On bidding Farewell to 2017, and Welcoming a New Year, 2018

As I think about the year, 2017, ending, I have a lot to be thankful for. I have found a job in a school that has grown into a load of opportunities to grow and to influence young people and colleagues. It has brought me to the painful loss of wonderful people whose legacy I dream of living up to. It has also brought me 3000 miles of workouts (I am still amazed at this). Finally, it has made me really appreciate the gift of marriage, and the wonderful blessing of Denise to me.

In 2018, I want to be better at keeping my promises, and at attending to my responsibilities as a SPED paraprofessional, as a husband, a leader in the church, and in the community. I want to work on building relationships with people intentionally and make other people higher priorities in my life.

My word for the year, 2018, is “Followthrough.” It is a actually two words coming from the sport of golf meaning that your swing toward the goal, the ball, is merely the target, and not the stopping point. In other words, the energy put into the things that one accomplishes must be more than merely the minimum necessary. Rather, goals accomplished may take some tradeoffs, while, more energy may be required in order to reach a goal well.

I pray that the Lord will allow me the grace to forgive myself when I fall short, however. But I also know that the Lord will complete all things that he has begun for the purpose of His glory on earth.

For the new year, I give thanks for God’s renewal of all things.

Isaiah 58


On Community Leadership: Schools do More Than Just Educate. They Transform Community.

I work as a paraprofessional at JC Harmon High School. I live only ten minutes from there, and am often seen at the local grocery store by Harmon students who recognize me. It is my joy to be part of an urban community that is connected and that has resources along with a small town feel. The Argentine and Turner neighborhoods are part of the city of Kansas City, Kansas, but, have a unique identity that is evident when travelling along the Strong Avenue and Metropolitan Avenue.

Yet, our neighborhood is not immune to the struggles of poverty, drugs, violence, and domestic challenges. This Sunday, I learned that the second student of Harmon High lost a life due to violence – a student who I was hired to help educate, and who lives within minutes of me.

This evening, I read a blog post from our superintendent of schools of Kansas City Kansas Public Schools. Dr. Cynthia Lane wrote many words grievingly. Yet, one phraze has become her signature statement: “It is Up to Us!”

I agree. As a staff member in her district, at an urban high school, the life that kids see at school and in their community is up to me, and up to you. We are all called to take leadership in the neighborhoods and cities where we live. What will we do? Pray! Then? Talk with people. Then? Experience the emotions and turmoil of our students in solidarity. 
This young man was a member of a local church. He had been born in a refugee camp, and his family was granted status as residents and were resettled here in the USA. He was supposed to be safe here.

So what should I do? Jesus called me to take up my cross and follow him. During his ministry, he moved into the neighborhood and experienced the joys, sorrow, celebration and regret of the people. 

Can I also do this? I say that I can. As a minister, a paraprofessional in a public school, as a husband, and as a resident of Wyandotte County, I must live out my call to be in solidarity with the people who I am called to serve. 

We can do better. If we are willing to take leadership, then we are willing to move forward with the *attitude* of gratitude- gratitude for the lives of those whom we serve, and for the opportunity to take part in such a task. For, community transformation starts with us. Me. You. Us. Them.

Let us not forget it. If God places us here to take leadership to change the tone of our community, then God meets us with the personal growth resources needed to fulfill this task.

I’ll be the first to commit to do better. Who is with me?

My Prayer in Desperate Circumstances

As a person who is seeking God’s purpose in my life, I am learning daily that the most urgent things of life are not always what they seem to be. That is, when someone who you have known for a while is in a critical need in their life, it makes you realize that you have taken some things for granted. In the last year, my heart has been moved, more so than ever before in my life, to give to God my time in prayer. This means that the seemingly urgent things sometimes need to be put off in order to give God the tithe of my time and attention to another fellow human who needs God’s touch through a faithful servant. I am the only one, perhaps, who can touch one particular person who I see every day. I am feeling called more than ever to stop. Pray. Give thanks. Clothe. Feed. House. Advocate. Love. See Matthew 25 for the full picture.

As I lay my head tonight, I lift up my heart as a cry to the Lord that He hears the prayers of His people for the healing of Pastor and friend Densel Ball, that You, Lord, would answer the heart cries of His family by giving them comfort and everlasting refuge in You, in this difficult time. In Jesus name AMEN.

