For the congregation of Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Appleton, Wisc., a local motel has become the heart of ministry.
Northern Inn, Room 16, is home base for ministry in Appleton, Wisc.
The vision for this unconventional ministry at the Northern Inn began about two years ago when pastor Mark Pluimer and council leaders of the church challenged the congregation to envision new ways of doing local ministry.
That invitation was met with a passionate plea from members Mike and Cheryl Watson, a couple who has served the poverty-stricken community at Northern Inn for the past 13-plus years. “We thought it’d be wonderful to have church interactions out there and for people to catch the vision that this is where Christ would be and would stay.”
And stay they did. What began as a once-a-month outdoor food gathering eventually prompted the congregation to develop the Northern Inn Ministry, providing funding for the permanent renting and renovation of Room 16 as a home base for ministry.
The room housed their first official dinner on Thanksgiving Day 2012. This“gospel outpost” hosts weekly meals, Bible studies, gospel dinners, support programs, and recently, a memorial service for one of the deceased motel residents.
The church’s presence has also led to a surprising friendship with the motel’s Muslim owner, who has grown to cherish their presence as a permanent fixture amidst a high-risk population. He now makes room for stacks of Gideon Bibles in the lobby.
Recently, the ministry helped a mother and her five children move out of a tiny room at the motel into more stable transitional housing.
Real-life stories of both beauty and sorrow continue to flow from the ministry. Yet it always comes down to the intervention of Christ—“That’s the only thing that will change us,” said Cheryl, herself a survivor of childhood abuse and poverty.
Those who minister from Room 16 at the Northern Inn almost always leave the light on.
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