Sometimes Volunteering Changes You

Sometimes Volunteering Changes You

“I came to the Mission to help, but I soon realized, serving those in need helped me probably more than it helped them,” said Justin.

“Initially, I was looking for a place to volunteer with my co-workers. My brother is a youth pastor and had told me about Nashville Rescue Mission. It was within walking distance from my job, so it seemed like a good choice.”

A visit to the Mission’s website sealed the deal. “When I saw the Mission is 100% faith-based and takes no money from the government, that meant something to me. I knew this was a place I wanted to be a part of.”

Justin ended up leaving that job, but decided to continue volunteering in the kitchen at the Mission on a regular basis. He found encouragement in hearing the stories of lives being transformed through the Mission’s programs and services.

“Serving at the Mission was humbling,” Justin said. “When I lost my job, I quickly realized it could be worse. As I served alongside men in the Mission’s program, I was inspired by their stories. It certainly increased my faith.”

While looking for a new job, Justin found ways to stay busy, volunteering at the Mission two to three days a week, sometimes every day. “It was grateful to have something productive to do with my free time.”

Even after finding a new job, Justin continues to serve. “I’ve made friends with many of the men I’ve met at the Mission,” he said. “It’s been a blessing to me to see the transformation that has taken place in each of their lives. I can see the ‘light’ of Christ in them shining brightly. It’s been amazing to witness the transformation that has taken place in their lives.”

Justin has also discovered a new community of friends with other volunteers he’s met during his time of serving. “If you think this is just about feeding the homeless, it’s not. It’s so much more. I now have a community of friends. People I hang out with on the weekends. Friends I now do life with.”

Volunteering at Nashville Rescue Mission has put things in perspective for Justin. “There are times when I’ve let things really get me down. But coming to the Mission and serving those in need has changed me. It is one of the most inspirational things I have ever experienced. After meeting so many men, who have come through the Mission’s program make lasting changes in their life… I’m inspired to be a more godly man.”

Dr. Frank Lewis

Dr. Frank Lewis

I’ll never forget my first night in Nashville, back in 1994. I was in town for a job interview and stayed at a downtown hotel. Being from Henderson, Nevada, my interaction with the homeless population had been limited. So, when the man at the hotel recommended a restaurant within walking distance, I didn’t hesitate to put my feet to good use, despite his suggestion of taking a cab or driving.

As I walked from the hotel to the restaurant, it didn’t take long for me to soon realize why he’d suggested a cab. Nashville was very different from Henderson. The urban poor were highly visible. I saw a city with many needs.

After accepting a position with the Baptist Sunday School Board, my family and I moved to Nashville in 1995. And while my job required a lot of traveling, I was honored to accept an interim position with First Baptist Nashville to lead a new contemporary worship service.

Over time I began to recognize the men from the Mission, whether they self-identified themselves by proudly telling me they were in the Mission’s Life Recovery Program or if they were only a temporary guest of the Mission.

I still vividly recall the day during the Lord’s Supper when one of the men from the Mission who’d been coming to our church for a few weeks asked me if we used grape juice or wine. He was quick to say, “I’m battling alcoholism, and one drink is all it’s going to take to get me off track.”

I told him we offered grape juice with absolutely no judgment for his question. In my heart, I celebrated with him. Just knowing he had hope, that he’d picked himself up, went to Nashville Rescue Mission for help, and was getting the tools he needed to build a better life was such a blessing.

Once on staff full time, I saw the issue of homelessness in Nashville on a much larger scale. There were days I would pull up to our church only to discover someone asleep in the bushes, seeking whatever little bit of shelter they could find.

Anytime I see someone who chooses to sleep on the street, I’m saddened, because I know they have a place they can go. Nashville Rescue Mission has been on the front lines in our city for over 60 years. At the Mission, those in need can find a safe environment where they have the opportunity to build a new life in Christ.

Getting our congregation involved at the Mission is never a hard sell. The Mission is doing a great work in our community. It’s why so many members of our congregation volunteer there on a regular basis.

I’m thankful for Nashville Rescue Mission and what they provide to those in need. It’s why our church has made a bottom line commitment to support the ministry of the Mission. They give people in need help and hope. It’s an honor to be a part of it.

