Initially, 94-year-old Lewis Gammon was not a fan of “reVision,” the youth outreach ministry designed to mentor teens who have had a brush with gangs. “No criminals are ever gonna come on our campus!” insisted Gammon, a member of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church (UMC) in Houston, Texas. But then one night, Gammon observed the ministry and something stirred within his soul; he’s now the program’s most active volunteer, working with the youth every Monday night. “God melts hearts and changes lives,” notes Alice King, the outreach coordinator at St. Luke’s.
It’s something she has witnessed time and again in the partnership between St. Luke’s and the Connect Community, which is a collaboration among several organizations with a shared mission to bring hope and renewal to the neighborhood by using God’s transformative love.
Several years ago, St. Luke’s Westheimer campus merged with the Gethsemane campus in the middle of the one of the most diverse areas in the country. Average weekly attendance for the combined campuses is 2,150. The founding organizations of Connect Community include Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), the YMCA, Legacy Community Health Services and St. Luke’s UMC.
Those in the Connect Community believe that every person has dignity and knows how to care for him or herself. Refugees and immigrants, however, face language, transportation, and cultural barriers that can impede their progress. “Our goal is to walk alongside those in the community and connect as a whole in order to break down those barriers so that every person can attain the fullness that God created them to be,” says King, who admits that this type of ministry is not for the faint of heart. She stresses the time it takes to build trust and relationships.
“That’s why we must defer to God’s timetable,” she says. “When we’re in service the way we’re supposed to be, we are transformed.”