I’m sitting down to write this and find myself distracted by the world outside our window. After two weeks away from Michigan, the world is full of new. Flowers are pushing up through the soil to be nourished by the spring rains and warm sunshine, returned birds chatter away … hope after a long and cold winter. It dawns on me that, no matter what we are called to celebrate, Passover, Easter or Spring Equinox, it really is about hope; freedom after such long captivity, forgiveness and the promise of new life - radical and hardnosed hope.
I realize this is why I do this work. This is what MISSION and the Mercy Houses mean to me - radical hope.
I think about the warming center MISSION ran this winter in partnership with faith communities and the Shelter Association. The day time warming center was conceived and run by the community for the community; a democratically self-governed space that helped 123 people stay safe, warm and dry on our busiest days and brought together homeless and homeful people in community such that, as more than one volunteer from the churches expressed, “I don’t know who is homeless and who is here to volunteer.” Hope.
I think about the friends who stayed nights on our couch detoxing, struggling to kick addiction as others from the homeless community offer the support of a warm blanket, cool drink of water, and most importantly a listening ear and supportive presence. I remember the words of one woman who recently celebrated 30 days of sobriety as she sat with us, sick as a dog, laughing. “I have never felt so awful, or been so happy.” Hope.
I think of our recent experience at Ann Arbor city council in support of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). A room packed full of supporters, 7 out of 8 public comment spots filled with speakers in favor of ADU’s and a recent MLive article letting us know our voices were heard: "In keeping with the council's priorities, the proposed general fund budget for the next fiscal year includes $25,000 to hire a consultant to help draft zoning changes that could result in allowing accessory dwelling units in single-family neighborhoods." Hope.
I think of a member of our community who, after years of bitter estrangement from his biological family, reconnected – inspired, he tells me, by the family we created here. Hope.
I think of another friend who spent the winter living at the shelter, helping us cook breakfast for the homeless community on Saturdays. While living in the shelter, she craved the simple ability to cook a meal with and for others. She is now in transitional housing and working. On a recent Saturday, she took a vacation day from work, to make Saturday breakfast for us on her birthday. When she returned to Mercy House after some weeks away, she almost cried, her memories of cooking for grateful and appreciative friends nearly overwhelming her. She had her best birthday in decades, lovingly cooking a beautiful meal for our homeless friends, helping create community.
I also think of our long term goals for the house and property on Stone School Road, a fully functioning house of hospitality, with a beautiful and eco-friendly tiny house community. Even before the dream is fully a reality, I am aware of the number of friends who visit the house to do laundry, take a shower, connect with community; who find hope in what is happening there.
And I think of you. Each of you. Your gifts of time, talent and treasure are literally what keep us going. You keep the lights on, the fridge stocked, the tents and sleeping bags available. You make it possible for 123 people to gather in a warming center to meet with agencies, support each other in friendship and eat healthy snacks while escaping below zero temperatures. You make it possible for our friends to make progress in their struggles against addiction, to reconnect with family, and to participate in a community that provides hope.
Hope is sustaining. Hope is power. Hope is needed. And you, with your contributions, provide hope. I am so very grateful.
As we look forward to the months ahead, we hope you will continue your support of MISSION with continued contributions. Winter was hard on the gear of those camping outside. That, combined with the seasonal closing of winter warming centers and rotational shelter, reminds me of the constant need for humanitarian aid items: tents, tarps, sleeping bags, rain gear etc. We also know that in 2015, the mortgage on Mercy House at Stone School will be due.
Will you donate this spring? Perhaps consider a donation in honor of mom for Mothers’ Day?
Whatever you can do, please know that I am grateful we are on this journey together. Grateful for your gifts of time, talent and treasure. Grateful for you.
Grateful and Hopeful.
With radical and hardnosed hope,
Sheri Wander, for the MISSION board
Please find enclosed my gift of: ____ $500; ____ $250; ____ $100: ____ $50; ____ $25
Checks can be made payable to MISSION and mailed to:
MISSION ℅ Vesta Smith Campbell
P.O. Box 8161, Ann Arbor, MI 48107