Thursday, December 23, 2010

Special Gifts from the Heart

We've received several donations of hand knit scarves, gloves, mittens, and hats. All are appreciated but one especially touching gift was delivered to the office door during the "chaos" that is Christmas week. When a Mission staff person went to answer the ringing bell, a woman was waiting outside with a small bag of knit hats in assorted colors. The woman was crying and barely managed to speak the words, "These are from a very special person." She went on to say that the person who made them had recently passed away. Before she did so, she charged the woman at our door with the responsibility of making sure the gift came to us. They were indeed made by a special person, someone who knit them with compassion and sincere concern for those in need. It is always humbling to be reminded, in the midst of the bustle and busyness, how precious it is to stand, as another supporter put it, as a vessel, carrying your gifts of compassion and placing them in the hands of those in need.

Thank you to the many, many of you who have been so generous this holiday season. God bless you and may you have a very, Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Little Boy Blue

Yesterday, there were some rather excited noises coming from the chapel...not excited in a good way. A young boy, there with his mom and two other siblings, had come in for the noon meal. As is our policy, guests sign up for lunch between 11 a.m. and noon, have a short chapel service, then come through the public dining room for a hot meal. As we serve 2 meals a day to the public (not including breakfast to our guests), 365 days a year, staff has the routine down to a near science. Not that there aren't the occassional interruptions. Like yesterday.

The little guy was crying because, as he told a staff person while his family was signing in, he was hungry. How do you help a little, three year old boy, understand that food is coming? Bryan bustled the whole family into the dining room, so they could get some food into those hungry little bellies.

It's tragic that a mother with three small children has to look for a free meal...but it's good to know that those in need do have a place where they can go to get help. Whether they are three or eighty three. The generous donations of our faithful supporters make meals and our other services available to those in need. So that the thousands of people who come to the Mission find the lights on, the buildings warm, and the food delicious :) Thank you for helping us help others!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tell me, what does God look like?

At our women and children's shelter, while the women are in Bible study, the children get to hear a Bible story of their own. Sometimes, they have the opportunity to do a craft or draw a picture that correlates with what they've just heard. Reviewing these pictures, I began to notice that Jesus is almost always drawn by the children, no matter their age, with a beard. Not surprising considering this was not only most likely, considering what we know of the time period in which He lived on earth, but also the way we usually see Jesus or God "personified" in art or on film. Amazing that children, from pictures and stories, have already begun to "form" an image of who God is.

At the City Rescue Mission our goal has always been to meet physical needs to bring those with spiritual needs to Jesus Christ. Introducing people to their Creator has been our number one goal since the Mission was founded nearly 100 years ago by Thomas and Emily Dolton. The motivation for their entire lives was to take Christ's love to the unloved and, perhaps, unlovable. To show that God remembers those whom society has forgotten. To reach a hand of help to those who may feel they have fallen beyond even the reach of God's love.

Along the way, they will discover that not only does God love them but our supporters do too. In fact, most often their first "glimpse" of who God truly is will come in the form and face of a staff member or a volunteer. Our love is only a dim reflection of God's love. And our prayer is that they will see God's love in us. In spite of our faults and flaws. That we will continue to love those who may seem unlovable and have the wisdom to be both merciful and just, compassionate and consistent.

We can continue to meet needs and to reach a hand of "rescue," because of our supporters. Because of you.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"That's the way our God works"

From time to time, the Mission gets an "overabundance" of a certain item. Our goal, in cases such as this, is to share that abundance with other agencies, to be sure that a needed item can get to the person in need. Lately, the Mission has had a lot of size 3 and smaller diapers arrive. One of our staff men took this excess, and other baby related items, to pregnancy services. When asking staff there if they had a need for this item, he was told that a call had come in not 10 minutes before he arrived. The mother needed size 3 diapers but couldn't afford to buy any until her check on Friday. What a blessing to know that mother was able to see her need provided for, and what a blessing to be a part of meeting that need. As our driver said when sharing the story, "That's the way our God works." He knows the need and enables us to be a part of sharing His love.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

99 years and counting!

