Friday, December 23, 2011

The First Gift of Christmas

You'll see the same scene in nearly every nativity set: the three wise men bending over the Christ child sleeping in a manger. However, the wise men, according to scripture, were not at the birth of Christ. They were hundreds of miles away when they "saw His star in the east," and it took them long, weary months of travel and misdirection before they were able to present their gifts to the "coming King."

The first people to hear of Christ's birth weren't wise men or kings. They weren't wealthy and, in some ways, were the lowest "dregs" of society. Poor shepherds, keeping watching over their flocks by night, were the first to hear the good news. In fact, they were issued a royal invitation to see Jesus, one that has not been duplicated. A heavenly host was singing and praising God, and humble shepherds were their only audience. While the crowd of people at Bethlehem (and only miles away the city of Jerusalem) slept, God chose to show that the first gift of Christmas wasn't a gift to the King but rather from the King. God was giving His son to "rescue" all of mankind, and He didn't first seek out the "important" or the "successful"; He came to men who could truly appreciate the magnificence of the gift, because they had so little.

That is the true reason for Christmas and the reason your gifts to the Mission are so important. They show men and women who feel lost and hopeless that God wants to bless them, not because of what they can give Him and not because they are worthy, but because He is. Thank you for helping us help others for another year. Thank you for giving the gift of rescue to men, women, and children in need!

Monday, November 21, 2011

That Poor Yellow Barrel that Would Have Been...

Once upon a time there was a bright yellow barrel. This barrel wasn't any more special than any other barrel. In fact, he looked exactly the same as all the other barrels being sent out by the hundreds. Each one may have had a different destination, but all of them had the same purpose: to hold trash. That's right; this barrel was a trash barrel. A very big barrel. A very bright barrel. But still created for the humble purpose of holding trash.

Then he arrived at his destination, the City Rescue Mission of Lansing, and something amazing happened. Instead of hauling him out back and lining the inside with a plastic bag, he was gently carried inside, fitted with a set of wheels, and--wonder of wonders--given two shiny new signs. One on the front and another, just like it, on the back. And these shiny signs had a great message: Jesus Saves. They had two great messages, actually, for the second said, "Help us help others." That's how the barrel knew he wasn't just any yellow barrel. He was a special barrel after all, because inside was going to be things people could use. Things people would care for. Things people needed.

Included on the signs were a telephone number and, just in case the barrel should get lost, an address. How happy the barrel was to be something special after all. Proudly puffing out his chest (which didn't make much of a difference because barrels are all round any way), he showed off the signs as badges of honor. When the men came and loaded the barrel into the van, he knew he was on his way to do great things.

Sadly, the poor barrel, that would have been something special, never got to reach his potential. The company that called and asked for the barrel to collect non-perishable food items to help people...well...they changed their mind. And when the Mission called to ask how the barrel was doing, they could never get an answer.

Finally, the man in charge of the barrels came to the company and asked just what happened to the yellow barrel. And, after he explained just what the barrel looked like, some men wheeled up the yellow barrel from the back. Only now the yellow barrel was scratched. He was cut and covered with glue. And his signs, his badges of honor that meant he was to be for something special? They'd cut them off, leaving the rivets like scars, and filled the yellow barrel full of trash.

All the people at the Mission were shocked and saddened to see what had happened to the once-bright yellow barrel. And they were so grateful to the many other companies who ask for Mission barrels and recognize them for what they truly are, something special. And those other companies work hard to fill those barrels with things that people can use, things they care for, things that are needed.

Because those "things" do make a difference. They help us show men, women, and children (who sometimes feel damaged and unwanted) that they really can be something special after all. That they have the potential to be and to do great things.

Thank you for being a rescuer. Thank you for helping us help others. And thanks for being kind to our yellow barrels, that carry a special message of hope, and love, and rescue, to those in need.

