Across the street from the Blue Ox bar, just down the road from The Rail saloon, is something one would least expect. A church.
A church in the heart of downtown Brainerd may seem like a peculiar concept, but the Rev. Brian Kimbler sees the location of his church as an opportunity.
"The downtown area is the heart of the city," Kimbler said.
Kimbler and his wife, Carolyn, founded Remnant Ministry Center, located above Northwind Grille on Laurel Street, following an eye-opening trip to Brooklyn, N.Y., in the early 1980s.
A janitor in the Crosby-Ironton area for 16 years, Brian Kimbler was determined to find out what life was like outside of central Minnesota. The Kimblers found themselves in New York's inner-city, where they discovered people who were struggling to stay afloat in poverty stricken areas.
"It changed my heart. It just stole it," Kimbler said. "The faces of those people and their pain and their hurt just wouldn't go away for me."
It was then that Kimbler saw the importance of having a ministry in inner city or downtown areas.
Tim Dickens (left), youth pastor at Remnant Ministry Center, and Mark Annand, youth volunteer, played foosball in the game room at The Upper Room. Pool, pingpong and air hockey games are also available, free of charge, Friday nights.
"We need to be where the people are," he said. "Helping hurting, broken people, that's what we're here for."
After returning to the Brainerd area, Kimbler pursued a ministry career, and opened Remnant Ministry Center in 1993.
What started out as an interdenominational church of 25 is now a thriving congregation of about 100. With a mission to reach the unchurched, or people who don't regularly attend church, the modest church seems to be a success.
Kimbler said not having a traditional church building and sustaining a casual, contemporary atmosphere helps unchurched people feel comfortable.
"People can dance if they want to dance. Sometimes we wave flags during the service," Kimbler said. "We allow (people) to be who they are."
From the extremely wealthy to people on welfare, Kimbler is proud of the diversity at Remnant Ministry Center.
"We're a church of misfits, but we all fit together," Kimbler said with a smile. "We see each other in the same light."
The Upper Room, an alternative hangout for people ages 12 to 22, has a stage for concerts that is also available for youth to use during open mic from 9 to 10:30 p.m. Fridays.
Many of the church's outreach programs focus on helping people with substance abuse problems, as well as people released from jail.
"People coming out of jail or (people with) addictions don't fit in at a regular church," Kimbler said.
The Upper Room, a youth center coincidentally located in a basement downtown next to Coco Moon, is Remnant's attempt at outreach for people ages 12 to 22. The Upper Room gives youth a place to play pool, air hockey, foosball and pingpong for free.
Because of a lack of adult volunteers, The Upper Room is only open 7 p.m. to midnight Fridays. Christian or not, everyone is welcome.
"This is not a Christian hangout," volunteer Mark Annand said. "It's a place for kids to hang out, have fun and learn about God if they want to."
A "prayer room," situated off of the game room, provides a quiet space for youth and adult volunteers to chat about struggles or discuss questions about Christianity or the Bible.
"Youth need something in this area," said Tim Dickens, Remnant's youth pastor. "I see so many youth hanging out in parking lots who need a place to go."
The Upper Room has hosted as many as 60 people at once, and occasionally sponsors Christian concerts and movie nights to help entertain people.
"We're here for the people that come," Annand said. "We're doing this as a ministry."
To volunteer or to donate to the Upper Room, contact Remnant Ministry Center at 829-2137. Volunteers must be Christians, age 18 or older.
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