By Rich Brown
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Transitional housing ministry might be the label for the string of apartments at 1407 S. Pearl Ave., but Jay St. Clair knows it’s much more than that.
Ever since St. Clair visited the apartments six years ago, the community outreach minister at College Heights Christian Church knew it was an answer to a prayer.
Before his visit to the apartments, St. Clair had been involved in outreach discussions at his church about how to engage neighborhoods in order to bring about change in people’s lives, including a change from bad to good relationships.
Thanks to Rob Robertson, a College Heights member, those discussions turned into reality.
Although Robertson, with a business partner, had purchased the property as an investment, he soon realized it was much more than that.
The apartments proved to be a prayer answered for Robertson, former owner of a Joplin auto dealership, just as they had been for his church. The Joplin man had been seeking guidance on how to better serve God, and the Pearl Avenue apartment complex provided the solution.
Feeling that God had shown him the way to help the tenants and others in the neighborhood, Robertson went to St. Clair and told him what God had put in his heart.
Both men agreed that the people of that neighborhood needed to have a closer relationship to God, and a transitional housing ministry would help fit the bill.
Since the apartments had often been referred to as “the last resort” -- meaning last hope before tenants would have to resort to living in a mission or on the street -- St. Clair and Robertson prayed for a new name. What came from the prayers was God’s Resort.
This nonprofit ministry has developed into a half-block area, serving the needs of many at the apartment complex, which currently has eight men and 14 women tenants. In addition, a community center at 1501 S. Pearl Ave. was added last year to provide a place for many activities such as a weekly fellowship dinner at 5:30 p.m. each Sunday.
Hundreds of volunteers have helped restore the buildings and, along with that, lives and relationships.
“We have tried to create relationships with people and help them get to the next place,” St. Clair said. “There are people who are ready for what we have to offer, which is relationships. This is a relational wrap-around program.”
Justin Miller is the on-site apartment manager and men’s ministry leader, while Jacque Dudley is the women’s ministry leader.
Miller calls God’s Resort “an intimate community of people, like you and me, who have struggles.”
Although these struggles are of their own choice, many are choices that were imposed on them. Miller added that many of the tenants might struggle with drugs, alcohol or abuse, but, like with most people, he said there are always certain struggles in life.
The struggles at God’s Resort are referred to as chains.
“When coming here, we all come before the Lord and are open and honest about our chains, and we earnestly pray and seek the Lord together,” said Miller, adding that the ministry is always morphing into what best serves not only the residents, but also the surrounding community.
St. Clair emphasized that God’s Resort is not a treatment center.
“Poor people in Joplin and America are not people who are poor because they don’t have stuff,” he said. “They are poor because of the way they think and because they don’t have healthy relationships. They are poor in the things that really matter.”
He added that the ministry is not about giving handouts, but rather a hand-up. Its tenants are like those in any other apartment complex in that they are required to pay rent, and failing to do so will cause eviction.
However, the ministry will help tenants find jobs and manage their finances if necessary.
St. Clair said it is not a matter of fixing anybody, just loving them. He said not everybody is ready for God’s Resort, but those who have come to the realization that having a roof over their head is their No. 1 priority can seek resolution through the ministry.
“If you want people to engage with you, support you and encourage you spiritually, emotionally and relationally, this is it,” he said.
Miller urges anyone interested in finding out what goes on at God’s Resort to come to the weekly fellowship and dinner at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
More information about the ministry can be found on the College Heights website, www.chcchurch.org/gods-resort,or by calling 417-437-7186. Donations may be sent to God’s Resort, P.O. Box 4981, Joplin, MO 64803.
Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.