By Justin Rimbo
On his way to class one day, Lorne Hlad passed an odd-looking church with a sign in front that said “Jacob’s Porch.”
He ventured inside and discovered a community of university students eager to talk about faith. It was exactly what Lorne had been looking for. Jacob’s Porch is the ELCA campus ministry at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
As an undergraduate student, Lorne spent his first two years at the university without any involvement in a faith community. He started at Ohio State in 2004. After his sophomore year, Lorne was deployed to Iraq with his Army Reserve unit and returned to college in 2007.
“Upon returning home from war, I knew that I needed a community in which to wrestle with God. But I didn’t know where to begin looking,” he says.
Ohio State has more than 50 Christian campus ministries. “That was a bit overwhelming,” he says.
It’s been four years since that first visit to Jacob’s Porch. Today Lorne is a seminary student at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, an ELCA seminary in Columbus. Still living on the Ohio State campus, Lorne is “pastor” of the Porch’s living facility called the Covenant House.
Considering the needs of others above your own
Jay Gamelin, pastor of Jacob’s Porch, says the community at the Porch isn’t something that’s offered as an option but rather a “demand of the gathered. We take the idea that community is central and use that to guide our work and worship.”
Appreciation for community is what inspires residents of the Covenant House, a place where seven men live together in small rooms. They make an intentional effort to care for one another, which is a challenge when living in close quarters.
“At the beginning of each year, we put all the men’s names in a hat and draw ‘lots’ for rooms,” Lorne says.
“This reinforces our vision for the Covenant House. It’s not just a place to be where friends live together out of convenience, but it’s a place to understand sacrifice. We’re trying to live against the consumer mindset that says, ‘I will worship with, socialize with, and love the people with whom I choose.’ By drawing lots, we trust in God’s spirit to pair men together who might not otherwise consider living together.”
During their college experience, residents of the Covenant House are constantly redefining what it means to serve one another, as well as the world outside their doors.
“I knew living in an intentional community would involve personal sacrifice,” Lorne says, “but I had no idea how it truly is the core of healthy living among others. It’s especially in the little things like turning down your music so your brother can study, or cleaning up your dishes right away after you cook so your brother doesn’t have to clean a mess before he eats. All of these little things teach us a much larger, important truth about community. The goal is not to have clean pots and pans or a quiet house but to consider the needs of other’s above your own.”
A housing facility for women at Jacob’s Porch is underway.
A better way of living
The Jacob’s Porch Covenant House is on its way to becoming what Jay had in mind when it began four years ago.
“I wanted to see a community come together that would teach and mature disciples into sacrificial living,” Jay says. “It would teach living skills but more so teach (how) to live in love for one another, to truly put your own needs and wants aside to better a community.”
For Lorne, community isn’t just a momentary commitment. Living out our baptismal promise and sense of community is a lifelong journey, where God is at work creating disciples. And along the way, members of faithful communities like Jacob’s Porch and its Covenant House get to share in the joys and frustration that are a part of a life of grace.
“This is what really excited me about serving the Covenant House,” Lorne says. “I get to be there for six young men as they go through the identity crisis that is college. I’m privileged to point to a better way of living. It’s truly a blessing to be there for the guys when they feel as though they are up on the cross, and it’s so much fun to celebrate with them when they come across the empty tomb.”
Justin Rimbo lives in Arden Hills, Minn., with his wife, Angie, and their two children. On Sundays you can find Justin leading music for worship at Jacob’s Well in Minneapolis and Humble Walk Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minn.