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Your Name Is Bill

The first alcohol Bill ever tasted was in a baby bottle his mother gave him to make him sleep. As an adult, Bill would work, get home, and drink himself to sleep. He married and divorced twice, then served a stint in jail. Finally, a judge remanded Bill to Niagara Gospel Mission’s recovery program.

Bill went through the recovery program five times! Then one night, as he sat drinking a beer in his truck on Portage Road, he looked up and saw the Mission’s brightly lit cross with the message “Jesus Saves.” That’s when he said to himself, “I have to make a change,” got out of his truck and walked back into Niagara Gospel Mission.

At an evening chapel service, Bill gave his life to Christ and entered the Mission’s Discipleship Program. After graduation, Bill became a resident assistant, helping other men with through their recovery journey. He is even reconnecting with his children!

Your Name Is Steven

When Steven was going through med school, he sometimes stole Adoral that he could stay up late at night to study and still stay awake during classes. After graduation he was hired by a local hospital and continued to use pills to stay sharp, especially during long surgical procedures. It didn’t take long before he was writing prescriptions for himself and stealing medication from the hospital pharmacy.

Eventually, Steven was caught by the hospital staff and fired. His addiction robbed him of everything: his job, family and eventually his ability to pay for housing. After leaving a detox facility for the third time, Steven headed for Niagara Gospel Mission where he intended to eat a last meal and then kill himself. During dinner, he paid no attention to his food or the chapel message because he was so consumed by what he’d be doing later that night.  Lost in thought, he barely heard someone say, “Steven, it’s been a while.  How are you?”

Christine, a nurse at the hospital, was volunteering that night with her church. Steven was ashamed that she’d seen him until she said, “I’ve been praying for you, Steven. God loves you! Would you like to pray with me?” Steven broke down. For the first time in years he felt loved. With Christine’s encouragement, Steven joined the Mission’s Discipleship Program.  Today, he is sober, living in his own apartment, and visits the Mission once a month to help serve dinner with his church.

Your Name Is Jamal

Jamal is an Airforce veteran who grew up on the street and never knew his father. One Father’s Day, his hurt turned into anger, and he vandalized property near the base. As a result, he was discharged from the military and lost his benefits. From that point on, Jamal shot heroin and lived for the high. It’s no surprise that his addiction did nothing more than numb the pain temporarily.

After Jamal was evicted from his apartment, he came to Niagara Gospel Mission for a clean bed, safe sleep and hot meal. That night, a local church came to serve the meal and deliver a gospel message. The man who preached talked about the love of a Heavenly Father who would never leave—something Jamal had longed for his whole life.

Jamal was so tired of being angry … he wanted to know what it would be like to have a father who never left. He entered the Mission’s Discipleship Program and learned that he needed to forgive his father—and that God would be with him always. Recently, Jamal reached out to his two sons, hoping to become the dad he had never had. “I want to be like my Heavenly Father,” he says today. “Someone who never leaves and is always there to help.” This will be a tough road for Jamal and needs prayer to overcome his addiction and reconcile with his sons.

Your Name Is Jerald

Jerald is a police officer. When he was a kid, his uncle Nelson was always drunk, and in and out of jail. In fact, Jerald can’t remember a time when his uncle was not in trouble. One night while on patrol, Jerald got a call to pick up a homeless man who had fallen asleep in a snow bank. When he arrived, he realized it was his Uncle Nelson!

Jerald dropped his uncle off at Niagara Gospel Mission and told the overnight shelter manager, “This is my uncle. I never thought I would be picking him up like this. Can you take care of him?” Just 18 months later, Jerald proudly attended his uncle’s graduation from the Mission’s Discipleship Program!  In fact, Jerald’s whole family attended and there wasn’t a dry eye among them during the ceremony.

When asked why Jerald became a monthly donor to the Mission he says, “You saved my uncle’s life and brought healing to my family that I never thought we could have. This is a small way I can say thank you.”

Your Name Is Jennifer

Jennifer never understood homeless people. To her thinking, they just seemed too lazy to get a job. Once, when a homeless man asked her for a dollar for food, she replied, “I have a tip for you—get a job and you won’t need to beg anymore.”

Then her church came to Niagara Gospel Mission to serve meals at Thanksgiving. She sat down next to a homeless man and asked him how he was doing. He explained how he had lost his job and couldn’t get stable employment because of his criminal record. “For some of us, it is a lot harder to find work, especially with a record.”

After that conversation, Jennifer felt convicted about her attitude toward the homeless. She called the Mission and asked if she could become a regular volunteer on the front desk, welcoming homeless men into the building and answering phone calls. Now she asks each man to tell her his story and tries to connect him with housing, employment, and our Discipleship Program. “Volunteering at the Mission has changed my perspective about people experiencing homelessness. My walk with the Lord has strengthened, and I feel the love and care for others that Jesus has for me.”

Your Name Is Jim

Jim had struggled with alcohol and cocaine all his life. He could never get a grip on it—even after staying sober for a year or two at a time.  The last time Jim relapsed, first responders found him passed out in the street and brought him to the hospital. There, he was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer.  Angry at the world and at God, Jim bought a bottle of Scotch and drank until he blacked out.

This time, a local pastor coming into the Mission found Jim on the sidewalk, and brought him into the building. When Jim woke up the next morning, he came to the front desk to ask where he was. The receptionist said, “You are at Niagara Gospel Mission. Don’t you remember staying here last night?”

