard sign standing on the median.

We all walk different Jericho roads every day seeing or not seeing and responding to or not responding to our neighbors without homes. Sometimes we are the Priest and the Levite and the Good Samaritan all in one day or even in a span of a few hours. This is what it means to be human and in need of God’s grace.

But just because we are afraid and in daily need of God’s grace, we should not forget our baptismal calling and duty as citizens. The ELCA social statement on Church and Society says we are daily called to be “[. . .] wise and active citizens. [. . .] Along with all citizens, Christians have the responsibility to defend human rights and to work for freedom, justice, peace, environmental well-being, and good order in public life. They are to recognize the vital role of law in protecting life and liberty and in upholding the common good.”

Our neighbors without homes are in need of our actions as wise and active citizens.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in January proposed a new rule that would weaken oversight and national data collection on fair housing projects. This rule change would disproportionately affect low-income communities of color. Under the proposed rule change the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule (AFFH) that was first designed to help communities promote diversity and inclusivity under the 1968 Fair Housing Act and take proactive steps to reverse the effects of housing segregation would be rendered almost completely ineffectual.

Read more about the AFFH Rule here.

To join with others in opposing this rule change, check out the ELCA Advocacy Action Alert here.

 

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Reviving hope in Memphis

 

by Rev. Antoinette Robinson, Peace Lutheran Church, Memphis

Peace Lutheran Church, Memphis, formed Trinity Ministries in partnership with two other local churches to serve the Great Commission of God: To go out serve the Lord in the community, taking God’s love, through Jesus Christ, to bring hope, joy and love to people who have fallen into the pits of life and whom the world has discarded.

It was through Trinity Ministries, more than 10 years ago, that Peace Lutheran Church joined hands with Carpenter’s House, of Room in the Inn – Memphis, an ecumenical ministry that serves people experiencing homelessness. Room in the Inn partners with churches all over the city to provide hot meals, warm beds, showers, clean underwear, T-shirts and clothes, as needed. Through this partnership, Peace Lutheran Church provides overnight shelter for more than a dozen people one night per week from November through March.

Serving up encouragement

Homeless man helped through Peace Lutheran Church, Memphis

Keith found hope through the ministries of Peace Lutheran Church, Memphis.

We met Keith one night. He was homeless and hopeless. He had given up on himself. He was invited — along with all the guests that night — to join us at Monday / Wednesday Lunches being served each week at Peace Lutheran. Keith said he was encouraged to come to the lunch because of how the people treated him during his overnight stay at Peace Lutheran.

Keith continued to sign up for “room in the inn” through Carpenter’s House, requesting to come back to Peace Lutheran Church every Friday during the winter season. Keith said, “I was encouraged not to give up on myself, to see that God has greater things for me to do with my life. God’s love for me was shared every time I came to eat lunch with the community.”

Keith got a job working at night, so he would come to lunch every Monday and Wednesday so we could fix him a take-out lunch for dinner that night at work. From there he was given housing through Carpenter’s House. He continued to come and volunteer to clean up and do whatever Peace Lutheran needed to be done. Keith started donating to the ministry by works, and funds, as available. Keith is in his twenties and looks forward to living a life with his wife and daughter.

Spreading God’s love, reviving hope in Memphis

Trinity Ministries continues to spread the love of God throughout the community. Just 10 years ago, people in the neighborhoods around Peace Lutheran Church didn’t know what being Lutheran means. Now Lutherans are known as Christians doing God’s will – reviving hope – in the community of Memphis. We serve with the support of all the Lutheran churches around the Memphis area as well as Methodist, Presbyterian and nondenominational churches; the Vollintine Evergreen Community Association neighborhood organization; Girl Scouts; and a host of individuals.

Future programs will be children’s church on Tuesday afternoons for the children to enjoy story time, crafts, and dinner, and to explore their God-given talents. Trinity Ministries is needed in the community to continue to lift Christ’s love and acceptance.

 

The Rev. Antoinette (“Tonie”) Robinson is pastor at Peace Lutheran Church, Memphis. She is also a leader of the Homeless and Justice Ministries Network of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This network provides strategic leadership and resources to ministries across the country to walk with the marginalized — those who struggle with homelessness, poverty, mental illness, reentry and addiction — to share the good news of Jesus Christ with people wherever they are. Learn more about Peace Lutheran Church’s outreach ministries. Learn more about the Homeless and Justice Network of the ELCA.

