BROOKSVILLE — With the recent completion of renovations at Joshua House, Jericho Road Ministries, a local mission that shelters more than 500 men, women and children each year, can now offer residency to an additional 30 men.
"We are excited for our clients as we expand our ability to provide Christian programs to more men for their recovery," said the Rev. Bruce Gimbel, ministry chaplain and founder.
Jericho Road has helped people in dire circumstances for the past 15 years. According to its mission statement, the ministry exists "to lovingly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the economically, emotionally and spiritually impoverished by responding to their basic physical and emotional needs and by promoting Christian growth as characterized by a productive and changed life."
Sometimes that means giving out food. Other times it means providing temporary lodging to men, women and children who find themselves homeless because of fire, flood or natural disaster — or women who have been abandoned by their spouse and are adjusting to new living standards. Some clients are people re-entering the job market or those who are in transit through the county.
For some, it means providing long-term help to restore their lives with classes in addiction recovery, relapse prevention, anger management, financial planning, job interviewing and resume preparation, GED preparation and parenting skills. Daily chapel services and Bible studies address spiritual needs. Some clients enroll in online college classes as part of the New Life Program.
Facilities at Jericho Road include Joshua House on Broad Street and another men's shelter on Mondon Hill Road, a family shelter, Mary's House for women, four thrift stores and the Barn, which houses supplies for the food ministry.
Men who are seeking long-term help will soon be welcomed at Joshua House.
"When we have an individual interested in the program, they will come into Mondon Hill, spend a couple of weeks or more getting paperwork completed and being interviewed by the staff and being prepped for Joshua House," Gimbel said.
The new facility has a commercial kitchen, dining hall, recreation area, laundry room and bathroom facilities, along with a classroom for life skills classes, Florida Integrity Training classes, computer lab classes and employment training.
Residents rise at 6 a.m. and have a full schedule until 10 p.m. each day.
"The clients provide their own needs in terms of cooking, laundry and cleaning up around the shelter," Gimbel said. "If they're not in class, they're doing work therapy somewhere around the mission or doing homework."
About half of the men at the Mondon Hill location have been entering the New Life Program each year. All of the men complete the class portion, then some leave to return home or because they got a job and choose to live on their own. Others choose to stay and work in the ministry.
Oliver Joy, 58, is an example of Jericho Road Ministries in action.
Having felt abandoned at age 13 when his father left home, Joy soothed his low self-esteem by living what he describes as "a terrible life" that included substance abuse and petty crime. No employer would trust him enough to give him a job.
In April 2011, when he felt he was "out of chances," he went to Jericho Road for help.
"I had been living a pretty crazy life and knew I needed to make some changes," Joy said. "I had long hair, was a drug addict, an alcoholic and unemployed. Luckily, they let me in."
Joy had been in substance abuse programs before, but it was learning about God that made the difference.
"At Jericho, I paid attention and learned about the Bible and Jesus, and it changed my whole way of thinking," Joy said. "I realized there is a God and he will forgive me and I can start a new life by giving up the old man and becoming a new man in Christ."
After a year in the program, and while he lived at the men's shelter, Joy was offered a home in a private residence in exchange for continued maintenance of the residence. Today, he provides maintenance for the ministry as well and runs the Barn, distributing food to the needy five days a week.
He also leads a chapel service once a month at the Mondon Hill site, where he shares his testimony of a changed life.
"It's amazing how far I've come with the help of the Lord," Joy said. "I thank God every day for what he's done for me. And Jericho introduced me to God."
Gimbel said there are several ways people can help men like Joy and the other men, women and children who benefit from the mission.
"People can pray for us that God continues to meet our needs," he said. "They can also make cash donations, which are always helpful in paying electric and medical bills and other program costs."
Folks can donate merchandise to sell in the thrift stores and patronize the stores.
"We take volunteers as well," Gimbel said, "so they can come to our office at 1163 Howell Ave. and make application for volunteer work."
Gimbel noted that groups and businesses also volunteer for various projects and that the mission provides opportunities for those who have to fulfill community service hours.
"In helping our ministry, they're helping better our entire community," he said. "By helping us help those who are struggling to get back on their feet to become productive and a contributor to the community, it furthers the entire community and makes our county a greater place to live."