I have linked to a blog posted by Cornerstone Wesleyan Church last Sunday, where Densel is head pastor:

Special Note from Pastor Densel’s Brother Frank Ball

A Thought from a Nazarene-now-Wesleyan on Christian Holiness

Growing up Nazarene in the 1980’s and 1990’s, I became very bored of the idea that I needed only to be instantly redeemed from sin. In fact, I had been lead to believe that to be angry was to sin. I’d go to the altar to be cleansed of the negative thoughts, only to realize that the euphoria was temporary. Rarely was discipleship every brought up as a life ling growth process. I can recall being bored out of my mind as a 20-year-old in church merely because I literally thought that my role there from then, on, was to be constantly euphoric for my salvation.
I now attend a Wesleyan church with my wife, and am exploring the prophetic and prayer components of the Holiness tradition through the eyes of the International House of Prayer, along with my wife, Denise.

Euphoric episodes are not a good way to evangelize to someone with extreme mental highs and lows. Bipolar mood swings can bring someone down within hours of an altar call. 

The effects of a mood swing? I would think that I had apparently slipped into a bad mood, and that God would require another euphoric altar call experience out of me.

As Christians we can do better than to emphasize the crisis moment of conversion. I will acknowledge that the crisis moments of the nineteenth century camp meeting are credited to showing the role of the Holy Spirit in bringing conviction. Yet,  if the Holiness tradition is to survive, it must be emphasized that Christian conversion is a lifeling process. 

I just completed an education degree from MidAmerica Nazarene University which has informed the way that I see Christian discipleship. I have found it absolutely essential to understand that personal growth cannot happen in a vacuum. Rather, transformation of a person is a lifelong process. 

One major component of my studies in education involved what is known as a “growth mindset.” The growth mindset is the process of looking for guidance as to where God is working to grow the person from one’s strengths every day that s/he is alive.

You may take interest in reading an entry I wrote in 2012 in my blog: https://singsilence.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/am-i-the-prodigal-sons-brother/ .

Internship #4: Refuge KC

I have had the opportunity to know Rich Casebolt, founder of RefugeKC, for several years. Rich was one of the faces behind the counter of Eleos Coffee during their first five years. It was as one of his frequent customer contacts that I was able to learn of his intention with living in the Historic Kansas City (Missouri) Northeast Neighborhood (KCNE). The Historic KCNE is known for many aging buildings, a few of them noted for important residents of Kansas City’s past. In the 1980’s and 1990’s the KCNE was home primarily to immigrants of Italian dissent. Today, the neighborhood is amongst the most diverse in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area, in terms of ethnicity, household income (with a high concentration of poverty), language, and in national origin. This makes the KCNE a likely home and place for ministry for a family with missionary experience.

Rich moved to Kansas City form Oklahoma in 1999 to attend the Midwestern Baptist Seminary. While he worked on his Master of Divinity (MDiv), he met his wife who also was working on her MDiv. In 2005, they answered the call to serve in Thailand as missionaries, and spent six years living in different regions of the country. In 2011, the Casebolts brought their Thai language and missionary skills back to Kansas City where they settled in the Historic KCNE. It was shortly after their return that I came to know Rich at Eleos Ministries. Through this creative ministry of Eleos Coffee, Rich learned a lot about the people living on or near the main corridor of the KCNE, Independence Avenue. Soon, Rich would discover how a need within the community could be mitigated with his skills and experience as a missionary.

One day, a man of Karen ethnic identity came into the shop seeking assistance with little to no English. In that moment, he discovered that they had both acquired Thai as a secondary language, which enabled Rich to guide him to resources that he needed. The Karen are an ethnic minority group originating in Myanmar, who have sought political recognition over the last century with little success. With decades of turbulence and fighting amongst Myanmar residents, many Karen have fled to refugee camps along the Myanmar-Thailand border. Some have spent their entire lives in refugee camps with few opportunities to seek better lives for themselves or their families.

A very small percentage of people who are able to apply for refugee resettlement through the United Nations are ever resettled. An even smaller percentage of refuge-seeking people are resettled in the United States. Once the U.S. Department of State admits refugees, local Non-Government Organizations which receive some federal funding, oversee the remaining journey for their path to new life in the United States. Yet, this final step in a refugee’s resettlement is often overseen by people who are swamped with hundreds of new people per year. My own research on refugee arrivals in Kansas City showed that over 1,100 individuals arrived in the metropolitan area in 2016 alone. Furthermore, over 140 Syrian refugees were resettled in the Kansas City Metropolitan area between January and November of 2016, representing 1 of 18 nationalities now represented among new Americans arriving in Kansas City every year. The number and diversity of the refugees arriving in the area makes personalized care very difficult for the two organizations in the Kansas City metropolitan area currently receiving funding from the federal government as official resettlement agencies–Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) and Della Lamb.

