New Decade Introduces a New Era for LUM

Joe Micon Retiring Effective March 31

Dear Friend,

It was in October of 1978, more than 41 years ago, that I first came to the Lafayette Urban Ministry as a Purdue University Applied Sociology Intern. I was instantly captivated by the mission of this place. Imagine, local church congregations of every diverse offering coming together for the thing we each shared in common, namely our mandate to live out, in very real and concrete ways, God’s requirement to love kindness and to seek justice for the poor!

My first job at LUM was as our part time office manager. I could type and crank the handle on a mimeograph machine, so hey, why not? After graduating, it was on to directing LUM’s emergency assistance work, Jubilee Christmas and Repairs on Wheels. (Anyone remember that program?) After graduate school, LUM’s former Executive Director Jud Dolphin thought I would fit the bill to lead LUM’s new social justice arm. LUM won hard fought victories for at-risk children and working families all across Indiana. We reformed Township Poor Relief. We won free textbooks for low-income public school students in Indiana. We improved federal public assistance programs in our state and were responsible for instituting Indiana’s Free Public School Breakfast Program for needy children. LUM felt children learned better in school when they were not hungry, and we decided to do something about it. These were just the first of many more public policy victories to come.

In 1990, I was named LUM’s third Executive Director. During the ensuing years there have been expansions in our programs. There has been the increased stewardship of LUM’s very generous donors. There has been the selfless service of thousands of volunteers. We have attracted a very talented and faithful team of professional and support staff. Over the years literally hundreds of LUM board members have governed with wisdom and grace. There has been the successful completion of several major capital campaigns, the building of buildings and the purchase of homes for needy families. We navigated my four political campaigns, my service on the Warren County Council and my years in the Indiana General Assembly. I was blessed to have served at LUM Camp one week each summer for 40 years!

And through it all, LUM has remained faithful to its powerful Mission:

  • Loving neighbors
  • Seeking justice
  • Empowering the least among us
  • Helping churches to renew their social ministry.

In so many ways LUM hired two social workers when I became director. Jo, my wife and partner of 35 years has been here, behind the scenes, everyday, sharing support and offering insight. She helps me to be more bold in my approach when I am too timid. She helps me to be more humble when I am overly self-assured. Jo has never known me not employed by LUM. Our two grown children, Katie (29) and Jonathan (25), have never known life without their dad as LUM’s Executive Director. Can you imagine that?

 {Pictured: the Rev. Ron Elly, first LUM executive director; Jud Dolphin, second; and Joe Micon, third.}

I know that it is almost unheard of for someone to spend an entire career in one place, but somehow, seemingly in the blink of an eye, that’s what has happened. How grateful I am that 41 LUM boards have allowed me to serve.

It is from that place of gratitude that I share with you that I will retire from Lafayette Urban Ministry on March 31, 2020. LUM’s board has known about this transition for quite some time, has completed an in-depth organizational assessment of LUM and is nearing the completion of its national search for a new executive director. You will be hearing more about this from LUM’s Board President Joan Low in the immediate future. For the next 2+ months of my tenure, I will concentrate, as always, on the directing the important mission and work of LUM.

I am beginning to envision my new life outside of LUM. It will involve more time spent with family. Jo and I will travel more. I look forward to maintaining several community affiliations. I am also looking forward to having more time to nurture relationships with good friends.

Throughout the years, I have called upon the words of great writers and poets for inspiration. Directing a place like LUM requires a healthy balance of both heart and head. These thoughts from the philosopher Kahlil Gibran seem especially meaningful as my time at LUM begins to draw to a close…

You have been told that life is darkness,
And in your weariness you echo what is said by the weary.
And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love;
And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself,
And to one another, and to God.

And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave a cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with the breath of your own spirit,
To become a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.

May God’s blessings be with you. Thank you for the rich friendship and gracious support you have always extended to me. Thank you for your continued dedication to the work of the Lafayette Urban Ministry; for extending Grace to each child and family, each person, in the example of Jesus.

Most Sincerely,

Joe Micon
Executive Director
Lafayette Urban Ministry

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