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A group of Roswell Church of Christ members sings during the dedication ceremony for the Village Initiative Inc. resource center.
Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.

‘There, but for the grace of God, go I’

Kansas church realizes its dream of opening a resource center for former inmates and drug addicts.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Roswell Church of Christ wouldn’t give up.

For years, the inner-city congregation struggled to realize its dream of transforming a one-time dry cleaners into “a one-stop shop for ex-offenders and substance abusers.”

But on a recent Sunday, the church celebrated the grand opening of the Village Initiative Inc. family resource center and re-entry facility.

Thousands of hours of sweat by volunteers such as elder Randy George and numerous donations — large and small — by Christians and community partners made the dedication ceremony possible.

Roswell Church of Christ members and leaders gather outside the one-time dry cleaners during the renovation process last year. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)

“We started not knowing how we would finish, but God put the right people in place,” said George, co-executive director along with minister emeritus James O. Maxwell.

Said Maxwell: “We dedicate the Village Initiative Inc. as a place of resources and of peace, serenity, fellowship, joy, compassion, support, devotion and love for all who need our services.”

James O. Maxwell and Randy George serve as the resource center’s co-executive directors. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)From the beginning, church leaders envisioned the center as a place where the downtrodden could seek employment, housing, food and clothing as well as services such as resume writing, computer training, marriage classes and money management seminars.

As Selena Gant, the director of operations, explains, the center is a living embodiment of Jesus’ Matthew 25 call for serving the “least of these.”

“We always remember that ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I,’” Gant said. “We do everything from helping find housing to getting their IDs to paying their utilities to getting them back on their feet.

“We thank God,” she added, “for his mercy and grace in allowing us — the Church of Christ — to be the one to serve in that capacity.”

Sanford Clarity, 47, thanks Roswell members for their support as he works to rebuild his life. “We just need your help and ask you not to give up on us, Lord,” he prayed. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)

As elder George sees it, Sanford Clarity offers all the proof that’s needed of the difference such a center can make.

Clarity, 47, entered one of the church’s transitional “houses of hope” about a year and a half ago.

Part of the clothing room at the resource center. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)
He shared his story before leading a prayer at the dedication.

“I’ve been in and out of jail and on drugs, off and on, all my life,” Clarity said. “But thanks to the grace of God and all the people with the Roswell church who supported me and welcomed me and helped me … I’ve been clean and sober for 17 months.”

As minister Artrell Harris put it: “If we wouldn’t give up on this building, you know we’re not going to give up on individuals. Everyone deserves a second chance.”

Filed under: Kansas National prison ministry urban ministry

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