Monday, April 1, 2002

Downtown Rescue Mission

Our Place to Plug-In

Like lots of other folks, we've often wondered where we could plug in and do some kind of service. Over the years, we've dabbled in a number of short-term projects, but none of them seemed to satisfy our need to feel like we were really making a difference. Then, after our trip to Venezuela in 2001, it really hit us again how enormously blessed we are, and how important it was for us to just get out there and do SOMEthing. We wanted to find something that would involve the whole family, so our boys would grow up knowing that the life they lead is not the only existence possible, and to establish service as a part of our lives instead of being just a string of "projects". That's when we found the Downtown Rescue Mission!

We started by just showing up to help serve supper one Wednesday night back in April. It was a little scary and a lot weird that first night, but suddenly it's several months later and not only has Wednesday supper at the mission become a normal part of our routine, we've now formed some wonderful friendships, the guys all call Philip by name when they need their drink refilled, Tuck and Gerrit have both developed a talent for finding whatever needs to be done and doing it, Karen has found her calling in thinking up ways to help out the ladies and kids at the shelter, and our whole church has gotten involved in a big way!

The whole thing has taken on a life of it's own, and it's been so EASY! After all those years of wringing our hands about what we could do, all it took was going out and getting started, and the rest just fell into our laps!

When one of the ladies got back on her feet and moved out of the shelter with her kids, several Sunday School classes from our church scrounged through their attics and garages until we had enough furniture, sheets and towels to get her started. Others collected money and stocked up her pantry.

When it came time for summer Vacation Bible School, the church van provided transportation for several of the kids from the mission to attend. And while they were there some of the ladies from our church provided a place for their moms to be involved, complete with craft projects, Bible study and wonderful desserts.

As the summer wound down, and school loomed on the horizon, it became evident that lots of the mission kids didn't have the means to get the required school supplies or any new clothes to start the year off right. So, once again the church was mobilized. Each of the kids was "adopted" by individuals, groups, or Sunday school classes (so quickly and enthusiastically that we ran out of kids long before we ran out of volunteers!) Armed with the kids' sizes and lists from their schools, the volunteers collected money and shopped until each child had two new outfits, a new pair of shoes, a jacket or sweater, all their required school supplies, and a new backpack complete with a beautiful nametag.

The whole thing came together during a pizza party held at the shelter just a week before school started. The kids all stuffed themselves with pizza, mugged for the camera, dug into their new things, strutted around with their new backpacks, lined up for balloon animals made by the clown, and just had a great time! But I think it was we who got the biggest blessing!

Of course, it doesn't end there. The church's Fall Festival is just a few months away, and then there's Christmas to plan for, and another lady is moving out on her own soon....

....and of course we've got to be there to serve supper on Wednesday night!

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