It is here where Rich’s vision came into view one year ago. As he realized that his missionary experience matched well with the need for long-term case management serving the local refugee community, it became apparent that he would need to call on the Body of Christ to respond. In late 2015, Rich stepped out of his barista role at Eleos Coffee to file with the State of Missouri his registration for RefugeKC, Inc. As this entry is written, RefugeKC, Inc is celebrating its first birthday.

RefugeKC was founded in 2015 to fill the gap in Kansas City area services offered to the refugee population. The web site states that the focus of RefugeKC is to “welcome the stranger” as a way to glorify God. Also stated is the vision for welcome the “new-American neighbor” through gospel-focused services using mobilization of local churches. Working with the Wall Project is one small step through which RefugeKC has begun to approach this goal.

My wife, Denise and I, attended a recent mobilization event hosted by a Congolese congregation and sponsored by the Wall Project. The Wall Project was started by Natalie Moultrie with the mission to engage in an “intentional cultural exchange and connection of believers from people of different ethnic backgrounds and denominations…” (quoted from a pamphlet received at the event). This was a celebration of Christmas, with a potluck and gift exchange. The music and message in the preliminary service was in Congolese. Denise and I observed the tactile nature of the culture represented on the stage. We swayed with them and clapped. The Holy Spirit arrived, regardless of whether or not the words were translated. We were among people who had made a choice to step outside of our comfort zones in order to be in solidarity with people who have been forced outside of their countries. We also met South Sudanese and Haitian brothers and sisters, amongst other local of American nationality.

Engaging people to collaborate for a common vision is a large part of RefugeKC at the present time. I discovered, in a pleasant surprise, that collaboration is embedded in the legalities of running a 501 C 3 organization. For example, RefugeKC holds monthly board meetings on a monthly basis in compliance with the IRS requirement for registered 501 C 3 organizations. Underneath the this technicality is a large part of why I may one day wish to start my own organization. If the CEO choses wisely, each member of the board potentially brings with him or her valuable perspectives and expertise. This makes members of the board critical assets as the CEO continues to cast her vision. While the the CEO is strong in the vision, he needs to rely on people whose strengths compliment his. For example, the CEO may not be an expert in administrative matters, and much less with the legalities of processing donations to the organization. Yet, the board may be able to introduce a qualified person with administrative and legal skills and experience to the CEO as a potential team member. As my high school youth pastor once told me years ago, this is why it is never good to burn your bridges.

Speaking of contribution of skills, I spent a large portion of my internship hours researching the refugee community in Kansas City. With the research, I created a brochure (it can be seen below in rough draft form). I am also researching the Syrian culture with interest in how RefugeKC may reach new Kansas City residents of Syrian origin with gospel-focused services.

Future vision casting for RefugeKC includes an after school program with hopeful launch in 2017 and a resource village several years down the road. Rich and I have discussed my involvement in assisting RefugeKC into 2017 with the first focus–the after school program. In the broad scope of things, I find myself gravitating into an urban missionary role in the KCNE. RefugeKC supports a vision that is very similar to what I am prayerfully seeking along with my wife.

Internship #3: Mission Adelante & Adelante Thrift

Mission Adelante

Mission Adelante began in 2005 as a house church in Kansas City, Kansas.  Jarret Meek and his family had just returned from studying Spanish in Costa Rica and serving for two years as missionaries in another Latin American country. When the Meek family returned to the Kansas City area from their cultural immersion, they saw immigrants and refugees living among them; the presence of an unreached intercultural community quickly became known to them in their own back yard. The newly formed organization became known as Mission Adelante, which in Spanish means literally, “Mission Go Forth.”

I have known of Mission Adelante for most of their existence on South 18th Street in Kansas City, Kansas. They were once my neighbor as I lived in a retreat center nearby, and I passed their building while driving a UPS package car countless times. I delivered to them at a time or two, wishing that I could spend more of my time in their line of work. Why I did not take the time to become acquainted with them sooner is a story for a different day, however.

