In the shadow of Yale University, a small community of people has taken up residence in a violent, drug- and prostitution-ridden part of New Haven, Conn. Over the past four years, they’ve embraced the lifestyle of modern-day friars living, working and ministering among the people there.
“A huge part of our learning has been a shift in the way we think about mission,” says Pastor Ken Janke. “Living here and trying to incarnate Christ among the people, I’ve come to realize mission is not something you do to people—it’s something you do with people.”
As a community, they set four basic rules: to live with a common spiritual rhythm, to live as missional people, to embrace Christ and to support one another. Like traditional friars, they live and work among the people and see their vocation as part of their ministry.
Case in point: Janke has taken up work in helping a local nonprofit develop plans to revive the struggling local business district. They have facilitated youth programs, a food pantry and community gardens, along with art festivals and movie nights in the local park.
“When we first moved here, the park was a place where drug deals went down and prostitution occurred,” Janke says. “We’ve slowly been able to go with people back into those abandoned, broken places and reclaim them. In the midst of that, we’ve tried to be light and share Jesus along the way.”
As they have seen transformation, their ministry has extended further into the city. Janke launched a training course that’s run in multiple locations, including Yale; called “Make Believe,” it teaches people how to contribute to their own neighborhoods.
“It’s our job as missional people to help our city to fulfill her purpose in light of God’s ultimate dream for His creation,” Janke says. “We are His instrument to help usher in His Kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.”