Prayers are answered in many different ways. For 10 years, a building sat empty on the property of St. Matthew, Appleton, Wis., after the church’s school closed. There were numerous prayers and discussions on what this space could be used for. Through God’s grace, it now serves as a resource center for the homeless population in the Fox Valley area, providing hope for many and a unique way to spread the gospel.
This endeavor began when Betsy Borns, a member at Immanuel, Greenville, Wis., started her fieldwork as manager of Project RUSH (Research to Understand and Solve Homelessness). Borns conducted research through an experiment where she lived as a homeless individual for three days.
During this time, she discovered what resources were available to this population and what was missing. She found that there was a large gap in the area for daytime housing.
“I saw that there were a few places that tolerate homeless people, but there wasn’t anywhere that actually welcomes them,” Borns says. “Learning these things firsthand helped me conceptualize a place where people would be welcomed to relax, get warm, and receive additional help.”
While Borns was doing research, Jonathan Kuske, pastor at St. Matthew, was ardently praying for an opportunity to use his congregation’s empty building to serve the community. His prayer was answered when he met Borns.
“You often pray for guidance and don’t know what form it’ll take,” Kuske says. “Creating a resource center wasn’t what we were originally expecting to use the building for, but it’s been a great way to introduce people to Christ and to show good Samaritan love.”
This meeting between Borns and Kuske was the inception of the new Day Resource Center in Appleton, a place for community members to receive support both physically and spiritually.
A lot of work went into the building’s opening in September of 2018. To begin, Borns conducted extensive research on other communities’ homeless shelters. Homeless Connections, now a part of the non-profit group Pillars, was brought on board to manage the project.
After serving the homeless for just a few short months, the resource center is already flourishing. “When I talk to the leaders in the shelters, they discuss all the time how people’s spirits have lifted,” Borns remarks. “We’re giving people a little hope, and it makes us really proud.”
The center provides counseling for mental health and addictions, as well as educational resources. But most important, it offers Bible studies and spiritual discussions with Kuske at the church next door. Four individuals have even attended church at St. Matthew.
“There is so much good being done for these people who are destitute,” says Kuske. “At times, it can be a long road out of their current situations, but coming here gives them some encouragement that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Want to learn more about this project? Borns is part of a panel discussion exploring how our churches can be good neighbors at the upcoming Christian Leadership Experience, March 15–16, in La Crosse, Wis. Learn more at christlead.com.
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Author: Gabriella Moline
Volume 106, Number 2
Issue: February 2019
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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