When I finally made contact with Mission Adelante staff, I set up a phone appointment with Megan McDermott scheduled for an afternoon in late October, 2016. I learned that Megan’s college major was in Music Education and Spanish, and that she has a masters in Music Therapy. Her first role with Mission Adelante was as a summer intern in 2008. Megan became full time staff in 2009, and now serves as the director of Latino Kids Ministries. When I begin to serve after the Christmas holiday for their Spring trimester, I will be assisting with the kids Bible programming that she oversees.

Megan explained over the phone in detail how the children’s programming of Mission Adelante serves their mission, which is “…to make disciples by serving, sharing life, and sharing Jesus with people from other places.” Thursday night “Kids Adelante” is an opportunity for kids to gain comfort with concepts of the Bible, prayer and personal devotions. By setting firm foundations in the Christian faith, their children’s programming offers them a place of friendship and safety while their parents attend English Language Learning (ELL) classes in the same building or in the converted house next door.

On Tuesday nights the focus is on the children of adult Bhutanese ELL students, while on Thursday nights the focus is on the children of adult Latino ELL parents. The focus on children is intentional, Megan explained. Mission Adelante believes that children are the future of the community, and that they take their newfound faith home to their parents. As a children’s pastor, I witnessed multiple examples of newly reached families whose first contact with the church came ultimately through their children. From an educator’s standpoint, the most developmentally moldable and influential members of the community are its children.

A third area of young community members reached by Mission Adelante are the youth between the ages of 8 to 13. Their branch, known as “Leaders in Training” (LIT) has the goal to create mentoring mentorships between adult mentors and youth mentees. The three foci of LIT address this goal by 1) creating leaders for the community by bringing the youth to Adelante Thrift to volunteer. Secondly, LIT youth receive 2) time for tutoring, and by providing a comforting place to call home, LIT embraces their 3) third culture identity–that is, they can be displaced by parents who grew up in a different country than they did, while, still feeling culturally different than their peers in school.

Adelante Kids and LIT both promote an environment where children and youth can be comfortable as bicultural individuals within a multicultural group identity. Relationality is  important across the program to the point that volunteer leaders advance with the same group of students through the grades in all programming for children and youth. That means long term commitment is encouraged, and the children benefit from having a safe and stable place where they can be known and accepted unconditionally, just as they are. Jesus was known to accept people just as they were, and Mission Adelante is committed to doing the same.

Adelante Thrift

Mission Adelante has grown its scope beyond their 18th Street mission, however. Several years ago, the vision of Jarret Meek and his team grew beyond the scope of who they would welcome into their educational facility. With the statement that “our goal is community impact,” the Adelante team, began a community development plan, with the first step to create a sense community on an almost-empty street corner strip mall on 38th Street and State Avenue. When Adelante Thrift first opened, only a Subway restaurant and a hair care and wig store were present, and a couple of other small businesses were present. The marketplace ministry model of Adelante Thrift gave a boost to this corner which encouraged several new stores to open up in the adjacent suites.

To help with the progress toward the objective of connecting with community people for the goal of community impact, Mission Adelante created a community development position, which is now held by Elena Mamadnazarova. I interviewed Elena, with whom I have had the opportunity to be acquainted for several years. With focus on the thrift store, Elena oversees the community connections of Mission Adelante and development of people within Mission Adelante. I asked Elena questions about her responsibilities, duties and experiences, including her daily routine. Next, I inquired on her impact of children and youth, before strengths and challenges of her position with Mission Adelante. Other questions included how her education and prior skills equip her for the position.

Elena’s responsibilities for developing people and making connections between Adelante Thrift and the community includes self-development. That is, shortly before we sat down to speak about her role in Mission Adelante, she had discussed the evening coaching sessions that she was observing at a different organization. Mission Adelante was been interested in learning from and duplicating adult skills coaching in Kansas City, Kansas. These adult education classes are in partial fulfillment of the goal of Mission Adelante to continue developing their community by addressing their neighbors’ needs for life skills and employment coaching. Soon, Adelante Thrift will be joined by business coaching classes. Further along the horizon is a vision for a medical clinic.

