Broadened Horizons4 min read

During the winter season of 2022–2023, Trinity Lutheran Church in Warren was privileged to partner in a Winter Emergency Shelter Program with Motor City Mitten Mission; Trinity, Utica; the Michigan District; MCREST; Harvest Time Christian Fellowship; numerous local congregations; and Macomb County.

From December 1, 2022 through April 1, 2023, several Macomb area churches maintained a rotating homeless shelter with the intention of preparing Trinity, Warren to serve as a centralized host location beginning January 9, 2023.

During November and December, members of Trinity, Utica worked tirelessly to help prepare Trinity Warren’s unused school wing to serve as emergency shelter. Without their efforts, none of this would have been possible.

Melissa Tunison of Trinity, ready to help check in guests

On January 8, due to an emergency, Trinity, Warren opened its doors to house the homeless for the duration of the winter days. From 7 p.m. through 9 a.m., guests checked in and were served a hot meal provided by Harvest Time and partner churches. Volunteers and security officers ensured the safety and needs of the guests. At 9 a.m., Motor City Mitten Mission provided bus passes for the guests to travel to work or helped arrange shelter for the daylight hours. On days when heavy snowfall was present, or temperatures dropped below 20 degrees, Trinity provided arrangements for those who had no place to go.

December through April, the Macomb Winter Emergency Shelter assisted over 500 homeless individuals at different times and locations, securing the guest’s property and giving them a place to stay both warm and fed. On two nights of the week, Macomb Community Action sent representatives to assist guests in finding housing arrangements through government services. On Thursdays and Saturdays, the Wave Project brought a mobile hygiene truck with showers and provided hygiene products for the guests.

Our partners with the Wave Project and their mobile shower unit

Throughout the course of the guests’ stay, the members of Trinity opened their arms and hearts in the hope of always being able to help not only in the physical needs of those in desperate situations but also to share the love of Christ. On the very first Sunday, Trinity had the singular joy of performing an adult baptism for one of the Motor City Mitten Mission workers, and almost every week several guests joined in worship services. Trinity members volunteered regularly in the program. Relationships were developed on a first-name basis, stories were heard, and troubles were shared.

Trinity has been blessed by this unique opportunity to serve, bolstered by the love and support, both in prayer and financial backing, of the Michigan District through its Start New Explorer Grant. Numerous guests were sheltered who might have been in severe peril due to the closure of a similar program in prior years after the death of its founder. The opportunity to partner not only with Trinity, Utica but also numerous other local Christian churches and civic organizations providing for the needs of those less fortunate has broadened the scope of the congregation’s mission considerably, and many new community contacts have been made.

During the warmer months, Trinity continues to partner with Motor City Mitten Missions, offering a daytime gathering location for guests on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. through 3 p.m. Macomb Community Action and the Wave Project continue to stop by, ensuring that services are made available both in terms of self-care and securing housing options. The goal is that these guests will not require emergency assistance in the coming winter. It is Trinity’s intention to continue the Emergency Shelter program in the 2023–2024 winter, with the current prospective start date being November 1, 2023 – April 1, 2024.

Marilyn Leonardi, Don August, Hank Leonardi and Melissa Tunison, putting finishing touches on a farewell meal for our guests

Trinity invites brothers and sisters of the Lutheran Church to prayerfully consider the opportunities that reach out to those who are in need. They hope to increase the opportunities for fellow Circuit congregations and neighboring regions to partner, not only with both Trinities, but with each other, looking for ways that further assist the community. All congregations are encouraged to pray fervently for God to enact His will through them as well.

Through providing a network of love and compassion for those who are most in need, we create opportunities to spread the love of Christ in word and in deed and, together, we can be a blessing by providing for those in need.

Featured image composite: L – Pastor Reese and one of Mitten Mission’s Workers ready to serve; R – a few of the guests. Photos courtesy of Trinity, Warren

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About the Author

Rev. Ryan D. Reese is the pastor at Trinity, Warren.

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