Join us for ‘The Story of Christmas’

December is finally here which means the Christmas season just went into overdrive! It’s amazing how quickly this one month can fly by but it’s probably because there’s just so much great stuff to do like joining us on December 8th for a night of music, food, and Christmas celebration!

Story of Christmas

The choir from Maranatha Brethren Church will perform, ‘The Story of Christmas: Worship the King’ for our guests at 7pm at the Trinity Center. Each Christmas Maranatha performs their cantata and then follows the show with a delicious meal for all who attend. And did we mention that this festive night is all for free?? You read that right! Free. And it’s free for the entire family so why not bring everyone to celebrate the season with some great music and a scrumptious feast?

Tickets are not required. If you would like more information please call us at 301.739.1165 or visit http://www.hagerstownhopecenter.com.

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The Address of Hope

by Ron Shank

Board of Directors 2017 (2)Joe Bailey in his book “A View From a Hearse” tells of the day his boy died of cancer. He had returned to the clinic to thank them for their kindness and care of his son. As he spoke to the receptionist, she motioned toward a woman whose son was playing quietly with toys in the waiting area. “He has the same cancer your son had” she said. “Why don’t you go over there and see if you can talk with her.”

Bailey went reluctantly over to sit next to the mother and they whispered just out of hearing of the boy. “It must be hard bringing him for the treatments,” he said, more a statement than a question. “Hard,” she turned with anguish in her eyes. “I die every time I have to bring him in. What makes it worse is that I know it’s not going to stop the cancer and he’s going to die.”

Uncomfortable, Bailey ventured: “Still it is some comfort to know that when that happens there is no more pain and suffering, and they go to a better place.”

With hardness in her voice the lady responded “No”. “When he dies I’m just going to bury him and the cemetery and never see him again.”

Bailey wanted to leave. It was uncomfortable to speak with this woman who obviously had no hope in any way. Then he spoke quietly, “I buried my son just yesterday, and I’ve only come today to thank the doctors and nurses for their kindness. I know what you’re feeling but I also know there is hope; a promise of a better life for my son now.” “How can you believe such a thing?,” she challenged. And then Joe Bailey told her about Jesus and the essence of real HOPE.

The hymn writer tells us:

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.                                    I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.                                   His oath, His covenant, His blood support me in the whelming flood.                            When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.                                 On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.”

Job 3:15a says, “Though He slays me, yet will I hope in Him.” Now Job was a man who know what it was like to have his whole life fall apart – to lose everything and yet he still had hope. Millions of people are living without hope; I see this firsthand everyday.

And yet I would tell you this truth: THERE IS HOPE!

And this hope is found in God alone and in a relationship with Him.

When I became a Christian I began to memorize scriptures I was taught to memorize the content of the verse and its address – the place it was found. Today, I believe the address of hope is found in John 3:16.

John 3:!6 has been called the greatest verse in the entire Bible – the Gospel in a nutshell. It is one of the first verses learned by children in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. This verse is often quoted in sermons and it is even hung over guard rails in many football stadiums. It is so familiar to so many that I fear we often quote it or read it without deeply thinking about its meaning and the promise it holds.

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son (one and only son) that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

It has been summarized in the following way:

  • For God – the greatest One
  • So loved – the greatest degree
  • The world – the greatest amount of people
  • That He gave – the greatest generosity
  • His only begotten Son – the greatest uniqueness
  • That whosoever – the greatest invitation
  • Believeth in Him – the greatest simplicity
  • Should not – the greatest certainty
  • Perish – the greatest possible loss
  • But – the greatest difference
  • Have – the greatest possession
  • Eternal – the greatest length
  • Life – the greatest gift

I would say to you if you know nothing of the Bible start with this verse. If you know everything of the Bible, return to this verse often. This is the Hope Diamond of scripture! If there was ever a verse that could change the world – this would be the one.

I would like to break this verse down and examine the beautiful intricacies found within this verse and also discover the hope that this verse holds for all of mankind. From this one verse we can find at least four truths about the love of God which produces such hope.

WE HAVE HOPE BECAUSE THE LOVE OF GOD IS UNCONDITIONAL

“For God so loved the world.”