Elena serves at the chair of the board of Adelante Thrift, along with a man who attends Christ Community Church-a multicampus community of people interested in being more than merely spectators of Sunday services. Christ Community has campuses in the Brookside neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri, and in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, and in Leawood, Kansas. Having met a married couple from Christ Community during on of the observation nights of Mission Adelante’s Bhutanese night, along with the volunteer days sponsored by their congregations, their interest in giving to the community has done more than provide Mission Adelante with a strong base of support from the Christian community, but, it has provided opportunities for ministry. Most notably, Elena learned about the community development position that she currently holds through her participation in her church’s volunteerism in Mission Adelante. Besides her role as the chair of Adelante Thrift, Elena’s daily routine includes overseeing the growth and tasks of the top staff, including the participation of the Leaders in Training as volunteers within the thrift store.

Strengths of the community development role of Mission Adelante are extensive. First, Mission Adelante and Adelante Thrift celebrate and embrace variety of culture. Evidence of this can be seen in the Bhutanese-speakers, Spanish-speakers, English-speakers, etc, who are the most common people in the mission and the thrift store. Most of these groups can be broken down into subgroups by nationality, skills, abilities, etc. The mission focuses well on the ask of knowing people within these groups in a personal way–that is by their first name, their strengths, and their areas of growth. Furthermore, Elena admits that knowing people this personally is messy (a common component of ministry), which makes the task of intentionality even more important in relationship building.

A challenge for Elena with the community development responsibilities is finding a financial balance with the services. Much more goes into sustainably running a business for mission. Contrary to first impressions, the operations of Adelante Thrift have relied on donations for the first year and a half of its existence. Even though the thrift store exists for the goal of people and community building rather than merely for profit, the long term goal is to create a profitable business to contribute to the operations funding of Mission Adelante.

Elena’s skills and education include an M.A. in International Development and cultural sensitive ways to use her natural need to expend her energy toward a goal. The community development role in Mission Adelante serves a purpose for her as she remains driven to contribute to the development of the urban international community.

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I also interviewed Antoine, who is the manager of Adelante Thrift. While I asked many of the same questions as I asked Elena, I became compelled by how his vocational experience and family life influenced his entrance into the Mission Adelante community and essentially into his role as head manager for Adelante Thrift.

Fifteen years ago, Antoine’s wife explained that she desired to find a place to worship in Spanish, which was her language comfort. Both are bilingual, yet, prefer different languages in the context of congregational worship. Therefore, Antoine took interest when he heard through a friend of a new church which met in English as a house gathering with regular Spanish services. They joined Mission Adelante as people interested in worshipping as a multicultural family. I knew several multicultural families when I attended the Primera Iglesia Hispana del Nazareno (First Spanish Church of the Nazarene) in Kansas City, Kansas between 2007 and 2012. Therefore, I have sympathy for people who speak English as their secondary language–sometimes, it is life-giving to rest in one’s language of youth from time to time.

After Antoine and his wife became more involved in the Mission Adelante church gatherings, he was approached by the mission as they were beginning plans to open the thrift store. Once he applied for the position as manager of Adelante Thrift, he brought with him 20 years experience as a McDonald’s manager. Yet, Antoine was on a learning curve as he had to adapt restaurant management expertise to the retail management context. With a learner mentality, he has, and still is, adjusting to the demands of running a thrift store. With the help of a connection made by Elena, the head of community development for Mission Adelante, Antoine was given the opportunity to learn from someone who had successfully started and managed two thrift stores in Wichita.

One of the most definitive characteristics of Adelante Thrift is the function as “business for mission,” according to Antoine. The “business for mission” model is distinctive from business as mission (Eleos Ministries / Eleos Coffee is an example of business as mission) in the effect that it has the goal to generate a profit for the purpose of funding its parent mission organization. Similar models in the Kansas City area include the relationship between City Thrift and City Union Mission with the exception that Adelante Thrift staff take the opportunity to befriend and share life with their customers. This cannot be said of City Thrift and City Union Mission. Perhaps, Adelante has benefited from their intercultural emphasis and missionary focus, which provides the mentality that all of the space in which one lives and works is a vital place where God desires to work in the lives of people.

Concluding, Mission Adelante and Adelante Thrift are focused on the task of building community and generating lifelong relationships in all places of life. Perhaps the best strength of Mission Adelante is the mindset of the missionary, who seeks to make room for Christ in creative ways that are relevant to the surrounding cultural and geographic landscape.

I look forward to my future interaction with them in the future, as I follow God’s guidance in my vocational calling. As a person who experienced the call to be a missionary as a young child, I have never quenched the desire to be part of an international community as a pioneer to a vision that is seen in full only by the Creator, the One who calls and empowers is disciples to go forth and make disciples of the the nations. If there is anything that I have in common with Mission Adelante, or Mission “Go Forth,” it is to be Christ in ways that are specific to the needs of the people to whom they have been called.

