An Authentic Weekend

Friends, there was so much to love about commissioning* this year!

A few highlights for me:

  • Connecting with so many wonderful people!
  • All of the media and visuals were great. I especially loved the graphics on Saturday morning. Beautiful.
  • The weekend app was very helpful, especially because I lost my booklet on Day 1. 
  • I applaud the open seating. Aisle seat at every meeting! 
  • Can we discuss the beauty that took place on Saturday evening? Wow. If what happened at the Authentic Worship meeting is any indication of the direction we're going, I am excited. It was truly a space for all voices and all people. I loved it. More and more and more spaces like this, please.
  • Having the opportunity to share about my neighborhood on Friday evening. And beyond that, all of the love and support and affirmation I received afterwards. What a gift. 

*Commissioning is a weekend gathering of Salvationists in the Central Territory (the 11 central states), where we commission and ordain new Salvation Army officers. This is my attempt at a definition. 

Friend of Time

In case you missed it, I’m participating in a leadership cohort through Thresholds. A quick recap: the cohort is a learning community for people seeking to establish or deepen missional communities, i.e., people like me. It meets in the Golden Hill neighborhood of San Diego over the span of 18 months.

I returned home from our third gathering last week. This gathering was different from the others. I can’t really put my finger on it exactly, but I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we’re learning to love each other. That first gathering was full of anticipation and a few nerves, having no idea what to expect. By this third gathering, the nerves were gone and I was just plain excited to see my cohort family!

We spent the weekend learning about how to navigate conflict in community. Fun times, right? Yeah. It was heavy and hard and I had to face some inward conflict. But when you push through that conflict, whether it’s inward or outward, the payoff is huge.

Major Gail usually asks me to give her three things from any conference or event I attend. So in no particular order, here are my three things from the Thresholds Cohort gathering #3:

  • I’m not great at handling conflict, and it’s not for lack of training. Seriously, between summer camp orientations, serving as an RA, teaching high school —I should be a pro. You can have all the training in the world, but if you’re not willing to do the work, it’s of no use. After last weekend, I have some actual tools to help me navigate conflict. While I am not excited to put them to use, I’m glad to have the option.
  • For probably the last year or so, the Spirit keeps bringing me the word "story." I'm beginning to take note. I received the word again in Chicano Park, where the stories of a displaced population are shared through over 70 murals. The stories of despair and hope, brokenness and restoration were captivating. As I wandered around the park, I thought about how important it is for people to both share their stories and to hear the stories of others. My story matters, your story matters, the stories of those before us matter. Someone this weekend, either Rob or Christiana, said something like "If you don't know someone's story, you will misunderstand them." SO TRUE! Imagine if we made space to hear stories from people in our neighborhoods, our churches, even our family. I like to believe there would be more love and less hate.
  • Our reading assignment for this gathering was Jean Vanier’s Community and Growth. I can’t begin to unpack that book in a blog post, but I keep coming back to this
Perhaps the essential quality for anyone who lives in community is patience: a recognition that we, others, and the whole community take time to grow. Nothing is achieved in a day. If we are to live in community, we have to be friends of time.

And the friend of time doesn’t spend all day saying: ‘I haven’t got time.’ He doesn’t fight with time. He accepts it and cherishes it.
— Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

I feel like I live in constant tension between my desire to slow down and the pressure to hurry up. I'll be honest, it's really frustrating to me. I want to be a friend of time. To be patient and move cautiously. To have the space in my life to accommodate interruption. I don't live in a world or belong to a denomination or practice a profession that is a friend of time. I'm still figuring out what exactly this means for me!


While this isn't really a takeaway from our gathering, I think it's worth mentioning: I really miss my neighborhood when I'm away! I miss my quirky neighbors, the kids laughing at the bus stop, crossing paths with friends, and my daily commute through the neighborhood. When I moved to St Louis, I didn't expect to feel so connected to a place.

