No Place Like Home – Men’s Homeless Shelter

 

7:30 rolls around and the men start funneling in out of the rain, stopping at the staff members desk to sign in and blow a zero on the breathalyzer. Once inside, each man is free to make himself at home. He sets his things on his bed and then beelines for the table by the kitchen. While scoping out the food for the evening, he weighs the options of what to grab and save for later while getting a hot plate of food to satisfy his hunger in the moment. He sits down at the table, cracks a joke, and dives into the food, ready to talk about nearly anything and everything.

Welcome to the Phinney Ridge Emergency Shelter – an old basement-turned-shelter in the bottom of the Emmanuel Church building. Every night from November through April, twenty men fill the space on the other side of the gym wall. Union Gospel Mission has a few shelters like this around the Greater Seattle Area, but the men like to call this one the “Cadillac” of shelters.

Why the “Cadillac” of shelters?  One guy explains it this way, “It’s clean, we get spoiled with good food from you guys, the staff actually really cares about us, and it feels like a safe place with not too shady of characters. Everyone’s actually pretty decent believe it or not.” Since the men get their spot held for them each night, it tends to be the same crew of men for the season, which allows consistency and a fairly quirky community to emerge. The men even have their names written on duct tape above their beds to give them ownership over their space.

The overall purpose for UGM’s emergency shelters is to provide a space for the homeless to spend the night during the wet winter months. However, beyond just a dry space, the deeper desire of the staff is to support the men as they figure out the next step. Whether it is getting a bus ticket for the next day, beginning the steps of finding a job, or connecting them with a treatment program, the staff is there to help.

I love that Jesus would be hanging out with these men in the shelter. I imagine Jesus cooking up something delicious, enjoying the food with the guys, joking around about pop culture, and talking about the latest game. Then he would naturally use simple conversations and stories to reveal the heart of the God.

The desperate places we like to hide and cover up in our lives actually allow us to meet with Jesus. In the shelter where facades (good and bad) are stripped away, you can either experience Jesus up close and personal or purposefully ignore him. But when you have no control, you are desperate for something hopeful and real.

The realities of homelessness can be shocking and hard to fully comprehend. It isn’t easy to walk alongside people in addiction or to see friends pass away from heart failure and cancer. It’s not a light matter to celebrate with someone the victory of being clean and sober, only to see him trip up months later and spiral back into addiction. The realities some of the guys are facing can be completely out of our control or experience. In all honesty, we don’t have the solutions or ability to make a measurable change in any of their lives. How do you respond when a man tells you his wife died and he couldn’t handle it so he ran away and ended up homeless on the streets? In each of these uncomfortable places I’ve continued to learn one thing: in every desperate situation there is still hope because Jesus is there. It is in the hard conversations where I am at a loss for words that I have to look to Jesus for how to respond. The guys don’t need our wisdom or solutions, they just need someone to care and walk alongside them.

I love that Jesus would be so proud of these men for fighting hard and he would want to do anything he could to see them succeed. When a guy decides to share his extra blanket, Jesus rejoices in the generosity of such a simple gesture. If a guy opens up about a drug addiction, Jesus is so proud of his vulnerability. Jesus is their biggest fan, rooting and fighting for them even if no one else will. If Jesus is doing that, I want to be as well.

This past year we saw an amazing thing happened in the shelter – the men started referring to the shelter as “home.” At first we overlooked the gravity of what they were saying but then it dawned on us. Home is where you can settle in for the night, have a good meal, enjoy conversation, and fall asleep knowing you are safe and protected. Home is where people are able to fully be themselves. Home is where each person is always accepted, welcomed, cared for, and never overlooked. Home is a safe place to let down one’s guard and begin steps towards healing and restoration. The shelter had become a home for each of these men with varying stories, dreams, and challenges. If we’ve had the smallest impact on helping make the shelter feel like home for these guys, then every meal, conversation, and slightest interaction is totally worth it.

Despite the success of last year, UGM staff says that this year is the best yet! Not because of success rates and measurable changes, but because of the way Mosaic Community Church has partnered with the shelter more than ever before. UGM finds it is these kind of partnerships that are essential to produce lasting change in the men – building friendships that are authentic and go beyond a structured program.

