LAKEWOOD, CO.—LuAnn Turner is like thousands of other believers. She goes to the grocery store after church. She drives past neighborhoods on her way to work. But LuAnn Turner is also different.
She believes neighborhoods are pockets of potential.
“We encounter hundreds of non-Christians every day,” Turner said. “We literally drive by piles of people who don’t have relationships with Jesus on our ways to work or the store, to pick up kids or to volunteer in other neighborhoods.”
Turner, who was working for Bear Valley Church in Lakewood, Colorado at the time, asked, “How do we reach them?”
She recruited a friend, and they started an apartment ministry called Mission 98. Turner, now the executive director of Mission 98, wanted the ministry to be accessible and present in the neighborhoods they served. An apartment was donated to Mission 98 shortly after it launched February 25, 2018. Turner used the apartment to start church services for the neighbors.
“First, we serve breakfast,” said Turner. “Then, there is Sunday school for the children and teens. Service for the adults start at noon, and there’s a nursery for their little ones.”
This all happens in one apartment in Green Gables, Lakewood, Colorado.
“At Green Gables, we see roughly five adults, five kids, two preschoolers and five to eight teenagers every Sunday,” Turner said. “We also do outreach into this—and several other—apartment complexes. We help with homework and host holiday events. We pack and give away backpacks and Thanksgiving bags, and invite the neighborhood to Christmas parties.”
Mission 98 serves five other neighborhood communities and is continually growing. What started as a small group of missionaries in one neighborhood grew to 14 apartment complex managers asking Mission 98 to adopt their communities and partner them with churches.
“We grow by increasing the number of churches that participate,” Turner said. “Mission 98 is an apartment ministry that is all about presence. We want to see more apartment ministries in Denver as we mobilize churches to participate. We want to see more churches adopt apartment complexes near them and take the people who live there under their wings.”
This past July, a church plant with 20 members asked Mission 98 for five Send Relief backpacks to fill before school started in August. Mission 98 had partnered with Send Relief—the North American Mission Board’s compassion ministry—to provide bags to children in need. Several churches started asking Mission 98 for the backpacks so they could fill them with pencils, notebooks, pens, rulers, paper and more.
Mission 98 gave the church plant the five backpacks they asked for.
“The pastor called me a week later and said, ‘We want more,’” said Turner. “So we gave them 15 more backpacks. The congregation of 20 people filled 20 backpacks. The pastor went to the apartment complex his church was helping and asked how many backpacks they needed. When the lady said they needed sixteen backpacks for the coming school year, the pastor was able to give her 20.”
Turner said she’s “amazed at how well God can count.”
Mission 98 had a goal to pack and give away 300 backpacks. Yet through partnership with Send Relief and various churches, including Turner’s home church of Bear Valley Church, Mission 98 gave away 385 filled backpacks in 8 apartment communities summer 2018.
“We were so thankful for the backpacks,” Mother of three and Denver resident, Lupitaa Correa said. “It was a big blessing.”
Additionally, Hope Crossing Church, Freedom Church and Addis Kidan Evangelical Church partnered with Mission 98 to reach 75 more children with backpacks in three additional apartment complexes.
A volunteer with Mission 98 during the backpack drive, Shannon Neel said she was impressed by the ministry’s heart for relationships.
“Mission 98 is an exceptional organization impacting children, teens and families,” Neel said. “They do that through building relationships.”
“Approximately 98 percent of Colorado residents who live in apartments have no church home,” said Turner. “Part of what makes an impact is presence over time. When we drive into the complex where we have a house church, the kids come running to us. They line up to hug us, because they know us. They see us almost every day. It’s because we have become part of the kids’ routines. Consistency makes a difference in their lives. When they move, they grieve losing the church and community. It’s why more churches need to plant instead of grow within.”
Mission 98 is a 501c3 nonprofit building healthy communities through education, resources and caring ministries in apartments, mobile homes and motels.
To learn how you can do more with Send Relief’s backpacks, visit Sendrelief.org/backpacktools.
To participate in apartment ministry, visit mission98.org/join-us.
Josie Rabbitt Bingham writes for the North American Mission Board.
Published September 3, 2018