 

Temple Gardens Expansion

When I moved to St Louis almost two years ago, my house was situated right next to a long abandoned store front. The windows were boarded up and the roof had collapsed. Quite an eyesore, and an open invitation to our neighborhood's many feral cats. I often dreamed of what this space could be. Perhaps we could rescue and restore this building in our historic neighborhood.

Early last spring I came home to two men with a ladder, taking down the building piece by piece. The dream of restoring this building was gone, but it made way for a new dream. This was the future of Temple Gardens! I called the city at least 10 times, trying to find out the fate of the empty lot next to my house. It turns out the land was LRA-owned (Land Reutilization Authority) and available for purchase. 

Long story short: DHQ approves, THQ approves, offer made to the city, offer denied, new offer made, offer accepted, we close and the land is ours!

In the middle of this whole process, Gateway Greening began accepting applications for expansion grants. We submitted our application in August, and soon heard that we were awarded six new garden beds and a picnic table.

We closed on the property last week, and on Saturday we began our expansion! We had a great crew from Temple Houses, Young Life, and Echelon who were able to assemble and fill the beds in under two hours.

So what's next for the new space? We have a delivery of wood chips coming soon, and we'll be installing some fencing early next month. During the winter months we'll be planning what to grow and where to grow it.

Our dream for Temple Gardens is that it will serve as a gathering place for neighbors. We envision something more than a few garden beds. It will be a place for families to spend time together, where artists can display their work, and where friends can share a meal together.

Stay tuned, because good things are happening at 2747 Arsenal St.


Thresholds Cohort

Let me start at the beginning.

Soon after I moved to St. Louis (almost two years ago!), the Temple House community read a book called Thin Places: Six Postures for Creating and Practicing Missional Community. The book has served as a field guide for our community as we seek to explore life together in our neighborhood.

After reading the book, we invited co-author Jon Huckins to St. Louis for a weekend intensive. He walked us through the six postures and expanded on missional community, including the many myths of community. We walked with Jon through our neighborhood, sharing stories from our place, and he mentioned the Thresholds Cohort.

The cohort is a learning community for people seeking to establish or deepen missional communities, i.e., people like me. It meets in the Golden Hill neighborhood of San Diego over the span of 18 months.

Now fast forward six months.

I returned from the first cohort gathering yesterday, completely exhausted but equally inspired. We spent 2.5 days together, digging deep and asking really big questions. What is your deep gladness? How is your community a sign of grace in your neighborhood? Who is your missional community for? What would it take to be a sacramental light in our cities? What does reconciliation look like? What community do you long to be part of? What holy desires has God put in your heart? Deep stuff, friends.

At this point, some of you are still wondering what I mean by Missional Community. Don’t worry - you’re in good company. We spent a good amount of time looking at the definition/characteristics of these communities. It really comes down to three things:

  1. Missio Dei. Missional communities partner with God in His mission of reconciliation.
  2. Shared Life. Living life together, we’re linked and strengthened by one another. As Rob described it for us, shared life means “fortified togetherness.”
  3. Embedded in a place. Location and proximity are valued.

We describe the Temple House community as missional, though we're still new at all this. We're figuring it out, one day at a time!

Are you still curious? Please give me a call. I would love to share more about what God is up to in my life and in my neighborhood!

- Sara

WHERE the Cross Meets the Street

Last week we had the opportunity to host a CCDA Cafe with Noel Castellanos. If you're not familiar with the Christian Community Development Association, it's a network of Christians committed to seeing people and communities wholistically restored. The Urban Mission Center is a member of the association, and we're proud supporters of its work.

Noel guided us through the highlights of his new book, Where the Cross Meets the Street: What Happens to a Neighborhood When God is at the Center. Hearing from Noel was such an encouragement for us at the Urban Mission Center, who are currently navigating the waters of incarnation together. 

