CAMPUS MINISTRY GETS ... BIG BOOST FROM BISBEE FUND
By Dave Stave
Observer Staff Writer
It's not every day that Dan Mielke is able to bank a large check for Koinonia House.
But that's exactly what happened this week when Meleah Sheehy and Sharon Porter, members of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, stopped by the campus-ministry house at 900 Sixth St.
Sheehy and Porter handed Mielke, campus pastor for Koinonia House for the past 13 years, a check for $5,000.
"It's a big boost," Mielke said of the Bisbee Grant. "It's a huge encouragement, a shot in the arm."
The money will go for a major capital project at Koinonia House, such as installing new carpet.
Koinonia House, developed 30 years ago across Sixth Street from the Eastern Oregon University campus, is dedicated to the mission of leading young adults along the path of becoming devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
It does this through fellowship activities, spiritual training, worship and service.
The grant came from the Bisbee Fund of the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon, Porter and Sheehy explained.
Mielke said the check came at a time when Koinonia House has seen a decline in funding
Some of the La Grande churches that traditionally have supported Koinonia House have cut back their contributions.
This includes St. Peter's, which had to reduce its regular donation to care for needs within its own congregation, said Sheehy, a member of the church's service outreach committee.
Along with Koinonia House, St. Peter's helps support other charitable community organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Neighbor to Neighbor Ministries and Shelter From the Storm.
Realizing the church was reducing its direct support for Koinonia House, Porter stepped up to apply for the Bisbee Grant.
Friends come through
Mielke said since funding has declined, Koinonia House's annual budget no longer provides a salary for him. He has moved in the direction of self-support, seeking monthly contributions from friends and long-time acquaintances.
Koinonia House's $15,000 annual budget goes for utilities, insurance, snacks and study materials for students.
Some of the funds also go to Mielke's son, Steve, a campus ministry intern for Koinonia House. The younger Mielke does custodial work and heads the Koinonia House band, which leads worship at Nite Life meetings on Thursdays.
Dan Mielke, who works 20 hours per week at Koinonia House, is pastor of Union's First Baptist Church. He also is the former director of Eastern Oregon Youth for Christ.
Churches that founded and continue to support Koinonia House include St. Peter's, First Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church, First Christian Church, Zion Lutheran and Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church.
Porter, a member of the Koinonia House board, made it clear that the purpose of the campus ministry is not to push students into becoming Episcopalians or joining any of the other supporting churches.
Koinonia House, she said, "is a place where they (students) can examine the questions they encounter in their faith journey."
"It's never been an issue of what the churches can get out of this," he said.
"It's always been an investment to help students become strong, committed disciples of Jesus Christ."
At the same time, Mielke said he encourages students to find a church where they can worship and get involved.
"We are not a church," he said of Koinonia House. "We make a concerted effort to encourage the students to connect with a local church."
About 150 students pass through Koinonia House each quarter and about 50 attend events regularly.
Mielke is leading a Bible study on the life of Jesus as seen in the Gospel of John on Sunday evenings at Koinonia House.
Other weekly activities include the student-led Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings on Wednesday nights, and Nite Life on Thursdays.
Mielke said in leading the Nite Life discussions he focuses on discipleship issues with the young adults.
One topic might be restoring a broken relationship with a friend or family member, he said.
"What happens when you mess up a relationship with someone? How do you re-establish a relationship with that person?"
Mielke said dating and marriage also are popular topics among the students.
"We're helping students move into young-adulthood," he said.
A focus of Christianity is to "bear each other's burdens," the campus pastor said, and maturity involves responding to the needs of others.
The idea, he said, is "I am becoming a resource instead of a mere consumer of other resources."
Mielke said many of the students attending Koinonia House activities come to appreciate the positive differences that the Christian life has to offer them.
"People come here because they are hungry for the abundant life, and they can find that in the good news of Jesus Christ."