Saturday, November 30, 2013

Where did the idea of opening thrift stores come from? Are there plans for any more in the near future?

           In early 2000 we were renovating the Men’s Shelter building on Mondon Hill Road. The funds for the work came from donations and from yard sales we had on the property monthly. People in the community were excited about helping get things ready to begin sheltering our clients. Those who could not give money gave us all kinds of items: clothes, furniture, freezers, beds, dishes, toys and more. We began storing these items in the garage area which is the office rooms today. Once a month several of the women volunteers, with their spouses, ran a yard sale with all the donated merchandise. The sales helped pay for the work being done in the shelter building.
            By late summer we realized we could not keep having yard sales once the clients arrived. So we located a small retail space on Cortez Boulevard in the plaza that houses the Hernando Today newspaper. We signed the lease and opened the store on October 1, 2000. The volunteers were excited to have an air conditioned space to work and sell the merchandise. Over the years the profits from the store helped to pay for the Men’s Shelter programs and expenses. We kept that store until September 2009 when it was finally closed.
            In 2004 we purchased vacant land on Wiscon Road with the plan to one day build our own Thrift Store. That happened in February 2006 with the opening of our second store. We kept the first store opened as a book store. This decision went well until the down turn in 2009. The Wiscon Store has grown and remains a vital resource for the ministry and the programs we offer to our clients and the community.
In November 2007 we opened our third store in Ridge Manor. The plan for this store was to provide added funds for our Women’s Shelter that opened in February 2008. In August 2008 we opened another store on U.S. 19 at Winchester Plaza. This store made our retail coverage complete for Hernando County. In May 2010 we opened a store in Hudson. This store began our first steps to expand our Shelter Ministry outside Hernando County.

As each store opened the community responded with more and more donations. The increasing expansion of shelter beds required more funding and the community helped tremendously along the way. Each store provides funds, merchandise and jobs for our clients and the shelter operations. As the ministry programs grow, our need for additional stores may grow, but not as quickly as it had in the past. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

So other than offering donations, what could someone do to really help Jericho Road Ministries?

           While giving clothes and financial gifts are important, the giving of someone’s time and talents are sometimes more important. Volunteering at one of our stores, shelters or Food Barn is an opportunity for those who cannot give financially. Giving of your time is a great way to see the ministry up close and personal. It is a blessing for those who volunteer to be able to know the many clients we serve. Relationship building is a part of our volunteer program.
Volunteering as a chapel or class instructor is a way to bring encouragement and hope to our clients. They spend much of their waking hours with staff and only occasionally see people from outside the Mission coming to help. Your presence as a volunteer helps them to see and know that the greater community cares and is personally interested in their recovery to wholeness.
Volunteers at our Food Barn benefit from meeting those in our community that struggle each week to feed themselves and/or their families. We are still in a rough economic climate that is keeping many unemployed and others under-employed. Being able to pay for gas to get to part time jobs and still put food on the table is a great challenge for many families in our community.

Volunteers come from all walks of life and reflect every age group. We have children and students who volunteer at our stores and Food Barn. They are able to see the value of giving as a character trait they can develop further as they mature. Senior citizens are able to meet new friends and find fellowship as they share their time with other like-minded people. Some of our tutors and chapel speakers give of their evening hours to teach and encourage clients working their way through our New Life Programs. Teachers, pastors, mechanics, craftsmen, students, business men, bankers, and others from different vocations represent the talent God provides to our operations. Together these people can impact our clients and make a difference, no matter the age, no matter their life backgrounds.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Shifting just a bit: as a donor, how exactly would my monetary donation or material donation to the thrift store benefit the homeless and my community?