The Temple House community gathered on Sunday following the Cafe, where we had the opportunity to debrief a bit of what Noel shared. Here a few thoughts that surfaced:

  • The poor as the target of ministry vs. the poor as the center of ministry. What might seem as a small distinction, this is really significant in how we approach ministry, particularly among those on the margin. We often make the poor a target for ministry, turning people into projects. The poor should be the center of ministry, just as we see in the example of Jesus.
  • We need to make diversity in leadership a priority. Noel shared briefly about this, but he expands on the topic of diverse leadership in his book. Growing up as a Mexican American, Noel didn't have many examples of Latinos in leadership. This was perplexing to him as a young person. Were Latinos not equipped to lead, were they not expected to lead? When I take a look at my own context, I consider the people who've inspired me to lead, and you know what? They're a lot like me - women who happen to be introverts. I want The Salvation Army to have leaders who reflect the diversity of our denomination. We need to do better.
  • We can't stop with evangelism and discipleship. If we're going to be a part of God's mission in our neighborhoods, we need to walk in the example of Jesus. Noel uses four concepts to illustrate how we can make neighborhoods whole: proclamation and formation, demonstration of compassion, restoration and development, and confronting injustice. I would love to elaborate, but you should really just read the book. I have a few copies available for a donation of $10. 

If you haven't checked out CCDA yet, do it! You'll find a great network of resources, encouragement, and ideas.



Visitors Welcome!

We've had a full summer at the Urban Mission Center! A major highlight of the last couple of months has been the opportunity to host a variety of groups from around the Midwest. We find so much joy in sharing the hopes and hurts of our neighborhood with visitors. God is up to something in Benton Park West, and we love bringing others alongside His work.

Among the visiting groups were ABIDE from Eastern Michigan, The Radius Group, and a team from The Salvation Army in Bloomington, IL. What a gift it was, working with these friends. They pulled weeds, moved furniture, packed food pantry bags, played with kids, and even partnered with local churches and non profits.

We are open for visitors! If you have a group of people, young or old, who would like to walk with us for a few days in our neighborhood, please reach out!

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Asset Mapping with the Dwellers

Asset mapping generates new opportunities for faithful action.
— Luther K. Snow, The Power of Asset Mapping

While at the Inhabit Conference this spring, I attended a workshop on Asset Mapping. Just five minutes in, I knew I'd be doing this with the Urban Mission Center. I've read a number of books and attended a few workshops about asset mapping, but nothing really grabbed my attention. The activity, led by John and Kate Pattison, was interactive and appealing. It was something I knew we could do with our community.

I've found that so often in ministry we get stuck in the scarcity or victim mindset. If only we had more leaders, more money, more resources - I'm sure you can all relate. By looking at assets, we're able to move away from the scarcity mentality, and move into a posture of gratitude.

The whole idea of asset mapping is to recognize the assets (strengths, passions, networks, and possessions) of your group, and work to connect them in order to get things done. So that's exactly what we did. We began by listing the assets represented in our community, one by one, and posting them by category. This activity alone will bring a spirit of gratitude to your community!

Once all the assets are listed, we began making connections. How can we use what we already have to make an impact in our neighborhood? One of my favorite ideas was for a project called "The Untold Story." What if we connected some of our Harbor Light guys with creatives on Cherokee St. to help them share their stories with the community? It might help bring together populations that don't normally cross paths, deepening the sense of community in our neighborhood.

If you'd like the Urban Mission Center to walk your community through the process, please do not hesitate to ask! We are really pleased with the tool and we believe it would be helpful for any community/congregation, large or small. Click here to contact us.



Garden Watch 2015

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood! I can say that every morning because our neighborhood is in full bloom this time of year. We have so many neighbors who work hard to make their gardens beautiful. It makes walking to work a joy.

We've been busy in Temple Gardens as well. We've planted flowers and vegetables, built trellises and tomato cages, and done a fair share of pulling weeds. Many of our dwellers are becoming experts on garden care!

