Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Evidence of Christmas

Barb Harwood and Nick Flatoff photos

My family and I recently had the privilege of accompanying some sisters and brothers in Christ down to Chicago to visit the Pacific Garden Mission. Some of you may have already visited this beacon of light in a hurting world, and if you haven't, I highly encourage you to go. You can check them out at

While there, we heard about the history of the mission and testimonies from men who are currently staying there. I say men, because 80% of the residents there are men. We then went on a tour of the new 150,000 square-foot facility, constructed just over a year ago. The mission itself has been serving Chicago since 1877. The mission is completely run on donations and takes no money from the government. They want it that way so that their main purpose--bringing souls to salvation--will never be thwarted. And salvation truly is the main goal at PGM. I was heartened to hear that they even turn away many book donations because they are not of sound Biblical doctrine.

Yes, they feed the poor: 3 meal servings a day, totaling an average of 2,353 meals per day (each one preceded by a church service). Yes, they offer basic medical care and clothing. Yes, they provide beds for an average of 850 people a night to sleep in for as long as a person needs. (all in a green certified building with lots of windows. The dorm we toured looked out onto a treed courtyard while the John Hancock building towered in the distance.) But the mission unabashedly repeats, over and over, that their purpose in all of this is to bring souls to salvation through Jesus Christ.

Many who come to PGM participate in the drug and alcohol recovery program. But even then, we were told, it isn't about "the program." It's about Jesus Christ, the Gospel and being born again. That is the true mission of PGM and they are sticking to it, with 1,384 people expressing faith in Jesus Christ last year. Also last year alone, twenty-eight people graduated from the one-year Bible program and five PGM graduates are now enrolled in Bible colleges.

Our visit also included sitting in on the live radio production of "Unshackled," which dramatizes true-life stories of lives transformed through Christ. In production since 1950, "Unshackled" is the longest running radio drama in history.

Finally, we ended our day with an evening meal in the mission cafeteria cooked by men and women who are graduates of PGM and who went on to culinary school and are now chefs. After dinner, we attended a two-hour worship service! Yes, two hours and it flew by!

As we drove home, I was so encouraged by yet another example of a herculean effort by true Christians to bring the Word of God alive through action and through the preaching and teaching of that very Word. They are proof that when you do both, everybody wins! Jesus Christ is the foundation: without Him there would be no program, no beds, no recovery, no hope, no graduation into a better life and no salvation.

I wonder how many other missions just like this go unnoticed by the world as they quietly but heroically live out the call of God. And I am motivated to apply some aspect of the mission in my own hometown.

"As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." James 2:26

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