LIMA — Floyd Russell showed off his smart phone.
“This is the best invention yet,” he told no one in particular.
Floyd has been at The Lima Rescue Mission for almost four years, counting from the first day of his sobriety. For two years and eight months, he has been working at the Mission cleaning, washing and sweeping. He loves the work because he says he is doing God’s work.
He enrolled in a mechanical design and engineering class at Lima Technical College in 1987. He is proud of his diplomas and certificates and how his hard work has also allowed him some fun indulgences, like his phone.
It is through the obedience to the call of Jesus Christ that Floyd says he received them. His ministry is all about witnessing to the residents.
At the corner of Central Avenue and Wayne Street is a brick building with a sign saying, “Jesus died for our sins.” That’s where the Lima Rescue Mission is located, the Rev. Adam Welty’s visionary project.
The Mission is a faith-based organization helping homeless men like Russell regain both their physical and emotional strength. The food, shelter and clothes are vital, but Welty founded the Mission with the belief that a Bible-based approach in addition to acquiring life skills would transform the residents’ lives. He saw the Lima Rescue Mission as being about men who come in without hope, and through the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, find hope again to become independent.
“We know that we are sharing a message that so many need to hear,” said Chuck Ferguson, who has been the Mission’s executive director since 1998.
Welty’s vision for the Lima Rescue Mission dates back to 1906. He and his family moved to a house on East North Street, a refuge for men needing lodging and food. Soon it appeared that this house was too small. With a down payment of $200, Welty bought the current site. By November 1914, the purchase price of $5,000 came in from donations from businesses in the city. He was steadfast in his conviction, even with the limited resources at hand. In 1920, the Lima Rescue Mission officially moved into its new building.
It has become a lighthouse for homeless men.
When newcomers arrive, they are asked what made them decide to seek help at the Lima Rescue Mission. Two or three days later, the men will be subject to an extensive interview, in which the Mission tells them about the Gospel and why Christ should become the center of their lives.
The residents then undergo a 12-step program, including watching Christian videos, becoming familiar with social media and listening to Christian music. The Mission tries to expose them to the Gospel, so they can witness to others about the love and compassion of Jesus Christ.
Group Bible study, daily chapel services at 7 p.m. by groups of volunteers, daily devotions and life skill sessions are available to enhance the residents’ chances to start living independently from the Mission. Life skill classes deal with various topics: finance, computer skills, reading improvement and Bible studies. They also help with men who want to pursue a General Educational Development, or the equivalent of a high school diploma.
There is a class schedule for each day. Finance, Bible study and video classes are available. Computer class, literacy introduction and job coaching are offered by appointment only.
According to its brochure, four of the core values are:
• Their belief that the Gospel of Jesus Christ transforms lives.
• Their belief that homelessness may be a symptom of deeper spiritual issues.
• Their belief to provide a safe and secure environment which promotes healing and recovery.
• To keep Christ at the center of all that they do.
In 2017, more than 17,000 meals were served, and more than 6,500 nights of lodging in the overnight shelter were provided. It welcomed 152 new residents.
This year, the Lima Rescue Mission experienced full capacity, probably because of the extremely hot weather.
“The Mission has been here for so many years; so many people have been through in different situations – different periods of our nation’s history and so many chapters in their own lives,” Ferguson said. “We’re here to restore hope and rebuild lives.”
The Lima Rescue Mission does not accept or receive government subsidies. All funding comes from private donations, which has been the case since its beginning in 1906.
Ferguson explained new residents receive lodging, but it will cost 50 cents to give the men some accountability.
The chapel is also an important aspect in the Mission. With so many meals per year, the kitchen is full of activity when residents visit the Mission. A laundry room is also available. There are 28 beds in the sleeping quarters, with several more when the Mission experiences over capacity, especially during the winter.
In a letter, a former guest said, “Thank you so much for keeping these doors open here at Lima Rescue Mission. When I had nowhere to go, your staff took me in as though I was part of your family and I can never thank you enough for that.”
Chuck Granson, a deputy sheriff in Allen County for many years, said he has taken homeless men to the Lima Rescue Mission regularly. With the encouragement of the Mission, Granson found the men started to look for work right away. They go out in the morning and return in the evening.
On Nov. 9, the Lima Rescue Mission celebrated its 112th year of being a lighthouse for the homeless.