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March 23, 2020
"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." John 14:27 NIV
I was getting ready to talk to a group of our staff this week about COVID-19. A term I only came to know days ago, but one that is now too familiar. They were nervous. Anxious. Scared. I was getting some advice from our leaders. "I think the hardest part about this whole crisis is how quickly everything changes," someone remarked. Yes, that is what so unsettles me, too. As we've marched through this week together I’ve thought to myself several times, "if someone had told me a week ago that..."
For instance, if someone told me a week ago that we would be on a conference call with rescue mission colleagues from around the country to talk with senior Administration leaders and public health leaders from CDC about how to keep homeless guests and staff safe from a pandemic... Or, if someone told me a week ago that we would have to send our 370 Cross Trainer Academy students home for weeks (maybe longer) and our school administrators and teachers would have to figure out in a couple of days how to teach them "virtually" at home for possibly the rest of the school year... Or, if someone told me a week ago that, even with the end of winter in sight, the numbers in our shelters would start increasing by more than 35% with over 300 each night and rising to 400 or more... Or, if someone told me a week ago that we would be spending hours each day in meetings trying to figure out where we could quarantine sick guests and how we could keep staff healthy enough to serve... Or, if someone told me a week ago that we would have staff meetings by telephone — even though we were all in the same building — in an attempt to make sure that if one of us goes down, we all don't go down... If someone told me a week ago that...
I'm sure it's been that kind of week for you too! But in the midst of so much uncertainty, there has also been such wonderful encouragement from our friends: notes, texts, emails, calls. It has become crystal clear that we are not alone. We have an army of friends surrounding us, praying for us, supporting us. So I am happy to report to you that, with your help, the MRM team is ready, able and willing to meet this challenge that has taken so many of us off guard. I've been so encouraged by the real servant attitude, courage and wisdom of the men and women who serve together here. I look forward to being able to tell stories of what God has done in and through us to serve so many neighbors in crisis and need — just as we've done for 127 years.
Maybe it's occurred to you, too, the incredible and providential timing of this crisis. As we approach our Easter Celebration in this season, this life-threatening virus is taking so many of us off guard. I was thinking about Jesus' disciples as he led them from the upper room where they had what we call the Last Supper. On the eve of his crucifixion, when Jesus was comforting them before his arrest, I wonder if any of the disciples thought, "if someone told me a week ago that..."
Just one week before — on Palm Sunday — Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. Everything must have seemed right with the world that night. Yet on the eve of Good Friday, he has to tell his disciples, "Let not your hearts be troubled." He was right, of course. The events of that weekend are the good news we cherish and tell today.
In the last week or so, we have all been rudely reminded of the uncertainties of life in this world. But because of Easter, we too can believe and find shelter in the peace that Jesus gives, even in the midst of chaos.
Praying you stay safe and well and that you, too, find the peace that he provides.
Patrick H. Vanderburgh, D.Min.
March 12, 2020
As the COVID-19 situation unfolds across the country, I’m thankful for the support of our caring community. And, I take comfort in God’s promise to be with us in times of uncertainty.
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7 NIV
As this global issue impacts the Milwaukee area, we take our responsibility seriously to act in the best interests of our guests, students, donors, volunteers and staff while carefully monitoring the ongoing situation. Providing more than 300 precious souls with safe shelter every night and 1,200 meals to hungry men, women and children every day, it is vital that we take every precaution in meeting their critical needs – and we do not take that role lightly.
Because of our concern for you and our guests, who are part of a very vulnerable group, at this time we have suspended all volunteer and tour activities for the foreseeable future. And, in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus in our community, we have vastly increased the scope of our cleaning procedures to protect all who come through our doors.
Friend, as I ask you to pray for us while we navigate this situation, please know that we are also praying for you. Know that God is in control and that we can continue to trust in him, as he has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:4 NIV). Strengthened by God’s promises, we can encourage and comfort one another to remain fearless in the face of danger, and joyful in spite of uncertainty.
All of us here at MRM will continue to do all we can to keep our community healthy. If you would like to help MRM and our guests in light of COVID-19, please consider sharing surplus cleaning, hygiene and safety supplies with us. You can check out our complete list of needs or make an online donation at milmission.org/itemsofneed.
We appreciate any help you can provide, and we appreciate your prayers during this challenging time. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or prayer requests. Thank you for your support!
May God bless you and keep you safe,
Patrick H. Vanderburgh, D.Min.