It was one year ago this month that The Helbling family gave us the gift of the building that has become the Opportunity Center. As we enter into our second year I see the vision for the Isaiah 61 Initiative coming to life. The first 5 months of last year were spent working on the building that was so generously donated to us. We finally opened it in May of 2010. This building is just a building but became the base of operations for pastoring the community.
Our vision has always been to engage the community on many different levels of restoration and to Minister God’s grace to each individual we meet. Many doors have been opened for us and we are starting to see how each one provides a way for another aspect of a vital community to be restored. It hard to grasp that so much has been laid before us in such a short period of time.
We see each of these opportunities addressing a need in the community that can be captured in one word. When each part is working together the whole community is being restored.
Preserve – Board-Up Hyde Park – This project helps to preserve the historic buildings in the neighborhood as we work with groups to provide plywood, paint, decorate and board up vacant city owned property that the city has no budget to preserve. Keeping the weather out of these buildings is essential to preserving them until such a time as they can be restored.
Inspire – The Bremen Theater – We have taken on a task that is way beyond our means. This old 700-seat theater sits on the edge of the main park in the area. It has been vacant for decades. We are working with Alderman Freeman Bosley Sr. to begin stabilizing the building and organize a restoration effort. We stepped out in faith to take on the task and in a few short months we have had several groups participate in the project. Architecture for Humanity has recently finished a set of plans for the project. Groups from St. Charles Missouri and Tulsa Oklahoma have helped us remove trash and debris from the interior. One day we hope to see a community theater develop in this place that will cultivate the arts and provide an opportunity for the talent of Hyde Park to thrive.
Challenge – Sports - Last year we did a free baseball league for the kids of the neighborhood. Restoring the ball field at Windsor Park was part of that project. This year we will once again play ball. Last summer we offered free Tae Kwon Do for the neighborhood. Through sports kids of all ages and economic standing will have the chance to be challenged both personally and as a part of a team.
Provide – Gardening - This year we will take on a project of Urban Gardening. The City of St. Louis allows residents to lease vacant property for the purpose of gardening. The lease is $1.00 per year. We will begin to train people to garden and provide assistance in getting started. The produce will provide nutritious food for the families and the excess will be sold at local farmer’s markets for extra income.
Empower – The Opportunity Center – A training and empowerment place to bring assistance for job creation and small business development. We continue to develop products and establish vendor partners that will help us to train people how to develop small businesses and cottage industries in the area. We have the space and equipment to train in woodworking, sewing, and jewelry making. Through our other projects we will be able to train in construction and agriculture as well.
Rebuild – Rebuilding Houses – One of the primary goals if the Isaiah 61 Initiative is to relocate Missionaries to the inner cities of America. As we enter into 2011 we hope to begin relocating our first group of trained missionaries to the Hyde Park Neighborhood. Through the process of relocating missionaries we will also restore the vacant housing in the area.
Restore – The Narrow Gate – The Narrow Gate Project provides space with a family for someone to enter into a long-term process of rehabilitation. The Narrow Gate Hosts are trained to engage people with serious spiritual or addiction issues. They take the person(s) into their home or an adjacent home and walk with them through a planned process of restoration that addresses the issues that have them bound. The goal of the Narrow Gate is to fulfill what Isaiah 61 instructs.
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins,
They will raise up the former devastations;
And they will repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.
When we take someone into our homes through the Narrow Gate it is for the purpose of restoration and freedom. The goal is to minister to the whole person and to restore them spiritually, physically, emotionally, and financially. The goal of the Narrow Gate is to take those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and restore them to a place of being whole homeowners.
Revive – Missionaries – In order to bring new life to the area we wish to bring new lives into the area. We are seeking people who hear the call of God to go and repair the inner cities of America. We will train you, make a plan for your ministry, and help facilitate your plan. This may include job assistance and housing help. If you grasp the concept of Pastoring the Community then we want to hear from you.