Moody Spring 2021 Commencement Ceremonies
Did you know that by the time you are 14 years old, your worldview is set? Ben Jorden, Moody Bible Institute alumnus and urban missionary to Chicago’s children, says, “We talk about the 10/40 window*—let’s talk about the 4/14 window. If we miss sharing the gospel with children between the ages of four and fourteen, we may have missed it completely.”
Ben and his wife, Karis, have hearts that beat for this massive unreached people group in Chicago and beyond. “That’s what keeps us going—children who need to know about the God who loves them,” Ben says.
About a month ago, Ben and Karis and their three young boys were sitting at home in Bellwood, Illinois, an economically depressed community on Chicago’s west side. They heard police sirens. Just a few blocks away, there was a shooting that resulted in a fatality, a crime that would unsettle most young parents. But no matter what dangers their chosen neighborhood may present, Ben and Karis say they are committed to their mission. “God has called us to stay and to be laser-focused on the gospel.”
An estimated 700,000 children in the city have never heard the gospel, Ben says. “The average age of gang recruitment is age nine. There is a little boy in our neighborhood. I can pretty much tell the day he was recruited for a gang, and it broke my heart. This situation demands our response.”
The Jordens, who both graduated from Moody’s urban ministry program in 2009, share a deep love and commitment to reach the children in their community for Jesus. “We’ve been in this neighborhood for six years,” Karis says, and they have spent 10 years serving full-time with the same ministry organization, Chicago’s Child Evangelism Fellowship.
Ben and Karis met while attending a summer teen training program for children’s ministry in Missouri. After graduating from high school, they both decided to attend Moody. “I wanted to go to Moody since I was in fifth grade,” Karis says.
Both Ben and Karis thought they would return to Missouri to minister after Moody until they began teaching at clubs in the city as their student ministry assignment. “We realized there were a bunch of kids who didn’t know the name of Jesus and hadn’t heard the gospel,” Karis said. “So we changed our major to Urban Ministry.”
Their time at Moody deepened their commitment to serving God through children’s ministry. “I couldn’t be in the city doing what we’re doing without the classes in urban ministry we took with Moody professor Clive Craigen,” Karis says. “His care and concern for the city and scriptural support made me see what God is doing through the city and through His people.”
Today Karis meets with children in the public schools through a voluntary after-school program. For 90 minutes, they sing, listen to Bible lessons, learn a Bible verse, and play games. “It is a great opportunity to have them hear the gospel and then grow in their relationship with Jesus,” Karis says. “We’ve seen great rewards from children who grow up in the clubs. They have people paying attention to them, teaching them how to pray and read the Bible, things that help us know who God is.”
For a time, the Jordens hosted the children in their home, and Karis loved seeing piles of shoes at the entryway to their home. “We had a Christmas party and were singing carols—the kids didn’t know the songs. They had never heard the hymns we know and love so dearly. It was so neat to celebrate Christmas that way. One of the boys said, ‘I like to be here because I feel at home. It’s a safe place. It’s a place where I belong.’”
“That’s one reason I continue to this day, so kids like him can hear the gospel and know their Father God and find a place where they belong,” Karis says. Ben says their focus is the gospel and teaching God’s Word. “There are many organizations in the city that are holistically focused, but we’ve seen many get too busy and never share the gospel with kids,” he says.
The Jordens have worked with children for an entire decade and are always encouraged when they see the fruit of their labor. One of their students, Carvell, was raised by a single parent. He started attending their club, came to know Jesus as his Savior, and developed a deep love for Christ. “His academics flourished, and he challenged his mom to start living for the Lord,” Karis says. “Last year, at age 12, he came to a training program for teens so he could start teaching other kids. He has blessed us and everyone else with his genuine passion for Christ.”
Besides working directly with elementary- and middle-school age children, Ben and Karis are committed to recruiting and mentoring new missionaries. They supervise current Moody students who serve in after-school programs throughout the city as their Practical Christian Ministry assignment. “We have fourteen Moody students this year,” Ben said. “We train them how to teach the gospel within the public schools and how to lead a child to Christ. Each volunteer goes through 20 hours of training.”
In addition, the Jordens purchased an eight-unit apartment building to renovate for missionary housing to be used by missionary candidates who are raising support. And they are now renovating another 18-bedroom building for the same purpose.
People who gave to Moody to cover student tuition made an enormous impact on Ben and Karis’s ability to serve God through children’s ministry. “The gift of tuition made the difference between being able to receive education or not. We wouldn’t have learned what we learned,” Ben says. “We wouldn’t be in the ministry we’re in. We wouldn’t be in the city we’re in. None of that would have happened.”
As they continue to raise support, the Jordens understand the impact of God’s people who stand behind them financially. “We’re still support-based to this day,” Karis said. “Moody let us see God’s work through His people to support the ministry. People may not realize that students at Moody are in ministry already—and you are in the very beginning moments of launching workers into the field. Without that start we wouldn’t be in ministry today.”
*The 10/40 window is a mission’s term used to describe the areas of the globe with the least access to the Christian message and Christian resources.
In this season of giving, we’d like to encourage you with a classic book from A. W. Tozer. For a gift of any size to support Moody Bible Institute, we’d love to send you his compelling book, The Attributes of God. Based on one of his most powerful sermon series, Tozer’s book includes deep insights into the heart of God, along with a study guide for deeper reflection on God’s character.
The book is our way of saying thank you for your end-of-year gift, which will help support Moody students as they prepare to reach our world for Jesus.