           Giving your used material possessions helps us to financially support our shelters. Merchandise is cleaned and priced for sale in our stores. The abundance of material gifts allows us to operate four thrift stores, fund all five of our shelter buildings, provide 20 full and part time jobs, enable clients to learn job skills, recycle community goods, provide people needing to complete Community Service Hours a safe place to volunteer and enables us to give merchandise to those not able to afford some of life’s basic necessities.
            The furnishings in our shelter buildings and offices are predominately from the merchandise that is donated to our stores. These gifts allow us to use our financial resources for other needs such as salaries, utility bills, pest control, food, etc. The store sales generate a sufficient cash flow for us to maintain all the costs associated with our five shelter buildings. These shelters provide bed space for up to 48 men, women and children on a nightly basis, year-round.
            In addition to our funding from the thrift stores, we receive cash donations, grants and foundation gifts from people, churches and businesses in Hernando, Pasco, Citrus, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. These donations complete our financial needs and provide for future expansion. Currently, we are working to remodel a vacant church building in Hernando County into a 30 bed New Life Recovery Program shelter for men. The need for this shelter is great and would not be possible without the support we receive in cash or in-kind donations.
            The shelter buildings that are funded by the community provide both short term and long term care. Clients can come in for a few nights if they so choose. Other clients choose to enroll in our New Life Recovery Programs and stay with us for a year or longer. While with us, these individuals have opportunity for immediate life changing experiences, can finish their high school diplomas or enroll in college. Biblical based life skill classes, weekly worship services and prayer meetings help to facilitate permanent life changes for our clients. 

            Our community is served by the work we accomplish with our clients. Men and women who were without hope or a productive role in the community are now giving in a positive way to Hernando County. Taking responsibility for their lives helps the community reap the benefit of positive and productive living rather than seeing these people fall into criminal, immoral and unproductive lifestyles. As the least among us are raised higher, the entire community is raised to a higher standard of living. As Christians, we seek to serve rather than to be served. This principle is paramount to our teachings and to the client’s full recovery here at Jericho Road Ministries.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How long can a family stay in the Family Emergency Shelters?

           Our duplex and the 5-bedroom house are both used for family emergency shelter. These locations have a stove, refrigerator and food supplies for the families to use. Linens are also provided. The costs to operate these shelters are provided by Jericho Road Ministries. No emergency shelter clients pay any program fee or rent to stay in these locations.
Families entering these locations may stay up to 30 nights per year in these shelters. These shelters do not provide program classes for the residents. Families staying with us are required to adhere to specific levels of cleanliness in the shelter and maintain basic orderliness within the units. Most of these clients are unemployed and may or may not own a vehicle. Our staff works with these families to provide referrals to program shelters for families outside our area. We also determine if there is a way for them to reconnect with family where ever they may be. Transportation to family or another shelter is provided when resources are available.
Families entering these shelters know in advance that they are only promised one night at a time. This is to ensure they are performing the duties they need to while residing in the shelter. We have had some families that have “trashed” the unit within two or three days, leaving dirty pots and dishes throughout the unit, allowed animals into the home, left doors and windows open (without screens), and more. As a result, we now monitor the units daily to determine the clients intentions and sincerity for receiving the assistance they have asked for.

Sometimes we receive families into shelter where the parent(s) has a job and transportation. In these cases we will allow them to stay beyond the 30 nights if they are willing to show proof that they are saving their money in order to pay for deposits to move into their own apartment. In these cases, the clients prepare a financial plan in the first few days at the shelter. This agreed to by the client and staff, along with other program matters, and they stay as long as they are working to fulfill their program.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What about people who are believers, but are just being released from incarceration? Does your program help to reintroduce them back into society? Is there a program strictly for that transition? If not, are there plans for such in the future?

