The City Rescue Mission of Lansing has served Michigan's capital area since the Dolton's founded it in 1911. Our desire is to meet physical needs to bring those with spiritual needs to Jesus Christ. To fulfill this goal, we provide food, shelter, and hope to low income and homeless men, women, and children throughout our community.
Reading through the book of Nehemiah, chapter 3 is a list of those who helped rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. There is a lot of history behind this little book, but what is important to remember is that this is the story of a people returned from exile to find their ancestral capital city a desolation. To the returning Israelites, Jerusalem represented more than a city. It represented a promise between them and God. To repair the walls and rebuild the temple was to make a declaration about a renewed relationship, the revitalization of a community.
As I skimmed the list of names, there were feelings of excitement and awe for these people; I imagined the excitement they must have felt, the camaraderie, as they worked together throughout the city. Then, I came across an interesting note in verse 5, "The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors." What a tragedy! For decades, the men and women (yes, there were women who helped with the repairs) could walk through Jerusalem, look at the bricks, and say, "That was done by my own hands." The memories and the legacy for their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren would be amazing. These nobles cheated only themselves. The walls were rebuilt, because this was God's will for His people, but these men had no memories. They had no fellowship. They had no claim to the mighty work that was done.
The work of the City Rescue Mission is similar to that undertaken by Nehemiah so many years ago. Instead of rebuilding walls, we work to rebuild lives, to help renew relationships, and to revitalize members of our community. By your gifts and donations, you labor together with us. You are an integral part in the work of the Lord, in drawing people to Himself.
We are so appreciative of your gifts and your compassion, and I would encourage you to come, stroll through the Mission. Look at the walls and realize that your gifts helped build a sanctuary, a shelter for those in need. Read the newsletter and experience the stories of lives rebuilt because of your generosity. The first Thursday of the month, we have a director's luncheon for those who've never come to the Mission. Consider reserving a place or scheduling a tour at another time. Come and see what the Lord has done, what mighty work is taking place every day, with you as an important part of that work.
I learn so much from speaking with our guests. People are fascinating. The individual differences that make us unique personalities help define who we are. Once you know a person, and by that I mean know those individual differences, see that unique personality, you can no longer place them in a box or categorize them by a single circumstance.
As we look at recent "current events," the news and social media seem full of people using those current events to define their own position and outlook. However, what is missing is the individual or individuals involved. If we could look beyond a single "category," and start to see people as people, with their own mannerisms, quirks, dreams, and experiences, how much harder would it be to pass judgment? To feel anger and frustration and take out that anger and frustration on innocent, uninvolved people. People with lives and dreams and hopes, the same as us.
Visitors who tour the Mission occasionally ask what brings people to the Mission. The answer to that question would be too involved for a tweet or facebook post. I wouldn't even begin to tackle it in this blog. The truth is that there are many paths and roads that lead anyone to the Mission--guests, staff, volunteers, or even the visitor on the tour.
A "homeless" person is first of all a person. They like their coffee a certain way. Or they don't like coffee at all. They're a morning person. Or a night person. They laugh at silly cat videos even though they prefer dogs. They love babies or they feel nervous that they'll drop the tiny things. They were top in their class in college. Or they never finished high school and are working on their G.E.D. They have family that help as they can. Or they are all alone in the world. They are the same as us. They are very different. People from a variety of backgrounds, nationalities, cultures, families, and circumstances, with a single commonality: they are homeless. That commonality does not define them, any more than you can write the story of their life based on whether or not they believed in Santa as a child.
As we celebrate the Christmas season, let us look with the eyes of the Savior, born to set us free. What did Jesus see when He looked out over the faces of humanity, the many in need, crowding around Him. "Heal my son!" "Feed those who are hungry!" "Teach us how to pray." "Bless my child." We find in Matthew 9, that Jesus looked on them with compassion. He looked at a pushing mass of people and saw, just that, people. Individuals. Lives in need of compassion. In need of a Savior. And isn't that the exact reason He came? Isn't that the entire point of Christmas?
My hope for you this Christmas is the same as for me. I hope, and pray, that before I write that nasty comment on a facebook post, or become harassed with that shopping clerk, before I scold the person on the phone telling me what I don't want to hear, or become angry at a (let's admit it) infuriating family member, that I take a moment to see a person. A person who is dealing with his or her own frustrations, sadness, fear, anger, issues... And give that person the gift of kindness this Christmas. A moment of peace and joy and compassion. All those amazing things that Christmas should be about.
The below was an email from the coordinator for the Life Transformation Program for Women:
Good morning, fellow rescuers!
I thought I would share an encouraging story with all of you. I was talking about decorating for Christmas on Friday with the program students and they expressed they weren’t too excited about decorating (or, for some of them, the upcoming season at all). As we were talking, I got a call and was told someone had dropped off the makings for gingerbread houses specifically for the program students. We don't know who it was (and the individual didn’t leave a name), but it was full sets of prepared icing, graham crackers cut to the right dimensions, candy and typed instructions for how to assemble them with large bags of candy to decorate.
I still don’t know who prepared this kit, but the students had an enjoyable time putting them together and it certainly put them in a different frame of mind for Christmas. In fact, one of them did a nativity scene! It was fun, relaxing, and I think it helped each of them look at the upcoming holiday differently. They were touched that someone put in the time and effort to show love to them in this way and had no desire to be recognized or thanked.
I was thinking a lot this past weekend about Hebrews 12:28 “Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” Although the context of this verse is a warning, I was reflecting on the reality that as believers, we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken, even when everything around us seems like a mess (as many of us are dealing with daily, whether it’s with those we work with or in our own lives). It was fun for me to realize that assembling gingerbread houses could be an act of worship, praising God for His faithfulness, provision, perfect timing, and love for us as we go into the holiday season.
Praying this story blesses you as watching it unfold blessed me and that you are able to see signs of God’s “sweet” provision in your own life as you go into the Christmas season!