The Road to Hell is Closed!
by Doug Malear on March 11th, 2011
The way of life winds upward for the wise, That he may turn away from hell below. Proverbs 15:24 NKJ
About one year after we started Hope Lighthouse Ministries, in1996, I was working in our newly acquired downtown storefront, which barely had running water or electricity. We had been meeting in borrowed store fronts, a closed down bar on Broadway Ave., and in Rowan Park, which is in the center of this little city. The city was Muskegon Heights, Michigan and was situated on the western side of the state, not far from the shores of Lake Michigan. Detroit was about a three hour drive East and Chicago was about a three hour drive South and West. It was a city of about 12,000 residents, known by most as “The Heights.” It was also known as a high crime, poverty and drug area.
At one time, the population of the Heights was over 16,000, but like many American cities in the 70's, 80's and into the 90's, it had been declining steadily. Many businesses had closed or moved out of town leaving empty store fronts and huge empty shells that had once been manufacturers employing thousands of local residents. It then became a domino effect. The manufacturers closed down, which puts people out of work. The people cannot afford to shop in many of the stores so the stores close, or move, many leaving empty buildings in the downtown area. When the stores close, employers in the service industry, from janitorial, to delivery services, to all forms of maintenance service companies loose accounts and have to let more people go. Many people start to move out of town to look for employment in other areas, their houses left behind in disrepair because they could not afford to fix them and no one would buy them. Many of these houses become abandoned and begin to create blights across many neighborhoods. Meanwhile, many people who are out of work and cannot leave the area join the ranks of those surviving on various government assistance programs.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
Now, more and more people are getting on assistance and less and less people are paying taxes. So, not only are the few that are employed being taxed beyond limit in order to carry an impossible load, but the infrastructure of the city is breaking down because there are fewer workers and even fewer dollars. Many people out of work turn to drugs and alcohol which creates a fertile atmosphere for drug dealers, crime, poverty and hopelessness. Some begin to feel as though God has let them down and turn their back on their Creator. These few points I have mentioned are just a simple overview, or glimpse, into this whole scenario that has been played out again and again in cities across our nation. Satan could not have thought up a better plan than this to destroy a country founded on Godly principals and to plunge a people into despair. Our job as believers is to, “Close the road to Hell.”
2 Corinthians 4:8 & 9
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.
When Hope Lighthouse Ministries moved into our present store front (nearly 5,000 square feet) it had been abandoned for over ten years and had been gutted. There was no plumbing, electrical wire or fixtures left in the place. The old wooden floor was termite infested, the roof leaked everywhere and there was no furnace or duct work left in the building. The windows were all broken out and boarded up. But, it was beautiful to us because it was in the heart of the city and near the people, schools, families, homeless, etc., we wanted to minister to.
I remember one day, early on, when we got the water running, the electric on, and the phone working. The floor was still dirt where we had torn out the wooden floor and, I had a desk with a working phone and a single, bare, light bulb hanging overhead. I had arrived! As I sat there with my feet up surveying all that the Lord had done, I was startled by the phone ringing for the very first time. I thought excitedly, “Someone is calling me.” I should tell you, at this point, that during those early years, if my wife did not have a steady job we would have had little, or no income. It was my wife on the phone that day, just trying out our new number. We had gotten married one year before we opened the ministry in the Heights on April 1st, known to many as April Fools Day but, that's another story.
My wife, Sui, was calling me from her job, and she was very excited. "Have you heard the news?" she asked. “What news?” I countered. She replied, “Everyone here is talking about it. It's the most exciting, ground breaking news I've ever heard. ” “What news,” I repeated. After going back and forth for another minute she finally blurted out, "It's the headline on the front page of today's newspaper. It says, “The Road to Hell will be Closed this Summer!" I gasped, "What!? That's great, uh, what are you talking about?" Then she went on reading the article from the paper, "The bridge is out, so the road to Hell, Michigan will be closed this summer." For those of you who do not know it, there is a town in Michigan with the name Hell.
Some say a pair of German travelers stepped out of a stage-coach one sunny afternoon in the 1830s, and one said to the other, "So schön hell!" - translated as, "So beautifully bright!" Their comments were overheard by some locals and the name stuck. Others claim that soon after Michigan gained statehood, George Reeves was asked what he thought the town he helped settle should be called, and replied, "I don't care, you can name it Hell for all I care." The name became official on October 13, 1841
This is a true story, even though the news article my wife read was about Hell, Michigan and not the eternal Hell that awaits those who refuse to bend their knee to Jesus. But, from that time on we determined that our mission was just what the paper had alluded to. We were to knock out the bridges people use to travel the road to hell. If you are wondering why we do what we do in spite of long hours, low pay, frequent rejections, overwhelming financial burdens, sometimes losing a soul, and other discouragements, we do it to, “Close the road to Hell.”
Since those early days God has helped us to not only finish the renovations to our store front but has expanded our services to the community exponentially. As many as 500 families a month come through our food & clothes pantries and since 2001 our discipleship houses have been helping men who are struggling with drugs and other life controlling problems, as well as those coming out of prison or off the streets. They learn 24/7 accountability, go through classes, work at tasks within the ministry, learn and apply what it means to live and function in their community, and become productive men and of integrity who love the Lord.
We never run out of ministry but we are always running out of food & clothes, kid's school supplies, volunteers, needed materials, and yes, money. You may wonder why we continue all these services, and more, when less than 30% of our funding comes from within. We have been called as missionaries to this area. We are raising-up a community center in this mission field that deals largely with transients, the homeless, at-risk children, the very poor and all who need to know Jesus.
You ask, "Why Do We Do It"? We do it to “Close the road!!”
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