Turning A Call Into Action

A Clear Call from God


In the fall of 2006, during a conversation with Tom McLaughlin, then Executive Director of the Buffalo City Mission, it became clear that Niagara Falls needed a greater infrastructure of emergency shelter care due to its increasing rate of homelessness, complicated by addiction, and a lack of shelter beds in the community.  The vision was solidified and by the spring of 2007 the Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission was formed as a non-profit corporation being granted tax-exempt 501(c) 3 status within the first year. Board member and attorney Ron Anton wrote the most beautiful Articles of Incorporation, stating that “soup, soap, and salvation” would be the core work of the Mission in Niagara Falls. The primary focus of this new ministry would be to meet not only the necessary physical needs of the people it serves, but more importantly, address their core spiritual needs by sharing with them God’s love through the Gospel and His purposeful plan for their lives… this plan enabling them to permanently pull out of an endless cycle of poverty and self-destructive, crippling addictions, while finding life and purpose through the regenerating Spirit of God. 


But there was another call within this call from God to help the poor among us in the often “Forgotten City” of Western New York. Niagara Falls is a hidden gem to God; its name meaning “great water”, was reminiscent of the “river of life” we see in the Bible, God’s Word which flows to nourish all creation with new life for those who remain in the deadness and power of sin.


Indeed, God’s great desire to help the weakest, even the most undesirable among the great cities of New York, would be carried out by His own people. This was the quiet calling, that those who have placed their faith in the cross of Jesus Christ would be unified for the sake of the Gospel, the life-giving message of new and eternal life. The stewardship of the ministry belonged to the Church, and the net result of this “calling” would be that churches from all over Western New York would respond, kicking out their walls and bringing their time, talents, and treasures—to minister to a City which had been plundered by Satan in his mocking of this beautiful place—where the mighty water flows in abundance. To God would be the glory of the unification of the Church for the sake of the unloved!  


Unplanned Ministry


As the organization moved forward in obedience to God’s vision, we ourselves, growing in a new knowledge of the culture of “rescue ministry," were also blessed with the advent of our un-planned “street ministry” in the fall of 2007. With a new, mobile RV soup kitchen, God moved us out of our seats and into the streets, placing us at the center point of greatest need. It was truly one of the best ways to connect with the “pulse of the people” as we stepped out weekly with friends from several WNY churches, offering a hot meal, lending an ear, and sharing a warm smile with a “hand on the shoulder” approach to ministry, one which we’ll always see as vital in our work for Jesus’ sake. We were encouraged about two years in when a young man we’d known told us, “Many lives had been changed in this neighborhood because of you guys!” Indeed, God had refreshed us with that news! We had saturated the neighborhood with God’s Word, sharing hope among all we had encountered, young and old. Best of all, many brothers and sisters in area churches were finding purpose in direct and impactful ministry! Glory to God!


A Place to Hang Our Hats


In 2009 God blessed us with yet another opportunity; this time for a small, unused church located at Linwood and Twenty Second streets. It was a perfect place to launch the Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission’s new Outreach Center.  Niagara Alliance Church of Wheatfield had heard of our work and offered this awesome opportunity, allowing us to now provide an indoor, weekly meal ministry followed with Bible study.  We could now develop a discipleship plan and relational fellowship with those we were ministering to in our weekly RV street ministry.  The Lord grew this ministry from as few as one or two weekly attendants, to as many as forty to fifty people per week within a year!  We had also opened a clothing closet and food pantry ministry which was managed by loving and dedicated Christian volunteers who were able to shine the light of Jesus to all who came in for help. Many people were led to Jesus Christ in that place. There was one night when a beautiful woman fell weeping uncontrollably at the foot of a styrofoam cross during our Bible time. God’s precious Word had reached the hardened heart of a woman caught in the trap of addiction and prostitution, and she experienced the grace and love of Jesus Christ as her sins were placed at the cross!


We were still working hard to obtain the right building to begin the work of helping the homeless, and by August of 2011, we were blessed to turn-over the keys for our work at the Outreach Center to a small, growing inner-city church plant who had joined our efforts, adopting those we had been working with for over two years. This brought the people a permanent place of worship and fellowship—a church home!


The Initial Calling Comes to Fruition


In the midst of all these blessings we had never abandoned our initial calling to open a Christ-centered homeless shelter.  After the miraculous purchase of a roughly 4000 square foot house in March of 2010 through the faithful help of many individuals, we were realizing our heart’s desire to open the Mission’s first homeless men’s shelter located at 1023 Ferry Avenue in Niagara Falls!


Moving along with what was called our “Adopt-A-Room” building improvement program, by the Spring of 2011 we were soon able to capitalize over $40,000 in improvements, preparing the way for a full opening of 16+ shelter beds, 10 long-term life recovery program beds, and 5 on site staff beds, along with a dining facility. We had fit a “big mission” mentality into a small mission house! Soon we were ready for a “soft opening” of the Mission, and with a couple of beds open in one of our four proposed dorm-style rooms, we had begun to meet the needs of homeless men. We were so blessed to finally begin offering opportunity for warm, clean shelter, and compassionate Christian care… all to God’s honor and glory!


In the Fall of that year, a newly remodeled version of our facility included a larger community meal program and the conversion of the living/dining room into a combination dorm/chapel/shelter. The upstairs bedrooms would house our long-term discipleship programmers and necessary resident staff. God had sent many, many helpers to make all this happen… from the smallest to the largest miracles, we would see the hand of God’s provision in every detail as we faithfully carried out His work every day. 


