Nate Loucks

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Nate Loucks is the pastor of State Street Community Church and the President of the Pax Center in downtown LaPorte, Indiana. These are thoughts on faith, social entrepreneurship, and the beauty of life.

Posts tagged pax center
Jackson Street Community Garden

A few years ago, John and Jane Slater and I were discussing the possibility of starting a community garden for neighborhood kids around State Street. The Slaters had some experience in doing this in Rolling Prairie with great success. It’s always been our goal to do anything we can to help better our surrounding community, so the partnership made sense. In the last few years since starting the garden, dozens of children have learned how to grow their own crops. They’ve made friends, expanded their food palate, and experienced the benefits of working together for the common good. Many people have given much time and energy to this program over the years and their work has made a difference. 

Like everything else we do, there’s the thing as it begins and then the thing as it evolves. The community garden, and our involvement in urban gardening, is evolving. The Pax Center and State Street Community Church is partnering with other organizations in LaPorte to help manage the vision of the Jackson Street Community Garden. I couldn’t be more excited. Why? Basil Hallberg describes perfectly the potential impact of a community garden on a place like LaPorte, “Community gardens supplement food security efforts by increasing the availability of nutritious foods to low-income urban residents. Community gardens can supply vegetables and fruits to needy participants and their families, but gardens alone will not eradicate food insecurity. Community gardening offers other benefits to society beyond providing a nutritious supply of fruits and vegetables. These include environmental benefits such as reuse of remediated Brownfield sites and reductions in crime, vandalism, and health care costs as well as increased social cohesion.1” Community gardens contain the potential to change neighborhoods. Not only do they provide nutritious food to supplement ones weekly diet, they also provide an important third space where others can be known and get to know others. It has the potential to combat hunger, loneliness, and community apathy.

We will still have our Sprouts summer program (preschool through second grade) at State Street. But, starting this year, our summer gardening program for children will be at the Jackson Street Community Garden. We are also going to provide adult mentorship for those wanting to learn how to garden. Very soon, families and individuals will be able to reserve a plot in one of the garden boxes. Though the Pax Center will help control some of the vision of this space, it is our hope that the community will help own this space and use it to the betterment of our neighborhoods in LaPorte. In the next couple of weeks, the drainage problem at the Jackson Street Community Garden will be getting fixed. After this issue is fixed, we will be installing the perimeter fence, building the garden boxes, and fixing up the site. Once this is done, we will open up registration for garden plots to the community. 

So, here’s a few questions you may have:

What other organizations are partnering in this endeavor?
The primary partners of the Jackson Street Community Garden are the City of LaPorte, the Main Street Association, the LaPorte High School FFA and Agriculture classes, and State Street Community Church/The Pax Center. Many, many other individuals and organizations have helped get this project off the ground. 

How can we sign up for a garden box plot?
We will have details on how to sign up in the near future. Please pay attention to our Facebook page.

How can I help? There are a few ways you can help:

  1. We need financial and corporate partners. If you would like to donate personally, you can donate securely online here. Your donation is tax-deductible. If your business would like to talk about what a partnership with the Jackson Street Community Garden may look like, you can email me. I’d love to meet with you.

  2. You can share this news with your friends and neighbors. 

  3. There will be some work days in the future where we will be building boxes, spreading mulch and dirt, and other things. Join us. We will list these days/times on our Facebook page.

Here's a video I took at the site yesterday: 

Spring is almost here! A message about the Jackson Street Community Garden from Nate Loucks.

Posted by The Pax Center on Tuesday, March 8, 2016
The Pax Center | Downtown LaPorte

Revive my imagination. That’s been a central prayer in my life over the last few years. It wasn’t until I had children that I realized that I had lost a bit of the imaginative spirit somewhere along the path to adulthood. My children never lack in creating worlds in their mind where anything can exist. Seeing their imagination work and lead to questions about possibilities within our present reality is one of the great joys of parenting. But, somewhere along the path to adulthood, my ability to imagine new worlds and possibilities started to slowly corrode. It seems to be a common path for many of us. In its place was a staunch and subtle form of cynicism that cleverly masqueraded as stoic realism. After seeing the violence and hurt within this world caused by the bitter poverties of loneliness, hunger, and cultural maladies, we can fashion a belief that the way of brokenness is an essential, if not determined, way of life for much of humanity.

