Sunday, April 17, 2011

Never Ending Training Story at Emmaus Ministries

One of my concerns about returning to Emmaus after having completed my field study there was that I would not learn anything new. Boy was that off target. My sabbatical, thanks to the commitment of Emmaus Ministries to their staff, was one of constant training. The subject matter changed, the location changed but the commitment to service and to learning never diminished.

The training started as soon as I got to Chicago. The entire staff, ministry, administrative and the Kaio Community all drove up to Lake Geneva Wisconsin for a three day retreat. We were the guests of two volunteers and they provided us with two houses to stay at and they feed us fantastic food.

The retreat was multi-faceted. It included team building exercises. For some of the exercises we broke into small groups to get to know a few members more intimately. These exercises were important because they fostered a sense of shared identity to the administrative, ministry and Kaio members. It would have been easy for Emmaus Ministries to foster a silo mentality with the three groups, plus volunteers, board members and the guys all focusing on tier own needs. These exercises made sure that did not happen.

The retreat also provided a time for the sharing of the story, the history of Emmaus Ministries. This was perhaps one of the more important functions and yet at times one of the more tedious tasks of the retreat. I love history and I want to hear the narratives that make individuals and organizations unique. However, that requires a degree of organization and editing. At times I felt we were going to hear about where Emmaus bought their first roll of scotch tape or book of stamps. Still, even without editing I found myself putting today’s Emmaus Ministries into a co next, it helped me understand where I fit in.

This is a minister and prayer and worship was a big part of the retreat. That included learning contemplative prayer at the local Catholic Church and worshiping at t local Protestant church. The shared worship, the food, the learning, the self-disclosures and the beautiful location contributed to a perfect way for Emmaus Minsitres to team build and begin a new year.

Welcome to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin!

Once we got back to Chicago our training continued. Some of it was training in the Ministry Center. That included learning how to log a guy in, write goals and journal,. It also included learning about the weekly schedule and the many exceptions to that schedule. We learned how to run the clothing closet, stock the pang try, follow health codes when cooking. We learned how to clean the Center from doing laundry to washing floors, dishes and bathrooms. We learned about prayer and worship in the Ministry center. This included the use of the chapel, prayers before meals, readings, group and Bible study time. We learned what occurs in the administrative offices and how we could support the staff.

Finally we had a weekend of training at Emmaus. The training was also for new volunteers. We learned about boundaries, unconditional acceptance while remaining true to our faith. We learned about all of the different ministries that make up Emmaus Ministries. The training included folks from Wheaton College, Moody Bible Institute, Trinity Seminary, local churches and the director of Emmaus Ministries in Houston.

Emmaus Ministries volunteer spotlight: Rex Slagel

During all of the training the significant contributions of the volunteer pool was emphasized. It would be difficult for E.M. to accomplish all that it does without the volunteers.

Center on Halsted: Roof Top Garden

The Kaio Community attended a lecture at the Center on Halsted. The lecture was the public sharing of research on HIV/AIDS in the community. While this might have been an unlikely place for members of Emmaus Ministries’ to find themselves, it in fact provided useful information on the rising rates of the infection among MSM population. It was also a very nice night out. After the lectures we all had a light meal and spent time talking to peers on the roof top garden over looking Halsted Street.

Center on Halsted

Center on Halsted

The first Monday of each month is The Day of Prayer. During that time the Ministry Center is closed. All the staff meet in the Ministry Center. They pray. They pray for one another, the men, the ministries, the volunteers and supporters. They share a meal together. They are reminded why they are doing what they are doing. Occasionally it also becomes a time for additional training. Joshua Kent lead us in relaxation and contemplative prayer. Bethany Wilson taught a number of different styles of prayer. Whitney Merrill and I gave talks on substance abuse and addictions.

Lennette at Emmaus Ministries

I also sought out additional training. I contacted the Night Ministry. This is a ministry that in fact provides services all day long. They provide food, medical screening and case management to homeless throughout the city. They go out to the neighborhoods in their distinctive ministry truck. They also work with Alternative Families and Youth programs and the Howard Brown Youth Center to assist homeless youth. I attended their orientation training for new volunteers. It was very organized and actually had a modular program for introducing the many ministries. This was an inter-faith ministry that was also a welcoming ministry. I was impressed with the scope of their services and their commitment.

Night Ministry (Chicago)

I also signed up for training with Inspiration Café. This is an agency was started by a woman who saw a need. She started by giving food to the homeless. Eventually she developed a food service training program. In 13 weeks the workers become eligible to obtain a license in food services. Besides the training center on Wilson and Broadway they have two beautiful cafes in the city that serves wonderful meals to the public. The training was very professional and again highlighted a variety of services to the homeless.

TrueNorth - Inspiration Cafe :60

I think what I liked most about Inspiration Café is that it reminded me of Emmaus Ministries. In both cases it was a services that was developed by one person who saw a need and decided that somebody should do something and so they did!

Inspiration Café (Uptown, Chicago)

A number of the Kaio Community and one of our guys also attended the Midwest Regional Conference on HIV and STDs in Springfield Illinois. This was a major conference with attendees from around the state. We learned so much while there.

I attended a workshop on “House Culture.” This referred to the “families” in New York that consisted of you gay men rejected by their own families. They then joined “Houses” that participated in “Vogue” competitions. This was a combination of martial arts, runway modeling and break dance. It was sometimes in drag and it required discipline. What was important here was that the “Houses” were meeting a social need that the larger community was not meeting.

Paris is Burning edit - A W.NINJA TRIBUTE

We learned about programs for people coming out of prison. We learned about the needs of migrant workers. We learned about new medical regimes. However, we were constantly reminded that HIV is not just one more STD, it is not simply a chronic disease that can be managed. It is still a disease that kills.

While I was there I made sure I attended Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The last time I was there was when I was visiting my mother-in-law for the last time. The Cathedrals was about to be closed for renovation. I wanted to see the renovated Church and I wanted to say a prayer for Margaret. The church was beautiful.

Cathedral of Immaculate Conception Springfield: upper windows

Finally, on our way out of the city we stopped and toured the State Capitol. That was a nice way to end a special time in the city of Lincoln and Obama.

Illinois Capitol: Senate Chambers

Finally, while I was on sabbatical I traveled to Wabash Indiana to attend the Day of Healing conference sponsored by the Wabash Friends Counseling Center. It was a great conference consisting of 1000 Christian counselors and clergy. I gave a talk on needs assessment modeled after Emmaus Ministries.

So, while I was concerned that I might only be doing “more of the same” in fact the training was extensive. I feel I have a better appreciation of street ministry, counseling the homeless and providing a holistic-based service by networking with others. I receive far more raining than I ever could have hoped for!

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