In February 2012, we began building a small team of Resident Assistants or “RA’s” who had graduated from other mission ministry programs, earnestly wanting to serve men like themselves who had fallen upon hard times in life. It was an affordable business model for our ministry as we really had not developed enough income and donations to supply necessary staff positions, other than the small stipends and the room and board these dedicated men had received in exchange for their round-the-clock help. Like the rest of us, they had made deep, personal sacrifices for God’s calling to help the neediest in Niagara Falls. One man came to us offering his skills as a chef, and hoping to become an RA along with his own entry into our (soon to come) “New Life in Christ” Program which started on June 18th of 2012.  In his own life recovery, he’d also brought along his own God-given vision, saying, “I want to feed the neighborhood!” Our response was to say, “What can we do to make that happen for you?” The rest is history as the Lord began to bless us once again with a leap of growth. We went from serving only about 150 meals per month in January 2012, to ten times that amount by June that year! Yes, 1,500 meals per month to men, women, and children, praise God! It is the exponential growth of a loving God who was making a way for us as we faithfully carried out His vision.


Step-by-step we had grown into three, well-defined programs… meals, shelter, and a long-term life-recovery discipleship program… all in our “little mission” with a big mission heart and mindset.  But there is one important factor that the board, leadership, and staff put as a first priority; that within this program framework, we would put the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the discipling of His people, as our deepest purpose and priority! 


By 2013 we had everything in place and the Lord continued to grow us, bringing many people in daily as we honored Him in our work caring for the “least of these” among us, and building relationships with not only those we were privileged to minister to, but also to those who came to serve with us, giving opportunity for the local Body of Christ to kick out their doors and bring the good news in both word and deed. One of our most successful ministries was actually TO the Church! In looking back, it is certainly questionable as to whom God had ministered more to… those we served, or those who served with us?


The Best Growth Comes Through Trials and Tribulations 


After a difficult and trying time where a local block club group had organized a well-orchestrated attack on our right to occupy the now established Mission on Ferry Avenue, forcing us into a long, public, zoning battle with the City in late 2013, by June 2015, God blessed the Mission with a new facility. By His grace, during this difficult trial period, we were offered the 60,000 square foot former YMCA building on Portage Road. Though there was some limited local resistance, God broke through and gave us the opportunity to prove, not only that we were a much-needed asset to the health of the City, but actually a necessary component to its revitalization, and to those who had succumbed to the loss of jobs and industry over the decades. In essence, God used our deepest struggles to deliver the ministry to a greater level of stewardship, the capacity to serve many more people. It is only reminiscent of the cross—where Jesus’ own suffering and shame produced abundant grace, and forgiveness of sin—for all who trust in Him!


The overseers of the WNY YMCA were moved by God, and the building was sold to the Mission for the nominal consideration of one dollar. This new home also had 56 single-occupancy rooms, which now allowed us the stewardship of a new ministry, offering a low-cost resident housing program, serving men of low-income. The goal of this program was to provide life structure, plus safe and affordable housing in a Christian environment. The Mission could now offer a safe, affordable  home in the City… serving as an alternative to dirty rooming houses where drug use and dangers are all too prevalent.


The “basics” remained the same however… to compassionately share the love of Jesus Christ to all who enter our doors. This gave continuous opportunity to share the love of God through the Gospel, opening the door to many hearts through faith in His Son, a faith that delivers the transforming power of God’s indwelling Spirit into the hearts and minds of those who were lifeless and without purpose!  There is nothing better in this world than to see the Light of Life, Jesus Christ “begin a new work” in a person…God making a way—where there WAS no way before!


There is still that “secondary calling” of God’s overall vision which has been vital to both the sustained presence of our ministry…To answer God’s call to stewardship opportunities for the Church, the Body of Christ.  Our ministry is a direct “conduit” for over 40-some churches, God’s people working in special volunteer programs where those led of His Spirit can exercise the use of their various gifts. Truly, we are both a place to help the poor, AND a place where people can “plug-in” to help them as well, thus fulfilling God’s call to the physical, spiritual, and financial stewardship of His work in our world, as ambassadors for Jesus Christ. Our hope has always been that they will themselves be blessed in their giving of time, talent, and treasures!


It’s been a blessed journey to this point, and we know that every person involved has also been blessed to see God’s vision come to fruition. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue to grow, so that we may preach God’s Gospel (good news) in both word and deed—to those whom He has sent and entrusted to us.  We’re so thankful to be called by the Lord Jesus Christ to bring hope to the poor and helpless families in Niagara Falls, realizing His purpose and vision for this often “Forgotten City” of Western New York! She is like Leah, the unloved sister in the Bible… but remember that God had not forgotten her, blessing her womb with the bloodline of life, that of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.


Friends, we’re not an extension of the Church… we ARE the Church every day!  We feed the poor, clothe the naked, give shelter to the lost, and share the love of Jesus Christ in both word and deed. We live the Gospel daily, as we baptize, disciple, equip and send, just as the Lord has called us to do. Glory to His name! 


So join us in prayer as we carry out God’s vision daily; as we presently are setting our minds and hearts upon establishing an effective Christian ministry to the indigent women and children population of our City, that will offer care and hope to this rapidly growing segment of homeless population. Truly, there is no better history than HIS-story!


Glory to God!


“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”  Matthew 25:40