You may have forgotten, but earlier this winter Mosaic Community Church wanted to bless the men of the shelter in a tangible way – by buying new beds and boots for the men! Holy cow, were the guys shocked, overwhelmed, and thankful that Mosaic Community Church cared so much. The night the beds arrived at the shelter the men came in and were speechless. It was funny to see guys try to keep their cool as they tested out the mattress and gave a child-like nod of approval.

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Above: The old “beds”
Below: The new beds!

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More recently the special-ordered boots arrived, with each man getting his perfect size. A few of the guys passed by at first, stating that they didn’t need new shoes. However, when they realized they were new waterproof boots they stopped in their tracks, turned right around and eagerly accepted them. The men were all smiles as they tried on the boots. One guy, Paul, had just gotten a new job that day and the one thing he was lacking for it was a pair of sturdy boots. He was giddy with excitement when the boots fit, exclaiming how it was perfect timing! The men wanted me to pass on their thanks to each of you who gave this year to help make the new beds and boots possible.

Thumbs up from Scott on the boots!

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As the winter months are winding down, the men are starting to search for their next “home.” The shelter closes at the end of April to reopen again in November. It’s always a hard time for the men and staff as they know the clock is ticking before they are out on the streets again. There is no better time to stop by, bring a meal, and change the atmosphere of the shelter for an evening. Literally, every meal and conversation that happens makes an impact because the men know you are taking your personal time to hang out with them. Rally your friends, lifegroup, or coworkers, make a meal together and sit around the table with the men. Hear their stories, laugh a lot, and catch a glimpse of why Jesus thinks these men are awesome.

If you want to learn more or or sign up to serve at the shelter, email shelter@mosaic-seattle.org.

Written by Sarah Slegh

Responding to Lent

Lent has started and Easter is coming.

On February 10th 2016, Ash Wednesday, Lent started. By many in and out of the church, the beginning of this amazing period went unnoticed. And so the days keep ticking. And I believe the church is missing an incredible opportunity to grow in faith and encounter the Person of Jesus in the midst of their weakness.

What is Lent?

There are so may thoughts and answers, but typically it is a time frame of 46 days. From Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. It begins with Ash Wednesday reminding us of our own mortality and need for repentance and ends with the resurrection of our King of Kings. The in-between period is for fasting, simplifying, repenting, praying, and in general preparing for the amazing day of celebrating the risen King on Easter.

The already, but not yet.

As Lent has started, and I have reflected, Lent has taken on a new meaning. Two things have struck me this year. First, the picture of standing in the already, but not yet we Christians continually live in the tension of. A fascinating thing about Lent, is that each Sunday is considered a mini-Easter. A day of celebration in the midst of repentance, fasting, and mourning. Isn’t that life.

We live in the midst of victories while still being affected by the sin of ours and others in this world that has not yet become the new heaven and new earth.

We live in the already, but not yet. This time frame started the first Easter Sunday and will continue until He returns. And so, I live in this constant struggle of faith and disappointment. Being ones called to live like faith, often times feels like Peter walking on water and being overwhelmed by the wind and the waves. The struggle was real then and the struggle continues and will do so until the day my tears are wiped away by the Gentle One.  Babies are born and loved ones die. Freedom from addiction is found, and relapses occur. Unexplainable healing and cancer diagnoses. Extremes acts of mercy and selfishness. In the same day, hour, minute, breath. Our world is so fickle. Our circumstances so shifting. Me included.

One day, the already will not be followed by the not yet.

This Lent, instead of floundering in the tension and getting sucked under by the disappointment, I am letting it root me deeper into Him who is not a shifting shadow. He who does not change. He who I can find rest and refuge and gifts of faith and expectation. Waiting for with a raised face and lifted hands for the already but not yet that is in front of me. On the days when the not yet, the fasting, the repentance, the reminder of my mortality is what is in front of me, I will look ahead to Easter Sunday. In so many words, in so many places, “it is only Friday, but Sunday is coming.” (S. M. Lockridge) Because, dear ones, we know the end of the story. It isn’t a secret. He wins. Death is defeated. One day, the already will not be followed by the not yet. Church, let us be the ones who rise up in faith and believe this Lent. In the midst of the tension, the discouragement, the despair, let us in hope and expectation celebrate the mini-Easters all around us. Because, truth be told, He is already making all things new. He is always turning ashes into beauty.

