John Wiley, founding pastor
The River Christian Fellowship
(Kansas City East Foursquare Church)
John Wiley, founding pastor of The River Christian Fellowship in Raytown, Mo., part of Kansas City’s greater metro region, says his call to ministry was sparked by a direct confrontation from the Holy Spirit that he was being held accountable for the spiritual climate of his city.
“Specifically,” the 47-year-old pastor told Foursquare.org, “that if I saw a practical need not being met in my city, and I did not speak to God about it, and if I did not work to solve it with the resources at hand, I would answer to the Lord Himself for not following through.”
Following through is exactly what The River Christian Fellowship, a congregation of around 300, has done. They recently purchased the long-vacant Park Lane Hospital building just north of Raytown, and plan on turning it into The River of Refuge Dream Center with a specific purpose in mind—helping the area’s “hidden homeless.”
Who are the hidden homeless? They are the often-overlooked families, the working poor, who live for months, or even years, at pay-by-the-week motels because they cannot save up enough money for utility and rent deposits, and earn just enough to disqualify them from receiving food stamps or other governmental aid.
“There are dozens of these hotels in the metro area,” explains John. “[The families live in] a cramped, one-room living space for $800 to $1,200 per month. These families are one missed paycheck from being homeless. By providing them a place to live at [The River of Refuge Dream Center], they can easily save their money and, in time, be able to move into stable housing.”
The congregation’s philanthropy has been highlighted in local media, including articles in The Kansas City Star and The Raytown Post. Church members even helped clean up the Crown Lodge, one of the pay-by-the-week motels, by replacing carpet and wallpaper in what had been a smoking lounge, reported the Star. The church, the paper noted, also has served a free Monday night dinner at Crown Lodge for the past year.
It all comes back to the congregation’s mission, as John simply puts it: “Love Wins … This Is How We Roll.”
By: Bill Shepson, a Foursquare credentialed minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles