"City Mission is my happy place." I hadn't expected these words to come out of my 17 year old son's mouth the other day, but as I considered his words I agreed wholeheartedly.
Four years ago, our son, Ian, needed to get service hours as part of his High School requirement for graduation. We had made donations to the Mission in the past, sporadically, but had never volunteered. It was unfamiliar and, although I'd faced challenges in my life, homelessness was not one of them. I think I was afraid that I wouldn't know the right thing to say, and that, in my ignorance, I'd end up saying something foolish and hurtful to someone who was already struggling with life issues that were bigger than I could imagine. My son was also unsure of what it would be like to volunteer, but this service requirement moved him out of his comfort zone and his bravery challenged me to step out and volunteer.
We volunteered to prepare and serve a meal in the kitchen and from our first night on, we were in love with the Mission. We feared we would experience sadness and an atmosphere of hopelessness, but what we actually encountered was joy, hope, and compassion from the minute we walked in. We saw joy in those volunteering as we were warmly welcomed and directed quickly to jump in and start helping. The night was marked with gratitude, respect, and laughter from those serving meals and those receiving them. Clearly the difficulties of hunger and homelessness were present, but something greater was at work - God.
In the simple acts of feeding, nurturing, and comforting others, we too were fed and strengthened. It was not that our efforts were perfect - they were not (says the woman who dropped a whole tray of dishes on her first night)! In fact, the joy we experienced had nothing to do with our efforts, and everything to do with God's Spirit at work. God's Grace and God's timing are perfect. I am reminded of that every single time we get to be at the Mission.
Over time, we've been privileged to invite folks to come and experience serving with us. Each time they remark how special it is to be at the Mission and they look forward to coming back. If you've not had an opportunity to volunteer recently, I strongly encourage you to contact City Mission. My son and I invite you to come to our "happy place" and to bring others to experience it with you. May God bless you richly, even as you bless others by your serving.
Peace to you and yours in this season of thanks.
Author: Andrea Starn
We find that the term “Last Days” covers the entire period from the first to the second advents of Christ (Heb. 1: 2). Noted also is defection and apostasy, among other things, will characterize that entire period (2 Tim. 3: 1). Therefore the presence of apostasy is not in itself indicative of the end of the Church Age however, the increase of this activity is. As a condition, apostasy is both present and future, when the climatic apostasy will occur that leads to the religion reign of the man of sin during the Tribulation period (2 Thess. 2: 3). Consequently it is not surprising to see apostasy becoming more widespread as we draw nearer to the Tribulation Days.
The apostle John gives us two characteristics of apostasy. They include (a) a denial of the doctrine of the Trinity (1 John 2: 22-23), (b) a denial of the doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ (1 John 2: 22, 4: 3; 2 John 7). And the apostle Peter gives us a third (c) a denial of the return of Christ.
Finally, with the lifestyle characteristics of apostasy we find a decline in eighteen morals as listed by the apostle Paul (2 Tim. 3: 1-5). Those being love of self, love of money, a spirit of pride, blasphemy, disobedience to parents, lack of thankfulness, lack of holiness, lack of natural affection, unceasing enmity so that man cannot be persuaded to enter into treaties with each other, slander, lack of self-control, savagery, opposition to goodness, traitors, headiness (rashness or recklessness), high-mindedness, love of pleasure, and a pretense of worship without godliness of life.
Though these events do not sum up the future pre-tribulation pre-millennial events they none-the-less should help us to have some frame of reference for all the upheaval around us. Moreover, we do not have to go off into some half-cocked ism as if it is the sole problem in the world today. On the contrary, knowing these facts should help us to remain well grounded in the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge, the fear of the Lord, and with righteousness.
Author: Herb Ragland
For several years our church acquired food from the West Ohio Food Bank to distribute to those in need in our community. Six months of the year, on a Saturday morning, we transformed our fellowship hall using long folding tables to help create a line/path for the crowd which formed. I was often placed at a special section of this length of tables. By the time folks reached me, they may have been waiting nearly an hour, but I tried to add a bit of cheer by re-welcoming them to the food pantry. My cheeriness was aided by personal items we hoped would be a blessing to their recipients. For weeks we would collect supplies not normally provided at other local distributions. Laundry detergent, shower gel, combs, brushes, toothpaste, etc. As our visitors reached this portion of the line it seemed their spirits were buoyed by options which ministered to their dignity. They were able to choose which three or four items they needed the most and they could be somewhat selective as to brand, color or scent. As they passed by the twelve foot length of my station, I enjoyed our conversations but when there was a pause, I was careful to put my hands on the table and to notice its width.
