Saturday, March 26, 2016


What a week!
Spring break at The Commons turned out to be a beautiful time of table-sharing, friendship-building, shared responsibility, games, fun, conflict resolution, and giving hope to each other...
All wrapped inside of last Saturday's community-wide birthday party for all March birthdays, last Monday's epic Farkle game, Wednesday's Easter egg decorating and hunt for candy, Thursday's 'girls only' fancy tea-party, and yesterday's chili lunch and movie, 'The Miracle Maker' story of Jesus.

In the midst of these open doors, grace and hope pulsate throughout every story.

There are children here that need to learn how to read, and children needing to learn how to protect themselves. This is happening because of our faithful volunteers, and their generous creativity.

A recently widowed grandmother who had every household item (and clothing) thrown away because she was too sick to retrieve her items after moving... She is being restored and cared for.
There are families here being torn apart by infidelity, misunderstanding, and conflict. We are meeting them in these places, and continually being invited into them.
Isolation, poverty and sorrow will not have the last word. 

Through friendship, community is being built on real relationship. 
Lives are slowly being restored.

Like the Saturday before Easter, we wait. We wait in our grieving, our confusion, in each other's arms, and in our shared hope for redemption...for resurrection.

We wait...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Being Present

It's difficult for some folks to understand exactly
What we do here at The Commons.
Perhaps because we're not trying to solve everybody's problems... and problems are distracting.
They tempt us to focus only on issues, and not so much on people.
A good way to look at this would be that it's more about what God is doing. We're just showing up.
Being present. Being available. Allowing for the unforced rhythms of grace to unravel.
In our showing up, trust is being built. Friendship is being born. Kids are being fed. They're learning how to treat each other, getting educational help, and being affirmed with dignity.
Adults are finding faith, pouring out their hearts, finding refreshment and hope... discovering they are more capable than they realized.
We let grace wash over us each day that we spend in this neighborhood, in the form of listening ears, open hearts, coffee, and a peanut butter sandwich.
And we are being changed and formed by the gospel. By the power of God that saves us.
So steady on we go.
Being present is the way God befriended us in Jesus.
What greater thing could be done?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Greeting from Youth With A Mission, ‘The Commons’. 
This name is derived from the desire to create and share common space where relationships can flourish.
It has been an exciting year with a lot of changes.

The work that we are doing there is all wrapped up in the simplicity of relationship-building. We are creating space for people (kid and adults) to simply be. 
There’s something beautiful about hospitality and table-sharing. It opens up so many places in people’s lives that otherwise would remain shut.
Our daily activities have involved simple creative arts, sports, and games.
When people enter ‘The Commons’ there is often water/coffee to share, sandwiches and veggies to serve, but there’s always  a place for people to belong.
In fact, many of the folks that frequently visit have expressed that it is one of the few places that they feel accepted, and where they belong without having to try. 
Also, this has translated into a sense of ownership. We believe that if people know that they belong, then they will understand a responsibility of ownership, and then in turn often natural leadership and care/concern, and creativity will emerge.
Some younger children are learning about hygiene, personal boundaries/safety. Some are learning how to interact socially in an appropriate manner. Some teen-agers are discovering their own natural leadership capabilities, and their ability to learn new things. 
Some have expressed a desire to learn a new language, a musical instrument, and other visual arts skills.
This is very exciting, and we aim to foster these aspirations here at ‘The Commons’.
We have been encouraging simple math practice to stay sharp over the summer months, and encouraging kids to stay positive about their education. 
Parents have begun to spend time with us on a more regular basis. We’ve had the blessing of being able to pray with and encourage many adults here who are struggling.

So, that’s how the summer is going, and we are excited to enter into the school year with fresh vision for after-school opportunities for kids, and spaces of time for adults to come and be refreshed and encouraged.
Please pray for us... there's a lot of work to do!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Commons...

Just checking in to share some exciting news...

Summer is here, and our kids are super happy to be out of school!

Jim went to Thailand with Gobal Youth Volunteer Network and it was amazing time of catching up with old friends, and catching new vision for our work there on the Burma border. It was fantastic.

Our local YWAM expression has moved into our new operating home!

We are working out of a mobile home that sits in the heart of the neighborhood where we focus our work.
And our work consists of relationship building. We are being a presence there and making ourselves available to be known.
Our daily work is really just hanging out, sharing coffee and talks, playing games with the kids there, and being a support to the adults living there.

