Miles from Where He Started

“I’ll just keep running away, you know,” Max would say to his guardians. As a young ward of the state, he was always trying to escape. It was an ugly place to grow up, full of neglect and abuse. At no more than nine years old, Max ran away again, traveling over 100 miles all alone.

For Max, there was really nowhere he could call home. He didn’t know what it meant to belong anywhere so he just kept running. It turns out, that feeling of isolation can stick with you. And joining the military, getting married, nothing seemed to help.

“No matter what I did or what I tried, it was always empty,” says Max, thinking about his old life. “Even though I was successful, I had a long career, I worked over 35 years in the same job…but relationships, marriages, all kinds of stuff, I could never get a connection with anyone.”

“I was dealing with a lot of emotional pain and anger and I don’t have to deal with that stuff anymore. I’m so free from it.”

Then, after making some bad financial decisions, Max found himself without a home. “When I got here to Water Street Mission, I was finally beaten to the point where I was ready to accept so much,” he says.

Alone, frustrated, afraid…he really didn’t know if there was a better life out there for him. So he decided to just try. One day in class he says, “Something just hit me…like it hit me to my core.” He heard something simple, but life-changing. “All it was, was that Jesus loves me no matter what. So no matter what I did, who I was, where I came from, He loves me.”

For Max, that meant he could finally belong. Not only with God, but also with all the fellow believers who want to walk alongside him. Even though his counselors and life coaches are helping him get back on his feet, he realized, “They’re all on their journeys. And yet they are such examples of how to process your journey and how to go forward.”

Seeing that God loves him, and us, and everyone no matter what, changed his life. Because, ultimately, we’re all in the same boat. Staff, volunteers, supporters and guests, we’re all loved by God through it all.

Now, he says, despite everything he went through as a child, he is living with new forgiveness in his life, for himself and for those who hurt him. “I was dealing with a lot of emotional pain and anger and I don’t have to deal with that stuff anymore. I’m so free from it.”

Max is finding community, something he hasn’t had most of his life. Today, he has real fellowship with staff, but also with other men who are “trying to change,” just like him. “I’m so happy I found Christ. So happy that he died for me,” confesses Max. “And I’m so grateful for that. And that he never, never abandoned me.” Max is building a new life for himself. He is miles from where he started, but in many ways, he is finally home.


An Update from Jack 5/4/2020


Dear Friends,

Throughout this season, we have encountered a number of challenges in operating our shelter safely. Thankfully we have been blessed to see no community spread among our guests. This is due not only to the work of our team, but also the ways that upgrades to our facilities came at just the right time.

For example, Providence Shelter, which opened in November 2019, provides additional spacing and a top-tier air filtration system. We have also been able to implement the same air filtration standards in our dining hall prior to the most recent wave of COVID.

Because a high percentage of our guests have preexisting health conditions, we have had to be diligent in our safety protocols, doing our best to ensure their safety. For us that has included implanting all CDC disinfecting, masking and social distancing from the very beginning. This has led to major changes in roles and responsibilities of staff. Staff have taken over disinfecting in shifts all over campus. They have also delivered much of our support services and programs through zoom, hosting counseling sessions and classes virtually and meeting in-person with plexi-glass dividers only when necessary.

For meals, we’ve changed preparation and delivery to help minimize interaction of guests who live in different facilities. At times that has meant delivering meals to certain Residential Floors so we can keep smaller groups in the dining hall. We have also had to restrict guests’ travel on and off campus to only essential trips such as going to work, the doctors, shopping etc., in order to minimize unnecessary exposure.

Another change in this season has been how we do intakes. Currently, the intake process requires new guests to be tested for COVID-19. They await their test results in a separate temporary shelter we have set up, before entering Providence Emergency Shelter.

All of these changes have been made while severely limiting the number of volunteers on campus. At one point, all volunteering was completely put on hold. Now, we are running with a third of our normal volunteers.

And it’s been tiring, for both staff and guests. We have had times where many staff were working remotely due to their own health risks. Other times where staff or guests have been quarantined due to exposures. But even with all of the schedule changes, increased overtime, and cross-shift working, our team has done an amazing job persevering through all of the challenges.

What to Expect This Winter Typically we have over 200 total guests on campus, over 100 in our Residential Programs over and 100 in our Emergency Shelters. Although our Residential capacity remains about the same, we have had to reduce the available beds in Providence Shelter to ensure safe spacing overnight from about 75 to 55.

Winter always presents its own challenges, so we anticipate this year will be no different. Women in our Providence Shelter have moved over to the shelter at St. Mary’s across the street, run by the Lancaster Food Hub. During their stay there they have full access to all of our services, including showers, food and staff support. Not only does having women shift to St. Mary’s enable us to free up additional beds for men, it will help us keep the shelter populations separate and limit the risk of spread.

Thank You We have been so encouraged by the support we have received this year. Without a community coming around us and our guests, we would not be able to keep our guests safe and continue to guide them in their restoration journeys. We truly couldn’t do what we do without you.

Jack Crowley