Math Makes a Difference

Math Makes a Difference

When Jim walked through the doors of the Mission, he had no idea how much it would impact his life.

“I’ve been donating to Nashville Rescue Mission for many years,” says Jim. “I saw a life of generosity lived out in my home growing up and have always believed it was better to give than receive.”

After 32 years in the military, Jim retired. “With a lot of free time on my hands, I stopped by the Mission. I wanted to see first-hand the work they were doing,” says Jim. “I was not prepared for the enormousness of their facility, much less the vast array of programs and services
they offered to those in need of help. Once I learned more about the different opportunities to serve, I made up my mind to volunteer.”

Jim signed up to help in the Mission’s education program, teaching men and women math skills that would prepare them for the GED® Test. “I’m an engineer 
by trade, but teaching runs in my family,” says Jim. “My mom was a teacher. My sister was a teacher. I felt volunteering in this area would be a good use of my time and talents.”

Little did Jim know just how much of a value his time and talents would be to the Mission over the years.

“Jim’s been a huge blessing to 
the Mission’s education program,” says Dr. Jay Juday, Director of Education. “Based on his knowledge and experiences as a volunteer, Jim wrote a program for the math class that has been extremely helpful in accelerating the learning process for those in the class.”

Jim says the “good feeling” he gets when someone in his class “finally gets it” after they’ve been struggling to understand is one of the greatest feelings in the world.

“Although I donate time and money to Nashville Rescue Mission—the truth is, I get more out of it than what I give,” says Jim. “I think more people would volunteer if they really understood the math behind that equation.”

A Long Hard Road

A Long Hard Road

Arthur’s life started outside of the Bronx. But in 2nd grade, he moved to the Bahamas to live with his mom’s family.“Drinking and smoking are acceptable in the Bahamas, even for a young kid,” shares Arthur. “When I returned to New York in the 6th grade, this lifestyle had dangerous consequences.”“I got into trouble for stealing cars and drinking,” recalls Arthur. “So much trouble, that instead of sending me to jail, the authorities sent me to reform school. I continued to make bad choices, so my godmother enrolled me in a drug program for teens. That didn’t help and eventually I dropped out of school.”“My daughter was born shortly after I turned 16,” says Arthur. “I was still a kid myself. I was 18 when my second daughter was born. I was working and despite being an alcoholic, held a job as a mechanic for the City of New York for 14 years. Even with all my issues, I did the best I could to support my family.”Arthur continued to struggle with drugs and alcohol going through rehab 13 times over the years. “Things came crashing down when my new boss smelled alcohol on me and wanted me to go to rehab, again,” says Arthur. “This time, I refused. The next day they fired me.”

In 2004, Arthur found himself completely out of money and living on the streets of Atlanta. A police officer who befriended him, offered help in the form of sending Arthur to a drug rehabilitation center 50 miles outside of Nashville.

“I got on the bus and thought I was ready to change my life,” says Arthur. “I stayed less than a day, didn’t like it and left on foot.”

Arthur started the long walk to the main road, when someone offered him a ride to Nashville. Once in Nashville, a stranger offered him a few dollars and told him about Nashville Rescue Mission—a place he could go, get a free place to stay, a hot meal and a chance at a new life. Arthur decided to take a chance and see where it would lead him.

“When I first arrived, I couldn’t write more than a short sentence, much less an essay,” says Arthur. “I had no
 idea the Mission would provide me with an opportunity to take GED® classes. Through the Mission’s education program I learned how to read, write, create a resume, fill out a job application, apply for jobs 
online and more. Not only did I gain skills, it built up my confidence.”

Today, Arthur not only has his GED®, he’s also graduated the Mission’s Life Recovery Program. He had many job offers upon graduation and now has a full-time job. Arthur is living in the Mission’s Transitional Housing, saving money and making plans for the future.

“I’m so thankful for Nashville Rescue Mission,” says Arthur. “Through this place and the generosity of many people I’m blessed. I got my GED®, I have access to medical care, a job and a place to live. The day my oldest daughter told me how proud she was of me, was one of the happiest days of my life and I owe that to God, the Mission and its supporters. Thank you for changing my life.”

