Archived Sections, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Jordan New Life's Hub Center meets people where they are

Come and see” is an ancient invitation that is being issued by persons
discovering a new outreach ministry in North Minneapolis. Jordan New Life
Hub is creating a stir as others accept the invitation and become first
impressed and then involved in this ministry of transformation for individuals
and families.
The concept of a Hub was born in the hearts and minds of members of the
Jordan New Life Community Church (ELCA). Led by Pastor La Andriamihaja,
the vision found support from “Making a World of Difference,” an initiative of
the Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans
provided a grant for development of the strategic plan.
The Hub, in the words of its purpose statement, “collaborates with other
organizations to transform and empower residents of North Minneapolis
through training and mentoring in the skills needed to improve individual and
family well-being — economically, physically, and spiritually.”
The Hub’s growth has been astounding. It is anchored by the three-year-old
One Stop Family Support Center (OSFSC) which was started with federal funds
for faith-based programs. Its success is due primarily to the Navigators who
work with the people to help them “navigate” the system. “They are more like
coaches rather than social workers,” says Juli Leerssen, executive director of
the Hub. “They provide the practical information and the personal
encouragement and tracking that gets people to the places they need to be in
order to accomplish their goals.”
One person who has been touched by the OSFSC, DeRoyce Turner, tells his
story of recovery from drug addiction, homelessness, and a negative lifestyle.
Today he is a member of the Hub board and its chief ambassador on the
streets and out speaking to groups. Turner exclaims, “I give God the glory
and thanks to the people who dealt with me as a child of God — that is what
they saw when I walked in off the streets. I owe them much.”
Correctional Transitional Services, Inc., (CTSI) is the newest partner. It is a
proven program that helps felons re-enter society. It provides
encouragement, accountability, and mentoring while assisting with
employment, housing, and basic needs.
The OSFSC and CTSI have a great synchronicity and coordinate services. A
third partner is Arts From the Hood, an outreach program to the youth of the
neighborhood that offers after-school art instruction and teaches
entrepreneurial skills for marketing that art.
Yet another collaboration is with MADDADS and Shiloh Temple. These
programs are a natural next step for a church outreach program that has
included a laundromat ministry and monthly community dinners.
One of the reasons for the confidence that donors and church leaders have in
the Hub is the leadership of Leerssen. An energetic person who has
developed the trust between the Hub and the people of the community,
Leerssen describes herself as a “lifelong, stubborn Lutheran.” She was
brought up at Prince of Glory Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. “That place
was so wonderful. It was ahead of its time in terms of bringing Lutheranism
to poor communities of color. It definitely shaped who I am as a Christian,
particularly my views about social justice and caring for the least among us.”
Having been nurtured in that community, she now wants to give back.
The Hub relies on gifts from ELCA congregations who do more than give
money. Work parties have helped to “fit the building for the mission.” A
group from Maple Grove Lutheran Church spent a Saturday painting the walls
of two large rooms.
A team from Trinity Lutheran in Long Lake, Minnesota, worked with Jordan
members to install new flooring. Trinity used its Lenten offering to buy the
materials for the flooring. Additionally, it has pledged $55,000 for capital
needs.
Trinity Lutheran of Minnehaha Falls (Lutheran Congregations in Mission for
Christ) has also given a gift to the capital campaign. All of these
congregations take a turn at serving the monthly community dinners at the
church.
Recently Central Lutheran (ELCA), Minneapolis, committed $56,000 to this
ministry, part of which will pay for a badly needed roof on the church. After
noting that Central recently replaced its own roof, Pastor Rick Nelson said,
“We are an urban church and we believe that our investment in Jordan New
Life will significantly strengthen both of our ministries. We can learn from one
another and share expertise.”
Bishop Craig Johnson, who has been cheerleading the effort, said, “It is vital
that we join our brothers and sisters on the north side in supporting their
efforts to make a difference.” The ELCA World Hunger program designated a
$30,000 grant for the calling of an outreach pastor who will serve both the
Hub and the congregation. Funds are being sought to raise the balance
needed for the position. The larger goal is to raise $200,000 per year from
individuals and congregations, plus capital improvement funds.
For more information about the Hub and how you and your congregation can
invest, please go to http://www/jnlhub.org.
Dennis Johnson is a retired ELCA pastor and former administrator at Gustavus
Adolphus College, as well as a former Bishop’s Associate in the ELCA’s
Minneapolis Area Synod.