Monday, May 26, 2008

Prison Transition Team

Last night I got the chance to see our Prison transition team in action. Bob, Rick, Jim have been leading the charge for the last six months on this new ministry. Every Monday night they go into the Work Release Center on South Michigan street and meet with 20 to 25 guys that have been in prison for drugs, murder, robbery… the tuff stuff. This is their final step toward re-entry and it typically last 6 months to one year. If they mess up they get sent back to state prison for the remainder of their sentence. It is a big deal.

Then on Sunday, many of them use their only 3-hour weekly pass to come to GCC’s service. Most meet up with their wives or girlfriends and kids for family time. I think it is so cool that the most “normal” (and enjoyable) time for these guys is the 3 hours they spend at church every Sunday morning. I can’t help but think that most would not have been locked up for 15+ years if the church would have been able to be a normal routine in their lives before they began to take steps toward prison. Then again, what would America look like today if the majority of families felt it was “normal” to go to church on Sunday morning?

Last night started off with a BBQ for all 120 inmates in the courtyard. I invited my good friend Peewee to come with me. Peewee spent 15 years of his life in Michigan City for accidentally killing his brother. We met 2 years ago when we were renovating Monroe Circle Community Center. Peewee ran into a man that he had spent 15 years with at Michigan City. Peewee spoke truth into this man’s life and invited him to the Celebrate Recovery class that night. He showed up. Peewee has influence and he was leveraging it for Kingdom work.

25 guys packed into this small room and began the introductions. Hi, my name is… and I am a…. Then Bob turned on a DVD and they began to sing. My mind flashed back to scripture when Paul was imprisoned and began to sing and introduced the jailer to Jesus. Is there a guard in the house that needs to hear and see? Maybe a handful of the other 85 guys that are about to go into lock down for the night?

On the way out as Peewee tried to open the door to the outside world it would not open up. Based upon the look on his face I can only imagine the feelings that raced though his mind. We talked about how far he has come. How he never wants to go back (to prison) and the great adventure God has in front of him.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Last Day Party!

Yesterday was the last day of our community center’s (Monroe Circle Community Center) after-school program and it was a party! Amy Kring did an outstanding job and the kids had a great time. We ate, we played and every kid was able to pick two books to add to their home library. We learned a lot this first go around. With any new ministry I think it is plan, prep, launch, evaluate, adjust, adjust, adjust.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the moment we tend to forget how far we have come – this can be said about SonCity After-School. When we first launched there were so few kids you could hear the crickets, then they arrived and you could not hear yourself think and now we can see great progress in many of the kids.

At first we wanted to “touch” all 90+ kids living within this community at least once a week with SonCity After-School. What we quickly learned is that there are early adopters (people who pioneer) in every age group – 5, 25 and 55. These are the kids that wanted to stay the entire day and wanted to come back every day. So we adjusted and began to pour into 25 kids lives day after day. Pretty soon, they began to bring their friends.

Over and over, I could hear Ms. Amy telling the kids “what do we do? – we have a snack, we go upstairs and read, we come back down and do our homework, then we can color and play.”

Almost everyone of these kids are required to attend summer school for remediation – many of them are already 1 to 1 ½ years behind many of their classmates. Next year, we have a BHAG to have half of these kids on grade level so that they can play and attend summer camp instead of summer school.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Salt Sightings / Lightning Strikes

Matthew 5:13
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

Matthew 5:15
"If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand."

Mark Beeson shared last weekend that he focused most of his attention in the first 15 years of his ministry at Granger Community Church as trying to get the people of the community into the church and is now focusing his attention to get the church into the community. The challenge is that many western churches have become all too comfortable in believing the weekend thing is the only gig. When did we get so comfortable? Why are so many of us afraid of venturing out into the world? Have we lost our saltiness? Has our light become so dim it no longer is helpful for people lost in the dark? Do we believe what is said about losing our saltiness or hiding our light found in Matthew 5?

The purpose of these posts is to highlight examples of people being salty or placing their light on a stand. Some will be subtle – some will be undeniable. But all will hopefully encourage others to push back darkness and give their neighborhood a little more flavor.

Vicky Young
People wait for Vicky. They know a few minutes with Vicky is going to lead to a great conversation with Jesus. Whatever your challenge, regardless how hopeless you may feel spending time with Vicky gives you hope. Jesus gave these people his time, he allowed them to get close to him. They knew he cared. This is the same reason everyone wants to talk to Ms. Vicky when they come to the café and food pantry.

Mike Swartz
Mike is a good friend that I first met “back in the early cinema days.” He arrived on Easter Sunday with very little hope and searching for Jesus. Mike is a God-talker. When he prays for you you are in a conversation with Jesus. Being a follower of Jesus does not preclude someone from pain and sorrow. Mike is experiencing one of those times in his life but he is committed to serve and by serving God grants Mike moments of joy that gives him hope for better days ahead.

Meet Holly
She’s a ready on Monday afternoons at MC3. Working with 6, 7 and 8 year old inner city kids is not for the faint of heart. Many days they will test not only your fortitude but sanity. Then there are brief moments like this that make the effort worthwhile.