Who We Are.
Miracle Mile Ministries is a Boston, MA based christian ministry devoted to a sustained, deliberate, and strategic response to the area we call "Miracle Mile" (a roughly 2-square-mile area in the South End of Boston often referred to as “Mass & Cass” or “Methadone Mile”).
It is led by a core group of four Boston area Lead Churches (Congregación León de Judá, Antioch Community Church Brighton, Cornerstone Church, and Symphony Church) but involves a universe of a dozen or so churches and parachurch ministries from throughout Boston's neighboring communities who faithfully support this effort week after week.
What would become Miracle Mile Ministries was born as an outreach of the Congregation Lion of Judah (the English translation of Congregación León de Judá), which is located in the heart of the South End’s “Mass & Cass Corridor”. This ministry began in 2012 as a weekly sidewalk outreach on Saturday mornings, serving coffee and making friends with people in the neighborhood around the church who were enduring homelessness and other needs.
In 2014 “the breakfast” moved into Lion of Judah’s basement fellowship hall, allowing the church to serve a fuller breakfast, year-round, and conduct an evangelistic service. Over time, volunteers from area churches and ministries would flock to the “breakfast”. Lion of Judah would serve as the nexus for a ministry to those experiencing homelessness and addiction that would be led by a collaboration of four Boston area “Lead Churches”, but sustained by an average of 20 to 30 volunteers a week drawn from area churches and ministries, including:
Hillsong Boston, Hilltop Church, Kings Hill Church, Aletheia Church, Church of the Cross, Ruggles Baptist Church, Boston Chinese Evangelical Church, Forest Hills Covenant Church, Reality Church, South End Neighborhood Church, Pentecostal Tabernacle, Youth with a Mission (YWAM), Unite Boston, the Black Ministerial Alliance (BMA), and the Emmanuel Gospel Center (EGC).
Over the last 10 years, every Saturday morning – whether amid a snowstorm or on Christmas Day – Miracle Mile Ministries has had the privilege of feeding and clothing anywhere from 60 to 100 guests each week, who come to us from the neighboring streets and surrounding shelters (including Woods Mullin, Pine Street, and Rosie’s Place). With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Miracle Mile volunteers have provided 100 sidewalk “to go” breakfasts and clothing each week, as well direct interaction with our neighbors at Rosie’s and the tent-dwellers on Atkinson Street’s tent encampment. That is nearly 800 guests each year – many of them struggling with the ravishes of substance abuse addiction, working hard on coming clean, getting on their feet, and achieving their destiny.
The Need for Miracle Mile Ministries.
Never has the crisis of homelessness and addiction in Boston been more stark, and never has the need for Miracle Mile Ministries been more ardent.
Perhaps the worst expression of Boston’s homelessness crisis has been the “Mass & Cass” tent encampment – located only a couple of blocks from the Congregación León de Judá – that at its darkest, according to a City of Boston survey, included 70 to 90 tents sheltering an estimated 143 human beings. Most of the tent dwellers reported widespread drug use (87% use cocaine or crack cocaine, 76% use opiates, 20% methamphetamines - see article here).
Even before the advent of Covid-19 and the tent encampment, there were a record high 2,106 opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts in 2020, up 5% from the year prior, and more than twice the national average (Mass.gov). The tent dwellers were but a fraction of the 6,192 homeless people living in Boston, according to 2020 Census data (see here).
All representing different levels of despair.
And most pine for freedom: of the tent-dwellers surveyed by the City of Boston, 95% reported they wanted access to housing, and 78% wanted access to a mental health care provider.
What We Do.
Boston’s humanitarian crisis has prompted a corresponding crisis of infrastructure, compelling Miracle Mile Ministries to evolve to meet these new challenges. Over time, Miracle Mile Ministries has become the host of some powerful initiatives (hence the plural, “Ministries”) that have deepened our capacity to minister transformatively to our guests, beyond a simple breakfast to those experiencing addiction or homelessness:
Since 2021, Miracle Mile Ministries is honored to serve as the adoptive home of the Emmanuel Gospel Center’s South End-based ministry to the homeless. The merger has blended Starlight Ministries ’extensive clothing and personal hygiene supplies with those of León de Judá’s existing “closet ministry”. And it has brought Sara Mitchell to Miracle Mile Ministries as an urban chaplain providing oversight of clothes distribution and conducting training in effective street ministry.
Using a case management approach, Together Initiative bridges the needs of our neighbors experiencing homelessness and addiction to community resources through intentional, Christ-centered relationships. Launched by Miracle Mile volunteers with a medical or clinical background, Together Initiative identifies guests desiring a breakthrough and steers them to area resources such as detox and rehab facilities, transitional housing, or employment.
Miracle Mile Ministries’ approach to ministering to those we encounter struggling with addiction and homelessness is straight-forward and biblical:
(1) Meet Their Immediate Needs
(2) Introduce Them to the Gospel
(3) Lead Them to Transformation.
(1) Meeting Their Immediate Needs
Matthew 25 is the raison d‘etre propelling Miracle Mile Ministries:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me . . .” Matthew 25:35-36(a).
From the start, our first response to that charge was to provide our Guests an actual breakfast (think, eggs and sausage and bread and muffins and fruit, along with steaming urns of coffee or hot chocolate or iced tea). Before the onset of Covid-19, we served these meals a la carte in the Lion of Judah fellowship hall where our Guests sat at tables covered in white linen. The pandemic forced us to become creative.
