Hansen Finds Ministry Fit in Her Own Neighborhood
“God never ceases to amaze,” says Jodi Hansen. Hansen, executive director of Love INC (In the Name of Christ) in Newberg, Oregon, is speaking of seeing a $150,000 budget have an impact of $1,500,000, or witnessing an ecumenical group of leaders unite in their desire to serve the people Jesus calls “the least of these.” But she also speaks from what she’s experienced in her personal life.
Hansen describes herself as “an energetic, suburban, middle-aged mom and wife who loves Jesus and Newberg.” But seven years ago, Hansen’s sense of identity was in upheaval. Hansen recalls simultaneously grappling with crisis in her marriage, unplanned career loss, and an impending empty nest. After a season of despair, Hansen’s quest for answers drove her to enroll at Portland Seminary in 2009.
Looking back on her experience in the MA in Ministry Leadership program, Hansen says seminary was decidedly formational, pulling her out of the “rubble of identity deconstruction.” Everything prior to this period of reconstruction – all the struggle and hurt and also her leadership experiences in the corporate world – she now sees as God-ordained preparation for her part in “building Christ’s kingdom.”
Today, Hansen’s personal mission involves asking, “How can we become a sent people who also gather, versus a gathered people too busy in church to be sent into a hurting world?” She values the way her current role with the nonprofit Love INC gives her opportunity both to disrupt the evangelical status quo by repeatedly presenting this question, and to live into the answer.
Much of Hansen’s work is collaborating with church leaders, service organizations and volunteers in an effort to appropriately perceive and meet the needs of Newberg people who are materially, spiritually and socially under-resourced. Rather than duplicating existing services, Love INC creates “gap ministries” that make up for what the community lacks. Currently, Hansen is working toward a school-supply gap ministry, to support kids already receiving the weekend sandwich kits Love INC gives to children who qualify for free school breakfasts and lunches on weekdays.
People open up in conversation with Hansen. One pastor admitted to feeling disappointment at having seen not a single conversion to Christianity in many years. Hansen replied that she had seen probably nine conversions in the past year alone. “If you want to see people come to Christ, you’ve got to get out of the church,” she claims. Hansen is a licensed minister in Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends who has church pastoral experience, and she recognizes this bold statement might disturb some people. But she holds to these words, and illustrates with an example: The women at the Love INC’s women’s shelter share stories of past abuse, sexual exploitation, or of hearing they’re just irresponsible. The Love INC staff and volunteers listen and affirm these women’s actual high worth in Christ. “There’s no technique, no pitch,” Hansen states. “You just meet people where they’re at … and the next thing you know they’re asking to be baptized or to do a Bible study.”
“I’ve seen such freakish miraculous things at Love INC!” she exclaims. Hansen glows with enthusiasm as she shares story after story that reveals God bringing together her business acumen, her personal experience with despair, and her pastoral training, while showing her how to use all of it to share the gospel with others in the “mission field right in our own neighborhood.”
-Sierra S. Neiman