Life is hard for a lot of people. Poverty, addiction, family struggles, limited jobs, or plenty of jobs but not enough pay... mental illness, isolation, and loneliness.
Theses are things that anybody and everybody face at various points in their life.
But to walk with someone through these issues, helping them to understand that they are not alone in their suffering goes an extremely long way in building real community.

We are planning our first 'Open-House' info night to express to the neighborhood what it is us weirdos are doing there, In this time we will hear from the community itself what their concerns are, and how we can assist them in moving toward their goals of wholeness.
We are excited.
It's a slow, long-road approach. But that's ok. In the end we hope to have real, lasting friendships there as we work to share the good news that Jesus loves us all.

Some things that we are doing:
The first order of business was planting a garden for the community to care for, and to help the neighbors make flower beds at their place. It was a beautiful turnout...

A family lost their trailer to a fire last Christmas. It needs to be removed now, and we have rallied around 15 people from the neighborhood to help us tear it down and get it out so they can move on and not be stuck with paying lot rent on a burned out house.

Kids keep showing up to hang out, water the garden, and make cool things.

We are being invited into family situations to bring peace, order, and support to them.

We are partnering with two local church congregations to spill light and love into this struggling neighborhood, and help them turn it into a vibrant, loving community.

We are so blessed to have this opportunity.

Ways that you can help...

We need money. Personally, and corporately.

It takes money to run on, and to do awesome things. You can give if you'd like on this here PayPal button.  Just indicate that it's for either *The Sustars, or *The Commons, and you can receive a tax-receipt. Thank you!

If you'd like to volunteer, you are welcome to contact us, have a talk, get a little orientation, and we'll do this stuff together.

Please pray for us as we journey through. Thank you!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Happy New Year

Here in Wayne County Ohio, we are continuing in our relationship-building with families and individuals, and we're focusing our local work in one neighborhood.

A lot of families are in need. Poverty, educational delays, injustice, addiction, neglect, and isolation...These are widespread issues that are found just about everywhere you go.

People need help. People need friendship.

The best way to teach someone how not to be afraid of the dark, is to be in it with them.

So, that is what we are trying to do.
With that comes practical resource-connection, educational development, hospitality, community development, and spiritual renewal.

It's a 'long-road resolve', instead of only a pragmatic way of thinking. We are excited to share life with folks in a deeper way.

Some new things...

We are now an official Youth With A Mission operating location!

Our YWAM community in Modesto, California is now also our 'sending base' and  we are partnering together to be a Creative Compassionate Community that spans across the USA, Canada, and beyond. This is a really exciting endeavor. Check out where we're coming from Here

We are also partnering with Global Youth Volunteer Network based in Ontario, Canada. Teaching, learning, and doing 'acts of justice' around the world with University students. GYVN also focuses greatly on justice issues concerning indigenous people in North America and abroad, working to create change, hope, and healing. Check them out Here

Also, a local church congregation here owns a mobile home in one neighborhood that we are focused on. They have recognized a natural partnership with us, and have offered the home to us to use in our ministry operations!
This will allow us to have a presence in the neighborhood for all kinds of cool things...

office space, tutoring, counseling, after-school programs, neighborhood leadership initiatives, hospitality, and more.

This will be a beautiful 'Common Space' created for people to just 'be'.

This we believe, is essential to building relationships and making way for others to discover/display their own gifts, abilities, and potential.

We are excited to embark further down the road together with a community of like-minded friends that are going in the same direction.

Would you join us?

We need help financially as a family. We have raised around 60% of our needed support.

If you'd like to help, you can use the PayPal button above, and support goes directly through YWAM Modesto, then directly to us (be sure to make a note *Sustar Project of direction of funds). You can receive a tax-deductible receipt that way.

And please pray for us. We need that too, a lot.

If you would like to join us and volunteer, please drop us a line here in the comments and we will get in touch with you.

Thank you for reading... Peace and all good.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Promises, being honest, being awesome, and peace

 We've been continuing in our efforts to meet people where they live in a couple of local neighborhoods. Previous blog entries go into a little more detail concerning these places, if you'd like to understand more.
We're just showing up, allowing relationships to be built, and then we go from there with whatever we have to offer.

What we usually find that we have to offer is simply our selves.
To those who think this language is hippie-like and idealistic, that's ok. I get it. It does seem like there would be more to write home about if we could list amazing stories of transformed lives here in this blog.
But we can't... yet.