Thirty inches….that’s the width of your typical church folding table. “Thirty inches….that’s the difference between being a giver and being a recipient”, is what I could hear in my head. I hoped my soul would be ingrained with that short span of white mottled plastic resting between myself and our visitors. I knew I would minister best to those in need when I could perceive how narrow the gap was that divided us. At that time in my life, I hadn’t experienced a major medical emergency, an unexpected job loss, or a devastating natural disaster. It was important to remind myself that any one of the three could land me on the opposite side of the table. It’s another version of the old saying try to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”. But, don’t worry about the mile, let your heart reside in that 30 inch span I’ve described just awhile longer.
Fully taking to heart the 30 inch span improved my life as a giver. When I went shopping for the personal items we gathered, I would pray for a nudge toward something unique. I’ll never forget shopping one day in the midst of cold season, walking the aisles with my own scratchy throat. It occurred to me how blessed I was to have a throat lozenge tucked in my pocket….and how others might not have the resources to deal with a minor illness. I threw a couple of bags of cough drops in my cart. Fast forward a few days to our distribution. Many people walked by our “personal items” table and there were no takers for my purchase. Then a woman approached the table and reached for the cough drops explaining how grateful her husband would be when she returned home with them!
It’s been a few years since we’ve distributed food in such mass quantities. We now take reservations for food boxes ahead of time and do our own shopping for every item. We try to let the “30 inches” mindset inform our choices. We still use those folding tables. But now I have experienced “unexpected job loss” from that crisis list above. I’ve been humbled having to “switch sides of the table” so to speak, although I still would not compare my discomfort with the deeper needs of our patrons. I’ve been so grateful for those who understand the very short distance between where they stand today, and where life could place them tomorrow... standing with me on the opposite side of the table. They've been my most compassionate and generous helpers. I’m really blessed beyond measure, especially by the valuable lessons gleaned from across a table.
Author: Lisa Crawford
Many people think of the homeless as chronic drunks and bag ladies drifting about but many of the homeless are not chronichomeless. Many find themselves suddenly homeless and need help to recover. There are many people who make barely enough money to handle day to day expenses. When their car breaks down, it may drain money needed for rent or a severe illness or loss of job may cause them to be off work for a prolonged time. As a result, they cannot pay the rent and are evicted. Others may find that the landlord has sold their apartment and the new landlord evicts them so he can remodel the apartment.
These individuals often have no reserves to handle the sudden expense of car repairs or medical expenses and have no funds to cover the rent and utility deposits needed to move into a new place. I am reminded of one lady who was referred to me for help. She had lost her apartment and, though she found another, it was going to be a couple weeks before the current occupants cleaned and moved out. She had no relatives who could help so she had to move into a motel. However, the cost of a motel was far more expensive than rent and her money soon ran out, leaving her no choice but to turn to the City Mission of Findlay to stay until the apartment became available. Once the apartment was vacated, they asked me for help finding someone to help her move in.
As families have fewer kids and are widely scattered across the globe, and as more choose not to marry, many find themselves with no one to help them in time of need. God calls us to be a father to the fatherless and a defender of the weak. He has raised up organizations like the City Mission of Findlay to help in time of need, but the need is great and they cannot do it alone. Ask God if He would have you support the Mission or a similar organization with your time or resources.
Read more blogs from Robert Barr
Author: Robert Barr, Findlay City Mission
I am firmly planted in a season of life that can be best described with one word: exhausting. And it doesn't really matter what time of year it is—the exhaustion never ceases. Foolishly, I looked forward to summer, thinking it would bring with it a semblance of rest and relaxation. It has not.
