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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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A warming place

Milwaukee area churches offer 'prayer vigil' and a place to sleep

Last December, when temperatures dipped into single digits and the winter continued as one of the harshest on record, Milwaukee south-shore churches offered an all-night prayer service that gave the area's homeless an answer to their prayers: a warm space in which to bed down.

When asked about the all-night prayer vigil at St. Mark Lutheran Church, Cudahy, Mark Thompson, pastor, quipped, "This isn't the first time people have fallen asleep in church."

The churches' creative offering of space under the guise of a "prayer vigil" was both a response to brutally cold nights and to being denied a shelter program by the local plan commission, which called it inconsistent with the city's zoning code. But fears about what such a shelter would mean have waned.

 

Kevan Penvose, pastor of Unity Lutheran
Kevan Penvose, pastor of Unity Lutheran in the Bay View neighborhood of Milwaukee, poses with the sign that sums up what the congregation and 13 other area churches will do this year when offering a winter-weather ministry to the homeless.

Kevin Fech, Cudahy, who with his wife and three children helped feed the hungry at Tippecanoe Presbyterian Church in the Bay View neighborhood, used these words to describe his volunteer experience with a dozen or so homeless men and women: "Thankful. Polite. Gracious. Everyone appreciated the fact that they were treated with care, compassion and respect. Each said 'thank you' on multiple occasions. All cleaned up after themselves. And after he or she finished eating, each offered to help in any way possible."


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