It began on the streets in 1980. A need. A lost soul that needed to be loved. The question was asked, “What do you do with someone who has no where to go?” The answer was simple: You take them into your home.
That was how Charis Ministries began. Michael and Kathy Lechlitner saw young adults who were hurting, abused by the world, and left for dead and they were moved by the compassion of Jesus to do something. It was not without costs. People didn’t understand this total renouncing of the American Dream. They didn’t understand why a young married couple would want kids, that weren’t their own, living with them, let alone kids that came off the streets. But, they followed the heart of Jesus and lives were changed. Charis grew to include five houses full of young people who lived in community and loved Jesus. They lived the Kingdom.
In 2005, The Gate church was born out of the same need that Michael and Kathy saw when they started Charis. Josh joined his father Michael as co-leader and began to feel the heart of the Father for the “Least of these.” Starting as a small bible study that met at a local coffee shop, The Gate, grew into a multi-generational body of people looking for creative ways to worship Jesus. Some nights were loud and rambunctious and some were quiet intimate nights of contemplation, but, no matter what the expression, they wanted the heart of God. They experienced joy and laughter together as well as loss and grieving. They were family.
Then in 2007, Josh and his new bride, Jess, were sent out by their Gate family, following the leading of the Holy Spirit, to California. They knew God wanted to do something even more than what they were accomplishing at The Gate and took a leap of faith to see what the next step might be. For a year, they worked with Praise Chapel Rancho Cucamonga and were blessed by their fellowship and support. During that year, they sought God for their marriage and for inspiration. A shock came when God called them back to Indiana for nine months.
While back in Indiana, Josh and Jess rejoined The Gate and began seeking God’s leading. Community was at the core of what they did which included a group from The Gate all living in the same house. Two people from The Gate, Krista Miller and Logan Cenova, began living with them and caught a vision for community and what it means to this next generation. At the end of the nine months, Josh and Jess along with four others, all moved back to California, knowing this time it was to stay.
Sleeping in a church for over a month and then cramming six people into a one bedroom apartment wasn’t what they had in mind when they set out again, but God had other plans. They lived by faith and trusted God even at the risk of not being able to eat and He was faithful to always provide. They were blessed again by Praise Chapel and asked to minister at a youth conference where God again confirmed the call on their lives to reach this coming generation.
While driving one day, Josh and Jess decided to take the advice of some friends and check out the city of Redlands, California. Josh knew the moment they crossed the city-limits that they were to move there. Michael and Kathy put their house on the market, which then sold in less then a week. They left the safety of jobs and a house and moved across the country to follow the calling of God.
Now, they’re building upon the foundations that began thirty years ago to accomplish what God is doing in this generation. Their undying longing for Christ and their heart for the Arts, the creative nature of God, and this coming generation are what have driven them to where they are now and will continue to drive them into what ever God has in store next.