2018 Lehotsky Lazarus Award
Daniel Schuster – Jesus Loves You Society (JLYS) in Calgary, AB
The Lehotsky Lazarus Award was formed to honor the late Rev. Harry Lehotsky, who was a man willing to stand up and look out for people’s welfare in the Winnipeg community, and help them gain new life. He brought hope and compassion to a community that appeared to have none. We present this award at the NAB Triennial Conference to those who demonstrate a commitment to transforming lives within their own community. At the 2018 Triennial Conference in Edmonton, Alberta, we were blessed to award the ‘Lehotsky Lazarus Award’ to Daniel Schuster, of the ‘Jesus Loves You’ Society (JLYS) in Calgary, Alberta.
Daniel grew up in a North American Baptist church alongside his dad, Pastor Sieg Schuster. While attending high school in Manitoba, Daniel first met Harry Lehotsky. He even helped Harry take pickaxes to the basement of one of Harry’s first ministry houses and was blessed to see first-hand the relationships Harry was building within the community. It was these memories that began to nurture the seeds that would eventually blossom into the ministry you now see at JLYS. Daniel later served as a youth pastor for Central Baptist Church in Edmonton and then Brentview Baptist Church in Calgary, but he always felt God calling him to do something more with his life. So, in 2003 he found clarity from God and stepped out in faith to care for a broken group of people in the Calgary community.
Over the past 15 years, Daniel Schuster has faithfully led the Jesus Loves You Society ‘Centre for Families’ in downtown Calgary. This non-profit, charitable organization attempts to reach out and serve ‘low income’ or ‘working poor’ single moms and children.
JLYS strives to nurture their physical and emotional needs. They create a supportive environment where they can rest, be vulnerable, forge friendships and share a healthy home-cooked meal together. It’s a safe place for them to share the hurts and joys, share stories, cry and laugh with each other.
JLYS provides them with groceries from their food bank and gently used clothes that were graciously donated, and helps them secure housing when needed. If there is a need, they do everything they can to help meet that need. They also aim for their faith to be strengthened and hope to be renewed, through encouragement and prayer. The JLYS serves as a safe place for God to be at work in their lives.
They even created a space for the children where they can laugh, play, be creative and truly find joy in their lives.
While the ‘Centre for Families’ is structured around five consistent meal gatherings each week, it essentially serves as a resource ‘hub’, providing advocacy for those trying to maneuver through Child and Family Services, the ‘Alberta Works’ welfare system or the complexities of the legal structures, as well as helping to write resumes, find employment and do whatever is necessary to become the hands and feet of Jesus. Daniel shares that “at any given time, the ‘Centre for Families’ consistently cares for about 300 low income moms and their children”.
The Jesus Loves You Society receives no government funding and operates with only 2 full-time and 3 part-time staff, but continues to thrive through the selfless generosity of the committed team of volunteers. Daniel Schuster and this team of servant leaders certainly do not work to achieve notoriety or recognition in the arena of social justice. Neither are they concerned with simply raising awareness regarding the issues facing women and children in poverty. Instead, they choose to simply live out the profound truth of Jesus’ love, proving a sense of worth to those who struggle with discovering hope and dignity.
Under Daniel Schuster’s visionary leadership, the Jesus Loves You Society has truly embodied the Biblical principle found in 1 Peter 4:8-11 (MSG), which declares, “Most of all, love each other as if your life depended upon it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless – cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, Gods’ bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything.”
2015 Lehotsky Lazarus Award
Jake McGregor – 180 Youth Programs in Lodi, CA
Jake McGregor from 180 Teen Center in Lodi, CA was awarded the 2015 Lehotsky Lazarus Award at the North American Baptist Triennial Conference in Sacramento, CA. Jake and his wife, Alison, felt called to “answer the call of many Lodi teens.”
The 180 Youth Programs came about when the police department and leaders of the local churches came together to ask the question: “Can the church help us?” Jake remembers that without hesitation, the reply was “of course! We are the local church. That’s where we are supposed to be.”
Although they knew this is something they needed to do, they also knew building a teen center was too big of an undertaking without cooperation of their friends, the local church, and most importantly their Father in Heaven. Church leaders began praying and asking for God and the community for help. That is when a 5,300 square-foot warehouse, in the perfect location, was generously leased to 180 for $1 a year. Soon, individuals and businesses began to catch the dream to help teens, and donated $280,000 in cash and other needed resources. Again and again, they saw people give of their time and money to the Teen Center.
180 Youth Programs is now helping troubled teens that are living at, or below, the poverty line in the Lodi and Stockton, California, area. The have a teen counseling center, run by Jake’s wife Alison, that works cooperatively with school counselors at helping at-risk kids. With the area having a lot of gang violence, their after school programs help protect these kids and help them avoid becoming involved in these gangs.
They have a program that involves a renovated RV, which is used to go out to the skate parks and create connections with kids on location. Jake has worked tirelessly to connect the local churches in his area with the ministry and has a proven track record of building the bridges necessary for the ministry’s success.
They don’t necessarily look to get every one of the kids into the church, but rather to help change their lives, and allow them to see the Gospel through the ministry.
