Making an Impact in Gary

Rev. Delwyn Campbell is a man on a mission to Gary. His goal is to not only change the way people see the town, but also to lead people to discover their true purpose in Christ.

For Campbell, the mission is personal. He grew up in Gary and sees the potential in turning the city around through the work of the Lutheran church ministries. As an LCMS Strategic Mission Developer, he supports the health of the current Lutheran population in Gary and provides pastoral care to the congregation of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. His role also includes network building—finding financial supporters who will invest in these ministries long-term.

“Like all missionaries, there are two goals pulling us,” Campbell explains. “The work of the mission on the ground, and building and maintaining our network building.”

Building this network of financial support means that he’s on the road frequently, telling people about his work in the community and providing leadership support to Ascension Lutheran Christian School and Rebuilding the Breach, a transitional housing ministry for men and women.

Ascension Lutheran Christian School opened in 2017 and offers a rigorous Christian education to the children of Gary. Because Ascension did not qualify for state funding their first year, they had to rely on donor support to meet the demands of a new school budget. Now in their second year, they have grown to 35 students and will be able to acquire state funds. This will reduce the need for Campbell to raise financial support, and allows him to focus on getting the critical funds for the school renovation project.

“Last year we got to 50% of our network building goal,” Campbell explains. “It’s a great enterprise. We want more people to join us as we raise the remaining 50%.”

Besides the exciting growth at Ascension, Campbell also notes the life-changing work at Rebuilding the Breach, a transitional housing program that supports men and women struggling with poverty, homelessness, mental health issues and substance abuse. The Lydia House provides a safe haven for women while they acquire the skills necessary for productive, independent living. Campbell notes that the majority of the people who come to Lydia House are there because of financial issues.

“Of the people who come into the program, only 13% have drug, alcohol or mental health problems, while 87% have economic problems.”

In conjunction with Lydia House, The Bakery House operates as a Christian-training residential program for men struggling with drug and alcohol addictions. Last year, 23 people successfully transitioned to independence after living in one of the homes.

Although these kinds of successes are encouraging, Campbell believes there is more work to be done in Gary. His desire is for the Lutheran ministries to become a leader in developing a community-wide network that impacts the people of Gary.

“There are many projects done by a lot of people, but nothing that ties it all together,” Campbell explains. “Resources are not just money, but the desires of the people of Gary. Do they see a community that outlives them? If they see there is something in Gary, they will tell their kids to take root. We want to do more than just exist and we want to make an impact.”