A Clear Call from God
In the fall of 2006, during a conversation with Tom McLaughlin, then Executive Director of the the Buffalo City Mission, it became clear that Niagara Falls needed a greater infrastructure of emergency shelter care due to its increasing rate of homelessness and addiction. The vision was solidified and by the spring of 2007 the Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission was formed as a non-profit corporation being granted tax-exempt 501(c) 3 status within the first year. The primary focus of this new ministry would be to meet not only the necessary physical needs of the people it serves, but more importantly, address their core spiritual needs by sharing with them God’s purposeful plan for their lives… this plan enabling them to permanently pull out of an endless cycle of poverty and destruction.
As the organization moved forward in obedience to God’s vision, we ourselves, growing in a new knowledge of the culture of rescue ministry, were also blessed with the advent of our un-planned street ministry in the fall of 2007 with our mobile RV soup kitchen. In this, God moved us out of our seats in the planning room and placed us right at the point of greatest need, truly one of the finest points of learning we could have ever known!
A Place to Hang Our Hats
The following year, God blessed us with yet another opportunity; this time for a small, unused church located at Linwood and 22nd streets… a perfect place to launch the Outreach Center. It was Niagara Alliance Church of Wheatfield, owners of the building who had heard of our work and allowed us to utilize their old church facility so we could offer a weekly meal ministry followed with bible study. In this, we were blessed to offer a place to disciple those we ministered to in our weekly RV street ministry. Our Lord grew the ministry from as few as one or two weekly attendants, to as many as forty to fifty people per week! We had also “planted” a clothing and food ministry which was managed by loving and dedicated volunteers who were able to shine the light of Jesus to all who came in for help.
In August of 2011, we were blessed to turn-over the keys for our work at the Outreach Center to a small, growing inner-city church plant who had joined us in June of 2011. Reverend Mark and Anne Perkins began sowing their hearts into God’s work and integrating a growing commitment into the lives of those already attending our weekly ministry. This also brought a permanent place of worship and fellowship – a church home for those we had ministered to over the previous two years.
The Initial Calling Comes to Fruition!
In the midst of all these blessings we had never abandoned our initial calling to open an emergency homeless shelter. After purchasing a building in March of 2010 through the faithful financial support of many individuals, we are realizing our heart’s desire to open the Mission’s first homeless men’s shelter located at 1023 Ferry Avenue in Niagara Falls!
In the spring of 2011, having already begun necessary room-by-room improvements in order to prepare for a full opening of 16+ beds, we felt we were ready for a “soft opening” of the Mission. With a couple of beds open in one of our four proposed dorm-style rooms, we had begun to meet the needs of homeless men and were blessed to begin offer opportunity for warm, clean shelter and compassionate Christian care… all to God’s honor and glory!
Later in October of 2011, Chad Magers joined the team as Resident Program Director and stretched our vision for the program and the physical building. Chad had himself been in and out of homelessness and addictions for many years, but one night while homeless and sleeping in a hospital chapel, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to his heart through a bible he had been reading. He stayed there for several days as the Lord provided his every need, both physically and spiritually! Years later (and a few Christian mission programs later), Chad was called to Niagara Falls to now offer back to the Lord the very help for others, who like himself, were coming to a mission to find help.
Chad’s idea was to make our 4000 square-foot house into a scaled-down version of what he referred to as an “aircraft carrier mission”. Indeed, we were to be but a small battleship! This model included a larger community meal program and the conversion of the living/dining room to a combination dorm/chapel/shelter. The upstairs bedrooms would house our long-term discipleship programmers and necessary resident staff.
On the last day of Chad’s 3-day initial visit to the mission, he came to founder/director Shaun Smith asking if “we could knock a few walls out” to make his idea happen. “He stretched my thinking” Shaun said. “I had the same vision when we were looking at larger buildings, but not the details to carry it out withinthese walls… I was always thinking of a larger building to do this, but the Lord had provided a smaller house and I had scaled my own thinking back too far. I literally didn’t see what Chad saw and was delighted to begin this process with his fresh eyes!”
In February of 2102 as Chad was building a small team of Resident Assistants or “RA’s”, John Bornhoeft was among the first to join us. John had come from Capital City Rescue Mission where he had recently turned his life over to the Lord. Hearing of his friend Chad’s new position in Niagara Falls, John came to us offering his skill as a chef, and hoping to become an RA along with entry into our (soon to come) “New Life in Christ” Program which started on June 18th of 2012. John also brought his own God-given vision as well! “I want to feed the neighborhood!” he told Shaun Smith. “What can I do to make that happen for you John?” Shaun replied. The rest is history as the Lord began to bless us again. At the time we were serving only about 150 meals per month. By June, it was ten times that amount! Yes, 1500 meals per month, praise God! The Lord was faithfully making a way for us as we faithfully carried out His vision.
Step-by-step we have grown into three well-defined programs… meals, shelter and a long-term life-recovery discipleship program… all in our little mission. But there is one important factor that the board, leadership and staff put as our first priority; that within this program framework, we would put the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the discipling of His people, as our deepest purpose and priority! Today we have everything in place, and the Lord continues to grow us and bring more of His creative vision into our sight.
The “basics” remain the same however… to compassionately share the love of Jesus Christ to all who enter our doors… that God may grant to them the repentance that opens the door to faith in His Son!
There is a secondary part of our overall vision, however, that has become vital to both the sustained presence of our ministry, and also to answer God’s call to His people. This is by offering stewardship opportunities for the “Church” or “Body of Christ” to help the poor and needy through our ministry. Because of this, our ministry has become a “conduit” for churches and people to partner with the mission and even come in to work in special volunteer programs where those who are led by God can exercise the use of their various giftings. Truly, we are both a place to help the poor and a place where people can “plug-in” to help the poor and thus fulfill God’s call to physical, spiritual and financial stewardship of His work in the world. Our hope has always been …that they will themselves be blessed in their giving of time, talent and treasures!
It’s been a blessed journey to this point, and we know that every person involved has also been blessed to see God’s vision come to fruition. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue to grow so that we may preach God’s gospel (good news) in both word and deed to those who are sent to us. We’re so thankful to be called by the Lord Jesus Christ to bring hope to poor and helpless families in Niagara Falls, realizing His purpose and vision for this“forgotten city” of western New York!
Join us in prayer as we carry our the Lord’s vision daily and now set our minds and hearts upon opening a new Christian women and children’s shelter, offering opportunity for this rapidly growing segment of homeless population. There is no better history than HIStory!
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11