30 November 2015

I Smile

     I was having a discussion with a guest at the Lydia House the other day, and this question came up: "Ms. Jessica, how can you smile and be so happy when life is so hard, sad, and full of disappointments?"  I pointed to the sky, then to my heart, and then said, “Because I am loved and watched out for by my Father.”  Then I quoted these lyrics from Kirk Franklin’s “I Smile.”  They have literally been my theme song for my life:

I almost gave up, but a power that I can't explain
Fell from Heaven like a shower
I smile, even though I hurt see, I smile
I know God is working, so I smile
Even though I've been here for a while
I smile, smile
It's so hard to look up when you been down
Sure would hate to see you give up now
You look so much better when you smile, so I smile

     It’s amazing to see God use what you’ve been through to encourage others.  May I always  be willing to be His vessel.

Jessica Coffey
Volunteer Coordinator

25 November 2015

'Tis the Season!

     It is the Holiday Season.  With the holidays right around the corner,  this is a very busy time for Open Door Mission.  There are decorations to be hung, special programs to set up for. Drumsticks on Wheels has already come and gone, and next up is Project Santa.
     Although we are busy, it’s good to see the people we are helping.  The Mission helps many in the community have a Thanksgiving without the worry of where the meal is coming from.
     When you see Open Door Mission booths around town this season, please stop and say, “Hi.”  If you can help us this holiday, it will be appreciated.  You will be helping those less fortunate have a holiday without the worry of where the meal is coming from.
     Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and help.

Gregory Crocker

24 November 2015

Notes From the Thankful Box

     It took me a while to gather up the Thankful Box notes last week.  I am pleased to report that they have multiplied dramatically!  Here are two entire notes that I found to be truly inspiring:
     "I am thankful that God has not given up on me, knowing what I have deliberately done in my past, over and over again.  It makes me wonder why He has not turned His back on me. How could He love someone like me? Why has He given me not only few, but a hundred chances to start over?  Now, since coming to the Lydia House and joining the New Life Recovery Program, I see that to Him, I am perfect.  His love is so passionate and unconditional.  He leaves me speechless"
     "I am so grateful and thankful to God for giving me LIFE, because what I had before was not even living!  No matter the problems that I have been through, God has given me strength and He has delivered me from the hate that I kept in my heart.  I have been shown more love in the past few months at the Lydia House than I have been shown after years on the streets.  Most of all, God has given me that love that I cannot live without."
     As we enter this holiday of Thanksgiving, remember just how much there is to be thankful for!

Shelly McCullough
Day House Supervisor

23 November 2015

Thankful for Unicorns and Jackets

     This morning I grabbed the Thankful Box that we leave at the Lydia House’s front desk on Thursdays and started looking through all the notes that were left by guests.
     Our guests are always leave notes of gratitude for staff, their children, and second chances, but this time I noticed that numerous children had put in notes.  These truly touched me, so I thought I would share them!
1. I am thankful for the staff that has helped my mom and dad, so we have a place to stay.
2. I am thankful for my jacket, it's so warm.
3. I am thankful for unicorns!
4. I am thankful for this place.
5. I am thankful for my birthday present from staff and for finding a new house.
6. I am thankful for clean blankets.
     Another one that really touched me was, “I am thankful for difficult people, they teach me patience and forgiveness.”  Can I get an, “AMEN?”

Shelly McCullough
Day House Supervisor

20 November 2015

My Favorite Mission Memory

     Open Door Mission has been celebrating our birthday during the whole month of November.  From Open Door Mission Day on November 1, to an all-staff purple out, to last night’s 60 Years of Blessings A Diamond in the Rough Gala, it has been quite the celebration!
     It is amazing to know that God has worked through Open Door Mission for 60 years, and that He is not finished!  More is to come!  During my time serving at the Mission, I’ve had many life-changing experiences from hearing guests’ stories, seeing God always provide, and interacting with wonderful staff.
     One of my many favorite Open Door Mission memories was watching Candace "accidentally" start bulldozing the old Men's Center.  I know Candace’s favorite day in the fall of 1997, when Open Door Mission held our first Graduation ceremony for women and families with children!
     Whether you’ve been a friend of the Mission for decades or a few weeks, please take time to reflect on your favorite memory.  And please share it!  Can’t wait for what’s to come.