 

edited by Kris A. Mainellis, Program Director for Communication and Events, Congregational Vitality

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Finding family again

 

As a high school student in Tacoma, a young man was at odds with his mom, and he no longer felt welcome to live at home. He found support at Peace Lutheran Church and through the church’s tutoring program, eventually living with a family of the church for a few years. Now he has taken some college classes, finished an internship at Peace Lutheran Church and Peace Community Center, and is moving forward in life. His name is Juwan, and here is his story, in his own words. — Pastor John Stroeh

Like most Tacoma kids, my life started out as a struggle. But like a resilient underdog, I was determined to change the hand I was dealt into a royal flush. Know that I am a young man who loves to smile. But in my smile I hide a lot: years of pain and strain, of abandonment, lonely nights and heartache.

Years ago, I felt alone, empty, worthless.

You see, my mother and I started off like any loving relationship. She was my teacher, my madre and my best friend. She taught me wrong from right, how to tie my shoe and ride a bike (although it took me longer than most kids). She just stood with me. And picked me up when I fell down.

In the beginning of my junior year, my mother, the woman I love and care for with all the love that I have, began to go through a huge depression. The loss of her father, my grandpa, and the separation and ultimate divorce from the second man who promised he’d be there for her, no matter what, had devastated the loving and nurturing woman she was throughout my childhood. There were times when I saw her cry so many tears, from years of pain she had hidden away.

Depression, as we all know, is a tough issue to deal with. Over time she began to lash out and her sadness transformed into an uncontrollable anger. This anger turned into a beast that caused fights and turmoil in our household, and ultimately, in our mother-and-son relationship.

We began to fight. It started with verbal arguments, which turned into verbal punches to my heart and psyche. Things that I would never have thought would have been said began to come off her tongue like poisonous venom. Things like, “you’re not my son,” or “you’re never gonna be anything,” began to repeatedly spill from her tongue. “Hurt” and “confused” were simple words expressing the way I felt. Now I have these words to express my feelings in those times and in those circumstances:

Never in a million years would I have thought that things would’ve changed —

too fast did her love become pain.

 

Never did I imagine I would be sharing this story, but I’ll never put my mother down.

I used to think our past gave me the right — all those silly games we used to play transformed into horrific fights.

 

No longer was it lessons of wrong or right; no, it became, I was wrong and she always was right,

staying up at night praying that I might see a glimmer of God’s light.

 

You see, it started, I wanna say my junior year; yes, my junior year when I shed the most amount of tears (and she did too).

 

My grandfather was taken from this world while his baby girl held on;

saddest words ever when the doc said, “ma’am, your dad is gone.”

Same day I saw the life leave him, was the same day I saw life leave her.

 

Depression, we all know, is a furious beast and sometimes those who suffer from it lose themselves in its mitts.

 

Night after night, tears began to roll off her beautiful face;

oh, the beautiful face that raised six boys and one girl on her own.

Proud of momma for standing strong, even if she was alone.

 

The tears of sadness

turned to tears of madness as she lashed out on my siblings and me.

Childish arguments fueled with depression and heartache

left me alone, kicked out on the streets.

 

And the first time

was the worst time.

It broke my family apart.

I was me and they were them

and I had nowhere to go but to the church I called home.

 

And then it became the church against her.

But through the church I found my family again;

my family with God and the community.

 

Though we are not biological, me and my church family create a perfect unity.

They put me in a place to lay my head, put the smile back into my face;

and to a child all alone, they told me I would always have a place.

 

I’ve been on my own since the age of sixteen. Well, to say “on my own” would be a lie; through God’s mercy and love I’ve done things that can only be called a miracle. I’ve learned so many things through the church and the community. Things about love, life and happiness. Without the church and the community I can only say I don’t know the person I would’ve become or where I might have ended up. Thank God for being in my life, and the changes God’s continually making each day.

I’m a college student I will proudly say, who has had a bad past, lying in parks, cold nights in the dark. Who knew that with God and faith, anything is possible? My circumstances have helped mold me into the man I am, but they do not define me. No, what defines me is the faith I have in God because of the things in my past.

I would like to thank Peace Community Center and Peace Lutheran Church for always staying by me — sticking with me through the ups and downs, the battle with my mother — and the love they’ve helped me to find in myself. I thank God for putting the people there in my life, to help me take my life by the reins and flip the circumstances I was handed; flip them like an Olympic gymnast, into eventual accomplished dreams and fairy-tale endings. God, the church and community center have helped me to become the man I am today; the man that I am continually changing into. The man that God best sees fit.

 

The Rev. John Stroeh is pastor at Peace Lutheran Church, Tacoma. He is also a leader of the Homeless and Justice Ministries Network of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This network provides strategic leadership and resources to ministries across the country to walk with the marginalized — those who struggle with homelessness, poverty, mental illness, reentry and addiction — to share the good news of Jesus Christ with people wherever they are. Learn more about the ministries of Peace Lutheran Church and visit the church’s website. Learn more about the Homeless and Justice Network of the ELCA.

 

edited by Kris A. Mainellis, Program Director for Communication and Events, Congregational Vitality

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