May 2020 Newsletter

Compassion in the Midst of Crisis

COVID-19 and coronavirus: words that have changed
the world in just a few months.

Hope Amid Suffering 

At times like this, we at the Eugene Mission lean on the words of the Bible and Jesus for guidance. Words that also changed the world. The Scriptures fill us with hope, lighten our steps, arm us with confidence and propel us forward in the work God has purposed for us!

We take a deep breath and choose to trust when we read in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

2 Corinthians 1:3 reminds us of the loving character of God and how we can show that love to others: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

And, Jesus calls us to “Love your neighbor as yourself” [Mark 12:31] and states, “Greater love has no man than this, that he should lay down his life for his friends” [John 15:13].

Christians in Action During Historic Pandemics

We have seen this compassionate ethic at work through history. During the Antonine Plague of the 2nd century, Christians cared for the sick during a pandemic that killed one-fourth of the Roman Empire.  During the 14th century’s Bubonic Plague, Christians stayed in cities to care for the ill when others fled.  The lasting impact was lives saved, hearts turned and hope found.

Today’s Circumstances

Across the country and the world, people are appropriately exercising shelter-in-place and social-distancing protocols. But what does this mean for the unhoused?

If COVID-19 is unnerving for one blessed with resources (as most of us are), imagine the specter faced by unhoused individuals. The practices emphasized as necessary for health and safety are largely unavailable to those without homes. These precious ones have limited access to handwashing and hygienic surroundings. The uncertainty and fear currently felt by the entire world population is experienced 100-fold by our fellow humans already suffering on the streets with mental illness, addiction and a myriad of other difficult circumstances.

The Eugene Mission’s Response

This is why the Eugene Mission continues to serve. While we have just a skeletal staff and a handful of volunteers currently, this is home to the hundreds of precious people in our “Mission Family.” Not only do they depend upon us for meals and shelter, safety and sobriety, but for stability, kindness and hope.

Yes, we are following every recommended protocol, including sanitization and enhanced hygiene practices. We have also increased physical distance by spreading out mealtimes, chairs and beds. We are donning masks and gloves. But most importantly, we continue to love our neighbors as ourselves. As in New Testament times, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…therefore, we do not lose heart” [2 Corinthians 4:8-9,16].

We trust in God for His strength and we continue to have faith that He will supply our needs through those who care about the vulnerable and who believe in the work of the Eugene Mission. We are humbled and grateful for your partnership.

Sheryl Balthrop
Executive Director

1 “Antonine Plague” by John Horgan, May 2, 2019

2AMA Journal of Ethics, “14th Century England, Medical
Ethics and the Plague”, Jessica Mellinger, April 2006

“Sheltering in Place” in a Shelter!

On Monday, March 23, 2020, the Eugene Mission marked its 64th year of service with an unprecedented announcement: “ATTENTION:  No On-Site Day Services Beginning Monday, March 23, 2020. Due to changes necessitated by COVID-19, access to the Eugene Mission campus will be limited to residential guests and authorized individuals.”

For two weeks leading up to the “shelter in place” edict from the Oregon Health Authority and Governor Brown, Mission staff and guests had taken precautionary measures. We were all watching the news and following recommendations that seemed to change daily. All tours, events, and lunch-and-learns were suspended to reduce traffic and risk of exposure. All 400 regular weekly volunteer shifts (the equivalent of twelve full-time staff) were furloughed for the safety of all.

How do you “shelter in place” in a shelter? The Eugene Mission has been at capacity every night for well over a year as Eugene has become the national epicenter per capita for homelessness.  Hundreds of day-users access the Mission for services and meals served three times daily in the dining hall. As official recommendations turned to edicts, Program Director Marshall Eck and a group of residential guests launched “Operation Mobile Outreach” to deliver essentials to places where unhoused individuals are located to the extent permitted by law and other conditions.

Meanwhile, inside the Mission everybody gloved-up and got to work. This certainly is not our first storm and it most likely will not be our last! We “keep on keeping on” and when we find ourselves facing a challenging situation, James 1:4 reminds, “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Greater love has no man than this, that he should lay down his life for his friends.
– John 15:13

Serving in the Storm

February 25, 2019 saw a foot of cement-like snow cover Lane County causing power outages, road closures and fallen trees. For four consecutive nights, temperatures plummeted into the teens and the Eugene Mission implemented “Cold Weather Policy” welcoming all to shelter here. During the storm, the Mission collaborated with other agencies to share information and best practices, since mental illness and addiction present a significant challenge when striking a balance between compassion and safety for all. Over the course of the four-day ordeal, the Mission served over 1,000 warm meals daily, 600+ cups of warm coffee, 450 hot showers and a reserve of emergency blankets as every bed was occupied. While far exceeding our conventional capacity limits, we hunkered down at the Eugene Mission grateful that we didn’t lose power!

