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.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

When it "Leaks" it Pours

The Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley is housed in a vintage YMCA building built in 1930. This place has been our home since 1971. It has served us well these past 46 years, but it is beginning to show its age. Mitigating factors are:
  • The overnight population has nearly doubled since 2008 - from an average of 63 overnight stays to 119 in fiscal year 2016.
  • Two years ago, we closed our warehouse and administrative office building in a move to become more fiscally responsible. That means we moved all necessary functions to this one building, therefore increasing the demands and usage on our facilities.
In an earlier post we showed a portion of the ceiling that was crumbling in one of our offices. Today we found that a valve had decided "let loose"
within one of our walls. This requires once again breaking walls, dealing with old plaster, concrete and pipes. To quote Shakespeare, our grand old building is beginning to "shuffle off this mortal coil."

This is more indication that we need to "Move our Mission." Help is greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Snap Shot

The population of people experiencing homelessness in the United States is determined by a point-in-time count, conducted on a given day each January. Obviously, this is not a scientific sampling and presents only a snap shot of a particular day that may or may not be indicative of the actual situation. However, the survey does say something and federal and state agencies use these numbers to determine funding allocations for their various agencies.

The most recent point-in-time count shows that, while the number of individuals who experience homelessness evidences a decrease in the state, there is actually an increase in several communities, including Youngstown. This certainly is the experience here at the Rescue Mission. While the federal government has put initiatives into action that aim to end homelessness, we have found that the numbers in the Mahoning Valley have increased. In 2008, the Mission saw and average of 60 people who sought shelter with us. In 2016, that number more than doubled to 130!

Regardless of trends, statistics and surveys, there will always be the need for the Rescue Mission. If we have learned anything in our 124 year history, we have learned that people are broken and often seek spiritual and emotional healing. Because of this, we
 bring the gospel to bear on every life and situation. And it matters little to us if we speak to 60 or to 130.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Change

In anticipation of our 125th anniversary year in 2018, we are compiling information to trace the history of our Mission. One important feature has emerged: over the century and a quarter of our existence, the Mission has sought to minister to the changing needs of our culture. What began as an outreach to teach English and basic academic skills to immigrant children and their families, has now become an emergency overnight shelter that ministers to men, women, and children in crisis situations, including mental health issues, substance abuse, economic disadvantages, and a host of other situations.

One thing we have learned - and are still learning - is that we cannot do ministry "the way it's always been done." While our core values and statement of faith do not change, our methods must. This was recently brought home by this passage in a commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes. Douglas Sean O'Donnell is the author of this volume in the Reformed Expository Commentary. Commenting on Eccl. 7:8-9, O'Donnell writes:
Say not, "Why were the former days better than these?" For it is not from wisdom that you ask this (Eccl. 7:10). To paraphrase, "Ah, the good old days! When I was a boy, gas was a nickel a gallon and young men wore their trousers above their bottoms, not below." Nostalgia of this sort nauseates Pastor Solomon, for he knows, as we all should know, that each age has its own opportunities and challenges, and we cannot face the challenges of our age by pining after another. Such praise of the past prove our impatience with the present. So let's come down from our pride-in-the-past pedestal (v.8) and give today's generation a shot. You never know, "the end of a thing" might be better than its beginning" (v.8).
What will the issues be if we are allotted another 125 years of existence? Whatever they may be, our prayer is that we are flexible enough to meet those needs in an efficient, God-honoring way.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling

At least that's what it felt like when another piece of the ceiling fell in the Development Office. This is where the daily mail is opened and the donations are processed. Had this piece of plaster fallen 30 minutes later, Sandy, one of our long serving, faithful volunteers, would be washing plaster dust from her hair.

Here is but another indication that we need to "Move Our Mission." This latest mishap did not result from wild parties and heavy dancing on the floor above. It is simply a by-product of the age and strain upon this grand old building. Formerly a YMCA whose construction was completed in 1930, these facilities have served us well since 1971. We have the opportunity to construct a new building to meet the needs of the population we serve. You can be involved in this and help us ""Move Our Mission" by following the link.