Yesterday, Betty Kellogg and two of her daughters came to the Maplewood Center for a video interview. We're trying to capture memories in preparation for the 100 year anniversary of the Mission. It was a very informative interview and also a blessing. Betty's husband, Leon, who has passed away, was a grandson of Mission founders Thomas and Emily Dolton. His paternal grandparents, Oren and Huldah Kellogg, had actually been in charge of a previous faith Mission. Thomas Dolton, before he was saved, used to listen to the music from this Mission's gospel wagon. By the time he was saved, the faith Mission had closed. So he and his wife Emily started the City Rescue Mission. Oren Kellogg gave them the former Mission's benches, organ, and hymnals.

It was interesting to hear, not just about this, but also similar stories, because it helps show the continuing "thread" of the ministry down through the years. In those early years, Thomas and Emily sometimes went without food themselves, so they could provide a meal for someone in need and present them with the gospel. Today, their determination to "meet physical needs to bring those with spiritual needs to Jesus Christ" continues as the main purpose of the City Rescue Mission, and we are only another link in a chain forged long before any of us were born.

What a blessing to be able to serve, for even a small time, as a part of this legacy of service to Michigan's capital area. To be able to make a difference in the lives of men, women, and children, today and into the future.

Friday, August 13, 2010

"the hope that is in you"

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;" 1 Peter 3:15

This past summer has been full of blessings. So many people have give generously to support the ministry of rescue, and we are currently blessed to have not one but two businesses working to help provide meals for those in need: L&L with "Pack the Pantry" and Gordon Food Services with "Change for Change." We also have many businesses, churches, and organizations collecting backpacks and school supplies for our "Backpacks of Hope" giveaway on August 28. We are so grateful for everything done on behalf of those we serve and recognize that each gift is evidence of providence.

However, there are always trials to endure and obstacles to overcome. On one hand, the Mission has been greatly blessed this summer, on the other, we've seen many new challenges, not just to the ministry but to staff and guests. For this reason, we ask supporters to support us in their prayers as well. Pray for Mission leadership and staff members, we all need to make wise decision in the days ahead. Pray for our guests, the numbers continue to increase but decisions regarding the wisest use of resources lie ahead. Finally, pray for supporters, like you. We all have challenges to face and only together can we truly make a difference not just for today but for eternity.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

August: a month of opportunities

This month we debut our "Pack the Pantry" food drive. We hope to make it an annual event (see to get a peek). This year, L&L Food Centers is hosting the drive in all seven of their Lansing area stores. We are so grateful to L&L, not just for this event but for their many long years of faithful support to the City Rescue Mission.

This week, Gordon Food Services' area stores are asking customers if they'd like to "give for a cause." This week, shoppers can round up to the nearest dollar, and those proceeds go to support the City Rescue Mission. This is to lead up to the Grand Opening of their new Okemos Store. Mark Criss, our executive director, will attend the ribbon cutting next week.

Saturday, August 28, 2010, is the 10th annual "Backpacks of Hope" giveaway. The Mission will be distributing backpacks and school supplies to children in need (as supplies last). From now until Friday the 20th, you can drop-off school supplies at 607 E. Michigan Avenue, Lansing. If you know a family struggling financially, tell them to visit the "Get Help Now" page of our website ( to see how they can benefit from the giveaway. If you'd like to help with this project (daytime hours), please call our director of volunteers, Russ Kinyon, at 517.485.0145 or email him at

Gift and Bible, in the Delta Center, has started selling used books and CD's, the proceeds of which go to support the City Rescue Mission. They also accept donations of books and music for this project.

You can also register, this month, to participate in the Lady Classic, a golf outing hosted by Capital Area Women's Lifestyle Magazine (visit or call 517.203.0123). CAWLM has once again chosen the Mission as their charity beneficiary for the golf outing on Thursday, September 16.

A very busy month lies ahead, and we are grateful to all of these businesses and organizations who desire to help us help others.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It just walked in the door...

On June 29, "Team Depot," a group of store associates under the direction of the Home Depot Foundation, came to the Maplewood Center to put in a full day of landscaping and other external improvements. Their efforts were greatly appreciated, and, as good hosts, we offered to serve them lunch.

