Scott's Blog

Did you know?

Memphis Union Mission (“MUM”) is a member of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (“AGRM”), an organization founded in 1913 that consists of more than 300 missions. Each year on a specific day the AGRM conducts a snapshot survey of individuals served by member missions. Participating missions receive a compilation of the national survey data as compared to their local results. Across the country 21,308 homeless individuals were surveyed including 302 at MUM. 
Highlights include:

Here in Memphis 36 percent of those we surveyed had less than a high school (or GED) education. Nationally it was 29 percent. As a community, we have our work cut out for us! A reasonable conclusion would be that low educational levels place an individual at considerable risk for homelessness!

Did you know that 33 percent of individuals served by MUM were under the age of 36? And, that this compares to 33 percent nationally? Tragically, we are seeing younger homeless individuals today!

At MUM, 34 percent of those surveyed volunteered that they struggle with mental illness, compared with 32 percent nationally. In Memphis, 19 percent indicated they have experienced physical violence in the past year, while 20 percent reported experiencing violence nationally. Both mental illness and physical violence significantly contribute to an individual’s risk of becoming homeless. 

Did you know that 86 percent of the people we serve indicate they access MUM services on a daily basis, as opposed to 84 percent nationally? Missions become their temporary lifeline! 

Last year (FYE 2014) about 3,200 unduplicated individuals were reported using emergency shelters in Shelby County. Of those, MUM served 2,898, or 91 percent, of all the homeless individuals in our community accessing emergency services. The average length of stay was 21 days. This does not include individuals in our transitional programs such as our Moriah House or Intact Family Ministry.

Did you know that during the same period, MUM served 3,031 unique individuals system wide? In doing so, we served 313,149 meals and provided 116,546 nights of lodging, an increase of 8 percent over the previous year. 

Did you know that we could not have served any of these precious individuals without you? You are a valued ministry partner! We appreciate you! Thank you!

Serving with you,

D. Scott Bjork
President & CEO

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40

Have you fine tuned your therbligs lately?

Do you know what the word 'therblig' means? Have you ever even heard the word used in a sentence? If not, you are not alone. Most of us don’t think about therbligs, unless you are an industrial engineer. A therblig is the individual motion, delay or pause that is involved in completing a task. A combination of therbligs, then, comprise the completion of a process.

Have you ever watched the Discovery Channel’s TV series How It’s Made and marveled at the complex manufacturing processes involved in mass producing a product? More than likely, an industrial engineer fine tuned or eliminated therbligs in order to speed up production time, eliminate unnecessary costs, and reduce worker fatigue. The result is a quality product at a reasonable price and delivered on time. 

One of the things that God has given us is time. There are 24 precious hours in each day. God has distributed these to each of us equally. No man, women, or child that is alive today has been given more or less than 24 hours in each day. But we have to make good use of each day. When someone says “I just don’t have time,” are they really saying that they have not made good use of their time? 

What should be the most important priorities of my day? When I am at work, shouldn’t my responsibilities be my focus? Don’t we need time to think, relax, plan, study, and pray? Isn’t it crucial that we spend time with our family and friends? Yes of course! But activity does not always mean that we have accomplished those priorities. 

There are plenty of therbligs in our day that we need to identity either positive or negative. If I say I don’t have time to pray, perhaps I should turn off the car radio therblig and use my commute time to pray. Sometimes my quick yes should have been a well thought out no. Or maybe it is my need to clarify the issue before acting on it. A wise man once said “the greatest time waster is the time spent undoing something that I shouldn’t have done in the first place.” 

Have you fine tuned your therbligs lately?

Serving with you,

D. Scott Bjork
President & CEO

“Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.” Ephesians 5:15,16a

Are your navigation systems on?

Recently my wife and I watched the incredible documentary of the refloating of the Costa Concordia on the Smithsonian Channel. What a formidable engineering marvel it was to right the gigantic 114,000-ton cruise ship that had struck submerged rocks, ripping a fatal 160-foot gash through its thick steel hull. The listing ship ultimately settled on its port side with more than half of its enormous structures underwater. Of the 4,252 people on board, the tragedy took the lives of 32, and 64 more were injured. 

The Costa Concordia was built at a cost of $570 million in 2004. The estimated costs to right the ship, tow it to a salvage port, disassemble for scrap and repair the damage to the island where it sank is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $2 billion. Compounding the loss of life and unnecessary expense is that the shipwreck did not need to have happened. The captain had turned off the ship’s navigation alarm system, because as he said later “I was navigating by sight, because I knew those seabeds well.” Apparently not!