Internship #2: Eleos Ministries

Eleos Coffee Mug.JPGI spent the largest number of my hours (close to 40 and counting) at Eleos Ministries. Perhaps the most inspiring organization to me for years, Eleos Ministries has become a beacon of light to the neighborhood proudly known by some residents as the Historic Kansas City Northeast (KCNE). As I write this in the coffee shop, known as Eleos Coffee, I am walking distance from many churches representing a handful of languages. If I were to walk fifteen blocks to the east, I would pass a Nazarene church (English and Spanish), a Wesleyan church (Spanish spoken), several independent Spanish churches, and most personally significant for me is Hope Community Church, where I served as the community liaison and children’s pastor for three years. Thus, I am familiar with this neighborhood. Yet, while many Kansas City metro residents watch the crime on the news that happens here, I am drawn to the people who are in desperate life situations.

The C.E.O. of Eleos Ministries, Dan Smith, was generous to give me and hour and a half to explain the path of his life and ministry, which lead to moving his family from upper middle-class suburban Johnson County, Kansas to one of the most violent and poorest areas of the inner city. While the goal of setting of a coffee shop ministry was an early focus for Dan, it did not become clear until he began to actually move forward with his vision that the pieces began to come together.

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I asked Dan questions regarding his responsibilities, duties, and experiences, as well as his influence toward youth and children, and even the strengths and challenges of Eleos Ministries. I also asked Dan to tell about how his prior learned skills and education have contributed to his successes as the C.E.O. of Eleos Ministries developed. Finally, I asked the him to provide me recommendations for someone who wishes to start a marketplace ministry, including nuts and bolts,  and considering one’s marriage and family in the process. In the remainder of this journal entry, I will summarize our conversation and then I will provide a reflection as I draw implication to modern options in education.

Dan’s primary responsibilities include overseeing the “marrying [of] business and mission,” as he words it, which consists of trusting his coffee shop manager to operate the business, and his case management staff member to operate the ministry portion. This is not a ‘hands-off’ approach, either, since any staff illness, demands from the business or ministry, falls on his shoulders. Dan is also accountable to a board, which determines his salary amongst other operational decisions, and is required by the IRS as one of the qualifying components for having 501C-3 approval.

Duties for Dan include any operational gaps that would fall as a result of staff illness, missing staff, new developments in the organizational structure, and the demands of the business which exceed the workload capacity of the labor at present.

Eleos Ministries has impacted adults on a case-by-case basis for Bible study and in getting help for personal barriers to their growth and success. Eleos has also assessed the needs of between five and ten family or household units. The ministry has provided practical home repair, including general needs, plumbing, and trash removal. Yet, families who have the ability and willingness to contribute to the projects on their homes have been found to be more likely to take ownership of their residence during and after the work has been done. Personal ownership for services received creates many positive benefits, including improvement of individual dignity. From the perspective of an educator, ascribing personal responsibility to the client, or a student, is the seed of self-efficacy.

Even with careful planning and execution of its ministerial services, Eleos Ministries has its strengths and challenges. Strengths include the nature of Eleos Coffee as a marketplace ministry. Marketplace ministry, or M.M. for short, is a term used to describe business entrepreneurship that uses business as a store front to community development at the level of individual friendships. Similar business models have been used in foreign missions under the term, “creative access,” when evangelizing where religious gathering is dangerous or prohibited by law. Yet, missionaries have begun to realize that the marketplace ministry model has potential to facilitate a space where the church can exist in everyday life. In a course that I took at Nazarene Theological Seminary in 2013 under the instruction of Dr. Fletcher Tink, I was first introduced to the term, I came to know marketplace ministry as a representation of the “church scattered,” while the traditional congregational gathering would be known as the “church gathered.” As a representation of the scattered church, Eleos Ministries seeks innovative ways to proclaim the gospel, for prayer, and to give compassion. These three “P’s” were explained to me as the primary focus of the ministry arm of Eleos Ministries.