Victoria Leuthold
Director of Development

19 November 2015

Cancelled Wedding Leads to Banquet for the Homeless

     76 students in Open Door Mission’s Life Changing Programs recently attended the Mission's Sobriety Luncheon.  Each of them were celebrated for their progress towards lasting change.
     The banquet style luncheon at the D.C. Centre Banquet Facility was made possible due to a wedding cancellation.  This echoes other recent headlines of cancelled wedding celebrations being donated to the hungry and homeless.  What a beautiful way to turn a sad occasion around, to give back.
     While our hearts go out to the family during this very difficult time, we are honored to have been included.  These men and women have proven their determination and desire for a better life.  It is a blessing to see them served today.  We hope the family can take comfort in that.
     On a side note, we have a record-breaking 91 students enrolled in Open Door Mission’s Life Changing Programs.  I have goose bumps and tears of JOY.
     God is drawing people to Open Door Mission, so our staff is ready and open.  We will not miss our opportunity to BE Jesus, so people can SEE Jesus, so people can KNOW Jesus.  I know the best is yet to come at Open Door Mission.  God is not finished yet.

Candace Gregory

18 November 2015

Still Alive to Tell Their Stories

Open Door Mission is so grateful for every volunteer
who makes the Free Health and Healing Clinic
a success.
     I wanted to share two occasions from this past week that prove God is at work at Open Door Mission.  Last week, a guest came into the clinic with fuzzy vision in his right eye.  After one of our volunteers assessed him, she decided to take him to Emergency Room.  There, he was immediately taken in for laser eye surgery.  His retina was tearing in two places, and had he not come into the clinic, he may have completely lost his eyesight in that eye.
     A couple of days ago, a Garland Thompson Men’s Center guest came for a blood pressure check.  After talking with him, the man revealed that he had heaviness and a stabbing pain in his chest, and that his left arm was going numb.  The paramedics were called and an EKG was performed right in the clinic.  He was indeed having heart problems, and the paramedics immediately started medication, moved him onto the gurney, and took him to the hospital in the ambulance. 
     Had either of these men waited to come in, they may have different stories to tell today.  I am praising God for being in the right place to serve His people just as they need.  God is good, and He loves to care for His people.

Kate Fischer
Free Health and Healing Clinic Director

17 November 2015

The Tale of the Same Birthday

     Last week, as I was helping a guest fill out her Adopt A Guest Christmas form, I realized that we have the same birthdate, different years.  When I pointed it out to her, she asked me what year, and I told her.  She told me that on that exact date and year, as I was being born, she was beginning her sobriety! 
“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows”.  –Luke 12:7
     This woman was very encouraged by how God cares about every detail in our life.  My guest said, “As you were being born, I was being reborn into a Child of God.  I made the decision to give my life to Jesus and be sober!”
     She was encouraged what a beautiful picture that was, saying she felt we had a spiritual connection and that she felt empowered by me.  That is Jesus at work, my friends!  What is awesome is that even when I was being born, God knew that someday I would meet this woman.  Praise God for divine callings and divine appointments!  We have a good, good Father!

Trudy Woodward
Permanent Supportive Housing Director

16 November 2015

Humbled...Part 2

     The next stop for the morning was at Hy-Vee to pick up the 22 boutonnieres and three sheet cakes for Graduation.  At the floral department, I waited patiently, and was greeted by a young, beautiful girl who was very willing to help me (after all, it IS Hy-Vee and there IS a helpful smile in every aisle - including floral).
     She volunteered to help carry my purchases to the car, and as we are loading them in, she asked a lot of questions about graduation: what is it, who is graduating, where, etc.  Honestly, I was thinking, “What is the deal?  With SO many questions, why not just go online to check it out?”
Our graduates' stories of lasting change inspire
HOPE in all who hear them.
     But then I turned to look at her, and see her eyes begin to tear up.  She told me that this day (Graduation Day) was her 120th day of sobriety.  She was weak in that moment, revealing how her close friend was just killed and she was trying to contact her sponsor because she needs help, reassurance, and encouragement to stay sober.
     Wow.  My church talks about kairos moments, divine intersections, and for me, that was one.  This was no chance encounter.
     I invited her to come to Graduation.  What better motivation than to listen to the stories of men and women just like her who have walked her path, who can express their love for Jesus and strength in Him when they are weak?   She said firmly that she would be there, and I pray she was able to make it.
     If I had only kept to myself, just going through the motions, I would have missed these two beautiful encounters.  These encounters reinforced what I feel my purpose is in life: to love others.  I can’t help but wonder how many other moments I  have missed.  I don't want to miss out on divine intersections because they change me, they change that person, and God smiles down on us!  I wish I could have bottled up my emotions on Graduation Day, to hold onto those feelings forever.  They were amazing.
     My prayer for all of you is that you listen to our guests; listen to the Walmart checker, listen to the person in line next to you at the store.  Listen with your heart, and I promise it will change you.

