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Lazarus Project is helping men rise above adversity

Mary Hinds maryhinds@lebanondemocrat.com • Updated Jul 26, 2013 at 9:59 PM

In the Bible, Lazarus was a man Jesus raised from the dead. In Lebanon, Lazarus was the name chosen for a project bringing new life to men who were nearly lost to society and leading them back to productive lives.

Robert Saunders is one of the directors of the Lazarus Project, and he is excited about where the program is going and how Christ is helping them change lives.

"Our medicine is a relationship with Jesus Christ," Saunders said sitting in his tiny, shared office at the Lazarus Project house on the corner of Maryland Street and West Lester Street in Lebanon.

He said the organization works to help men who are returning from jail, rehab or any other impossible situation they find themselves in due to addiction or other problems.

That help includes financial planning, health and wellness instruction, help finding a job and spiritual guidance. The men receive all that along with a place to sleep and food to help them get back on their feet.

Saunders and fellow Director David Kornguth emphasized that the house is not a half-way house, a mission or a homeless shelter, but like astronauts of old, it is a "re-entry" point, where people who have fallen by the wayside can reenter society.

"We're willing to be that stop-gap between 'I don't know what to do' and a new life," Kornguth said.

The program helps participants find jobs, get straight with any authorities they may have run afoul of and also helps men who have alienated their wives and children find ways to reconnect, whether it be through counseling or something more concrete such as helping them get back on track with child support payments.    

"We give back to the community with projects," Saunders said. "These men will have been a drain on society, we help them become an asset in some form or fashion. Our reward is the gratitude of the people we help."

One place the group has helped out is at the Wilson County Civic League where they spruced up the place with a much needed paint job last summer.

Saunders said the group has some pretty ambitious plans for the future and he is putting his faith in God and his fellow Christians to help them make it happen. The house is located in a neighborhood that has seen better days.

"We've acquired some property on Maryland Street and we're hoping to get a Neighborhood Revitalization Grant to remodel the houses," he said, adding that the revamped properties would be part of uplifting the entire neighborhood. "The house will be available for rent to people who have come through the program. We'll make it affordable for them."

The program hopes to start a place for women who find themselves in the same boat as men - needing a place for a fresh start.

"We have the staff we just need a building," Saunders said. "We hope to house 10-12 women."

He has numerous success stories about men who have entered the program with no hope and left working on a college degree, not only helping themselves but inspiring others.

"We want them to see the light of Christ and be personally driven by him," Saunders said. "We can help a man create a positive ripple effect on himself and all the people around him."

The organization hopes that local churches and organizations will help them reach their goal of changing lives. Anyone who would like to help can call the Lazarus Project at 615-547-4401.

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