Are there navigation systems in our lives that we turn off because we believe we know the way well? Are there areas of my life that I am comfortable handling by myself? Do we ignore how certain people influence us either positively or negatively? Have we neglected our private time in God’s word because we stay up too late in the evening? Does our prayer life reflect mostly our needs and wants while ignoring the praise and adoration due our transcendent God? What does my attendance and the time I arrive at church say about my view of worship? What priorities does my checkbook reveal that I really have?

I am sure that the captain of the Costa Concordia would do things quite differently given the opportunity to do so. When I look back on my life, I see many examples of times where I turned off the navigation systems that God put in place to protect me, to guide me and to ensure that I would become the man that He intended me to be. 

Are your navigation systems on?

Serving with you,

D. Scott Bjork
President & CEO

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5,6

Are you part of the harvest?

One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories was singing a harvest festival hymn written by Henry Alford in 1844. The church in which my wife and I were married would have an early morning Thanksgiving service which focused our attention towards thanking God for his many blessings. We would sing this ageless hymn, Come, ye thankful people come: 

1. Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song of harvest home!
All is safely gathered in,
Ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide
For our wants to be supplied;
Come to God's own temple, come;
Raise the song of harvest home!

2. We ourselves are God's own field,
Fruit unto his praise to yield; 
Wheat and tares together sown
Unto joy or sorrow grown;
First the blade and then the ear,
Then the full corn shall appear;
Grant, O harvest Lord, that we
Wholesome grain and pure may be.

3. For the Lord our God shall come,
And shall take the harvest home;
From His field shall in that day
All offences purge away,
Giving angels charge at last
In the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store
In the garner evermore.

4. Then, thou Church triumphant come,
Raise the song of harvest home!
All be safely gathered in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified,
In God's garner to abide;
Come, ten thousand angels, come,
Raise the glorious harvest home!
(Lyrics in Public Domain)

We think of Fall as a time of harvest, when the crops are brought in from the fields. They end up at Kroger, Sam’s, Costco or where ever we shop. But ultimately they end up on our plates, and we are thankful. But at Thanksgiving do we remember to be thankful for the ultimate harvest, when Christ presents his harvest to God?

Serving with you,

D. Scott Bjork
President & CEO

“I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even not the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper may be glad together.” John4:35b,36

What can you be trusted with?

Trust is essential for healthy relationships. Without trust we tend to protect ourselves, live in suspicion, or we may live in fear. There are few things more painful than broken trust, and few things are more difficult to repair. Trust can grow when we keep our promises and follow through on our commitments.

Organizations depend on trust to accomplish their mission, too. When an individual is hired there is an expectation that they will put their best efforts toward accomplishing the objectives within their area of responsibility, while maintaining alignment with the mission statement. When an individual begins to place personal priorities above organizational objectives, trust is compromised.

Successful athletes intuitively recognize that each team member is accountable to the whole team for his or her performance. If an offensive lineman misses his blocking assignment, the running back may be tackled for a loss. Team members must trust each other to do what they are supposed to do.

The same is true here at Memphis Union Mission. We all depend upon each other to be successful. For example, there is no way that any of the Mission’s departments can operate effectively without the trust we place in our supervisors. They keep our facilities clean, maintain order and address a myriad of needs that our guests and clients present. Laundry is done, beds are made, showers are taken, clothing is distributed, and last year more than 116,000 nights of lodging were provided to homeless individuals because we have supervisors who serve our guests with their best efforts. Last year alone, the Mission served more than 313,000 meals to hungry individuals because our teams performed with excellence! We are proud of our supervisors, and trust them with great responsibility.

Unfortunately, many of our clients come from backgrounds where there has been little or no trust, hence replete with unhealthy relationships. So it is natural that they may be suspect of well-intentioned efforts to help them. For many we serve, trust is earned. Trust starts with the small things, like meeting basic needs food, clothing and shelter. As it grows, the small things may become bigger things like recovery counseling, or job preparedness. It might even be that we have the opportunity to introduce them to a Savior! And that is our mission.

Serving with you,

D. Scott Bjork
President & CEO

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” John 16:10a

Who has helped you?

