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Mission nourishes bodies and spirits

December 25, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- Spending part of Christmas at the Hagerstown Rescue Mission was a gift, said Matthew Robinson, the pastor of Mercersburg First Church of God in Pennsylvania.

"I love to see real Christian people," he said.

Robinson and other members of the church visited the mission on Thursday with enough of a Christmas meal to feed about 90 people -- turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, biscuits, cranberry and pie.

Robinson also brought a spiritual message. Quoting from the Book of Matthew, he said during a service that salvation is the greatest gift.

Together, congregants and mission residents sang "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Away in a Manger" and they prayed.

The mission's protocol is to have the evening service first, then dinner.

Sitting down with a plate of the church's bountiful meal, John Beach said he's been staying at the mission for nearly three months.

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He said "the discouragement of being in the world" led him there.

Starting at a young age, he said, he grew up accustomed to drinking, a lifestyle even Alcoholics Anonymous didn't stop.

He said he worked in the flooring business, but work dropped off and he wasn't able to pay his bills.

The mission has helped him change.

"I found hope. I kept coming ...," he said. "Things are just getting better and better.... This opportunity is teaching me what life is all about."

Matthew Biser said he had about six years of alcohol sobriety, then relapsed. But he said it's been different at the mission, where he works as a cook, has found God and is having better success at detoxification.

"This place is a blessing," he said.

Jim Heffington said he stayed at the mission for two years before getting his own place to live. He also met his wife, Melissa, there.

The couple dined at the mission on Thursday with their 13-month-old daughter, Madison.

"It's just a nice atmosphere," Jim Heffington said, counting about a dozen men eating dinner who he knows from time at the mission.

Army veteran Lester Smith said he hopes to find a local apartment he can afford after staying about 30 days at the mission, but he's not hopeful.

He said he's had heart and circulation problems and his knee and hip have been replaced; he'll need a first-floor apartment.

As the meal wound down, members of the church handed out scarves and bags of sweets.

Robinson said he and Rick Roche, an evening chaplain at the mission, were co-pastors at Mount Tabor Brethren in Christ Church in Mercersburg.

Robinson said he hopes to be back at the mission for other Christmas celebrations.

"We don't bless them," he said. "They bless us."

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