In January of 2017, a man walked into the GRM in the usual way. He came in, filled out an application for residency, and then sat and waited. Watching others passing before him without being acknowledged, he was obviously agitated and in short order his patience gave out. He got up and walked out of the building, and we would not see or hear from him again for a couple of months.
Our next encounter with him happened in April. I had just finished teaching morning chapel when I was warmly greeted by the same man. He introduced himself as Chris and told me that he had just gotten out of jail as part of the Drug Court program. He said that during his previous attempt at checking in he was so busy making up and telling himself rotten stories about Mission staff and what life as a resident would be like, that he talked himself out of staying before ever talking to anyone. He said that he had now been here nearly one week, and he was not only enjoying his stay, but couldn’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to stay at the Mission. I encouraged him to stick with the program and see what God might do with him and his life.
Over the next few months Chris did exactly that. He and I kind of developed a routine after the weekly chapel I teach of him sharing his progress with me, for which I would try to offer some encouragement. This came easy as he was clearly putting in the hard work that was being asked of him not only at the Mission, but with his required classes for Drug Court and Probation. Now I have seen enough guys do well for a short time before giving up and relapsing, that I wanted to find an incentive to encourage his ongoing recovery. For Chris, I saw an opportunity in his smile.
Like so many of the people we encounter, years of rough living and addiction to methamphetamine had taken its toll Chris’s teeth. A smile means no longer hiding my past. It’s a confident job interview. It’s an uncomfortable question that no longer gets asked and a shameful past no longer exposed. “I am so thankful for all that the Mission has done for me Brian. I can’t believe that it’s taken me so long to understand that I could be different” he said. “I’ll tell you something Chris… you haven’t yet seen all that can be done for you here. Chris, what would it mean for you if I could offer to really help you have your teeth fixed?” The tears swelling in his eyes said everything. “Chris, if you can successfully stay on track with your program here for 6 months, I will begin the process of making that a reality. Would that interest you?” With a firm handshake, and a direct look in my eyes, he said “Yes.”
Chris has, maybe for the first time in his life, proven to be a man of his word. In addition to keeping all the requirements of his Drug Court program, Chris has gained full-time employment and become a part-time Resident Assistant (RA) at the Mission. As I was walking through and looking at the exhibits on display at our Josephine County Fair, I was stopped by a local police officer who recognized me. “Whatever you guys are doing with Chris… well… just keep it up!” Having had numerous encounters with him over the years, she has seen a marked change in his behavior and overall outlook. “There are just some guys you doubt will ever change, but he is really doing it! It is so encouraging to see. Great work!”
Now the really fun part of ministry at the Mission is when we get to see God work miracles in multiple areas all at once. We set Chris on the task of choosing a dentist in town to work with, and he chose Compassionate Dentistry and Dr. Sara Riechers. Dr. Riechers and her team have worked with the Mission before and she was nothing short of amazing once again. Upon considering all the options available to Chris to solve his dental needs, Chris and the Doctor decided that the correct plan would be one that had a price tag of over $10,000. We had no idea how we would come up with that amount as, not being dentists ourselves, of course it was far more than we had guessed. But Dr. Riechers was quick to let us know that she was willing to take a substantial cut in her services that would bring our end price to half of that. That meant that our cost would be reduced by over $5,000! That is still a lot of money, but once again God continues to amaze us with how He demonstrates His favor upon those who commit themselves to Him.
So, seizing the opportunity, Chris has begun the process of having many of the bad teeth removed and we are committed to support the plan he’s chosen. The truth is that if it weren’t for donors who regularly, financially support the work of the Gospel Rescue Mission we would not be able to make such offers to our residents. It is also true that together we may be able to change a person’s smile, yet our highest hope and goal is to see a change of heart, and this is the work of Christ. Therefore, I would ask two things…
That you would help us financially in our mission to directly and profoundly improve the health, wellness, and self-image of our residents. We try to keep about $25k in our barrier removal fund for just such projects as this one and together, we have been able to give tremendous support to many this year. This project will bring our current years balance below $8,000. Your financial support would be greatly appreciated, and it will go to excellent work!
Would you continue to pray for Chris, and all the residents (men, women, and children) of the Gospel Rescue Mission? Pray that they might come to have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, and that they may continue to grow in Him long after they leave the Mission. So we can say with the confidence of the Apostle Paul “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).