Portland Rescue Mission overnight staff serves as ‘light’ and ‘shield’

IMG_9267The night hours are some of the hardest for an addict. And at Portland Rescue Mission, our Night Ministry team sees this firsthand. Serving as both a light and a shield, Night Ministry faithfully intercedes as they provide a safe presence for the men and women in desperate need for shelter and healing.

At both the Burnside Shelter and Shepherd’s Door, Night Ministry embodies both grace and truth as they care for our guests and participants with the strength of Jesus Christ. Keeping watch over their facilities, they respond to emergencies, secure the buildings, assist in the needs of participants, file documents, conduct drug test samples and record events during the nights. They’ve also been spit on, yelled at, cried on, talked to, prayed with, and everything in between.

“Many women suffer from nightmares, especially in the IMG_9278earlier phase of their program, as they try to relinquish their past,” said Christine Ourada, Director of Women and Children’s Ministry. As a result, she says the overnight staff, in particular, bring “a calming influence” by making themselves available to pray with the women, provide a cup of tea, and if needed, listen.

Downtown at the Burnside Shelter, the lobby is open to guests off the street throughout the night. One of the main priorities of the Night Ministry Team is to simply look a guest in the eye and talk with them.

“Just having a nice, kind heart available to them can offer our guests hope,” Night Ministry staff member Joshua Fleming said. “They can get very discouraged–especially since no one out there wants to look them in the eye. No one wants to be honest and genuine with them about the issues in their life…We don’t ignore them. We don’t ignore those issues.

“There are people that walk through the door, absolutely broken, and in need of prayer.”

Joshua went on to explain a time when he experienced this firsthand.

Once, when tending the wounds of a man who had just gotten in a fight with his brother, he ended up having a very significant conversation with the man. “I was finally able to talk to him about how I can have peace in a situation where somebody is trying to attack me and I can still be forgiving to somebody like that,” he explained. Eventually, “I got to talk to him about intimate matters like his family struggles and we were able to pray together.”

Joel Flores, another Night Ministry staff member, elaborated on one of the team’s main purposes. “We want to be the bridge between bringing people in, bringing them to a safe place to where they feel comfortable,” he said. Which means, “offering that hand, or sense of hope and encouragement.”

At Shepherd’s Door, a locked, secured facility, Growth Support Staff Member Mary Nguyen said, “In my experience, it’s very rare that somebody doesn’t get up [at night]. Their minds race, sometimes surrounding court dates or other things going on in their lives, or just because of the intensity of what they’re learning and processing in classes.” Other times mothers will be up with sick kids and needing support or medicine.

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Mary serves overnight at Shepherd’s Door and is available to listen, talk and pray with the women during the night.

“One of my favorite moments was when one of the residents woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t sleep,” Mary described. With worship music playing in the background, one of the gals came out with a blanket and snuggled next to her with a blanket. “I was l already sitting on the couch in the lounge reading my Bible, and she ended up falling asleep on the couch right next to me for the rest of the morning.”

“Each night is different,” said Joshua. “Summertime is a lot of sitting in that office and talking relationally with people about whatever happens in their life.” (Joshua will come in to Burnside at the end of a dinner service on the weekends when men and women are preparing for bed). “It’s just relationally checking on the men and women in the program and making sure they are here on time for their curfew.”

As part of his role, Joshua functions as a “shield” for the other guests in the building. “If there’s someone who is intoxicated who comes in, we have to ask them to leave,” he said. “That is a very relational, pastoral conversation … because we are interested in keeping this place safe and calm for everybody.”

At Shepherd’s Door, Mary often doesn’t start her shift until after the women are in bed.

“I typically will walk the building to make sure that everything is secure,” she said. “That’s number one, the security of everybody.”

But as her title describes, Mary also serves as “growth support.”

“We’re the eyes and ears, not just for the women and children, but for the staff.”

In a night, Mary might fill personal care bags with shampoo and conditioner for the women, or read through prayer requests from the gals from the prayer box.

“We open those up and we pray over them and we walk up and down the halls,” she said. “I see God answer prayers and I see Him move.”

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Joshua and Joel, both on the Burnside overnight team, assist guests coming in off the street during all hours of the night.

“This is a job that’s going to stretch you,” Joshua said. “It’s going to grow your character in Christ, it’s going to make you wrestle through some spiritual issues. … You’re going to be challenged. And if you’re just here because you want to be able to say I work for a non-profit, or you’re here because you want to say I work in ministry, you’re going to have to find another motivation, or maybe another job.

“On the other side of that, this job, if you are someone who is serious about their faith, who is serious about going deeper in your relationship in Christ, and [discovering] what ministry is about, there is nothing more fulfilling. … I’ve never had a job that’s grown me as an individual this much.”

Portland Rescue Mission currently has an opening for a Growth Support Staff Member at Shepherd’s Door. Hours vary, but they generally evenings and nights.