From the Director, May 2015

From The Director, May 2015

Dear Friends,

Grace in Action is small but awesome. When David came up against Goliath he had a few stones, faith and a mighty God. As a nonprofit we are very much like that young
boy – facing huge challenges with little more than a director, two dozen dedicated volunteers and some faithful donors. Facing homelessness can be overwhelming and seem insurmountable. It is like confronting a giant, but we have a God who does not leave us alone in the battle. He does amazing work through His humble servants and reveals small and large miracles often. Many times when a guest has given up hope of ever changing their life’s direction, God can step in and show us that through Christ all things are possible.

We live in a community overflowing with material abundance, but too often spiritual destitution. Many charities offer a meal or short-term relief from life on the streets. At Grace in Action, in addition to providing food and other services, we see our guests as sons and daughters of a loving Father in need of His grace and love. With each interaction, we seek to be His hands and feet. We work to show them who they are in God’s eyes, loved and treasured and worthy of more.

Grace in Action’s director and volunteers take time to sit with our guests and to get to know them as individuals with unique stories. Trust develops as we walk alongside these men and women who are facing difficult challenges.

Recently there has been a growing focus on the foster care system and the collateral damage caused by broken families. Statistics are bleak for youth raised in foster care. One in five individuals over eighteen will become homeless. We work with a number of individuals who grew up here in Davis as foster children and now are homeless. Some of those individuals have children and sadly their children are now in the foster care system. We need your help to assist those who are trapped in cycles of systemic oppression. God’s love leads to transformation and a new identity. Grace in Action is more than a place to get lunch. Our guests find a healthy community where basic needs are met and love and acceptance abounds.

It is with thanksgiving that I pray for continued blessings for Grace in Action. Please join us in supporting this exciting, essential local ministry. God multiplies every gift of time, energy, in kind donation and money. Together we will continue to battle giants.

In His Name,
Mary Lou Rossetto
Director, Grace in Action

Grace in Action Summer Ministry Update 2014

The members of the Grace in Action Board of Directors would like to share exciting updates about this ministry with you. We also have new ways you can learn about our activities through published interviews with our Ministry Director, Mary Lou Rossetto. Enjoy reading the updates, and click on the links below. Also, please let us know if you would like more information about how you, too, can be involved.

  • Our laundry ministry has been a huge success, with vouchers given to some guests each month to clean their clothes and other belongings. Your donations and a grant from Soroptimist International of Davis fund this ministry, along with the generosity of the Laundry Lounge.
  • Several guests have benefited from the services of a local optometrist who provides eye examinations and glasses at a reduced rate paid by Grace in Action thanks to the support of our partner churches and individual donors.
  • Donations to Grace in Action allow guests in need of clothing to go shopping with the director at local thrift stores.
  • Some guests who have stepped away from homelessness and into jobs and housing continue to visit Grace in Action to encourage others.
  • You might enjoy watching Mary Lou during an interview with Davis Community Television at the following link: http://dctv.davismedia.org/content/studio-grace-action
  • University Covenant Church produced an interview called Mary Lou & Grace in Action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lN_TqOL0K2c
  • Recently a guest was given several nights in a clean motel room while recovering from a hospital stay, thanks to funds from a grant from St. Martin’s Episcopal Church and emergency funds from other churches.

Thank you for your continued interest in Grace in Action as we strive to reach out to those without shelter and basic needs.

From the Director, November 2014

Dear Friends of Grace in Action,

During this Thanksgiving season, we are so grateful for God’s provision for this ministry and for your part in helping those who are facing difficulties. I’d like to share with you a glimpse into a “typical” day at Grace in Action.

As the day begins, volunteers come to the host church site to prepare for our guests. The volunteers represent many churches in Davis but we all have a common goal- to feed the bodies and souls of those struggling with homelessness and to provide a place of rest and respite. After coffee is made and the tablecloths are laid out, we gather to pray. We praise God for His goodness and for His love and thank Him for His blessings: for a place to gather, for food, for dedicated volunteers and supporters and for changed lives for many of our guests. After saying “Amen”, we put out the purple and white sign letting folks know we are open. We provide a warm welcome and the love of Christ to each person entering the door. Everyone is greeted by name and invited to sit at the long tables to eat. There are smiles as we take time to sit and talk with each individual.

New volunteers are often surprised by the pleasant atmosphere at lunchtime where there is acceptance and community. Besides getting a hearty lunch, guests may get a new pair of socks, a bus ticket to access services in Woodland or a voucher to do their laundry at the local laundromat. Other services our guests may receive are haircuts, legal aid and appointments for optometric care. I meet with individuals to help them with referrals or arrange to meet with them on another day to help them with specific needs.

