A few years ago Jackson County was labeled as one of the “darkest” counties in the Northwest with the smallest percentage of the population claiming a faith and church attendance each week. There are more people in the streets than in the church. It was also discovered that there were more non-traditional churches in Jackson County. Oregon is made up of “rugged individuals” who march to a different drum. They are less likely to follow in conventional manners including churches.
Jackson County has a higher rate of people below the poverty income line and who are on the food stamp program. In Medford there are many who know that they are in need of help and encouragement, but don’t feel comfortable coming to the “normal” Christian church or ministry. Often these folk are homeless, addicted, poor, hungry, neglected, rejected and abused by society. They are desperate for hope, but limited in their prospects of finding it. With the recent recession the climate is only getting darker.
Personal involvement and financial support of Set Free allows individuals to be part of a ministry work that reaches those in the Southern Oregon community who are truly seeking help, but don’t have their own personal resources to obtain it. Being part of a ministry that is touching thousands of lives is truly rewarding whether that is a hands on involvement or a distant donor. Set Free’s ministry does not exist on the support of those it is reaching out to alone. It takes many donors to provide the financial support that allows Set Free to open its doors and fund the various programs that reach the people on the “streets” of life.
How Do You Do What You Do?
Since it’s beginning in 1997 Set Free has reached out to the “brokenhearted” and the “poor in spirit” talked about in scripture. Jesus said He came to minister to the “sick” (those who knew they needed help) rather than those who were thought that they were doing well. When people recognize that they are “poor in spirit” they can be helped. They are looking for help. They come to Set Free through word of mouth of others who have been helped and treated with respect and value.
Set Free Christian Fellowship is designed to reach out to the folks on the streets and seeking hope. Set Free is known in the community as a place to go to find help with addictions, homelessness, food, encouragement, prayer and direction. Set Free is open each day offering prayer, direction and hope. There are weekly Christian recovery opportunities, food distribution and services sharing the hope of Jesus.
Celebrate Recovery was started in Medford by Set Free in 1998. It was the first major Christian recovery weekly program and has helped inspire many others through the years. Set Free’s CR is considered the model to follow for other programs. Through the years Set Free’s CR has helped 100’s be strengthened and encouraged through its programs. It has developed and trained leadership to continue the weekly work.
God’s Food Pantry was started in 1997 when a single mother of five “tithed” her food stamps to help others. Since that time God’s Food Pantry has grown to be serving over 400 families through the ACCESS food distribution program. Each week God’s Food Pantry serves up to 50 families with a 3-5 day supply of food. The families are grateful to God’s Food Pantry for the respect and dignity that the program gives the individual including the personal selection of the food boxes. God’s Food Pantry is located in the heart of the poorest neighborhoods of Jackson County.
Set Free Christian Fellowship (Saturday mornings) and New Life Christian Fellowship (Sunday mornings) are open to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in a comfortable and safe setting for those coming off the streets and knowing little about church conduct and practices. New Life has partnered with the Addiction Recovery Center in Medford to provide the opportunity for those in their resident program to attend a weekly worship service. The ARC knows that the spiritual portion of a person’s recovery is vital to overall success. They see New Life as the perfect place for their clients to attend.
The Christian Journal is published by Set Free since 2000. It is a monthly Christian newspaper in Southern Oregon and Northern California that shares hope and inspiration in a life following and serving Jesus Christ. The monthly 16,000 papers are distributed free of charge and also mailed to over 300 inmates across the country. It reaches people on the streets.
Pop Open Encouragement Cards are printed and distributed in the community and across the country by Set Free. The pop open cards are filled with promises from the Word of God. They bring courage and hope to the one receiving the card. The also provide a way for our people to minister to people one-on-one in their daily encounters.
“Encouragement” is the one word that encompasses the role and work of Set Free and New Life Christian Fellowships. In all that is done it is to encourage people. There is acceptance, support, hope shared. People are pointed to the biblical directions for success. There are long-range relationships build that see people come and go, but often come back again when they are ready to try it again. The ministries work hard at keeping bridges in place for future ministry.
Set Free is led by a group of individuals who have worked themselves into leadership off the streets or the back pews of other churches. Through their own journeys of finding hope and encouragement they are able to speak to and identify with the “brokenhearted” and “poor in spirit” population. They have walked the walk and can now talk the talk.
How Are You Financially Supported?
