Open Forum: The Rescue Mission

Posted: January 23, 2013

I met with a city official recently to run something by him. I asked about the old jail facilities on Cameron Street. I realized it had been sitting empty a few years.

I began by telling what I was thinking about. Our present facilities are too small and limited to do what we have planned. In the facilities we are using now, there is no room for recreation, and because work is a very important part of our training and rehabilitation, it doesn’t give us the opportunity to keep the men busy each day for half a day of work detail. We’re planning a “New Life” program that will last 18 to 24 months in three different phases of ministry and will require a larger facility.

The first question the official stated was if I had $450,000 to purchase the jail, to which I replied I didn’t. He said he didn’t want to appear too antagonistic, but he said, “Why does Winchester even need a mission?”

I told him we were trying to restore lives. He said, “How many of the men are from Winchester?” I tried to explain that most of the men were from here now. Whether they were born here was not the question. The official kept on with his antagonism against any mission work. I realized I was spitting in the wind by talking with him. His comments made it clear his disgust for that type of work.

I stood up and told him I was wasting his time, and I told him I didn’t appreciate him trashing what I was doing.

I was amazed that a city official had this attitude. But I did not leave discouraged, and it got me to thinking; the headline above was what ran through my mind.

I would like to start by asking a simple question: If we got rid of the Winchester Rescue Mission, would we get rid of the problems we are dealing with as a city? Would drunkenness and drug addiction go away? Would we no longer have homeless people here? Is having a mission what caused the problems, or are we helping to minimize the problems?

We all want a good community to live in. The leadership at Winchester Rescue Mission feels we are offering help to men we want to see someday give back to the community. That is our philosophy. Not to offer just a bed to sleep in, a warm meal, and a place to take a shower and do laundry, but a place that can offer a change in life if these men want it.

We are seeing it work. But we are limited in what we can do in our building. That’s why I thought of the old jail. Can you imagine a building that once stood for heartache in our community because of crimes committed and people incarcerated there, that could be used in a positive way to bring hope into the lives of these men? If I didn’t believe in what I am doing, I would not be here.

Who are they? We see them every day, walking down one of our streets, carrying backpacks or garbage bags, or pushing a shopping cart. To most of us, they are nameless faces. Faces that often hide the real problems they’re facing, hidden wars battling within their souls. Looks of despair are often reflected from their faces.

In that famous Jimmy Stewart movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” there was a man bent on bringing people under his bondage and wanting to do away with the only business in town that kept these people from getting into his slums. Jimmy’s dad, Mr. Bailey, was told to foreclose on these people, and he said, “I can’t, Mr. Potter, these people have children.” And Mr. Potter said, “Well, they’re not my children.” To which Mr. Bailey replied, “Well, they’re somebody’s children, Mr. Potter.”

As I look out among the masses of people who fall into this category, I often think they could be my children, or brother, or sister, or dad, and I would hope there were folks out there who were concerned enough to help them.

The Winchester Rescue Mission has existed for almost 40 years. It exists because we really do want to help these people. We have done some good in the many lives that come through these doors. But we want to do more.

We are planning on a “New Life Program” that could potentially fix the whole man — body, soul, and spirit. We want these men to realize their life can change for the better. We want them to realize they have gifts they can offer and be a positive influence in our community, but we can’t do it alone.

Many churches and individuals and civic organizations support the Winchester Rescue Mission on a regular basis. But in order for us to expand our ministry, not only to reach these men, but also the families and friends who have been affected by the lifestyles these men have chosen to live, we also need the support of our local businesses to do a more thorough job.

We need larger facilities to give these men the training necessary for them to be restored to a productive life. We need more staff, and more volunteers. We are in need of those who would be willing to help support this work. We don’t want these men to come to us broken and leave broken. We want to repair them. These men are somebody’s children. Would you consider helping us in this effort?

Roy Menefee is pastor and executive director of the Winchester Rescue Mission.