It’s no surprise that racial segregation, poverty, unemployment and incarceration toil the headlines of local news stations in large metropolitan cities, such as Milwaukee, WI. Having worked in the city personally, I was able to experience the lifestyle of the destitute and abandoned first-hand. It is not uncommon to see beggars crowding the street corners, asking for spare change to exchange for a hot meal. Many a passerby turns their cheek, hoping the avoidance will simply make “them” go away. This is a heartbreaking reality for so many people living in the United States–homelessness, welfare and abandonment–and yet the masses are so calloused to the scene that “helping” in any way is often completely omitted from people’s hearts.
The things that we take for granted are the same things thousands of men, women and children in the city of Milwaukee would be grateful to have–such as food, clothing and shelter. With this in mind, Reverend B. Faye Mills and a group of Christian businessmen wanted to help; so in 1893, they organized the Milwaukee Rescue Mission (MRM) with the goal of restoring hope in these people’s lives by working with the local community to meet their physical and spiritual needs.
MRM’s mission states: In response to God’s grace through Christ, we compassionately serve men, women and children who are homeless, hungry or poor to help them become whole in body, mind and spirit for the glory of God. “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” -Matthew 25:40
After 120 years, the operation is stronger than its ever been. In fact, the Milwaukee Rescue Mission provides over 800 meals to over 100 people every single day–which equates to over 300,000 meals per year. Not to mention, MRM provides warm shelter to 400 people every night, and last year they distributed over 35,000 items of clothing to those in need. But that’s not all–the organization extends its reach way beyond basic physical needs. MRM also focuses on life-changing transformation by offering mentorship, advocacy, education and job training through their Life Skills Program. If that’s not enough, in 2006 they opened the Cross Trainer’s Academy–a Christian elementary school that provides education for up to 160 students (of which, one third of them have been residents in the shelter).
The Milwaukee Rescue Mission relies 100% on private donations and community support. Without the help of the community that selflessly gives and serves, MRM would not exist. It is truly a display of love in action… (2 Corinthians 5:14).
All Grace Outreach and the Life on Life Initiative:
Dan and Lisa Hawkins, local Life Leadership founders and Directors of All Grace Outreach (AGO), heard about the incredible ministry and wanted to get involved. Currently AGO (a 501(c)3 charitable organization) financially supports the MRM, and the funds have helped the program and facility expand and meet the needs of even more people. The Hawkins wanted to take it a step further, however, so they coordinated an opportunity for some of their top leaders to participate in a day of giving back. Organizing clothing, serving food, spending time playing games with children and sharing the gospel are just a few of the ways that volunteers can get involved. In fact, local Life Members have served in these ways on multiple occasions over the past few years. Most recently, these Wisconsin leaders spent time organizing the clothing department.
“MRM receives clothing donations that are sorted and hung in a ‘store.’ They have a set of guidelines that allows the people that are staying there to go through this area and get clothing for themselves and their families. It was amazing to see all of the great donations that came in. The shelves were overflowing and so many people are being helped.” –Dan Hawkins (LIFE Founder)
While the volunteers didn’t have direct contact with the folks being helped, that certainly didn’t diminish the impact. Those who served were constantly reminded of how important their role was in working behind the scenes. The loving handprints left on each article of clothing from Life Members were a reminder to the receiver how special they are and how much God loves them.
“Being there, I realized that there are so many people out there who truly care about others. We were able to meet multiple staff members who have such hearts to serve. Also, the MRM’s program is about giving a hand-up, not just hand-outs. There are countless programs to help get people back on their feet and head in the right direction, with Jesus Christ at the center….We were invited back for Family night to meet the single moms and their kids. We will play games with them and talk about the gospel. As soon as our family walked out the door, our kids begged us to come back for family night. They cannot wait to give the kids some much-needed love and attention.” –Dan Hawkins (LIFE Founder)
Serving in this capacity takes a special kind of person. Orrin Woodward says, “Those who serve, deserve.” The Life Members who graciously gave of their time at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission exemplify the purpose of the “LIFE on Life” initiative.
If you participated in serving at this Life Leadership event (or have collaborated with something similar), please comment on how the experience impacted you!