The Cleveland Dream Center Is Dispensing Hope
Raising up former gang bangers, former prisoners and various street people to deliver a message of hope.
by Kirk Rattray
By day, Doug Koorey creates brilliant jewelry, lovingly fashioning each piece into a beautiful and unique creation. On the weekends, he does the same thing-with people.
Koorey and his wife, Nancy, head an exciting new inner city ministry called the Dream Center. This fledgling venture in Cleveland has its roots in a movement started seven years ago In Los Angeles by then 19-year-old pastor Tommy Barnett. Finding indifference toward church attendance, Barnett took the church to the streets. He launched the adopt-a-block program, where volunteers "just started loving on the people" through community service and relationship outreach. Simple acts like raking leaves, removing graffiti or cleaning up vacant lots opened the door for evangelism, and "lives were being transformed."
Today, the LA Dream Center has grown into a 1,400 room complex covering several buildings and housing over 500 people. Since all ministry is "built from within", these ex-street people, gang members and prostitutes are taught Christian discipleship in serving 25,000 meals weekly to their community. Numerous counseling programs are administered to people who shun traditional church evangelism, and a mobile medical clinic visits their neighborhoods. Doug and Nancy visited in September, and were envisioned to start a Dream Center in Cleveland. Beginning with the adopt-a-block program, they now minister Saturday mornings in the East 30th-Central area of the projects. They are working to instill the "love one another attitude, instead of the kill one another attitude." So far, their success has been impressive.
This new attitude is exampled by the twenty- five or so volunteers who help the Kooreys fulfill the great commission every Saturday. Doug believes that "To make a disciple you have to show them what it is to be a Christian. You don't just give them a tract." Each volunteer can adopt up to five families and the Dream Center will help provide the families with clothing, shoes, appliances, service projects or any act of kindness that will help them see and experience the profound love of Christ.
The Dream Center is not only taking church to the streets, but also getting people to return to church. In an area where one church posted a "Don't knock, don't ask for anything, we can't help you" sign, two churches have opened their doors. Zion Lutheran Church appeals to older people who are accustomed to a traditional church, and Embassy Life Center grants space to the Dream Center to operate. Because of these efforts, home Bible studies are being started where neighbors were once afraid of each other. Perhaps the greatest witness of the Gospel was on Halloween night, when over four- hundred people, mostly children, attended the Dream Center's Hallelujah Party. Koorey felt the need to provide this event "So kids wouldn't have to walk the street that night." He heard from God. Four teens within walking distance were killed by gunfire that night.
Surprisingly, the Dream Center has met with little resistance from the inner-city neighborhood. Doug attributes this to the fact that "all we are doing is giving. We're not expecting anything in return." He cites the book of Romans and continues. "There's no law against loving people. Love and law are opposed to each other." The success of this ministry might be the Koorey's philosophy to restore people to godliness, rather than run an evangelism program, Doug believes that "the distinct difference is not to just give a handout, but a hand up."
What makes the Dream Center different from other ministries is what Nancy calls a "blending of ministries." Since "we have to meet the needs of the whole man; mental, physical and spiritual" the Dream Center invites other ministries to work with them by pooling their talents and ideas. Already, five other food ministries are linked with the Dream Center. The Koorey's goal is to "network to get the job done in the worst part of town and have it spread throughout the city." An example is that the Nation of Jesus ministry is now aboard. The witness of these former gang members and prisoners powerfully impacts the projects area. Nancy relates the story of the Nation of Jesus influencing an East Cleveland school, where "all the hoodlums and rowdy kids" were silenced by the testimonies and boot-camp program run by the ministry, and where administrators were awed by this display. Now, the Nation of Jesus runs a coffeeshop on Friday nights, and the community is served one additional evening because of the blending of different ministries.
The best example of ministry blending is that the Assembly of God affiliated Dream Center has also come under affiliation with the Foursquare Denomination. This will allow the L.A. Dream Center, starting this Easter, to hold their 44 weekly services in historic Angelus Temple, former home of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson!
From a humble start as a church plant seven years ago in Los Angeles, the Dream Center is now in over two hundred churches worldwide, including Moscow, Peru and England. An emphasis on servant evangelism, coupled with the blending of different ministries makes the Dream Center an exciting new expression of God. All it takes to be part of this movement in Cleveland says founder Nancy Koorey, is "to leave pew-land and get out into lost -land."
To contact the Dream Center, call 216-391-4884 or visit the national website at www.dreamcenter.org. You are about to enter harvest zone.