Monday, October 31, 2011

City Rescue Mission Fights Hunger

On Friday, October 28, 2011, the Lansing State Journal ran an article about the food bank consolidation for our area. It is always a good thing to see "overlapping" agencies work together to ensure efficiency and the best service possible for those in need. This move to "streamline efforts" and "eliminate confusion" just shows again the dedication of these agencies to meet needs.

However, the Mission does not participate with these agencies. And while we recognize the very obvious need for these agencies, we want to ensure that our supporters are not confused that donations to either or these organizations will help alleviate the burden we currently face.

As reported in the article, these "two food banks came on the scene in the early 1980s." The Mission, as many of you know, is now celebrating 100 years of service in Lansing and has served meals to the public since we first opened a "soup kitchen" in January of 1930. This year, we will serve a record number of meals (estimating over 112,000 at current trends) to homeless and low income men, women, and children. Food shortages have affected our ability to provide emergency boxes of food from our independent food pantry and may cause us to re-evaluate our current meal policy (serving meals seven days a week to the public).

Again, it is not our wish to detract at all from support for the food bank or its tireless efforts on behalf of those in need. Our wish is only one of clarification for those of you who have been, as the article said, confused by the two concurrent local food banks and who are unsure as to the Mission's possible connection to either of these agencies.

We operate independently; after an evaluation of the services we offer and the needs we have, we found it was not advantageous to participate. If you have questions about our position or perhaps would like more information on how to help "pack the pantry" and provide meals to thousands of men, women, and children in need, please email

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"A Shelter in the Time of Storm"

Sadly, the word "shelter" has a negative connotation to some people. Actually, a shelter is a good thing, referring to a refuge, a harbor, a place of safety. At the City Rescue Mission, our goal is to offer true "shelter," a haven or refuge. More than just a place to sleep, we offer a clean, safe environment for our guests.

Recently, at our centennial celebration, we were able to have an open house for supporters to see how their donations make a difference in the lives of our guests. One of the tour groups included a guest at the women and children's shelter. She had brought her mother, so she could see the facility and know that her daughter was in a safe place.

What a blessing, not only to be able to offer refuge to this young woman but also to be able to provide her mother a measure of peace. Thank you for "being a rescuer." Your generosity and compassion makes it possible for the Mission to continue to make a difference in the lives of men, women, and children in need.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"I met God at the Mission..."

At our recent staff breakfast, one of our staff men was telling that he had recently "run into" a former guest of the men's shelter. This guest had been a drug addict for many years, but when the staff member saw him, he hardly recognized him. He wouldn't have stopped but "John" (former guest) stopped him.

"I'm trying to keep away from the old lifestyle and the old friends," John told him. "I met God at the Mission," he continued. Though he was suffering from health issues as a result of his former choices, John was so grateful for the change in his life because of the Mission and the Message that he heard there.

Our guests, especially at the men's shelter, are "transient," meaning a person who stays only a brief time. They come and go, and while we are grateful for even limited opportunities to present to them the gospel, often times they don't return to tell us of the impact on their life (similar to Luke 17:11-19).

What a blessing when two ways meet again, and we can hear from men, like John, who were trapped in a lifestyle of sin and slavery and are now free. Because of you and your faithfulness to the Mission. Thank you for helping us help others. Thank you for being a rescuer!

Friday, September 2, 2011

"The victims of sin..."

I should be working on the video for the upcoming centennial... Instead I keep thinking of the words of Leon Kellogg. The video will actually be a recreation of a presentation done by Leon sometime in 1980. It really is fascinating to hear (although we don't know the exact "slides" that went along with his presentation) and discern what is the same and what is different in the ministry of rescue.

Without giving too much away, I can say that they were "lodging" about 24 men a night (no women and children's shelter then) and serving 55 meals a day. Compare that to the average from last month, July 2011, of sheltering 56 men and 84 women and children a night (for 140 people a day) and serving 334 meals a day.

