After every school day, Lighthouse Youth Center provides safe, encouraging, Christ-centered environments to children ages 10 to 18 in Milwaukee. Through its healthy outlets for recreation, consistent support for education, and welcoming opportunities for devotion, Lighthouse has reached thousands of children on Milwaukee’s north side, starting at Redemption Lutheran Church in 2006 and expanding to Garden Homes Lutheran Church in 2010.
Now Lighthouse has a new opportunity to reach children on Milwaukee’s south side: its third location opens this month.
James Buske, pastor and founding executive director of Lighthouse, says he spent years searching for the right opportunity to add a third campus. “I probably talked to 20 organizations,” he says. “I was down on my knee, willing to propose to a couple of them, but it just turned out that it wasn’t the right timing.”
The right timing came in July 2018 when several area pastors encouraged Buske to contact St. Andrew, Milwaukee. This congregation was considering closing its church and was thinking about donating its building for future mission efforts.
At a congregational meeting at St. Andrew in September 2018, Buske was given 15 minutes to explain Lighthouse’s mission and its vision for the third location.
Buske says he concluded his message by saying, “This is my promise to you: Lighthouse Youth Center will honor and build off your 123-year legacy of sharing the gospel on this corner. In 12 to 18 months, 30 to 50 neighborhood youth are going to be gathering here. We’re not going to be open just one day a week. We’re going to be open five days a week. Many of these kids don’t even know who Jesus is. So, I want to honor and build off of your legacy.”
By early October, St. Andrew had decided to donate its building to Lighthouse for the price of one dollar.
St. Andrew conducted its final worship service on Oct. 28, 2018. Lighthouse took possession of the building on Nov. 1, 2018. Now, a year later, Lighthouse is ready to open its doors to a new community of children who need to hear about Jesus.
Although the mission is the same, the ministry at this location will be different. Set in a community that is 70 percent Hispanic, Lighthouse’s Polonia campus will be conducting Lighthouse’s first bilingual ministry. This is also the first time that Lighthouse has owned its own building; the other locations are connected to congregational sites.
But Lighthouse is ready for the challenges. It has hired a Martin Luther College graduate who has already spent a year teaching in the Dominican Republic to serve as its site director. It also is working with area congregations to provide support and a church home to its students and families.
“We know God to be a God of faithfulness, and we know he’s going to be faithful in this process as well,” Buske said. “I’m super excited about Lighthouse and the continuation of its mission: to be a beacon for Christ to the youth of the community.”
Learn more about Lighthouse Youth Center at lighthouseyouthcenter.com.
Volume 106, Number 12
Issue: December 2019