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.

Internship #1: Nazarene Compassionate Ministries

An identifying phrase, “Called Unto Holiness,” is painted on the wall near the staircase leading up to the second floor of the Global Ministry Center, which houses the administration offices of departments within the Church of the Nazarene. Included on the floor are Nazarene Youth International (NYI), Nazarene Missions International (NMI), and includes Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM). As the dozen different languages on the wall portray, the motto , “Called Unto Holiness,” shows up on their denominational printing and media in many languages–in over 100 world countries in fact. Christian holiness is an emphasis of other denominations which emerged before or during the 19th century Holiness movement, including the Church of the Nazarene and The Wesleyan Church where my wife and I have our membership, and the Free Methodist Church, where my father spend his early childhood years. With these deep roots that I have in the Holiness branch of the evangelical church, I came into this internship with some connections to the organization that even some employees of NCM do not possess.

One of the departments on this floor is Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM), which plays an important part in the denomination’s mission to teach holiness to Christ’s disciples. Nazarene Compassionate Ministries recognizes the denomination’s Holiness roots in the context of grass roots ministry based in local churches worldwide. Meanwhile, for easier access to donations and grants beyond the Church of the Nazarene (COTN) denominational structure, NCM also operates under the name, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, Inc. (NCMI), for taxation and grant purposes. Regardless of the name (NCM or NCMI), the organization remains unified by common staffing structure with paid and volunteer workers and their benefactors spread to the corners of the earth.

During my 30-hour information seeking visit, I learned in detail how NCM approaches their vision to teach all members of the COTN “Compassion as a Lifestyle.” The mission of Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM) is listed in their web site, which reads in part, “Following the example of Jesus, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM) partners with local Nazarene congregations around the world to clothe, shelter, feed, heal, educate, and live in solidarity with those who suffer under oppression, injustice, violence, poverty, hunger, and disease.” Nazarene Compassionate Ministries International includes in its mission, that “NCMI accomplishes its mission through collaborative and cooperative partnerships between non-denominational donors for the support of relief and development projects designed and directed by local leaders in over 150 countries where the [Church of the Nazarene] through NCM is actively engaged.” I feel closely tied to this passion in my own life calling, as I share the conviction with NCM staff that an essential form of the Christian Gospel is in the form of cross-cultural servanthood to, and restoration of, life dignified by the good news of the kingdom of God. With NCM’s mission of  enabling the COTN to be stewards of their resources, the NCM applies their principles of the social gospel to their work, making the daily office routine something that is routine, yet, meaningful for the people who work there.

One way that NCM gives meaning to its work is their desire to seek the gifting of Nazarenes around the globe. Although NCM has its organizational hub in Lenexa, Kansas (in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area), several personnel work from the regional offices of the Church of the Nazarene, and a few work remotely. Most of the employees who I interviewed work from the NCM/NCMI office at the Global Ministry Center in Lenexa, KS. Amongst the people who I interviewed, nations represented included Ethiopia, South Africa, the Philippines, and the United States (one person of United States nationality grew up in a missionary family in Ecuador). Perhaps the more memorable interview was the video call across the Pacific Ocean to the NCM/NCMI office and call-center in Manila, Philippines. In short, I received many opportunities to hear varying perspectives of the professional non-profit sector according to the NCM perspective.

While I searched for a clear action strategy that many NCM staff used to support the central mission of NCM/NCMI, I interviewed in most detail Dr. Cort Miller, who is the Senior Director of Development within Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. I prepared the same questions for Dr. Miller as I did for most other interviews. Questions that I asked were with interest to responsibilities, duties, experiences, daily routine, services to children and youth, NCM strengths, NCM challenges, personal education, personal skills, and recommendations for someone who is preparing to enter the human services side of the non-profit sector. The parts of the interview that I found are tantamount to my interest in working in human services are highlighted below.

Dr. Miller’s responsibilities encompass all donor and constituent engagement that NCM does, including the call center in the Philippines, Kansas City-Area and USA sponsors, and the staff of 19 personnel both in Lenexa and elsewhere. He oversees his staff’s implementation and execution of the fundraising strategies. Goal setting is an important part of the process, which comes natural to his own skill set. One example of an extraordinary story involved what Dr. Miller calls a “widow’s mite” offering, which references a parable that Jesus told of a woman who gave the last two coins that she possessed. The gift of a child to NCM is a story that he compares to this “widow’s mite.” In a framed envelope sitting on his desk, with ink now fading from 16 years of light exposure, was the handwriting of an 8-year old (at the time). Dr. Miller explained that this child in Blue Springs, Mo, had saved money for one year to donate to the children in a particular (location not disclosed) country, who needed food and clothing. The envelope had contained over $17 for the annual denominational giving drive for NCM.The December drive is known as Compassionate Ministries Month, and is promoted to churches of the Nazarene in the United States and Canada.Miller told another story in which a child dying of cancer informed her grandmother that she wanted her stuffed animals to be sold and the money to be given to the children who she had seen on TV without the abundance that she had. Miller uses “widow’s mite” offerings of this boy and the girl to keep his passion alive for the mission of NCM.