What does remain the same is our goal of sharing the truth of Christ to those in need. One phrase that sticks in my memory is when Leon referred to the then-guests of the Mission, as "victims of sin." We recognize that today, especially with our current economy, circumstances play an increasing role in homelessness. However, there are still those whose choices bring them to a state where they have nowhere else to turn but the Mission. At the time Leon gave his presentation, over thirty years ago, the stereotype of homelessness was stronger than today, and the attitude was very often "they deserve to be where they are," or "why don't they just get a job."

Leon didn't offer criticisms; he offered compassion. He saw, with the eyes of Christ "the multitudes, [and] He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). A lesson in compassion and humility from a man who gave many decades of his life in service of the Mission and these "victims of sin," not only those who are led away by their own desires but also those who truly are the victims of the sins of others.

Thank you for your support of the Mission and our efforts to meet the physical and spiritual needs of men, women, and children in Michigan's capital area. Thank you for being a rescuer!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Flexibility and Focus

Looking over the 100 year history of the Mission, there is one thing we've "always done": preaching the gospel. The many other services we've incorporated over the years--feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the needy--are results of our mission rather than the whole of it. There are other services, too, that have come and gone, depending on ability and need. And we are grateful that we can stay true to our core purpose of preaching the gospel while being flexible enough to adjust through the years.

Recently, an article in the paper featured a local agency's backpack giveaway and mentioned that this is a service no longer provided by the Mission. What they failed to explain was that the number of men, women, and children we are sheltering has more than doubled in the past few months. The need for food has also increased. As a result, we've utilized that flexibility to adjust the "results" of our mission, while holding fast to our original purpose. Instead of providing a child a backpack, we are providing a roof over his head, food for him and his family, a safe place to go during the day, a shower and the things necessary for cleanliness and health, and a measure of stability in a world that can seem increasingly hostile to a child unsettled due to poverty and homelessness.

Last night, there were 6 more men staying at the men's shelter than we had beds. They slept on mattresses on the floor of the chapel. There were 106 single women, mothers, and children at the women and children's shelter. One hundred and seventy two people, not counting men in our Life Transformation Program, were under our care and received help not only for their physical needs but also for their spiritual ones. This is an amazing opportunity, as each person represents a life, a living soul, that is being impacted by those who choose to support the City Rescue Mission. People who choose to "be a rescuer."

Rather than focusing on all the "could haves" and "what ifs," let us take some time to be grateful for what we do have. Times are difficult, for those we shelter and for the Mission, as funds are stretched more than at any time in our past. Friends, fellow rescuers, do not grow weary in well doing! You are making a difference. Thank you for your compassion and for helping us help others!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

From Where I Sit...

This morning was our monthly staff meeting, and I felt somewhat "out of joint." Maybe it's working on the "centennial book" that has me feeling rather sentimental. Or the rather gray overcast that's been hovering over Michigan's capital city these past few days. Whatever the reason, I sat back in the corner, sunk into my folding chair, and smiled, somewhat benevolently, on the chatter going on around me. Sherri, shelter manager, was sharing information with Tiffany, our women and children's shelter director. Gina, administrative assistant, was chatting with Amanda, one of our intake coordinators. Dave, a coordinator at the men's shelter, was smiling and sharing a joke with Mike, our Biblical counselor. Tabby was talking animatedly to Abby (yes, Tabby to Abby). To the side, Mark, our executive director was speaking with Russ, our former director of volunteers, who's about to embark on a new ministry in Nicaragua. All around was talk and smiles, and the chairs in the classroom had filled well before the 8 a.m. meeting was scheduled to start.

It was our monthly staff meeting. A chance to share not only our concerns and prayer requests but also to reconnect as a group of people united for the single purpose of "rescuing" men, women, and children in need.

For just a few moments, I was out of time and place, as I looked at the gathering around me and compared it to 100 years ago, when the Mission was just born. Today, there were roughly forty pairs of hands clasped in prayer. That day so long ago, there were two. For some reason, I can picture them very clearly. Thomas was about forty seven, just recently saved, Emily only a year or so younger, had been praying for her his salvation for a decade. Everything was all so new. And they were not, by any means, wealthy people, with the goal of sharing their wealth with those in need. They were people who had very little, but what they did have, they gave. From such humble roots, the Mission has grown to serve hundreds of men, women, and children every day.

