When I start investigating a purchase, I will definitely consider buying something that isn’t new. I’ll buy it if it is previously used, but I want it to be in “gently-used” condition. I don’t want something that has taken serious abuse during its lifetime. I want to know that I am not inheriting someone else’s problems. The last place you’d find me shopping would be at the local landfill. Items that end up there are there because someone has given up on them . . . the headaches and problems they are causing. I don’t want to buy someone else’s headaches.
I was recently thinking about the expectations that people sometimes have for the men that “end up” at places like the Mission. Even the word “end” in “end up” implies there’s not much further down a man can go than to a mission. It’s either “on the street, under a bridge, in a homeless camp . . . or to the mission.”
Ministering at the Mission is like a double-sided coin. On one side, most of the men who end up here at the Mission are seen as beyond repair, “not repairable”; therefore, they are deemed dispensable . . . “throw away” condition. For them to remain in their family, work or societal relationships creates too many problems anymore, and people are not at a place where they want, or are able, to invest anymore time or money trying to “repair” the person so that the man will “work right, like he’s supposed to”.
This is not to minimize the problems these men are causing others . . . they very well might need to be told to leave those environments of which they were a part so as to allow peace, health, safety and sanity back into those same environments. Most of the men who end up at the Mission do need a sincere moment of clarity when they begin to understand the gravity of their condition, and the problems, pain and hurt they are causing other people. They do need to see that they are not “working right”. They do not possess peace, grace, hope or health, so it is no wonder that they have none of those to offer others.
But the other side of the coin is this . . . because the men who come to the Mission can be tremendously problematic and dysfunctional, it does not mean the only “end” is to be thrown away. To think that “ending it” is the only solution is not a thought from God . . . that thought is from Satan.
Most of the men who end up at the Mission will admit, in moments of transparency and honesty, that the thoughts playing in their head like a continuous CD are, “You’re a failure, a loser. You’re stupid and idiotic. You’re trash, worthless, and of no value to anyone. Just stayed blasted and wasted with your drugs or alcohol so as to escape that reality. Or better yet, go ahead and just end it all so you can get the pain over for yourself and others.” When a man gets there in his mind, he has found himself at the gates of society’s landfill.
It is in that moment that he needs to hear a message and vision from Jesus Christ as found in the Good News of the Gospel. “You may have been a serious problem for yourself and for others. You may think you are beyond repair . . . but, hear this . . . you are not trash. The landfill is not the final plan I have for you. Others might think that, but not me. I have a vision for you that is beyond what you can possibly imagine for yourself! If you need to know how much you are worth, even as a sinner, look at the cross.”
That is what I like about working at the Mission . . . seeing the change that a man can undergo from hopelessness and despair, to a countenance that communicates his hope and possibility. A man may think that the circumstances he has created for himself can only mean life without love, purpose or meaning. But here, he can begin to find that God can create meaning out of meaninglessness, purpose out of purposelessness, hope and joy out of darkness and despair. To see that transformation and miracle in a man’s life, even in the smallest of increments or steps, is a delight beyond description!
Please don’t ever think that your investment in a ministry like the Mission is anything less than an offering of the grace and hope that you have. It is a statement that you believe in miracles! No matter how dark it may look, you are saying that you believe the Light ultimately wins! Thanks for being a part of City Union Mission.
(Submitted by Bret Kroh, Asst. Administrator of the Christian Life Program at City Union Mission)