The City Rescue Mission of Lansing serves two meals every day to the general public; this means that anyone in need can get a good meal at no cost to them. Our food pantry, which provides the raw materials for those meals, is stocked by the generosity of donors. The meals are prepared by our kitchen staff, no more than two of whom are together to work on meal preparation at any one time. It can be challenging, especially when you discover that you will be more than doubling the number of meals you have to prepare for lunch that day.

Just what are you going to feed everybody?

We don't always know, but we do know that the need will be met. On this particular day, a catered event had more food than they needed. Quite a bit more food.

When our executive director asked Keith, on duty that day, what he was going to send over to Maplewood for lunch, he replied, "It just came in the door."

We are so grateful to the event coordinator for giving this food to the Mission, and we are grateful to the Provider who saw this need and made sure it was met. It is doubtful that the store associates fully realized that when they came to be a blessing to the Mission and to those we serve, they were being blessed in return, by getting a true taste of Mission Manna.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

All in a day's...not working...

Saturday was a very interesting day. Interesting in that I headed out into the gray, grisly morning with a carefully prepared list of "errands" to run. None of those errands involved work, well, one or two of them did, but most of them were personal errands.

First stop was my bank, where I had questions about my account. I was told to wait for the lady in the office, and while speaking with her, the conversation turned to my place of employment, the City Rescue Mission. "You work with Mark!" The lady said, and I wondered how she knew Mark. From television. I admit, I took the opportunity to brag on my boss (how often can a person do that?) and was pleased at the realization that people are beginning to recognize, not just Mark, but also the Mission.

The City Rescue Mission has existed in Lansing since 1911; our buildings on Michigan Avenue have housed our ministry since 1948. Our Jesus Saves Cross, the sign that hangs over the chapel building and is the focal point of our logo, has lit the night sky for over six decades, long before Mark was even born. But when I began working for the Mission in 2004, there was a surprising number of people who didn't know the Mission existed or why it existed.

It is so gratifying to reclaim a sense of awareness in our community, not just so supporters know that we need their help but also so that those in need know that we are here to help them. Rather a tongue twister, but it all comes down to "helping us help others." For nearly 100 years, the Mission has had the opportunity to meet physical and spiritual needs of men, women, and children. That legacy would never have been possible without the compassion and generosity of our community.

It may be rather startling when your boss' name comes up in conversation with a random stranger, especially on your day off, but it's worth it if the message connected with his name is about the Mission, the needs of those we serve, and the truth behind the words over our door: Jesus Saves.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What a Privilege

At a recent staff meeting in the chapel at the Maplewood Center, our executive director covered a passage from Paul's letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:3-16). Timothy, a protege of the Apostle Paul, was getting encouragement from his mentor on the importance of contentment in his daily life, especially as he served as a minister to the needs, physical and spiritual, of those around him. These words give us wisdom as we daily strive to follow the example left by men like Paul and Timothy.

From time to time, someone will ask if we "work" for the Mission or are we volunteers. While we do utilize several volunteers (and are extremely grateful for their faithfulness and support), the Mission does need a core group of dedicated staff members. The privilege is the opportunity to "work" for the Mission. Because we do not "work" for the "Mission" so much as work for God's glory and for the help, health, and transformation of our guests. It's a strange and wonderful feeling to "open your envelope" and see that you are getting paid to help people.

It is an awesome responsibility, as well, because while we "work" for our guests, we also "work" for our supporters. As a faith ministry, every dollar that comes to cover operational expenses (utility bills, building maintenance, staffing needs) comes from the compassionate gifts of people desiring to help us help others. Last year, we provided over 90,000 meals and 30,700 nights of shelter to men, women, and children in Michigan's capital area. Yet every meal and every bed was available solely because of a feeling of compassion and an act of generosity by you.

Thank you so much for the privilege of allowing us to serve as your hands, meeting needs, telling the good news, and reaching out to the lost. Thank you for helping us help others!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Good Samaritans?

