Gateway Church Downtown
A big big thank you!
As part of its mission to “Serve the City,” Gateway Church Downtown Cleveland opened its doors to first responders serving Cleveland during the four days of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio last month. Located about 1 mile away from the main attraction at The ‘Q,’ Gateway Downtown was strategically located within the “soft” security zone.
Things began a bit ominously with a protest in front of Gateway Downtown on Sunday night before the convention (see above picture). But the men and women exercising their First Amendment rights were peaceful and escorted by a host of police. This calm and respectful voicing of concerns was a foreshadow of just how laid back the Convention would be.
Though things remained largely calm, it was warm. And they city’s police, fire, and rescue divisions were working long hours. At Gateway Downtown, they found cold drinks, fresh premium coffee, granola bars, and pastries from a gourmet bakery in downtown Cleveland. Perhaps appreciated most of all was cold air conditioning and clean restrooms.
Though things remained largely calm, it was warm. And they city’s police, fire, and rescue divisions were working long hours. At Gateway Downtown, they found cold drinks, fresh premium coffee, granola bars, and pastries from a gourmet bakery in downtown Cleveland. Perhaps appreciated most of all was cold air conditioning and clean restrooms! Other times they enjoyed a moment to sit down, perhaps before beginning a grueling shift, as these Cleveland EMS and private EMS technicians did with our mission team from New Providence Baptist Church (Loudon, TN).
The one department that probably spent the most time with us was the Cleveland State University Police Department. This was a fantastic turn of events as our location near Cleveland’s Campus District makes these officers some of the most likely ones to run into.
On Monday night, a gay Republicans group held the “most fab party” of the RNC across the street at the Wolstein Center. Scores of Cleveland and CSU bike patrols stood on guard as the right-wingers were protested first by no-Gospel hate preachers unhappy with their homosexuality and then a left-wing gay group unhappy with their conservatism. After a rather uneventful hour or so, they took turns making use of those restrooms.
Although we did a lot of quiet outreach to the three major departments in Cleveland (quiet to avoid jeopardizing the officers’ security), details about the RNC were held pretty close to the vest, and it was difficult to know how to best serve those guys. That meant we often had to improvise.
When we could, we loaded up a wagon and took as many cold drinks as possible down to Public Square where most of the protesting activity took place. We distributed drinks to the first responders along the way but then any others who seemed to be in need as one of our church’s elders and a volunteer from Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church (Jefferson, SC) did below.
Sometimes this allowed us to spark conversations with protesters to learn about their concerns or simply to pray with people in need like these courageous young women from New Providence:
For the Cleveland Firefighters, we worked out a different arrangement with their union. Knowing they would have about 30 guys locked downtown and unable to get out for dinner, they asked us if we could provide some boxed dinners for their guys. Procured again from a local Cleveland shop, we were able to provide meals for those guys each of the four nights of the convention.
All in all, we probably averaged about 20-30 officers and technicians come through our doors each day, and dozens were served at their locations throughout downtown. Tremendous goodwill was created between our church and the various city departments and the CSU Police. While we would have liked to have sparked more Gospel conversations, we understood that most personnel had little time for conversation while on duty.
Continue to pray for these individuals that we might continue to be a part of their lives and interact with them for the sake of Christ and His Gospel!
We could not have done this without the help and support of Cleveland Hope, the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, Lifeway, Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, and New Providence Baptist Church as well as many individuals who leant a hand, including through many, many prayers.
--Chris Schwab, Lead Pastor