John Ashmen is the president of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions. They're North America's oldest and largest network of independent ministries providing a ministry of hospitality for the poor and powerless.
How many people are going homeless on a daily basis? According to John, if you look at the government numbers, there are approximately 550 thousand on any given night. He also noted that while you may hear that homelessness is going down, you can't be positive about that because of the way the count is done.
Rescue missions started in North America in the late 1800's. An immigrant from New York City named Jerry McAuley went to Sing-Sing prison for a crime he committed. While there he felt the Lord told him to go back to New York. He was to clean them up on the outside and the Lord would clean them up on the inside. There he started the Jerry MacCauley Water Street Mission.
Missions over the years have changed. During the 'Roaring 20's', alcoholism became an issue that missions had to deal with on a regular basis. Then there was the 'Great Depression' where there were those who were jobless and hungry.
Groups that dealt with people who were in gangs, were refugees, were alcoholics or unemployed came together because the many things they did for such individuals requires training. In order to be able to learn from one another, they formed the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, whose roots go back to 1906.
The Association of Gospel Rescue Missions focuses on four R's—Rescue, Redemption, Rehabilitation and Re-assimilation.
Rescue—This has to do with the neighborhood of constant despair. It's where John sees people who realize they've made choices that are leading them to personal destruction.
Redemption--The Bible says there is a 'reset button' and that button is 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Rehabilitation—This is about life skills and getting your G.E.D., job training and even job placement.
Re-assimilation—This deals with things like housing and transportation.
As John pointed out, rescue is just the starting point. So while many such places are called 'rescue missions', more and more of the ministries that join the association don't even have the term 'rescue' in their name. Many organizations don't want to focus so much on the 'rescue' aspect but rather on re-assimilation which is really about transformation.
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