  • Because these words are true, it changes everything, doesn’t it? The Greek word for world, kosmos, is defined as all mankind; the total human race. This is the world that God loved. It doesn’t say that God loved all the good guys. Or that God loved all the Jews. Or that God loved all the saints. It says, “For God so loved the WORLD”
  • God’s love clearly isn’t based on our spiritual condition or our goodness. It isn’t based on our behavior or attitude towards him. Rather we see here that God’s love for humankind is universal and unconditional. He loves everyone one. And this is one of the things that sets Him apart from every other god held up by every other world religion.
  • There is no love that can exceed the depth, breadth, length, and height of God’s magnificent love for humankind. Whenever you begin to wonder if His love is sufficient for your problems, know that His love far exceeds any dimensions of the human mind.
  • The word for love used in this verse is a form of “agape” – an unconditional love – a love that is not given because of any excellence or worthiness in its object but a love that is an exercise of divine and deliberate choice.
  • C.S. Lewis has stated that “Christianity uniquely claims that God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached. No other religion makes that claim.”
  • So we have hope that God’s love for us is unconditional. It is as Philip Yancey once wrote: “There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less.”

For God so love the world.

WE CAN HAVE HOPE BECAUSE THE LOVE OF GOD IS SACRIFICIAL AND VALUABLE

“that He gave His one and only Son…”

  • According to a footnote in the English Standard Version of the Bible an alternate translation to the first part of John 3:16 is as follows: “So this is how God so loved the world…” How did God love us? By giving, by serving, by sacrificing.
  • So here we learn something important about the nature of true love – God’s love
  • Some people think they love others because of what those people do for them or how they make them feel. But God shows us true love has nothing to do with what you can do for me, but everything to do with what I can do for you. Love is a deliberate choice!
  • Love – “agape” love is a verb. It has to be tangibly demonstrated. It has to be proven – lived out. The Bible says in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrated (proves) His own love for us in that while we were still in our sin Christ died for us.”
  • The power and passion of God’s love comes across through the length to which God was willing to go for the sake of the world – to give “His one and only Son.” This was not giving out of abundance for Jesus was Gods one and only Son. This is what makes the sacrifice so valuable.
  • That sounds strange to many people. Some say, “I don’t need anything from God. I’ve led a good life. I don’t need God to give His Son for me.” But the Bible tells us, “Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s standard.” (Romans 2:23). Our sin separates us from God. So if any of us are going to have a real relationship with our Creator, then it’s up to Him to reconcile us. That’s where Jesus’ death comes in. Jesus built the bridge between us and God with an old rugged cross. Jesus gave Himself. God gave Jesus, His Son, to bring salvation to the world through His Son’s death.
  • We have hope because God’s love was sacrificial and valuable.

WE HAVE HOPE BECAUSE GOD’S LOVE IS ACCESSIBLE

“that whoever believes in Him…”

  • The really good news about God’s love is that it is not limited to a select few. It is not available only to those who were born with the right color of skin or on the correct continent. Nor is it difficult to obtain. Jesus calls us to do one thing: believe!
  • Listen to what the Bible says: “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to be called children of God (John 1:12 NIV)
  • “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe in the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on Him.” (John 3:35 NKJV)
  • “I tell you the truth, whoever believes has eternal life.” (John 6:47 NCV)
  • “Then he brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” (Acts 16:31 NLT)
  • “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)
  • What Jesus wants us to see is that it’s not because of what I’ve done, but because of who He is. It’s not because of who I am, but because of what He’s already done! And all He asks is for us to put our trust in Him, and Him alone!

WE HAVE HOPE BECAUSE GOD’S LOVE IS BENEFICIAL

“…should not perish but have everlasting life.”

  • God’s only desire in sending His Son was to show you and I His love and to draw us into a love relationship with Himself.
  • Jesus didn’t come into the world in order to rebuke you – He came to rescue you.
  • He didn’t come to criticize you – He came to cleanse you.
  • He didn’t come to punish you – He came to pardon you.
  • He didn’t come to destroy you – He came to deliver you.

The benefit of God’s love which produces hope:

  • Deliverance from coming judgement and punishment. “Perish” depicts death, destruction, total loss and excluded forever from God – giving the thought of total hopelessness.
  • Receiving of everlasting life – eternal life. Everlasting life is not just eternal existence but it is also having Jesus – Christ living in me – speaking of the quality of life now. A growing relationship – a life that is better than any other life that there is. An abundant life Jesus said.

There is HOPE!

John 3:16 is the address of hope. Aren’t you glad that John 3:16 is true?

God did love the world and that means that God loves you.

  • If you were the only person on earth, God would have still sent Jesus to die just for you. That’s how much He loves you.

God did give His Son to die for your sins.

