Sojourner Truth Ministries names new director with eye for youth ministry

CARA MORNINGSTAR/Sun-Gazette Rev. Angelique Labadie-Cihanowyz, the new director of SoJourner Truth Ministries, helps put a fresh coat of paint on the walls of Sojourner Truth Ministries in preparation for the open house that will take place 5 to 7:30 p.m. June 7 at 501 High St. Her mother, Carrie Wood, helps work on some windows in the background.

Sojourner Truth Ministries recently named the Rev. Angelique Labadie-Cihanowyz as its new director and will welcome her to the community with an upcoming open house.

The meet-and-greet will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. June 7 at 501 High St.

“It will be a time to introduce Angelique to the community and allow her face to be one that’s recognized in association with Sojourner Truth Ministries,” said Len Richards, board president. “She is going to familiarize the community with our expanded vision and how we’re going to impact the community in broader ways than we have historically.”

Labadie-Cihanowyz has been associated with the ministry for over five years, serving on the board for about four years.

“We all have taken part in visioning together. There’s a connection … I feel like we’re a team. Starting off that way is very valuable,” she said. “It’s very encouraging.”

She said she appreciates that the board knows how much she cares about the community and the ministry.

“We desire to see this ministry thrive and make a real difference in the community,” she said.

One way in which she plans to help make a difference in the community is by starting programs for children in the area so school-aged children may have a place to go after school and be supervised.

Labadie-Cihanowyz also was the Mission Possible founder and director of Lycoming County Born2Fly, which involves programs about educating children and keeping them safe in an effort to stop child trafficking. She said taking care of children is very important to her, and she wants to keep the community safe.

“I have to look out for children. I have to. I have to come up with ways that kids are going to want to be engaged, that’s going to nurture them, that’s going to give them tools, that’s going to help prevent different abuses from happening and prevent them from being targeted,” she said.

She added that offering a program for children to be supervised can help.

“One of the things is simply them not being in an unsupervised area,” she said, refering to the risk of child abductions.

She said children living in low-income, broken homes, being a minority, age and home instability can often create higher risks for adbuction.

“These kids need an advocate, they need a place to go … That’s why I feel so strongly about it,” she said.

She said doing a Megan’s Law search, which is public information regarding sexual offenders, pulls up over 60 offenders within a mile radius of the church. Because nine out of 10 instances go unreported, she said she multiples the known statistics to estimate that it would be approximately more than 500 people abusing children in the immediate area of the church.

“Talking to a pastor a few months ago by a church, I was told there were no organized, free activities in the area for children. One of the highest times of abuse is the after school hours … So what does that tell me my job is?” she said.

Labadie-Cihanowyz would like to provide a place for children to come do their homework after school or somewhere they can be invested with opportunities to build relationships in their lives.

She also hopes to reach the community as a whole with more programs to engage people.

“Children, senior citizens, people with disabilities … A variety of the things I’m excited to bring in are ways to include all of them so we could be like a community center that’s also Christian,” she said. “We could be a light during the day-time hours so people can come, not just who don’t have somewhere else to go, but as a destination point.”

A start time for these programs is not set, but Labadie-Cihanowyz hopes to begin something in the fall.

“We don’t have those things established yet, but that’s our goal,” she said.

Richards said Labadie-Cihanowyz fits in with the ministry at Sojourner.

“She has the heart of Christ. She recognizes how to intervene in the lives of the broken, the marginalized, those that are wandering in the wilderness. She exhibits the Christ-like characteristics of compassion and mercy every moment of her life. There’s never a second that she’s not seeking ways to glorify God.”

He said the board began the search process for a new director at the end of February and received around 30 responses for the position.

“It boiled down to a core group of candidates. They were each interviewed, and there was a director search committee,” he said. “She was the most qualified.”