“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Dear supporters of the Rescue Mission. I begin this Lenten Newsletter with a large measure of Hope in my heart. What a year 2020 has been! All of us, have had our worlds turned upside down by this pandemic. Almost a year ago, we were forced to change our entire way of doing ministry. Like our personal lives, compassionate hugs, an understanding hand on the shoulder of a resident who is struggling with mental illness, all the way to our worship services on Sunday evenings, being postponed until the pandemic ends. Needless to say, the distance, fear, and the necessary measures to reduce the transmission of Covid 19 have made our ministry less personal and more sterile and robotic. Our Mission Staff are people with HUGE hearts, and compassionate love for those struggling with life’s challenges and strong human touch in the daily ministry to the broken and suffering of our community. Having to adjust to a model of ministry that restricts all human touch, closeness and deep listening has made their work lives very frustrating and difficult. Yet, we all know that God’s grace and compassionate mercy flows through any gesture we offer, even when we feel like we are being so hampered by the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines and requirements. While implementing all these measures, our success to provide a safe and consistent ministry is strong. We have had only two positive Covid cases since March and both of them were asymptomatic. Of course, all of this comes with a tremendous cost. Just the one (enormous) change to our free meal ministry is expensive. Since all meals are “to-go”, we have had to completely recreate the way we serve food. Preparing and cooking meals that most easily travel in “to-go” containers, was an early challenge for our Kitchen Staff. Just the cost of the single serving milk containers (like the one’s served in our primary schools) has added an additional cost we never had before. Safely spacing out 100+ people for each meal has been an on-going challenge. Only now, have we become pretty good and having people come in shifts throughout the 90 minutes we allow for each meal. It’s working pretty smoothly, after almost 11 months of tweaking and reboots. We do have a half dozen eight-foot tables set up in our dining hall and chapel ten feet apart for the elderly and handicapped who come for our free meal ministry to sit and eat their meal. Additionally, since March of 2020, we have set up a small room in our basement where homeless men seeking shelter begin their stay. We call it the Covid Room. We check men in only on Mondays and they are then escorted to our Covid Room in the basement where they stay for four days and are tested for Covid 19. If their tests return negative, they can then proceed to our Third Floor Dormitory with the other men. If their test returns positive, they are sent out to the City of Dubuque’s Covid Shelter on the West end. On a more sobering note, the Mission, like many businesses, has had cascading economic effects due to the pandemic – we, too, have been struggling. Of course, we depend on our two Thrift Stores to provide a third of our entire income for the year. The pandemic closed our stores for almost two months in March/April and has reduced our donations of furniture and other household items by half. Our supporters, and others, understandably don’t want people coming into their homes during a pandemic to pick up donated furniture/household items to take to the Mission Thrift stores. This loss of income has impacted our ministry efforts, redirecting us to come up with creative ways to perform our ministries with reduced resources. I’m happy to report, that all of you, our faithful supporters have reached out in so many ways to provide the material and financial resources the Mission needs to help the many poor and vulnerable of our community. So here we are, on the cusp of Lent 2021, with a raging pandemic paralyzing our country and its people. What an appropriate time to reflect on what we’ve come through thus far and how far we have yet to go before we come out on the other side. Yet, we are a people of Hope – hope in the promises of an All-Loving God, made human through the life and ministry of his son, Jesus Christ, who said, “Do not fear, I go before you always.” This brings me comfort as we arrive at a Lenten Season like no other in our history. The pandemic has brought an entirely different understanding to the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ that we never have contemplated before. With the loss of almost a half a million friends, family and neighbors, it’s hard to fathom a Lenten Season to the likes of this one. Still, be assured, that all of you will be held in the Healing Light of Christ and the protection of all the Heavenly Hosts, as we continue to move forward in faith, with the breastplate of God’s love for protection and the helmet of his peace and justice.
This year, 2021, is looking to be very similar to the last, 2020. Although vaccinations have begun with our most vulnerable populations, it’s looking like a full – national vaccination will not be complete until fall of this year – that’s if everything goes as planned. Therefore, we will continue to keep all measures in place and pray that no positive cases fall upon us in any life-threatening way. So please, continue to hold us in your thoughts and prayers and support us through your financial gifts. The additional hours and work the staff has put in to cover so much of what all of you, our amazing volunteers have not been able to help with due to the pandemic. Please understand, I’m not encouraging any of you to personally come down to the Mission and volunteer as you had pre-pandemic. That option is just too dangerous at this time. Wait until we come out the other end of this and then we can properly and safely serve (in person) the “least among us.” Until then, continue to check our Facebook postings, and website about needs. Offer any food donations, clothing, household items and/or furniture which we still are in need of during this time of great turmoil. We miss all of you deeply – it’s so very different not seeing the dozens of you who make up our volunteer corps during the week. Like you, we long for the connection of brothers and sisters working together on a common cause to address homelessness, hunger and poverty in our community. I find myself, once again, tapping into that longing within all of us to connect and be helpful to another. For now, that will have to wait until we can safely do that in person. With that, may this Season of Lent be an opportunity for deeper connection with God and His beloved son, Jesus. And may the promise of the Easter Resurrection fill us with Hope and Love.
Peace and love, Rick Mihm and the Mission Staff.