I love having an urban garden. Here's why:

  • Our gardens add to the character and charm of our neighborhood.
  • We have a beautiful gathering place for friends and neighbors.
  • Tending a garden keeps us outside, where we greet the passersby and chat with neighbors.
  • Is there really anything better than produce fresh from the garden?
  • You can have some pretty deep conversations with a friend when pulling weeds together.

I could probably list 25 more reasons!


Content Together on Arsenal St

The following post was taken from Major Phil Aho's blog. It's from a few weeks ago, but last night I was reminded once again that forming genuine community takes time. It's so encouraging to consider where we started just a few months ago, and where we are today.

Oh, and you should definitely subscribe to Major's blog: Intersections in the Urban Mission. You'll be glad you did.


We pulled up into the Temple Corps parking lot at 3:07 PM today.  We crossed the street.  Sara greeted us at the gate and we walked along the side of the house, past Temple Gardens, opened the wooden gate.  We had arrived for Temple Houses’ Memorial Day BBQ.

Darren had wheeled the new Weber from his place on Texas Avenue. Chicken legs and his own Buffalo wings recipe.  Hot dogs.  We all pitched in with salads, fresh fruit, spoonbread.  Plenty to eat.

Alex and Ashlee from Royal Oak MI were visiting this weekend, checking out Temple Houses. John Stewart was back in town from Colorado to attend a conference; it was good to see him again.  And just about all of the regular TH community were able to come share table fellowship under the shade of the apple tree which has been miraculously restored to health.

Gail wanted to show Kirsten the house we will soon move into. I needed to come along to open the key lock box.  We walked east a block to 2708 Arsenal.  It’s still under construction but now the shape of the apartment is clear.  Soon we will live on Arsenal Street.

Back under the apple tree it felt good.  Warm weather zephyrs.  Sitting with these young adults who we feel are beginning to form genuine community.  It’s not an immediate, sure thing.  Community cannot be commanded.  But we are beginning to experience it, to sense the connections and relationships, and even some understanding of life together in service to the world God so loves.  The label we choose to use is missional community.  Labels can’t be avoided.  We’ve avoided ‘incarnational ministry’.  We prefer community in mission, life together in service.

I began to feel drowsy.  I ate too much today.  Sitting together, sharing food.  We were pretty content.  Be content with what you have.  That was my earliest remembrance of a scripture recitation.   A Nathan’s hot dog.  Watermelon.  A dab of potato salad.  Together.


Sacred Moments at Pike Place Market

Last month a friend told me about the Inhabit Conference in Seattle, WA and suggested I attend. With a spirit of adventure, I said okay! I had no expectations for the weekend - which is actually a pretty good way to enter a conference like Inhabit. I want to write paragraphs and paragraphs about what I learned, but in true Sara fashion, I am still processing everything. So instead, I'll share about the sacred moment I enjoyed at Pike Place Market.

I have an amazingly reliable internal clock that wakes me up at 6:15 AM every morning. Seriously, I haven't set an alarm in years. I usually appreciate the internal clock, but traveling west means jumping time zones. And that is how I found myself wandering downtown Seattle at 5:30 AM on a random Thursday morning.

I wandered up to the sculpture park to enjoy a nice view of the water and mountains, and then I ventured down towards Pike Place Market. I was excited to see the market because my dad always loves to talk about the fish market, and the "entrepreneurial spirit" of the fish mongers. He has a couple photos in his office from his visit years ago, and I can't help but smile when I think of them hanging on the wall. So already, I was happy to be at the market, simply because it made me feel connected to my dad. He's pretty great, and I miss living a mile from him.

My experience with markets is Eastern Market in Detroit, which is bustling fairly early in the morning. Pike Place on a weekday, not so much. I was there around 7 AM, and the market was just beginning to wake up. As the market noises began to pick up, and fish were being tossed around, I noticed a sweet melody in the air. An old man sitting on an old crate with a guitar in hand was singing Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior.

Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
  Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
  Do not pass me by.  

Savior, Savior,
  Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
    Do not pass me by.

Let me at Thy throne of mercy
  Find a sweet relief;
Kneeling there in deep contrition,
  Help my unbelief.

Trusting only in Thy merit,
  Would I seek Thy face;
Heal my wounded, broken spirit,
  Save me by Thy grace.

Thou the spring of all my comfort,
  More than life to me;
Whom have I on earth beside Thee?
  Whom in heaven but Thee?

Instantly I was taken to a sacred place, where amidst the market commotion, I could feel the presence of the Creator. How ridiculous is that? Feeling the presence of the God, creator of all things! That God would reveal himself in the mundane, everyday moments is so crazy to me.

I love that God meets us in unexpected places - walking down Cherokee St, hanging out with a neighbor's kid, pulling weeds in the garden, or wandering around a market. He's not bound up in a church building or limited to a Sunday morning. God is in the day-to-day relationships with people and place.

God met me there at the market on Thursday, and I am so thankful He did.


Postures for Missional Community with Jon Huckins

Last spring the Temple House community read Thin Places: Six Postures for Creating + Practicing Missional Community by Jon Huckins with Rob Yackley. We were encouraged and challenged by Jon's words, and the stories he shared about his community in California. After a couple weeks of the study, it was clear that we needed to have Jon in St Louis!

Fast forward to March 2015. The Temple House Dwellers gathered, along with a few like minded friends from around the Midwest, for a two day intensive to explore what missional community could look like in our neighborhoods.

It's hard to give a short update about our weekend together, simply because every minute was full of content worth sharing! Here are a few highlights:

  • What if we took seriously the need for a neighborhood expression of the Church? We considered looking beyond the four walls of a building, but instead viewing our neighborhood as a parish and out neighbors as congregants.
  • How can we participate with God to heal a broken world? What if we stopped more often to ask "What is God already doing?" When we ask where God is, we have to be willing to change the metric of success. Are we prepared to do that?
  • We considered the idea of being a sent people - sent to walk with others towards Jesus. With that, we must go in the postures of curiosity and helper, not postures of conqueror or hero.
  • The mission of God is reconciliation, and the Church is to embody and extend this reconciliation. This was huge, especially as we consider the pain and injustice we're experience in our city. First we're to be reconciled to God, and then to each other as a missional community. At that point, we become a reconciling community that results in signs of Jesus in our community. (For me personally, this is what I keep coming back to as the leader of the Temple House Community. My desire is to be a reconciling community!)
  • Most people enter missional community with certain expectations, desires, or beliefs about what community will look like. We spent an entire afternoon exploring some of the myths of community, and where we can find pieces of truth in the myths. The big takeaway: there is an assumption that community can fix everything. No! Wholeness is in Jesus, and we need to create an environment that turns to Jesus first. If you're interested in reading about these in more detail, you can check out this link to Jon's blog.
  • On Saturday, Jon walked us through the six postures of missional community: listening, submerging, Inviting, contending, imagining, and entrusting. These postures are a whole other post! You'll be hearing more about the postures as the Dwellers continue to practice them in our neighborhood.

We had the chance to show Jon around Benton Park West on a very rainy evening. We walked the neighborhood, from Arsenal to Cherokee and California to Iowa, sharing stories of transformation along the way. I love sharing our neighborhood with visitors! It's a place full of beauty and brokenness, hope and despair. It's in the beauty that we see the hope of what's to come. He is making all things new!

Snow in Benton Park West!

Snow in our neighborhood means one thing: SNOW BALL FIGHT! The slow pace of a day off gave us time to gather the troops and run around in the snow. There is such joy in the laughter of the kiddos we love.

Who won the snowball fight? Who knows. But I think an afternoon of neighborhood fun makes us all winners.