Camps, daycare, playdates, vacations, meals, home repairs, yard work—the list is endless. You know the list, because it resembles your own. And in the midst of taking care of all the needs of today, in the back of our minds we are preparing for the next season: school, sports, band, and clubs. Most of us know that it isn't enough to make it through today, we know we have to prepare for tomorrow.
Yesterday, as I rushed through the hallways of the Mission, hurrying from one thing to the next, I was brought to a halt. One of our resident mothers was decorating the Family Day Room for her daughter's birthday party. She was laughing and joyful as she and our Family Manager hung balloons and banners and wrapped gifts for her little girl. For that afternoon, she wasn't living in a shelter with her two little children, she was celebrating her precious girl's life.
It struck me just then how exhausted this mother must be. What must her day be like trying to make a shelter feel like a home? How many tears has she shed in frustration as she tries to find work, childcare, and plan for the school year—not knowing when she will be in a home of her own? How many times has hopelessness overcome her as she struggled to leave behind bad habits and toxic relationships to embrace healthy new ones?
My exhaustion is not diminished because I have recognized hers. But my determination to provide support, compassion, and acceptance is renewed. And I know that I am not alone in this. When a volunteer gives their time, they are providing hope. Every time a community partner shares our burden, they are providing a lifeline. Every time someone gives a financial gift, they are providing a future. Together we can encourage others to continue their progress toward a better life.
Author: Joy Barger, Findlay City Mission
I was at the bottom of my barrel. I was completely in despair. My mind was racing on this and that. No bridges to cross the waterways, so to speak. Nowhere to turn but the streets – I was trapped! If only I had listened to the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, I would not be in this awful predicament. I should have listened to God speaking through all the people that had tried to help me, but I chose not to. I chose to follow what I thought was love, but in the end, it was falsehood. I should have been in the Word of God, then I would have clearly known what to do. Man, what a mistake that was! People tried to tell me, but I didn’t listen. Talk about a love – hate relationship! Of course, as a child, my father never taught me anything concerning the virtues of life. Over time, I found myself in the streets of my small hometown (Ashley, Ohio), doing whatever I could to survive. This was not a pleasant picture, but, rather, it was most certainly an abomination to the Lord, Jesus Christ, for sure. I felt so ashamed and I remember thinking, “what should I do? I must do something! I can’t keep doing this much longer. I will either end up in jail or end up dead leading this kind of lifestyle. Oh, God, Thy Lord, please help and guide me. Please send The Comforter, The Holy Spirit to guide me.”
I began thinking about what my primary needs were. I needed a roof over my head, food to eat, and clothes to wear. I needed somewhere good to go – somewhere far enough from here. What about the City Mission of Findlay? I was sitting there in the Ashley, Ohio post office at about two o’clock in the morning trying to stay warm on that cold January night. A lady came to check her mail and saw me lying there on the floor and called the police because she thought that I was dead. That was my wake-up call.
I had to get out of that town because someone tried to murder me. The Holy Spirit was telling me it was now or never if I wanted to permanently change my life for the better. I made up my mind that I was leaving town, so I went to my mother to ask for the money to purchase a one-way Greyhound bus ticket. When she agreed to purchase the ticket, she also allowed me to use her phone to call City Mission. There were no beds available when I contacted the Mission, but they said they had room in their warming center. I told them that that was better than my current situation, so I took them up on their offer. My mom drove me to the bus station, we said our goodbyes, and I boarded the bus. During the bus ride to Findlay, I took time to reflect on what changes I needed to make in my life so that God could do His work in me. When I arrived at City Mission, it just so happened that there was an open bed in the men’s dorm! I didn’t have to stay on a cot in the warming center – praise the Lord!
I had a lot of medical needs at the time, and I had to start facing the reality that I needed to start addressing these needs so that I could become healthier. One of the things that I needed was medical assistance for a gunshot wound to my head. I also had an everyday struggle with P.T.S.D. from being shot. That memory will probably be with me the rest of my life and I know that God will get me through it with time and with His grace and His love. Amen on that!
My stay at the City Mission lasted about five months or so. Today, I have all my doctors in the same town and I have sought the specific treatment that I needed. I could not say that was true about my life before I had moved to Findlay! I quit drinking and stopped smoking cigarettes and pot. I am slowly being convicted by God to change my life for good in other ways, too.
