The following is a Christian Work Project sponsored in part by a grant from the Boston Baptist Social Union.
Thank you so much for your generous financial investment in our youth ministry at House of Hope Church in Lynn over the past two years. House of Hope Church and Ministry Center is an American Baptist Church that was planted in my apartment 6 years ago with five adult members and two Cambodian gang members who were on house-arrest. The plant went from my apartment on Ocean Street to 57-65 Munroe St. in Lynn owned by Lion of Judah in Boston. The building was just sold to an Assemblies of God church in Lynn and we are presently renting space at 10 Church St. on the property of the Lynn Housing Authority and renting space for our youth ministry, men's ministry and recovery ministry from Straight Ahead Ministries at 25 MunroeSt. in Lynn. Straight Ahead and Lynn are looking to purchase a building to house together both ministries as an Urban Training Center for churches, campus ministries, and college interns.
House of Hope Church's population is 80% homeless, gang/former gang members, court involved youth, people in transitional housing/subsidized housing, and those seeking recovery and most importantly Jesus Christ. We have grown from seven to 70-120 each Sunday, We offer a breakfast buffet every Sunday morning and clothing prior to service time.
Our youth ministry called Youth for the Nations has recently changed its name by our former gang members now youth leaders to "I AM HOPE".
I could literally write a book on what has emerged this year through I AM HOPE. Your investment has made in impact on our church and also in our city. The Kingdom of God has come to the gang blocks of Lynn, We are so grateful for BBSU for investing in those who others may believe are impossible to reach. But this is the call of House of Hope Church and to our TABCOM mission.
BBSU funded House of Hope Church's youth ministry called "Youth for the Nations" for [grant amount]. The funds were to support Saveth Nim our Cambodian youth pastor and some of the ministry programs. Saveth was also working at Straight Ahead Ministries full time as a Cambodian Street Worker under a state grant. Saveth came to Christ in a lock-up facility at 14years old, lived in Straight Ahead's Discipleship home, and attended Zion Bible College. When he came to Lynn he pressed on and grew through many challenges and impacted many gang youth at our church. He also ran into other temptations and challenges that discredited his testimony and he violated a number of policy issues in both arenas of ministry at the church and Straight Ahead. We provided counseling, team intervention, and spiritual direction, connected him to a professional trauma therapist, and a physician and had his Christian Cambodian colleagues come up with a contract for him extending grace during a one month probation period. We had to let Saveth go last June. Eugene Schneeberg was brought on totake Saveth's place as youth pastor with the support of Sokhan Prak to be our Cambodian youth worker in training for House of Hope Church. Sokhan was led to Christ by me in lock-up at 14 years old. He turns 21 in April and has left his gang; he is attending North Shore Community College, and taking the Juvenile Justice Certificate Program through our partnership with Straight Ahead and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. Sokhan is being mentored by Eugene who is African American, 32 years old, a graduate of Boston University, married with two children,and Operations Director for Straight Ahead. Together they are making a great impact in our ministry to gang members at House of Hope.
We are presently reaching Cambodian and Latino youth who are gang involved and who have been court involved and/or incarcerated. We have three gangs of youth represented at House of Hope. Below are summaries of ministries we are presently engaging youth from 10-21 in at the church. On Friday night we have 10-30 youth attend ministry. On Wednesday night we have 3-6 youth coming to men's group. On Wednesday afternoon we have from 4-10 youth serving homeless with us on our outreach van. On Thursday afternoon we have from 1-3 youth on this new homeless outreach pilot having gang members from the church reaching homeless on the streets. On Saturday afternoon we are engaging 4-8 youth for Bible Study and recovery. On Friday afternoons in Essex County Correctional Facility, House of Hope is reaching 10-30 young males aged 17-24 with Straight Ahead. On Sunday morning we have about 4-15 gang and former gang members coming to church - some who are deeply involved in Christian community and others coming to fulfill community service hours or are receiving small stipends to do cleaning projects at the church while the Holy Spirit opens their ears to hear the Lord's words of life. We often bring the youth out to brunch after church to Brother's Deli or Tatiana's with adults on our ministry team to develop an atmosphere of a Christian family.