Special Guest Jon Huckins

The Urban Mission Center is pleased to welcome Jon Huckins, author of Thin Places: 6 Postures for Creating and Practicing Missional Community, to St Louis next month. Together, we'll explore what missional community could look like in our neighborhoods by considering the six postures of missional formation: listening, submerging, inviting, contending, imagining, and entrusting.

The Temple House community is especially excited to learn from Mr. Huckins, as we've studied Thin Places together, and it has served as a guide for creating our missional community in Benton Park West.

If you feel drawn to missional living, and would like to learn more, consider joining us! Register here.


Urban Youth and the Leaders Who Love Them

A group of dedicated youth leaders gathered together this weekend to answer one question: How can we love our young people better?

We began our weekend with a youth panel who were kind enough to share their lives with us. They answered questions about school and peers, their neighborhoods, and how they felt about adults. Their answers were honest and served as a great reminder to the adults in the room. Following our panel, Major Gail led us in an activity to help demonstrate how we can work together to help meet the needs of our young people. 

We spent Saturday considering Discipline With Dignity, a model of discipline that focuses on offering young people choices and teaches them responsibility. 

At the conclusion of the weekend, we asked each participant to share how they plan to love their young people better. Here are some of their answers:

  • I will love my young people better by being prepared for them, by respecting their opinions, and knowing them better.
  • I plan to solicit youth input relating to programming. 
  • I plan to be more intentional in learning about what makes them unique. I will encourage and support them in their passions. 
  • I will purposely recognize positive efforts made by each young person. 
  • I plan to get to know our young people personally, outside of the typical corps programming, by supporting them in their extracurricular activities.
  • I will seek out commonalities and place emphasis on that, all the while acknowledging the differences and how they are not things to fear, but looked at as valuable learning opportunities.
  • I plan to love them by supporting them and encouraging them in what they love to do.
  • I wil show my love to young people by getting to them better by learning more about their interests and aspirations.
  • I want to get into deeper, meaningful relationships with my fellow leaders so that we can better understand how to care for our young people.
  • I plan to be intentional about relationship and letting them know they matter.
  • I will involve them in decision making. 

We look forward to hearing how these ideas take hold in the weeks to come!

Sunday Nights With Temple House Folk

A huge component of the Urban Mission Center is Temple Houses, an intentional community of young adults who live and serve together in Benton Park West. These young adults who choose to dwell with us in the neighborhood are a mix of students and professionals, all committed to transforming our community. 

We set aside time on Sunday nights to meet with each other. It's an important time for our little community - we get to catch up with one another, share our struggles, and explore how we can better serve our neighbors.

Over the course of a year, we've studied Bonhoeffer's Life Together and used Thin Places: Six Postures for Creating and Practicing Missional Community (Jon Huckins and Rob Yackley) to help shape our role in the neighborhood. We recently completed the Storyline curriculum, where we explored our personal roles in God's story. 

Last week we began a study of Luke, led by Major Phil. Fitting during this advent season! This past Sunday we all received an unexpected history lesson compliments of the Major. He led us through what was happening politically and culturally during the days of Luke. I was so encouraged by the interest and questions that came from our Temple House dwellers. 

I've come to cherish these Sunday night gatherings with good people!


Launch Party!

The Urban Mission Center celebrated its official launch last week! We enjoyed an open house reception at DHQ, where we were able to answer questions and share our excitement about this new endeavor. 

So what exactly is the Urban Mission Center? Bottom line, our center exists to prepare missional leaders for the Urban Millennium. That mission gets us funny looks on occasion! When we say missional leaders, we're speaking about leaders who guide others in discovering and doing their part in God's mission. 

But why for the Urban Millennium? As of 2007, more than half of all people live in towns and cities for the first time in history. As urban populations continue to grow, the demand for qualified urban leaders continues to grow. 

Our mission feels giant most days. God keeps reminding us that Kingdom work is tough, but He will supply all our needs. Pray for us!


