Story and photos by Erik M. Lunsford
An anxious man walked into the fellowship hall of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church just as the homeless men and women gathered for breakfast. He needed urgent help from the pastor, the Rev. John Suguitan. Down the block, his friend had just been stabbed by a guy waving a knife.
Said Suguitan on his work with the homeless in Cincinnati: “This is anything but traditional.” He donned latex gloves, grabbed a first-aid kit and walked briskly out the door to find a man walking toward him with a bloody hand.
How does it feel to be an inner-city pastor?
“I love it. It’s who I am,” said Suguitan. He grew up in Chicago and likes to interact with people in the city. “A major difference is I get to proclaim Law and Gospel, and dispense [the] Means of Grace … Word and Sacrament.”
Suguitan is acutely aware of the joys and challenges of inner-city work. Often, men overdose on drugs or use the area surrounding the church as a restroom. The joy comes in bearing the mercy of Christ and caring for his flock.
Suguitan also serves as director of Welcome Home Collaborative, an agency that helps homeless men and women live in transitional housing while completing a life-coaching program that’s designed to get them off the street and into more permanent housing.
“I thank God every day for this privilege. If it weren’t for the [Specific Ministry Pastor] program and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, I wouldn’t be able to do this,” he said.
Suguitan continues to oversee the renovation of the historic church; helps Deaconess Kelly Jacobs with the Bridge Ministry for the homeless that includes meals, resources and Bible studies; and provides spiritual care for the men and women who come.
Erik M. Lunsford (email@example.com) is managing photojournalist for LCMS Communications.
Posted November 7, 2017