  • The blood He shed on the cross is the only thing that can save you from your sins. Jesus was your substitute who paid the debt and penalty for sin that you deserved to pay.

And God’s salvation is for whosoever-

  • That means anybody. That means young and old; smart and average; educated and not; lower class to upper class; all have sinned and are in need of a savior.

And God’s offer of salvation is by grace through faith alone – not your church, or your religion, or your works, or how much penance you’ve done, or if you’ve been baptized or confirmed.

No, it’s like this: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

That is the HOPE for you, me and all of humankind.

 

Ron Shank is the Director of Pastoral Care Services at Brook Lane in Hagerstown. He is a graduate of Liberty University. He and his wife, Nancy, reside in Washington County and have two adult children. He is currently serving as the Secretary of the Board of Directors at The Hope Center.

 

Spiritual Growth

by Jerry Cooper

JerryCooper (2)God has many purposes for The Hope Center. But I believe that first and foremost God desires that we preach the Gospel for the salvation of men, women, and children. In addition, God desires the spiritual growth of all who do trust Christ as Lord and Savior.

Through Peter, the Holy Spirit commands all believers to grow in their faith.

2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Spiritual growth is one of the reasons that The Hope Center offers a 13-month discipleship program for men. Sonny, Rick, Lynn, and other staff are always seeking and looking for the spiritual growth of the men in the residential program.

Sadly, not all who believe in Christ grow spiritually as God desires. Some follow poor examples as those described in Hebrews 5.

Hebrews 5:12-14, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

“By this time” means that these Christians had time to grow spiritually, but they were still immature. They needed “the basic principles of the oracles of God,” or spiritual “milk”. Each of them was a spiritual “child”.

This passage also teaches that the Word of God is essential for spiritual growth. Sadly these immature Christians were “unskilled in the word of righteousness.” Either they did not read the Scriptures and study them, or they did not listen when others taught the Scriptures.

Therefore, the Mission staff and churches preach and teach the Word of God at every opportunity. Men in the program memorize Scripture. They are urged to be active in a local church and study their Bibles.

Spiritual growth is also important because a Christian is useful to God when he is growing as God commands. The Holy Spirit spoke through Peter and explained who is effective and fruitful.

2 Peter 1:5-8, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

God is saying that every Christian should grow in spiritual character: virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. The word “increasing” means that these words are not static, they are growing. But if they are not increasing, then the Christian is “ineffective” and “unfruitful”.

Let’s always pray for ourselves, that we grow spiritually and not be “ineffective”. And let’s pray for the men in the program, that they will grow spiritually and be fruitful.

 

Jerry Cooper is the pastor at Virginia Avenue Baptist Church and an evening chaplain at The Hope Center. He and his wife, Barb, currently reside in Hagerstown. For more information on Virginia Avenue Baptist Church visit http://www.vabconline.org. To contact Jerry please email him at jtcooper51@gmail.com

 

Welcome, Michelle!

We have a new addition to our staff at The Hope Center. But this newest addition to our team really isn’t that new at all.

Michelle Rizer (2)We are excited to welcome Michelle Rizer to our staff as the new assistant to our youth program, Wildside Youth.

To some of you, her name and face may not ring a bell, but to others who’ve been following The Hope Center, even back when it was called the Union Rescue Mission or Hagerstown Rescue Mission, might recognize her. Michelle may be a new staff member but she’s actually the granddaughter of the founders, Jim & Ellen Resh.

Jim & Ellen were parents to four daughters, Sharon, Dorcas, Laurel and Becky, and one son, Jim. Those five children gave Jim & Ellen twelve grandchildren who are now having children of their own.

Michelle is one of the daughters of Sharon & Henry Hughes. When the Mission had a TV show, Echoes of Hope, a publication, Free Press, and other public events it was quite often that Michelle, along with the rest of the family, was in attendance or participating in one way or another.

But now, Michelle has officially joined our staff and is eager to start her journey into ministry in a facility that has a deep personal connection to her.

We asked Michelle to tell us about the journey that brought her from her early days on Echoes of Hope to her current position working with kids in Hagerstown.

“My name is Michelle Rizer and I’m the granddaughter of Jimmy and Ellen Resh, founders of the Four States Christian Missions, Inc. (The Hope Center at Hagerstown Rescue Mission).

Sin, and the inability to forgive myself or believe God could forgive me, lead me away from God for many years. Then, 5 years ago, I rededicated my life to my Lord Jesus Christ and began a new life with Jesus in the center of my life.