Secondly, Lent is a continual reminder that it is not about me. This whole thing, this whole life, it is for Him. For His glory. Lent in its practice is about fasting and simplifying and praying, which helps us humans to remember that we are here and dependent on the all powerful Father.  And so, this Lenten season, I would challenge you to fast. Fast from food, from coffee, media, Instagram, candy, or fast from lying, anger, bitterness, resentment, control, jealousy, discontentment.  Fast from something that will drive you to your knees and into His Presence. And as you do so, you see that Lent is not only a helpful, but a powerful tool.  It exposes our weakness to let His strength be exposed. The fasting and praying is to help discipline us into remembering He. Is. Here. And when He is here, nothing ever stays the same. We easily decrease so He might increase, we die so He might live, we choose the narrow, knowing that it leads to full, abundant life. With Jesus, we die, not to die, but we die to live. It is a privilege.  It is the best life.

When we choose to die so that He may live, we watch the impossible happen.

Instead of being annoyed by disturbance in our daily routine, we see them as a door for Him to work through. The Ethiopian eunuch becomes saved (Acts 8:26-40). Instead of getting stuck in our hardships and defeats, we give them to Him. Our shipwrecks become peoples places of deliverance and salvation (Acts 28). The mundane and ordinary small things He has called us to, do not bore and weary us, but become chances to let Him use our broken vessels. Then our homes will become places where the sick are healed and blind see (Matt 8:14-16). God knows us. He sees us. And still He invites us. When we through fasting, praying, simplifying, or whatever other means, think of ourselves less and Him more, we are apt to hear the invitation. And then to say yes to it. It truly is a glorious adventure. Waiting in the field with the buried treasure. Will you find it? Will you sell all to get it? Nobody can keep your from it. Truly. It is yours for the taking.

This Lent, in the midst of the fasting and the praying and the believing and the celebrating.  I will remember the mini- Easters, and raise my feeble hands once more. Asking for a fresh breath of faith. And I will again, say, Jesus come. And I will ask, where is my story not Your story. Where have I drawn a boundary and said, this is mine and the rest is Yours. Where is my life being played out and I am asking You to sit on the bench. And then give that part to Him. Watch the miraculous happen. Watch that death, turn to life. Watch the hopeless days become filled with faith. And then with empty hands, but a full heart, celebrate freely, wildly, undignified, the King of Kings this coming Easter.

 

Written by Carrie Bach

 

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Reflecting on a Year in MDS

“That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:16-19


To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

MDS, Mosaic Community Church’s Discipleship School is so much more than academic lessons and weekly readings for application; it is a vehicle for growing incredibly and exponentially in faith, obedience, and understanding of the love of God which surpasses human comprehension. Nothing in all the earth is as wildly beautiful as knowing a love like this, as Ephesians describes.

When the opportunity to apply for the day school was first announced as I was a Mosaic newcomer, I was discouraged; as a 9-5 office employee, it wouldn’t have worked with my schedule. God is a good God, though, and the following Sunday at church, the opportunity to apply for night school was announced for those interested but unavailable during the day. Even before the first class began, God had already begun speaking loudly and clearly to me; he made a way, responding immediately to my disappointment and frustration with an open door of opportunity. Already, he was showing me so tangibly how good and how great He is, that He takes joy in giving us the desires of our hearts, just like He says He does.

“MDS is a vehicle for growing incredibly and exponentially in faith, obedience, and understanding of the love of God which surpasses human comprehension.”

This was a constant and steady learning throughout my experience in the class. Over and again, God reminded my classmates and I of His attentiveness to our asks. One of my biggest learnings was that He is not a God that works outside of our lives, but that He is so intertwined in our daily lives – in the smallest and the biggest decisions – and so invested in everything that we do. This isn’t because He is a demanding God, but rather, because He is a loving Father that wants to be part of our lives.