The night was June 16, 2016 and Mission guest Dave Johnson was on overnight “fire watch” assisting staff member Tom Durant in the Men’s Center. With an average of 212 men sheltering overnight that year, fire watchmen are critical to risk management. At some point during the night, Tom smelled smoke and found flames shooting from the Mission kitchen, a 4,500-square-foot space directly underneath the large men’s dormitory. A 911 call was made and, miraculously, 212 men were safely evacuated by Tom and Dave. Praise God! The heat melted plates together, charred tables beyond recognition and damaged all of our commercial equipment. Fire damage remediation and a complete rebuild ensued.

The next six months was a tremendous and challenging time. People who had never been to the Mission came with donations of clothing, food, supplies and money. Mission staff became extremely creative and resourceful in producing and serving 800+ meals each day working out of a mobile kitchen and a semi-indoor dining room in the donations warehouse. In retrospect, the kitchen fire was an incredible blessing. Community partnerships were formed, volunteers were mobilized and the state-of-the-art new kitchen has allowed the Mission to keep pace with the growing homelessness crisis in Lane County.

When you face stormy seas I will be there with you with endurance and calm.
–Isaiah 43:2

We all look forward to when this pandemic is behind us and we can reflect on the lessons and blessings. Meanwhile, our days are filled with abundant silver linings as we shelter in place in a shelter.

With the season of spring blossoming around us, Guest Services Supervisor Moana Brown leads healthy social distancing activities in the large garden area across from the Women’s Center. The garden was a vacant lot that volunteer groups and Mission guests have transformed into an orchard with 14 fruit trees in raised boxes enjoying soil built from large quantities of autumn leaves collected by the city. The garden is both a unique feature on Mission’s 7.5-acre campus and a welcome sanctuary for guests.

Denver Harris, Life Change Program Manager, and his staff have worked with the 23 men in the program to address the daily operations of the Mission by filling vital shifts once held by the 400 regular weekly volunteers. The kitchen is humming with Life Change men assisting with food preparation and cooking, rotating produce in the coolers, managing the dry goods warehouse and keeping things sanitary during meal service. The Life Change program is not suspended, just adapted to meet the needs of the day, and the industry and willingness of our guests is inspiring.

The Eugene Mission remains at capacity during this pandemic. The morning starts with a meeting for guests—sitting six feet apart– in the chapel area for a check-in to kick off another day of staying inside while being productive and mindful. Marshall and Tabitha Eck work with the guests on a day filled with activities and necessary tasks.

With the help of guests, the men’s large dormitory (270 beds) was completely re-arranged to spread people out, including re-purposing offices and classrooms to create smaller dorm spaces. A special dormitory was moved into Executive Director Sheryl Balthrop’s office on the first floor for our medically fragile guests. These guests are particularly vulnerable and we all work together to keep the area comfortable and sanitary. Meanwhile, Sheryl now occupies a small apartment on the Mission campus in order to be available 24/7 as needs arise.

In the Women’s and Children’s Center, we have a baby newly born to a family escaping a situation of domestic violence.

A small group of school-aged children ride their bicycles in an enclosed yard and work on their new, remote schooling with the help of Mission staff. Women’s Center staff keep guests encouraged and occupied. These vulnerable guests depend on the Mission for sanctuary during a time of family instability amid a global pandemic. We pray a lot and set aside our job descriptions (and wash our hands) to meet the needs of the hour!

We welcome your prayers and continued financial support as we navigate these uncertain days. The work of our dedicated staff and our guests could easily fill a 100-page newsletter. We are working to keep our daily goings-on posted to social media and encourage you to follow our Facebook page

LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.
– Psalm 84:12

Prayer Requests

  • Please pray for the health and safety of our staff and our guests during this global pandemic. Please pray for continued financial support of our daily operations during this challenging time.

Wish List

  • Continued financial support during these unprecedented days
  • Men’s jeans, sweatpants, underwear, socks and belts
  • Face masks, over-the-counter pain medication (e.g. ibuprofen)
  • Adult activity books

Remember the Eugene Mission in your Estate Planning

Planning for your future? Leave a legacy! Please remember us in your will. For those wishing to designate Eugene Mission as the beneficiary in a will or other instrument.

Please Reference: Eugene Mission,
FEIN #93-0563797.

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.