“Through the years, one thing has remained the same: 180 Youth Programs remains committed to showing an emerging generation what it means to thrive physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”
2012 Lehotsky Lazarus Award
Pastor Jeff Russell – New Beginnings Church in Kokomo, IN
Pastor Jeff Russell from New Beginnings Church in Kokomo, IN was awarded the 2012 Lehotsky Lazarus Award at the North American Baptist Triennial Conference in Orlando, FL. Pastor Jeff exemplifies the qualities of leadership and ministry that best represents the spirit of the award.
Pastor Jeff’s story is really one of “new beginnings”. When Harry Lehotsky began his mission ministering to the needs of Winnipeg’s inner-city community, Pastor Jeff was part of that mission. Jeff came alongside Harry, serving and ministering mainly to those suffering from addiction issues and in need of our Savior’s healing and a new beginning! Pastor Jeff felt his calling to continue to be that servant, moving his family to Kokomo, Indiana. Pastor Jeff moved with the mission to serve his Lord God passionately, giving of himself to others because of what Jesus did for us. As you listen and see the youtube video below, you will clearly see that he lives his life to glorify God by leading others to see the wonderful work God is doing in their lives and to help them rely on God to be their source and strength.
Pastor Jeff has often said, “The longer I am in the ministry, the more I realize that it is not the programs, personalities, or projects that bring forth a God-honoring ministry. It comes from ‘the heart of God,’ and is birthed in those who seek His heart and will, via the Word of God and prayer!” Simply put, Pastor Jeff is our example of a true Christ-like Pastor, coming alongside those who have lost their hope and way, being a burden bearer and a person who truly loves people…”people who love people.”
To plant the New Beginnings Church in Kokomo, Indiana required someone who was passionate in what they did and could inspire others to partner with them. The needs and problems in the Kokomo community required someone who would go out to the hospitals, to the addiction clinics, into people’s homes and provide family funerals to those who were un-churched. This basically meant meeting people where they were and standing beside them through their trials, ultimately building the Church one needy soul at a time! When you speak with our brothers and sisters at New Beginnings Christian Fellowship, you will quickly realize how many came to know the Lord through this Church building model and Pastor Jeff’s servant attitude to ministry.
Could you ever imagine being called to a new start Church, burying two sons, a grandson, and wrestling with stage four cancer??? (sounds a lot like another man we’ve heard of … Job!) For our dear Pastor Jeff, no sacrifice is too great and so little is expected in return. For us at Kokomo, Pastor Jeff has been called by God to reach individual souls in our community and he does this with such love, only for the glory of God!! He has sacrificed much, for others to live!
2009 Lehotsky Lazarus Award
Pastor Sam Slaffey – Christian Compassion Baptist Church in Philadelphia, PA
Pastor Sam Slaffey from Christian Compassion Baptist Church in Philadelphia was awarded the first ever Lehotsky Lazarus Award at the 2009 North American Baptist Triennial Conference. Pastor Slaffey has been described by Pastor Larry Burd (Atlantic Association Regional Minister) as a man who is “God honoring, passionate, inspiring, encouraging, selfless, caring, and a community builder who takes action. He always seems to have a smile on his face and a testimony of God’s transforming work in his life and in the lives of many people he ministers to.”
Christian Compassion Baptist Church is located in one of the most poverty stricken areas of South Philadelphia – the Point Breeze/Grays Ferry section. Here many people including whole families live in dilapidated and abandoned houses. I have preached the funerals of infants who died because of exposure to bitter winter temperatures. I have visited homes where five or more children slept in one bed or on piles of old coats. I’ve had to feel around in the dark to find a milk crate to sit on as we gathered around a single candle to read the Bible.
Children as young as eight years old are trained by their parents to sell cocaine. Some youngsters at age twelve are already hooked on alcohol or the devastating drug “crack”. Young women and girls sell their bodies for as little as $2.50, half the price of a packet of cocaine. Incest is a common practice in some families. Young men, as young as nineteen and twenty-two are gunned down or knifed to death in this deadly enterprise of drug dealing. Older people are robbed in broad daylight. Many men and women are illiterate, unemployed, and frustrated to the point of chronic depression. Many contemplate suicide.
With various programs, we minister to the homeless with clothing and food. We help persons addicted to drugs and alcohol by leading many to Christ and developing them spiritually as we see them through rehabilitation.
Although it is sometimes dangerous, we interact with various gang members and have seen the Lord deliver them from that lifestyle. Some who were members of the “Bloods”, the “Crips”, and other gangs are now born-again believers. Some armed drug dealers have given up that “occupation” to follow the Lord Jesus.
Because 78% of all African-American families in the US are headed by females (in 1987 Philadelphia had the highest rate of unwed mothers in the nation), it is a major ministry of our church to give them hope by leading them to Jesus. We teach them parenting skills, personal hygiene and health care, while exposing them to governmental programs to enhance their lives.
Many children, teens and young adults do not know who their fathers are, or where their mothers are. So the church provides positive role models for them. They learn Biblical principles wheile they have fun and enjoy positive social activities.
Single men and women are encouraged to live godly lives. Bible classes, wholesome events, and workshops are key motivators.
It is a priority to reach out to persons who have spent time in prison, both male and female, leading them to Christ. They are assisted in their search for employment, education and housing.
The church’s Eden Ministry focuses on strengthening relationships of engaged and married couples. They are supplied with tools to help them practice good communications and demonstrations of real love.
It is the Lord that gives us wisdom and compassion to serve our fellow man in these dilemmas.