My husband, Brian, and I became very active in our church and became youth leaders. Being in this position gave me the opportunity to go with our youth pastor to take a class certifying me to work with high risk youth.

Although Brian and I loved our position in the church, I kept feeling a nudging from the Holy Spirit that God was leading me into full-time ministry.

I felt that if God was leading me into ministry maybe it would be back at the Rescue Mission and my family heritage. So, I contacted Becky and Sonny Shank, my aunt and uncle, who run the Mission now, and shared God’s leading in my life with them. We all decided to pray where God was leading me.

In the meantime, I took a leap of faith and left my job in the hair industry after 33 years and waited and prayed for God to reveal His plan for me.

It was about a month later that Becky called me to come in and talk with them. I was excited and scared as to where God wanted me, but I had placed my complete faith in Him and believed that whatever He had revealed to them was where He was leading me.

I went in and talked to them and when they presented me with the opportunity to serve as Assistant Director of Wildside Youth Ministries I about fell off my chair because Becky and Sonny had no idea I was already working with youth at my church or had taken a class to work with high risk youth.

God had clearly revealed His plan to me and everyone involved, but I had no way of knowing He was preparing me in advance for the ministry He was calling me to do.

What a mighty God we serve! He has taken a broken, lost soul and transformed her for His glory! The road I’m on is challenging and hard, but the rewards are many and God gives me the strength everyday to do the job He has called me to do and to lead others to His kingdom.”

We are so thankful and excited to have Michelle join our staff at The Hope Center. We are so proud of all she’s accomplished in her life and we look forward to seeing her wisdom and compassion reach so many children and their families for Christ in this new endeavor in her life. Please pray for Michelle, her family, and Wildside Youth as she starts this new chapter of her life and the beginning of her journey in full-time ministry.

Remember, God doesn’t just use those who we deem are perfect. He is a God of redemption, forgiveness and He loves to show how His power changes people. God doesn’t need perfect people to do His work. He needs willing people who are able to acknowledge their mistakes and allow Him to do a miraculous work in them. This is the story of hope. This is what we are about. We know that we serve a God who sees all of us, the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly and loves us unconditionally. He loves us enough to not only send His Son but to allow that perfect Man to die for us so that we might have the opportunity and power to change who we are.

This is why The Hope Center exists. It’s for the son who was lost to drugs. It’s for the mother trying to feed her children. It’s for the family dealing with heartache. It’s the child struggling with abandonment. The Hope Center exists because God is real and has a real plan for each and every one of us and He’s not willing to give up on us. And we’re not willing to give up either.

Michelle traveled a path that many people haven’t. But that path, through it’s dark valleys, was being watched over by a God who doesn’t miss a beat nor misses a step. Michelle, and so many others, serve as a living testament to how powerful and awesome our God truly is. And we are so thankful and fortunate to have her sharing her life and her personal experiences with the children and their families in our city.

Thank you to each of you who support our ministry of hope and change. Your donations, time, and, most importantly, your prayers have been changing lives and reaching thousands of people for Christ for over 60 years. Thank you for supporting us and showing God’s love to all of Hagerstown.

To learn how you can support our ministry, or just learn more about the work that we’re doing in the heart of Hagerstown please visit http://www.hagerstownhopecenter.com. And if you’re interested in learning more about our youth ministry where Michelle is serving please go to http://www.wildsideyouth.com. To learn more about volunteer opportunities please visit http://www.volunteerhagerstown.com. Ok, so that’s a lot of http://www.com’s…but we’re genuinely thankful for your support through the years. You help us bring hope to so many.  And because of your support we’re still here, more than 60 years later, to help anyone and everyone who is ready for a fresh start or a new chapter. To God be the glory!

My, My What a Spring It Was!

Summer has officially arrived! We love those long, hazy and hot days of summer. The smell of grilling out, the taste of a cold glass of lemonade and the chance to cool off by taking a dip in the pool are some of the things we like the best about this season. But we also love hosting hundreds of kids each summer at Camp Wild, our free summer day camp for kids in Hagerstown.

But before we kickoff Camp Wild season at The Hope Center, we want to take a moment to look back at Spring 2017.

From our 3rd annual Rock the Run 5k, to Easter celebrations, to Soup Line parties and more, our spring was loaded with activities.

