Washing each other’s feet: compassion demonstrated.

Lent began last week.

It’s the forty days before Easter that are traditionally understood as a period of fasting, prayer, and penance. It’s a season that reminds us of our mfoot washingortality, of our sharing in Christ’s death, of our participation in His resurrection. It is also a season that gives us confidence that Christ has conquered death, that nothing – nothing – can separate us from the love of God.

To mark this season, our staff gathered late last week to observe a tradition used in ancient civilization: foot washing.

What is foot washing?

Foot washing was a common duty for low-ranking servants during the time of Christ. It was a dirty, degrading, and disgusting task.

And it was one that Christ did too.

The night before His death, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. He removed their sandals and washed their filthy, road-stenched feet.


Because Jesus came – He comes – not as a king or a conqueror, but as a servant.

It was an expression of love.
It was a lesson in humility.
It was a display of servanthood.

Our God is a God who washed dusty feet.

And the only way to follow Him – the only path to spiritual greatness – is to humble ourselves, to extend the circle of love to enfold and include all.

Our employees served and demonstrated the compassion of Jesus Christ to the homeless within our cofoot washingmmunity by washing their feet last week. It was a beautiful depiction of service and grace and compassion demonstrated. What a gift to love and serve others.

After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” (John 13: 12-17, NLT)




Donating your car: compassion demonstrated.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 10.45.28 AMDid you know that donating to – and shopping at – one of our four thrift stores directly impacts our Grand Rapids neighbors in their time of crisis? All monies generated from our stores are reinvested into our downtown programs and allow us to provide emergency shelter and food to nearly 73,000 men, women, and children throughout the year.

Why did Robert Dice donate his vehicle to Mel Trotter Ministries late last year? We asked. He answered. Read his account below:

What kind of car did you donate?

2003 Mercedes-Benz C240

Why did you decide to donate your car?

It’s easy to work with Mel Trotter Ministries. Their team is a pleasure to work with, and the entire Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 2.44.06 PMdonation process was smooth. But I also knew that my car would be repaired by someone who needed a job and that same someone would learn a new skill that would – hopefully – help them in their future. Preparing our neighbors for life is something I care deeply about, and I know that MTM will use my vehicle as a ‘vehicle’ to share the Gospel.

Why donate to Mel Trotter Ministries specifically?

Mel Trotter Ministries has been around for a very long time. The organization is well established and has a great reputation for taking care of those in need. Their staff challenges our neighbors to be better than they are and that’s why it’s so important to do. It’s not about the donation receipt. It’s about knowing that someone – somewhere – is going to reap a greater benefit through your gift.

Do you have any encouragement to offer someone who may be considering donating?

Do it. I highly recommend it. The process is flawless, and the work Mel Trotter Ministries does is good. It’s easy to sell a car on Craigslist, but the cause here is so much greater. Keep rockin’ it out, y’all are doing great things in our city!

Want to learn more about our thrift and auto program? You can do so here. Interested in donating? Great! You can also schedule a pick-up online here. It’s easy. It’s safe. It’s free. Thanks Rob for choosing to demonstrate the compassion of Jesus Christ to the hungry, homeless, and hurting in this capacity!

Griffins Fly to Mel Trotter Ministries

There are currently more than 60 children living in Mel Trotter Ministries’ womChildren at the Missionen and children’s shelter. Recently, the Grand Rapids Griffins came to visit with our kids. Yes, our kids. The Griffins reached out to us and asked if they could come visit with our little ones. And that’s exactly what they did. Several players and their wives arrived one evening and spent several hours creating snowmen with cotton balls and a winter wonderland with markers, crayons, and the like.

Our director of communications and marketing, Cindy Smies, recently asked Bob Kaser, the vice president of community relations and broadcasting at the Grand Rapids Griffins, to tell us a little more about the team’s work with Mel Trotter Ministries.

Why do the Grand Rapids Griffins choose to volunteer?

The Griffins strive to assist multiple causes in West Michigan, and our players share that same desire.

Why did you decide to volunteer at Mel Trotter Ministries?

Assisting those less fortunate is a high priority for us. Our home base is the Van Andel Arena. This means we see and experience homelessness regularly, especially during the winter months. People are hungry and simply need a place to get warm. How can we not want to help?

What were some of the reactions of the players and wives after the event?

Drawing by Landon Ferraro

Drawing by Landon Ferraro

Many of us were reminded of how fortunate we are. The players and their significant others left very much looking forward to helping again, in whatever capacity. Heck, Landon Ferraro, was so proud of the drawings he did with some of the kids, namely his ice skating rink, he had me take a picture of it! See photo to the left.

