As all of you know, we have been preparing to head to Europe. However, a few days ago we felt God saying that there was some “unfinished business” that needed attended before we go.
After praying about it, I felt sure that he was referring to Slavic Village in Cleveland.
I first went to Cleveland in the fall of 2014 for two weeks. I stayed with a friend and helped him through a hard time in his life. I also did some teaching while I was there to small groups. Towards the end of my trip, I was in prayer during the day and I saw in my spirit some young men beckoning to me from across the street. A sign on the building behind them read “Slavic Village”.
So I went to my friend and asked if he had ever heard of a Slavic Village. He replied that he thought it was in Cleveland. We drove over that afternoon and I witnessed the devastation for the first time. I felt that God wanted me to start a church there and my friend was to look for a building that we could start in.
Six months later, due to circumstances, no progress had been made. I contacted my friend and attempted to make plans to go back to carry out what God had told me to do. I felt I was to go but my friend had too much going on to do any ministry with me.
I can remember sitting in the woods after my friend said it wasn’t a good time to come and really struggling with God. I felt that he had told me to go and yet nothing was working. I had bought a ticket that was sitting in my pocket but I had nowhere to go once I got there. Suddenly, I heard God as clearly as I ever have say to me ” Am I not God in Cleveland? ”
So I headed out not knowing anyone or where I would go. On the way, my friend found me a place to stay in Slavic Village with some Christians.
They were very gracious and put me up for over 50 days. For over 50 days I taught every single night. For 50 days, I did Street ministry, fought social justice battles and prayed.
I was alone the entire time, having left my family in Wisconsin. We felt that it was prophetic and that when the way was made for my wife to come that the Holy Spirit would come to Slavic Village.
The way was never made. We had offers for buildings, vehicles that could be purchased and genuine plans that could be implemented immediately. But we could find no one to help. Promises were made that were not followed up on. The people there just did not seem to care about their own city enough to give towards a ministry there.
After a few months back home, I gave up on Slavic Village. The harvest was there but the church was completely ineffective. If you are going to minister an effective Gospel in an area that has more foreclosures and abandoned homes than anywhere else in the country, you need help. If you hope to introduce the Kingdom of God to the main drug trafficking area in Ohio, you need help. And I could find no one that cared for much besides their own concerns.
After the Lord spoke to us about unfinished business three days ago, we began looking to head that direction. We contacted church Pastors that I knew and people that had attended our meetings. The biggest need was securing a home there, fixing that home and then using it as a ministry base to shift a region.
Well, we are excited to announce that a four bedroom home has been totally donated for this ministry. It has been stripped and needs new pipes and wires, the inside needs refinished and it needs appliances, a heater and AC. What else it needs, we don’t know.
We want to retrofit it green, using sustainable materials and technology. We believe that a revolution can occur among the poor if we show them how to get independent of the world system and plugged into God’s abundance. We want to use solar, a water catchment system, heat sinks and plant a complete permaculture garden.
We also want to use it as a ministry center, holding nightly revival meetings, offering discipleship and community building as well.
We believe there is hope, even in this hopeless place. We believe that we can start a movement where the church gains control of properties and changes the spiritual climate of the region.
I am pasting an old article here from CNNMoney that talks about the issues facing Slavic Village. If after reading it, you can see the importance of getting a Kingdom based Gospel preached there, please give generously towards this project via our GIVE tab.
CLEVELAND (CNNMoney.com) — When homeowners moved away after a wave of foreclosures in Cleveland’s working-class neighborhood of Slavic Village, crime took off.
Slavic Village is known as the worst neighborhood in the nation for foreclosures. In a study for CNNMoney, RealtyTrac calculated that properties in its ZIP code recorded more foreclosure filings in three months than anywhere else in the United States.
According to Jim Rokakis, Cuyahoga County Treasurer, more than 800 houses now sit vacant and moldering in the area, which was founded in the 1840s by Polish and Bohemian immigrants who worked in area steel mills and factories.
The first thing that happened after owners moved out of foreclosed homes in Slavic Village was that squatters and looters moved in, according to Mark Wiseman, director of the Cuyahoga County Foreclosure Prevention Program. “In the inner city, it takes about 72 hours for a house to be looted after it is vacant,” he said.
Walking around the neighborhood, Mark Seifert, director of the East Side Organizing Project pointed out a home he said was still occupied less than two weeks before. The gutters and downspouts were already gone, and trash covered the yard.
Long-time Slavic Village resident Joe Krasucki had celebrated his 78th birthday last spring, when, late in the evening, he heard some noise and went out for a look. Reports said he’d had run-ins with local gangs before. A neighbor’s abandoned house had already been stripped of its aluminum siding and, according to Rokakis, Krasucki thought the looters were back, working on his home. Outside, he was attacked and badly beaten. He died some days later.
After stripping the siding, looters don’t take long to make a vacant property nearly worthless.
“If someone takes the doors, moldings, appliances, it’s bad enough,” said Wiseman. “But once they pull the piping out, it’s all over; they do it with a sledge hammer.”
Putting a house back together takes money, more money than the restored home could bring on the market. And stopgap programs, such as razing derelict houses, aren’t feasible – Cuyahoga County only has a few million dollars available for demolition work, and Wiseman estimates at least $100 million is needed.
Many houses in Slavic Village have had their siding stripped up to the roof lines. A few criminal masterminds even stripped vinyl siding, apparently unaware of the difference in wholesale scrap prices between plastic and metal.
When a house is derelict, people will dump garbage in the yard, rather than pay for haulage. Windows are broken, and doors are stolen, opening up the interior to the elements. In Cleveland’s cold and damp climate, the houses deteriorate quickly. But some not badly enough to keep drug dealers out.
Asteve’e “Cookie” Thomas was just 12 years old this past summer when she was gunned down coming out of a Slavic Village candy store, caught in a crossfire from suspected dealers engaged in a drug war. Seifert said one of the alleged shooters was using an abandoned house in the neighborhood as a base.
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, five people, including Thomas and Krasucki, have been killed in Slavic Village in the past two years: In July, Grady Smith, 27, was shot outside his home while working on his car. In Nov. 2006, Roman Grasela, 71, died of blows to his head after his house was broken into. And in October 2005, Therese Szelugowski, 76, died weeks after falling and hitting her head after she was mugged.
Some Slavic Village home owners, still hoping to salvage something out of houses they have vacated, have installed stout doors on entryways with thick locks. They board up windows with three-quarter-inch, exterior-grade plywood.
Others attempt to thwart looters by advertising the lack of anything of value inside. They paint signs saying: “No copper, No wiring, PVC.”
Residents have tried to fight back, organizing neighborhood watch groups and lobbying the police, who, many feel, are too often missing in action.
Seifert pointed out an open, empty lot on one block that had been used by car thieves for months and months to store and strip parts from stolen cars. It took a concerted effort by a local group called “Bring Back the 70’s” (which refers to the street numbers in the neighborhood) to get the police to clear the lot of the thieves.
But as the number of empty lots and abandoned houses grows where houses and residents were once packed in a tight community, there are fewer and fewer neighbors to fight the battle.