— Laurie Knueven

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church: Bridge Ministry

Today my group traveled to the Bridge Ministry Program at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. It was my second year volunteering with this agency and it was a great feeling to return and see the same volunteers I worked with last year. There were some differences in the neighborhood that the program is housed in, the buildings across the street are being renovated and turned into condos, the community garden the church once had has been demolished and moved to a different location so that more condos can be built. Some might look at the neighborhood and think it is a good thing, and it is, but on the other hand people are being displaced and moved out of the neighborhood they once called home. It is always an eye opener for me to see the other side of this revitalization of a neighborhood and in many ways it saddens my heart. We learned from our speakers last night that the term for this is gentrification, which is a trend that results in increased property values and displaces many lower income families and small businesses.  My heart goes out to all those who have been displaced.

During our time with the Bridge Ministry program, we were able to speak with many of the visitors that joined us throughout the morning. We played Jenga with Eric, listened to the many stories that Glen shared and had an amazing tour of the renovated church from Curtis. During the tour we were given the opportunity to climb up the bell tower and shockingly, without hesitation, each one of us opted to climb the dark narrow steps to the top of the church. It was a morning full of laughter and fellowship, a morning of slowing down and taking time to talk to someone and listen to their story. So often I get busy with what is going in life or what needs to be done that I forget to just stop, listen and be present to those around me.

After we returned from our worksites the day wasn’t over. We head to the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor to enjoy a celebration dinner with the sisters. Twenty years ago Sr. Marie Clement had an idea to bring youth to the Cincinnati area to help those in need. It was inspiring to listen to her story and how one small seed grew into this amazing program that serves hundreds of people in need each year.  We enjoyed listening to stories, getting to know all the sisters and had a wonderful tour of the chapel. Before our departure we ended our time there with a reflection at the labyrinth.  This evening has truly been amazing, there is nothing quite like the sisters breaking out in song with their arms extended over us and blessing us. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one with tears in my eyes. I look forward to the rest of the week with this awesome group of young adults. What a blessing this experience has been!


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