There exists today a war of theological imagination. Central to this theological war are these crucial questions: is Jesus Christ also Lord of creation? If so, what particular way of living should manifest from such a confession? What if what we previously believed to be a determined fact of the way of life isn't necessarily so within the Kingdom of God?

Jesus was not a stranger to employing a healthy dose of theological imagination in His teachings. He was a master at it. We call these parables. They invite the reader/listener to imagine possibilities or scenarios outside of the normative path. Jesus was also quite proficient at asking the world around Him to imagine a certain way of being that confronts and engages the injustices surrounding them. Instead of perpetuating the systems of violence and brokenness, this would be a way of restoration, resurrection, and peace. In the midst of a volatile culture that featured many social, societal, and religious divisions, Jesus invited His followers to believe that the way of such broken systems is not the way of God. He also challenged them to believe that they are not an indeterminate form of being that must follow the status quo of power and influence.

Change can happen. Prior to giving perhaps the most profound sermon known to man [recorded in the Gospel of Matthew], Jesus gave an explanation and illustration of the way of the Kingdom of God called the Beatitudes. In them, Jesus has a particularly relevant benediction, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. ” In Christ’s economy, happy are those who make peace within their lives with God, their families, and their neighbors. Often we mistakenly read this as an instruction for peace-keeping. As important as peace-keeping may be, Christ has invited us into something even deeper: peace-making. Peace is a form of reconciliation. It starts with acknowledging that there are systems and people and events within this world that are broken and their brokenness affects themselves and those around them. This brokenness permeates the world in which we live. We see it in our families, communities, and even ourselves. Peacemaking challenges brokenness. More than that, peace-making is allowing Christ to have space to do His justice work of bringing that which is broken and chaotic and unjust back to rights. We believe this world could use a few more peacemakers at work.

When we planted the State Street community, we sought to be purposeful in our engagement with LaPorte. In that time, we have witnessed the many forms of division that is happening within our neighborhoods. Many of these patterns of brokenness we see already starting in childhood, patterns of poverty, loneliness, and despair. There is no absence of forces and collectives that seek to divide those within our communities. But, what if we sought to be a particular community that countered those voices of division with that of unity and reconciliation? That earnestly believed Christ can break down the walls of division between us [whoever we may be] and them [whoever they may be.] That said, “enough is enough! We seek unity over division."

This work is nothing new for Christ. It’s been the vocation that He has asked His Church to do since the beginning. The Apostle Paul acknowledges this work in Ephesians, "Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group. With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us.” It’s certainly not easy work, but with Christ, we are tasked to imagine a world where it is possible. How many of the world’s greatest innovations and ideas were birthed by first allowing oneself to imagine a world where such a product, event, or idea would be possible? Peace within our community is possible. Engaging injustice within this world is possible. Christ has made a way. Can you imagine it?

I’d like to introduce you to a place in our community that is committed to the good news that makes all things well: the Pax Center. Pax is Latin for peace.

The Pax Center is a place that will ungrudgingly engage the divisions within our community caused by poverty, hunger, and loneliness.

The Pax Center is a place that will be willing to celebrate creativity and innovation within LaPorte.

The Pax Center is a place that will partner with other organization in LaPorte that is seeking the restoration of our community.

The Pax Center is a place with open doors, humble hearts, and joyful spirits.

May Christ continue to light the fires of restoration and reconciliation within His people that bring peace within this world. You can now like the Pax Center on Facebook or visit our website [which is currently under construction.] If you would like more information about the Pax Center and how to be involved, I encourage you to contact the Pax Center Director Jason Clemons on Facebook or through email. Finally, to echo the words of Paul in Colossians, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Happy Thanksgiving and Pax vobiscum [Peace be with you!], everyone!

LOCATION: 605 Washington Street [the former Friend's Night Club]
TWITTER
: /paxcenterlp
FACEBOOK: /thepaxcenter
WEBSITE: thepaxcenter.com [still in progress]