I also asked Dr. Miller to highlight strengths and challenges of NCM in addition to personal skills and education that have allowed him to serve at his capacity. Two areas of strength for NCM are the organization’s use of the denominational structure to deliver the resources needed, and the compassionate conscience which they teach to the church. In the structure of the local church, each ministry assesses its own cultural and community context for needs, and creates a program unique to its own outreach possibilities. Thus, NCM merely “lifts the arms,” as Miller has said, of the workers on the ministry field. Secondly, the compassionate conscience of the gospel of Christ is brought forth through initiating and carrying forth compassionate education for the church as a whole, with the goal that the denomination takes personal ownership of the call to be Christ to marginalized and hurting members of their communities. Thus, the goal of NCM is to promote the compassion of Jesus through educating people to embrace the call to live in obedience to servanthood, and so it is to not to merely concentrate the efforts of the compassionate-minded members of the COTN apart from the collaborative participation with their local church communities.

Some challenges with NCM discussed my Miller include creative ways to raise funds then the denomination has diverse perspectives and priorities. Many local churches may balance ministry of the preached word with servant-minded ministries such as that which is done through NCM. Yet, the challenge lies in the cases where local churches feel that the preached word is of primary importance over the actions of justice and mercy. However, the strength in this challenge of being within a denominational structure is the potential access to world areas where larger name organizations do not have easy access. For example, World Vision recently used NCM to provide to an area that they could not access alone. Thus, because of NCM’s denominational structure, both World Vision and NCM used the Nazarene churches in a needy area had the ability to bring positive impact to an area that would otherwise out of reach for donors and constituents of larger organizations.

Beyond my interview of Dr. Miller, most of my interviews included educational background of each staff member. I discovered that NCM is a place for people who carry many degrees, including Intercultural studies, Organizational Leadership, Business Administration, Theology and Ministry, and even Counseling. With this discovery, I was amazed at how much I had in common with various individuals. My own degrees in Philosophy / Theology, Master of Divinity, and an MA in Intercultural Studies often provided meaningful connection between myself and my interviewees. Most unexpected, however, was the common principle that my Education degree (in-progress) has with a degree in Counseling. This is because both educators and counselors excel at assessing skills and knowledge as people with the objective of guiding them to personal growth. As such, the growth mindset of the educational classes that I took at MNU in the Accelerated Elementary Education program have given me a skill set which has significant potential for someone interested in working to improve the quality of life for people.

I will take away from my time at Nazarene Compassionate Ministries my shared personality traits of eternal optimism and dreaming for a better future beyond what can presently be asked for or imagined. As we obverse the second Sunday of Advent, I cannot help but to place my hope in the Kingdom that is barely visible today, where the body of Christ comes together to work for justice and peace for vulnerable strangers in their midst and abroad. As I prayerfully think through my next steps, I will remain hopeful that my strengths will reveal themselves in the present in order that God may use my new skills and tools for a vision that is consistent with my passion, my talent, and my preparation.


A Petition for My Friends in City Heights, San Diego, California

I attended Mid-City Church of the Nazarene in the early 2000’s as a college student. I recieved my call to have a heart for the poor in this church. It was here that I attended a life-changing summer urban term in 2002, and it was here where I gained life long friends.

Today, there are six congregations speaking at least five different languages which meet in their building dating to the 1930’s. They have spared their funds for the service and advocacy for the poor; cosmetics have never been a priority for their building.

Now, they are in need of funds to repair their building. With their aging building has also come an asbestos problem that they need to fix. I would appreciate it if my Christian brotherd and sisters would contribute something– $1, $5, $10, $20… …whatever God may lay on your heart.

Let us all keep taking care of each other as we all work for the same Father and within the same Kingdom.


Robert Nowlin



When God Calls Us to Trust Him

I am revisiting something that I wrote six weeks after Denise and I married, and two weeks after I left UPS for a new life of trusting God with my talents and efforts. It is true that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it in you.


If I could describe this summer by using two words, I would attribute to it both love and trust. At first glance, these words may come across as rudimentary or even as if I were trying to gloss over something less-than-pleasant. However, truth the must be told is that with love there is pain, and with trust there is risk. Often in my life I have been know to dwell on the pain and rejection that can come with love, and the anxiety in the fear that my trust will be all for nought. Yet, to love another human being is to place your heart at a place of vulnerability for a loved one. To trust someone is to place your vulnerability in someone’s hands.

I have learned a lot in the last few months about loving another person. With love comes expectation. You may hope that your loved one will never…

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