We set up tables out on the street (Northampton Street) in front of the church, packed the same full breakfast in “to go” containers, and served them to Guests who would form a single line that often reached from our door around the corner to the door of our neighbor, Rosie’s Place. On that street, we formed a “conveyor belt of love”. As a Guest approaches they first receive a spritz of hand sanitizer and a fresh mask (many of our Guests come to us wearing disposable masks that seem to have been worn for weeks). They are then handed a hot breakfast, a bottle of water, and are offered coffee or hot chocolate or iced tea. They walk past the “breakfast table” . . . and the live piano/guitar worship on the street . . . and approach our “closet table”: overseen by our adopted Starlight Ministry crew (as well as Miracle Mile volunteers who speak English, Spanish and Cantonese), Guests have access to men’s and women’s underwear, scarves, gloves, socks, t-shirts, coats and boots.
The pandemic actually served as inspiration motivating Miracle Mile Ministries to reach those in need beyond our walls. We began delivering Trader Joe’s groceries once a month to families and individuals living in “Section 8” and affordable housing units surrounding Lion of Judah – 20 grocery bags, each containing one loaf of bread, two bananas, two apples, two bags of lettuce, and one can of beans. Meanwhile, a team armed with sharps containers (provided by the Boston Public Health Commission) and refuse bags began collecting trash, and an average of 40 discarded hypodermic needles each month, from the sidewalks and bus stops abutting Boston Medical Center, Rosie’s Place, and the Woods Mullins shelter.
The Holy Spirit then called us to those trapped by their addictions and despair at the “Mass & Cass” tent encampments a couple of blocks away. We soon learned that offering a full breakfast here was counterproductive, and contributed to the unsanitary conditions of the encampments. Instead we prepared individual “Care Packages” containing personal hygiene products (soap, shampoo/conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, shaving cream, feminine personal care products) and a cookie. And a tract introducing them to Jesus.
(2) Introducing Them to the Gospel
Providing for the immediate needs of our Guests, in turn, provides Miracle Mile Ministries an opportunity to introduce them to the Gospel and its transforming power. Miracle Mile’s efforts are not limited to Saturday mornings, but take place throughout the week. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, we began with live worship at our “breakfast”, followed by a 5- to 10-minute exposition of the Gospel, an invitation to prayer, and one-on-one discipleship conversations around a table. Our “breakfast” would be followed by a brief Bible Study (attended by anywhere from 6 to 20 Guests). With Covid-19, and breakfast on the sidewalk, our piano and worship moved outdoors (including in the sleet and rain). We now set up a street corner “Prayer Booth” (literally with a sign that reads “Prayer here!”) ministering in the open air to our Guests – and in fact, to any passersby.
Ministering to the tent-dwellers at the “Mass & Cass” tent encampments required a different approach. Recognizing the charged environment of the encampment and the dangers of drawing a crowd, Miracle Mile volunteers moved from tent to tent, offering Care Packages (each containing a tract or a “Scripture Book”) and water, and inviting those we encountered to receive prayer – including to invite Jesus into their lives. Many of them have. And several have made their way to our mid-week Bible Studies specific to those experiencing addiction and homelessness: an average of 5 to 10 Guests attend either our Tuesday night Bible Study or our weekly Wednesday morning Bible Study (dubbed, “the Freedom Group”). And we are witnessing the impact of this outreach. In 2019, Lion of Judah’s last open air baptisms, 10 of our Guests – the limit of our bus – were baptized into the faith. Our Guests, many of them, are beginning a new life of freedom.
(3) Leading Them to Transformation
The ultimate goal of Miracle Mile Ministries is to see many of our Guests – even if not all – take their first solid steps toward a life free of despair and the bondage of addiction.
As other Miracle Mile, volunteers hand out care packages at the Atkinson Street “Engagement Center”, recovery specialists from our “Together Initiative” arrive armed with resource binders ready to refer anyone – who is ready for a change – to community services (such as detox and rehab facilities, transitional housing, or employment). Between June of 2020 and July of 2021, our Together Initiative workers made nearly 600 (591) follow-up calls to 64 Guests (those with working phone numbers). Not all, but many take us up on the invitation. On the weekend immediate following the City of Boston’s dismantling of the “Mass & Cass” tent encampment – a psychological barrier holding many back from pursuing their freedom – Miracle Mile volunteers drove no fewer than five Guests to detox and rehab facilities as far away as Worcester.
For many of our guests, their first steps to transformation involves church attendance.
A recent survey identified at least 36 men and women drawn from the Miracle Mile community who have attended services at Lion of Judah more than once over the last 18 months. More than half of them have either received their own apartments or are in transitional housing. Roughly two-thirds (62%) have been clean – free of illicit drug or alcohol use – for at least year. Others have successfully completed a residential treatment program.
Like “Jose”, who has been in and out of prison for most of his 40-year-old adult life, but is now in a residential program in Springfield, has been clean for over six months of an entrenched heroin/crystal meth addiction, and now aspires to become a drug rehab counselor himself.
Other Guests have become Miracle Mile volunteers themselves.
Like Jerome Williams.
“I was an alcoholic and drug addict,” Jerome shares.
In the three years since Jerome first came to Miracle Mile, Jerome has moved into his own one-bedroom apartment; he recently celebrated his first Christmas with his family in 45 years; and has become an indispensable member of the Miracle Mile Team.
“If I can change in the 60-something years I was doing alcohol and drugs, trust me you can change, too.”