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Michael Liimatta, Founder, City Vision University

Michael Liimatta has spent his entire career, spanning nearly four decades, in urban outreach to the under served, especially the homeless and addicted. He has served as an educator and college administrator, a nonprofit executive director, consultant and addiction counselor.

Michael founded Rescue College in 1998 when he was serving as Director of Education for the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions. In 2008, the college moved from AGRM to become the online distance learning program of  TechMission, based in Boston, MA and the name was changed to City Vision College.  In 2015, the name changed again to City Vision University. He served first as the school's president and eventually retired as its Chief Academic Officer that same year.

In 2015, Michael began his service as full-time CEO of Connecting for Good, a Kansas City based nonprofit he started four years earlier. The organization works to close the Digital Divide among low income families, seniors and the disabled in distressed inner city neighborhoods by providing digital literacy instruction, inexpensive refurbished PCs and free and affordable Internet connections.

At the end of 2015, Michael was appointed by the Office of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to serve as Manager of ConnectHome, an Obama administration initiative administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  The goal is to take the President’s ConnectED a step further by closing the Digital Divide for school-age children who live in federally subsidized housing. The pilot program is an innovative public-private partnership in twenty seven U.S. cities and the Choctaw Nation that is focused on bringing in-home Internet connectivity, computers, training and other resources to 275,000 low income families. Learn more about the initiative at http://ConnectHome.HUD.gov

He spent a total of seventeen years from 1990 to 2008 with the AGRM, which is a network of 300 rescue missions and other urban ministries that help the homeless, addicts and alcoholics and the needy. Before going to the AGRM, he spent ten years as executive director of New Creation Center in Atlantic Mine, MI, which he founded in 1979.  

His introduction to urban ministry was serving as a live-in counselor in the mid-70s with Midwest Challenge during his seminary years in Minneapolis, MN.

Hear Michael's Testimony -  "Unshackled" Radio Drama courtesy of Pacific Garden Mission

 

Professional Background

During his seminary years in Minneapolis, Michael worked with Midwest Challenge as a counselor in their addiction rehabilitation program and helped to develop their prison and jail outreach.   

In 1979, he founded New Creation Ministries in Hancock, Michigan. During his tenure as Executive Director of New Creation, its programs included an outreach to correctional institutions, a professionally staffed outpatient counseling program, and a licensed Christ-centered residential drug and alcohol treatment center that served primarily indigent men. At New Creation, he developed effective counseling programs, recruited and supervised a professional staff and obtained state licensing. Michael also implemented a fundraising program that included direct mail, special events, personal solicitation, foundation support and organized capital campaigns for procurement and expansion of the program’s facilities.

In his early years as Director of Education for the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, Michael spent much time helping rescue missions to develop more effective recovery programs for addicts and their families.

His major responsibility during his last ten years with the association was the development of Rescue College.  The program began as a cooperative degree program with Grace University in Omaha, NE.  Michael was responsible for overseeing the development of the curriculum and recruiting a faculty of urban ministry professionals with a heart to mentor future leaders.  He also developed acourse management system for the delivery of the courses via the Internet.

Michael led the process of obtaining accreditation with the Distance Education Accrediting Commission while the school was still with AGRM.  For the first three years after the transition to TechMission, he served as president of the college. He assumed the role of Chief Academic Officer in 2011 when Dr. Andrew Sears become president.   While with City Vision, he recruited and supervised adjunct faculty members, oversaw curriculum development, coordinated partnerships with national organizations and worked with web engineers to ensure the quality of the online learning experience. Along with leading the efforts to maintain the school's accreditation, he also led the process of obtaining federal student aid.

 Michael's efforts while serving with the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, also included:

  • Coordinating of the Alcoholics Victorious network of 12 step recovery support groups (now part of the TechMission program Christians in Recovery).
  • Editing the Short-term Urban Missions Directory (now a part of TechMission's ChristianVolunteering.org)
  • Lecturing, writing, and consulting in the areas of addiction recovery for the homeless and various issues related to the effective management of Christian nonprofit organizations.

Michael is a founding board member of Christians in Recovery, an online community for believers in recovery from addictions and other life problems, which is now also part of TechMission.  He was also involved with a number of other development projects for web sites and Internet strategies for several different nonprofit organizations. 

Michael also served on the original online education committee of ACCESS  and designed the Rescue College course, "Introduction to College Study on the Internet" which won the 1998 ACCESS/Christianity Today Online Course of the Year Award.

Published Works

Because he has struggled with addiction himself and grew up in a dysfunctional alcoholic family, he brings a unique perspective to the field of rescue mission counseling. Along with his theological training, Michael has many hours of training in the principles of substance abuse treatment. He has spent hundreds of hours in counseling with chemically dependent individuals and their family members.   

In 1993, AGRM published a resource entitled A Guide to Effective Rescue Mission Recovery Programs which consists of 12 recordings from his seminars for chaplains, counselors, and program directors and a 250 page manual. While aimed at rescue missions, this resource offers many helpful resources and useful principles that can be used to develop and enhance residential recovery programs in any setting.   A follow up to this resource entitled First Things First was published in 2000.  

Michael also wrote a column for 15 years for RESCUE magazine.  Portions of both publications and many of the magazine articles are available online, including the recorded lectures, and are used in various City Vision University courses.

Education

  • Bachelor of Theology, Inter-Lutheran Theological Seminary, Minneapolis, MN (now in Hancock, MI)
     
  • Master of Arts in Organizational Administration, MidAmerica Nazarene University, Olathe, KS. Focus on nonprofit management.

View Michael's blog on Addiction Recovery and Program Management