           The Jericho Road New Life Program is designed for both believing and unbelieving clients. For the former, the program will lead them into a deeper faith and trust in God. For the latter group, the program will introduce them to the Christian faith and exhort them to repent of their sins and turn to Christ for God’s mercy. The New Life Program is designed to equip the clients for living responsibly within the community and to find the needed resources to live independent and productive lives.
            We receive clients from all backgrounds and varying life problems. Men and women who have been living on the streets or woods, those coming out of prison or jail and others are equally provided the opportunity to volunteer for this eleven month program. Participation in the life skill classes, bible studies, worship and chapel services, educational programs (GED, trade school, college) and work therapy programs all contribute to the clients attaining self-sufficiency and responsibility for their lives and future success.
            Future program plans include a Family Life Program, similar to the current program for men and women, targeting women with children. This, too, would be a minimum nine month program designed to equipment mothers for working and providing their children’s needs. Parenting skills, educational training, job placement and family management classes would be provided for this client group. The goal here would be to assist these single mothers in finding employment, safe housing and child care services (as needed) sufficient to enable the family to live a productive, independent and self-sufficient life. This program would also be Christ-centered and designed to help them know Him as their Lord and Savior.
We hope to build this facility on our Howell Avenue property in the next few years. The plan would call for housing up to 48 women and children. Construction of the new facility would include: 10 bedrooms with toilet, sink and shower, two bunk beds and a twin bed; a meeting room, play room and front porch. In addition, the current Women’s Shelter building would be expanded to include: commercial kitchen, dining hall and laundry room for serving clients of both shelter buildings. The current Food Barn ministry would be moved to another location within the county. The barn would be removed to make room for a play area for children and an outdoor picnic area for residents and visitors.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"So, what does a successful, graduated client look like? Where do they go after they leave the shelter?"

            A client who successfully graduates our program looks like you and I. They have made decisions that are morally sound, informed by the truth and guided by wisdom. Graduates are people who have made the necessary progress and changes to be working full time, living in their own apartment, attending church and surrounded by friends and family. Our program is rigorous but it is transformational.
Graduates have accepted full responsibility for their past decisions and for the future course of their lives. They have developed life skills that have fostered healthy relationships with our staff, volunteers and the community. Acknowledging their faults and past mistakes, they have chosen to learn from the past and to seek greater accountability in their lives as they pursue career objectives.
            There are many individuals that have graduated our New Life Program. I will share a few snap shots of their lives. First, Nelson came into our program in the summer of 2005. A year later he graduated and chose to remain at the Mission. Nelson worked in our Thrift Stores and Men’s Shelter for the next two years. He was promoted to store manager in his third year with us and later was promoted to Thrift Store Director for all four of our stores. Over the years he stayed in touch with his former wife, children and family. In the summer of 2012 he was remarried to Marlene and reunited with his family. His final step in recovery was to move back home to North Carolina in March 2013. Today he is the proud father and husband that God had graciously made him. He is now employed by Habit For Humanity in one of their Thrift Stores in his town.
            Jeremy graduated our New Life Program and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior while at the Mission. Today, he is enrolled in undergraduate studies at the Baptist Bible College in Graceville, Florida. Another graduate, Tiffany finished her New Life Program and chose to enter our one year graduate program, Jericho Road Advanced Recovery Servant Program (JARS). While in this program she enrolled in the online undergraduate program at City Vision College. She is working towards her bachelor’s degree in Rescue Ministry. John, another JARS program graduate works for the Mission at our Thrift Store. He was recently promoted to Production Manager at the store. Denise and Oliver both graduated the New Life Program, left the mission to pursue other work but have come back to work in our thrift store and food pantry locations.

            These are only a few of the men and women who have come through Jericho Road Ministries and today are productive citizens in our community and beyond.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"Just how successful is the program? What percentages of clients revert back to their former lifestyle?"

I asked one of my mentors at the Waterfront Rescue Mission how successful his program was and he replied that he had a 100% success rate.  That was an astonishing response. I asked how that was possible and he explained to me what I hope to explain to you.
We measure our success by how consistently we offer each client hope for their future. Our life skill classes, chapel speakers, worship services, work therapy program, spiritual counseling, meals, recreation and clean clothes all contribute to the new life we offer every client. Each person is given the same opportunity to learn, respond, speak, confess, plan and achieve their goals. Our staff strives to be loving, truthful, consistent, disciplined, honest and Christ-like.
Each client arrives with unique needs and shares problems similar to others. Many have spent years destroying their physical, emotional and spiritual abilities. Some have spent years or decades in prison. Some have lived in the woods or on the streets for the same amount of time. Many have destroyed their relationships with family, spouses and friends. They have become islands adrift in a community that has all but given up hope on them. As a result, when they finally come to their senses or are released from prison, they have no one to turn to for help.
In the Gospel of Mark we read that …a man ran up and knelt before him and asked [Jesus], “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him… You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, [etc.] …’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions…. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words… and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”   (Mark 10: 17-27)

