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.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Volunteer Servants.

In our morning staff devotions, Pastor Terry Weyand, our Director of Men's Services, spoke about the difference between serving and volunteering. Serving is focused on serving Christ by and through serving others. A true servant does not look for praise or commendation; a true servant serves no audience but the audience of the One. Volunteers may serve for a variety of reason - many of them good - but a servant will serve selflessly.

At the Mission, we have individuals and groups that provide more than 29,000 hours of volunteer service annually. We call them "volunteers" but they have the heart of servants. They could be called "volunteer servants."
They serve for the joy of serving if it is convenient or not. It's difficult to image life at the Mission without this faithful group of individuals, organizations, and churches who serve Christ by serving people. Thank you for all you do. Remember that "in the Lord, your labor is not in vain" (1 Cor. 15:58)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Great Partner

On occasion, we will send a shout out to some of the agencies with which we are privileged to partner. One of those agencies is the Youngstown Community Food Bank, also known locally as Gleaners Food Bank. Joe Lordi is its hard working, get-your-hands-dirty executive director. His is an amazing story which you can read here. Each week, the Youngstown Community Food Bank provides groceries to many churches and agencies in the Mahoning Valley who use these resources to feed hungry people. In addition, they provide food directly to people
each Tuesday - to about 450 individuals.

"Gleaners" is a great organization and a great partner in ministry. Thanks, Joe, for helping us help those who are in need.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Feeding the Multitudes

I recently corresponded with an individual who is concerned about hunger in our nation. This person has a goal of feeding 1000 people each day. This may be a realistic goal, depending upon where in the country or the world one lives. As an example,
my correspondent looked to the miracle Jesus performed when he fed more than 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish .

Though we do not have such a lofty goal, we do feed people each day at our Mission in Youngstown. We provide meals for our own residents as well as offering breakfast and dinner for the general public. In fact, in our last fiscal year (2016), we fed 66,402 people. That equates to a lot of meals!

My final comment to this person was in the form of an admonition: as Christian people, feeding the hungry should be one of our concerns. How can we profess the love of Christ and be content to see people hungry? But we should not forget to feed the soul as well as the body. Blessed are they who give of the bread of life to the hungry soul needing the love of Jesus.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Suprised by Joy

As I sit in my office on the first floor of the Mission, contemplating what to write for this blog, I can hear the sounds of Mission life around me. I hear the call for guests or staff booming over the intercom paging speakers; I hear the buzzing of security doors as people go in and out of the Mission; I can hear the muffled sounds of a conversation between a staff member and one of the men in the discipleship academy. One of the sounds that I hear is a sound that few would expect to hear in a homeless shelter: laughter.

Laughter, at a homeless shelter? Yes, and lots of it. It is true that people come here broken, hurt, abused, and hopeless. But quite often, these emotions give way to a sense of healing and hope. I have often thought of how it appears to be an inconsistency that there would be joy in the midst of such heartbreak. Yet, it is there nonetheless.

How does this work? I can only offer these observations:
  • The staff at the Rescue Mission is committed to treat each guest with love, dignity, and respect. Those who seek shelter at the Mission have been beaten up enough; we will not add to the misery.
  • Our staff refuses to treat our guests as helpless victims of some unidentifiable system. We treat people as adults and challenge them to take responsibility for their lives. They are not victims. They are people created in God's image.
  • Genuine hope is offered through the gospel of Christ. This is a hope and assurance that transcends one's financial or social situation. It is a hope that, is "imperishable, undefiled, and unfading" (1 Pet.1:4).
  • And, as our Executive Director often remarks, "the presence of the Holy Spirit of God cannot be denied." This is a place where the joy of the Lord resides. That joy becomes contagious.