John Lautenbach - Guiding the homeless toward success

Marcus Larson/News-Register
House manager LInda Weigel, left, and guests at the the mission, 1340 N.E. Logan St., McMInnville.
Marcus Larson/News-Register The Gospel Rescue Mission is at the corner of Northeast 14th and Logan streets in McMinnville.
Marcus Larson/News-Register At the Gospel Rescue Mission, Cory Chodrick uses websites like Worksource Oregon and Craigslist to search for jobs.

Several weeks ago, on the corner of Northeast 14th and Logan streets, an event was noticed by only a few in McMinnville.

Some cars driving by slowed to catch a glimpse of a small crowd gathered to witness a christening. Much like a ship being christened to begin its voyage on the open seas, we, too, were able to observe the christening of two individuals preparing to chart a new course in their lives.

Robert and John were determined to leave their addictive habits behind them, having discovered a better way. The ceremony took place on a bench in front of a large cross adorning the grounds of the Yamhill County Gospel Rescue Mission in McMinnville. It was here each had received food and shelter, as well as hope for the soul and much love.

As they were about to leave the mission heading toward independent living as well as gainful employment, we wished them “bon voyage.”

Will their journeys be easy? Will there be relapses? Obviously, we are unable to predict their futures; however, we know that, for a brief time, the Gospel Rescue Mission had the opportunity to serve their needs and provide direction toward a better life. As a faith-based organization, we feel blessed to have served as a beacon and guide in their time of distress.

The mission in Yamhill County was established only five years ago. Capacity is 17, and more men than women or single moms with children become our guests. A waiting list is updated daily.

Average cost of a room and three meals is about $20 a day per person. We are blessed with a wonderful group of volunteers who work four- and six-hour shifts after receiving clear instructions about their various duties.

The only salaried positions here are those of house manager and kitchen manager, filled by a former guest.

Upon admission to the mission, each guest must participate in a “clear success strategy,” formerly called an exit strategy, to establish the highest degree of independent living possible. Mission services include assistance in securing suitable employment, entering substance abuse programs, obtaining housing allowances, and gaining Social Security compensation when appropriate. Some guests even become volunteers in our programs.

We offer a Bible study session following evening meals; while it remains voluntary, it is well attended.

Will we witness a time when the mission becomes unnecessary, when its rooms become vacant and its doors closed? There are times when I dream a sign will appear on the mission door reading, “Mission accomplished.” But then, I awake and quickly realize that today there will be another “Robert” and another “John” knocking on the doors of the mission.

So long as the homeless problem exists, we hope to perform the merciful deeds of the Good Samaritan.

A benevolent society expects this kind of giving, as demonstrated by the generosity of people in Yamhill County and the business community.

One might describe the Gospel Rescue Mission as a shoestring operation, since we live from month to month, like so many families throughout the county. Through the combined efforts of businesses and volunteers, our building has a new roof as well as a new heating and cooling system.

We are quick to realize that our work continues only because of the tremendous generosity of those willing to render compassion. When the need arises, you are the ones who give food to the hungry and water to the thirsty, who visit these prisoners of addictions and give comfort to the sick. You stretched out your helping hands when your troubled brothers and sisters tried to find their balance.

Our ship continues its mission of mercy; sometimes the seas are rough, occasionally tranquil. There are times when we feel our vessel is taking on water, but in spite of all the difficulties, we remain determined to press on toward the harbor, a goal set before us.

Together we shall come to the aid of those needing a helping hand, a lifeline. In this season of celebration, may we remember the three Wise Men who brought gifts, the shepherds who brought themselves and the lifeline given us.

Especially, we give thanks to all of you who allow us to share with those less fortunate. As a community, we are offering them another chance at the Gospel Rescue Mission.

Guest writer John Lautenbach has practiced as a physician in McMinnville since 1974. He has served as airport commissioner and aviation medical examiner. He speaks Germanic languages, is interested in history, religion and music, and enjoys golf, bicycling, landscaping and restoring VW Beetles. He and his wife, Monika, live in McMinnville and have one son, Ebbing, and four grandchildren.

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