Caring Speaks Volumes

“I didn’t always understand what they were saying, but I just knew they cared about me. That’s why I stayed in the program.”

The annual fall snapshot survey conducted by the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions consistently reveals that up to 80% of those coming to rescue missions do so because they prefer the spiritual emphasis in the services they receive.  If we compare secular and Christian social service agencies, the most significant difference is the people who serve as staff and volunteers.

Before coming to Kansas City, I spent several years as director of licensed, Christ-centered residential treatment facility.  Each year in our annual follow-up of program graduates, the comment we heard most was that they knew our staff members sincerely cared about them –and that knowing this truly motivated them to work hard at getting better.

The great “Love Chapter” of the Bible is 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, was written by the Apostle Paul.  By looking at verses 4-7, we can see how his definition of love is expressed every day at rescue missions:

A.       Love is patient, love is kind…  Becoming homeless in some ways amounts to becoming a non-person.  It means, essentially, having no social support network. Most homeless individuals have worn out their welcome with family and friends.  For them, the patience, kindness and support found at rescue missions is like a breath of fresh air to a suffocating person.  A plate of food offered to anyone who is hungry, shelter form the cold, a caring touch from a staff member or volunteer; all of these say “we are here for you.”  These simple gestures are often the first connection to a whole new way of life.

B.        It is not rude, it is not self-seeking… To those who live on the streets, public scorn and rejection are a daily experience.  At rescue missions, no matter where an individual’s problems have taken him or her, they can count on being treated with love and respect.  Why?  It’s because rescue mission workers don’t just see homeless people as just being where they are today; they also see them as where they could be tomorrow with Christ in their lives.

Over 12,000 people work full-time at AGRM member rescue missions.  Additionally, nearly a half million volunteers share their time and talents at rescue missions.  Most would say they are there because they have been called by God to serve Him by helping the homeless and needy.  This notion of calling, recognizing themselves as conduits of God’s love, makes their service so much more than a job.  It makes them instruments in His hands and hurting people are being reached; there were over 130,000 spiritual decisions at rescue missions last alone.

 C.       It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs… At rescue missions abundant grace is much in evidence.  It is shown in workers who express great patience and forgiveness.  AGRM surveys have shown that about one out of five staff members are formerly homeless themselves.  As a result, it’s not hard to find someone who has experienced the difficulties of street life — and someone who has been able to move from that lifestyle into a productive and satisfying Christian life.

 D.       Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth…  Too often , rescue missions are viewed only as places where lots of good deeds are practiced — but where the real issues of troubled people are not being addressed.  Rescue mission workers know that people usually remain homeless because of addictions, mental problems, and other life controlling issues.  So, along with an abundant supply of love and acceptance, most rescue missions have definite strategies in place to help them overcome bondages and other problems.  Last year, 14,000 men and women graduated from long-term life-change programs at rescue missions.

 E.        It always protects, always trusts… One of the fastest growing sectors of the homeless population is children.  Now nearly 60% of AGRM member rescue missions have family programs that offer shelter and other services to hundreds of homeless children everyday.  At the same time, hundreds of thousands of kids from tough, inner city neighborhoods participate in summer camps and youth activities at member rescue missions.  In a very real way, this is homeless intervention, keeping these young lives from future problems that could put them out on the streets.

 F.        Always hopes, always perseveres…  Rescue missions are in the business of serving God and the needy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  That’s perseverance!  Today across North America thousands will line up for meals.  Thousands more will sleep in a clean, safe bed, hear the Gospel, study the Bible, and receive needed counseling.   As long a Jesus tarries, rescue missions will continue to provide creative and effective help to those in need.  It is all done with an eternal purpose in mind, knowing that there is hope for a new and better life through Christ.

See most recent AGRM Statistical Study at www.agrm.org

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