Waconia offers a Beacon of Hope

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In 2019, Waconia Moravian Church embarked on a new ministry, to become a Beacon Congregation to help low income families find a place that they could call home.

The Beacon Interfaith Collaborative is the non-profit organization that organizes Families Moving Forward, an initiative to end homelessness. Over 90 congregations across the Twin Cities in Minnesota take part in the vision to help all people have a home.

Beacon Interfaith Collaborative addresses issues that believe all people deserve respect, they have the right to affordable housing, that housing inequities are caused by systemic racism and stable homes is transformational to the individual and the community.

Waconia created a Beacon Leadership Team, which has taken on special training for fundraising and advocacy. The church recently purchased a property next to another home they already own and rent. This makes three properties that Waconia is able to use for this mission of affordable housing. After renovations, the recently purchased property now houses a young couple and their infant son, a transition from a room at the Super 8 hotel. Once the other two properties become available again for rent, the church has committed to use those two homes for families facing homelessness.

Maddalin Zimmermann-Stevens, Beacon Leadership Team Chair, said, “Life and faith have taught me that caring for others is important and crucial, and starting with home, where it all stems from, I don’t see a better place to serve.”

She believes having a home means life and stability. “Home is at the core of our lives,” she continued.  “It’s where we find stability.”

Maddalin puts her faith into action by remembering the “whys” of her faith. “When things get really tough, I stay focused on Jesus and his mission and I work to help the community/congregation stay engaged and supported in doing his work.”

“Through this ministry, I have learned that every story, every situation, every human is different. What works for one individual or group won’t work for another. One individual or group will have access to resources that another won’t. It varies so much and it’s a vicious cycle that isn’t easily broken,” continued Maddalin.

“If I could have one wish for this ministry, it would be that every legislator put their self-interests aside and start learning that many of the stereotypes they lean on just simply aren’t true,” added Maddalin. “It’s time to have the hard-truth conversations; to start using their power for the humans that need them the most; and to start focusing on helping the rest of us help those in need. The system is broken. We can’t do it without new bills and funding to help those in need. Fixing the system would ensure that everyone would have a home.”

Charlie Gravelle, a member of Waconia who is also a local real estate agent and property manager, has played an integral role in helping this ministry. “A stable place to call home is paramount to someone being able to stabilize other parts of their lives. It’s the base layer of bricks for building a life. If we can help in this ministry, one family at a time, then hopefully those kids from that family can create a more stable life for themselves,” continued Charlie.

“I have family that have been homeless, stayed in shelters or were close to losing their homes,” said Charlie. “Watching those in my family struggle, and being involved in this ministry, has taught me a great deal about the process and just how many people are in need.”

“I truly believe a stable home means resources can be directed to help people in other parts of their lives,” said Charlie. “Through working in this ministry, I’ve witnessed first-hand those in need getting the support they need to make their lives better. We are lucky that in Minnesota is very supportive of affordable housing.”

Not only is this ministry good for the church, but it’s good for those involved in the program. “This initiative is right up my alley. It allows me to spend time with members of the congregation and the pastor, and it helps me grow in my faith while giving me a chance to practice my faith. This ministry is very rewarding,” said Charlie

To learn more about this ministry and how it works in Minnesota, log onto beaconinterfaith.org. We want to know more about how your churches are serving your community. Send your stories to [email protected] and let us know.

Article by Sue Kiefner, IBOC. Photos courtesy of Waconia Moravian Church