Mission St. Paul: City-Wide Prayer
By Bryan Ward (City Director of Rewire and co-leader of MSP)
Every city has its foundational moments and events that shape what the city becomes. The history of St. Paul reads like the histories of many other U.S. cities. Indigenous peoples settled and were displaced, a fort was established, the fur trade developed, and the whiskey trade flourished. The first European settled, land was ceded, and in 1941 a Catholic priest had a chapel built, and renamed the settlement St. Paul.
As the city grew, a railroad magnate was established, brothels flourished, and the city had a reputation for being “tough.” The city became a haven for criminals, and, in an office downtown, a Minnesota senator wrote the Volstead Act, which began Prohibition. There was urban renewal, the vibrant Rondo neighborhood was destroyed, skyscrapers appeared, and by the 1990’s, there was a rich tradition of welcoming refugees.
All of these people and events, and many others, have influenced the city we have come to know and love. Unfortunately, it can sometimes feel like we have little control over the fate of our beloved city. Enter Mission St. Paul.
In 1994, a weekly pastors’ prayer gathering was quietly birthed in St. Paul. For more than 25 years, this gathering blessed St. Paul, and helped buttress the work of God in our city. This faithful group would eventually launch Mission St. Paul, a cooperative kingdom initiative to see city-wide transformation. The heart of this initiative…“the whole church bringing the whole gospel to the whole city.”
I arrived in Minnesota as a transplant in 2011. I grew up in California but spent nearly 20 years in Russia and South Africa working as a vocational missionary. Not long after I arrived, I was introduced to Jim Olson, who invited me to Mission St. Paul. I’ve lived in several cities, San Diego, St. Petersburg, Russia, and Pretoria, South Africa, but I had never seen such a strategic and dedicated city-wide prayer movement.
Beginning in October 2008, Mission St. Paul has gathered local churches to pray through all 17 neighborhoods and all 7 Council Wards of the city. For the last 10 years we have gathered monthly to pray in every precinct of every ward, a task that will take another two years to complete. In addition to this strategic prayer, Mission St. Paul has hosted annual events around the MLK and Easter holidays, where local churches have come together in a spirit of unity across racial and denominational lines.
Over the past two years, there has been another shift taking place. We are currently seeking a leader in each ward who will gather pastors/ministry leaders/churches from their ward to pray and collaborate. For years we have had such groups in Ward 5 (Payne-Phalen) and Ward 4 (Greater Hamline-Midway). As these pastors and ministry leaders grow in their unity and love for one another, our hope is that new kingdom initiatives will be birthed, bringing further transformation to St. Paul.
Mission St. Paul has been a rich blessing in my life. It has led me to pray with other pastors/ministry leaders I may have missed or overlooked in my daily ministry context. And, it has helped me discover the beauty and challenges of the people and neighborhoods of St. Paul.
I have no doubt that Mission St. Paul has been a blessing to the city. It’s not fast-growing and flashy, but rather patient and faithful. It’s like a healing balm that takes time and depth to penetrate the wounds, begin the healing process, and bring new life. As I look to the future, my greatest hope is that Mission St. Paul will continue to influence the spiritual realities and kingdom initiatives that will shape and define our city for decades to come.
Just Like Family
By Josh Levin
Four years ago, Jen and I embarked on a new journey with our family. We moved from Arkansas to Minnesota, and joined International Association for Refugees because we wanted to respond to the global refugee crisis with obedience to the Biblical mandate to “love the sojourner.” We helped launch the ministry of Jonathan House – a place of shelter, hope, and healing for asylum seekers in the Twin Cities. The name comes from 1 Samuel 23:16: “And Jonathan…went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God.” This took place while David was a political asylum seeker.
After buying our own house in St. Paul, finding our church home became a top priority. One quality we were looking for in a church was that it would be a place where Jonathan House residents could also feel a sense of belonging. Our search ended when we visited BCF. A place where strangers become friends, and friends become family. The church’s motto mirrors what our ministry is all about.
Over the past few years, several residents have attended church with us, and each one has met someone from their country of origin or someone who spoke their native language. Some attend regularly. You have provided transportation, meals, opportunities for people to enhance their English skills, and most importantly, friendship and a place of belonging.
Nor have interactions been limited to BCF. Vital connections extend to All Nations Family of Churches. Some ANFC pastors interpret for us on a regular basis. ICF has been a source of Christ’s love and hope to some residents.
As IAFR missionaries, we endeavor to help people survive and recover from forced displacement. Although there has not been a formal declaration of ministry partnership between IAFR and BCF, you have made valuable contributions by supporting the rebuilding efforts in the lives of those asylum seekers who have stepped through the doors of the church. And it has all happened naturally, organically. Like you would expect a family to function, I suppose.
Asylum Seekers at Jonathan House Find Community at BCF
The story is reprinted with permission from the International Association for Refugees’ (IAFR) blog, www.iafr.org/blog, written by Tom Albinson and SJ Holsteen.
A stepfather and stepdaughter were detained at the US border. The authorities separated them. He was sent to a men's detention center. She was sent to a women's detention center. He was later transferred to a county prison in Minnesota and ultimately released to live at IAFR's Jonathan House - a safe place of refuge for asylum seekers in the US. She wasn't as fortunate and was kept in a remote prison in Texas from which she had little access to legal resources and little hope of being released on bond.
At church one Sunday, the stepfather shared with IAFR's Josh Levin how painful and traumatic her continued detention was for both of them. Josh offered to pray with him.
Just two days later, the phone rang. It was his stepdaughter. She had unexpectedly been released from immigration detention that day - 1 year and 7 months after being imprisoned simply for having crossed the border to seek safety in the US.
Our friend was overjoyed to share the news with the IAFR team - and he thanked Josh for his prayers.
This stepfather is among the residents who have found shelter in one of our two Jonathan House locations in the Twin Cities. Our local team not only provides residents with much needed shelter - they walk with them through this uncertain chapter of their lives.
- Help is still needed for Saturday, June 19th to lift a sleeper sofa (two seater) and carry it up a flight of stairs from a truck. (My apartment is on the 2nd floor, no elevator) If you can give an hour of your time, please e-mail Tiffany Good at email@example.com. Thank you!
- Bethel Christian Fellowship posted an announcement
Day Camp in a Box for K-6Hi everybody! Day Camp is back again this summer. It will look the same as it did last year, with everything you need delivered to your home prior to the week of August 2-6. Then, each morning, Miss Sylvia will connect with your family by zoom for the opening session, and your kids can enjoy the stories, games, worksheets, and crafts throughout the day. Note that this year all the families participating can come together on Bethel's front lawn on Thursday and Friday, from 1-3 PM for a time of games and fun. Please sign up at this link by June 30th, so we can get your box ready for you! Thanks!
Please pray.I have had the best day since April 28th. Symptom free. I only have the Lord to thank besides the prayer warriors who daily lifted me up to the Lord. Thank you Jesus and thank you prayer warriors! I got the all clear from my Dr late this afternoon. Sinuses are clear. What a journey this has been. It's behind me now and I am moving forward toward the prize.