Updated: Oct 21, 2020
The Storyteller Tells a Story of Faith…
Where is our community? Do we consider our neighbors as those who live next door to us, or do we expand that definition a bit?
A few months ago a cry of help was raised by Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg. It is always a struggle for these kinds of organizations to fund all the needs of the folks they serve, but in today’s social and political climates, it has become much more difficult. They stretch food, especially meat, as far as possible, but their supply of chicken was dangerously low jeopardizing their ability to feed the hungry. So what should they do – reduce the number of people they feed or try to find more food? Since there was no shortage of hungry people coming through their doors, they had to somehow find more food. It was then they decided to contact some of their ‘super fundraisers’, one of whom was Al Houseman (MZ).
Al had personal experience of the work of Bethesda Mission. You see, in 2012, Al was having a hard time. In his words, “A very prolonged and deepening depression left little hope of recovery (for him). Before being institutionalized, the idea of Bethesda (Mission) and their reputation of being a spiritual healing environment (as well as a shelter) was decided (for him) as a last chance.” For nine months, Al worked with the counselors and volunteers of Bethesda Mission to try to turn his life around. According to Al, he is a work in progress, but he has “come to believe a Power greater than myself could restore my sanity.” Bethesda Mission helped Al to get his life back. In return, he “wants to offer hope to others; seek to improve my conscious contact with God daily; live each day in a manner which pleases Him; and spread the Good Word and show others different ways they can as well.” He, in essence, is helping others to get their lives back too. He adds, he has “good friends there I can still call upon for input and guidance,” if needed.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because having stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” ~ James 1:12
After Al left Bethesda Mission as a client, he became involved in their ministry. He had helped them before, and now they were asking for his help again. When Al told us of the food situation at Bethesda Mission, he said the outpouring of support was “just awesome” not only from our church but from the surrounding community as well.
According to their website, (bethesdamission.org), their mission is as follows: “Since 1914, Bethesda Mission has been an arm of the local church reaching out to men, women and children of all races, nationalities and creeds, providing the poor and homeless with shelter, food, clothing, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and discipling them in the Christian faith.” Their goal can be summed up in three words: Rescue, Redeem and Restore. They rescue people by providing shelter, a safe environment, food, and their basic needs. People are redeemed by their introduction to the saving love and grace of Jesus Christ. And by providing the tools needed for life, they are restored to lives of character and great purpose. In 2014, Bethesda Mission served over 35,000 meals at the Mission and provided over 121,800 meals to the poor in their community. No wonder they periodically need help to restock their food supply!
Al is now an active and beloved part of our church family. Thankfully, he has made us aware of the opportunity to help those in need when we might not have considered them to be a part of the community we touch. So just where is our community? At times, we try to put limits or boundaries on God’s love and goodness, but we should know God better than that. We just need to open our eyes to see where He is leading us. God doesn’t give us boundaries, He gives us mountains. However, he gives us the means to climb those mountains.
Al has changed his life. It wasn’t easy, we can be sure, but now he says he wants to give back in whatever way he can. “To keep a blessing, you have to give it away – over and over.” Al is doing that – whenever he has the opportunity to do so!
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” ~ Philippians 4:6