"July 15, 2018, will live in memory as one of the most memorable days of my life."
A strong proclamation from LIM's Kevin Maulson (Lac du Flambeau), currently serving the Native peoples of Phoenix, Arizona.
On this particular Sunday, Kevin brought together 18 people who have recently entered his life through the work of the Gichi Manidoo Akewe Ministry of Lutheran Indian Ministries. The phrase, Gichi Manidoo Akewe, is Ojibwe for "Putting God First" which is precisely how Kevin runs this new branch of outreach. Together, this group spent the morning praising God and digging deeply into His Word in a borrowed room at the NAFFA (Native American Fatherhood and Families Association).
"We had so many people, I had to take multiple trips to get them there, and it was so worth the time and effort! This group has changed my life," explained Kevin. "I'm not really an emotional guy but spending time with and worshipping with them was incredibly powerful and emotionally overwhelming. It's hard to explain the impact people can have on your life despite having recently met them. To see God restore hope into their lives is incredible."
The group consists of 13 women from the Transitional Living Facility for Sober Living and two Native families, all of whom are working with Kevin to overcome the obstacle that plagues many Native men and women in urban areas, homelessness.
When most people hear the word “homeless”, it is nothing more than a statistic, not necessarily a problem until they experience the beggar on the street corner or see a homeless person on the side of a road pushing a cart full of recyclables. Lacking a safe and secure home is usually only one of the many obstacles that the homeless individual is facing, and Kevin has been working to reach those in need and provide resources to start them on their healing journey through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Right Place, Right Time
This isn't an easy job. After all, Kevin has only been in Phoenix for nine months, but he gives all credit to God who has, time after time, put him in the right place at the right time with the right people. And God has been busy making that happen.
- Kevin had just taken a woman to get her tribal ID and other identification materials. They were driving past the Lone Butte Casino and decided "on a whim" to stop in and inquire about job openings. They found themselves in the middle of a job fair. The woman applied and was hired on the spot.
- Kevin received a call from one of the women he was working with needing a ride for herself and her son. On that ride, Kevin received a call from a court advocate stating she was sitting with a woman who wanted to check herself into an alcohol rehab center. Not knowing of any facilities, Kevin stated he would have to do some research and get back to her the next day. Meanwhile, the woman sitting in his front seat was trying to get his attention. She had a contact name and phone number for exactly the facility they needed, and the woman was able to check in the same day.
- Kevin gave a ride to a woman to the tribal clinic for tests and medications she had been without for two years. While she was there, he learned of a free ride organization that helps Native Americans get to the clinic and learned of a job fair at the clinic. He took 4 women to that job fair the next weekend.
And the more people Kevin meets, the more he learns, the more resources he accumulates, and the better he is able to help the next individual he meets.
Kevin has said, on more than one occasion, "When I pause and look around at all the people that have come into my life in a short period of time, I'm amazed at the awesome power of our God. From the women at the Transitional Living Community to the judge and court advocates that introduced us, the churches and the organizations. God knows what He is doing. He directs us and leads us. There is no way I could have done all this on my own - All Glory goes to God!"
Helping Where It's Needed
Kevin likes to compare ministry to the story of the Good Samaritan - it's our job to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We are to help the broken and hurting we see in our own communities.
In Kevin's case, the people he meets need the basics: a place to live, simple hygiene products, appropriate government identification, a haircut, a resume, a second chance, a friend to help guide them through the process who shows them the love and grace of their Heavenly Father.
As Judge Tafoya wrote in a recent email to Kevin:
This is what we are about as a community and yes there are cracks in the community resource system but the whole community, working together, little by little, will fix the cracks and any new cracks that develop. This is really an ongoing commitment the community needs to own… making it as natural as breathing. Again, thank you for your time and effort.
The greatest reward, Kevin explains, is the joy they share: "seeing them smile when they have someone who believes in them - when they get a job or find a decent living arrangement."
To the Future
Kevin has made amazing strides in Phoenix, but he is just one man. He wants to make more connections with men and women in need, teach and disciple them, pair them with the resources they need, and make an impact and build a community where everyone has the opportunity to succeed and be the person God created them to be.
Kevin asks for your prayers:
"Please pray that God continues to give me the endurance and strength to help these people. Pray that we find additional resources from the tribes and churches in the Phoenix area, and that God would lead those in need, and those who want to help, to Lutheran Indian Ministries."