While Saveth was with us both Eugene and Sokhan begin having a Bible study for East Lynn gang members. This was more than just a Bible Study this was intentional discipleship with gang youth from 14-17 working through four levels of discipleship every Monday night. Eugene was also bringing the youth to the Men's Group on Wednesday night to bond with men from the church which has been crucial since most of our youth come from fatherless homes and/or deeply traumatized family who are genocide survivors. Monday night had also included Christ-centered movies, pizza, and special events. It was painful for these young men to lose Saveth as their Cambodian role model. Eugene has been a stellar role model and with the support of Sokhan under his wing it has been a great balance and proven very effective.
On May 15 Straight Ahead brought in a national negotiator to work facilitate a three day conference with inmates (17-23) from Lynn. Ministry staff from House of Hope Church came in with Straight Ahead Ministries staff and was trained to go in to be small group facilitators. Thirty-two inmates from Lynn representing 4 gangs of Lynn were reconciled by the power of Christ. Word got out on the gang blocks of Lynn of what happened while we were in the conference.
We were having a difficult time prior to Ready 4 Life reaching West Lynn Gang members to come to discipleship group. House of Hope met with the captain of the Salvation Army and he was willing to let us use their gym to start a basketball night on Friday nights. We were reaching about 10 West Lynn Bloods who were showing up to play basketball. The Salvation Army began to make burgers. The night opened with prayer and a testimony and there had been a good rhythm going on. It also helped to have Sokhan show up in a church youth worker role as a former East Lynn gang member and now a Christian on fire playing ball with former rivals.
After Ready 4 Life happened East and West Lynn gang members have been showing up 12-30 young males 10-21 who are all gang involved. Eugene has been having Ready 4 Life graduates speak to the youth of the miracle that took place in Middleton (Essex County Correctional Facility). Most of the men who have come home from Middleton are employed and or attending a transitional education program at North Shore Community college. When our young males come home House of Hope takes them up to K&G Clothing in Danvers and has them professionally fitted for work clothes and takes them out for a homecoming meal with church and Straight Ahead Ministries staff.
We have recently renamed the Friday night Ministry (B.O.M.B) and handing out flyers every week to youth at basketball. There has been such a breakthrough with both East and West Gang members that those who are stronger in their faith are really having a strong influence on hose who had been a challenge to convince to come. Friday night the youth are invited to House of Hope for a Bible Study from 2-4 and then to a movie the following Saturday at a theater and pizza is included. We are also bringing the youth out to serve the homeless on Wednesday afternoon and just starting up a new homeless outreach on the church van on Thursday afternoons with one of our former homeless men who have been with us since the church was planted and has been in recovery for six years. This is the BOMB ministry and is seems to be compelling.
Most of our youth who have been court/gang involved good teach a course of substance abuse but they do not have to walk out recovery from addictions - not just drugs and alcohol but addiction to the rush of the streets and to guns. We have a few gang involved youth coming on Saturday. One of the young men who is coming was a very notoriously violent gang leader in Lynn, Revere and Boston. He has given his life to Christ at House of Hope Church. He was born in Cambodia and lived in a refugee camp until three years old. He now brings his mother to church that lost seven children during the genocide. He brings his disabled son and fiance every Sunday morning. He loves House of Hope Church. He has a long way to go but is genuinely trying to live out a new life in Christ. He is also involved in our Leadership Apprentice Group.
We have two former gang members who are attending North Shore Community College full-time. One is our assistant youth worker Sokhan Prak and the other Francisco Pauline who is a graduate of our Ready 4 Life program. We also have about 10 Gordon College Students attending the church every Sunday and two are on the worship team along with a Gordon Conwell student who is also on the worship team. They are now integrating as a student fellowship. Sokhan and Francisco now go up to the Gordon Campus in Wenham and spend time hanging out with students or playing basketball. Or they all go out to breakfast after church together. I have been longing for this moment knowing that by the Holy Spirit's power we would see our youth begin to mainstream fully into Christian community and everyone would be learning from each other's lives and testimony. It has been such a testimony to our church, to Gordon College and to gang members coming into thechurch. Wonderful!