Not Another Day in Paradise

Not Another Day in Paradise

“As a single mom, it’s important I provide for my son,” says Alissa.“I grew up in Bermuda. It’s beautiful, but not stable. I had a great career, but I still couldn’t make ends meet. Depression overwhelmed me, to the point of considering suicide.”

While Bermuda might sound like paradise, for Alissa and her 5-year-old son Aamir, it was no holiday. Despite being one of the richest countries in the world, this series of islands is in the middle of an economic storm and embroiled in a complex political situation.

“I met a man who offered us the promise of a better life in America,” shares Alissa. She quickly discovered life wasn’t better. “He was abusive,” she recalls. “So instead of making plans with him, I started looking for a job.”

Her job search brought her to Nashville. “My visa was valid for six months, so I needed a sponsor to stay,” says Alissa. She got a job, but a misunderstanding about the cost of her sponsorship led the company to back out. “So we moved to Tennessee. I knew one person—my cousin. I had no job and no idea what to do.”

Over the next few months, Alissa’s life took several detours. “Looking back, I was naïve and vulnerable. I made the mistake of getting into a relationship that led to pregnancy.” Unable to find a job that would sponsor her, Alissa’s money ran out. “We survived through the kindness of strangers. The church we attended helped.”

Alissa was able to track down her godmother, who was living in Las Vegas. “I had not seen her in years. When she invited us to come and stay with her and her boyfriend through the holidays, I jumped at the chance.”

“My godmother’s boyfriend was verbally abusive to us. It was stressful. On top of that, we were passengers in a car accident, where I had to go to the hospital. I had no money, no job, no insurance and now medical bills. The stress was too much. So we left my godmother’s house and took refuge in a homeless shelter. We didn’t stay long. After only a few days, a severe bed bug infestation forced us to leave.”

As she was making plans to return to Tennessee, Alissa received a little money and sent half to her boyfriend and the father of her unborn child for an apartment deposit. Alissa and Aamir then boarded a bus bound for Nashville. “When we got off the bus, my boyfriend wasn’t there. He never showed up. He abandoned us.”

No one plans to become homeless. For Alissa, what started as a quest for a better life has taken her on a trip no one could plan for. With no one to turn to and nowhere to go, Alissa found herself standing at the door of Nashville Rescue Mission.

“I don’t know where I would have gone if Nashville Rescue Mission had not taken us in,” says Alissa. “I know it sounds crazy to leave Bermuda, but there was nothing there for us. It is a beautiful place, but on the brink of economic ruin. Being homeless here is better than the life we had there. I want to find a job, start over and build a life for my family. I’m thankful the Mission is here to help while I try to get on my feet.”

Alissa is getting the care she needs for herself and her unborn child. Despite the setbacks, Alissa is grateful. She never imagined she would be pregnant and homeless. But she’s not without hope. Through case management and the various programs and services offered through the Mission, Alissa has a chance to start over.

Steve Anderson, Chief of Police

Steve Anderson, Chief of Police

When I attended Nashville Rescue Mission’s 60th Birthday Bash in May of this year, it was a little bit like coming home for me.In 1975, when I started my police career, I was assigned a zone in Downtown Nashville that included the Mission, which, at the time was located on 7th and Demonbreun.

Many things have changed over the years, but one thing that has remained the same is Nashville Rescue Mission’s commitment to helping those who are in need. I always knew if I took someone to the Mission, they would get the help they needed.

As a police officer, my job has been to protect and serve the community. If I encountered someone who needed a little help and wasn’t putting the community at risk, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for me to take them to the Mission. Some people are just down on their luck. They aren’t committing a crime or involved in illegal activities, they just need a temporary place to stay or a meal to fill an empty stomach.

I would hate to think what Nashville would look like without the Mission and the services they provide to this community. Nashville was recently named one of the 25 largest cities in America. I think of our city as the largest small town in America. We are connected community by community—people helping people.

Nashville wouldn’t be the city it is today without Nashville Rescue Mission. There are countless numbers of people who have been helped by the work of its dedicated staff and supporters. Our community is a better place because of what they do in not only caring for those in need, but also addressing the problems that bring people to the Mission’s front door in the first place.