Some of you may have heard the recent story of the homeless "good Samaritan," who was stabbed to death in New York last week. It's difficult sometimes, to determine just what to comment on and to share with our supporters. The main goal of the Mission is always to glorify God, but included in this mission is our desire to affect a change in view regarding those we serve.

The greatest irony (if I can use that word) seems to be the title given to the man who died. While it was true that he did step in to save a woman who was having a vicious altercation with some man on the street, the correlation with the parable of Christ is strangely skewed.

In the parable found in Luke 10:25-37, the man lying on the road, left to die, ignored by everyone who passed by, he was the one helped by the "Good" Samaritan. The point was to emphasize that we are to love our neighbors. Neighbors referring to everyone in need. Regardless of race, religion, or creed.

In the story related by the associated press, there were no good Samaritans. At least 7 people passed by during the course of an hour. One even stopped to take a photo with his phone. Not one of them stopped to help, called the police, or stayed with the man bleeding on the sidewalk.

Some speculate that these people "didn't want to get involved." Perhaps they thought he was simply passed out drunk or were concerned about being taken advantage of. Fear. The Bible also tells us that "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18). Very active words, to describe what is required to make a difference in this world: actions. Do something: volunteer, write a check... Don't just "feel bad" about it. Sometimes, as in the case of the homeless man in New York, all it takes is a phone call.

We are so grateful for the many compassionate people who support our ministry among the "forgotten" men and women in Michigan's capital area. You are taking action and making a difference. Thank you for your desire and determination to help us help others.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Needs a little vanilla...

The City Rescue Mission of Lansing is a faith ministry. What that means is that we do not have any "steady" sources of revenue, i.e. grants, federal/state funds, etc. All our services are provided solely by donations. Bottom line: people choose to give.

What this also means is that sometimes we come pretty close to scraping the bottom of the barrel, but we never have. As our executive director likes to say, "We make people aware of our needs, and if they feel God desires them to give, they do."

A few weeks ago, Roger, our director of operations needed to go make a run to one of our supporting churches. This church keeps one of our yellow "Mission barrels" in their lobby. There are a few churches and organizations in the area who host these food collection barrels for us. Volunteer drivers or our director of operations will make a run out to empty them as the need arises (see our website homepage,, for video).

This day, Roger happened to notice, as he was picking up the bags from the barrel, a bottle of vanilla was laying all by itself. He tucked it into a bag, and as he left the building to continue his errands, he thought about that bottle of vanilla. It's not a usual donation; most items we get are boxed or canned goods. He wondered just how they were going to use that solitary bottle of vanilla.

As he arrived back at the Mission and began unloading, Kevin, one of the cooks, walked past from the kitchen.

"I'm heading out to the store, Roger," he said, "I need to pick up a bottle of vanilla."

Imagine his surprise when Roger reached into a bag and handed him the vanilla. Such a small, ordinary thing that symbolizes the amazing experience of relying every day on the Lord's provision. Whoever gave that bottle could hardly imagine it would arrive at the perfect time. But that's what God's timing always is, perfect.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sometimes you just have to sit there...

When the call came in I wasn't sure what he was asking. The man on the other end of the line began his story about how he was traveling to Lansing for a funeral. Without my saying a word, my mind immediately jumped to wondering if he was calling because he needed funeral clothes and would like to access our clothing distribution center. His story continued that he was traveling by bus, so I next wondered if he was calling because he needed bus fare to return home (not one of our regular services) or overnight shelter tonight (which we could accommodate in our men's shelter).

"I saw your sign," he finally said, "on the front of your building, as I was sitting on the bus, and I wanted to know what the verse was so I could use it in my eulogy. I didn't have anything to write with," he said with apology in his voice, "you're not really expecting to see something to write down while you're riding on a bus."

I admit, I did have to leave my chair long enough to open the door and peer up at the reference (just to be sure), but he thanked me for my help and that was all. No request for food, shelter, clothing, money, or anything. Just a reference for a Bible verse.

