Meeting a Community’s Needs: Laundry & More

by Wade Apel, Pastor, Servants of Christ Lutheran Church, Indianapolis

On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer.  – Acts 16:13

For centuries people would gather at the river to wash their clothes together.  They would catch up with the major events going on in each other’s lives over washing, folding, and drying.  Then they would do it all over again the following week.  That ancient practice strengthened the community in so many intangible ways.  This is one of many goals of the Laundry & More program that was birthed out of Servants of Christ Lutheran Church and the City of Lawrence.  Together with the police department, social workers from the school district, and many other wrap around services in the community, this sort of community is being built again.    Each person receives financial assistance to clean their clothes and a meal.  While they wait, there are opportunities for job placement, housing, identification, and other wrap around services and of course, prayer.

My time at Wabash helped me to see that this project needed to happen at the intersection of church and society.  It became evident quickly that the church could not do this project on its own.  Not with the number of volunteers needed or did we have people with the right skills.  So before we started, we invited the police department and the school system to join.  Before we knew it the health department wanted to provide services and other community organizations from non-profits to businesses were joining with us in this ministry.  People from all aspects of the community were coming together so that children would have clean clothes for school and adults would have clean clothes for work.  It is beautiful and God shows up each week.  We were developing an attitude that anything that the church does out in the community would be done with 50% people from outside the membership of the church.

Why is so loud in here?! That is often the comment that I hear from visitors who stop by Laundry & More to see what is going on.  My response is always, isn’t it beautiful?  We are building a community and washing clothes at the same time.  Neighbors are meeting each other.  Everyone is helping each other, and people are looking forward to doing their laundry not for clean clothes, but for the hugs and smiles from the people they will see.  In a community that suffers from gun violence on a weekly basis, this time is an oasis and safe haven.

When I think about the impact that Laundry & More is making, I think about Susan.  She has recently moved into the area and due to the high crime in the neighborhood, she does not know many of her neighbors.  When she comes to the laundromat, she feels safe, accepted, and loved.  She said, where is your church, I would love to come!  My reply is that when you come to the laundromat, you are coming to church. 

If you are interested in learning more, donating, or coming to check out Laundry & More, visit:

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