At Gateway Rescue Mission, we strive to work with two groups of people; those who are willing to help themselves and those who are unable to help themselves. Some people need temporary assistance and a gentle push to get back on their feet. Some need long term help breaking an addiction. If they are willing to help themselves, we are here to help them.
Others simply are not able to help themselves. Due to physical or mental limitations, or both, our work with them is a ministry of mercy. We see people everyday who depend on a meal from our kitchen for proper nutrition, and we are here for them also.
But we try to draw the line with those who are able, but unwilling to help themselves. We don’t check people at the lunchtime kitchen door to see what category they fit, but we have seen a number of people in our shelter move into permanent housing or get a job because we challenged them to help themselves.
Long before Roosevelt’s New Deal or Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, churches and Christian organizations fought poverty in the trenches. But they fought it much differently back then. In the mid-1800s, the New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, encouraged the poor to go out in the countryside “when the wide and fertile country offers you employment and all that is needful for comfort and elevation.”
As for those who were poor because of lifestyle choices (called sin back then), the AICP said “you will gossip and smoke, neglect your children and beg, live in filth and discomfort, drink and carouse, do almost anything rather than work, and expect, forsooth, to be supported by charity.”
You’d probably get run out of Dodge if you made that exact statement even at a rescue mission gathering these days. That’s how much America has changed in the last 200 years. Yet, rates of what they called “pauperism” way back then were much lower than today.
Jesus said the poor will always be among us. And at Gateway Rescue Mission, we’ll continue to feed hungry people and shelter the homeless. But what truly motivates us is the joy in seeing people rise up out of poverty, drugs, homelessness, and despair and become productive citizens.
Some skeptics say it can’t be done…that we shouldn’t even try. They say we should just keep on handing out indiscriminate charity. They form coalitions to end homelessness and publish their 10 year plans. Yet, if you end homelessness for one person, you’ve ended it 100% for that individual. That’s what fires us up at Gateway Rescue Mission; to see lives changed; to see God transform takers into givers. Think it’s not possible? I’ll close with the Apostle Paul who said so eloquently, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”