Throughout my experience, I learned what an intimate and intricate relationship with Jesus looks like. I learned that a relationship with Him doesn’t mean I have to be perfect before coming to Him, but that even in the midst of my flaw and failure, He loves me even more than I will ever know. I learned that prayer doesn’t always look like reciting thanks before a meal or declaring health and blessing over others; sometimes it just looks like engaging him in my thoughts.

“This isn’t because He is a demanding God, but rather, because He is a loving Father that wants to be part of our lives.”

Prior to MDS, the term “obedience” terrified me. Obedience held negative connotations in my mind; it meant sacrifice, suffering, and hardship. It meant depravity and lack. God works so differently though, I came to understand. Obedience is not something to fear, because instead, obedience to a God that is so good only brings good.

“Obedience is not something to fear, because instead, obedience to a God that is so good only brings good.”

I learned – and am learning – that to obey God is to open our arms for Him to pour out His blessing. To disobey, though, is to close ourselves off from the best He has for us (not that He would ever stop loving ceaselessly despite our disobedience). I am now more free than I have ever been. I know I can choose God’s way for me – and to walk directly into His fullness – or I can choose the way of the world – and walk directly into His mercy and forgiveness.

“I know that, because the God of heaven and earth is on my side, I cannot lose. Even when I fail.”

Each year, the cumulative ending to the school is an international mission trip to apply and activate our learnings. This year, the students with children traveled to Tijuana, Mexico, and the remainder of the students ventured to Bangalore, India. I had a unique experience, in that my Visa didn’t get approved, so as much as I cried and fought and prayed and questioned God’s doing, India wasn’t meant for me. Of course, my team came back with incredible testimonies of people healed physically and emotionally, of the people of India being changed and coming to know Jesus.

The stories my teammates returned with were those that we had been expectant of and praying for throughout the entire year – a man rising out of a wheelchair, having been disabled for a decade (!) – but I had a testimony of my own to share of God’s goodness. Though I was so frustrated, overwhelmed, confused, and heartbroken, I couldn’t even doubt for one second God had let me down. I couldn’t even think to blame him, or question His authority and power and ability to move mountains for me, because I know He can. He says so.

After a year, my classmates and I have graduated from the night school, not as “better” Christians, riding to heaven on the perfection of our deeds or our sinlessness (as we are so far from perfect), but as more steadfast and faithful believers. MDS doesn’t strive to produce perfect Christians. Contrarily, this is far from the point of it. Its point, instead, it to stir the faith of its students, releasing them into the world with a deeper revelation of a love that surpasses knowledge, filled to the brim and overflowing with the fullness of God.

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The Mosaic Discipleship Schools equip and release faithful disciples of Jesus to change the world. The Night School has just begun and the Day School is still accepting applications. Visit the Mosaic website for more information and applications.

Written by Sophie Sturdevant

Thoughts On New Year Resolves

Dear Mosaic Family,

I hope your holiday season was refreshing and full of joy!

As 2015 comes to a close it naturally brings a time of reflection and of looking forward into the new year. The new year allows us to realign our lives with the promises and purposes of God!

Revelation 21:5 says,  “And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new…'”

Jesus makes all things new!

I love that about Jesus, He is committed to new things in our lives this year. As we enter 2016 would you resolve to believe God and allow Him renew you again?

Similarly, Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come!

Whatever your last year looked like, I want to encourage you to gaze at the year ahead with greater hope. Would you leave the former things behind and believe Jesus again this year?

My prayer is that you begin 2016 with a deep resolve, believing that God is making all things new! Will you intentionally pray and set goals for the new year?  

Below are some helpful tools to plan resolves for this next year.

  • Ask God for an overarching word or phrase to believe and pray into for the next stage of your life.
  • As you dream with God and make plans to grow tremendously this year, be sure to make your goals as specific, measurable, and realistic as possible. Remember that inviting people to help formulate and to hold you accountable to your goals is always a win.
  • Think through these five areas of your life – set four goals for each area.
    • Spiritual Goals (devotional life & spiritual disciplines, etc.)
    • Mental Goals (books, mind sets, etc.)
    • Relational Goals (time & focus with family, friends, discipleship, etc.)
    • Financial Goals (budgeting, giving, working, etc.)
    • Physical Goals (exercise, eating, sleeping, etc.)

