Just Do the Next Thing

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    Elisabeth Elliot’s husband, Jim, and two missionary friends were killed in 1956 in Ecuador, as she and her friends waited for the men to return to their base camp from a brief mission trip. After she learned of their deaths, she returned to their hut at the jungle mission station and was faced with the need to make decisions. Among these, she needed to figure out whether to continue her husband’s mission work in Ecuador by herself and she needed to figure 1 old child. She has described her feelings of numbness and bewilderment as to what to do and how her first act was to draw upon the truth she knew beyond doubt– that she could and did trust the living God of heaven. As she did so, she said she remembered an old poem called “Do the Next Thing”—one of profound simplicity —and she proceeded to respond. She looked around her hut to see what needed to be done and she washed dishes and clothes.

    Then she decided to help two men her husband had been mentoring so that they would be equipped to run the church in the jungle that her husband had been leading. From there, she saw the need and helped translate passages from the Bible into the language of the Quechan’s. The diesel engine that operated the generator needed to be run so she learned how to do that. 

    The airstrip where mission planes landed needed to be cleaned of the constantly growing plants so she recruited help and they did the work of chopping and clearing. Since those times, she has wisely counseled others who have been overwhelmed by the challenges of all the things that need to be done — trust God, look around and “Do the Next Thing”. I’d like to think that that is what we at Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, a jewel of the City, have been doing for the last 103 years. 

    As President of the Ministries, it is rare that I tell a new acquaintance about what we do and not hear in response, “I had no idea Detroit Rescue Mission did all that! I thought you were a soup kitchen and shelter!” Providing a soup kitchen and shelter is, in fact, something we have provided consistently over the years. But believe me, this is not where our work stops. 

    A Christian ministry, we focus on meeting the mental, spiritual, AND physical needs of the people who come to us. It is no surprise that people come to us for help to meet their physical, pressing, emergency needs. However, with God’s help, we’ve been able to help them address their mental and spiritual needs too. Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries is one of the largest 20 inpatient treatment programs in the United States, according to the U.S. News and World Report. 

    We also are the largest non-profit, non-government providers of Supportive Housing Programs for the Homeless in the United States. We have collaborations with a lot of this community’s top organizations to help us meet the growing needs of the people in our community. These include shelter, inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment and detoxification, medical clinic services, and transitional and permanent housing for the homeless – from cradle to grave, for men, women, children and senior citizens – as well as programs for youth and education and job training programs for adults. 

    The services we provide are more than traditional social services. We do not, and never have, believed in patching up problems. We believe in permanently finding solutions so people can get back on their feet, stand tall, and become self-supporting, contributing members of their communities and families. Even though the DRMM is known to help individuals who are served within its own buildings, we have worked hard in the past several years to expand our outreach to help literally rebuild and fix the cities it operates in and the communities it serves. 

    Yes, we change the city, one life at a time, but we also change it, one building and one block at a time. We do the next thing. As you have seen in the last few months, we have started to rehabilitate vacant homes and give them to working homeless families and we have partnered with Mitch Albom’s Time to Help and Hold in a Roof Foundation to board up vacant homes around our schools so our children can feel safe as they go to and from school in their own neighborhood. We also recently had the privilege of entering into an agreement with the City of Detroit to provide emergency services assistance through its Community Services Block Grant Funds. These funds allow us to help low income Detroit residents who either need utility assistance, homeowner assistance with mortgage, home repairs, and housing tax bills, or help in moving back into permanent housing after disasters, domestic violence, and homelessness. 

    We began each one of those programs by looking around us to see what the needs were. Through God’s grace we are not just a place where people get their basic needs met but are open to meeting the needs of our community on a larger scale. We welcome and value all of the resources God has given us to do this work – our government and funding partners, the faith-based community (which is at the core of all our work) and our partnerships with government and community groups. We especially thank God for our 5,000 volunteers and 50,000 active donor households who believe in our work and that the gift of giving is greater than the gift of receiving. Because of all of you, we have been able to serve as a real voice and advocate, to help shape policies and be there for those in need or are discriminated against or overwhelmed anywhere in our community. 

    Looking ahead, down the road, at everything that needs to be done can knock you or drive you to your knees. Once you find yourself there, look up and trust in God. Then, do the next thing. If you would like to participate in doing the next thing with Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, please call us at (313) 993-4700. Our volunteer relations, human resources, and donor relations department staff would love to have you join with us.

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