Southeast Ministry is a grassroots social justice ministry of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation that listens to the needs of the community and develops culturally sensitive education programs that address the root causes of social problems such as poverty, illiteracy, and violence.
Southeast Ministry will provide a ministry of hope for men and women in a safe and respectful environment through education, job readiness, and other programs that build self-esteem, transform lives, and help those involved realize their God-given abilities.
The following core values reflect the essential and enduring tenets and philosophy of our work together. They are the basis for our mission and for all our goals and activities. They are the principles that unite us with one another – program participants, volunteers, staff and partners.
- Programs and activities are participant-oriented. The first consideration is always the participant rather than staff, budget, or convenience. All services must impact participants positively or they will not be delivered.
- Education, both individually and communally, is the path out of poverty.
- Each participant has worth and is to be respected no matter what their status appears to be, as long as they are willing to work.
- Staff will work with those who are willing to work to develop their potential.
- Southeast Ministry will be honest with participants in promoting the program and assessing participant ability.
In 1990, Pastor Wanda McNeill together with Roger Truehart founded Southeast Ministry with the support of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation and the Metropolitan DC Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Its goal was to attentively listen to the needs of the community and respond with care and sensitivity. The programs they developed were designed to address the root causes of poverty, illiteracy, and violence. The first program launched was called Books & Balls which, ran from 1988 until 2003. It was a year round recreational league that went into the public housing complexes to recruit basketball, softball, and flag football teams with their own coaches, as well as providing after school tutoring. In 1994, in an effort to assist women who were receiving public benefits move towards self-sufficiency, GED classes were offered onsite at Woodland Recreation Center. Southeast Ministry was incorporated in the District of Columbia in 1994 with an 11-member board of directors. By 1997, men were asking why SEM did not do for women what we did for men. Hence was born the Anacostia Mentoring and Employment Network (A-MEN). In addition to the GED classes, we now began offering job readiness classes.
SEM hit a real barrier in 1998 when as an agency we became homeless when we outgrew the site we had rented on Ainger Place SE. A three-story row house at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. and Alabama Ave SE was available for sale. It was right in front of a bus stop and there was heavy foot traffic. The second and third floors were ready for immediate occupancy and with major capital improvements and an extension to the rear of the building we were complete and had use of the full building in 2002.
What began as a small project—developed out of Pastor McNeill’s love of community and faith in God—has grown into a community touchstone and point of light for thousands.
SEM’s programs have changed countless lives. Through AMEN (Anacostia Mentoring and Employment Network), people learn real-world job skills and are assisted with job placement in diverse fields. For these men and women, learning to be an employee can be a new experience, and the staff of SEM puts them on the right path. Southeast Ministry has always worked with children and families as well.