For years the barbering students from the Tennessee College of Applied Technology have provided free haircuts to the men at our Men’s Emergency Shelter and the mission’s Opportunity Center each Wednesday. Over the past five years, thousands of homeless men have been the beneficiaries of this wonderful program. The barbering students gain valuable experience, and our guests look and feel much better. We are grateful for our relationship with TCAT.

There is one haircut that a TCAT student gave that I will never forget. When Billy (not his real name) began staying at the Mission, it was apparent that something was wrong. Billy was disheveled, tall, and thin. His dirty blond hair resembled a bird’s nest. It was so tangled that to comb it would have been impossible. He would stand for hours declining any invitation to sit, obviously in pain. And when he would sit down, he was often unable to get back up, even to make it to the bathroom. Despite his adversities, Billy was kind and gentle. 

After several failed attempts to encourage Billy to get his hair cut, one day he reluctantly agreed. The barbering student tenderly and carefully began to remove the hair that for so long had been neglected and unkempt, leaving instead a smart looking crew cut. As Billy looked in the mirror, a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye, we all clapped to celebrate the most handsome haircut any of us had ever seen. Billy even took the time to thank his barber for cutting his hair. 

I wish it was as easy as getting a fresh haircut to change some ones life, but it isn’t. But it was a start. Over the next several months our staff attended to Billy’s needs. I was so proud of the loving way they served him during his time of great need. Today Billy is doing much better, living on his own, and recovering from his physical infirmities. Billy stopped by last week to say “Thank you” to our Men’s Emergency Shelter team for the care given him in 2011. Wow!

As we begin to anticipate the upcoming Thanksgiving season, is there someone who helped you during a difficult time in your life that you might want to say “Thank you” to?

Serving with you,

D. Scott Bjork
President & CEO

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

Have you experienced God's love?

When men enroll in our recovery program, one of the exercises they will complete within the first 30 days is to write a 10-page autobiography. This is placed in their file. At the conclusion of their time with us, the file is sent to me to close out, then archived. Over the years that I’ve been privileged to serve at Memphis Union Mission, I have read hundreds of these autobiographies.

Increasingly these written narratives reveal traumatic childhood abuse. The abuse our clients experienced may have been physical, emotional, or sexual. Or it may have been neglect. Abuse to children can be described with one word: Evil! The Centers for Disease Control states that more than three million referrals of child maltreatment are received by state and local agencies each year - that’s nearly six referrals every minute. And those are only the cases that are reported!

It is estimated than by the age of 18, one in five boys and one in three girls will have been the victim of childhood sexual abuse. In many of these cases, the sexually abused child will stop growing and developing emotionally. Mental health epidemiologists point to environmental factors such as abuse and neglect contributing to mental health issues, including the risk of developing schizophrenia. How sad! 

As the abused enter adulthood they often experience issues with emotional isolation, self blame and guilt. For many it becomes difficult for them to trust others, and they may have difficulties with their relationships. Triggers or reminders of their abuse often make the abused susceptible to depression, anger, self-harming behavior and even thoughts of suicide. 

For many of these who are now homeless and coming through our doors, life in many ways has not worked out very well for them. More important than the food, clothing, shelter and counseling we may provide them, is presenting them with a clear picture of what Jesus did for them on the cross. The opposite of evil is love. And that is what we have to offer someone whose life has been ravaged by evil.

Serving with you,

D. Scott Bjork
President & CEO

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

What motivates you to love others?

At the age of 27, in the prime of her life, Elizabeth Joscelin passed away nine days after giving birth to her only child. On October 12, 1622 she had given birth to a daughter, Theodora, a precious child that she and her husband longed to have. How tragic it must have been for Elizabeth not to have been able to raise the child that she so desired to have. Or was it?

While pregnant, not knowing whether she would give birth to a boy or a girl, Elizabeth knew the considerable risks of bearing children in the 17th century. Knowing the high mortality rate during childbirth, her fear was that she would not be there to teach her child the ways of the Lord. Her passionate desire was to raise her child for the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, while carrying her unborn child, Elizabeth wrote an amazing instructional letter to her beloved husband and child, now known in the literary world as The Mother’s Legacie to Her Unborn Childe. She writes: “Therefore, dear child, read here my love. And if God take me from thee, be obedient to these instructions as thou oughtest to be unto me. I have learned them out of God’s Word: I beseech Him that they may be profitable to thee.” 

