I learned early when planting State Street that the act of planning is essential, but our plans shouldn't be held too rigidly. The goal of our community has always been to facilitate and encounter a profound sense of love with Christ and our neighbors. How this is done, however, can change and evolve to places and with people that never played a part in the initial plans of grandeur. The State Street vision that we had five years ago doesn't necessarily look too closely to the State Street vision we have today in particulars, but it does in heart and passion.
We have always felt it was part of our calling and vocation to be in downtown LaPorte. Having these convictions has made some decisions more difficult, but we have tried not to allow the easiness of a decision effect whether or not it's the best thing for us as a whole. For example, many days (and some nights!) were spent thinking about how to build our addition at State Street to fit enough space in our spare yard while also equipping the ministries and initiatives we started with the tools necessary to continue to grow and help others. After a few months and countless changes, we had a plan. That plan is now in Indianapolis being reviewed. If the review is approved, we will hopefully start construction in October. But, even with this approval, it still leaves us continuing to find a location for our community garden and space for our neighborhood children to play [we have one of the only yards in our area.] When we get to the point of making a plan, it's after weeks-and-weeks or even months-and-months of thought, prayer, and planning.
While all of this was happening, something occurred to make us rethink our plans. A family within the community, after seeing the success of the State Street community center and the incredible growth taking place, graciously offered us a facility to house these ministries. The location has a commercial kitchen, space to feed 120+ (we can only feed about 80 people at a time in our community meal), located just a few blocks away from State Street, and best of all... it would be free! Seriously. It's someone allowing us to borrow this facility, it's being given as a gift to help further the mission and footprint into LaPorte.
Now, admittedly, this offer didn't fit with our plans. We had a room in our new facility designed for the food pantry. It wasn't incredibly large, but bigger than the room we have currently. However, and this is the challenge of growing any organization, there are times when you stay firm to the plans laid out and there are times when you allow the unknown-but-now-opened door lead you to a place that you never thought you could go previously. As of this last week, we acquired keys to these doors and have taken possession of the former Friends Bar & Nightclub on Washington Street in LaPorte. Ladies and gents, the party can now commence...
Now it's time for us to make new plans. Though we have acquired this building, it means that we have to continue to think wisely about how to use it, how to fund it, how to facilitate the ministries in this new space, and other scenarios. The board at State Street is committed to being wise stewards of the resources Christ has entrusted us. They're also committed to seeing us take part in restoring LaPorte in whatever way we are able. We don't know when we'll move into the facility. We still have another addition getting ready to begin on our State Street location. Over the next few months, we'll be giving the Washington Street building a slight facelift. Jason Clemons, our community center director, will be going to other churches and organizations to invite them to take this journey with us in helping to end hunger and poverty in LaPorte. In many ways, the dream has just begun. But, in other ways, this seems to be another chapter in a dream that was started five years ago.