A man who is a veteran shares that he is extremely grateful for Grace in Action because he feels loved and knows that people care about him. During the last few months he has shared his hopes and dreams, triumphs and struggles. We provided for some of his practical needs- clothing, a tarp and comfortable, size 13, double-wide shoes. He says living without shelter has been incredibly tough but that we have helped him survive. He explains that we gave him more than “things”; we gave him a place to feel comfortable and belong.

It is through our service that we see the depth of God’s love not only for us but also for those who are on the margins of society. Whether you are a donor, a lunch maker, a pie baker, a soup chef, or a minister of hospitality, every contribution (great or small) is important and we are very thankful.

With an overflowing heart,
Happy Thanksgiving,
Mary Lou Rossetto

From the Director, March 2014

Dear Friends:

I have been contemplating the words to one of my favorite songs by Mercy Me: I Can Only Imagine.  It says “You are beautiful in His eyes.” I dream of a world where people know that they are truly loved and are able to extend love to others.

Recently I drove by a thin woman carrying heavy bags. She limped as she trudged up an overpass.  I recognized her as a Grace in Action guest who had previously shared her struggles with me.  When I first met her, I wondered how she had become homeless, when she has a master’s degree and has taught at a local college.  Those with mental illness often don’t realize their need for services and those over 18 may refuse treatment.

I pulled into a parking lot and tried to flag her down.  She cowered and continued talking to herself as she attempted to avoid me.  I called out her name and she looked up, recognized me and smiled.  She greeted me by name and gave me a warm hug.  We chatted for a while and I told her I had a pair of tennis shoes her size.  The ratty shoes on her feet had huge holes in the bottoms.  She explained that bunions were causing her pain but that she had to keep walking because she didn’t have anywhere to go.  Someone had thrown away her sleeping bag that she had carefully put in a plastic bag and hidden in the bushes.  I gave her a tarp and sleeping bag to keep her warm and dry during the impending storm.  She shared her dream of going back into teaching and also her fear of going to the temporary winter shelter.  Because she had a trusting relationship with me, I was able to encourage her to get temporary shelter the following week.  How many people pass by her when they see her disheveled, dirty clothes and notice that she has not showered?  This beautiful woman who is struggling with mental illness is vulnerable and is not able to advocate for herself.  When she comes to Grace in Action she is valued and loved.

People often distance themselves from someone who appears to be homeless or is exhibiting signs of mental illness because they don’t know how to help.   Grace in Action strives to be a caring community that reaches out to those struggling with mental illness as well as those who are without shelter and basic needs.  We want to continue to reach out to those unable to access the resources that are available.  Through our lunch program, laundry ministry, referrals, and other services, Grace in Action is able to develop trusting relationships so we can assist in reintegrating people back into the community.  We are being moved to action to serve those who are often ignored!

Thank you for joining with us through your financial support, your gifts of hearty sandwiches, and your gifts of time through volunteering in this ministry.  Thank you for joining in this important work of giving compassionate care to lonely, broken children of God.

With gratitude and blessings,

Mary Lou Rossetto,

Grace in Action Director

From The Director, November 2013

November 2013

It’s no coincidence. God is connecting the dots of His plan.

Who is my brother or sister? How can we love those who are alienated, isolated, unloved, unseen and avoided? Who in our community are “the least of these?” My heart breaks for those who suffer from mental illness, are homeless and aren’t accessing available resources. One woman facing these circumstances is named “Sue” (name changed). Sue has yet to access our lunch program, legal aid services, or Bible studies. I keep praying for opportunities to make meaningful contact with her and for doors to be opened to better her circumstances.

Each Tuesday I do outreach to homeless individuals in town for several hours. Greeting people by name and caring about them lifts their spirits. It’s an opportunity to visit with folks and get to know them better. Recently, I saw Sue sitting on a cement bench downtown. She was wrapped in a dirty, grey blanket, with bare legs showing and only sandals on her feet – despite 60-degree temperatures. Sitting next to her was another woman who was warmly dressed in a blue sweater. As I watched, I could see that they were deep in conversation. My heart leapt with joy because I knew someone had made a connection with Sue. I knew God was at work! Someone in our community was connecting with this person who had consistently shunned assistance. I did not want to interrupt their conversation, so I placed a jacket, rain poncho and some basic toiletries on a bench nearby in hopes that Sue would take the items. As I left I said a prayer for Sue and the other woman. I would probably never know that other woman, but I prayed for her.

