Last December, we took a look at the words “God with us” and launched our focus for the first half of 2013 on Isaiah 61:1-3. Those three verses paint a pretty good picture of what God is doing within the ministries of the Union Gospel Mission, and from January through July, we examined that work by taking a closer look at particular phrases one by one.
“Preaching Good News to the Poor”
Volunteers David Wang and Shelley Altmeyer “preach” by building personal relationships. David is a professor of architecture at Washington State University, an artist, a researcher and a writer. His life revolves around the heady world of academics. Partly for that very reason, he sought out the opportunity to volunteer at UGM. Read more>
Shelley Altmeyer knows about suffering. Paralyzed as a young woman, she is well known around the UGM Men’s Shelter as an extraordinary listener. “I find it exciting and challenging,” Shelley said. “I never really get discouraged because I know that speaking life to people can make a difference.” Read more>
“Binding up the Brokenhearted”
"I believe what drives people to bad behavior, whether it's addiction or abusive relationships or being abusers, is brokenness of heart," said Chris Armstrong, former director of Women's Recovery at Anna Ogden Hall.
Beth, who has now completed the LIFE Recovery program, admitted she had no idea how broken she was when she started. "It was like pulling off a mask...being able to say, 'Man, I am totally messed up.'"
But God is in the business of healing broken hearts. "My life is on the right track because I have time to get healthy instead of numbing the pain with unhealthy relationships. I have a new life with my sons, a healthy life of hope because of Christ." Read more>
Robin, another resident, drew a picture of what her new heart looked like: Robin drew a slightly lopsided heart, and she colored outside the lines because she wanted to remind herself that it wasn't about being perfect. Read more>
"Freedom for the Captives"
When Charles "Rowdy" Rogers got out of prison last June, he had spent more than a quarter of his life incarcerated. Here's the crazy thing: he wanted to go back. Within 24 hours of his release, he was high, but instead of the euphoria he was expecting, he felt misery. He was sleeping under a bridge. Everything he had ever esteemed as manly - drugs, toughness, sex - left him empty. "For the first time in my life," he said, "I prayed, please take this away from me. I can't do this anymore." And God heard. God brought Rowdy to the Union Gospel Mission. Read more>
"Comfort for Those Who Mourn"
"It is easy enough to say a great many beautiful things about God being the God of all comfort; but unless we know what it is to be really and truly comforted ourselves, we might as well talk to the winds. People must read in our lives what they hear in our words, or all our preaching is worse than useless." (from God of All Comfort by Hannah Whitall Smith)
Here's a beautiful thing: the men and women coming out of our recovery programs do know what it is "to be really and truly comforted." Their firsthand experience with the God of all comfort is evident in their lives. Read more about Sheldon and Charles.
"To Bestow on Them a Crown of Beauty Instead of Ashes"
For Starla, ashes looked like an orange jumpsuit, handcuffs and shackles. She was tempted to remain in those ashes because she believed that is what she deserved. But God says, "It's not about what you deserve. It's not about what you've done. It's about what I've done for you."
We do not need to live in an ash help of our shame and regret. When we confess and repent, God forgives and gives new life. Read more about Starla.
"They Will be Called Oaks of Righteousness"
In June of each year, we celebrate the graduation of men and women from our Recovery programs. This last year we had one of our largest graduating classes with 10 women and 8 men - men and women who might be called "oaks of righteousness."
In that phrase, the prophet Isaiah is referring to the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, those who mourn and suffer in despair. He's talking about us, and he's foretelling the transformation that will take place in our lives through Jesus Christ. We will become like trees planted by streams of living water whose leaves do not wither. We will be a magnificent display of God's beauty and redeeming power. We will reflect His character and bring glory to Him as God-dependent, contributing members of society.
From January through July 2013, the Mission News focused on the first three verses of Isaiah 61, a portion of which Christ himself quoted in Luke 4 and proclaimed: "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
At the Union Gospel Mission, we have the privilege of watching these verses continue to be fulfilled every day. Good news is proclaimed to the poor. The captives are set free. Those who mourn are comforted. Beauty does rise up from ashes. Praise replaces cursing and despair. And Jesus Christ is glorified as men, women and children grow into magnificent oaks of righteousness.
To learn more about how you can get involved, download our e-book with all the ways to help through UGM by clicking on the image below.