Wednesday, August 2, 2017


One of the more unnoticed parts of the Rescue Mission's ministry is the Monday through Friday chapel service conducted in the dining hall. We had to move to the dining hall several years ago when our population grew beyond the capacity of our small chapel area. Chapel meets during the week at 4:00 and all guests who are in the building attend these services. Along with several staff members, there is a rotation of about 11 pastors from area churches who take their turn presenting the gospel during this hour.

We conduct these services as an important part of our gospel focus. Our speakers come from different parts of the denominational spectrum, but they are evangelical by conviction. We emphasize the gospel and its power to transform lives.

As it comes to mind, each weekday at 4:00 o'clock, say a prayer for those who attend these services and for those who speak.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Good Behavior

In perusing our hiring policy documents, I came upon a policy that speaks of ethical boundaries to be observed by Mission employees. We have all agreed to these statements and it is helpful to share some of these behavioral boundaries (with comments, of course). As a staff, we agree to:
  • Set aside ample time for spiritual development and nurture through prayer, reading Scripture, church attendance, and regular fellowship and accountability with other believers. We realize that, in order to minister effectively to others, we must be spiritually healthy and growing.
  • We seek to appropriately share our faith during personal interactions with guests, volunteers, donors, and other employees.  One of the reasons we exist is to share the gospel and see lives transformed by its power.
  • We desire that our actions, speech, and behaviors plainly demonstrate a respect for all guests, volunteers, donors, and fellow staff members. Love, dignity, and respect is to be shown to all those made in the image of God. This is also an effective demonstration of the gospel.
  • We seek to exhibit a loving and non-judgmental attitude in dealing with people. We strive to live by the dictum, "There but for the grace of God go I."
These are a few of the behaviors that the staff of the Rescue Mission endeavors to follow. Actually, these are descriptions of basic Christian behavior that should characterize all followers of Christ.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Gospel Rescue Mission

We've said it before - and perhaps it has been mentioned in this blog before - but the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley is a gospel rescue mission cleverly disguised as a homeless shelter. Our intention is not to only provide food and shelter for those who experience homelessness due to unexpected life situations, we desire to give more. So, the question is, "what is a gospel rescue mission?"

The word rescue is important. If we were only a homeless shelter, then providing shelter would be our aim. Getting people off the streets would be our major concern. But the idea of "rescue" implies more than providing shelter. It implies hope; it implies a change in the circumstances that led to the situation.

We are a rescue mission. The word "mission" often conjures up images of soup lines, panhandlers, or even primitive people who live in rain forests or jungles waiting for a missionary to bring civilization to them. For us, we view what we do as a mission - a task to which we have been appointed by the Lord of the Harvest (Matthew 9:36-38).

Further, we are a gospel rescue mission. We are commissioned by the Lord of the Harvest to rescue people with the gospel of Christ. Only the gospel can effect the change necessary to address the problems of the human situation. Certainly, we want to clothe, feed, and shelter people. Certainly we want to move people out of crisis situations and help them to become productive members of society. Certainly we want to help break the cycle of poverty and dependency. But all of these are symptoms of the larger issue: we live in a world that is broken and marred by sinfulness and dysfunction, and only redemption in Christ can provide the necessary resources to overcome the vicious cycle.

So, this is what a gospel rescue mission does, as our purpose statement declares: "the purpose of the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley is to serve and glorify God through Christ-centered outreach of love and compassion that responds to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of disadvantaged men, women, and children without regard to race, color or creed." By God's grace,
as he works through others to work beside us, this is what we endeavor to do.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sad News...Again

I would like to say that we were taken by surprise; that we were completely shocked; that we were totally unprepared for news like this. I would like to say that, but it would not be true. Unfortunately, the news we received on July 7 was something that we have heard all too often. "John" (not his real name), one of our former Discipleship Academy members, was found dead of an apparent overdose in the basement of his mother's house.

John entered the Discipleship Academy to learn to overcome his addiction through applying the gospel to his life. By all appearances, he was doing well. Due to an injury and subsequent rehabilitation, he was unable to complete the Academy course, but he stayed engaged with the Mission and its staff. As far as we know, he had been doing well, even holding down a good job.

Had he been using for some time or did he return to "his mess" for this one, fatal time? We will probably never know, but his death by overdose provides a wake-up call for those who are still in the process of achieving some measure of success over this hellish affliction. May I suggest some take-aways from this tragic situation?
  • Never underestimate the power of addiction. This holds true for all of those sins and weaknesses that beset us. At the time that we think we have conquered something, it may creep back in to show us our weakness. The Bible gives us wise counsel in this: "Therefore, let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12), and "Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov. 16:18). 
  • Do not neglect the power and importance of community. In the recovery field, meetings are a vital part of the recovery process. I think that this is a page stolen from the New Testament. The author of Hebrews encourages us in this: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Heb. 10:24-25). As far as we know, this vital component of fellowship and community was lacking in John's life.
  • Do not neglect individual "soul-care." Every Christian is responsible for the management of his or her own walk with God and progress in holiness. Outside influences may contribute to this: church attendance, prayer groups, etc., but in the end it is our individual personal responsibility to lay hold of the means of grace.
Do incidents like this and the many others that have occurred point to a failure in the programs that the Mission offers? Does this negatively impact our "success rate?" We have long ago abandoned any pretense of measuring a "success rate," though we are asked about it frequently. This we know to be true:

First, the gospel is the power of God that brings salvation (Rom. 1:16). When one embraces the gospel of Christ, that individual is a "new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come" (2 Cor. 5:17). By his own testimony, John had embraced this life-changing gospel.

