Author: Mark P. Lazzara
Beginning fifteen years ago, in November 1999, Pastor Eric Johns launched Inner City Missions, a personal ministry specifically to highlight the plight of Buffalo’s hungry and homeless, and to seek ways to bring some relief to indigent populations. He chose to leave his own home and spend seven days and seven nights living among the homeless in shelters, in various public spaces, and limiting his meals to eating in soup kitchens just as the individuals he strives to help must do. Sharing this weeklong journey of essentially living outside was always effective in helping to raise public awareness, and bring much needed assistance for these struggling individuals.
As a result of his advocacy, in 2013 Pastor John’s ministry, Boxes of Love, delivered Christmas gifts to more than 3,000 families and 5,000 children. Pastor John and his wife Michele, also a pastor, make personal investments into the Boxes of Love Campaign every year to ensure this undertaking will never fail those they strive to serve. This year, however, the Boxes of Love Campaign and the mission to help the most needy among us, is itself, in grave danger of being homeless.
For years, Pastor Johns has held his services in the Buffalo Christian Center on Pearl Street in downtown Buffalo, and stored the goods and supplies for the Boxes of Love Campaign and his weeklong, homeless vigil at the Larkin Center for Commerce warehouse on Seneca Street. But, this year the tables have turned, and Pastor Johns finds his mission and ministry are homeless.
The Buffalo Christian Center has been dissolved, to support inner city missions – Johns was not one of them. The Larkin Center warehouse has decided to lease the space to a paying tenant (the space was donated to the ministry). While the new owner of the Center and owner of warehouse have agreed to work with Pastor Johns until the end of the year, the mission must find a new home after the new year. “In the 20 years I’ve been a pastor, this is the most critical situation we’ve ever faced,” stated Johns. “As the year comes to an end, we’re not sure what’s going to happen. We are fighting for our existence.”
Last year Johns indicated he was ready to pass the baton to the next generation of advocates. A major undertaking and responsibility primarily because Pastor Johns’ work is not paid by the church. The mission has received a boost from Pastor Michele Johns, Eric’s wife and team of dedicated women from the church, including the couple’s three daughters, Victoria, 20, Emilie, 18, and Mikayla, 15. The women have taken on the challenge of promoting the plight of the poor by taking to the streets and spending nights in a women’s shelter in support of the cause.
Other young people from his church are ready to take on the challenge as well. Tomaine Jordan, 25, became involved in the Johns ministry at age 9, along with Dezmond McClinton, 20, founder of Project Prevention, who began coming to the Johns’ vigil since he was 5 years old. Kahilil Wilson, 21, started with Johns efforts at age 12. All of these avid supporters understand the critical need of Pastor Johns’ work and have committed to carry on and support this service driven ministry.
This author can attest to the positive, powerful impact Pastor John’s ministry has on helping the poor because I had the honor staying on the streets with him in the late 2000’s. I also worked with him while I was on the Buffalo Christian Center Board of Directors and saw first hand the extraordinary commitment he makes day in and day out to do all he can to help the needy, the homeless, and the many refugees who struggle with meeting day-to-day basics. Now his ministry is in grave jeopardy and needs help. Please, for anyone who has ever experienced the work on behalf of Pastor John’s ministry, there could be no better time to lend your support. A small gift goes a long way with this mission.
Pastor Eric Johns and his ministry can be reached here, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by simply calling (716) 854-1001. One hundred percent (100%) of your donation goes to the poor and the homeless.
Photos: Victoria Johns