2014: By the Numbers

Some of us are numbers people.

And some of us (me, pick me!) are not.

But for those of us who are, here’s a recap of 2014 by the numbers:

  • Provided 87,916 bed nights for men, women, and children, which is an average of 241 people every night. You can learn more about what a night at Mel Trotter looks like here.
  • Served 158,651 hot meals, which is an average of 435 per day.
  • Served 9,511 individuals and families through our Food Pantry, which is open every Thursday from 10AM to 3PM.
  • Helped 169 families find permanent housing.
  • Helped 107 people secure jobs.
  • Treated 2,877 individuals in our Vision, Chiropractic, and Dental Clinics; services valued at $369,464.
  • Assisted 67 individuals in our Legal Clinic.
  • Provided care for 1,861 public inebriates, which kept them out of hospital emergency rooms and saved tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Provided low-cost transportation to 345 people through our auto resale program (thanks for donating!).

Pretty impressive, but not done without the help of 4,345 volunteers who completed 31,450 hours of services and saved Mel Trotter Ministries approximately $500,000.

Can you believe it?

Neither can we. It is a good gift to be part of this community. Thank you for your support in time, prayer, financial gifts, and the like.

Gratitude. Just gratitude.

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:3) 

This is a truer than true statement.

It’s true when we think about our staff.
It’s true when we think about our guests.
It’s true when we think about our volunteers.
It’s true when we think about our donors.

There is a lot to be thankful for as we begin 2015 and continue our work to end homelessness in the Greater Grand Rapids area. Below are 5 things our staff is particularly grateful for in this New Year:

  1. SHELTER. It’s been terribly cold this year. I-can’t-feel-my-face cold. My-eyelashes-froze-as-I-walked-through-the-parking-lot cold. Please-wrap-me-in-a-blanket-forever cold. First-person-to-complain-about-it-being-too-hot-this-summer-is-getting-punched cold. You get the gist. It’s been cold. But we have shelter. A warm place to work. A warm place to live. Heated seats and electric blankets. And we have a building that is warm and comfortable and able to provide shelter to more than 240 men and 120 women and children on every cold winter’s night. GRATEFUL. JUST GRATEFUL.
  2. FOOD. Our team does not know hunger. Not the hunger that so many of our guests know (or have known). But we witness hunger. Every day. In 2014, Mel Trotter Ministries served more than 158,600 hot meals, an average of 435 per day, to our guests. Our staff and our volunteers got up early (way early) to cook breakfast, and they stayed late (way late) to make sure everyone was fed. And they couldn’t have done it without people like you donating hundreds of thousands of pounds of food to make it happen. GRATEFUL. JUST GRATEFUL.
  3. EACH OTHER. Last week our staff gathered for chapel. Gordon Oosting, the chairman of our board, asked each of us to write down three goals on a simple piece of paper. One personal goal, one spiritual goal, and one professional goal. Once we had written our goals, we were asked to fold the sheets of paper into airplanes and fly them to the center of the room. From there we picked up another’s goals and read them silently. Gordon then asked us to pray for our new-found “airplane buddy” and to encourage them and support them as they sought to achieve those goals in the New Year. Why? Because families – even work families – hold each other accountable. Because families – even work families – love each other and pray for one another. Because ALL people need help becoming like the Christ each and every day. It is a gift to be a part of this staff and this community. GRATEFUL. JUST GRATEFUL.
  4. YOU. In December a few generous donors offered to match our end-of-year donations up to $200,000. Our staff asked you to step up and to support the work we do to feed the hungry, lift the fallen, restore the broken, and heal the hurt. And YOU DID. You stepped up big time. You helped us reach our match goals and that just makes us sing in the best possible way. Of course there is always a need, but today: GRATEFUL. JUST GRATEFUL.
  5. JESUS CHRIST. Do you know why we do what we do? We do it because Jesus Christ would do it. Jesus Christ DID do it. He sought out the marginalized. He turned toward the poor. He loved those who were hard to love. He forgave without getting even.  He welcomed the outlier. He took up the cross… And he does the same for us. GRATEFUL. JUST GRATEFUL.

Thank you for joining us in this New Year and for your continued support of Mel Trotter Ministries. It’s going to be a good year. You just watch!

This is #compassiondemonstrated.

This hashtag has been making the rounds.

Our staff has been using it to earmark news articles or gifts or volunteers or donors who have chosen to give their time, talents, treasure, and more to demonstrate the compassion of Jesus Christ to the hungry, homeless, and hurting in Greater Grand Rapids. You may have seen it on social media here or here.

