James 4:14 reminds us that we “do not know what tomorrow will bring.” The truth of James’s statement rings loud and true, especially in light of the uncertainties that accompany the COVID pandemic. Here at the Mission, we step out in faith, trusting God for wisdom and grace to meet the increasing needs of our community, while He faithfully provides resources and continues His work of changing lives.
We trust that God will supply the financial resources we need to operate our critical programs each day. We also trust that He will equip us with food to prepare daily meals, distribute to our weekly guests, and supply to local food banks and community groups. And we trust that as we seek to meet the needs of broken and hurting people while inviting them into the abundant life Jesus offers to all, God will change hearts and save souls.
But we are also blessed to see members of our community demonstrate their trust in God by showing love to others through their actions – especially during these difficult times. For example, the men in our Changed Life Recovery Program (CLRP) have been greatly encouraged through the simple kindnesses of handwritten notes, free workouts, and weekly book discussion groups.
Susan and Neil Hagelin live in Thurmont and have been serving lunch at the Mission regularly for nine years. Mealtime presents a great opportunity for them to get to know the men in the CLRP. Over time, they have developed relationships with many of the men and they actively look for ways to encourage them in their journey toward recovery.
“When we realized that some of the residents may benefit from a little extra encouragement, we decided to make them cards,” says Susan. “When COVID-19 hit, we weren’t able to hang out with the guys on a regular basis anymore and so the cards became a safe way to make sure they knew they were still loved and that we were continuing to think about and pray for them.” These cards arrive once or twice each week and they are displayed prominently in the CLRP classroom area, where they continue to bring joy to all who see them.
Local business owners Scott and Cheryl Lasher also looked for ways to help others and they decided to serve the local community through their Orangetheory gym. They started in 2018 with sponsoring the Mission 10 Miler. While they were at the event, they met several of the men from the CLRP who were participating or serving. “We had an immediate connection to them,” recalls Scott.
Since Orangetheory was a new studio, they had to wait 90 days before offering special classes. On the very first Saturday following the waiting period, they opened the gym to CLRP residents and their families. Scott credits Rachel Miller, the coach of the men’s class for over two years, with being “the heart and soul of the program.”
He continues, “She has devoted her time and love to the approximately 75 people who have taken at least one class during the more than two years we’ve been doing this.”
CLRP resident Gerald Bowie attends the class weekly. “This class shows us that people in Frederick are fully invested in changing lives,” he says. “This life-bringing workout session is a healing mechanism to help us regain hope and strength during our journey of radical transformation.” And this class continues to help those further along in their journey, like CLRP graduate Steve Hancock who continues to work out each week at Orangetheory with his wife, Sabrina. “These men have touched our lives,” Scott says. “They give to us at least as much as we give to them – likely more!”
Finally, members of the Mission’s own board of directors routinely step out of the board room and into the lives of our CLRP residents. Kathy Afzali meets with the men each week and is leading them through a study on forgiveness. This important topic helps them understand the foundation of our forgiveness because of Jesus, as well as identify others who either need to be forgiven or from whom forgiveness must be sought.
Charlie Powers (president of the board) also leads a weekly book discussion. He is currently using Robert McGee’s The Search for Significance. This book explains how to stop placing self-worth on the shifting sands of others’ opinions or personal accomplishments (or lack thereof), and discover true and lasting significance in Christ. Charlie also frequently invites the men to his farm, where they enjoy relaxation and recreation – including horseback riding!
A pastor from Atlanta, Georgia recently observed, “God is not looking for special people. He is looking for ordinary people who will trust Him to do something special through them.” The truth of this statement is confirmed every day at the Mission, as “ordinary people” step out in faith, extending simple kindness and expressing God’s love to others. Like the psalmist, they “Trust in the Lord and do good” (Psalm 37:3). And He does “something special” indeed – He changes lives now and for eternity.