November 2017 Update

Dear Friends,

Grace and peace to you. As we approach the season of Thanksgiving, please accept the thanks of the ministry team at Grace in Action. Your support makes it possible for us to be in ministry with those Jesus called “the least among us.” Thank you also for reading this letter and considering its appeal.

As my family and I have only lived in Davis a little over two years, I regularly meet people who ask what I do. When I describe my work with Grace in Action, reactions vary. Conversations reflect the mix of feelings and concerns people have about the poor and the homeless. So I spend a good deal of time reflecting on what our ministry does and why we do it, and I pray that future conversations about our work will provide openings for the Spirit’s activity.

It is understandable to wish there were no poor or homeless among us. It is perhaps harder to acknowledge “that person in need could be me or someone close to me.” It is more challenging yet, to experience spiritual kinship with those who appear so different.
The New Testament Epistle of James is often attributed to James the brother of Jesus. In the second chapter he notes our tendency to make judgments about the poor. He goes on to counsel us away from the trap of “judgment without mercy” and asserts that “mercy triumphs over judgment.” (NIV, 2:13)

Mercy is one way to interpret and experience grace. My aging copy of Webster’s Dictionary actually lists twenty-one definitions of grace including the one James calls mercy. Another understanding of grace influenced a favorite book of mine by Norman Maclean that became the film, “A River Runs through It.” One of the characters is an early 20th century Montana minister and fly fisherman (Maclean’s real-life father) who preached that by picking up God’s rhythms we can regain a state of grace or gracefulness. Such an understanding is a motivating factor in our ministry.

At Grace in Action we try to focus on the presence of God in all people whether or not they exhibit grace. Much of what we provide is basic. It takes the form of fellowship and food, transportation, legal assistance, clothing, blankets, bicycle repair, clean laundry and a place for supportive conversations and prayer. In these simple acts we hope people feel more physically comfortable. It is our intention that in being loved they will pick up God’s rhythms and experience more of that state of grace we believe to be God’s will for us all.

Thank you for your support. May God bless you and those who are dear to you, especially in this season of Thanksgiving.

In Christ,

Steve Smith

Grace in Action hires new Director

Grace in Action, a local Christian ministry dedicated to serving the homeless and marginalized people, has hired Davis resident Steve Smith to serve as its executive director. In this role, Smith oversees the program and supervises volunteers under the direction of the ministry’s board of directors.

“We are thrilled to welcome Steve to our team,” said Meg Harper, president of Grace in Action’s board of directors. “His desire to serve God by helping others combined with his extensive leadership experience makes him a great match for our mission.”

In 2007, Smith retired as a Presbyterian pastor after 27 years of service. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Ursinus College, a master’s in divinity from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, a doctor of ministry degree from McCormick Theological Seminary. He lives in Davis with his wife and sons.

“Grace in Action is another example of local community-based group that quietly goes about the work of creating community for some of the most disadvantaged members in our city,” Davis Mayor Robb Davis said.

“Grounded in a strong faith that teaches that broken lives can be made whole, they go about their work of creating a safe space for conversation, relationship building and access to services. Steve is a non-anxious presence with a wealth of experience in dealing with people of all walks of life. I am thankful he and this organization are part of our community.”

For more than a decade, Grace in Action has worked in partnership with local churches in Davis to serve the homeless or isolated. The team aims to build relationships with guests to encourage physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Smith and volunteers routinely seek out homeless people to offer help and services. In addition, guests are welcomed twice a week for a meal and referrals to supportive services.

 

Published in the Davis Enterprise on 8/28/16

http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/grace-in-action-hires-new-director/

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