Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Journey

I was recently talking with a fellow staff member for a staff highlight in an upcoming newsletter. During his time at the Mission, Steve has served in many roles, from security to maintenance. When asked what he loves about working at the Mission, he described the joy in seeing someone's "countenance change" when they come to the Mission, expecting to "find a zoo" and instead see that it's nice and clean. They learn that staff truly care about them. He remembers his own initial experience with the Mission, which was very different than mine. "I thought I'd really reached the bottom rung," he told me.

Steve and I arrived at the Mission around the same time. I came for part time work in December of 2004, a somewhat na├»ve 24-year old who needed income while I returned to school for a degree in motion picture direction. I had big dreams of directing family films in the growing Christian film market. Steve came through another door. I can imagine but can't begin to understand the life Steve knew before he came to the Mission. I was raised in a loving, two-parent home with Christian parents who were committed to each other and to the Lord. Steve...did not. He'd never experienced a loving home or a committed father. The only knowledge he had of Biblical things came from time spent at a boy's home and from a friend who had become transformed after giving his life to the Lord.

Yet God brought both of us to the Mission, and I think it's fair to say that both of us had lives that were changed. I say this because I believe it: no one has ever reached a place where there is nothing more they can learn from the Lord. Steve has a different view of the Mission and our great Rescuer because he comes from a different background and has a different angle on life, but the same Lord is Lord of all. The same Jesus Saves me that saved Steve. We both have the same example to follow, and with God, where you come from is not as important as where you are going. Your walk yesterday is viewed in the light of your walk today.

It's now been more than a decade since I came to the Mission. The big dreams have been replaced with better things, when viewed in the light of eternity. As it says in Proverbs, the Lord directs our steps. For me and Steve and thousands of others, that path has led to the Mission, where, if you allow Him the opportunity, He will change your life.

Friday, March 31, 2017

"Every good and perfect gift..."

Every month in the Mission newsletter, we like to take the opportunity to share with Mission supporters the story of one person they have helped through their gifts. Recently, I was able to interview some of the men at the men's shelter about their experience while at the Mission. Two of the three men with whom I spoke both quoted James 1:17: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." All three were so grateful for what the Mission, its supporters, and especially the Lord had done in their lives. They looked at what they had received and saw it not just as gifts but as "good" gifts.

In comparison, some might question what these men have to be grateful for. They lost everything and are building their lives all over again. One men spoke of the fact that he is not just rebuilding, but starting over because he wants to do things differently. He is grateful for a second chance at the hard work of making something good of his life. This is not an easy task or a quick one. And that is what he considers a good gift, not the fact of a meal and a bed, but a good meal and a safe shelter, where he can do what needs to be done in the process of making a new life for himself.

Thank you for being a part of that "good gift." For supporting so many on their journey from homelessness to independence.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

His Plan

When the City Rescue Mission purchased the former Maplewood Elementary School, the walls were still covered with the hand prints of the last classes to attend the school. Some of the students included sad messages at the thought of the building being closed. Those hand prints and messages are now at rest behind fresh drywall, as the Mission "rescued" the building for a new purpose.
For nearly 100 years, the building had served as a place of education and learning for children, including one special little boy who became the president of the Mission board and served for four decades in that capacity. When that door closed, a new one opened as the building was transformed from a school into a safe haven for women and mothers with children. Today, rooms where classes were once held now provide a safe night's rest.
Sometimes, in our own lives and the lives of those we serve, we see a door close. An opportunity has unexpectedly ended. However, God has a purpose and a plan for those who follow Him. We might not understand the "why" or see the "how," but He who has promised is faithful. Surely, the teachers and students wondered what would happen to the old building when the school district no longer needed it, but God knew what was coming. Since the building was re-opened for use by the Mission in 2010, thousands of women and children have found protection and peace within its walls. We, too, can rest in the knowledge that we are not forgotten; He is working for us and through us.
 "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11-13

