Year-End Letter, 2016




At Front Porch we place a high value on stories, because we believe everyone has one that needs to be heard. Our hope is to provide an environment in which stories can not only be told and listened to, but can find a home. I would like to share with you the story of Erik, a third year, Biomedical Engineer student who discovered Front Porch two years ago.

Erik was raised in a Christian home, but eventually rejected his faith and, in his words, “Found a way to live life without God.” Recruited to play football at Cal Poly, it was a constant struggle managing grueling practices, a demanding major, and multiple injuries, eventually driving him into a severe depression and “to a point where I was literally one step away from ending my life, on several occasions. Luckily, I was able to realize my situation before anything permanent happened, but it rocked me to my core that I was at a point that the only way to escape my misery was to kill myself.”

He eventually quit the football team, but in losing his identity as an athlete, it pushed him into a deeper depression and almost total loss of motivation in life. At his lowest point in life, he remembered being invited to a coffee shop the previous quarter where he had consumed seven cups of free coffee. “So I dropped by one day and just checked it out again. And I really liked it. But there was one problem, I was atheist. And this place was very obviously Christian.”

But Erik kept coming, somewhat terrified at being “found out” and “kicked out.” Which was a problem because he liked coffee. So out of guilt due to the sheer volume of free coffee he was consuming, he decided to volunteer to help out at Front Porch. Slowly he began to get to know other volunteers, and eventually Joel. In his words, the “slippery slope began” and he is now known to many as “Erik from Porch.” Sometimes it takes a particular moment in which we are able to see with clarity the transformation taking place in our lives. Here is Erik’s moment that took place at the beginning of this school year.

“We had our ‘Welcome Back BBQ’ and served tri-tip sandwiches to almost 500 students in a line that stretched for several hundred feet. While a local band was playing music as part of the evening, I slipped into my wallflower camouflage and began to meander around, just watching people. Unbeknownst to me, Joel had walked up and put his arm around me. And he just said, ‘Hey man, I’m really glad you're here.’  And that’s just a Joel thing. He’d probably said that exact phrase to me about a hundred times. But for some reason, this time, a flood of memories came back. I saw the dark nights alone in my room. I saw the football field and the pain in every inch of my body and the tears that I had been holding back for so long. I saw the ground several floors below me just calling my name. I saw all of these things in an instant and suddenly, I was back at the dinner. One of my best friends had his arm around me. I had a home-cooked meal in my stomach. Everyone who was there was talking, and eating, and smiling, and laughing, and dancing, and singing, and…I began to cry. I had never realized before, but there was a time, where this reality was not written in stone. None of these people could’ve known me. I could be buried in the ground and never met any of these people and never have the memories with these people, and never feel the love of a family that is not connected by blood. That’s what Front Porch is to me: family. And without it, I could not be here.”        

Erik is still an atheist, and he is still a part of the Front Porch family. Erik’s story represents one of thousands that come through our doors every week. And to each of those students we say, “Your story matters, and it has a place here in this family.”

“I have never seen or experienced anything like this,” is one of the most consistent thoughts I hear from people who are a part of this family. I believe this is because at its core, Front Porch is a community of people who follow Jesus, and who daily provide a tangible expression of the profound love and grace of God. Front Porch is a beautiful example of humanity looking like it should look. It is a place where people begin to experience life like they never have before, and their lives, like Erik’s, begin to be transformed. Front Porch is a living, breathing, daily expression of the Kingdom of God that is benefiting everyone in its path. It is truly good news for all who encounter it.

During this past year, we have continued to see Front Porch flourish! We have around 400 students coming through our facility daily, over 250 for our weekly Wednesday dinners, over 70 for our weekly worship gatherings, and over 100 student volunteers whom we are mentoring. Front Porch is not slowing down. In fact, I believe that we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg of what Front Porch can be. And, I can’t wait. But with all this amazing growth, we face a very real challenge, and that challenge is the financial means to sustain it. With the growth of this past year we have had to increase our budget significantly, and with less than two months left in 2016, we have a $50,000 deficit to make up before the end of the year. The good news is that the year is not over.

My hope is that through your contributions we not only can meet this goal, but we can also begin to create a surplus for next year. I know it’s a lot. But let me ask: What is the ministry of Front Porch worth? What is the price tag for transformed lives? What is the going rate for a student community unlike any other they have seen or known? What is the value of the lasting impact on students, after they graduate, who have made Front Porch their home during their collegiate career? The answer? We couldn't afford it! You cannot attach a numerical value to the experience they receive from being associated with Front Porch because the return is truly immeasurable!

In order to make all this happen, we need your help! Whether you are an individual or a church congregation, will you consider a year-end gift that will help us to make up our current deficit, as well as enable us to embrace the wonderful challenges that lie ahead in 2017? Front Porch relies entirely on support and gifts from people like you—families, congregations, parents, students, alumni, and those who have a special place in their hearts for students. This next year we are anticipating serving even more students while continuing the individual attention and emphasis on community that defines Front Porch.

Won't you join us this year in ministering to our future leaders? They are grateful. We are grateful. God is faithful. As always, we humbly ask for your continued prayers for Front Porch, our leaders, the students, and those we serve. You can give a tax-deductible gift by including a check to Front Porch in the enclosed envelope. Donations can also be made online through our website: and click on the “give” tab.

Please feel free to contact me anytime with questions or comments. Also, please come to visit anytime if you find yourself in San Luis Obispo! We’ll be here!

Grace & Peace,
Joel Drenckpohl
Director, Front Porch