For every ten clients that come to our shelter, two or three want to stay for our eleven month New Life Recovery Program. This program offers all the services mentioned above and more. For every ten men who enter the New Life Program, six will diligently work and complete the program. Every person that comes to our door is offered help to the degree that they choose. We force no one to stay if they do not want to be in our facility. We offer them the same opportunity and information for them to decide. By their own choosing and their own behavior they stay or the leave. The choice is theirs completely to follow the Program and God’s leading or to choose to walk away. It may seem impossible for such people to have success and hope in their lives but with God all things are possible.

Friday, November 15, 2013

"When someone comes to Jericho what are the guidelines that determine if they are a transient or if they will participate in the New Life Program?"

            The term “transient” is used to identify individuals that come to us for shelter but not for our New Life Program. Transients stay in our shelter for only a few nights and move on to other locations. These individuals are not desiring to enter a program or seek assistance beyond a nights lodging and meals. Although they only stay for a short period of time, we do offer them information about our programs and the opportunities available to them at our Mission.
            Transients will come to us needing services that are not offered at Jericho Road Ministries. In these cases, we attempt to provide them a vital referral to an agency that can provide assistance or further guidance in finding the resources they are seeking. We can assist these people by providing them  the nights lodging and meals they need until they can get to the agency that will help them further.
            Those who enter our New Life Program are choosing of their own free will to receive the program as offered by Jericho Road. While staying with us or by referral from another agency, individuals voluntarily choose to commit themselves to the program and the responsibilities that go along with the program. The willingness of the individual to be in our program is primary in their entry to the New Life Program.

            Clients also are required to be free of drugs and/or alcohol at the time of their entry to the shelter. If they are on probation, they are required to show evidence that the parole officer has given permission for them to enter our program. Legal issues, financial problems and other personal matter will be discussed with the potential client to ensure that they are able to be on-site for the program without these matters becoming an interruption of their program requirements and responsibilities.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"Can you elaborate on the New Life Program offered to the men and women?"

Jericho Road Ministries is a refuge for people that are lost and failing in life.  In many cases, these people have been using drugs and alcohol abusively, contributing to their desperate situations.  This shelter provides an opportunity to reflect on where they have been and where they are going, while set apart from the mainstream of the world. 
The goal for each client served in our New Life Program is to see them leave our facility self-sufficient and living in a permanent residence.  This would entail their being placed in a job that will sustain themselves and/or family.  Our program will consist of three Phases, each a minimum of 12 weeks long.  Those clients with the greatest drug, alcohol, education and skill may take longer to reach their expected goal. Pre-admittance screening of clients will help to ensure that those people entering the program can succeed on their own in gaining self-sufficiency.  Pre-admittance screening would keep people with needs beyond our level of services from being admitted.  These clients would be referred to hospitals or other institutions specially designed to meet their specific needs.
We believe that an integral part of our program is to maintain a basic set of rules and guidelines for clients to adhere to and to enforce these as fairly and consistently as possible.  Program rules and discipline are designed to teach clients that their actions have consequences and to assist them in making good decisions for their future. Shelter rules teach clients how to live obediently in the world.
Each client is assigned chores to assist in the overall upkeep of the Shelter and to contribute to their own support and self-respect while receiving treatment. We call this the client’s Work Therapy Program.  This is an important part of our program in helping clients develop better attitudes and skills for when they leave.  Work helps establish better habits in working relationships with other people. 
Clients are required to participate in the New Life Program classes each day. These classes provide life skill training. The employment class teaches clients to prepare a resume and learn how to interview for a job. Our addiction recovery and relapse prevention class is designed to help each client apply spiritual principles to overcome compulsions and addictions. The Personal Finance class is designed to help clients manage their finances and be responsible with their financial obligations. This class addresses communication skills, decision making, problem solving and stress management skills. The Anger Management class is designed to help clients understand themselves and the dynamics of personal relationships at home, at work and in the community. In addition to these classes, if a client does not have the equivalent of a high school diploma, they are required to enroll in our GED Certificate program.

A variety of other topical issues are studied in class and chapel settings. All classes are based upon the Word of God. Individual study groups and one-on-one counseling are provided all clients throughout their program. Clients are mentored to take complete responsibility for their program and new life in Christ. Clients attend Sunday worship services in the community. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Where did the foundation for the New Life Program come from?"

The roots of our New Life Program go back to the early 1800’s. By 1878 in Philadelphia the Sunday Breakfast Association had begun holding meetings on Sunday to provide food and inexpensive lodging for men who
by reason of drink, out of work, out of situation, out of money, out of friends, out of home, away from God, driven from pillar to post, ordered by the police to ‘move on’, and never a kind word of encouragement from anyone; every day finds their personal appearance worse, their very condition debars them from getting even a job to white-wash a cellar; dirty, ragged and forlorn, disheartened and in despair they are pitiable objects indeed, and yet some of them, in spite of their poverty, keep themselves clean, neat and tolerably respectable in appearance.   (Andrew Bonner, Enacted Christianity, pg. 48.)
The foundation for our New Life Program came from Waterfront Rescue Mission in Pensacola, Florida. When I left there having finished my internship, I brought a lot of documentation that was given to me by their Program Director, Bill Rogers. There were policies and procedures for their long term recovery program, their emergency shelter and for their thrift store operations. From all of this information, I began to build our program.
            Another source of information comes from the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM) office. They have a large supply of resource material for programs, administration, thrift stores, personnel and many more subjects. Their guide “Starting A Rescue Mission: A How-To Manual” written by Michael J. Greer was very helpful. AGRM provides annual meetings with program workshops and opportunities to speak with other directors.
            Earl Vautin, director of the Water Street Mission in New York City, describes his program to hold men for as long as possible while teaching how Jesus Christ can transform them.

No effort is made to push him out. To the contrary, every effort is made to slow him down and keep him long enough so that whatever seeds are planted have time to take root. However, a man is not allowed to sit back and drift. In interviews with the counselors, who are familiar with the evasive tactics of the men who come to the mission, inner conflicts are brought closer to the surface. Whatever excuses a man has used to paper over his troubles are held up to him for what they are. Eventually, a man is expected to face the truth about himself. Often, when the probing comes too close to his real trouble, the man walks out to return to the Bowery or is never seen again. The attrition rate is high. The mission could easily keep a man longer by putting less of an emphasis on religion or by relaxing some of its other rules. It could also serve a far larger number of men by limiting itself to transients and serving free food to all comers several times a day. This could be justified as elemental Christian charity. It would result in impressive statistics regarding the number of men served and perhaps make it easier to raise funds. But few, if any, men would be rehabilitated either socially or spiritually.  (Enacted Christianity, pg. 66)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"What role does a client’s family play in their rehabilitation?"

            In many cases the family does not play any role in our client’s recovery. This is sad to say but true. These clients have “burned the bridges” of these relationships with not only family but also with friends and co-workers. In some cases our clients have not had contact with family for several years or more.
In other cases, we find the client’s family is desirous of reconnecting with their loved one. As the clients progress through the New Life Program, opportunities arise where they begin re-connecting with family. This begins with letters, progresses to phone calls and, when practical, clients are allowed visits from their family. In the New Life Program clients learn to build healthy relationships and learn to be productive members of their family in ways that are healthy for everyone.
The process of involving the family with the clients program is complicated. Some of their families are themselves struggling to overcome addiction and other personal problems. In these cases, having the client return to quickly to the family can actually set them back. When the family has contributed to the problems that our clients experience, we find it is most helpful for clients to focus fully on their recovery, and put off to a much later time the plan for reconnection with family. Relationship re-building for many of these clients can take years or in some cases may never happen.

