While the Urban Centers have had a rich history for many years within our organization and the Charis Fellowship, they have recently seen significant change. Following the retirement of longtime director, Ed Lewis, new Philadelphia Urban Center Director Andy Michael stepped in at the beginning of 2020 to carry on Ed’s legacy. Joined by Rob Rojas, community liaison and facilities director, the two men anticipated an exciting launch that year with their new roles and direction for the center. Unfortunately, COVID changed those plans and programming needed to pivot. Andy and Rob were creative in connecting with both familiar and new churches while revamping training materials for when teams could safely return.
The opening of the Urban Center in Los Angeles in 2019 was a dream of ours made reality. Los Angeles Director Tim Lansing had been a faithful partner with our organization, even serving on its board, and we were excited for his help in expanded opportunities to partner with churches on the West Coast and give opportunities for groups to be trained in practical ministry and evangelism in sunny Southern California. Tim has just started to see growth at the center, when again, COVID derailed that progress. He, too, creatively encouraged groups as he was able and continued to minister with our partnering churches, even without teams physically at the center.
Praise God both centers safely opened this past summer and welcomed teams! We saw incredible change in lives of students and adults, and we continue to hear reports of how that change started a ripple effect in each of the group’s home churches and communities. We asked Andy, Rob, and Tim to give a recap of what the past summer meant to them, and what they are looking forward to in the future.
“After a busy summer of doing ministry with all of our amazing teams it has been great to enter into a season of evaluation as my Urban Center team and I look at how to refine and improve the overall Urban Center experience. It was really great to be with leaders in person after building relationships with them via Zoom calls, emails, and trip preparation communication long before their arrival dates. I look forward to continuing to build those relationships and develop them into partnerships as we work toward the ultimate goal of raising leaders who build healthy churches and amplify kingdom impact.”
“It was a summer of much anticipation and expectation. Trying to pick up where we left off and recover from COVID was a big task ahead of us. But I saw how God assembled all of our planning for a successful summer. I experienced how teams came together and demonstrated faith in Christ as they responded to His call to build up His kingdom in Philadelphia. During the summer, teams used service, relationships, and prayer to draw our communities closer to Christ. This service encouraged our communities and helped team members grow in their relationships with Jesus and experience lifelong spiritual development. It was awe-inspiring for me to see Christ in such a tangible way.”
“God is on the move and opportunities to share our faith are all around us! This past summer has been a reminder of that very thing. As I have engaged with people and teams, including students and adults, I see more and more the need for believers to be equipped and ready to share the hope of Jesus, as the needs of those around us are great. I witnessed a group of students, determined to be bold with their faith, step into a homeless encampment, get down in the dirt with a lady and talk to her about the hope of Jesus and she responded with saving faith. God gave me an opportunity this summer to stop and talk with a man who had been homeless for the past 14 months. After much conversation and learning that no one has stopped to talk with him even once in the last 14 months, I could sense the hopelessness and isolation he was feeling. I shared with him the love and promise of Jesus and how valuable he is in the eyes of God and he, too, responded with saving faith that day! If we are willing to be equipped to share our faith and then desire to live intentional lives for Jesus, we will see God work in powerful ways. I am excited to equip more teams of people in the coming year so that God’s glory can be on display!”
More information on visiting the Momentum Urban Centers can be found on their website buildmomentum.org.
A version of this story originally appeared in Momentum’s newsletter.