Carla Rodrigues, a residential aide at Miami Rescue Mission’s Center for Women and Children, walks a fine line between the practical part of her job–helping the homeless get off the street permanently–and her religious desire to help her clients find Jesus.
She wants the women and children who are full-time residents at the mission to turn around their lives, to find jobs and permanent homes. But she admits that she finds it “sad” when she cannot also bring them closer to Jesus.
“As long as you have God, at the end of the race you might not have anything on earth, but your treasure is in heaven,” Ms. Rodrigues told me when I visited the mission several weeks ago.
Some 240 homeless people live at the Miami Rescue Mission, immersed in an intense 16-to 20-month program that is part physical and psychological rehabilitation, part education in basic survival skills, and part what the mission calls a “discipleship” program.
Along with training comes a Jesus boot camp. Residents must attend prayer services and Bible sessions starting at 5:30 every morning.
And after they become stable, they are required to help out on the grounds of the mission or elsewhere in Miami for six months.
“Sometimes the only thing you can say to them is, ‘Will you just give God a chance to work in your life?” says Marilyn Brummitt, the mission’s director of community development.
The Miami Rescue Mission, which is financed through private sources, has two sister operations in Pompano Beach and Hollywood. Both of those receive about a third of their money from the state and local governments and therefore must shy away from including religion in their programs.
Their rehabilitation programs are essentially secularized versions of the Miami program. For instance, residents at the religious Miami Mission must accept eight principles of faith as part of their recovery, each of which is an acceptance of a different aspect of Jesus’s teachings. At the missions in Hollywood and Pompano Beach, the residences must accept principals related to living better lives. Both of the secular programs lack a Christian service component and both are considerably shorter–a year as opposed to nearly two years at Miami.
For some of the homeless, such as Dorothy Curry, the religious component is alluring. Ms. Curry, 60, has been in a nearby shelter since February and said she could not have gotten through the ordeal without God.
“I have been praying,” she said. “Everybody I meet in the shelters, they always talking about God. You have to sit on God when God take you places like this. There are reasons why he does that.”
The Miami Mission and the centers in Hollywood and Pompano Beach have graduated more than 150 of formerly homeless people from their programs during the past year, according to Casey Angel, the mission’s communications manager. And, he says, there is no difference in success rate between the religious and the secular programs.
So I put this to you for discussion: What do you think about social service groups evangelizing?