More than that, the Mission actually goes out seeking people who are in need with their Hot Patrol in the summer and their Cold Patrol in the winter. They’ve helped men and women overcome addiction, find gainful employment and move into independent housing. They’ve reunited families.

The staff of the Mission takes the word “rescue” which is a part of this important institution’s name, to heart. They are in the business of saving people.

Chief Steve Anderson, is a 39-year veteran of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. He is a graduate of Belmont University and the Nashville School of Law. Prior to joining the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, he served in the United States Air Force and was employed by the White County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Office.

Called Out of the Darkness

Called Out of the Darkness

Ryan had a great childhood. His parents dearly loved him. He played little league baseball and went on family vacations. But the fear of rejection fueled Ryan with the means and motivation to do things he knew he shouldn’t, but did anyway so people would like him and accept him.“I started experimenting with alcohol as a teen,” he says. “It didn’t take long for me to progress from alcohol to marijuana, opiates, ecstasy and meth. Drugs and alcohol took away my anxiety and at that point, I didn’t care what people thought of me.” Ryan started sneaking in to nightclubs and was immediately caught up in a life of partying.On a path of destruction, Ryan’s parents intervened. “I saw therapists, addiction counselors and tried lots of antidepressants,” says Ryan. “Nothing made me happy except alcohol, drugs, food and television.”

He enrolled in a Christ-centered program for men in Indiana. He came to know the Lord, but relapsed shortly after finishing the program. Ryan’s counselor suggested he leave Indiana and try a different program. So he packed his bags and headed to Nashville Rescue Mission. “At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay,” Ryan recalls. “But I’m so glad I did. It wasn’t easy. I struggled. But I learned some very valuable lessons.”

“One of the biggest lessons I learned at the Mission was that no matter what I (or anyone else) did in the past, the staff and volunteers at the Mission demonstrated love and compassion,” says Ryan. “After what I had done, I didn’t deserve a place to stay, clothes on my back or food to eat. But the Mission did all of that and much more. It was an incredible example of Christ’s love.

“Within a week of graduating from the Mission’s Life Recovery Program in November 2013, I was on a bus headed to Iowa to start my new job with a printing company,” says Ryan. “The owner of the company believes in and supports Nashville Rescue Mission. He’s offered jobs to men graduating the program. They relocated me, gave me money for groceries, provided me with transportation. I was given an opportunity to start over.”

Today, Ryan is still working in Iowa. He’s engaged to be married and is living out the life God had planned for him. “If it wasn’t for Nashville Rescue Mission I very well could be dead,” shares Ryan. “Now because of the Mission and the people who support it, I have friends, I have a job, a future, a fiancé and a stronger relationship with Jesus Christ. There are not enough words to say how much the Mission means to me. God is using them in a big, big way.”

A Beautiful Offering

A Beautiful Offering

Every Thursday morning, 16 people gather at Brentwood United Methodist Church. They decide who will drive and pile into vehicles to make the short trip downtown to Nashville Rescue Mission. The drive is filled with smiles and laughter as they share their lives and eagerly await the chance to serve lunch once more. Linda Hood didn’t know these people just three years ago when she began organizing the weekly adventure. But now, they’re some of her closest friends.

“I worked downtown for years, so I knew that there were tons of homeless women. I began trying to find where they went for shelter.  Once someone gave me information on the women’s Mission I made a phone call and said, ‘I’m free on Thursday. Can I come down and serve lunch?” And that’s how it all began.

She now serves lunch 48 Thursdays every year. The only thing that keeps her away from this place on a Thursday is Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the four times a year she serves the homeless through a different ministry. Linda is truly a champion. Her passion for the women is contagious, as she brags on them and their accomplishments.

“I met a young woman who is from my hometown of Manchester, Tennessee, “she shares. “Her grandmother and I grew up together! I instantly bonded with this young lady. She graduated from the Life Recovery Program 15 months ago and is now reunited with her family and children…As volunteers, we get to learn the women’s stories. We all have someone who’s really touched us.”

We all have special skills that we can contribute, whether or not we realize it. For Linda, it’s her decorating expertise. She changes the decorations seasonally – bringing flowers, table runners and other holiday items to make the dining room feel extra warm and welcoming. “It seems to make such a difference to the women here. It makes it feel more like home and reminds them that someone cares about them.”