            When the client’s family is healthy and willing to help with their loved one’s recovery, progress that the client makes with Jericho Road can be reinforced by the family. When client are able to return home to a family that is able to communicate well and maintain healthy relationship boundaries, the success of the client’s long term recovery improves greatly. At the end of the day, the success of each client in the New Life Program is a matter between themselves and with God. Jericho Road staff merely plays a supporting role as clients choose each day to follow the narrow path with Him.

Monday, November 11, 2013

"What measures do you take to protect the confidentiality of the clients? "

           Client confidentiality is very important. The first time a client comes to us, we have them complete a basic information form called the “Transient In-Take Form”. This captures basic information about the client, their prior residences, homeless issues, closest family member, and other things. Also on this form we notify the client that their information will be stored in our computers and shared with other homeless service agencies within the four county area of the Mid-Florida Homeless Coalition. The shared information about the client includes the answers to the intake questions and their picture. The client signs the intake form noting their approval for this information to be shared with outside agencies and the general public.
            Sharing basic information about the client with other service providers enables us to better serve the client and address actions or behaviors that need counsel. Our goal is to help the client not be homeless and to receive the necessary resources to regain self-sufficiency for their lives.
There are times when basic statistics are used from this data base. In these cases, the information is NOT client specific. We are able to run reports showing the number of females, or veterans or Hispanics that were sheltered in a particular period. Such basic information is used to inform the community about our progress in meeting needs and is used in grant applications to inform potential funders about the work we do.
In both the cases noted above, client information that is shared is authorized by those receiving our services. Related to clients in our New Life Program, counseling files are not shared nor are the input into the computer that stores the basic demographic information about the clients. Client program and counseling information is used exclusively by staff to assist the clients in their recovery programs.

Program client pictures are used in Jericho Road Ministry publications after written and verbal approval is given by the clients involved.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

"Could you address the homeless population, specifically, what are the reasons people have no permanent home? How did they get there, and is it a preference for some? What role does mental illness play in this category of residents?"

            We work with men, women and families who have no one or no place to turn to. Without someone to help, they are left living on the streets, in the woods or in their vehicles. Many are hungry and without any funds. Their sole possessions in some cases are the clothes they wear and a backpack of other personal items.
            Homeless clients come from all socio-economic levels. We see people of different backgrounds, education levels, ethnicity, race, religion and economic distinctions. Most prevalent among the clients is addiction to drugs or alcohol. Some are confused about their sexual orientation, while others have compulsions for pornography, prostitution, theft and other sins. Left to their own reasoned actions they find themselves in a downward spiral of their sinfulness. Family and friends have distanced themselves from the clients. Jobs have been lost as well as much of their possessions. When they come to our doors most are desperate and without hope.
            The clients we take in are referred to us by many different sources. Individuals, businesses, churches, hospitals, jails, neighbors, family members or co-workers send us these people. Sometimes they are dropped off by caring citizens in our community. Other times we have grandparents living in our community who pay for grandchildren to travel from other states to enter our New Life Programs. In all cases, God makes a way for them to find their way to Jericho Road Ministries.

            Mental illness among the homeless is also a great concern. The term alone means many things to many people. Some of the homeless need hospital or immediate medical attention in order to meet their needs. Many of these clients have no access to prescription medications that can help to stabilize and make clear their thinking and actions. Others self-medicate with alcohol or illegal drugs. Some mental illness is directly attributable to their homelessness and the body’s inability to function properly without proper nutrition and hygiene. Our staff is aware of these varied causes and effects of mental illness and work to help clients attain the proper care to meet these needs. There are times when we will refer some of these clients to area hospitals and/or mental health facilities and services.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

"Jericho Road Ministries has come a long way since its conception. What is your vision for the future? Does it include a clientele base that Jericho Road Ministries’ has yet to reach?"

