FamilyWorks! Ministries, a Miracle in the Making…
It was a mid-January Sunday in 2006 when the three minds of Rev. Phil Hawk, Carlos Baca and Jon Sullivan collided at St. Johns Wesleyan Church. The plans that were set in motion that day have pounded and will continue to pound on the enemy’s gates as manifest in the St. Johns district of North Portland. That first 15-minute meeting has spawned a renewed belief in the power of God to do literally anything He wants to do.
The content of that meeting was the casting of a vision to reach out to the community in a way that engages them at a crucial point of need. St. Johns Wesleyan Church has already been running a successful food bank ministry and various outreach ministries on a regular basis. What the three men were proposing was something more, something that struck back at the very heart of where the enemy has had such a stronghold for so long. They wanted to address the needs of the family.
It has always been Rev. Hawk’s passion to encourage and foster Christ-centered families. As family members embrace God’s love and plans for their lives, God then strengthens the bonds and levels of safety that each person experiences within the family unit. The family is meant to be the safest environment on the planet. It is meant to be the training ground for the most vulnerable members of society: our children. Children are to be learning the rules of appropriate social engagement while experiencing unconditional love and acceptance from a mother and father. Unfortunately, through deceptions and compromise, the family unit has been decimated to a point where we are now facing the sour fruits of this struggling and broken institution in the larger social context. The three men agreed that Christ can heal the family, and plans were set in place on how to begin.
Carlos Baca’s background included more than a decade of youth mentoring and he brought an enormous amount of expertise in this area to the project. His passion was to see children receiving mentoring in a Christ-centered after-school program. Carlos shared on several occasions that what concerned him most about current trends in other mentoring programs was how the needs of parents/guardians were not being addressed as well. It was agreed that parents ought to be viewed as partners with the mentors, helping in the training of their own children. Everyone also agreed that this attitude is reflective of how God desires to see households run. This is where Jon Sullivan’s passion fit into the vision. Jon’s background was in youth ministries, program administration and family systems therapy. His heart was to combine Carlos’ vision with a holistic approach to the problem. The key factor that would make this new ministry unique would be that in every aspect of programming the goal would be to shore up and support not just the child, but the child’s primary environment. It was agreed that mentoring serves a powerful purpose, but its effectiveness could be increased tenfold by reaching out and impacting where the child will receive most of his or her social training. Jon had witnessed first hand from his time at New Horizon’s Youth Ministries how the greatest change took place in a young person’s life when the family was also involved in Christian counseling. The change in the young person’s life went deeper and had the potential of lasting longer when he or she was supported by a primary environment that was also being challenged to grow and do away with harmful relational patterns.
The vision began to catch on. It was only a short time later that Laura Baca, Carlos’ wife talked about adding teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). She had recently completed her Master’s degree in this field and wanted to offer her services to the community as well. Over 17 languages are spoken in St. Johns. It is considered to be one of the most linguistically diverse sections of the entire Portland Metro area. Many times the majority of students in a classroom speak English as their second language. What a field ripe unto harvest!
These ESL classes would be offered to adults whose children already know English and therefore hold an upper hand over their parents in the broader culture. It is difficult to truly parent when your children are better equipped to navigate through the world on their own because of their ability to converse more effectively. Helping parents feel empowered to engage the broader culture with confidence could impact their feelings of worth which would directly impact their parenting skills and attitudes. Also, these parents could more directly watch over the influences their children were receiving from the English-speaking culture and would be better equipped to work with the educational system so their children would be less likely to slip between the cracks. What a perfect addition!
The idea of this three-pronged approach was presented to the church body and was widely accepted. More ideas began to surface including the idea of a regular family game night. This idea was enthusiastically supported. It fit the mission of the ministry and it could be implemented almost immediately where several of the other aspects of the ministry would take a great deal of time and planning to get underway. At the writing of this history, family game night has been operating on a monthly basis for a year and a half.
Carlos then added a boys mentoring program called the Lions of Judah. This program does amazing work with young boys, helping them gain leadership and survival skills in an outdoor setting. Fathers and other guardians are encouraged to attend to strengthen family bonds and gain mutual respect. This arm of the ministry continues to flourish and grow. Plans are in the works to add a similar young ladies program.
It was also during this time that the name FamilyWorks! first rose to the surface as a name that captured the vision of what the ministry was meant to accomplish. The motto “renewing homes … transforming communities” was also adopted during this phase. The church began to publicize the vision by entering a FamilyWorks!-themed float in the St. Johns Parade.
The people of the church were asked to pray and see whether or not God would lay it on their hearts to make some sort of financial commitment to see this new ministry get started. Members were asked to make pledges based on two year’s worth of giving. The pledges came to just over $21,000. After two years, the actual amount received was just $1500 shy of this mark! Praise the Lord!
During the spring of 2009 FamilyWorks! put on its first disc golf tournament to heighten community awareness and encourage families to interact with each other. The event was extremely well attended and new relationships were built. The FamilyWorks! leadership team decided that this would become an annual event.
June of 2009 saw our first external confirmation that we were heading in the right direction. The CSD Council approached the Northwest District Board of Administration with the request of partnering with a local church in the building of a community center to help serve the needs of the local population. Providentially, Jon Sullivan was scheduled to present the FamilyWorks! vision at that same DBA meeting. The CSD Council received a copy of the FamilyWorks! prospectus and enthusiastically decided to partner with us. This is significant in so many ways since in order to accomplish the long- term goals of FamilyWorks!, it was understood from the beginning that a facility would have to be built. In fact, it was a generous gift from Mike Patterson to the St. Johns Wesleyan church for such a facility that helped set the stage for this vision to even be considered.
The CSD Council partners with a very limited number of projects per year and after seeing how we
wanted to impact North Portland, they chose to work with us. The CSD Council also presented several tremendous ideas regarding long-term project funding and it was under their guidance that FamilyWorks! Ministries, Inc. was established in September of 2009 as an official non-profit corporation in the state of Oregon.
Support began to grow outside of the local congregation as Carlos began to have conversations with other like-minded organizations and congregations. Duncan Campbell of Friends of the Children, Kelly Cohoe and Rose Brewer of Grace Fellowship Church and Shaun Garman of The Red Sea Church all showed strong support of what was happening in this fledgling organization.
Back tracking just slightly, in the spring of 2009 it was decided that the next phase of FamilyWorks! would be launched so in May of that year, the first parenting workshop was presented by Jon Sullivan. It was decided that these seminars would be offered every second month. Guest speakers were also scheduled to come in and present on their area of expertise. The seminars were meant to be simple, practical and faith-based in order to strengthen marriage and family relationships. As of the writing of this history, four seminars have been delivered and attendance continues to increase.
In November of 2009 FamilyWorks! put on its first major fundraiser outside of the local congregation. It was decided that a Bowl-a-thon would be a great way to help raise funds and awareness of current and future programming. The event brought in over $7,500, even gaining support from Capital Park Wesleyan’s similar community outreach program. It was decided that this would be an annual event.
These are just a few of the highlights detailing how FamilyWorks! Ministries has grown from a vision to where it stands today. We do not know exactly what the future holds, but we hold fast to the truth that with God, all things are possible. Do you dare actively believe it?
–written by Jon Sullivan, December 2009