Rewind: CBLI 2014 by Kierra Jackson

Kierra moved to St Louis last January to become a full time intern with the Urban Mission Center through a partnership The Salvation Army has with City Vision College. From day one, Kierra has been all in! She attended Regeneration last winter, participated in CBLI, and recently returned from a global missions trip to Trinidad and Tobago. 

She was kind enough to share her thoughts on CBLI below!

CBLI was a good experience. Though only three months ago, my memory isn’t as vivid, but I do remember how it felt acceptable to communicate more freely with God while there. 

I didn’t know anyone, which scared me about signing up to go in the first place and upon arriving at the camp, I hopped out of the twelve-pass only for my vision to be met with seemingly ubiquitous images of hugging families and long-lost friends reuniting. Beautiful, but overwhelming. 

Unbeknown to me then, CBLI is a family camp, or as someone described it to me, “an everyone camp!” Haha. Everyone. Surprisingly, amongst all of the reunions and regaling of the past between old band- and cabin mates, I craved the solitude. I was fortunate enough to be assigned a cabin with some very kind and outgoing “young adults,” who invited me to group outings and to be a part of their group, for which I am eternally grateful, but I also appreciate the times where I could venture out along the grounds, find a shady tree, and with my journal write about my feelings. All of the feelings. Every single one: from at first feeling clueless and naïve, to feeling included and liked, to feeling convicted and stirred. 

I don’t remember crying at CBLI, but I wanted to. Isn’t that is what’s supposed to happen when you experience a spiritual awakening or cleansing? Or did it not happen? Was it just a false alarm? So many questions, and for once I have no shame or fear in asking them. All jokes aside, I recall possessing a cognizance that I haven’t had in … life, up to this point? 

All-in-all, I learned a few things particularly worthy of note that I would like to share and you can skip to in lieu of reading everything above. 

1) These experiences do different things for different people. “Experience” is a broad term, so more specifically I mean the praise & worship (which was incredible, c/o The Singing Company), bible study, small groups, and united meetings (and free time). What you derive from them is up to you, but you should open yourself up to possibility. 

2) Finding your voice is necessary, especially when talking with God. 

3) I returned feeling refreshed, but aware that being fed spiritually among a group of believers isn’t a very difficult thing to do. The test comes when you step foot outside of that environment. Many of you have surely reached that conclusion already. 

Experiences are what you make of them and I’m happy I felt moved at CBLI.

The Good People in Alton, IL

Early last month I received an email from Stacy, an employee at The Salvation Army in Alton, IL. She had come across our website and was intrigued by the Urban Mission Center and wondered if we'd make a visit to her corps. Stacy runs a Thursday night outreach program called Crossfire. It's a group of about 30 to 40 young people - mostly high schoolers. They come to The Salvation Army on Thursdays to have dinner and fellowship with one another. Through this Thursday night gathering, Stacy has seen a number of young people come to know Jesus!

Excited about an opportunity to spread the word about the Urban Mission Center and the possibility of encouraging a fellow youth worker, I presented the idea to our Temple House dwellers. They were all quick to say yes! That's the joy of working with a group of young adults who are passionate about serving others. 

We weren't really sure what to expect, other than that we would have a Thanksgiving meal with the group, followed by a time of fellowship and sharing. We were surprised to be greeted at the door with hugs and many familiar faces. One young lady immediately yelled "I know you! I used to stay on Iowa!" She attended youth programs at the Temple Corps last year, but moved to Alton a few months ago. Her mom found The Salvation Army in her new town, and they were quick to welcome her. Several of the young people at Alton attended camp or youth councils, so we'd met many of them earlier this year.

One young man who attends Crossfire is deaf. Elysia, our newest Temple House dweller, is a high school teacher to deaf students. As you can imagine, they were fast friends. It was a joy to see the excitement for both of them, knowing that they could communicate with ease. 

We ended the night with a fierce game of spoons and then said our goodbyes.

We're looking forward to visiting again.