What follows is a mother’s loving letter to a child that she would never raise. She instructs on how to live a godly life, one that pleasing to the Lord. She prescribes daily habits of prayer, Bible reading, meditation, and service. She warns about the temptations of life, the sins of sloth and pride, and the necessity and benefits of keeping the Lord’s Day. 

Elizabeth’s letter reveals her desire to see that her son or daughter’s salvation would be secure, and then as a child of God that they would: “Consider well that God is the author of peace and love and that strife and contention proceed of the devil. Then if thou art the child of God, do the works of God: love thy neighbor as He hath commanded, lest thou provoke our blessed Savior when He shall see that mark of the devil - malice- in thee...”

Almost 400 years later, we are still reading of a mother’s love and her legacy to her unborn child. But it was her love for her Savior, who more than 1600 years earlier loved us enough to die the death that we deserved, that motivated her letter. 

What motivates you to love others?

Serving with you,

D. Scott Bjork
President & CEO

"How great is the love that the Father has lavished on us...” I John 3:1

Where do you look for wisdom?

Trial and error is possibly the least likely opportunity for us to obtain wisdom. One might define wisdom as the practical or appropriate application of knowledge for a given situation. Attending the school of hard knocks may mean that I experience the consequences of my decisions often in a way that I did not intend. One way we may obtain wisdom is to learn from the experiences of others. Have you ever heard someone say “Been there, done that?” 

Sometimes, though, we see individuals who have never learned what they don’t know. Rarely do they ever seek wise counsel, and so their life becomes a pattern of foolish outcomes, failed relationships and wasted effort. Our time here on this earth is ephemeral, and sadly we are not equipped with a replay button that allows us to start over. The only time we have left begins with now. 

Some who walk through our doors here at Memphis Union Mission genuinely desire an opportunity to change. They view their present circumstances through the lens of someone needing help, often the first step in soliciting wise counsel. We can help them make better and wiser decisions, but based on what?

In I Kings 3:12 we find that God said to Solomon “I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.” So what does the wisest man in the world teach us about obtaining wisdom? We find the clue in the first chapter of the Book of Proverbs. Solomon as author of most of the book tells us that he wrote it “for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair...”

Isn’t that what we want for ourselves? Isn’t this the best way we can ultimately help our clients? One of the habits I developed years ago was to read the chapter in Proverbs that corresponded to the current date. I have shared this simple but enjoyable habit with the men in our recovery program. Recently a former client who had graduated our program years ago was at one of our alumni reunions. He shared with me that he had been faithfully doing this same routine daily for several years. My question to him was “Has God’s word impacted your life because of it?” To which he replied, “You bet it has.”

Serving with you,

D. Scott Bjork
President & CEO

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom...” Proverbs 9:10

How well do you serve?

Therese de Lisieux is well known for her writings including her spiritual memoir The Story of a Soul, published posthumously after dying from tuberculosis at the age of 24. She wrote: “The value of our life does not depend on the place we occupy. It depends on the way we occupy that place.” As a noun, the word ‘way’ means: a method, style, or manner of doing something. Therese understood that where she lived did not define how she would live. 

We might think of this in another way. It is not how many people we serve, but how well we serve them. But what constitutes serving someone well? At first glance, meeting an individual’s immediate need for food, clothing and shelter would be considered important service to them, and it is. But is providing these essentials merely a symptomatic solution to a fundamental problem? To serve them well, our next question should be: “Why are you on the street, and how can we help you?” 

Sometimes the answer is “I need a job, or help with my addiction.” Or maybe there are underling mental health issues or a recent release from incarceration with no where to go. Nonetheless, the opportunity we have is to come along side this individual and help them meet their fundamental needs. But what else does this allow us to do? As sinners, our greatest need is a Savior! 

The word justice is the Hebrew word mishpat. In the Old Testament, mishpat describes the action of taking up the care and cause of widows, orphans, immigrants, and the poor. Timothy Keller in his book Generous Justice states: “Christians who live or work in needy communities in order to do evangelism must inevitably become involved in helping their friends and neighbors with their pressing economic and social needs. 

To fail to do so is simply a lack of love. It is also impractical. If you wish to share your faith with needy people, and you do nothing about the painful conditions in which they live, you will fail to show them Christ’s beauty. We must neither confuse evangelism with doing justice, nor separate them from one another.” 

How well do you serve?

Serving with you,

D. Scott Bjork
President & CEO

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:14

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