Friday, December 23, 2016

One Chapter

Christmas is such a special time of year. I am always amazed at the amount of people who see Christmas as the perfect time to give, not only to those they love but also to those in need. At the Mission, we receive a large number of donations and calls for volunteering, and we are always appreciative of the overwhelming abundance of generosity.
But have you ever wondered why it is that Christmas seems such a special time of year? Why do hearts feel more generous? Why do we want to draw near to those we love? Why does even the most "grinchy" heart seem to grow when it looks beyond the tinsel and the wrapping paper?
For those of us who profess Christianity, Christmas is a special time simply because of what it represents: the greatest gift ever given to mankind. We celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. For us, the hurt and suffering cries of humanity were answered that night with the shrill cry of a baby. Immortality wrapped itself in mortality so that God could walk among His people. No longer a "voice from the heavens" or a message through mortal prophets, He stepped down from a heavenly throne and chose instead the humble manger in Bethlehem.
The beauty of His sacrifice is unquestionable. The purpose of His coming, unfathomable. He didn't come to restore the military might of King David or the material wealth of King Solomon. He didn't come to heal the sick, though He did that. He didn't come to feed the hungry, though He did that. He didn't come simply to conquer death, though He did that. He came to fulfill the greatest miracle ever conceived: "To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79).
This was a miracle that only one could accomplish: Immanuel. God with us. And His birth is only one chapter in His Story.
My prayer for you this Christmas is that you experience Christ, as He is, the Savior, the fulfillment of the promise that sang through the hills of Bethlehem: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:14)
Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 14, 2016

"Serve God with integrity..."

September and October seemed to disappear in an instant and November is already half over! The year has been one of unexpected challenges, I'm sure, for many of us. I thought this quote from Charles Spurgeon was especially helpful and wanted to share it as an encouragement to you. This is a reminder that we are not to be weighed down by the cares of the world...or by its so-called successes. As he says, "Serve God with integrity, and if you achieve no success, at least no sin will lie upon your conscience. Trusting God, you will not be guilty of self-contradiction. Be a [person] with living principles within; never bow to the varying customs of worldly wisdom. Walk in your path of integrity with steadfast steps, and show that you are invincibly strong in the strength which confidence in God alone can confer. Your heart will be fixed, trusting in the Lord. There is no more blessed way of living than a life of dependence upon a covenant-keeping God. We have no care for He cares for us; we have no trouble because we cast our burdens upon the Lord." I hope this is both an encouragement and a challenge to you, as we face a new year full of potential. As Spurgeon said so many years ago, walk with integrity.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

You helped me...

I can't say that helping people ever becomes ordinary. Truthfully, however, the Mission has been "in the business" of rescue for over 100 years. That adds up to a lot of people being helped, a lot of lives being changed. As the numbers add up and the years roll by, you can lose sight of the importance of the individual.

Our guests have the opportunity to write post cards expressing thanks to those who give to provide food, shelter, and hope. As I was sorting through these cards, I noticed a simple message:
"Thank you for helping me."
It suddenly hit home to me that every one of the hundreds we serve is a "me," an "I," an individual whose life is being touched by the compassion of others. That person knows on a real-life level the difference your gifts make.

Please keep this in mind as you give and volunteer and support the Mission. This is one-on-one change. Your gift goes to a real person who has real needs. Thank you.

Friday, July 15, 2016

"how beautiful are the feet"

At a recent staff meeting, our executive director shared with staff how important the "every day" moments they experience at the Mission really are. To us, it's "ordinary" but the truth is that even seemingly mundane tasks accomplish extraordinary things in the lives of our guests. The floors are clean; the food tastes good; security keeps guests safe... We take on these responsibilities to enable guests to focus on the message of love and hope that we share, not just with our words but also with our lives.

After the meeting, one of our security staff was doing the usual rounds and decided to send me a photo. Her email said, "This morning Mark said he wanted pictures of ordinary things, so can't be more simpler than feet doing rounds during the day or night." When I saw the photo, I smiled but I admit that my eyes also misted up. The role of overnight security can seem tedious, but it's so important to the safety of our guests. In addition to checking cameras, security also provides early morning wake-up for those who have jobs or meetings, and they deal with late-night arrivals, those guests that police bring as a result of domestic violence or having found them homeless and on the streets.

Those feet are not ordinary. They lead the way so that the message can be told, and sometimes, in the watches of the night, when discouragement sets in, security staff are the ones to offer encouragement and provide comfort.

I emailed the staff person back and told her that a verse I was reminded of was from Isaiah 52:7, "How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Ordinary? Yes, we may be. But when we bring good news and glad tidings, when we proclaim peace and salvation...we are extraordinary. We carry the message of Hope. Let us never falter.