Sutter: Love God, love people
by Longan Nguyen
Arloa Sutter of Breakthrough Urban Ministries in Chicago came at the beginning of April to speak for two chapel services.
Sutter started Breakthrough Urban Ministries in 1992 along with members of the First Evangelical Free Church to aid homeless people in the Edgewater and Uptown areas of Chicago.
Initially, Breakthrough fed homeless people by serving coffee and lunches in a small storefront room. The ministry received its non-profit status at the end of the year. Today, the Breakthrough Ministries offices are located in East Garfield Park in Chicago.
Cornerstone University President Joe Stowell is a longtime friend of Sutter’s and invited her to speak at chapel.
The main focus of her message to Cornerstone was if one loves God, one will also love people.
“The second day, I wanted to talk about how to do that because it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the needs of people,” Sutter said. “When you follow Christ, you feel God’s heart, and God’s heart is very much caring for the poor.”
While speaking at chapel, Sutter shared several accounts of miracles she witnessed while involved with Breakthrough.
“When we’re doing good works, people are drawn to Christ by what we do,” Sutter said. “It’s all of us together. So that they’ll see our work together.”
Sutter said she wished she would have remembered to share an account of an old woman named Emma she had aided in her declining health.
“When I was in college, I met Emma in a nursing home,” Sutter said.
“I went to a Medicare nursing home every week during the semester. She was an amputee, missing one eyeball and missing one leg. I was reading Scripture, praying to her, squeezing her hand. On the last day of the semester, I was going to say goodbye, [but] she was gone. She passed away the night before. She [left] me a little purse, which was all that she owned. I didn’t know that I was the only person on Earth visiting her, and I was wondering how many people like that are in the world.”
Sutter quotes Mother Teresa alongside this testimony, saying “The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair and hopelessness is love.”
“Chicago is a wonderful city,” Sutter said. “We get to learn about different cultural backgrounds as we get to know people, but we also have a dark side. There’s a food desert in our community. There aren’t grocery stores, so people can’t get food. Little corner stores have food, but it’s always old. They have to pay more money, and there’s no big chain that they can go to.”
While Sutter was in Grand Rapids, she had dinner with a group of students that recently went on a missions trip to Chicago, which was led by Gerald Longjohn, director of ministry development.
“Arloa is an incredible blend of humility and passion,” Longjohn said. “I so appreciate her willingness to simply encourage us to be more like Jesus [and] to realize that loving God and loving others are inextricably linked. As we love Him, we will love others more. As we love others more, our love for Him will grow. It was great and challenging to have that passion rekindled in our campus community.”
“I had a really great time interacting with Christ and learning about their passion for social justice and was very inspired by their enthusiasm,” Sutter said.
Sutter also had the opportunity to speak in Jeanette Banashak’s class, Urban Ministry: Poverty in the City. Banashak is an instructor in youth ministry at Cornerstone.
“I appreciated both her heart and mind when it comes to helping marginalized people,” Banashak said. “While her bottom line is that urban ministry is about relationships, she also stresses the need for a sharp mind.”
“I encourage the students to join a cause, a movement that will affect the lives of people who are poor,” Sutter said.