St. Louis is nicknamed “The Gateway to the West,” positioned as it is along the Mississippi River, peering up at the stainless steel arch of architect Eero Saarinen’s memorial. Judy Lamborn likes to think of it as a gateway to hope, a gateway to hitting the “reset” button on life.
“We are the gateway to new possibilities. That’s what the hope for St. Louis really is,” said Lamborn, the outreach director at the St. Louis Dream Center.
The St. Louis Dream Center aims to be that gateway, both a church and an outreach ministry, founded in North St. Louis by Joyce Meyer and her husband, Dave Meyer, in October 2000.
The bestselling author and Bible teacher had been inspired by a visit to the Los Angeles Dream Center, according to Evan Cox, domestic outreach project manager for Hand of Hope-Joyce Meyer Ministries. She already had ministries that were national and international in scope, but she wanted to do something local – something that would impact the city where she had grown up, the area where her ministries are headquartered.
Nearly 15 years later, Cox said, in an underserved area of the city where residents have grown used to well-meaning people coming to help and then leaving, “people see us as a cornerstone of the community.”
And, he said, “It’s all centered around making people’s dreams come alive again.”
Where people can dream again
It’s easy to lose sight of those dreams in an area like North St. Louis, according to the center, in a neighborhood where many residents may not have identification or a formal education past elementary or junior high school, even when it’s just 10 minutes from mansions and parks and trendy coffee shops. Many don’t have the resources to move forward, it said.
“Living in the inner city, going through some of the challenges economically, socially, there can be a tendency to lose sight of the fact that God does have a plan for your life,” said Tony Gilmore, director and senior pastor of the St. Louis Dream Center.
“And so the dream center is designed to be almost His namesake. It’s to create an atmosphere and environment where people can dream again.”
The center does that through the Adopt-A-Block program it started with a few volunteers before they were a congregation.
It feeds the hungry at its food pantry, a weekly café, an after-school meals program and a traveling grill ministry. It runs a clothing boutique and a yearlong residential discipleship program to help adult men in their struggles with drugs, alcohol and other problems. It seeks out the homeless living in the streets, reaches out to the elderly living in nearby nursing homes and brings KidzJam, its “carnival on wheels” to children in the neighborhood.
It now averages about 600 to 700 people at its Sunday services and has given away more than 600,000 meals so far this year, according to the center.
Not just meeting physical needs
But the St. Louis Dream Center’s outreaches aren’t just about meeting the physical needs of the community. It’s about reaching out to people on a deeper level, inviting them into mentoring relationships and ultimately a relationship with Christ that will meet their spiritual needs.
And, Lamborn told OUTCRY, “There is nothing more rewarding than leading someone to the Lord and seeing them light up and see there’s a chance for something better than what they currently have.”
You can be reset to your original purpose.
Instead of losing sight of your dreams, you can lose sight of your challenges and problems in light of how big God is, Gilmore said.
“That’s what I feel like we offer here,” he said. “No matter where you come from, no matter how bad your story is, the God of all creation wants to reset your life and give you a purpose and a plan that not only affect you, but affects your family line for generations to come.”