While working in a soup kitchen one day in March, Lisa Brownlie overheard members of five families in line for food say they had lost their jobs that day. They are definitely not alone.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread and tighten its grip on the United States, economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal predict 14.4 million jobs will be lost in the coming months, and unemployment could soar to a record 13% by June. That is a grim forecast, considering that in times of crisis, seven out of 10 American families are one paycheck away from homelessness.
Lisa, who serves as Discipleship Director at Agape House in Prescott, Arizona, has a message of hope for families in distress. Yes, things are uncertain, but God is not. Things are changing every day, but God is the same — yesterday, today and tomorrow.
“Jesus said, ‘I have come that you might have life and have it full’ (John 10:10). Similarly God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah in the midst of crisis, ‘There’s a hope and a future for you’ (Jeremiah 29:11). Every individual, every child, every family is made in the image of God, and we are called to see them, love them, serve with them, and to share the Good News,” Lisa says.
Lisa has spent the past 20 years answering that call, walking with individuals and families navigating crisis.
A NEW SEASON OF SERVICE
After earning her degree in Urban Ministries at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, she moved to Los Angeles and worked for seven years with families facing homelessness. Then Lisa was appointed by Mission Door in 2010, and moved to Phoenix where she partnered with Neighborhood Ministries for the past 10 years. There she worked with the College Access and Moms’ Place programs, mentoring and discipling first-generation college students and teen moms.
About a year ago, Lisa felt God’s calling to be nearer to family in her hometown of Prescott, the hub of a quad-city area in the Arizona desert about two hours north of Phoenix. Moving to a rural area after spending years in big cities has been a challenge, she says. “It’s a new season. It may not look like LA or Chicago or Phoenix, but the need in Prescott is just as significant.”
Especially in the midst of the unprecedented uncertainty of the current pandemic crisis.
“We’re seeking donations to serve families who are at risk of homelessness,” Lisa says. “These funds will help with rent, utilities, and basic needs.” Agape House of Prescott is a participant of the AZ charitable tax credit program.
That’s in addition to the families currently being served by Agape House. “We are serving six adults and ten children—all of these families have lost their jobs,” Lisa says. “For now, we are paying their rent so they can remain in a safe place. But the goal is that they can find other work so that they can continue to save money and become independent once again.”
CREATING A PLAN FOR INDEPENDENCE
Agape House provides mentoring, life skills training and interim housing which includes basic household set up, rent and utilities. They offer a six to nine-month program designed to help families in crisis gain stability and forge a path to regain independence. While living in interim housing, families are able to save 30 percent of their income, so that they have money for first and last month’s rent for a place of their own when they graduate from the program. Discipleship, Bible Studies and connecting families to a local church is so important.
The program is bearing fruit — 38 of the 44 individuals in post care who have gone through Agape House have been successful. A year out of the program they were independent and self-sufficient with employment and a stable housing environment. This is an 86% success rate based upon independence after graduating from the program!
“One of our guys had back surgery. As the medical bills skyrocketed, he lost his job. His wife left him and he ended up with three teenage children. He went through the Agape House program and was able to get back on his feet, find healing, take care of his debts, and find housing on his own.”
A PLACE OF THEIR OWN
Since its inception in 2013, Agape House has rented apartments and homes in the Prescott area to serve as interim housing. However, they recently purchased a nine-unit apartment complex that will not only serve as housing but also include a community center for fellowship, after-school relationships, life-skill classes and Bible studies. Lisa currently lives on site to build community!
One of the goals Agape House has is to pay off the $650,000 owed on the apartment complex over the next three years.
There are other ways you can help to support Lisa’s ministry. “Pray for our families, and pray that God creates opportunities to share the Gospel and to love on our neighbors, especially during this COVID-19 crisis,” Lisa says.
Agape House partners with local organizations, including churches, to get the resources needed to serve their families. Gift cards for food, toiletries, furniture and clothing are needed, as are volunteers who can help in a variety of ways.
“Agape House can’t help everyone but with the transforming love of Christ we desire to build relationships and serve those who are ready to set goals, work towards accomplishing them, and reach a new level of independence,” Lisa says.