We started celebrating random “National Holidays” with our Soup Line guests. On any given day we would include our guests in a “holiday” of sorts which could include prizes and a themed meal. There’s so much negativity and hurt in the world today so we wanted to have some fun with our guests and bring smiles to their faces as they celebrate such days as Oreo Day, Strawberry Day and, of course, St. Patrick’s Day.

But of all the springtime celebrations, of course nothing can compare to the importance of Easter. And this Easter we had so much going on! We hosted everything from a Wildside Youth party complete with a huge Easter Egg Hunt, to our Auxiliary bake sale, Easter celebration with our staff, residents and guests and an Easter cantata performance by the choir from Maranatha Brethren Church with a delicious meal too! Easter is obviously so important to our ministry because it is the basis for the change and hope that we offer at The Hope Center. The power of Christ’s resurrection is what makes all this change possible. So we make sure that our residents and guests understand how important this celebration is to the power of hope.

As soon as Easter was over we were tying our running shoes for our 3rd annual Rock the Run: A Race for Hope presented by Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe. Each year our race gets better and better as we see so many new faces. But with all the new faces, we’re so thrilled to see so many participants returning to support The Hope Center. From our sponsors, to our volunteers and participants, our race this year was an overwhelming success! And we’ll be hosting it again in April, 2018 so plan to join us. Learn more about the race at http://www.rocktherunhagerstown.com.

And just this past weekend the awesome folks at Germantown Church of God hosted our residents for an evening of fellowship and great food! The people at the church have been hosting this picnic for years upon years and it’s an activity that our men genuinely love. We were so thrilled to have some of our staff join our men as we mixed and mingled with the people from Germantown Church of God. In fact, our very own Sue (she’s the voice you hear every time you call The Hope Center) is wife to Mark, the pastor of Germantown Church of God. We’re so thankful that the church continues to provide this evening of relaxation and fellowship for our men.

So as we bid farewell to yet another spring, we excitedly look forward to what God has in store for this summer. Camp Wild is just weeks away and things here are focused on making sure that our campers have another safe, fun and action-packed experience this year. Keep up-to-date on Camp Wild by visiting http://www.campwildusa.com. If you’re interested in volunteering or donating supplies for Camp Wild 2017 then call us at 301.739.1165.

We want to thank each of you who have prayed for us, supported us and volunteered with us thus far in 2017. We couldn’t do all that we do without the loving support of each of you. Your gifts, time and talents do not go unnoticed by our staff or our Heavenly Father. Thank you for caring and sharing and investing so much in the lives of so many! We look forward to all the great things in store for the rest of the year!

If you would like to learn more about all the different ways that The Hope Center is working in our area then go to http://www.hagerstownhopecenter.com. Thinking about volunteering? Great! We’ve got the information you need at http://www.volunteerhagerstown.com.

 

Rock the Run 5K: Volunteers Needed!

In just a few short days we’ll be hosting our 3rd annual Rock the Run: A Race for Hope at Fairgrounds Park in Hagerstown.

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There’s still time to register if you are interested in participating as a runner or walker. But if you’d like to be a part of our 5K but don’t want to run the course then why not consider being a volunteer?

We are still looking for volunteers to help us on the morning of April 22nd. Go to http://www.rocktherunhagerstown.com to learn more about the race. If you would like to sign up as a volunteer then please call 301.739.1165 or email hagerstownrescue@verizon.net as soon as possible.

 

Country Ham Sandwich Sale: Order Now!

It’s that time of year again! No, we’re not just talking about the first sight of robins and pink trees and the Girl Scouts peddling those amazing cookies. It’s time for our Ladies’ Auxiliary spring country ham sandwich sale!

With the arrival of daffodils comes the arrival of those delicious country ham sandwiches that are sure to brighten any dreary spring day!

ham-sandwich-springFor just $3 each, these ham sandwiches not only satisfy your taste buds but they also help to sponsor much needed equipment and various activities at The Hope Center.

The proceeds from the sale of the sandwiches goes towards the different ministries and programs at The Hope Center. From helping to fund Camp Wild this summer, to hosting parties and events for our residents, as well as purchasing much needed specialty items, The Ladies’ Auxiliary helps to keep our facility operating and free of charge for all of our guests. It’s really amazing what a sandwich can do!

Our Auxiliary is taking orders for the country ham sandwiches now until March 18th. Sandwiches will be ready for pick-up on March 24th at our Administrative Offices between 8:30am – 5pm.

To place orders please call 301.790.3843 or 301.739.1165. Spread the word to your family, friends, church, civic group or co-workers…they’ll thank you for the tip! Order today!