It started out like any other summer. After another school year came to a close, and most college students were headed home until the fall, one group’s summer vacation would remain on hold for at least three weeks. As part of Cru’s summer service projects, a group of students from around the country, none of whom had met before, were on their their way to Portland to serve individuals who are homeless and/or in recovery. And one of those lucky recipients was The Harbor, the Men’s New Life Ministry of Portland Rescue Mission.
Led by project leaders Amy Pavlish, and Matt McComas (leaders on the Campus and City teams of PDX Cru, respectively), a group of college students from Cru spent three weeks serving The Harbor. Tasks included doing landscaping, helping in the kitchen and even setting up for The Harbor’s second annual birthday party by hanging up pictures and handling other related décor tasks for the celebration. It was a busy time to be sure for the students, but it was also a very meaningful one that Matt said was designed to “help these students get a vision for making a difference, … loving people and bringing the Kingdom of God wherever they go.”
Lizzie Doster, a student from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, elaborated on PDX Cru’s vision. “We’ve really been learning how to love people, and how to talk with people to see where they’re at in their life,” she explained. “We’ve been learning a lot about what it means to be explorers in people’s lives, and discover their story instead of just talking about our own.
“So we’re getting a lot of opportunities to show love here at The Harbor, and not just through our words, but through our actions.”
In regards to homelessness and addiction recovery, PDX Cru’s experience at The Harbor also shattered any prior stereotypes the students might have had coming in.
“One of the best things our students have realized is that these men at The Harbor are just like them,” Amy said. “They may have taken a different life path up to this point, but at the end of the day, they struggle with the same things and they really aren’t that much different. I think that concept has been revolutionary for them. These are just regular guys that share similar things in their stories.”In other words, what might have came with certain stigmas and labels gave way to so much more. For Emily Accountius, a student from Bowling Green State University, her time spent at The Harbor was eye opening.
“Our conversations with the residents here have been phenomenal. They are a lot more different than I expected them to be,” she explained. “They’re so willing to be vulnerable and tell their story, and they’re very humble. It’s been really cool to see the dynamic here. We’re on the same level with them, and they’re on the same level with us.”
More than anything, though, what the PDX Cru team found to be most exciting about their time at The Harbor, is just how fulfilling it is to join with what God is already doing. They are just happy they could come along, and hopefully provide some real value in the process.
“We recognize that we’re just a piece of the puzzle of what God’s doing across the city,” Matt emphasized. “For us to have the opportunity to partner with places like The Harbor and Portland Rescue Mission is great for us.”
And Amy agreed, “These students will graduate and they’ll go on to be doctors, teachers, social workers, and all kinds of other full-time vocations,” she said. “And experiences like this give them a great picture of how they too can bring the hope and healing of Christ and the Gospel to wherever God sends them in the world—if they have eyes to see how He’s already moving.”
The Harbor houses up 46 men in northeast Portland, and it’s part of our New Life Ministries along with Shepherd’s Door (also in northeast Portland). If you or your church or business is interested volunteering too, you can apply to do so at PortlandRescueMission.org/Volunteer.