            Since our inception, Jericho Road Ministries has strived to meet the communities need for a viable homeless shelter rescue ministry. Beginning with a 6-bed men’s program in 2000, we have expanded as God has brought resources. There was never a set quantity of beds that we have targeted. Rather, we have envisioned shelter programs that would meet the immediate and transitional needs of single men, women and families. Our vision statement encapsulates this idea:
Jericho Road Ministries, a Christian rescue mission, will provide a network of emergency, transitional and permanent shelters to the homeless and needy throughout the Tampa Bay region. Christian programs will provide people the opportunity to learn and experience the transforming power of God’s love in their struggle for self-sufficiency. In response to God’s goodness and grace individually, the staff of Jericho Road Ministries will reach out to the least and the lost among us, inviting them into our community, offering them new hope and equipping them for a new future in the greater community of Tampa Bay.
            As you can see, the vision statement looks beyond our immediate community needs and envisions an organization that reaches out to the greater community in which Hernando County is a part. Focusing on the needs of the homeless in emergency and transitional programs allows us to meet their needs as defined by those we serve. The quantity of people will be determined by the vision God has for our Christian programs and by our faithfulness to sharing Christ Jesus as Lord with all the people with which we have contact. In this way the quantity of people will always be determined by God.

            Today, we have expanded our Men’s Shelter to 14 beds, the Women’s Shelter has 6 beds and our three emergency/transitional residences provide 28 beds for families in 5 family unit rooms. Our Food Barn program supplies food to the residents of all our shelters and to the community at large. Food is distributed once a month to needy families at 6 locations: Ridge Manor, Brooksville, 3 Spring Hill church sites and Hudson in Pasco County. This ministry reaches over 525 families (over 2,000 men, women & children) monthly. Our four Thrift Stores provide opportunities for the community to support our work by shopping or donating merchandise. The stores provide Work Skill Training and jobs for our clients, community services work opportunities for the community and donations to agencies helping others in need. Finally, our bi-monthly publication, News From The Road, provides valuable information to the community about the needs of the poor and homeless and how our agency and others are providing valuable services to those individuals and families in need.

Friday, November 8, 2013

"So you chose the name. Why “Jericho Road” Ministries ?"

After working with Faith Church to help plant a church in Spring Hill I spent time trying to discern God’s will for my future. I enrolled in another class at seminary to help me visualize and discern where God was leading me in ministry. I read a book titled Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road by Timothy J. Keller. This book helped me immensely in discerning my calling to ministry.
After having spent the summer of 1986 at Waterfront Rescue Mission, Keller’s book helped me bringing together my love for rescue ministry with my desire to serve God in Hernando County with a similar mission. If you have not read this book and you have a heart for helping poor and needy people then this is a must read for you. The introduction to Keller’s book gives a brief taste of his writing.

“Like the wounded man on the Jericho Road, there are needy people in our path - the widow next door, the family strapped with medical bills, the homeless man outside our place of worship. God calls us to be ministers of mercy to people in need of shelter, assistance, medical care, or just friendship.                  Timothy Keller demonstrates that caring for needy people is the job of every believer - not just church deacons - as fundamental to Christian living as evangelism, nurture, and worship. But Keller doesn’t stop there. He shows how we can carry out this vital ministry as individuals, families, and churches. Along the way, he deals perceptively with many thorny issues, such as the costs of meeting needs versus the limits of time and resources, giving material aid versus teaching responsibility, and meeting needs within the church versus those outside.”
            It was after reading this book that I chose the name Jericho Road Ministries for our mission. To me it summarizes our desire to actively assist the least, the lost and the last among us. Those in need of help are in need of more than the obvious material needs of food, clothing, a job, medical attention, etc. Their greater need is a changed spirit that would help them to begin changing themselves and not merely their environment or circumstances. With a personal relationship to Jesus Christ, all that the poor and homeless desire can be met by Him.  

            The Parable of the Good Samaritan continues to be the guiding concept for the various activities here at Jericho Road Ministries. As our Mission Statement says, we strive “to lovingly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the economically, emotionally, and spiritually impoverished; by responding to their basic physical and emotional needs, and by promoting Christian growth as characterized by a productive and changed life”.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"Pastor Bruce, I know you helped start Jericho Road Ministries in December, 1998. How exactly was it conceived and by whom?"

