Just about every time somebody in Las Vegas asks me, “Where are you from”, since very few locals are “from Nevada”. They want to know what state did you move here from? When you reply “Illinois”, generally the next question concerns the well-known corruption in Illinois, the number of former governors who have been incarcerated or our many famous gangsters, that incidentally were some of the founding fathers of the modern-day Las Vegas.
Admitting that indeed our home-state has developed a somewhat well-earned reputation for it’s rampant corruption, and that is illustrated with the crooked politicians and violent gangsters, I have discovered a different reality that is something to be proud of! No, it isn’t that our state is the home of “Good Neighbors” or “The good hands folks”, it’s not the crooked price-fixing history of ADM or even our popular Chicago Cubs. (O.K. the persistence of the Cubs is something to be proud of.)
The reality, is we have recently discovered the genuine charitable nature of more than a few Illinois citizens. While there are quite a few charitable organizations that have been formed in our state of Illinois, I would like to talk about two of these unsung heroes who have launched a charitable mission here in Las Vegas.
Barbie and I decided to stop and “interview” these folks to determine if their mission might help us do something to feed the homeless. As we arrived at their missions address we found something we didn’t quite expect.
First we drove past the back of the space and looked thru a commercial garage door that housed a mobile kitchen, a food-truck type trailer and a lot of refrigeration equipment. When we drove around to the front of this “church” we noticed almost no signage and an entryway almost devoid of office furniture. ‘This is the short story of one couple who hail from the Twin Cities of Bloomington/Normal. Last week we visited to see the efforts of husband and wife, Brian and Jenny Bland, from Bloomington/Normal surrounds
A few years ago Brian & Jenny worked as missionaires in the Dominican Republic, after that they moved back to Bloominton/Normal/Leroy. In a while they had a calling and need to bring their mission of assisting the homeless to Las Vegas. To that end they packed up their life, and children, to relocate and establish their mission here to Las Vegas.
, in a non-descript warehouse adjacent to the Las Vegas McCarron Airport.
We were looking to find a somewhat conventional church that normally houses a place of worship, what we found was something that we never expected. As we drove up to the “facility” we noticed a lack of signage, no crosses, no chapel or any other convention trappings of what we considered “church-like”. Here is what we found:
The space was devoid of any furniture less a donated desk and a few folding chairs. One of my first questions was, where do you hold your services? The answer was incredible.
Brian and Jenny Bland informed us that their mission followers and membership are composed of a variety of souls who lived in the parks, on the streets, under viaducts and even in the rain sewers around town.
By the way, the followers can be easily spotted from their winter coats, in temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, pushing a shopping carts or, if they are lucky, wearing a backpack, that contains all of their worldly possessions. We had more than a few questions concerning their ministry and it’s mission.
- Where do you get the funds, money, required to operate this mission?
- Do you have food donated to help you feed these folks?
- When and where is your next worship meeting?
- Do you “pass a collecion plate”? Where does the money come from?
Their answers stunned myself and Barbie!
- We do get donations a few places both here in Las Vegas and also from folks at our former home in the Bloomington/Normal/LeRoy area. We also have a few fundraisers to help with expenses. Actually, we often contribute ourselves when the income isn’t enough.
- As far as the food goes, we purchase the food ourselves to feed these lost, and often forgotten, souls. While we do have bread donated from places like Pannera Bread, it goes bad fairly quickly; however, we utilize what we can. There is an organization here in Las Vegas called 3-Square that “sells” donated food to many missions, churches and food pantries; however, when we approached them to purchase this drastically discounted food, we were rejected because we were operating out of our garage at home. They only “donated” to charities with a physical location like a church or mission. To that end, we finally found and rented this location at a reduced rental rate of $1500.00 a month; unfortunately, Three Square had frozen all donations to new facilities before we got this location! Hopefully this freeze will be over shortly and offer assistance to this missionary for the homeless.
- Harry, we hold worship at several locations within ten minutes of our warehouse headquarters in parks frequently by the homeless community in the Las Vegas area. We feed the people after providing a hope filled and positive sermon to our follower/members. In other words, our church is in the communities where our members live. One of our goals is to help these people form their own community based on faith.
- While some of our followers volunteer to help, they have little money to contribute to this cause. Jesus did say that a church can be where you find it, not nessesarily in a fancy chapel or building. One of the goals of this ministry Coodness Gracious is to create a community of it’s members to help raise them out of poverty with faith and fellowship.
We were lucky enough to have a meal with Brian and Jenny Bland and hear more about their mission to minister and feed the homeless. They also have a vision to provide tiny houses in the future to form a homeless community like one they have seen in Austin, Texas.
We have both decided that their mission and cause is valid and we intend to offer some assitance where possible. If you would like to see a little more about this Illinois based couples ministry mission check them out at http://www.goodnessgraciousministries.com
Below is a link to see what these two are doing!