The Life-Changing Power of Encouragement
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
When guests come to the Eugene Mission, their needs are great. The traumas, betrayals and brokenness in their lives often create chasms between where they are and where they need to be to rejoin healthy community.
Their worldly needs are at times so daunting that the family and former friends of such precious individuals have stepped away from them.
The Eugene Mission sees something very different in the potential of our guests. Time and again we see the awesome power of the gospel. We see the transformative power of faith not only in smoothing the path forward but also in providing a profound sense of satisfaction in the process both for our guests and for those partnering with them.
People new to the Eugene Mission are often surprised to hear our guests express that they are “blessed” and that their “lives are really coming together.” This is makários [Strong’s 3107]. We do not have an English word that adequately captures the beauty of this Greek word and concept. It means possessing the favor of God and having a satisfaction that is not dependent upon the circumstances.
There are multiple references to makários in Scripture and it is often translated as “blessed.” Examples include references in the beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-11, 2 Peter 1:4 and Luke 6:20-22.
The world struggles to understand a concept such as makários. Aristotle contrasted makários, the blessed one, to endeēs, the needy one [Strong’s 1729]. Makários, with its profound sense of “wholeness” and completeness in purpose through relationship, more than fills the God-shaped hole in hurting individuals described in Blaise Pascal’s Pensées.
This heart-level healing and peace allows our guests to move from a state of neediness, to a state of being filled, to overflowing with God’s radical provision. It more than empowers them to do the important work of addressing the relational, health and vocational disconnection in their lives. We are blessed to introduce or re-introduce our willing guests to Jesus Christ — and makários.
Guests Find Meaning, Hope in Getting Involved
It’s 8 a.m. and Samantha Polley is turning on the lights and answering the front-office telephone while booting up the Eugene Mission computers.
“I love being a part of this team,” she says. “This is huge for me. I’ve struggled with extreme anxiety in the past. I could not have handled this a year ago.”
Samantha is a guest of the Eugene Mission and has been volunteering at the front-office reception for several months now. She absolutely loves it, and so do we!
“It’s important to me that people coming in here are treated with respect,” she says. “I like being that first person to greet people. Being kind is very important to me. We could all use more of that!”
Samantha struggles with past addiction to methamphetamine and alcohol, substances she sought out to cope with anxiety and PTSD.
“I relapsed after nine-and-a-half years of sobriety,” she shares. “I was on a family camping trip, and I thought I could have that one drink.”
Like many of our guests at the Eugene Mission, Sam’s housing and employment were derailed by her addiction.
“One drink turned into all-day, every day,” she says. “I lost my apartment, I was living in my car, and then I lost my car.”
After relapsing and becoming homeless, Samantha became suicidal and spent time in the Behavioral Health Unit and eventually in jail. Sam worked with her court-appointed attorney and the Eugene Mission navigation team to assess her ability to live in the congregate shelter arrangement of the Women’s Center.
“The staff welcomed me with open arms, and I really needed that,” she says.
When Samantha moved in, she kept largely to herself for several weeks. Then COVID-19 swept into Lane County and pandemic precautions came into effect, including a secure campus.
“I started to come out of my shell during that time,” recounts Samantha. “I decided to volunteer in the kitchen, and I felt like the staff were really supportive and encouraging. I had avoided the cafeteria and took meals alone. There were just too many people around!”
When the R3 Program (see sidebar) was formally launched in July, Samantha was one of the first to sign up.
“I love it,” says Samantha. “When I arrived here, I really struggled with keeping routines. It creates a structure and something I can participate and grow in. I’m working on myself instead of just hanging out.”
Samantha is a tremendous help to all of us at the Eugene Mission, both guests and staff. Her enthusiasm and competence in the front office is an incredible opportunity to gain useful vocational skills while multiplying staff members in the absence of community volunteers. Samantha has also made tremendous progress with her anxiety and agoraphobia.
Over time, as more and more guests have appointments off campus for in-person medical appointments, many have sought out Sam to accompany them for emotional support, advocacy and a second set of ears.
“For some people, the news they hear from their doctor is scary or hard to understand,” she says. “I’m there to help, pay attention and provide moral support.”
As Samantha continues her work in the R3 Program, we will be actively working to help her pursue her dreams, including securing housing and earning her accreditation as a peer-support specialist.
“I’d like to pursue my accreditation as a peer-support specialist,” Samantha shares with her usual enthusiasm. “I’ve come through a lot; I’ve grown a lot and I know I have something to offer.”
R3 is the transformational residential program for all guests of the Eugene Mission who are not in the Life Change Program. The moniker stands for “Rescue + Revitalize + Restore.” The program is focused on getting “wheels turning” in a direction to overcome homelessness and a need for shelter services long term. Recovery support is included in R3 for those who are working to overcome addiction. The focus and duration of R3 will look different for each guest with a focus on accountability and addressing housing barriers. You can read more at eugenemission.org.
