Helping the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely
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James Macklin, 70, is a modestly dressed, simple black man with short, curly salt-and-pepper hair. He smiles as he shares his life's story, a grandfather-like poise communicating a love for the people around him.
“One of my favorite sayings is ‘Never look down on another human being — whether man, woman or child — unless you're trying to pick them up.'”
It's easy to see why Macklin lives by this philosophy. Twenty-two years ago, the man lost his business and his home to cocaine and alcohol addiction. If not for what seemed to be a chance meeting with a woman on New York's A-train at 2 a.m., Macklin may never have learned of The Bowery Mission — New York City's largest spiritually based homeless outreach and a partner of the American Bible Society. It was the place where he would receive a second chance to take control of his life and come to know the transforming power of God's Word.
“I found a new direction and perception,” says Macklin. As he holds back tears, his eyes reveal a life ravaged by many poor choices and pain. “I was given an undeserved opportunity to rebuild my life, and [since then] I've been dedicated to helping the least, the lost and the lonely.”
Macklin is now employed full-time with The Bowery Mission as Director of Outreach, having remained with the organization since 1987. He and his colleagues (most of whom used to be homeless) take to the local streets, churches and schools nearly every day, to talk about the redemption they found at The Bowery Mission.
For 130 years, The Bowery Mission has helped people like Macklin put their lives back together by providing compassionate care and life transformation to the homeless population of New York City.
Compassionate care is simple enough: providing shelter, food, clothing, medical care, drug rehabilitation and spiritual guidance to the homeless at no cost. Bowery's life transformation is far more in-depth. As a homelessness recovery program, it helps beneficiaries stay clean and sober, find a job and a place to live, as well as remain connected to Christ and family.
“For the last couple of years,” says Bowery Mission President Ed Morgan, “we've been holding intensive talks about how to build scripture more deeply into our program. And this is where American Bible Society has been so helpful.”
“The American Bible Society providing any kind of material for Jesus, for the Bible, for God's spoken Word for humanity, that's exciting,” says volunteer Ian Heikel.
James Foresteire, 31, who now works with Bowery's development team, is a graduate of Bowery's discipleship institute, a one-year spiritual, physical and vocational program. While in the program, Foresteire received free meals, housing, and medical care as he sought to better know God's Word and his will.
“When I came here, it had been a while since somebody had trusted me,” recalls Foresteire, who had continually overdosed on drugs. “It was getting to a point where I needed to change or I was going to die.”
Foresteire came to The Bowery Mission in June 2009, feeling hopeless and cynical. During his first couple of days, he remained noncommittal, simply observing what went on around him. “A man had told me, ‘Don't believe what you hear. Believe what you see.'” On his fifth day at the Mission, the pastor did an altar call at the end of the chapel service. Something compelled Foresteire to come forward.
“I had a void in my spirit my whole life,” says Foresteire. “I knelt down at the altar and I started to cry… that void wasn't there when I got up.”
Foresteire reflects on how The Bowery Mission changed his life: “They believed in me and trusted me...they allowed me to find...my purpose.” He now works regularly with Macklin, helping spread awareness of The Bowery Mission to churches and schools all over New York City.
“I want to give back what has been freely given to me,” Foresteire says. “I want to serve a God who has taken me from a place I never thought I'd come out of ... what's happened since then has been nothing short of amazing.”
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