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A Letter from Pastor Nick Dyrud, Emmaus Lutheran Church
Where do you lay your head at night? Where do you live? It’s true, “Home is where the heart is.” It’s the physical location providing shelter and safety as we grow and mature in life. The home is a bedrock for stability. Despite it’s dimensions, it’s location, or it’s contents, our homes play a critical and central role in the makeup of our lives. Consider with me homelessness, crisis, or family instability. For far too many children and adults alike, their home may be the most unstable, unsafe, or temperamental place for them to be. That is, if they even have a home.
The house on 2nd Avenue just off 85th Street in Bloomington on the property of Emmaus Lutheran Church was built in 1952 to provide a home for the minister and his family while serving the congregation. Believe it or not, the garage that sits adjacent to the home was built first and the pastor lived there while the church and the house were being built by members of the congregation. Since it’s construction, the house has provided the needed shelter for some church staff. In 2004 the congregation made a very sacrificial decision to host an incoming refugee family from the Sudan. As the family integrated into a new culture and new setting, the church worked with them to one day move into their own home. Now House of Hope, named for refugee resettlement, is opening up a new chapter in it’s story.
Because Emmaus Church believes that every individual is created in the image of God and is therefore an “image bearer,” we desire to embrace our own creative gifts that each of us has been given in order to reach those in the greatest of needs within our community and beyond. Just as we read in the Book of James 1:27, “Undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” How might we continue to serve in this way? What role do we as citizens, in our corner of the city, have as we would seek to reach out to those in need? These are important questions for each of us to ask, along with the critical question, “How will the great need and great crisis be reconciled without a determined and developed plan to affect the real need we have across this country and our world?” Can anything be done?
Over the course of the last four years, my family and several others within the Emmaus congregation have been working with Together for Good, an organization that connects trusted volunteers to assist mothers in our city facing crisis situations with respite care for their children. It’s been a great blessing to be a part of this process of “creating pathways for the church to come alongside vulnerable children and families with Christ-centered ministry, needed physical assistance, and social support.” With that being said, over the course of this process we have grown in our understanding of the great need to go even further.
We have been moved to take another step in truly affecting the housing crisis because respite care alone is not enough to get moms and children out of the cycle of poverty. Studies tell us “that children raised by single parents are significantly more likely to have children at a young age, to drop out of high school, and to work less as young adults.” That is where we are missing out as a church; we need to help offer resources to wrap around these parents and support them in this stage of life. So with much prayer and deliberate focus on a plan moving forward, the church, alongside Together for Good, developed a plan to use its resources to help at-risk mothers in their place of poverty. These mothers are often heading up their household while being young, uneducated, and most times unemployed.
Our hope and prayer is that this program will offer them an opportunity to live in House of Hope while receiving education help, employment assistance, nutrition and healthy living classes, and mentoring. The goal is to wrap around these mothers and show them that we love and value them, and come alongside them in order to bring them out of poverty through transitional housing assistance and mentorship. Imagine what this could provide for a mother with young children who are striving to make ends meet, living on the streets, without any trusted, reliable, or safe support from family or friends. This is why we are so encouraged to partner with a great foundation like the BATC-Housing First Minnesota Foundation
Working together to make a difference in our city takes an incredible amount of work and professional expertise. From the renovation and construction of the home, to the hands-on work with each family, and everything in between, we all play a role in helping those in great need. So with excitement and a little trepidation, we look forward to opening this new chapter at the House of Hope, so that those in the greatest of need find a place of stability and safety, a home where they can rest and find hope.