The Mission:USA Story
Mission:USA is a Chicago-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, founded in 1996 by Glen Fitzjerrell, and focused on serving the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of ex-offenders, recovering addicts, and former gang members
Glen began his ministry career in Texas. He grew up in the Houston suburbs, and, after finishing college, began working as a prison chaplain at the nation’s top juvenile correctional facility.
In the early 1990s, Glen moved to Chicago in order to focus on a combination of prison ministry with street-level follow-up and aftercare. As Glen befriended Chicago-land gang members both in prison and on the streets, he was surprised to discover how open they were to Christianity. Once Glen understood the culture of Chicago’s street gangs, it was a relatively simple matter to introduce many, many gang members to the Lord.
These dramatic conversions led to the discovery of a previously unforeseen problem. It quickly became clear that few local churches were equipped to meet these former gang members’ needs for community, emotional support, and continued spiritual growth and discipleship.
In order to understand this dynamic, Glen began to meet, befriend, and provide training to a large number of Chicago-area local church pastors. As he did so, it became clear that a significant majority of these pastors treasured the idea of ministering to former gang members, and saw the opportunity to do so as a way to live out the Biblical command to minister to "the least of these" (Matthew 25:31-46). But, in truth, many of these pastors simply did not know how to begin this process.
At the same time that Glen was uncovering this critical challenge for local church pastors, a similar conundrum was presenting itself for men and women leaving behind a life of gang involvement.
Upon first leaving their gang organization, many former gang members experience something closely akin to culture shock. They feel alone, vulnerable, and are often unsure how to function successfully in a gang-free world. Years of experience taught Glen that gang members who want to leave their gang behind must have a long-term support program in place that can meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs that the gang once served in their lives.
The long-term needs of former gang members, and the ministry needs of local church pastors presented Glen with two disparate, difficult, and seemingly impossible challenges. Mission:USA was founded to address, confront, and solve these two key problems.
The distillation of Mission:USA’s answer to these problems constitutes an entirely new model in prison and aftercare ministry. That model is The Bridge, a first-of-its-kind ministry program that helps ex-offenders, recovering addicts, and former gang members find a long-term church home in an appropriate, professionally trained, and properly equipped faith community.