My home church (ordaining church) Lion of Judah has been allowing us to use the building at 57 Munroe St. in Lynn to grow the church plant from my apartment since January of 2004 knowing that this is an American Baptist outreach church mission. We have only had to take care of minor repairs and maintenance of the building during this time. We have also been trying to raise funds to purchase the church from Lion of Judah. The good news is that in December I found out on a Thursday at 12 pm Straight Ahead and House of Hope Church would be receiving and endowment to purchase 57-65 Munroe St. with funds from the Boston Industrial home for $500,000 and that we would need to raise matching grant of $125,000 of the amount. At 12:20 I received a call from Lion of Judah stating that they needed to sell the building to continue their building expansion of the sanctuary immediately. They signed a purchase and sale agreement that week. East Coast International Church of Lynn (an A/G church) purchased the building. They have done a great work in planting a church in Lynn at about the same time House of Hope did. The Assemblies of God has provided them credit to purchase the building. The Lord has lifted the burden from Lion of Judah who has been so generous and kind to all of us at House of Hope and blessed East Coast International Church of Lynn. They have done an outstanding job of planting, reaching children, youth and opening a food pantry, counseling center and discipleship home. The Lord is blessing His body in Lynn!
Straight Ahead and House of Hope are looking for at a building in Lynn that has 11,000 sq. feet that can house the church and Sytaight Ahead Ministry offices and programs. In the meantime we began our first House of Hope Church service last Sunday at 10 Church St. in Lynn. This is the Community Room of the Lynn Housing Authority. We will be renting Sundays from 9-1 pm until June. We are having Wall Housing Tower for seniors and low-income individuals on the lot. We are across from the YMCA and their homeless housing program. We are across the street from Trt-City Mental Health. We are down directly two blocks in walking distance from the Lynn Shelter and Brother's Table. We know that God is in the midst of all of our pruning and moving us in a directing for greater capacity and new growth.
I am presently meeting with 3 former gang members of our church and providing one-on-one discipleship, counseling and leadership training. We just began the group in December. It is my desire to grow these young soldiers up for the Lord to learn to discern the voice of God, learn how to recognize Godly people/leaders so they can clearly be involved in choosing leaders in our church. We are walking through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, stewardship, missions, leadership issues, accountability, living a confessional life, understanding and recognizing the call of God and interpreting the word and how to make disciples.
As we enter into 2010 I sense for the first time in our church plant a foundation and a threshold for a raising up, launching and expansion of the youth ministry. Our Cambodian assistant youth pastor, Sokhan Prak, sensed the Lord giving the ministry a new name, "I AM Hope." Francisco thinks it is "ill" - meaning awesome. The former gang members in leadership positions reaching younger gang member the church is doing gang and violence prevention and intervention. These young men show tremendous influence on the younger youth 10-17.
This will be the first year 2010 that we are paying rent for our church space. The Lord is growing us up in greater faith in giving and trusting that if this is the direction that is sending us then He will provide. We are reaching the poorest of poor. We are also being challenged to raise matching grant of $125,000. We believe that has long as we continue to be faithful to the call of the Lord to reach the streets, gang members, homeless, addicts and grow them in worship, the word, and leadership that we will also be growing Kingdom stewards. Food and clothing is essential to the work of reaching unchurched, homeless, gang members and those coming home from prison. These populations represent 80% of our church. Our youth and their families are hungry and our youth are daily challenged with the temptation of making "easy money" by selling drugs. It is important for our youth to have new work clothes, learn to read a menu and eat at a restaurant that is not fast food, sit at a table with adults and have their stories heard and build community with "God parents" from the church and have the church watch them receive certificates of graduations, discipleship programs, and see our young people up the front of the church in skits, praying for inmates, and gathering younger gang members for church.
I am praying this year for a way to raise missionary funds to pastor the church full-time. My passion at 52 years old and doing this for over twenty years is discipleship of homeless and gang members, leadership development, preaching Christ in context to our community and raising up young people to do the same, growing our church up in its gifts, involve former gang members in going on mission's trips to nations around the world, and turn gang blocks on a city on fire for Christ. I am presently very involved in grant writing efforts at Straight Ahead along with ministry development and leadership development but my passion in this season of my life is growing this ABC local church from the streets at ground zero into a transformation community of faith through the Resurrection power of Christ. All things are possible.