One story of #compassiondemonstrated is outlined below. Jill is a regular volunteer at Mel Trotter Ministries’ Food Pantry. Her story – and the reason she chooses to volunteer at the Mission – is told below. We are so grateful for her work and her commitment to Mel Trotter’s mission.

I started volunteering with Mel Trotter Ministries in November 2013. My husband and a few friends of ours decided to volunteer at the Great Thanksgiving Banquet as part of the clean-up crew. I had thought about being a part of something this big for quite awhile, so it felt amazing to actually do it. Two movolunteernths later – on what was probably the coldest January day ever – my friend Kathy and I went down to the Mission to learn about other volunteer opportunities. Tiffany, Mel Trotter Ministries’ volunteer coordinator at the time, greeted us and introduced us to several ways we could help demonstrate the compassion of Jesus Christ to the hungry, homeless, and hurting. The volunteer opportunity we chose to pursue was in the Food Pantry, where we would walk families in need through the pantry to shop for food items.  Here’s why:

  1. I had the time. My kids were grown, and I had no other obligations. It was the perfect time to give back.
  2. I enjoyed the opportunity to connect with the individuals and families that know Mel Trotter Ministries as a vital resource for their health and well being.
  3. I loved the mission and ministry of this more than 100-year-old organization and its work to provide for countless members of our neighborhood.

After a few months of serving 2-3 days a week at the Food Pantry, I was asked to become the Pantry’s Volunteer Administrator. I gratefully accepted and now work alongside Dan, the pantry coordinator, to ensure all things Pantry-related run smoothly. I also connect new volunteers to our team (Interested? Click here.).

There was a time in my life when I was very ill, very tired, and very often bedridden. I am grateful for my health now and the opportunity to volunteer with an organization that creates a new, good kind of fatigue in me. I don’t take it for granted. God has used this place to meet a huge need in my life. I am overwhelmed by the love and grace – in action – in this place. It is so visible in the grateful faces of those who are a part of the Mission’s program. People leave Mel Trotter well-prepared to become productive citizens in our community. It is not just a hand out, it is hand up. It is literally changing lives.

I’ve served in several capacities during the course of my life, but it wasn’t until recently that my vision of serving was changed, renewed, and made better. I read Interrupted, written by Jen Hatmaker, and began to understand that we can’t just “do church.” Instead, we must “be the church.” And that means getting to know the real Jesus and serving as He served. It might be challenging or uncomfortable or painful. It might be different. It might even mean getting dirty. But I hope you’re inspired to give back. I hope you’re inspired to help others give back. I hope you’re inspired to partner with an organization – like Mel Trotter – that is already doing the Lord’s work. And most importantly, I hope you understand that a willing heart is all you need to make a huge impact. We all have a gift we can offer to someone else.

Thanks to the many volunteers and donors and staff members at the Mission, the work continues. At the stores, at the clinics, at the pantry, and in the kitchen. It is good work, and we do it because:

‘Cause it’s for You, by You, those who
love You wanna do something so big
it’s destined to fail without You, Lord
it’s gonna fail without You, Lord
Something so great
it takes a miracle to do

We, Your children
wanna do something big for You.

[Listen to the full song by John Waller here].

The work and the mission of Mel Trotter Ministries is great. I am honored to serve the people and the place in capacity I do. All for you, Lord. All for you. I wanna do something big for You. This is #compassiondemonstrated.

Thanksgiving at the Mission

This blog post was written by Julee Wilke, a first-time Mel Trotter Ministries volunteer, regarding her family’s experience at our 2015 Annual Great Thanksgiving Banquet. You can view numerous photos from the event here.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. For years I’ve cooked and baked and served ahead of time so I could lounge in front of a television and watch parades or football and stay in my soft pants all day. That is until this year. My husband and I drove to Michigan from Indiana to meet up with our family and decided to spend Thanksgiving with 2,000 strangers and Mel Trotter Ministries. 

Julee and her family.

Julee and her family at our 2015 event.

After receiving our t-shirts and marching orders, we joined a parade of volunteers and headed to our table assignment. As our table filled and we began serving family style, the stories began to spill out. We became instant friends with Josh, Nick, Nathan, Anthony, and Dale. Before we event got to the pumpkin pie, it felt like any and all other Thanksgiving days around the family table.

Life is a journey, and we were blessed beyond words to spend this short lunch hour in DeVos Place with our family and new friends. Thanks to Mel Trotter Ministries for hosting and for bringing us together. On this day strangers became friends and this server learned the meaning of compassion demonstrated. No more lazy Thanksgiving days for us, as we will make this a yearly tradition.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

And this was my favorite Thanksgiving.  

Have you volunteered at our annual Great Thanksgiving Banquet? Do you have stories to share? We would love to hear them! Comment below.