So about a year ago, a friend of mine approached me to do a transitional housing ministry. At the time I was doing full time freelance writing, but my wife had indicated that she would like to see a more predictable and steady income stream. I figured this would be a good stop gap measure: doing part time ministry work (even though I swore I was “out of the game”) while doing full time writing.
God love wives: mine laughed at us from the beginning. She thought it was cute the way we thought this was going to be a part time endeavor, when the truth was that this was a ministry that cut close to both me and my partner’s hearts: ministry to the poor, racial reconciliation, working with the arts. We were going to be doing full time hours for part time money because we loved the work. I hate it when she’s THAT right.
The second thing I learned is that apparently, despite all my “being Mauricenary” talk when it comes to writing, I have a reputation around the city for doing ministry work for nothing. Every time I bumped into a pastor buddy of mine and told them what I was up to, they’d get this real solemn look in their eye and they speak to me in real serious tone: “Maurice, please tell me that you’re getting paid for this.”
Anyway, at the beginning of the summer, we had a home that had been remodeled with one guy living there. By the end of the summer, we had half a dozen guys living there. The model is family, as we have a bunch of guys from various backgrounds (re-entry, recovery, homelessness), who had been used to being lone wolves, suddenly forging a community. The entire endeavor is about building relationships.
By September, we realized that we’d been so busy DOING the ministry, we hadn’t done anything in terms of the little things, like naming it. Thus Cities of Refuge Ministry was born. The overall vision is to keep buying and rehabbing houses, using some for transitional housing and others to provide home ownership opportunities for some of our neighbors. We will concentrate in one neighborhood, to help revitalize it. We use the rehabbing projects to employ our neighbors, but we are setting up other microbusinesses to help employ them also.
Anyway, I say all this to explain what I’ve been up to (I’m the Executive Director of Cities of Refuge Ministries) and to say that our web site is finally up and running. You can also follow us on Twitter.
*And now, a Martin flashback …