Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"It's a wonderful life"

There is a well known Christmas movie, It's a Wonderful Life, where a man is able to see his impact on the world around him. As he walks through familiar streets, he encounters evidence of what life would be like for those he loves if he'd never been born. This year, I've wondered what would our community look like if the Mission had never "been born." I can't tell you the changes there would be, but I can relay the changes that happen every day because the Mission is real and working to provide food, shelter, and hope to those in need.
Already this year, over 90,000 meals have been served. Women, children, and men have found safety and shelter for a combined 45,000 nights...just this year. Hundreds have heard the Word of truth and received Hope and peace, comfort, and compassion. Multiply that by over a century, then add in all the years that lie ahead. The impact is staggering, and all of it accomplished by a community, working together, to meet needs in the community.
As we celebrate our 104th Christmas, we reflect on the many changes over the years. However, one thing has never changed: your compassion and faithful support of the Mission makes a difference every day, right here in Michigan's capital area. Thank you for being a rescuer by helping us help others! May you have a safe and blessed holiday.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Finishing the Journey

#‎TBT‬ In November of 2011, our executive director took a "rescue trek," spending a week at the Mission and walking the streets with some of our homeless guests. "Randy" was one of his guides that week. Mark finished his journey on Friday, 11/11/11, with a special Veteran's Day/Mission Centennial celebration for guests at Michigan Avenue. Afterward, Mark returned to his house. That night, as the clock ticked its way to 11/12/11, Randy also finished his journey and went "home...." He quietly passed away in his sleep. Although his years on the street and living in addiction had taken an extreme toll on him physically, Mission staff had seen a great change in Randy's life in the months prior to his passing. Even today, Mark is grateful for the timing of that trek and the opportunity to spend time and have some deep discussions with Randy. Randy himself recognized the changes in his life and in his heart, and he was safe and at peace.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Signs of Service

The colander sits above my refrigerator. Occasionally, I hear a faint rattle when the cooling unit kicks into high gear. This is because the misshapen metal makes the bottom of the colander uneven. I don't mind the noise; in fact, I find it often brings a smile to my face, like the voice of a familiar friend. The colander was a gift, but that is not why I have a fondness for the careworn, homely piece of metal. Rather, the beauty of this piece lies in its past.

Others would see the colander and immediately wonder why I keep the piece of junk, sitting on my refrigerator, even if it does hold my bags of potato chips and supports boxes of cereal. They don't know that only a few years ago, the colander was shiny and new. It was made for service and came, quite naturally, to sit atop the shelves in the Mission's kitchen, surrounded by pots and pans.

Many a time, I'd stroll into the kitchen with my camera, ready to capture the diligent efforts of our kitchen staff as they prepared meals for a 100 or more guests. Into the colander would go gorgeous ripe tomatoes for the salad bar, lettuce for Ron's famous BLT soup, ground beef for spaghetti. A small part to play, maybe, but the colander was fulfilling its purpose. It was created for the sole and simple task of straining items. Along the way, it was banged against the sink or dinged in the dishwasher. And along the way, a mother and her hungry child were fed. A man, hopeless and hungry, received more than physical food. Thousands of people, hundreds of thousands of meals, all at no charge to those who were hungry...homeless...hopeless...

The days, months, years passed, and the colander stayed at the ready, doing its job, and being a part of something truly magnificent. Until, no longer shiny and definitely not new, it was time for a new colander, to sit on those high metal shelves, to take a place beside the pots and pans.

And as for the old colander, my colander, it was a gift from the food service manager, who knew but didn't quite understand my fascination with the kitchen tool. For me, that piece of banged up metal is a tremendous representation of the legacy we can leave simply by doing the task placed before us. We all have been created for a purpose, and while it might seem small and unimportant, what a magnificent impact we can have, just by being ourselves, what we were created to be.

To me, that is the legacy of the Mission and all who support it. The Mission, too, was created for a purpose, founded to meet physical and, most importantly, spiritual needs. As long as we stay true to that purpose, amazing things will be accomplished, not because the Mission is great but because our Creator is.

