Isaiah 61:1-4 “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”
How It Began
In 2007, ECC answered God’s call to begin an outreach ministry in partnership with Miller Elementary School. Over the years, God has shown us the direction that He would like the ministry to go. We started small as lunch room/recess monitors and have had the opportunity to expand our areas of ministry.
In 2013, I was a part of a group of agencies (the city of Lafayette, Bauer Community Center, The Department of Child Services, Miller Elementary School, and United Way) that took part in a pilot Family Stability Initiative. We met over a period of two years. The goal was to keep families in the same living situation for at least a year so that they could attend the same school. The initiative worked somewhat, but we found that one or two years was not enough to help the families become stable. Any help they received was only putting a band aid on the problem. The initiative also lacked in the area of building relationships with the families. The agencies involved were not able to move beyond surface level interactions. Trust was not established, which is an important piece of the puzzle in helping families flourish.
In 2015 we started our Afterschool JAM (Jesus And Me) ministry with children that attend Miller Elementary School. Several of the families that we worked with in the above initiative became involved with JAM. Each year, we work with an average of ten families. Many of the same children/families that we started with have continued to be involved year after year. As the years passed, we saw that housing was an issue for many of the families. They were struggling financially and several were on the verge of homelessness.
In 2018, ECC began a partnership with Habitat For Humanity in which we began to focus on two families involved with our Afterschool JAM ministry. Both were single moms with four and five children experiencing housing insecurity, and both were going from job to job. Because of my experience with the Family Stability Initiative, we knew that if the families were to make progress, they would need to live in the same house for at least three years.
Therefore, we initiated a pilot housing ministry for a minimum of three years, knowing it might take longer. After almost three years in the housing ministry, I see a lot of growth in the moms the ministry serves. Based on our experience so far, it seems like they would benefit from an additional year.
As we are coming to the end of our original three years (July 31), the pilot program has gone well. Both moms are much more stable than they were when they moved into the houses in August of 2018. There have been ups and downs, but overall, it’s been a positive experience. With that in mind, I sense God leading us to continue this ministry in some fashion. What should that look like?
What We’ve Learned:
- Relationship is KEY.
- Working with a smaller number of families enables us to make a deeper and long-term impact.
- There’s a huge need for affordable housing.
- Families are trapped in systems that don’t help and make it extremely difficult, nearly impossible, to extricate themselves from poverty.
- Many families are caught in the cycle of trying to decide which bill is the most important bill this month. They get behind and cannot get caught up.
- Most parents are trying really hard but are discouraged because of the loss of hope that life can get better.
- Many parents have not had good role models who taught them good parenting skills or how to make sound financial decisions.
- There’s a missing element of relationship and continued mentorship that community resources are unable to fulfill. They can help short term, but are unable to stick with the parents and provide the ongoing encouragement and mentoring to help them become more stable in the long run.
- We need to be flexible in discerning the number of years necessary for success in this ministry. Some families may take longer, some less time.
With those insights in mind, I have initiated a discussion with our church council regarding the future of our housing ministry. I’d like to invite you to join us for our congregational meeting on May 23 at 1 PM, in the sanctuary or online, to get an update of where we are and to dream with us on what could be. It’s exciting to be a part of what God is doing in our community. How will He continue to use ECC as we seek to follow His leading? Come join us and be a part of the life-changing vision of our outreach ministries!
Community Outreach Director
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the church office at 474-4842 if you have any questions.