Happy Thanksgiving! As we pause to consider our blessings here at the Mission, there’s not enough room to list them all! One thing in particular strikes me – the more trials we go through, the more problems we face, the more we realize how much we’ve had to be thankful for all along.
Before the arson fire that burned us down in 2006, I didn’t feel particularly thankful for the everyday messes of Mission life. Quite the opposite – at times I complained about them in my heart. After the fire, the clean-out and rebuilding process was long and hard. For two years and nine months our dorm was closed. Our drop-in services were minimal compared to the comprehensive services we once offered. Then came Monday, November 24, 2008. We reopened our doors and invited the first 13 men into our newly rebuilt facility. As I was wiping up crumbs from the dining table after we served our first lunch, it hit me – this was a good mess, a blessed and holy one! I gave God thanks for it, and I vowed then and there to thank Him for the messes yet to come, because they are signs that life is happening here, that transformation and restoration are in process. I took the privilege of serving for granted until it was lost in the fire. But the Mission’s restoration brought sweeter joy and greater thanks than I could have known before the hardship that took it all away.
Many of our men have a similar experience when coming to the Mission. They come at a low point, having lost so much. But as different aspects of life are restored bit by bit, they begin to give thanks for things they once took for granted. It makes me think of Cody. It’s been 9 years since Cody graduated from the New Life Program, and he still routinely mails or drops off cards of encouragement for Mission staff. Just recently Cody came by to drop off some cards and he handed me an envelope. It was a cash donation for our work. On the outside he had written his name and a note that said “Thank you for saving my life. I love the Whosoever Gospel Mission.” Before Cody came to the Mission, he spent just about every day for 15 long years sitting on the front steps of a house in the neighborhood, holding a bottle in a brown paper bag. Since graduating from the Mission, Cody has never turned back. He is full of joy and life, and his heart overflows with love and thankfulness. He is grateful he’s not on a front stoop with a bottle in his hand. From time to time he’ll look at one of us as he remembers, and he’ll shake his head and say “Can you believe it?”
Another thing I’m thankful for – something I don’t want to take for granted – is you. I realize that our ability to exist and to offer our services to the men who come to us is dependent upon the generosity and support of friends like yourself. Your prayers and support are critical to the life transformation of men like Cody. You are an integral part of all our stories. And I give thanks for you. Thank you for being part of our Mission family. The Lord richly bless you and yours this year as you pause and gather to give thanks.
With thankfulness for you,
Heather L. Rice, D.Min.