Second, even though Christians are redeemed, we are still human. We still sin; we have flaws; we may slip and fall. In fact, in Gal. 6:1, Paul counsels the church regarding how to deal with a fellow believer who is overtaken by some failure. So, as long as we are in these mortal bodies, we must continue to take heed to ourselves, to seek out Christian community and fellowship, to engage in personal soul care as an ongoing spiritual discipline.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Big Announcement

On Monday, June 19th, the Board of Directors of the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley announced the appointment of John Muckridge III  as the new President/CEO of the Mahoning County's only homeless shelter. Muckridge came to the Rescue Mission as a volunteer in 2011 teaching and tutoring clients in the Mission's Learning Center. During this time as a volunteer, he grew to love the ministry and accepted a staff position as Learning Center Instructor. From there his roles with the Mission progressively increased as he became Director of Education in 2013, the Director of Client Services in 2014, and then was promoted to Deputy Director in 2015.

Muckridge, a graduate of Youngstown State University, earned his B.S. in Business Administration in 2005. In August of 2010, he was awarded an M.A. in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University. Previously he has held positions as a Senior Credit Manager with Wells Fargo Financial, Sales and Service Development Manager with First National Bank of Pennsylvania in Hermitage, PA, and Online Adjunct Faculty with San Diego Christian College.

When asked about his vision for ministry, Muckridge replied,
It's simple. The Lord has clearly communicated His vision for a ministry like the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley in Matthew 25:31-46 where we learn that we serve Jesus by serving the 'least of these' and we love Jesus by loving 'the least of these.' We are a Gospel-centered ministry who believes in the inerrancy, sufficiency, and authority of the Scriptures which teaches us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and that by grace alone, through faith alone, for God's glory alone, we receive forgiveness for our sins through Christ alone. The Lord has allowed us to share this good news with the people he sends through our doors and we will continue doing so.

John shares a home with his wife Nicole and their three boys in Columbiana, Ohio where he also serves as a Board Member for Heartland Christian School. John has volunteered for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America. He and his family are members of Old North Church in Canfield, Ohio.

John Muckridge wishes to than the previous Executive Director, Jim Echement,
for all the leadership and time Jim spent grooming him for this role as President and CEO after Jim's retirement. The staff and board are excited to welcome John as the eighth leaders of the ministry and look forward to celebrating the Rescue Mission's 125th year in the Valley in 2018 under John's leadership.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Run the Mile You're In.

This past Sunday was the very first Youngstown Marathon. If the turn out is any indication, it will become an annual event. More than 1200 runners participated in the marathon, half-marathon, or the 5K event. For this first Youngtown Marathon, the Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley was well represented.

A few months ago, Rick Blair, one of our good friends, faithful volunteers, and passionate advocate, decided to begin a "Run Club" for the men in the Discipleship Academy and for any staff who may want to join along. Rick is a marathon runner and competed in last year's Boston Marathon, raising funds to benefit the Mission. Rick and the guys began training - Rick would run the full marathon and the academy men would run in the 5K. Add to this number a few staff who ran and others who volunteered at the event, and the Mission had a great presence.

The slogan for the Run Club was printed on the back of their tee shirts: "Run the Mile You're In." The great Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Philippian church; "But one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 12b-14). Now, some of these same participants want to run in the Peace Race, held each year in Youngstown and Mill Creek Park.

Thanks, Rick, for leading this and congratulations to those who ran with perseverance "the race set before them." You can follow Rick's running adventures here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Here We Go Again

I heard this again today. Several times each month I hear something like this, usually from men who are retired and enjoying the fruits of their many years of hard work. Today, I was buying milk for the Rescue Mission. I had 30 gallons in my cart and was in the parking lot loading them into the truck. The gentleman who walked past me was surprised to see that much milk purchased by one customer, but when he saw me loading them into a truck with the Mission logo on the side, he knew the reason.

"I hope those men down there at the Mission appreciate that," he said kindly. "Oh, they do indeed," I replied. "I spent 20 years in [a particular branch of the armed forces], and I think those guys need to get a job and work for a living."

This reminded me of the time several years ago when two older gentlemen stopped by our display at the Canfield fair and handed me a $10.00 donation. The stipulation was that it should be used to help the women and children. "Don't use it for those bums who refuse to get a job," he added. This reminded me of several misconceptions that people have about the population we serve and what we do at the Mission.

Misunderstanding #1: People are homeless because they are lazy and refuse to work.
This misconception is that there is a large group of people who "work the system" and depend upon others to maintain them. Granted, this is true of some. It is not true of all, or even most. People are not at the Mission because they are lazy; they are there because they are broken. Substance abuse and broken relationships break people and their support systems. Until they begin to take responsibility for this brokenness, they cannot begin to heal.

Misunderstanding #2: The Mission shelters men who could be out working. The "out working" is addressed above, but some people are unaware that the Mission provides shelter for women and children. As of this writing, the Mission provides emergency shelter for 34 women and 18 children. That the Mission is a men's shelter likely stems from the fact that people who drive past the shelter mostly see the men outside smoking. The women use the back and side of our property while the men walk across the street. It's safer for the children and keeps fraternization at a minimum.

Misunderstanding #3: Rescue Missions feed the cycle of dependency that keeps victims at the mercy of agencies and programs. We cannot speak for every Rescue Mission in the country, but, at the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley, we have implemented intentional programs that work to break the cycle of dependency and promote self-reliance. We are seeing some success in this.

Knowledge is a dangerous thing. In the free marketplace of ideas, expressing informed ideas is not necessarily required.