- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Creating opportunities for people to experience the love of Jesus is one of the reasons why Forefront Ministries is renovating a Women’s Ministry House in Benton Harbor.

Jessica Concannon told The Herald-Palladium (https://bit.ly/1oUbijA ) that she spent the summer fixing up the house and moved into it in August. The plan is to have the house become a place where women can meet for fellowship and Bible study. She said she hopes to have all the renovations done by spring.

“Whenever I meet women, it seems like they don’t have a place to go and hang out that’s a safe place to just be and spend time and get poured into,” she said. “There’s a lot of single moms in Benton Harbor who are in need of support and encouragement.”

She said Forefront Ministries opened its first house in Benton Harbor in 2011. She said it is important to reach people outside of church.

“Jesus said he came to seek and save the lost,” she said. “Well, the lost aren’t going to show up on a Sunday morning, but they’re walking by on the streets and the sidewalks every day.”

She said a house is a perfect place to minister to people.

“A lot of the people we meet aren’t willing to go to church, but they’re willing to talk about God and are willing to come over to your house and eat,” she said. “We see this as a way to be the church without necessarily doing church the way people think you have to do church.

She said many of the people she works with have been in prison multiple times or are drug dealers or drug users.

She said they “would feel extremely judged by going to church because of things they’ve experienced growing up with the church or just what they think that church is or what Christians are like.

“This is really the most unintimidating way possible to share who Jesus is with people. We’re really doing what Jesus did, which was walk around and meet people and invite them over and get to know them and love them.”

She said Forefront Ministries was started by Vanguard Church in Kalamazoo and is funded by many other churches and private donations.

“This is our way of having a missional imagination because you can be a missionary anywhere,” she said. “We see this as being missionaries in our own town that we live in - living among people and inviting them to our houses.”

Although she is living in the house, the work is not complete. She said the first floor needs to be rewired and the floors and woodwork need to be refinished. She said the three-bedroom house, which was built in 1910, looks rough now, but has a lot of potential.

She said someone recently donated an almost new furnace to the house, which will soon be installed. She said the kitchen is missing a stove and a refrigerator.

Concannon further spent the summer caring for a large community garden beside the house. In addition, she prepared four classrooms at Lighthouse Ministries in Benton Harbor for a new school, River of Life, a Christian school that accepts children kindergarten through fifth grades, where she is the principal and a teacher. She said the school has 16 students so far.

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Information from: The Herald-Palladium, https://www.heraldpalladium.com

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