Fellowship Missions: Welcoming Guests, Transforming Lives

Fellowship Missions welcomes guests, any time of the day, every day.

For the relatively few they are unable to take in, they will find alternate arrangements.

“We do not want to just say ‘No’,” said Eric Lane, who founded the faith-based homeless shelter in 2010 and serves as its executive director and self-described “head gofer.”

The 501(c)(3) ministry, located at 1520 Winona Ave., Warsaw, hosts 46 beds, bunk style, in dorm room arrangements, 24 for men and 22 for women.

Accommodations are also available for the children some residents bring with them.

On April 1, 2010, Lane launched the mission in a two-story house on South Buffalo Street “across from Marsh supermarket.” That facility housed 16 men.

That December, Fellowship Missions rented a house on North Buffalo Street for 14 homeless women.

After Fellowship Missions received the donation of the Winona Avenue building, they “completely gutted and remodeled the interior” and resettled their operations there Sept. 24, 2014.

The three full-time and two part-time staff work with a dozen interns and scores of volunteers to “provide an environment of transformation, not conformity” for the residents fortunate enough to find their way through the doors.

The open-armed welcome and loving atmosphere, however, does not equate to a free ride. “We want them to progress,” said Lane. “Our program is 24 months long, and even then we are still just scratching the surface of people with 30 years of substance abuse.

“It’s not a quick walk in the park,” he said. “It’s not a check the box kind of thing.”

Excavating lifelong hurts and habits and traveling the road of recovery can get messy — for both residents and helpers.

“The only way to heal is to get dirty and reveal your ugly side to others,” Lane said.

“It’s painful, but when that starts happening you start to see people radically change. God called us to get out and make disciples.”

In fact, the volunteers who “walk alongside the residents” are called disciplers who meet with their charges weekly or more often.

Fellowship Missions offers daily Bible study or devotional time, anger and financial management and other classes to help the residents transition into society.

Lane is dedicated to obliterating the “brown paper bag living under a bridge with a shopping cart” stereotypes about the homeless.

“Homelessness knows no face, and is not confined to any demographic. It could be anybody,” said Lane, citing instances of doctorate degree holders suffering debilitating bouts of depression.

Fellowship Missions scrupulously stewards its finances and provides three square meals a day, hygiene products, sleeping accommodations and program services for under $20 per person per day.

The ministry served 45,000 meals last year for less than $2 a meal.

Impending needs include a new commercial oven and commercial dishwasher to replace the aging appliances in the kitchen.

“We can always use volunteers,” said Lane. He noted many of the meals are provided by churches; businesses; civic, home school, youth and school groups; and sports teams.

Cash donations may be mailed to P.O. Box 382, Winona Lake, IN 46590, made online at www.fellowshipmissions.net or dropped off at the front desk between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. seven days a week.

For in-kind donations, call (574) 268-9555 to ascertain the present needs.

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