Jennifer VanLaningham
Administrative Assistant

13 November 2015

Humbled...Part 1

22 Graduates wearing those 22 caps and gowns.
     I wish I could bottle up the emotions I felt while attending Graduation.  I truly believe that as each day ticks by, we miss precious moments.  Graduation was my reminder that I need to view the world through my heart, and not my eyes.  
     I remember feeling inconvenienced that morning, as I picked up the graduates’ cap and gowns.  On a normal occasion, I would have pulled up front, run in, grabbed the gowns, and head back to the Mission.  On the morning of Graduation Day, however I was told to go around to the back of the building.  Ugh!  Seriously?  I walked back to my car, waited for traffic to clear enough to turn around, and drove to the back of the building. 
     When I eventually found my spot, I was greeted by a disheveled man standing on the dock, with our rack of 22 graduate gowns.  I greeted him, and he helped load them into my car.  Then he turned to me, looked straight into my eyes, took my hand, and said, "Thank you.  Thank you for doing what you do.”  I knew it was me, personally, that he was thanking for doing what I do; it was all of us, it was Open Door Mission.  It was the look in his eyes that spoke to my heart.  He didn't express why he was thanking me, but I knew that at some point, somehow, someone he knew we must have helped.
     I left humbled and appreciative that I had to go around to the back.  

Jennifer VanLaningham
Administrative Assistant

12 November 2015

Holiday Hope

     MMM…the smell of turkey or ham baking fills the house, a variety of favorite side dishes wait for their time in the oven, and the tempting pies cool down in time for dessert.  Laughter and memories being exchanged, greeting new and old friends, and the love of family surrounds.  This is how the holidays are portrayed, and for many of us it is the way they are spent.
     Holidays are for going back home or welcoming others to your home, but what if you are homeless?
     For the homeless, holidays are often lonely and full of regrets and pain.  They are often estranged from family and are seeking ways to ease their physical, emotional, and spiritual pain.  The holidays are a special kind of hurt.  That is why Open Door Mission is truly an “open door” during the holidays.  All seeking a hot, nutritious meal and a warm bed are welcome here.
     However, without the help of those that can help, we could not be able to meet the needs of so many seeking help, seeking HOPE.  Thanks to awesome donors, tireless volunteers, and dedicated staff, Open Door Mission will provide 5,000 families in the community with a complete Thanksgiving meal to fix in their own home.  For 5,000 others, there will be a Thanksgiving brunch and traditional dinner.  Each guest living at the Mission will be “adopted” and given Christmas gifts.  For the 6,000 children in the community there will be a bag of gifts, including books, a blanket, a hat, a scarf, and gloves.  All of this can only be done because God’s people love, and love unconditionally those who need the most love.  This is the spirit of the holidays, to love and give as Christ did: unconditionally.
     So as the commercial once said, ”We’ll leave the light on for you”…the light of Jesus, showing the way to hope through Open Door Mission.

Maggie Cope
Community Relations Coordinator 

11 November 2015

Thousands of Families Helped This Thanksgiving

     It's been another record-breaking year for Open Door Mission's Turkey 'N' Fixin’s sign-up, as thousands of families lined up to get a little help for Thanksgiving.
     The line last Saturday morning wrapped around the facility, and some people showed up as early as 6 a.m.  Staff opened the doors about 30 minutes earlier than scheduled due to the line.
     Open Door Mission’s annual giveaway provides free turkeys and a box of traditional sides to families in need.  One working mom said there is absolutely no shame in getting a little assistance during the holiday season.
     "I don't make much money," said Angela.  "I mean I work a minimum wage job, I got four kids and I don't get help, so I figured I'd get all the extra help I could get."
     People like Angela are exactly who the Mission aims to help with the Turkey ‘N’ Fixin’s program.  "This empowers low-income families to be in their own homes at Thanksgiving so they don't have to come to Open Door Mission," said Open Door Mission’s President/CEO, Candace Gregory. "We will serve a Thanksgiving brunch and banquet, but it's so exciting to know that we're empowering families to be in their own homes."
     Hundreds of volunteers help make this possible each year by boxing up the food, and delivering it the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  Open Door Mission is still about 2,000 turkeys short, so donations are needed.  Click here if you'd like to help.

