An Inspired Reflection on the Loaves and Fishes Ministries Community
…And Those Who Made It Possible
The story of Loaves and Fishes Ministries dates back to 1979 when a group of visionaries, driven by the injustice of our system which consistently favors the “haves” over the “have-nots,” answered Jesus’ call to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and house the homeless. They were part of a social change group that grounded itself on the nonviolence of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jesus of Nazareth. These early co-founders drew their inspiration from Matthew 25 – the Last Judgment in which both those on the right and on the left ask the same question, “When did we, or didn’t we, do this to you?” Jesus simply replied, “When you did it to the least of my brothers (and sisters), you did it to me.”
That was it. There was no need to do further social analysis to understand that the system was stacked against the least of their sisters and brothers. They just knew they needed to do something about it. So they decided to either start a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. And because the Abrahamic Peace Community which housed a small number of homeless in East Lansing was closing down, it became apparent that they should start a shelter.
Creating the Shelter
So they took a leap of faith and threw themselves into the process, trusting the Lord to guide them through the maze ahead. They had so little money, they decided to call their adventure “Loaves and Fishes,” reminiscent of Jesus feeding the multitudes with 5 barley loaves and 2 fishes. Endless meetings to plan the necessary infrastructure; 181 days of political wrestling with the City of Lansing Zoning Board and the City Council to get official permission to operate a homeless shelter; searching for a house, hiring a coordinator, establishing a support community, visiting neighbors to answer their questions and allay their fears; continuous attempts at raising money; and finally jumping through endless legal hoops to complete mounds of required paperwork. It was a very demanding but exciting time. Fortunately, the five who emerged as the original Core Group (Advisory Board) were not about to be discouraged. And their persistence, like that of Job, paid off.
They finally purchased a house at 831 N. Sycamore in Lansing and in February of 1982 were awarded a “Special Use Permit” to offer overnight shelter by the City of Lansing Zoning Board. This meant homeless guests could come in at 6 p.m., but had to be out by 9 a.m. the next day. The Core Group continued to meet weekly for 17 years until the late 1990’s when they expanded to a 12-member Advisory Board, changed their title to the “Core Community,” and transitioned to meeting monthly. In the years that followed, the Core Community went through the normal struggle of building and maintaining a community of faith-filled, service oriented members who were willing to serve for the long haul. And many did just that. In fact today, two of the original five Core Group members still serve on the Core Community Advisory Board, along with one who had previously worked at the shelter, first as Guest Advocate and then as Co-Coordinator.
Over the years, numerous talented and dedicated employees joined Loaves and Fishes Ministries, giving tirelessly for as long as they could and then moving on – all working diligently to make life better for their homeless sisters and brothers. Whether advocating for guests, cleaning the house, organizing annual yard sales and the Prayer Walk for the Homeless, writing grants, scheduling and doing in-services for volunteers, attending community meetings, staffing resource tables, or speaking at events, our staff members were – and continue to be – the backbone of the day-to-day workings of Loaves and Fishes Ministries. They are the true heroes and heroines who make the program work despite often limiting and dauntless challenges.
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