'Go and Do It!'
- December 7, 2022
Philip Kwiatkowski, a 1989 Moody Bible Institute graduate, is president of Pacific Garden Mission, Chicago's oldest rescue mission. “Moody equipped me for ministry,” Kwiatkowski said. “It was while I was a student at Moody that I came face to face with poverty, pain, and different cultures.” Photo by Lawrence Bohlin
by Jamie Janosz
Philip Kwiatkowski was a student at Moody Bible Institute when a message by one of his professors changed his life. As he closed his talk, Dr. Leonard Rascher seemed to look directly at Philip when he declared, “Go and do it!” His words left a lasting impression on Philip to “go and do” missions on a foreign field after graduation.
But God had a different mission field in mind. As he served as a student in inner-city ministry, Philip found his attention turning to the poor and the hopeless. “Moody equipped me for ministry,” he says, “It was while I was a student at Moody that I came face to face with poverty, pain, and different cultures. My time there was a great training ground for my work at Pacific Garden Mission.”
Feeding the hungry
Philip started serving at Pacific Garden Mission (PGM), the oldest rescue mission in Chicago, as a student at Moody Bible Institute. Today, more than 25 years later, he is PGM’s president.
“Jesus fed the hungry,” Philip says. “Besides the gospel, a starving man needs a sandwich. They need a place to sleep when it is 10 degrees below zero. There are very practical things people need, but we also find their hearts open to the good news of Jesus.”
PGM has been linked to Moody Bible Institute for more than 125 years. It was D. L. Moody, in fact, who suggested the name for the mission, founded in 1877. Since 1918, Moody has sent thousands of students to the mission to serve through Practical Christian Ministries assignments.
A neon cross outside the shelter is marked by two words: Jesus Saves. Every day, the “Old Lighthouse” welcomes men, women, and children to receive food and shelter but also hope and a future through the good news of the gospel. The mission provides 750 beds for men and 200 beds for women and children. A 600-person dining area serves residents three meals a day.
Newcomers to the mission learn that in addition to meeting their most pressing needs for a meal, bed, and a shower, PGM offers programs to help them recover from addiction, grow spiritually, and become productive members of society. The gospel is preached before every meal and before bed.
Facing new challenges
At the start of the COVID pandemic, 70 to 80 percent of the people arriving for help were COVID positive. “For the homeless, it was really traumatic,” Philip said. “They couldn’t stay home. They are homeless, and it was cold on the streets. To them, it felt like a death sentence.
There has been a surge in mental health needs among residents. “The state facilities have shut down a lot of resources,” Philip said. The mission has partnered with a local medical clinic to serve the needs of these residents.
“Ministry has to be holistic,” Philip said. “It is not an option just to pray with someone and give them a Gospel of John.
“Nine years ago we started a drug and alcohol recovery program. We have state-certified staff members, and the courts send people here. People hear about us and want freedom. We bring them in for 90 days to a Bible-centered program. If they’re coming off drugs, they need to stop using crack and heroin first. Then, after those 90 days, they can transition into a discipleship program.”
Changed hearts and lives
Heartache and success intermingle in this type of ministry. “This is a transitional facility,” Philip said. “You work with them and love them and then they’re gone. But there is great joy when they call you up two or three years later, and they are still walking with the Lord.”
Before he came to PGM, Angel Feliciano’s life was in a downward spiral. After coming to the United States from Puerto Rico, Angel suffered a failed marriage and escalating drug addiction. After hearing stories of life change on the mission’s long-running radio program Unshackled, Angel borrowed $10 for gas and drove to PGM in his pickup truck. It was there that he found freedom from addiction and gave his life to Jesus.
Today, Angel not only works at the mission alongside Philip but is a father, pastor, and Moody student. It was Angel who moved into the mission for an entire month during the peak of the COVID pandemic.
As a 20-year-old Moody student, Philip never expected that his “foreign” mission field would be on South Canal Street in Chicago. Today he is in his 34th year of service. “It has been a challenge and a blessing,” he said.
Pacific Garden Mission is equipped with 750 beds for men and 200 beds for women and children. Photo by Lawrence Bohlin