For decades, “soup, soap and salvation” was the general model for Gospel Rescue Missions like us. Even Al Capone was on board for the soup part, having opened a soup kitchen in Chicago in the 1930’s to “clean up his shady image.” And don’t forget Jesus, who broke bread a few times to feed the multitudes with a miracle meal.
In 2016, however, soup and soap isn’t enough when it comes to egregious drug use and mental health conditions running rampant all over the world.
For the past couple years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting some one-on-one time with our Life Change Academy graduates. In April, one of our graduates painted a vivid picture of what his drug addiction really looked like, as well as the impact it had on his family.
“So I’ve realized my addiction is just a symptom of what’s wrong with me. All of the other programs just taught me how to not use. They didn’t talk about pride, ego, shame or judgement. They didn’t talk about Jesus Christ.”
In February, another graduate opened up similarly: “When I found out it [Academy] was faith-based, I had a plan to fake it to make it and that just doesn’t happen here. I see families being reunited, I’ve seen kids being reunited with their parents. I’ve got one year of sobriety and I could have never done that on my own.”The feedback we get like this continues for all of our graduates and it’s become perfectly clear — our guests need more than soup and soap.
Salvation, in a general sense, is Bible-speak for deliverance, and that’s precisely what our guests are seeking — deliverance from what’s really wrong, not just from the symptoms. In a 2004 National Association for Healthcare Quality article, Dr. Lisa A. Burke wrote, “Although the medical community has long relied on psychiatric therapy and treatment for substance abusers, religious organizations have quietly operated their own parallel system for more than 40 years. These faith-based programs have largely gone unnoticed by healthcare professionals and health insurers. Yet, preliminary studies show them to be markedly more successful (60-80%) than secular programs (6-13%).
These stats are more than numbers to me, but real-life stories taking place in our community. I look at many of our graduates who are now on staff and have a constant reminder of what’s at stake when we talk about Rescue work. We’re talking about real situations, real obstacles, and real families.
To sum it up, soup and soap worked for awhile, but only for those individuals in a crisis situation with a resolve to change their circumstances. For many on the street, they are unwilling to make a change when everything they need is given to them, which means we as a community have a decision to make — we can give them handouts when asked, or we can say no, and point them to available resources with the necessary strings attached. Inconvenience can be an incredible catalyst for change.