After talking with several other homeless individuals, I drove my outreach assistant back to the church where he had parked his car. I reflected on the past two days. Because of Grace in Action an elderly man got a tarp to keep his sleeping bag dry. A couple was able to wash their clothes for the first time in months at a local Laundromat, thanks to our Laundry Ministry. Hand warmers were distributed to help keep men sleeping outside more comfortable. Bus tickets helped guests get to appointments. “Gifts” like these were possible because of donations to Grace in Action. When I give out these items I often get something in return – smiles, hugs, thanks and tears of gratefulness. It is important to continue to develop relationships with folks who are homeless, to offer God’s love and hope, and to connect folks in community.

After waving good-bye to my outreach volunteer, I looked across the parking lot. Who was walking in front of me? The lovely woman in the blue sweater who had been sitting with Sue! I ran after her and introduced myself. I explained to her that I’d seen her sitting with Sue, and told her about the Grace in Action ministry. She said she was a psychiatric nurse and was a member of a Davis church. She expressed concern about the plight of people like Sue, and she shared that her heart also breaks for our most needy neighbors. We exchanged phone numbers and vowed to keep in touch. What might develop out of this relationship? I’m excited to find out.

What are the chances that I would see this lady and run into her again across town on the same day? Coincidence…? A wise Christian woman I know told me to look for dots to connect as I do God’s work. I thanked God for connecting the dots of His plan. God continues to bring people together to demonstrate His love. Thank you for supporting Grace in Action with financial help, in-kind donations and your time. You are blessing individuals each day, and for that I am extremely thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Mary Lou Rossetto, Director

A Note from the Director

Recently I received a present that I will always treasure. With calloused hands, a dear man who is homeless gave me a salvaged, plastic sign. He said we should post it at Grace in Action because it explained what we do. On it were written the words “spirit, body and soul spa. I met this man several years ago, and he was often inebriated. Since then he has curbed his drinking, attends Bible studies at Grace in Action and shares his faith with other homeless individuals. As we continue to walk patiently beside him, we pray that a path will become clear for him to leave homelessness. God calls all of us at Grace in Action to provide a place for the weary to come for rest and respite.

What a joy it is to partner with you in ministry! Since my arrival in Davis in 1976 to attend UCD, God has been molding and shaping me, but I could not have envisioned where He would lead me as I sought His will for my life. I prayerfully asked God for wisdom, and He made it clear that I needed to humble myself to do what others might be unwilling to do. Cleaning toilets at Grace House was the message I received. I thought, “Really, Lord? You want me to clean toilets for homeless folks?” I called the phone number for Grace in Action and volunteered. I did clean the toilet, but it wasn’t long before I was shadowing the director, Cindy Burger, to allow her more time to assist individuals. When she had a day off, I would fill in for her. When she retired I took over as the Interim Director and then accepted the position of Director. I feel blessed to be part of the Lord’s work through this ministry.

There are life changes occurring at Grace in Action. God is “doing a new thing” in the lives of many people. It is through caring relationships that we see these changes. Guests at Grace in Action know they can come to us for much more than food in their stomachs. Besides a welcoming place, they are given loving care, hope, conversation, prayer, encouragement and Bible study if they desire.

Recently I met with a man, a truck driver by trade, who shared some of his life story with me. When he had a minor stroke, he lost his job and eventually his house. He was in great despair and could not believe he was homeless. It took several weeks before he could take any steps to get back on his feet. Now he is temporarily housed, doing volunteer work and has begun working part time in a local store. Recently I noticed he was quieter than usual and wasn’t eating. I asked how he was doing, and he shared that he had an abscessed tooth. His jaw was obviously swollen, and he was in terrible pain. The next morning I helped him get dental care. After the appointment, he expressed concern about how he would pay for antibiotics, and I assured him that Grace in Action would assist him. He is incredibly grateful for the assistance and acceptance he receives.

Another child of God who is part of the Grace in Action family spent all winter sleeping in her car. She did not qualify for any shelter options because she had a small dog. She had lost her job and faced mental health challenges. We loved, assisted and encouraged her through some rough times. Recently we shared hugs and tears when she announced she would finally have a home. God is blessing all of us!

While some of us are in direct service with our homeless guests, individuals and church partners also support us through prayer, providing lunches, in-kind donations and financial gifts. Each contribution is important to sustain this ministry. Whatever you are able to provide, I want to offer a heartfelt, “Thank you.” I love partnering with God and you to nourish spirits, bodies and souls!