A Path Forward
Charlie Skoog, a Eugene Mission volunteer, has been coordinating and joining Mission guests on outings and excursions that support sober recreation and hobbies. Charlie is an outdoor enthusiast and Oregon Track Club member who can be seen leading hikes, bike rides and other outdoor activities. His encouragement and friendship with guests lie at the heart of addressing the isolation and disconnection so common in our guests.
“I’ve never been great at sports,” shares Life Change graduate David Helder. “I started running a mile for every month I am sober. I’m up to 13 months. That’s a half marathon!”
David has returned to working full-time and enjoys joining Charlie for runs in the evening after work. That is a great trade-off to methamphetamine.
Boredom, depression and anxiety are some of the biggest challenges Eugene Mission guests face early in their recovery. Their leisure and social activities most likely revolved entirely around alcohol and drug use. Returning to sober leisure activities and learning new hobbies is important for recovery.
“Compensatory behaviors are critical,” shares Life Change counselor Bryan Kimball. “What is going to replace the mood-altering experience one gets from their addiction?”
Both the Life Change and R3 Program integrate recreation and hobby development as part of the curriculum.
In the Eugene Mission warehouse, volunteers Denise Nash and Colleen Coulbourne are teaching Monday afternoon sewing classes.
“I love seeing the creativity and enthusiasm!” shares Denise. “I’ve heard one guest discuss the idea of starting an alterations business.”
The sewing class is powered by eight donated sewing machines and fabric is sourced from the massive donation warehouse.
“There are so many fabrics and textiles to explore,” says Colleen. “We are currently creating gorgeous shoulder bags. These can be filled with essentials and given to new guests entering the Eugene Mission as a welcome gift.”
Every Monday afternoon, the sewing machines are humming with projects. It offers more proof that as the pandemic of 2020 subsides, volunteers are returning to the Eugene Mission for the new relational programming that involves serving alongside guests and engaging in activities and fellowship.
“He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” [Proverbs 11:25]
A trip to the Oregon Coast usually includes a little wind and rain. And when it came to another recreation outing, our recent trip to Agate Beach did not disappoint! A group of adventuresome guests filled two Mission vans to brave the weather and go rock hounding.
“I haven’t seen the ocean in years,” said guest David Earle. “There just isn’t an easy way to get here when you don’t have a car or a driver’s license.”
Eugene Mission staff member Kelsie Champ is a rock-hunting enthusiast.
“It’s definitely a metaphor,” shares Kelsie who plans to work with the guests on a month-long rock polishing project. “The rough stone you started with turns into a beautiful polished one due to the time, work and patience that was put into the process. It is no longer a rock you found on the beach but a piece of art you treasure.”
Learn more about R3 recreational and transformational programming at eugenemission.org.
“Living on the streets is tough and when they come in here, we need to show them compassion and let them know there is hope and that we are here for them.”
— Tony Davis, Eugene Mission Guest Services (14 years)
R3 Rescue + Revitalize + Restore
Rescue: A 14-day “low-barrier” continuous stay to rest, stabilize and sober up.
Revitalize: Meet guests where they are, and support them with resources, classes, activities, and life skills mentoring.
Restore: Support self-sufficiency, sobriety, income and housing with mentors, tenancy supports, and alumnae programs.
Taking the Steering Wheel
In our last issue, Daniel Norenberg was 10 months sober in the Life Change Program and working to obtain his Commercial Driver’s License. When Daniel arrived at the Eugene Mission a little over a year ago, he did not even own a pair of shoes. We are thrilled to share that Daniel has completed his CDL certification and, with a year of sobriety and accountability, has been offered a full-time job driving a chip truck for Murray Trucking. Daniel’s CDL was obtained through hard work and the assistance of Goodwill Veterans Reintegration Jobs Program and a generous donor who helped with the $5,000 certification. Daniel received his 12-month coin from his AA group this month and has officially graduated from the Life Change Program.
Please pray for our guests and Life Change graduates as they transition into housing and independent living. We pray for wisdom and for continued financial support of the Eugene Mission as we work with each guest to address the barriers that brought them to our doors.
Ways To Give
- Give online and become a monthly sustaining donor at eugenemission.org
- Give by mail using the enclosed envelope.
- Please remember the Eugene Mission in your estate planning, will or instrument. FEIN#93-0563797
- The Eugene Mission gratefully accepts donations of stock
Did you know that when you purchase items on Amazon, you can select Eugene Mission to receive charitable donations directly from those purchases? So far this year, AmazonSmiles has donated $3,094.20 from customers making everyday purchases through this program.
To learn more, visit smile.amazon.com or turn AmazonSmile ON in the Amazon Shipping app.
Sheryl Balthrop and Beth Sheehan invite you to visit our campus
for a tour and conversation about our programs and property.
We thank God for you.
We are so blessed that you are part of the Eugene Mission family. We look forward to continuing to serve the least and lost together.