Sometimes, we'll get letters from donors, who lament that they have not more to give. Who apologize for not being able to give more. The very fact that they give anything at all, whether it be money, food, or prayers, is a blessing; it is all needed. Every gift, no matter how "humble" in the eyes of the giver, makes a difference, just as it did that first day nearly 100 years ago.

Thank you for your compassion and faithfulness. Thank you for being a rescuer.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The "Mission" of our Mission

At a recent staff meeting, our executive director stressed something important: that we, as Mission employees, are not doing a "job" or even meeting the "physical" needs of people. Our purpose is to serve souls. Souls in need of rescue. And this has been the purpose of the Mission for its entire 100 year history.

As we've often said, the easy answer to the "problem" of homelessness would be to put people in an apartment, turn the key, and let them continue in the problems that caused their homelessness in the first place. Social ills, addiction, loneliness, anger, lack of job skills, mental issues, all still existent. However, the person is no longer "homeless" and, therefore, homelessness is over.

But we were created for something more than just to exist or to struggle along as best we know how. God has in mind for us something better. Something greater. But far too often we settle for "good enough." It's easier.

So we ask for your prayer for Mission staff and the volunteers who work alongside of us. It's never easy and it isn't even always "rewarding." After all, we're not "rescuing" used furniture that simply needs some sanding and a new coat of paint to make it serviceable. We're rescuing souls.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Time Goes By...

So much has happened since I last entered anything (it's almost shaming if the reason weren't because we were so busy :) The Maplewood Center is fully renovated and almost fully operational. I say almost because we're still in the development stages of our women's Life Transformation Program, which will be similar to our current men's program at Michigan Avenue.

At Michigan Avenue, the kitchen has undergone a complete rebuilding of the floor, a necessary renovation which couldn't wait for (hopefully) the full renovations coming in the next few years. As our meals have increased, the need has outgrown our current kitchen. Also, the need for shelter for men has outgrown our men's dorm. We hope to expand both.

This is only to say that, while much has been accomplished in the past few months, there is so much more coming, so much more that needs to be done, so many more opportunities to reach a hand of rescue to those in need in our community.

But as we remain busy and looking forward to these changes, we also recognize that the foundation for our plans rest firmly in the Lord and in the faithful compassion of our supporters. As we celebrate 100 years of service, we look back with humility and gratitude at the legacy of generosity that has allowed the Mission to grow from a rented portion of a building to a ministry able to provide support and shelter to hundreds of men, women, and children every day. Because of you. Thank you for being a rescuer. Thank you for helping us help others.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Yum and Yummier

If I had the time, I would create a blog dedicated to making the entire capital city area aware of the fact that our public dining room provides more than just provides good food. Our cooks work very hard to use the variety of donations that come in the door, and sometimes that requires some creativity.

Tuesday, Abby made mention of an overabundance of jello that had been donated. "I think I'll make up some jello." Wednesday dessert was jello, with angel food cake, whipped topping, and maraschino cherries. Tuesday afternoon, a young man came to the door hefting grocery bags fulls of apples and bananas left over from an event. The gift was thoughtful but the bananas were past their prime. The answer: banana pudding topped with real bananas.

There are meatball dishes, chicken dishes, rice or pasta cooked one million and one ways... I could go on but nothing I could ever write could fully describe the effort, creativity, and compassion that goes into a meal at the Mission. From the base ingredients (donations all), to the hard work of our cooks, to the hands of volunteers who serve the meal (cafeteria style) to our guests, love truly is in every bite.