This blog is adapted from WOWT6 News’ article, “Line Winds Around Open Door Mission for Thanksgiving Meal Sign-Up.”  To read the original article or watch the video, click here.

09 November 2015

Being Jesus With Skin On

     I pray that we as Christians always remember to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
     As I was driving home from work the other day, I saw on the other side of the road a homeless man lying halfway in the road, halfway on the sidewalk.  This was in downtown Omaha, and I know people saw him.  Runners were just walking over him, and no one was stopping to help.
This story is the real-life version of the Good Samaritan.
     I parked a block away, got out of my car, called 911.  Then I went to the man, and could instantly tell that he was drunk and not very coherent.  I asked if he lived at any of the nearby shelters, but he shook his head.  So I bent down to his level, prayed for him, and told him I would stay until the paramedics came.  I let him know I cared for him and that God does too.
     No one else stopped to help us, it would have been impossible for people to not see us.  My heart broke at their apathy.  When the paramedics came, I explained that I worked at Open Door Mission and couldn't just drive by a man in need.  The paramedics thanked me, told me they know who he is, and said they would take him to the hospital.
     As I continued my drive home, I was in shock.  People just don't care for others nowadays, and I know it is because they themselves need Jesus.  I thank each staff, volunteer, and donor who cares enough to be Jesus to our guests.
     It's easy for the world to walk by and not care, but our eyes are more open than that.  We know that man is someone's son, uncle, nephew, or brother.  We know that if he was our family member, we would hope someone would stop to show him compassion and love.

Amy Buss
Human Resources Director

06 November 2015

Purple Out

     In case you missed it, November 1, 2015 was officially Open Door Mission Day.  Facebook pictures were purpled out, Chick Fil A handed out free chicken sandwiches in exchange for canned food donations, and the Woodmen Tower in downtown Omaha was lit up purple.  It was quite the occasion!  Our prayer is that all of our supporters, donors, volunteers, staff, and friends feel an attachment to Open Door Mission, almost like alumni to their high school.  That people enjoyed the opportunity to wear purple and represent all the Lord is doing at Open Door Mission.
     That was definitely the atmosphere among Open Door Mission’s staff this past week; just like Homecoming Spirit Week!  Staff were going great lengths to out-purple one another.  Attached is a snapshot of the many photos sent back and forth, showing purple pride.  Comments with the photos included, “Great runner up pictures,” "Still winning," and “Our purple beats yours.”
     It’s easy to get behind a cause that you truly believe in.  And Open Door Mission is definitely one of those causes. 

Beatrice Jones
Marketing Coordinator

05 November 2015

The Value of Staff and Volunteers

     Whew!  We’ve had so many blessings in the Volunteer Department lately!
     On Halloween Day, we had 250 high school Juniors and Seniors in high school volunteer this morning with College Possible.
     My team of Erica, Corey, I were amazed by the teamwork of our amazing staff to make College Possible’s experience meaningful and productive!    We say, “THANK YOU” to all who helped in stepping up to host and work with volunteers in each of their areas.
     I was literally blown away by how much this group of volunteers accomplished across our campus in the short time that they were here.   AND, I was also blown away by this; as I was thanking students while they boarded their buses, I heard many talking about coming back to volunteer on their own.  What a blessing!
     THANK YOU to all staff who greet, thank, and talk with volunteers on our campus.  You ALL are making impacts in each of their lives.  Ultimately, that is what is going to get them back to Open Door Mission to impact the lives of the people we serve!
     THANK YOU also to all volunteers who come and show our guests that people care for them.  Open Door Mission's numerous programs could not run without the help of our volunteers.
     Let me share with you our motto among Open Door Mission staff, “Be JESUS, so people can see JESUS, so people can KNOW JESUS!”

Amy Harvey
Volunteer & Partner Director