There are so many ways to get involved at the Mission. We are sure that there are ways for you to use YOUR skills here! Will you donate your time and expertise?

Making the Connection

Making the Connection

For the past ten years, Deb and husband Rob have performed across the U.S. and overseas in churches, prisons, homeless shelters and recovery centers with their band Dust & Daisies. Their music and live shows are all about spreading a Christ-centered message of hope and healing.Deb says, “Hands down, my favorite place to play is Nashville Rescue Mission.” Since 2011, Dust & Daisies has been sharing their music (and Deb’s own recovery story) at the Friday Night Coffee House, graduations, 4th of July, and most recently the Mission’s 60th Anniversary celebration.“From the second I get up on stage and introduce myself and my struggle, we are all connected,” says Deb. “We are on the same journey. We have the same Savior leading us and healing us. It is the most amazing spiritual experience I have ever encountered. The men and women in the Mission’s Life Recovery Program are on fire for God in such a real way, because they have been through so much. I feel like maybe that’s why the connection is so powerful. I have been on a similar journey and I get it.”Because of Deb’s past struggles and now victory over her own addiction, an eating disorder, she is passionate about bringing music to the Mission to serve those who come to listen.

“As any volunteer will tell you, you go there with the intention of being a blessing to others,” shares Deb. “But you come back being ten times more blessed! Every story they share with us about where they came from, what they are going through, the big and small victories they are experiencing, and the hope they have found as they are fighting to get their lives back on track—these are all really God’s story and it absolutely inspires me.”

Their original songs come out their real-life experiences along the recovery journey.  Add in contemporary worship to their set along with mainstream rock and it makes for an energetic crowd anytime they perform at the Mission.

“When we start to play Heart or Janis Joplin, the place goes nuts”, she says. “But then in the same set we will play Revelation Song and Amazing Grace. There is just so much reverence and passion.  It becomes an unbelievable worship experience. I get really choked up when I see them raising their hands and singing their hearts out. I am thankful we have such a powerful ministry like Nashville Rescue Mission to help men and women who are struggling, get out of the pit and lay the groundwork so they have another chance at life.”

No Greater Joy

No Greater Joy

“I first learned of Nashville Rescue Mission through a mailing,” shares Joy. “I remember because I’d just gotten married and it surprised me to see mail with my new name on it. For the next two years, my husband and I faithfully supported the Mission.”

Joy started looking for local mission opportunities where the men and women from her church could serve. Nashville Rescue Mission immediately came to mind. “We spent four hours serving in the kitchen on that first day, followed by four hours working in the warehouse where we put shelves together and organized food,” says Joy.

“The ride home was quiet, as everyone reflected on the day. We were a ‘happy’ exhausted. Exhausted from the work, but even our faces were hurting because we’d smiled so much during the day.”

Volunteering became more than just part of Joy’s ministry. It became personal as she signed her family up to volunteer. “We serve dinner at the Mission on a regular basis, but we especially love volunteering on holidays. Our first Thanksgiving at the Mission changed my life. Watching a mother of five gather around a table with her little ones, pray over their meal and then start cutting up the turkey on her babies’ plates. Someone who appeared to have nothing—but is rich in so many things. It was humbling. I think for the first time, I saw a true picture of Thanksgiving. Now, our families in East Tennessee know not to expect us on Thanksgiving until dinnertime—after we’ve served at the Mission. Then and only then do we hit the road.”

Volunteering has had profound effect on Joy and her family. “As a volunteer, you have the opportunity to meet many people and form many relationships,” says Joy. “Over time, these relationships grow and you learn more and more about each other. The small talk turns into deep meaningful conversations. You celebrate milestones and victories together. You encourage each other. You become friends.”

Over the years, Joy has found more ways to get involved at the Mission than just serving in the kitchen and her heart for giving back has inspired her to include others in her efforts. “I have enjoyed inviting friends, family and coworkers to serve with me. Seeing them experience the same ‘ah ha’ moment I did during my first volunteer experience five years ago is hard to describe,” says Joy. “There is no greater joy than to witness the moment a volunteer falls in love with the mission of Nashville Rescue Mission. It is priceless!”