Our mutual friend Carrie Maheu introduced us.  He was a young pastor in the Free Methodist tradition, planting a church at Leslie Middle School.  I could see the fire in his eyes for loving neighbor as self.  Little did I know how far DJ Vincent would extend that fire to warm multitudes … including me.

With our CaN (Churches as Neighborhood) Centers program, we helped DJ and Gabi strengthen the church’s afterschool and Family Activity Night (FAN) partnerships at Leslie. But they wanted to do more.  We took one of our SLF Fancy Bus Tours around the city so their leadership team could see other opportunities for ministry.  One of the stops was Cascades Gateway Park, where many homeless folks were camped.  DJ’s heart was moved to action.

It started with meals in the park.  Other churches were invited to join.  DJ participated in, and eventually helped coordinate, the Point-in-Time Count (see back page).  The Jaycees offered up their vacant building adjacent to the park.  More meals, more volunteers, more programs. Church-at-the-Park was born.

During this time DJ became tri-vocational.  He worked for the church, he worked in Leslie’s afterschool program with SKEF, and he came on board with SLF as our South Salem Lightning Rod (field staffer).  A man of exceptional vision and capacity.  Over the years, DJ not only built a highly effective model for addressing homelessness, he’s been instrumental in developing SLF’s board and staff with trainings, conferences, team-building activities, and curriculum.  Incarnational Ministry.  Outward Mindset/Groundwork.  Preaching/Practicing Peace.  Breaking Bread/Breaking Barriers.  The Street Psalms and Empower pilgrimages to Haiti and Alabama.  And tons more.

DJ became SLF’s Deputy Director and we were on a course for him to succeed me as SLF’s leader.  But the Lord has another calling.  The phenomenal impact and leadership opportunities for Church-at-the-Park in our city are the optimum deployment of DJ’s vision and skills.  More than 60 people – half of whom were, or are, homeless – are now employed by Church-at-the-Park at four sites, with more being sought (DJ@church-at-the-park.org).  The Micro-Shelter Village concept brings people out of the woods, vehicles and sidewalks into relationship and connection with resources.  The workforce development brings confidence, honor and healing.  Love works.

DJ and SLF will eternally be yoked in friendship and ministry, even as he passes his SLF batons to capable teammates.  We look forward to the chapters ahead.  I might be older in age and ministry tenure, but I consider DJ one of my chief mentors.  His pastoral wisdom and bold entrepreneurship have both blessed and inspired me.  Join me in saluting one of the great bridge-builders in Shalom-Keizer, OR.  My friend and brother in Christ, DJ Vincent.