So when the refrigerator fan hiccups to a start and I hear the rattle of that colander dancing atop the refrigerator, I smile in gratitude for the role God has given me and the impact I too can make in His service.

- City Rescue Mission Communications Manager

Monday, April 6, 2015

Moving at the speed of "Rescue"...

When I was a teenager, there were two phrases I disliked hearing from my parents or any older person: "That's life in America," (usually following the typical teenage complaint, "That's not fair!") and "The older you get the faster time flies." Looking back, it's amazing how time seemed to crawl. Now, I have to admit that phrase is particularly accurate. To my horror, I've even caught myself using it on more than one occasion.

The phrase seems especially accurate at the City Rescue Mission, as the Mission has continued to grow to keep pace with the increasing needs for food, shelter, and hope in Michigan's capital area. It is a blessing to be able to meet the physical and spiritual needs of women, children, and men. However, the increase of services and resulting expansion has caused a great deal of changes to how the Mission operates.

Our shelter services have continued  a path of growth and change that really began in the early 90s (with the creation of our women and children's shelter), continued with renovations to the Michigan Avenue men's shelter in 2006, expanded by moving the women and children's shelter to our current facility in 2010, and onto our most recent men's shelter expansion this year. In 2000, we were providing shelter to 33 people a night. In 2014, we sheltered 151 people a night.

Food services also increased with each of these shelter expansions, until the need for major kitchen renovation led to the purchase of a former restaurant. The building is currently being transformed into our future off-site kitchen. This location will have updated, commercial equipment. Staff will prepare meals to be transported to our public dining room, which also serves guests at our men's shelter, and our women and children's shelter. In 2000, we served nearly 45,000 meals for the year. In 2014, we served nearly 110,000 meals.

As I'm sure you can imagine, with all this growth and change, the Mission, operating 24/7, does not usually experience much "downtime." Whenever people ask me how "work" is going, I always respond, "Busy." It's a simple but true response for the multitude of people and myriad opportunities we have to help.

In spite of the external changes, one thing does remain constant: the Mission's dedication to sharing the hope found in Christ's love to our guests. Our "mission" is the foundation for our determination to provide not only quantity but quality. The cleanliness, safety, and quality are all reflections of the fact that we are a ministry not a business.

None of this, growth or quality, would be possible without the continued support of our fellow rescuers. Together, we make up a community of compassion, devoted to making a difference to those who are hungry, homeless, and hurting. Thank you for enabling us to continue meeting so many needs and keeping "busy" doing the work of rescue in the heart of Michigan's capital city. Thank you for being a rescuer by helping us help others.

Friday, January 30, 2015

"The joy of the Lord is your strength!"

During my continued study of the book of Nehemiah, I came across another gem in this little book. Previously, I wrote about the building of the wall and the overwhelming opportunity to play a role in that task. After completion of the wall, Nehemiah called the people together, and Ezra read to them from the law. We read that they were attentive; they shouted "Amen," which means "so be it"; and they worshipped the Lord.

Then Ezra and Nehemiah helped them understand the full measure of the law, and the tone changes, "all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law." Confronted by the full measure of what they had done and what God had done for them, they were stunned and heartbroken.

We see this reaction at the Mission, when someone comes, heart-sore and spirit-broken, and looks back on their life. To see and fully understand the impact of their choices, on themselves and others, can be devastating. But the Mission is a place of hope and healing.

As the people wept, Nehemiah didn't point a finger and focus on their flaws. Instead, he says to them, "'Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.' So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, 'Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.'  And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them."

We, all of us, make mistakes. We regret, if we are honest with ourselves, choices we made that caused separation in relationships, how quick we are to wound with words, how selfish we can be... But when we recognize our own failures and see our need for God's law and guidance in our life, that can be a holy day for us. We can take action and step into a new life, full of opportunities to serve Him as we should. And He says to us, with forgiveness and grace, "Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."

Acappella - Be Ye Glad (YouTube)