by Jarrett Meek, Founder, Executive Director
There are important milestones in the life of every person, organization, and ministry; moments that mark movement forward, new growth, or the beginning of a new season. These moments do a lot to define our lives and our development. For Mission Adelante I can look back over our eight years and see many of these moments, but three events rise to the top of our list of milestones. The launch of the ministry, and specifically the beginning of our first "house church", the acquisition of our building, and the launch of our Bhutanese ministries. The initial launch of our ministry qualifies as a major milestone for obvious reasons, but the beginning of our first "house church" in that same season specifically represented the spiritual first-fruits of our ministry and evidence that what we began could really work. What was a dream had become a reality as we saw the first immigrant family receive Christ and join our fellowship. The acquisition of a building was another major milestone in that it was truly a game changer. Heartland Community Church provided the funding for the purchase and remodel in a amazing show of support that vaulted us years forward in our development. And the launch of our Bhutanese ministries represented the proving of our ministry vision/model with a cultural group other than Latinos, something that has caused us to grow dramatically and open our eyes even wider to what the Lord may want to do with us in the future. And now, I'm excited to share with you that Mission Adelante is at the beginning of what I believe will be another major milestone in our ministry's development: the launch of a new ministry division called "Community Development Initiatives."
Community Development: Individual and Community Transformation
While much of what we've done up to this point could be considered community development, we are now poised to build on the relational network and the emphasis on individual transformation that we've worked so hard to establish and begin addressing some of the larger issues and needs we have seen in our community. Being very passionate about our identity and vision as a disciple-making mission, we are intent on holding on to this core calling even as we begin engaging in broader community development initiatives. We believe that community transformation can spring forth from individual transformation, and that those who at one time were recipients of care and service can become owners and stakeholders in initiatives that improve our entire neighborhood. Our community development ministry will involve emerging leaders from our neighborhood in developing new initiatives that make a community-wide impact in areas such as entrepreneurialism, job-skills training, and health care that is accessible to people who come from other places.
The Impact of Business: Empowerment, Jobs, Economic Sustainability
At the nexus of business and ministry there is a powerful synergy that moves beyond charity and betterment to development. Equipping people with marketplace skills and entrepreneurial tools, and helping them start small businesses is empowering, promotes community ownership, improves the financial outlook for their families, and contributes to the economy of our entire community. In a conversation with Pastor Rick Behrens he shared his perspective on the impact of immigrant entrepreneurs on our neighborhood; "Twenty years ago an economic study was done on the Central Avenue area in KCK, and based on that study they predicted that by the year 2000 our area would be a ghost town. But, they didn't know who was coming and what God had in mind." Today immigrant-owned businesses are fueling an amazing comeback in our area. A study done by the Hamilton Project states, "Today's immigrants possess a strong entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, immigrants are 30% more likely to form new businesses than U.S.-born citizens." Imagine the impact training, coaching, and start-up capital could have on immigrant entrepreneurs and on the economic development of our community!
The Need for Accessible Health Care
For those of us who were born in the U.S., navigating our health-care system can be an intimidating and confusing experience. Now, imagine trying to make your way through this gauntlet of paperwork, long sterile halls, and sky-high bills as a new refugee coming directly from a camp in Nepal with very little English. A 2013 study done by the Population Health Institute ranks Wyandotte County 99th out of 102 counties in Kansas for health outcomes (mortality and morbidity), while neighboring Johnson County is ranked #1. In addition to other factors, our community is clearly under-served in terms of health-care. Our immigrant friends often hesitate to visit the doctor because cultural and language barriers create a sense of fear and distrust that are very difficult to overcome. High health-care costs and lack of insurance make preventative or primary care seem like an un-affordable luxury, and the emergency room often becomes the first stop for patients who could have prevented a crisis by seeing the doctor sooner. As we explore ways to address some of the most glaring needs in our community, making health-care accessible both culturally and financially to immigrants has emerged as one of our highest priorities.
What's Happening Now?
Over the past several months Mission Adelante has begun preparations to launch three new initiatives:
- Adelante Thrift: We have formed a board of directors and are working on a launch plan for a neighborhood thrift store that will provide jobs and job-skills training, and will serve as an incubator for small immigrant-owned businesses. Income generated by Adelante Thrift will provide another source of sustainable funding for other Mission Adelante ministries.
- Micro-lending/Small business start-up ministry: Last fall we piloted our first business as ministry project as we helped the RG Asian store (ethnic groceries) start-up in our neighborhood. This summer, as we form our team for this new ministry program, we will be hosting Rudy Carrasco from Partners Worldwide for a training seminar on business as ministry. Stay tuned for more details!
- Medical Clinic: A team of people from our neighborhood has been hard at work doing surveys and focus groups within the Mission Adelante community to assess the real health-care needs of the people we serve. We are hoping to finish these surveys in the next couple of months.
One of the biggest challenges and most important aspects of our plan to launch these new initiatives will be to raise the funds necessary to move forward. During the second half of 2013 we will praying earnestly and making a significant effort to both increase funding for our General Ministry Fund, as well as secure funding for our new Community Development Initiatives. We will be approaching current donors to suggest an increase in giving for those who are able, and inviting new people to partner with us financially as well. Though our "campaign" has not yet begun, if you would like to begin contributing or increase your giving you may do so online by visiting www.missionadelante.org/give.