SoV – Meet an Executive Director

Wes Tillett – Lafayette Urban Ministry

Wes Tillett grew up in Indiana.  He first worked at Lafayette Urban Ministry (LUM) as a teacher in the After School Program before going on to spend seven years as a youth minister and eight years as a lead pastor.  He founded a church called Voyage Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. There he also created a small network of churches to serve the needs of the local neighborhood through tutoring, mentoring, food distribution, and providing school supplies to those in need.  

In April 2020 he returned to LUM to serve as the new executive director.  He stepped into the role right in the midst of Indiana’s stay-at-home order, at a time when almost all of the agency’s staff were working from home and every program was being restructured to help keep the staff, volunteers, and clients safe.  This would have been difficult enough in itself, but he was also following in the wake of LUM’s previous executive director, Joe Micon, who held the post for thirty-two years.

Of course, COVID also meant that it took more than two months for Wes to meet many of his staff face-to-face. And during that time, the entire staff- including Wes – were carrying an extra emotional strain, trying to grieve the losses of life and of normalcy.  They were facing a situation with no easy answers or quick solutions, and working from home inhibited the sense of community and healthy office culture that is usually LUM’s norm.

In short, it was a challenging time to step into his new role, and one that required even more energy and discernment than usual.  But oddly enough, one of the blessings of COVID was that it caused everything to be so strange, so off-kilter, that it helped to soften the culture shock that might otherwise have accompanied the transition to a new executive director. 

As a pastor, faith plays a central role in Wes’s life.  He believes deeply that God calls us to both justice and mercy.  Part of what drew him to LUM was his conviction that by working there he could help offer mercy and compassion to those in need while fighting for justice against the systems that oppress and injure people.  Another major draw was the collaborative nature of the organization – many churches working together towards a common goal, in cooperation with nonprofits, businesses, and local government. Wes sees that ability to cooperate as an encouraging sign that people can and will put aside their political and theological differences to serve those in need.

Outside of work, Wes enjoys being a dad.  He and his wife Rita have four kids.  Wes tries to give almost all of his extra time and energy to them.  He especially enjoys engaging with his kids in some of the things he is already most passionate about: hiking, kayaking, swimming, music, and art.

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