With strength of an organization also comes its challenges. One challenge, which is also an important lesson for someone interested in marketplace ministry, is the messiness of marrying business and ministry. When the front door of Eleos Coffee opens in the morning, the first room that most customers and clients enter is the business side, which is the seating area of the coffee house. Yet, within an hour or two, an opening in the east wall leads to a second seating area, which houses the daily 10:00am bible study and other events sponsored by the ministry arm of Eleos Ministries. As a volunteer of the ministry arm, I have had to watch and guide the movement of clients and bible study attendees in a manner as to minimize crowding of the business side, and vice versa. Yet, a bible study guest may order something from the business side which gives an at-glance impression that the two arms are not, in fact, completely separate.

Challenges on the business side include caring for employees and the needs of customers at all times, covering when employees are sick, quit, etc (a responsibility which usually falls on Dan). At times, Dan has experienced the exit of an employee from the business due to confusion of business and ministry. In reality, it is unlikely that the two will be completely separate any time soon, which can be an opportunity for coffee shop employees to show creative support for people having a hard day, yet, can be intimidating if a customer desires to work quietly on a computer.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons about starting up a marketplace ministry, such as Eleos, is that the vision of the organization will need to be modified as the process moves forward. In Dan’s words, “goals cannot be your master,” but to work hard at ministry without a goal in mind is the same as running a race without a finish line. While the long term vision of Eleos Ministries is to become a trusted coffee brand through planting of new Eleos ministries, the newly discovered community needs lead to doors opened doors, which can be compared to an objective along the way toward a broader goal. A good example of realistic goal setting is the new, second, Eleos Ministries location which opened in October, 2016 in the inner city of Detroit, Michigan. Many challenges lead to delays which made the opening of the new coffee shop slightly different than originally envisioned. Yet, the personal flexibility of Dan, his staff who relocated from Kansas City to Detroit permanently, along with trust in God and faithful supporters, the new Detroit ministry took shape in a way that was most profitable for the goal that God had in mind for them.

Ministry has always been in development for Dan. After attending Calvary Bible College and majoring in music ministry, he spent twenty years as an associate pastor of music before a series of events lead him to reconsider the nature of his calling to ministry. Developing an interest in creating a business that would roast coffee with direct trade as his model, Dan envisioned that he could set an ethical standard with business practice using good integrity.

Thus, he entered the coffee business by working three months for Westport Coffee House, which is a small business where he gained significant knowledge of the nuts and bolts of a small business. Dan recommends that someone who wishes to start a new organization take the time to work for an existing organization before setting out independently. Experience in the field will give an opportunity to assess the holes in the existing services, and provide clear data upon which to establish a vision and objectives. As such, Dan this very thing as he began the journey of Eleos Ministries. It is also important for an entrepreneur to use this time of employment with an existing organization as an opportunity to allow one’s family to experience the enjoyment and satisfaction of working in such a vocation. Dan explained the importance in taking care not to run ahead of God and of one’s family. Jumping too far too quickly could create distance between the self and one’s family. Yet, as one’s spouse sees the degree of enjoyment involved in the process, and when the whole family prayerfully discerns that it is proper to move forward with a vision, then, they will likely be on board with you one hundred percent.

As the first Eleos Coffee was established in Kansas City, Dan had first envisioned that it would be built on a particular corner in a neighborhood that was different from where it would eventually come to take place. That is, when Dan registered Eleos, Incorporated, in February, 2011, his original goal encompassed opening the ministry on Troost Avenue. Yet, when kept running into dead ends he did not let himself become discouraged. Dan prayed and sought God’s direction. And, direction is exactly what happened when a room opened up for rent, yet, in a less-than-trendy part of town for a coffee shop ministry. As it turned out, the KCNE neighborhood was exactly where God needed the church to scatter. Independence Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri is an area needing economic growth and compassionate ministries, yet, disproportionately few people have answered the call to serve God there.

Thus, in April of 2011, Dan rented the space formerly occupied by a bar on Indiana and Independence Avenues. In October, 2011, they opened up the coffee shop, and in 2014, they acquired the space adjacent to them (formerly an Ethiopian restaurant) and designated the space primary for Eleos’ ministry arm. It is in this newer space that I have assisted with greeting people coming to bible study, and with distribution of hygiene kits and snack packs for guests afterward. It is in this space where I have assisted a client who needs help getting past a hurdle in becoming medically insured. It is here where I can see myself very on-target with the kind of work that I feel God is leading me to do–that is, to be an advocate for people who have fallen into the cracks of society, and are in desperate need of love, mercy, guidance, and dignity. Most importantly, I see the potential to live out God’s call to be present with people on the street in their time of need, in solidarity and for the purpose of empowering them to gain the mercy of God that I have also been granted.