Jim was leaving to get another drink when a Mission chaplain stopped him. “You are new here,” the chaplain said. “What’s your story?” Jim told him he’d been diagnosed with cancer and had only a few months to live. As the two talked, Jim’s heart thawed, and he agreed to stay and learn more about the Lord. Jim died peacefully three months later, sure of his place in heaven and surrounded by people who loved him.

Your Name Is John

John served in the Army for 15 years as an infantryman. In the military, John had purpose and structure, two things he knew he needed.  He’d always been a heavy drinker but all the other guys in his unit seemed to drink a lot, too, so he reasoned it was no big deal.

When John was discharged, he drank even more to cope with his experiences in Iraq. Gradually, his drinking took over, and his wife left him after he lost another job. His adult daughters stopped communicating with him. He was completely alone.

One night, John got so drunk he ended up in the hospital. This was the third time the same nurse had taken care of him, and she felt sick that this man who had such a good military record was living on the streets. A co-worker told her that Niagara Gospel Mission had a program for homeless veterans, so she gave the Mission a call. The next day the Mission picked John up and brought him to his new home in its Liberty Dorm for veterans.

In the Liberty Dorm, John was surrounded by other veterans who understood his struggles. Eventually, he joined the Discipleship Program where he found purpose and structure, received counseling, and became active at a local church. He was no longer alone.

Your Name Is Jessica

Jessica wanted to teach her children what it is to have a compassionate servant’s heart. She had heard that her church was participating in Niagara Gospel Mission’s Feed the Falls meals distribution on Thanksgiving Day. Volunteers would package and deliver more than 1,000 meals from the Mission to the homes of low-income families throughout the county. She knew this event would be a great way to help her children learn but was concerned about their safety.

Jessica and her husband and children helped package several meals with Donna, the event coordinator. Then the family hopped in the car to deliver meals to three families. She nervously knocked on the first door and prayed for safety.  A smiling woman opened the door  Her husband asked if Jessica’s husband asked if he could pray with her and they prayed not only with this woman but the other two families they served. “This was so impactful for my family and I that we have it on our calendar every year. My girls have developed such a kind spirit to all they meet and I feel like Feed the Falls is what God has used in their lives.

Your Name Is Bonnie

Bonnie lost her husband several years ago and lives off her monthly social security check. Each month she mails two dollars to Niagara Gospel Mission to help men who are hurting and living on the street. “My son Eddie was an alcoholic after Desert Storm and died in a car wreck,” she says. “This is what I can do to help those who are in the same situation as my Eddy … maybe find their way out with Jesus.”

Bonnie may not be able to send a lot of money to the Mission, but she prays diligently for the ministry every morning. She knows her faithful prayer pleases the Lord as He works in the lives of the men in the Discipleship Program and those who come in for meals, clothing and shelter.

Recently, Bonnie read a story in the Mission’s newsletter about a homeless man who came in for a hot meal, joined our program and overcame his addiction. He’d even reunited with his mother!  Bonnie got tears in her eyes; she felt God was answering her prayer to help men like Eddy. There’s no doubt that her prayers—and those of other faithful prayer warriors—are transforming the Niagara Falls community one man at a time.

Your Name is Chris

Chris was an Army veteran who never really had a home after getting out of the service.  Drinking was always a problem for Chris, but it was just his way of life, he reasoned.

Chris came to the  Mission three times for meals and shelter but never joined the Discipleship Program. His “plan” was to bounce from shelter to shelter and never commit to anything.

One day, Chris decided to try the Discipleship Program and celebrated long-term sobriety a year later. His commitment to Jesus and to the work at the Mission gave him joy every day. He was confident that he could stay sober no matter what.

Then Chris got a call from his brother who’d received a large cash settlement and wanted to celebrate.  Chris was overwhelmed by the temptation and agreed to go. He told his counselor he had a doctor’s appointment, then met up with his brother. The two partied for hours.

Returning that night, Chris swerved to avoid hitting a deer and his car plowed into a telephone pole. Chris and his brother were both killed in the accident. Chris’s family was devastated by the news, and the Mission’s staff were grief-stricken over the loss of their brother in Christ.

Your Name is Bruce

Bruce was in high school when he felt God might be calling him to ministry. He talked to his pastor about attending Bible college and seminary after graduation. His pastor told him the church was volunteering for a 3M (meal, message, music) at Niagara Gospel Mission. “Why don’t you bring the message? This would be a good experience for you,” his pastor said.

Bruce worked on a 15-minute sermon with his pastor and preached for the very first time at the Mission. After preaching, he knew this was the calling God had on his life.

Now, when Bruce is home from school at Christmas or during summer break, he volunteers at the Mission, preaching, praying with the guys in the Discipleship Program, and fellowshipping at meals. He understands “There but for the grace of God go I.” No matter what city the Lord calls him to minister in, he will get his church involved in the local rescue mission.

Your Name is Valerie

Valerie was sexually abused as a child. As a result, she began using drugs to cope with the ongoing abuse in her teens. By the time she turned 18, she was routinely sex trafficked, and stayed high most of the time.

Every day, Valerie felt as if she had no value. She drowned her thoughts with drugs and whiskey. After being beaten by her pimp, Valerie wanted to leave everything behind and looked for help in her community, but most of the agencies serving women had a waiting list of over a year. She often came to Niagara Gospel Mission for clothing and food and appreciated the kindness f=of the staff there. They made her feel human with their smiles and encouraging words.

Valerie heard the Mission was opening a women’s shelter and was excited about it until she learned they were still raising funds and looking for a building. Until it opens, Valerie will continue to live on the streets or in the crack houses she depends on for warmth. She hopes she can stay alive until the new shelter opens. Anyway, what choice does she have?