Even after the meal is finished, labor goes into keeping the facility one of the cleanest restaurants in Lansing (as we are required to meet the same health codes as a restaurant). All of this is because of the generosity of our supporters. It is their efforts that helped put over 95,000 meals on the table for men, women, and children in need in Michigan's capital area.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Volunteer Opportunity--Daytime Desk Clerk

If you call into our offices, you might hear the friendly voice of a Mission staff member or the cheerful tones of our volunteer receptionists. At our administrative offices, two of our most faithful volunteers are Laura (not to be confused with CRM Employee, i.e. the other Laura) and Joyce. Laura has been faithfully coming for over a year, and Joyce has been with us for four. We are so grateful to our many volunteers for meals, etc.; however, as we transition the administrative offices to our Maplewood Center, we're hoping to be able to "clone" Laura and Joyce by finding other volunteers, with daytime availability, willing to serve in the same capacity. We need friendly people who can 1) help people bringing donations or needing information on our services and 2) work in our personal needs room. Some phone use will be involved, but we are willing to train anyone interested. Please call Cheryl or "the other Laura" at 517.485.0145 or email or if you are interested in learning more about this volunteer opportunity.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lost in Transition

Ever had one of those kind of days? The kind of days where you have so much stuff piled on your desk that you're in a blank haze as to which project to tackle next? Well, today is one of those days. (My mom would blame the weather, and, seeing the gray blah outside the window, I tend to agree with her.) The solution, of course, is to thank God for our blessings. Of which there are many. Today, I'm still smiling in the afterglow of a special blessing from yesterday.
Gina, a staff member, was charged with the seemingly herculean task of tracking down an old scrapbook that had disappeared during one of the most recent changes to the reception area. The photos and this scrapbook had lived for some time in an old credenza that no longer fit in the front office when cubicles were added for much needed office space. Upon realizing the scrapbook had disappeared, a small feeling of panic settled over me. This orange scrapbook, unattractive and mostly unused, holds a treasure trove of Mission memorabilia which Leon Kellogg had accumulated. Leon, grandson of the Mission founders, had included newspaper articles and photos dating back to the late '20s.

The photos were family photos and irreplaceable. My searches proved fruitless, and, with the chaos of the upcoming office move, it seemed the task of finding this treasure would have to wait until we were settled in Maplewood.

We came back from taking pictures at Maplewood to find that Gina had been successful. What was lost had been found. Lovely old photos, yellowed newspaper clippings, and that beautiful orange cover.

It was very reminiscent of Christ's parables in Luke 15, which culminates with the story of the prodigal son. Very reminiscent of the purpose of the City Rescue Mission. Matthew 18:11 tells us that "the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost." Sometimes, we may desperately try to "find" someone and to bring him/her to our Savior. But that is, thankfully, in God's hands. In His perfect timing, He will bring them to Himself. What a blessing that we are able to play just a small part in this wonderful plan.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

When we all get to Maplewood...

Around the Mission administrative offices, we have a song phrase we sing from time to time, "When we all get to Maplewood," sung to the tune of "When we all get to heaven." It's really difficult not to talk about Maplewood all the time because, for what seems like an eternity, we've been preparing for this move. But, as with all things, the timing truly is in the Lord's hands, and we've all been learning a lesson about patience (harder, it seems, for some of us).

In some cases, the upcoming (as in the sense of some distant future) move had become a coping mechanism. Sure, it wasn't the most convenient to trudge up and down 23 steps every time a copy needed to be made, but "when we all get to Maplewood" it would be so much better... I'm putting on some "Mission muscle," but when we all get to Maplewood, we'll be away from the temptation of a kitchen right next door. With our cooks eager to try out recipes on even more eager office guinea pigs (us :).

Now, the day is rapidly approaching when the offices vacate and leave space for the men's shelter and public dining room to expand. It's hard to hold back the excitement, tinged as it is with a small sense of remorse. Because, in spite of the joy of a new "home," we'll miss the old familiarity of Michigan Avenue, the rich sense of history that is an integral part of these old buildings.

Waiting on the brink of a new direction in the "life" of the City Rescue Mission, it's an exciting and humbling opportunity to stand with one foot anchored in a rich history of service and another stepping on the building block of new opportunities to make a difference. Thank you for standing with us, to meet the physical and spiritual needs of men, women, and children in Michigan's capital area. Thank you for being a rescuer!