The City Mission was a place of stability for me; a place where I could heal physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. They are a Christ-centered homeless shelter that really cares about the residents who live there. The staff and all the volunteers that come in, not to mention the residents, are really good people. People like this want to help other people and they show it on a daily basis. What a blessing from God this is! The Mission has so many different resources available and willing staff to go beyond the call of duty to help those in need. They have helped me in so many different ways and, for a person like me to say this, it’s, let’s say, astounding! I am a member of a local Findlay church, involved in RU, a faith-based recovery program, and am slowly regaining the relationship with my family that I had once lost. Speaking for myself – on a very personal level – concerning how the City Mission has helped me turn my life around and go in the right direction…it’s simply God’s amazing grace.
Author: City Mission resident
If you were a contestant on Family Feud and Steve Harvey said, "100 people were surveyed and we've got the top answer on the board….fill in the blank,… ____Grace" What do you think the top answer would be? If you want to hear, "Good Answer, Good Answer" from your family members, you had better say "Amazing", right? Yes, grace is amazing and we are grateful for John Newton's anthem which helps us to express how truly amazing it is.
But, let's be word nerds today and amplify our understanding of grace by attaching a new adjective. How about optimisticgrace? I had never considered whether the grace I express is optimistic until I heard Matt Leroy, a chapel speaker at Indiana Wesleyan, challenge the students there. He explained that though our acts of grace may look the same from person to person, some of our offerings are hollow at best. We "love on" others hoping it will draw them to Christ, but in our heart of hearts, we don't necessarily believe we will witness a changed life.
I think very often my grace is extended with a side of pessimism. Life feels a bit safer that way, doesn't it? If I don’t get my hopes up, they won't be dashed. But, optimistic grace sets judgments aside, renounces the prediction of outcomes, and proceeds with the highest of expectations on behalf of every soul. Let me give you an example.
Through my position as a youth worker, I once met a teen named Randy. The first thing I noticed about him….let's be honest…the first thing everyone noticed about him was his habit of chewing on a rubber cockroach at lunch in the cafeteria. Along with this, Randy's fingernails were purposefully filed into claws. Pointed, dagger-like fingernails holding his rubber cockroach, working in tandem to both disturb, and distance, his peers.
"I want you to take Randy out to be fitted with a tux for prom. I'll pay for it. Just don't let him get anything weird."
This is the request I received one day from the track coach at a local high school. As a winning coach, he certainly had to be adept at "potential spotting", but I was still shocked by his idea. Optimistic grace was at work though. Where others just saw an odd young man, this coach saw a tuxedoed prom-goer. We both knew that pain, tragedy, and confusion had shaped this complex young man. We both knew prom would not undo any of the damage already done in Randy's life. But, Mr. W wanted Randy to know his potential had been seen, despite all self-efforts to mask it. He wanted Randy to be coaxed out of isolation to experience the fun and fellowship of a prom night before crossing the finish-line of high school. Randy ended up going to prom, with a date, in a nice suit his grandparents decided to buy him. Optimistic grace is contagious it seems.
A coach approached Randy with a bent toward optimistic grace. He believed God's love in action is truly transformative. I believe the same, yet back behind that belief…in the thought-space I don't like to admit to…I let doubts toward certain people accumulate and I fatalistically assume, "they'll never change." Ask God to reveal to you the souls in your life you tend to approach pessimistically. Then try to memorize this great concluding line of Matt Leroy's presentation. "Reckless love. Optimistic grace. Radical hospitality... Wherever you go, live this."
Author: Lisa Crawford
The City Mission of Findlay offers the homeless and the community some things you may take for granted in your day-to-day life. If it was not for the City Mission, there would be nowhere to go to get help, like a place to stay until you find a more permanent place, meals to eat, or help with different resources. The City Mission also helps to provide body wash, shampoo, washers and dryers, laundry soap, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and paper towels. The City Mission will help you in any way that they can providing that you will help yourself. If they cannot directly help you, they will know people and places locally that can.