            The seed was planted in me for Rescue Ministry back in the summer of 1996. As a graduation requirement from seminary, I was required to work for a summer in ministry. My advisor sent me to the Waterfront Rescue Mission in Pensacola, Florida, to fulfill this requirement. Over the course of that summer I worked with homeless men and women leading bible studies, preaching and teaching life skill classes. That summer I fell in love with this type of ministry. After returning home, I completed my last year of seminary and graduated in June, 1997 from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando.
            After graduation I made application to over 80 churches and ministries across the country. By August that year I still had no viable offers for ministry. With advice from Pastor Dr. Paul Clemons of Grace Presbyterian Church in Spring Hill, I met the pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church in Brooksville. Dr. Ron DiNunzio and I met to discuss working with their church as a staff member to begin a church in Spring Hill. By the spring of 1998 this effort to form a core group for a new church had run its course without success.
After this, Pastor Ron and I met to discuss my future for ministry. He asked me if I could do anything in ministry, what it would be. I told him I would want to start a Rescue Mission for the homeless here in Hernando County. With that in mind, we both spent the summer of 1998 praying to God for His guidance in the matter.
In late July I was approached by Dave Franklin, a member of Faith EPC and student at Reformed Seminary. He introduced me to Frank Bierwieler who was operating Daystar Hope Center in Spring Hill. This was an outreach ministry providing food, clothing and financial assistance to the poor and needy. Mr. Bierwieler had heard that a shelter in Hudson was interested in moving up to his location on US 19 and Dave wanted me to see if I could be involved. After further discussions with Frank and the Hudson shelter we found that their moving to the county would not be possible. Mr. Bierwieler and I continued to talk about how we could help the homeless in our community. By late August, Frank and I decided to petition the County Commission for approval to place a homeless shelter on Daystar’s property. The intent would be for me to manage the shelter with help from Frank and the community. Our meeting with the Commission was scheduled for late September. But a week before the planned presentation, Frank and the leaders of Daystar Hope Center backed out. The public had voiced their disapproval to his organization in the weeks before our meeting. No one wanted the facility near them. So, in order not to jeopardize their good work and name in the community they abandoned this plan.

Disappointed, I spent the next few weeks praying and talking to Frank, Dave, Pastor Ron, Pastor Clemons and another Christian friend, Dennis McCarthy. They all supported my hope and vision for Rescue Ministry in our county. Each of them wanted to see this shelter program happen. With their help and encouragement we decided that I would go forward in faith by incorporating our ministry and then begin talking to the community about the project. We decided that Frank, Pastor Ron and Dennis would be my initial Board of Directors. I prepared the paperwork and chose the name. On December 8, 1998, Jericho Road Ministries, Inc. was incorporated as a non-profit Florida corporation. The journey begins.

"Why is there such a strong emphasis on Jesus Christ when it appears the clients have multiple other priorities?"

To discover why a person does, says, thinks, or feels certain things you simply need to ask. “What do you want? What desires made you do that? What yearning led you to say that? What did you fear when you felt so anxious?” 
Then you need to listen closely to their answers. People will often tell you exactly what they want. “I got angry because she put me down, and I want respect. She became speech-less because she yearns for acceptance. Those fantasies of heroism and success play in my mind because I want to be successful.” If you know yourself well, you will deduce the answer. Look for the pattern of their desires and you will learn much about them.
Naming what you want is easy. The hard part is learning to interpret what you have identified. Naming the problem is not the same as understanding the problem. The desires of the heart rest in the battleground of the soul.
Is it true that we have these “needs” for respect, acceptance, money or significance that must be met from outside ourselves? No one ever rightly understands and weighs desires without God’s self-revelation in Scripture. God sees our hearts as a war zone ruled by one passion or another. Either we chose to meet our desires in the world or we chose to meet our desires through a relationship to God.

The apostles had the confidence that only the gospel of grace and truth possesses sufficient power to change us in ways we most need to be changed. The Good News that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again is the starting point for a person’s transformation. The mercies of God work to forgive and to change what is deeply evil and sinful within us. He alone is able to cure our soul and set us on a new path to life. All the other needs a client possesses can be addressed when the heart has been transformed. It was true in Jesus’ day and is true today.

Ministry Scenes

Have The Homeless Become Invisible?