530.345.2640 2255 Fair Street
Chico, CA 95928

October 2021 — Monthly Update: Welcome Home

I was a solo entrepreneur for more than 25 years before taking the helm at the Jesus Center 6 years ago. Working for myself I had high expectations for the quality and professionalism of my work, and I felt like all I did for my customers was an expression of my love for God (Colossians 3:23).

But nothing ever felt like what it feels like to oversee a business, founded on God’s love, for the hurting in our community. An organization faithfully shepherded for forty years. The bar is high when you say, “I run the Jesus Center.” Big words. Big shoes. Big expectations.

The good news is that I am one of a series of leaders who have done what I’m doing. And, because of the quality of the team at the Jesus Center, I am not alone in this call! There have been unique seasons and different challenges, but we have all answered the SAME CALL BY THE SAME GOD.

I was in church this last Sunday and listened to the preacher talk about Radical Welcome. Radical Table. And, I will add, he was talking about a Radical Savior. See, the founders of the Jesus Center and the leadership for 40 years has been doing everything they know how to do to follow a God who is sold out to radical welcome. Welcome to life. Welcome to all. Welcome to His Table. Welcome home.

The Marys started a simple soup kitchen with a crock pot to welcome those who were hurting in Chico. Katy led the organization to a bigger building with more services that provided the ability to serve not hundreds but thousands each month and each year. Bill talked about “offering hospitality to strangers.” They all knew that God’s welcome begins with us, with you and me, and then was extended to those who didn’t fit into the community because of their addiction, their mental illness, their trauma, or their poverty.

The Jesus Center is a place where the people of God—the people who follow Jesus—can offer an expression of tangible love for those God loves so dearly. Let’s be honest, like the formal church, the Jesus Center is sometimes more aspirational than realized. We don’t always love well or run smoothly. Having said that, everyone who has worked or volunteered here has sure tried.

At the Jesus Center, we look to the scriptures to keep us on track when we grow weary. They are filled with motivation and reason to keep going and do our work well. A quick overview makes my point:

  • The Good Samaritan who depicts a man who goes out of his way to care for a hurting stranger, giving sacrificially to someone others literally turned a blind eye to.
  • Matthew 25 describes how when we offer a glass of water to a thirsty person, we offer it to God Himself. The connection of God with the suffering person is mystical and powerful.
  • Welcoming Father/Prodigal Son in Luke 15 paints a literal 3D painting of a dynamic homecoming where the scoundrel son gets welcomed with embrace, a ring, a coat, and the fatted calf.
  • Jesus meets Zacchaeus—a tax collector (boo/hiss)—while he is tucked in a tree and invites him home for dinner.
  • Jesus allows the woman to smother his feet with oil and dry them with her hair when this was not proper and worse yet, unseemly.

Jesus hangs out with strange people, doesn’t act according to custom, and models RADICAL love, welcome and table. The great commandment sums it up well: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and your neighbor as yourself!

The Jesus Center started in response to the love of God for the outcast, the stranger, the other, the “one who just doesn’t fit in.” And I’m so glad it did.

THE JESUS CENTER:
Started with trust.
Continued with tenacity.
Persisted with entrepreneurism and innovation.

The future will continue to require trust in the God who desires to feed those who he loves, tenacity in the face of a problem bigger than we are, and innovative partnership to face the overwhelming need of mental illness, trauma and addiction bundled up in poverty and hopelessness.

For forty years, we have been interested in radical stewardship: using what God has taught us, following where God leads us, working shoulder to shoulder with our community.

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Our pathway has been an honest expression of believers over 40 years living out God’s call to love the poor in the name of Jesus. Our pathway going forward will be no different.

Recently, we were asked again: might you change your name? The implication is that our name is a bit too “faith forward.” We emphatically say, “NO!” “We are honored and humbled to wear Jesus’ name on our name badges and have the letters hanging on our building. It is our prayer to give Him glory and to share His inexhaustible love with those who don’t feel lovable and to act in his name to help folks find a path to hope, salvation, health and housing.”

Won’t you join us for the first time with a monthly gift? How about $40/month in honor of our 40th Anniversary? Or, for you who have been donating, might you increase your commitment to express the love you have for your neighbor? Join us in continuing what was started all those years ago with love and gratitude!

Blessings,

Laura R. Cootsona
Executive Director

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