When was the last time you had to worry about where your next meal came from? Many who are homeless do not know how or where they will get their next meal. That is where the City Mission comes into play. They provide lunch and dinner for the residents and for community guests in need. We, who are residents, are very lucky because we are provided a place to sleep that is out of the weather and safe, a place to take a shower, and case workers that help us stay on track with what we need to do to get back on our feet. Some of the most common goals that we set to achieve during our stay at the City Mission include getting a job or steady income, saving our money, and eventually finding a place to live when we are ready to move on from the shelter. The City Mission of Findlay is a Christian organization, one that prides itself on the Lord’s instruction of helping those that are in need but that are falling short on the resources to do so.
The next time you are fortunate enough to do the things you do every day, stop and think that there are people that do not have the ability to do them. I hope that you all have a God blessed life and I wish you all well.
Author: Crystal Swanigan
I recently finished a book titled Spiritual Slavery Into Spiritual Sonship. It was a fantastic read about the journey author/speaker Jack Frost experienced growing in faith and in the embrace of Father God, as he put it. In the final four chapters, he presents eight defining truths from his own journey that helped him begin displacing an orphan heart and start feeling secure and at rest as a favored son.
He says, "The depth of humility we embrace determines the depth of kingdom life we will experience." I cannot think of another book that goes into the depths of spiritual truth with the kinds stories that this author shares. I really enjoyed reading about his career as a deep sea fisherman with a rough parental relationships then turned world-wide evangelist/speaker with the remarkable healing of parental and pastoral authority wounds. I can see how my story intersects with his story in several ways. I am thankful to the person who recommended this book to me.
If you are a believer, a child of God, renewed in the image of God, then remember your eternal worth to your heavenly Father. Don't try to earn his favor, by striving for perfection on your own. He will give you a pure heart, by faith. Like Jesus, you are God's beloved child (son/daughter) with whom he is well-pleased (Matthew 3:17). Move forward in the riches that he has bestowed upon you. If you feel alone or lost, then find the path home that is paved with the restitution you need with your parents and spiritual leaders, and you will be at peace and rest!
Author: Nate Stults
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:1-2, NIV)
I find this scripture to be one of the most valuable when dealing with the homeless population. It's better than the old cliché, "Never judge a book by its cover." When comparing the word of God to a cliché, you find the deeper meaning in what it is to judge. When you judge a person after a two second glance as you drive by, you have already assumed the worst of that person. Think about that for a second. You see the dirty clothes, and the long scraggly hair. Maybe if they smiled at you, you noticed teeth missing. You think to yourself, "Wow, I'm glad I'm not that guy." In that brief moment, did you ever express your gratitude to God that you weren't "that guy"? Have you been thankful for the home or car that you have?
Of course, I'm talking about the stereotypical homeless person you see on the corner. But there are also homeless people that look like you and me. They wear clean clothes, brush their teeth, get haircuts, and shave every day. You would never know it to look at them. And yet, this breed of homeless, you might greet in passing, you might hold the door for them, you might have a conversation with them. What is the difference between the two? Judgement.
There are so many reasons people find themselves homeless. With the opiate epidemic running wild in our own hometown, most would assume that the general population at the City Mission are junkies or alcoholics. On the contrary, many have simply fallen on hard times; lost their jobs, lost their homes because of medical bills, left abusive relationships. Families have casted them away.
What I have learned while working at the Mission is to love all. Everyone deserves a chance to live a happy, bountiful life. Everyone deserves a second, or third, or fourth chance. In the classes I have taught to our residents at the Mission, I emphasize on positive thinking, and changing the way you see things so that, in the future, the same mistakes aren't made. The past is the past, there is no need to repeat it. People think that the homeless are just looking for a handout. When in truth, they are looking for a hand up. You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. (Galatians 5:13)
When you judge a book by its cover, you seed the broken binding, dog-eared or torn pages, an author you have never heard of. You miss the story inside; the happy ending that turned to tragedy in the middle of the book, the conflict of bad decisions versus good decisions, the battle of a broken family, of broken hearts. "That guy" on the corner may have once had a "normal" life. You will never know if you never talk to him. Open that book. Read the first chapter at least. Everyone has a story.
The homeless weren't always homeless. It can happen to anyone. If you found yourself homeless tomorrow, how would you like to be judged? Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. (1Peter 3:8)
Author: Michelle Cortez, Findlay City Mission