Instilling Hope in Mobile Home Communities

Jill S’94 and Brian Dejewski S’96 met at Bethel Seminary, brought together by their hearts for youth ministry. Today, they’re running Mobile Hope, a nonprofit organization that serves two mobile home communities in the Twin Cities area.

By Cherie Suonvieri '15, content specialist

June 03, 2020 | 9 a.m.

Bethel Seminary alumni Brian and Jill Dejewski

In 2013, Brian and Jill Dejewski moved their family to Maple Hill Estates mobile home park to further invest in the community through their ministry, Mobile Hope.

Jill Dejewski was working as a middle school youth pastor in Wayzata, Minnesota, in 1996, when she was first introduced to the Maple Hill Estates mobile home park in nearby Corcoran. She agreed to host a Vacation Bible School (VBS) for the kids, thinking it would be a one-time event. But the small seed planted 24 years ago grew over time—and today, Jill, her husband Brian, and their two children call Maple Hill home. 

“I fell in love with the kids,” Jill says, reflecting on that first VBS. The mobile home community was just 15 minutes from her church. “When I got there and saw there were 189 homes, I was like, ‘How did I not know this existed?’ And then I wondered, ‘Who is showing up for these kids?’”

The Dejewskis began hosting an annual VBS at Maple Hill Estates and over the years incorporated Bible studies, children’s activities, and homework help. By 2010, the services they offered had grown enough that the Dejewskis decided to form a leadership board, and by 2013 their ministry, Mobile Hope, was officially a nonprofit. That same year, Jill and Brian moved to Maple Hill to live life alongside the individuals they were seeking to serve. 

“Christ Himself became flesh and dwelt among us. Living among the people we are seeking to love and serve changed our ability to do ministry. We were no longer introduced as that church group or that nonprofit. We were introduced as neighbors.”

— Brian Dejewski S'96

There’s a unique stigma that covers mobile home communities, Brian says, but often the public perception is either not accurate or based on a misrepresentation. “Kids are raised to believe that stigma, so they have to constantly fight it,” he says. “Mobile Hope is trying to build relationships, instill hope, and create a culture of achievement in these communities so we can change the trajectory of the next generation.”

In prior years, Mobile Hope operated out of a double-wide mobile home. But in 2015, the construction of the Hope Center expanded Mobile Hope’s capacity for outreach. The building provides a computer lab, a fitness center, and space for larger community events.  

The Hope Center

Brian describes the Hope Center as a source of pride for the community, a place where people can gather, hang out, and have fun.

Since the Hope Center opened, Mobile Hope has seen over 43,000 people check in to participate in activities like homework help, arts and crafts, sports camps, English language classes, fitness classes, and more. Over 800 volunteers have served with Mobile Hope. And many residents have had a place to host family celebrations by renting the Hope Center nearly 100 times.

Over the years since the Dejewskis first started ministry at Maple Hill, they’ve seen families come together and grow together. They’ve also seen the value of education change. “It’s now part of students’ routine to get off the school bus and run to the Hope Center. Doing homework is part of what we do here,” Jill says.

Being present full-time in the Maple Hill community has allowed the Dejewskis to collaborate with the schools, local law enforcement, and counseling professionals to better address the needs of the community. “We talk a lot about the importance of relationship. It’s important to sow into families and get to know their kids, to be willing to be there when others are not,” Brian says. “It’s those types of things that truly allow for the light of Jesus Christ to become real in their lives.”  

In the seven-county metro, there are 84 mobile home parks. Across the state of Minnesota, there are around 900. “People don’t see them. They drive by them, but most people have the understanding that there are not very many,” Jill says. As Mobile Hope grew, the Dejewskis sought to learn from other programs doing similar work—but they found few.

“Around all of these mobile home parks, there’s always a slew of churches, but most churches don’t know how to engage in these communities or they get frustrated by the messiness of working within them,” Brian says. “It’s really an untapped mission field across the country. There’s such a concentrated need.”

Mobile Hope VBS

Children from across the Maple Hill Estates community gather for the annual VBS inside the Hope Center.

The Dejewskis invite anyone interested in learning and participating in the ministry to consider volunteering with Mobile Hope. On a normal week, they have around 60 volunteer shifts available. Mobile Hope has also recently expanded to include a second site in Dayton, Minnesota, which has volunteer needs as well.

While the Dejewskis have been key players in the ministry since the beginning, they are adamant that Mobile Hope’s story isn’t about them. “The reason we share our story is because we want people to respond to whatever God is laying before them,” Brian says. “He is calling every single believer to something bigger than themselves.”

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