Three days can make a difference.
A short-term mission team of plumbers, electricians and framers from Southeast Christian Church proved it March 14-17 as they worked to transform a vacant building in Alton, Illinois, into a space for ministry called The Post.
That team says they’ll never look at an empty building the same way again.
As they drywalled, wired walls for electricity and installed plumbing, Alton’s historic post office surrounded by vacant buildings became close to usable as a hub for missional living. It will be a place where people in Alton can incubate businesses, meet for coffee or breakfast, celebrate a wedding—a space where churches can meet to work together to revitalize their community.
The team partnered with author/pastor Hugh Halter, who moved his family to Alton to be near his adult son with special needs. Among the vacant buildings, Halter sees promise. He founded the Lantern Network in 2017 as a nonprofit community outreach organization.
Southeast Community Pastor Jon Weiner met Halter at a conference, and the two began talking about a partnership.
“I bought into the dream that The Post could be a sort of front porch for the Alton community,” Weiner said. “The power of the Gospel will do that as churches and the community work together. One of our goals was to help people see the potential when we pool our resources and work together as the church. God always does more than we ask or imagine.”
From the time they pulled into town, it was clear this team was in the right place.
Alton stands on a hill above the Mississippi River. The town that has fallen on hard times was once a hub of history. It’s where the 13th Amendment to the Constitution ending slavery was written by Lyman Trumbull. In 1858, some 5,000 people gathered at Alton City Hall to hear Abraham Lincoln debate Stephen Douglas. Lincoln lost the Senate race in 1858 but beat Douglas in the 1860 race for the U.S. presidency.
It’s where an African-American pastor was lynched. Later the town became a stop on the Underground Railroad as slaves crossed the Mississippi to begin life in the free state of Illinois.
As industry and job opportunities changed, more than 20,000 people left Alton. Now the hub of activity in town is a casino down the hill.
Southeast member Vince Mansfield served as project manager on the trip.
“Every single person on this trip used their skills to accomplish a lot in a short period of time,” he said. “Hugh Halter is investing in the community. Our group went to help that vision take shape. He’s building a relationship with everyone who comes across his path. That’s the key. He’s investing in people. The work will continue as people go into that space and learn about ministry opportunities.”