This is a long road. Building community, helping others identify stress-factors that lead to things like abuse and neglect, isolation, and addiction takes time. Then there's the working alongside of them to help make change and grow in health.
Also, navigating through the mental illness of individuals, or dysfunctional culture of families can be very challenging.
And then there's the whole job thing, and lack of resources. Again, back to the 'Stress-factors'.
Continuing to move forward, being grateful for progress, and refusal to give up is key. But that doesn't always come naturally to people who are stressed out. And it's difficult to do when life gets overwhelming.
Husband lost his job again. Kids need to be clothed, the electric needs to stay on, and the school called again about the stuff going on at home. Oh, and your house burned down with everything in it. Just before Christmas. And there's addiction mixed with treatable mental illness that is causing a lot of stress at home.

So when we start to feel overwhelmed, like nothing is happening, things aren't changing for the better, etc. it's time to evaluate our goals.
We have to believe that friendship, open hands and hearts, humility to learn from others, and being an embodiment of hope actually goes a long way.
We must allow ourselves to be open to learn about God's grace, love, hope, faithfulness, and peace from the people whom we think so badly need it. They certainly do. But so do we.

We show up and go from there.

It's very important to remember that it is a process. Not just a process, but a relationship. One where there's give and take. There's trust. There are failures. Breakdowns in communication. Challenges that go beyond our scope of experience.
And it's very important to believe that we are not alone.
A lot of you that actually know me (Jim) get the opportunity to see the 'awesome' me. The 'inspirational' me. The folks that are near to me see the 'unafraid' me.
And those things are mostly true.
But I act like an angry fool sometimes.
I lose inspiration some days. I forget everything good that I know sometimes.
I wake up some mornings desperately needing to be reminded that God, love, hope, truth, and grace are very real things.
I find myself terrified of what could happen if everything falls apart.
But you know what?
So does every person that we come into contact with. Every neighborhood is full of people that deal with the same stuff.
I think the difference lies in whether or not we walk through it alone.

My good friend Aaron Alford says, "To suffer alone is to despair. To suffer with a friend is to hope."

I whole-heartedly believe in this statement. It makes the difference in how we are shaped by it all, and what we learn from it.
We learn to be honest, and we become secretly awesome. We begin to spill God's love into the world around us. We stop judging. We allow the pain, fear, disappointment and beauty of others to remind us of what is good and real. And we meet with them in it. And we are blessed with eyes to see the good that is happening.

Jesus gave to his friends his peace. For real. He promised that he would never leave them, nor forsake them.
This is the story we are determined to tell with our lives. And it is the story we are ever so longing to be told.
Because a promise is a promise, and we must never let go.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Moving Forward...

Hey there folks.
Just chiming in to tell more of the story.
It's been three months since we decided to launch out again as full-time-non-salary missionaries.
The difference this time around is that we are continuing the work we are called to do, but in Wayne County Ohio.
It's freezing lately... and wet. We are figuring out again how to stay warm.

We've been focusing on two neighborhoods lately. We're making ourselves available to people like Jesus did. Pretty broad description, I know.
But the beautiful part of it is that it's so simple. I'm not saying that it's easy work at all, just that it doesn't have to be complicated.
 Programs don't need to be started, nor do heaps of overhead need to be acquired before we you set out to respond to the needs of others...

We are just supposed to arrive at the place where people are suffering alone, and extend our hearts to them. Open our hands.
One neighborhood in particular that we've been hanging out in, is getting really exciting.

It's full of families, kids, elderly, parolees, addicts, single moms, and just folks who are trying to make it through the day.
We've been spending time getting to know their stories, and sharing ours. The cool part is, now we are a part of each other's stories.
Sometimes we are social-workers. Sometimes we are pastors. Sometimes we are a resource-connection. Sometimes we're counselors, listeners...
But at the end of the day, we are simply a friend.

Isn't that just what everybody is crying out for? To belong? To be found? To have someone just to sit with?

Our family doesn't think that we're special, and we certainly do not want to exploit something so precious as friendship... we're just choosing to spend our full-time life being available to people who are isolated and struggling.

We are partnering with a couple of local churches. At one of which, I (Jimmy) have been teaching/facilitating a class/discussion  to help them unpack concerns for  communities, and assist them in strategic community-building. It's been really cool to be a part of.

Kelly, the kids, and I have been given so much trust in the lives of some families, and it's just awesome to be welcomed in.

People struggle financially, relationally, socially, spiritually. It's hard out there, and we all need to know that we're not alone.
That's the message we hope to send.

Please join us. If you're local and want to know more about how to get involved, let us know!

If you're interested in partnering with us financially, please do! We have raised around 15% of our monthly needs, so we need some help. You can even help through the paypal button on this blog and get a tax-receipt through YWAM Modesto, CA.

We will not stop showing up to turn on the lights where it is dark.

Thanks for coming along,