And I was struck again by the importance of being completely honest about our mission. We, as a Mission and as a united staff, are a Christian organization. We are not, as our executive director likes to reiterate, to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. It is not always popular or well received to have a Bible verse on a sign. Or for that matter to have "Jesus Saves" spelled out in big red letters. But just having them there makes a difference. And as long as our actions "match" the words, we make a difference. Sometimes just by being there.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's never that simple...

I thought it'd be fairly simple. Go to the agrm home page or just google to find a sheet explaining the best way for compassionate individuals to react when encountered by someone who is homeless. What I found at first surprised and then concerned me. Most of the google responses had to do with questions that individuals posted regarding what to do when approached by a person who said he/she was homeless or by someone requesting money. The responses to these posted questions, again from anonymous individuals, ranged from unwisely compassionate to dangerously hostile.

We're all taught by our parents not to talk to strangers. Don't tell strangers your name or give them personal information. It's a safety issue that really doesn't end when you become an adult, especially in this age of identity theft. Just because you have a compassionate heart and see someone in need does not mean that you suddenly forget this valuable lesson. It is better to be helpful but remain anonymous.

One should also always be cautious about handing out money. Though it may seem to be the quickest answer to a problem, money rarely is the "easy solution" everyone touts it to be. The few dollars you give to a stranger on the street could go to supporting a self destructive habit, rather than providing a local service agency with the means to combat the man or woman's addiction or situation. If you feel a desire to give monetarily, call your local homeless shelter or visit their website to make a donation. Keep a list of service agency numbers to offer if someone comes to you for help.

In our area (Michigan's capital), 211 is an excellent resource for those looking for help. Not only is it easy to remember, it's also a free call from any landline phone. The person looking for assistance calls 211 and reaches a friendly operator, who searches their database and provides the caller with the names and numbers of agencies who can help meet their specific need.

To return to our google postings, the responses varied on either extreme. The unwisely compassionate were those willing to go to any extreme to help someone in need. Discretion is always the best practice, even in matters of compassion. You want to be sure that your "good deeds" are actually doing good, not enabling self destructive habits or merely "patching" a bad situation.

The other side of the suggestions came from those whose anonymity gave strength to their voice of hostility. Opinions ranged from "punching the bums" in the face or threatening them with weapons. In fact, these suggestions only underline a growing trend of violence again the homeless. The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that 106 homeless individuals were violently assaulted in 2008; 27 of those assaults resulted in death. In 2002, two young men made a business out of taping homeless men fighting each other for the promise of a few dollars.

At the City Rescue Mission, our desire is always to meet the physical and spiritual needs of men, women, and children in Michigan's capital area. We seek to nurture an attitude of compassion to our guests and to encourage those who truly desire to help to become as educated as possible, not only about homelessness but also about our ministry (visit our website at

Some good resources for information include the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (, the National Coalition for the Homeless, and the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Hot off the presses...

Progress continues, slowly but surely, on the Mission's Maplewood Center. We are also excited as possibilities and opportunities change in the coming days. Every day, staff at the women and children's shelter are busy planning and getting things together for the upcoming move to Maplewood. Enough bedding, pillows, and quilts have come in to cover the beds twice over. The elevator has been approved, and the warming kitchen is also ready to go. There's even a holder for trays waiting by the cafeteria door. Very soon, we will be able to announce an "open house" to celebrate the completion of Phase 1 renovations, and we look forward to celebrating this first step with the many supporters who help us help others!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Gratitude in a Green Coat

This morning, one of our former guests at the Men's shelter came to the office with a smile on his face and some money in his hand. A friend had given him a gift, which he used to "treat" some of his former dorm mates (themselves guests of the Mission) to a hot coffee on this cold morning. The rest, he brought to the Mission.

It's exciting to see the excitement of those who rejoice, not just at the opportunity to give back to the place which gave them so much, but also at the chance to become one of the many who show compassion to men, women, and children in need in Michigan's capital area.

Our volunteer receptionist was impressed by his joy, and she didn't even know the difference from the man who had first arrived at the Mission a year ago and the man who had just given to transform other men, as he himself had been transformed.

It reminded me of Lamentations 3:22-24, and the Lord's mercies, which are new every morning. Even on cold, windy mornings in January. Surely, the "Lord is my portion."