Cleveland Inner City Community Outreach Ministry

by Elizabeth Rattray

The youth who comprise the inner city outreach ministries of Christian Fellowship Foursquare Church (CFFC) in Cleveland are fed a stable diet of the Gospel of Jesus Christ from a very early age. That may shed light on the spiritual maturity they possess that is far beyond their years. “I never imagined years ago what would come of this” says Julie Hallum. Her vision for the youth in her neighborhood sprouted in the form of children’s Bible study. It began in the early 90s as meetings in the home she shares with her husband, Pastor Don Hallum and their children, Zach and Sallie. By 1994 the Hallum’s took the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the streets of Cleveland via a camper van. “We set up outdoors in a lot” every Wednesday night. Music, drama and the Word attract people from all walks of life, many unchurched, to bear witness to the love of Christ.

Seventeen year old Mike Selvage happened upon the ‘Street Reach’ ministry team setting up one Wednesday afternoon about four years ago. “I was just passing by” Mike confided, “I ended up hanging around, talking to people.” The next thing he knew, “I gave my life to Christ right there that day” at the ripe old age of thirteen. Selvage, who grew up unchurched, befriended members of the Hallum’s youth group. He now serves in their youth outreach ministry and plays the congas in the youth band, GCF (Greatest Common Factor).

On any given Wednesday afternoon, thundering beats of praise to the Lord waft from a small brick building on West 32nd Street in Ohio City, as GCF practices the gift of drawing people to Jesus through music. Other members of the band include 16 year old Zach and 12 year old Sallie Hallum, 14 year old Lauren Welch, 13 year old Kyle Marti and 17 year old Ray Monge. Ray writes and directs dramas for ‘World Changers’ drama team who perform at community events. Ray’s younger brother Justin works behind the scenes, taking his job of sound technician seriously. They have been cutting their spiritual teeth in street ministry for several years and the music and drama are only part of the outreach work of CFFC. Street Reach events offer face painting, puppet shows, food and more.

Julie Hallum’s ‘Overcomers’ ministry to elementary school age children starts by getting “them in fellowship and introducing them to church.” Kids prepare to move on to ‘U Turn’, the junior high and high school age youth group lead by Bob Dakdduk. The ‘U Turn’ youth help out with the ‘Street Reach’ ministry work, which is for all ages but focuses primarily on kids. According to Pastor Hallum, “The more youth present when the message is presented, the more that will come to salvation.” The venue includes music, games, prizes, lessons and dramas. It is ever growing toward providing “a place where unbelievers come to receive Jesus” says Don. Just as Jesus did, “The style of delivery is geared to accommodate a changing crowd” says Pastor Don, “without compromise or watering down the truth.”  The property houses a café, basketball cages, an indoor skate park with a half-pipe, foosball and video games. Adult mentors serve as Directors overseeing activities and providing security. But the work of running the café, games and music is all done by the dedicated youth of CFFC youth group ministries.

When the Hallum’s began they “mistakenly started out delivering the Word without concepts for activities that meet the interests of more youth” Don explains. It was upon that realization that varied activities were added to the message. Even with all of the training and support the youth workers receive, the challenge of sharing the Gospel with unchurched inner-city people is often daunting. They are regularly met with disinterest and seemingly clueless unresponsiveness.  Lauren Welch maintains that “Even if only one gets saved, it’s worth it.” The most discouraging times have come not from the community, but from within. More than once, youth leaders with whom they have bonded have left them hanging, with no warning.

The most common bond for the core group of kids who remain is their love for Jesus Christ and His call on their life. The cohesion of the group is clear. “We grew up together” declares Mike, as if they already had. They value the gifts God has given them in each other. When asked to describe them, the group breaks into chatter with Zach described as bright and able to shed light on situations they face. Ray is seen as creative and inspiring. Mike is creative as well. Kyle fills their need to be encouraged and Sallie’s cheerful nature can lift any gloom. Lauren is a commanding speaker able to draw a crowd’s attention back to Jesus.

A great joy recalls Julie Hallum, was “the first time we had an alter call, to see the kids flooding to the front and seeing our youth team ministering to other young people.” They witnessed weeping, healing and deliverance. The various outreaches to kids are supported in concert by CFFC tithes and offerings, contributions form other churches and a recent grant. Plans to expand the café and add equipment to a weight room are under way. The Hallum’s have a growing desire to accommodate more kids and provide a safe place to come and meet Jesus. Paid professional security protection will be in place this summer. Pastor Don is pleased with the cultural diversity of the more than 200 youth who have participated in their outreach events over the past year.

Help is always welcome, as they prepare to paint, complete basketball cages and other small construction projects. Several events are planned for the upcoming summer. For example, on July 5th at Wal-Mart on Brookpark Road, the youth will hold a fund raiser, selling hot dogs to purchase more kitchen appliances for the café. To get involved or learn more about coming activities, call Christian Fellowship Foursquare Church at 216-651-8069.  Abundant life exudes from the Calvin Hall, which is home to CFFC ministries, as members of a new generation of evangelists become fishers of men.

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