Set Free and New Life are funded by generous individuals who donate to keep the ministries functioning, the doors open and the people encouraged. Many of these donors are outside the community of the churches. Many in the churches are not only coming from being “poor in spirit,” but also being poor in resources. Some are disabled and rely on Social Security to sustain them. Others are not able to work and live on food stamps and various community programs. The work that Set Free and New Life does is funded by the people they serve. Therefore, private donations from individuals outside the fellowship and the community are vital to the continued success and operation of Set Free.
Set Free and New Life do not receive any funding from city, state or federal agencies. They don’t receive funding from any denomination. Some funding comes from the advertisements in The Christian Journal, but those funds cover the cost of the printing only.
The more people Set Free and New Life serve the larger the need for financial resources. It takes money to have the doors open all week long. It takes money to provide the utility expenses. It takes money to feed the families who are coming each week. It takes money to provide resources for recovery.
For example: It costs nearly $4 per family each week to receive a food box. It cost nearly $250 to keep our doors open each day.
This Year’s Focus
There are more people in poverty in Jackson County than ever before. That means they have less resources to help themselves. That translates into a higher need for food, clothing, housing, medical help and more. It translates into people needing more hope and encouragement than ever before. Once they get their basic needs met they are searching for a purpose and eternal meaning that only God can give.
Set Free and New Life need to expand services to reach out to the “poor in spirit” and “brokenhearted” in Medford. The food ministry needs to expand to reach more families. Celebrate Recovery needs to continue to provide opportunities for healing for the addicted. The Christian Journal needs to continue to print its monthly message of hope and encouragement.
We want to find a larger building to expand our food ministry and perhaps provide a place for a thrift store that can bring in income to help offset the cost of the food program and also provide a place for some people to work.
Community Benefit: Definition of Success
Each person the ministries of Set Free touch is a valuable citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. They may not know it yet, but God has a great plan for their future. It is our privilege to provide ways to reach the “poor in spirit” and the “brokenhearted” on the streets of Medford.
Not only does the work of Set Free touch many lives with basic needs it builds future leaders for the community. A prime example is the life of Harold Nelson, pastor of New Life. Harold came to the VA Dom in White City in 1998. He was homeless, struggling with an addiction and facing terminal cancer. Someone brought Harold to Set Free. He rediscovered Jesus Christ. He committed his life to following Jesus and began to regain his health, his finances, his relationships and his status in society. Today he is well respected in the community. He serves a large circle of men and women who are moving from homeless and hopeless to strong believers in Jesus.
Set Free needs more people who are committed to reach the “poor in spirit” and the “brokenhearted” in the Medford and Jackson County area. That commitment includes personal involvement. We need people who will come to the worship services of Set Free and New Life seeking to help those God is bringing off the streets. We need people with energy to serve the Lord each day by “suiting up” in God’s armor and showing up to serve as God leads.
The commitment also includes financial support. Set Free is looking for generous people who are willing to use the resources God has given them to provide the foundation for the programs of Set Free. These generous folk may be actively attending Set Free or may be a silent support from a distance away. Set Free has financial supporters across the county who are willing to sacrifice to financially support the work of Set Free.
As people make a commitment to the work and ministry of Set Free the programs and work can expand to reach more people. It takes people to reach people. It takes dollars to support the ministry.
Wrap-up: Final Pizzazz: Why should this go to the top of your donor’s list?
Set Free has obviously been touched by God through the years. When Set Free started in 1997 people said that it couldn’t last. Without large financial donors, without denominational support, without resources it didn’t have a chance. But Set Free had God’s leading! Through the years Set Free has continued to keep its doors open and expand its ministry services. God has always come through! He is leading this ministry that is serving His “poor in spirit” and “brokenhearted” kids on the street. He created Set Free and has supported Set Free.
In 2012 we need financial support to pay our pastor and office staff. That comes to about $3,000 a month. Rent is another $1,300. Insurance, utilities and office supplies and ministry materials comes to another $1,200. The Christian Journal costs about $2,500 a month to print and distribute. Fortunately some of this is covered by paid advertising, but we still need donations of at least $200 to cover costs of printing and mailing the paper free to over 300 inmates each month.
If you are seeking a place to put your support consider Set Free. Your time will be spent building God’s Kingdom. Your dollars will be spent building treasures in Heaven. Your satisfaction comes from being part of a ministry that reaches those in the greatest need physically and spiritually in Medford and Jackson County.
Are you ready for the challenge? Are you ready to change people’s lives and leave a personal legacy of service?
Support Set Free!