There have been two questions consistent in my life since June 2016: What is the Lutheran Hope Center and what does the Lutheran Hope Center do? These are questions that I too have been asking myself.
To begin to answer these questions, I must explain why we need a Lutheran Hope Center in Ferguson, Mo. Everyone remembers the incident between Ferguson resident Mike Brown and Police Officer Darren Wilson. But, while the event on Aug. 9, 2014, was absolutely tragic, it began a series of investigations led by the Department of Justice to find out what could cause a community to erupt in the way that it did following the fatal shooting of Brown by Wilson.
What federal officials found was systemic racism: Ferguson city officials, from the police chief to the court clerks, took advantage of the predominantly black and impoverished neighborhood in Ferguson through a system of fine-based tickets. Federal authorities also uncovered a culture of targeted policing aimed at the black community in Ferguson.
So, as the question is asked why the Lutheran Hope Center needs to exist, these are some of the issues that we are examining. There are many other issues like education and family systems that we are also are exploring, but for the sake of your reading time, I won’t dive into them here. People often think that we are simply reacting to riots and protests. But in reality, we are reacting to a community outcry that has been, in many cases, marginalized, preyed upon and forgotten. And, it is a community that The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has not had a footprint of ministry in for a long time.
And now we circle back to what is the Lutheran Hope Center and what does it do? We are sharing the hope that we have in Jesus Christ with our broken community through words and acts of mercy. We are focusing on caring for people, helping with their physical and spiritual needs. But we are focusing on their physical needs first. We are trying to help people build a foundation in which to build a future, here in the present and in the future glory in the Resurrection.
There a couple of things that are occurring at the outset. After having grown up in Ferguson, I will be returning as a missionary to the community. I have been spending much of my time reconnecting with people who I grew up with to see where they are in life and to get their opinions of what is most needed in the community. We also will create a program to help elementary-aged students improve academically. As we look to the future, it begins with the children. We want to invest as much time with that age group as we can, but also spend time with children who are younger and older than elementary school students.
We have some difficult work ahead of us, but I thank God for the formation that I received at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. And, I thank God that I belong to His body, the Church. The knowledge that I have support through a common confession of faith and prayer lifts me up on a daily basis. Without the support of the church this wouldn’t be possible.
Rev. Micah Glenn (’16) began serving as a national missionary to Ferguson, Mo., in 2016 on behalf of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. In this role, he also serves as the executive director of the Lutheran Hope Center of Ferguson.
To read more about his mission and learn ways to help, visit, lcms.org/Glenn