Mary Lou Rossetto

Director, Grace in Action

 

Unless a Grain of Wheat

I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24

Dear Friends,

I have been deeply honored to serve God and our homeless community for the past twelve years through the work and ministry of Grace in Action. It would take volumes of books to express the lessons I’ve learned, the love I’ve received and the amazing stories of grace that God has shared with me through the life experiences of our beloved homeless friends.

After much prayer and discernment, I have decided to resign as Director of Grace in Action at the end of this month. The heart and passion of Grace in Action is to follow God and to share God’s grace with those who are most in need of it…those who are feeling hopeless and lost and struggling to survive. Because God has planted that passion, I know the Board of Directors will select leadership that continues to offer the shelter of God’s hope and love in our homeless community.

John 12:24 expresses where God is calling me now. It also, speaks to where I believe God is moving this ministry. In context, verse 23 says, The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. It is time for the work and mission of Grace in Action to shine even more for the glory of God! It is time again for new growth, for the production of many seeds.

Our recent transition has prepared the ground for new growth. It has also provided an opportunity for me to step aside to make room for new leadership. I have known since the beginning of this ministry in December 2000, that God had me here for a purpose and yet, only for a season. I have felt much peace in God’s new direction, although the specifics and details of my life are yet unknown. As I have prayed and tried to listen carefully to God’s call, Ecclesiastes 3 has been in my heart and spirit in recent months.

There is time for everything and season for every activity under heaven: A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and time to uproot.

God is calling me to a place of rest and renewal. It has been a rewarding twelve years, but also long and sometimes painful. There were times when I was more than ready to wave the white flag and tell God I was done, but God said “Not yet!” Today though, as God has created new opportunities for this ministry and our guests, He has encouraged me to slow down. Today our Gracious Creator has prepared new ground for the growth of many seeds and it’s time for me to rest and watch them grow.

Our Board of Directors are amazingly faithful individuals who have a true heart for God and the ability to make wise choices through spiritual discernment. They have stood firm in their faith and service and are prepared to find God’s BEST in new leadership for Grace in Action. I’m excited to see where God takes this ministry next!

John 12:26 says,

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

It is my deepest desire to follow our Lord and today He is saying, “Follow me.” I don’t know where I will end up exactly, but I know His voice. I know He has blessed me with twelve wonderful years of ministry and I know He now wants to restore, refresh and renew His servant.

Thank you for your faithful support of this ministry over the past twelve years and for your continued support in the years to come.

Cindy

 

Leaving Our Comfort Zone

A favorite pair of old tennis shoes, a well worn stuffed chair in front of the TV, or that old baseball cap that has seen better days. All of these things are old and comfortable! But in the Christian life, God often asks us to leave our comfort zones. God calls us to be open to the new thing He is doing.

Remaining “comfortable” and growing in the Spirit, don’t always go together. Spiritual growth calls each of us to let go of the old and open ourselves to the new thing that God is doing. Staying the way we are, not risking the courageous step of healing, can be much more comfortable!

When Jesus learned of the man who had been an invalid for 38 years, (see John 5) he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” The response from the man was “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

Many guests have come through the doors of Grace House and we are grateful to DCC for that place of hospitality since 2004. Today though, God is again doing something new in the ministry of Grace in Action! New doors are opening as partner churches help fulfill the mission that we have been working toward for the past three years. We are excited about expanded partner collaboration and faithfully carrying out God’s call to better equip the churches to serve the poor and marginalized in our community.

As Grace in Action endeavors to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are once again asking, “Where is God already at work in this ministry, and how can we join God there? (See Experiencing God by Blackaby and King. )

More of our guests are seeking individual assistance in order to leave their homeless way of life. Former guests who are now housed, want fellowship time and Bible Study offered in their own neighborhoods. In other words, they are saying that they WANT to pick up their mat and walk! Yes, there are still those who are comfortable remaining homeless. Some of them have no interest in leaving their comfort zone. “The old way is just fine,” they say.

I believe that Jesus could have healed the man by the pool without asking him if he wanted to get well. But He asked the question anyway. I believe he asked the question because Jesus needed to know that the man was “invested” in his own healing! Jesus needed to know that he really wanted to get well, to change his life, to turn around and go a new direction (repent) in order to become free from bondage.

Now is the time to let go of the comfortable and make room for the NEW thing that God has prepared for His Beloved Children. Our new program schedule is that new thing!  I encourage you to check our website on a regular basis for updates and read New News in the sidebar of this newsletter for more details. Please note that spiritual direction, guest services, and snacks will continue to be available to our guests.

God is on the move and since we seek to follow Him, so is the ministry of Grace in Action! Praise God! We value your ongoing support and prayers as we move into new territory.

