Taking faith into the streets
Through the On Call outreach ministry at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church (ELCA), Minneapolis, the Rev. Linton Scott seeks to bring light to those living in darkness.
Pastor Scott describes his ministry as the reverse of most outreach ministries in that he goes out to meet people where they are, rather than bringing them into a central facility. In fact, Scott can be seen seven nights a week driving through neighborhoods of Minneapolis and surrounding communities behind the wheel of a white van loaded with food, clothing, small appliances, and the like, all donated by members of Mount Olivet and friends of the ministry.
There’s no warehousing of donations to the ministry. Items that come in each day go out in the back of the van identified with these words: Mount Olivet Church Outreach Ministries. And Scott knows his “clients” and their needs. The night Metro Lutheran interviewed him, his van was loaded with baskets of food, a plastic bag of clothing identified as being for a “boy,” a vacuum cleaner, and a school backpack. Pastor Scott expects to be out visiting his clients, usually until 1:00 a.m. or later.
Items that come into On Call each day go out in the back of the van identified with these words: Mount Olivet Church Outreach Ministries.
That he brings light to his clients is evidenced by a story he told. He went to visit a family and was startled to see a boy from the family climb up on the dining room table and unscrew the light bulb from the ceiling fixture. Then the youth went to the hall and climbed up on the railing and put the bulb in the hallway light fixture. It turned out the family had only one light bulb — actually a bulb from the refrigerator. One of the family’s needs was obvious: light bulbs.
In another home, on the Minneapolis-Edina border, neighbors never saw any light except that cast by the television set. It turns out the children had to do their homework by the light from the TV. This family also needed light.
Knowing the neighborhood
When he travels the city streets at night along with a volunteer or two, Scott is constantly surveying his surroundings. His van purposely has windows all the way around so he can see what’s happening around him. When the weather permits, he has his window down so he can interact with people. Even at late hours, he finds groups of youths at corners. His aim is to get them to talk about something other than guns and crime.
As a licensed airplane pilot he uses that as an entrée to visiting about things the youths have not been talking about. An offer of an airplane ride can get the attention of kids. But, he wants them to get involved, to work toward that reward. And, he reminds kids, ”The world doesn’t need more airplane pilots; what the world needs is more good people.”
Kids get assigned work projects at the airport where Scott has his airplane. They are responsible for mowing the lawn in front of the hangar, tending flower beds, and keeping the little office in good order. That goes along with Scott’s philosophy that having to put in some work makes the recipient value what he or she receives.
He often takes street kids out for their first restaurant meal. He says many aren’t used to sitting down to a conventional meal; they just eat when there’s some food available. So, he starts them out at McDonald’s and works up to a meal at Perkins where kids can learn how to order from a menu.
Always “on call”
Scott, who was born in Jamaica, came to Minneapolis to attend North Central University. In 1968, Mount Olivet was looking for an outreach program to address unrest in some city neighborhoods. In the intervening years, Scott has worked with many African-American, Hmong, and now Somali residents.
He started working a couple nights a week out of his Volkswagen. Later, he used a church car and then a pickup truck. His van is the third vehicle he has used in traveling Twin Cities streets to meet people and build friendships. He is assisted by scores of volunteers, with a crew on hand each day to sort and package contributions to be provided to people in need.
In many cases, the people he visits have become close friends. Scott is called on to officiate at baptisms, weddings, and funerals. One Somali woman confided, “You’re so nice, you should be a Muslim.”
On Call relies on donations and a shoestring budget. There is no overly-equipped office with computers and other gadgets. Donations come in to Mount Olivet Church and go out in the white van in the evening.
Those interested in knowing more about the On Call ministry may contact Scott at 612/721-2588.