A friend of mine used to wear a t-shirt which had these words written on the front: “Fall Down 7 Times…Stand Up 8!” She wore it during especially difficult times as she battled her alcoholism as a reminder to herself to get back up and move forward. But it applies to all of us because we all “fall” at different points and in different areas of our lives (jobs, school, marriages, friendships and other relationships) and have to find a way to get back on our feet.
But how does that happen? How do we stand back up when all hope seems lost? What do we do when our hearts hurt, our lives are a mess and we can’t imagine going on? I can say from personal experience that we can’t do it on our own. We have to turn to God and pay attention to the people and organizations that he places in our lives to help us. The Beacon of Hope in Fort Dodge is one of those organizations through which God clearly works to restore hope in the lives of men. It’s more than a men’s shelter. It’s a ministry through which God is doing some amazing work in our community. One that our church has supported financially and otherwise since its inception.
Over the past year, I’ve been volunteering 10% of my time at the Beacon every week and I have to say that my time there has easily impacted me as much as the men who reside there. At first, I showed up and accomplished assigned tasks. As time passed, I established several strong relationships in which I’ve been able to be both a mentor and a living testimony to the healing power of our God.
In addition to my usual volunteering, I’ve also been asked to preach during their evening chapel time. I used my first opportunity to do so to preach on several different passages (Jeremiah 29:11; Matthew 25:34-36; James 2:15-17; 1 John 3:17-18) and discuss what it takes to regain hope in our lives. The lengthy discussion following that sermon provided an incredible experience and an opportunity for me to reflect on just how trivial many of own life challenges are at this point. It also reminded me how grateful I am for all those through whom God worked to help me back on my feet when I had fallen in the past.
As we all know, there are many stereotypes associated with the homeless and shelters. The truth, however, is that a large percentage of the Beacon’s residents struggle with issues that many of us cannot imagine. Many of them arrive simultaneously battling multiple mental health issues without access to the kind of care necessitated by their conditions. Nonetheless, they are able to continue forward on the strength of their faith and God’s love shown to them through the staff and volunteers.
They too are God’s children who have hurts and heartaches. They have children, siblings, parents, friends and others out there somewhere who feel the impact of their situations. They deserve our love and support.
If you’re interested in getting involved at the Beacon, let me know. I’ll be glad to arrange a tour. Just remember that the ripple effect of helping others is real and it’s amazing. The first step involves all of us extending a hand to help each other up when we’ve fallen.
[Pictured: My friends…Eric (Beacon Chaplain), Zack, Phil & Dave]