NAPERVILLE, IL (August 30, 2011) – The t-shirts worn by the members of Naperville Covenant Church read, “It’s criminal to ignore a neighbor in need, but compassion for the poor, what a blessing.”
The 71 members of the church in the Chicago suburb said a blessing is exactly what they experienced during a weeklong mission trip at Cornerstone Community Outreach (CCO), a homeless shelter operated by Jesus People USA.
The church traditionally has traveled to another country for its mission trips, but decided to stay closer to home after Glenn Palmberg, former Evangelical Covenant Church president, asked them to consider working at CCO. What eventually came to be called the Windy City Project also enabled more people to participate in mission work, said Diana Shiflett, the church’s director of spiritual formation.
The shelter is located in three locations and serves roughly 450 people. One site enables families to stay together, another is for single women with children, and the third is for single men.
Palmberg has been working with the shelter to raise funds and encourage churches to send mission teams. “Glenn was so excited, it was easy to get caught up in his compassion for the poor,” said Shiflett.
The Naperville team gutted and replaced two bathrooms and communal showers (accompanying photo), Palmberg said had been “disgusting.” They also laid floor tile, reorganized storage rooms, painted, hung wallpaper, and built a brick patio.
They distributed Bibles purchased by the Naperville congregation as well as Northwest Covenant Church in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. The CCO chaplain had requested the Bibles so that each child staying at the shelter could have one.
The Northwest congregation had done a previous trip to JPUSA, and turned a storage area into a laundry room for single mothers. Previously the mothers had to walk four blocks to the laundromat. The second photo shows Palmberg (left) and Cal Katter jackhammering a laundromat area in preparation for new flooring.
The team stayed at a local non-Covenant church plant. While there, they also transformed some unused ground into a patio where members and visitors could gather together.
Palmberg and others at CCO say workers at the shelter are so busy caring for immediate needs that they have no time to pursue grants or complete larger rehabilitation projects. The 400 people who live at Jesus People spend $520,000 a year to operate the shelter, Palmberg says. Additionally, they feed 300 people three times a day.
“It’s too big a burden,” Palmberg says. He tells anyone who will listen, “JPUSA joined us in 1989. It’s time for us to join them.”