With gratitude for your prayers and support,

Cindy Burger

Program and Spiritual Director

Growing Hope

Dear Friends,

 

Quietly and reverently, a former marine struggling with homelessness has planted a variety of cactus plants in pots in the back yard of Grace House. I don’t suppose there was any way for him to know that beneath the cold, damp soil of his newly planted cactus, a daffodil was growing.

One day as I was cleaning the memorial bricks with printed names now faded with passing time, I saw it! There in the middle of the cactus grew a daffodil! God spoke to my heart in that image. The hard and sharp beside the beautiful…the prickly and painful right there next to the soft and vulnerable. The image of those two plants growing together toward the light reminded me of our homeless guests who come to Grace House for spiritual companionship, rest and respite, and compassionate care. God’s message of hope was clear. No matter how difficult or painful this life may be, there is always new life and hope!

The reminder of hope comes to our guests through the smile on Karen’s face as she greets them and lovingly cuts their hair. The reminder of hope is in every donated sandwich and cup of coffee served on a cold and blustery day. The possibility of new life and hope is celebrated each month as we recognize their birthdays with cards, and a birthday cake baked and decorated by the Random Acts of Kindness Club at Davis High School.

Our guests are reminded of hope when they experience a sense of advocacy and support from Northern California Legal Aid attorneys. Hope grows as their wounds, both emotional and physical, are soothed by the counseling intern Karen from CommuniCare, and our volunteer nurse Karla from St. James Church. And each Wednesday Minister of Hospitality Hazel shares hope during fellowship time. New life is made tangible through sacred communion served on the third Wednesday of each month by Rev. Scott Wieking from First Baptist Church. Each day our guests are welcomed and gathered in with love and care by Mary Lou, our volunteer Compassion Minister, and the faithful Ministers of Hospitality from various congregations.

No matter how many times our guests may bump against the sharp edges of the pain and struggle of homelessness, the beauty of God’s shelter of hope and love is very much alive and growing here! Your prayers, support, and participation in God’s ministry through Grace in Action…..GROWS HOPE! For that, we are immensely grateful!

On behalf of our homeless guests, our Ministers of Hospitality, many dedicated volunteers and the Grace in Action Board of Directors, I humbly thank you for your support.

Cindy Burger

Program and Spiritual Director

More than Bread

I pray you are blessed and warm as you gather with family and friends this Christmas Season. I also pray you will take a moment to consider those who are homeless, cold and hungry.

Grace in Action is a faith based community ministry offering spiritual companionship, rest and respite and helping referrals to our homeless guests. We offer both physical food and spiritual food to those who are hungry in Yolo County. Our “ministry of presence” offers our homeless guests the bread that feeds the spirit. More than anything else, our guests are hungry for love, compassion, and acceptance.

This hunger was most evident to me on one of our recent outreach days. In addition to our open days at Grace House, we provide outreach on Tuesdays to homeless guests who may not be able to access our resources. One Tuesday, I came upon a homeless man who seemed beaten down by weather and hard times. As I approached him, I took his hands in mine and warmly greeted him. I was surprised by his response. He seemed to gasp as he said, “Oh!” and started to pull away from me. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the reason for his behavior.

The shelter staff member partnering with me that day informed me the man had a contagious skin disorder. Suddenly I realized why he had been so startled when I took his hands in mine. He had not been greeted warmly like that in a very long time! It was then that I recalled the story of Jesus touching the leper as he heard the echo of voices around Him, “Unclean! Unclean!” By God’s amazing grace, I was not worried or concerned in any way after I greeted this man. Instead, I felt the deep longing of a man who hungered for the kind of bread Jesus spoke of.

My homeless friend wasn’t hungry for turkey or dressing or warm pumpkin pie. No, he was hungry for love, acceptance and compassion. He was hungry for the kind of bread Jesus instructed His disciples to serve on that crowded hillside when He said, “YOU give them something to eat.” I believe Jesus was telling His disciples to feed the hungry crowd more than bread. Jesus wanted them to be fed by Love.

My visit with this homeless man reminded me how often our guests are called “unclean” as they are shunned and ignored by society. Today, just as long ago on that crowded hillside, many are gathered around us who are hungry for more than bread.

Yes, Grace in Action provides our homeless guests with physical food prepared and served by faithful volunteers. But we feed them more. We remind them they are loved. We touch and greet the people society considers unclean. We welcome those struggling with the disease of addiction, we lift up the discouraged and downhearted and we gather the weary into a warm place of rest…and together, we feast at the table of God’s Love.

We are grateful for your prayers, partnership and support of the ministry of Grace in Action.