Who will you share your goals with?

Blessings along the way.

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Happy New Year,

Andrew Bach

 

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas Mosaic Family,

What a joyful time of the year! I love the Christmas season because it allows us to slow down and to reflect on the greatest gift of all – Jesus Christ our Savior.

Isaiah 9:6 says… “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Love, hope, joy, peace, counsel and care – every great gift has been given to us in the person of Jesus! My prayer for you, and your family, is that this Christmas is full deep connections with one another and with Jesus.

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What if you and your family took time amidst the bustling holiday traditions to reflect on the great gift of Jesus? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Start your day alone with Him. Take a passage like Isaiah 9:6-7 and pray through each verse. Spending time with Jesus each day connects you to the one who created you.

  • Spend time with Jesus as a family. Before opening presents on Christmas day, read the story of Jesus from Luke 2:1-10 and reflect on the birth of Jesus.

  • Encourage each person. Before someone opens a gift, remind them they are loved by encouraging them in what you see in them and how God sees them!

Lastly, Carrie and I and our family are so thankful for each of you. Our prayer is that our love for Jesus and for others would deepen this holiday season as we intentionally take time to seek Him. May you receive a deeper revelation of His love for you this Christmas!

Merry Christmas,

Andrew and Carrie Bach

Winning Over Break

Hey Students!

Returning home for Christmas break can be interesting because you’ve changed and grown this past quarter; that’s the reality of college.  As you jump back into life at home during break here are some practical ways to maximize this time and grow deeper in friendship with Christ.

Let these few weeks springboard you into 2016, full of  faith and hope for what God will do in and  through you this next year.

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Set a Schedule:

There is nothing romantic or magical about the sound of setting a schedule over break to spend time with God, but it works!! God is worth setting aside designated time in your days. It’s essential to be realistic with your schedule. Even though setting aside 5 hours to spend time with God sounds awesome, it might not be the most realistic for you this break. Simple plans that are followed are better than extravagant plans that never happen. So what will it be for you: 10 minutes, 25 minutes? Whatever it is, God is honored by the time we set aside. Remember, consistency is key to winning this break.

Take Time to Reflect:

God calls us to remember the works that he has done and worship him because of them. Your past quarter may have been full of hard moments or it may have been the best 2 ½ months of your life. Either way, be encouraged by the ways you’ve seen God. People aren’t kidding when they say you’ll grow A TON in college, so take notice of the growth in yourself. This could look a lot of different ways It could be journaling, processing with a family member, mentor, or friend, or spending time outside by going for a walk. Whatever it is, don’t neglect reflecting.

Dream for the New Year:

Winter break is full of people making resolutions for the New Year so they can be their “new and best selves”. If we truly believe in a Father who has “immeasurably more” for us like Ephesians 3:20 says, then why not go to him and dream for 2016. Let’s maximize the extra time we have over break by becoming envisioned for the upcoming year. It’s easy to revert to the mindset that we know what’s best for us. What if this break, we all spent 5 minutes a day praying and asking God for the “immeasurably more” for 2016?

Have Fun:

You’ve worked HARD this past quarter. Do things that bring you joy and bring a friend with you. Go out and actually do that thing on your bucket list that you haven’t had time for. Also, don’t forget to laugh a lot. Think of fun ways that you can combine enjoyment and service. Maybe this means surprising people in your life with unexpected service.

Do It Together:

Community is an essential part of following Jesus and maximizing break. Take the time to connect with your spiritual family – if you don’t have one at home, stay connected to your Lifegroup family. If you need prayer, encouragement or accountability, reach out and ask for it – we are a community devoted to each other and break doesn’t change that. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, right?

 

We can’t wait to be back in January, have an awesome break!

Let’s change the world.

 

By Gretchen Gelman, SPU Student, College Lifegroup Leader