On January 22, 2015, I got a call while out with my family at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. I didn't recognize the “563” prefix number, but my smart phone said it originated from Davenport, IA. Usually, I try to limit the calls I take when I am with my family, but on this day I answered. The caller, Brent, introduced himself as the Wells Fargo asset manager for the Community and Urban Stabilization Program (CUSP). He asked me if Brookside Community Church would be interested in a house two blocks away from our building. It had been abandoned for over 3 years. Wells Fargo tried to sell it multiple times, but the work that needed to be done far outweighed the asking price. Intrigued, I said, "Yes, of course!"
Brent proceeded to ask questions to determine if we qualified for the program. Most of them revolved around our non-profit legal status. Then, the final question came, “How would you see your church using the house?” I sat there, thought for a minute, then said, “I’m not sure. Can I get back to you on that question?” Brent graciously agreed and I told him I would email him in a couple days.
My initial response to the questions of how we would use the house was “reentry.” Before coming to Indianapolis, my wife and I joined a team of Christians to help plant a church in the most diverse, poverty stricken neighborhood in Northeast Denver. The ministry that impacted me the most was the reentry program our church started. Getting in relationship with guys that were drug dealers, sex offenders, thieves, and murderers was a huge heart changing journey for me. Where previously my judgments of these individuals got in the way of relationship, I came to know them as Joe and Robert.
God showed me what the apostle Peter had to learn over and over again. After Cornelius, a Roman centurion, came to Christ, Peter said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34-35). You see, Peter thought that the Jews were the only ones that could be in relationship with God, but when he saw the Spirit of God fall upon Cornelius and his family, it changed Peter’s life. In the same way, knowing Jesus my whole life, my prejudice and pride made me believe that my kind of people were better than those who had criminal pasts. That reentry program transformed my heart towards everyone who was different than me.
After praying about a plan and dreaming about how we could use the house Wells Fargo was offering for reentry, my proposal became clear. The house would provide a home in which 4 men would be rehabilitated through 12-months of discipleship. We would partner with organizations in our neighborhood who were specifically doing good work in educating, assisting, and case managing individuals who were previously incarcerated. In partnering with these organizations, it would allow Brookside Community Church to be the family that these men needed to develop new habits and hope for their future. After sending the proposal to Brent, I prayed, “God, if this is the faith step you desire us to take, may it be so clear. Guide us, direct us and make this reentry home a refuge for 4 men.”
I am happy to say that one year from that phone call, this reentry house is a reality. We call it “Isaiah House” inspired by Isaiah 57:14-15, where God says,
“Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove the obstacles from my people’s way…I dwell with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
We are called as a church to revive the spirit of those who are broken - broken over their past mistakes and failure and broken over the hurt they have experienced through family, friends and situations. God wants to bless us and give us hope for a future, but it starts as we humbly go to God with all the brokenness of our lives and say, “God, please take all of this brokenness, and make something beautiful out of me. I need you, God.” In giving your life to Him, he begins to do exceedingly more than we can ever ask or think.