Phone: 701.636.5701
204 Caledonia Avenue East, Hillsboro, ND

Sr Pastor Joe Johnson 701.430.3787 

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As most of you know, I have spent the last four years participating in a doctorate of ministry program through Luther Seminary. My research and thesis has focused on small town rural poverty among children and the church's role in it. Last week, I defended my thesis and passed. I am greatly relieved and excited to have a framework of moving forward in mission and ministry. This week I will post daily devotions related to my research and thesis concerning small town rural poverty.

In our small-town rural community, we do not tend to see poverty. We do not tend to see people holding a cardboard sign on the street corner. We do not tend to have people stealing food from dumpsters. That does not mean we do not have an issue with poverty. We do. The poverty, however, is much less visible. Homelessness tends to be people sleeping on a relative’s couch or basement. Hunger tends to be food insecurity. Poverty is relatively invisible, especially among our youth and children. The issue of poverty among youth was brought to my attention when I asked a high school student who had not been to church for a few months how she was doing and she responded, “It’s been a long winter.” When I asked her why she said, “Dad hasn’t been working and we don’t have enough food in the house.” This came as a surprise to me. As I looked closer at our community, I realized this was not an isolated incident and has led me to more conversations with youth, congregational leaders, and community leaders. Through these conversations I have recognized a problem does exist and remains relatively unrecognized. This realization has led me to my doctorate research focusing on rural poverty among children.

This project explored what God was already doing in the community and explored new possibilities of engagement to build relationships that provide care while avoiding shame. The intent of this project was not only to raise awareness, but also to join God in the community by engaging practices to ensure that all people have the essentials of life including food, clothing, and shelter. The intent was to embody a missional theology of accompaniment and explore possible relationships with local and regional partners including the school districts, county public health, social services, local food pantry, regional food bank, and area rescue missions. 

During this COVID 19 pandemic, the issues of poverty and how the church engages in these issues is all the more relevant. This week, I will post daily devotions related to these issues and discern together possible solutions and help.

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