Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Start of a New Emmaus Ministries Journey

I am embarking on a sabbatical experience at Emmaus Ministries. This is an ecumenical, urban ministry for homeless males who participate in prostitution. The ministry is located in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago.

Emmaus Ministries was started 20 years ago by Catholic Deacon John Green. What started as one man’s efforts to care for the lepers of today has developed into a ministry that is supported by seminaries, churches, and a network of Christian servants.

The ministry consists of multiple programs. There is an outreach program. Workers and volunteers spend the evening in areas of the city frequented by male prostitutes. This is a ministry of presence. We provide fellowship, occasionally food and transportation. It is also a way of intr4iducting the guys to the Ministry Center.

The Ministry Center is a home-like environment. The guys have sit down meals. They can use the showers, utilize the clothing bank. They can use the phone to talk to case managers, probation officers, doctors or family. It is a place where they can get their mail. It is also a place to work on goals, attend group and to worship. It is far closer to being with family than attending a social service agency.

There is also a prison ministry. Emmaus is dedicated to staying involved with the guys as long as the guys want us to. The prison ministry includes advocating for the men, praying for them, attending court and visiting the men in prison.

Emmaus Ministry is place of education. It works with interns from a variety of seminaries and colleges. It trains community members. There is an Immersion Night. This is when church groups are given lectures on the “Night Community”, the teachings of Emmaus and then are given a structured activity to do outside of Emmaus. It is not only they guys that are transformed. The interns, volunteers and church groups learn to identify what prevents them from seeing Jesus in the men of the night. They learn to be better servants.

Finally, there is the Kaio Community. The Kiao Community consists of interns who live together in an intentional faith community for one year. They live modestly and faith together. They are differing Christian traditions but are united in their love of God’s creatures. They participate in all of the ministries of Emmaus. In return they receive health insurance, room and board, transportation and $20.00 a week. I am living with the Kaio Community during my sabbatical.

Emmaus Ministries is centered in faith. The first Monday of each month the staff and volunteers join in a day of prayer. In preparing for a new generation of Kaio interns Emmaus Ministries had a two and one half day retreat at Lake Geneva Wisconsin. This was followed by additional training and orientation for the new interns. This was a week of orientation but also a week of team building.

In the coming weeks I will be blogging about my experiences at Emmaus. This will include training, community life, worship experiences. I will also talk about the cultural diversity of the city with a focus on both ecumenical and inter-faith worship.

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