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In the right place to serve: Christians are leading the way in helping one city’s homeless

By God’s providence, Christians are often in exactly the right place at the right time to do the good works that He prepared for us! For nearly 100 years, the Lighthouse Mission has worked with the down and out on the streets of Bellingham, a university city near the Canadian border, preaching the Gospel while lending a material hand to those in need. As homelessness and despair due to drug addiction have grown in the last ten years, local government officials have begun to lean more and more on the work done by the Lighthouse – work that is helping pull people off the streets, and into productive lives through the power of God’s Word.

Hans Erchinger-Davis is the Executive Director of the Mission. Hans grew up near Bellingham in a Christian home with loving parents who shared the Gospel wherever they went, including a memorable one-year trip through communist eastern Europe when Hans was a boy. Erchinger-Davis studied at Regent College in Vancouver (where Professor J.I. Packer was among his teachers), but his first career was in technology, and later in film. On the cusp of a career as a documentary filmmaker, Hans was offered a job at the Lighthouse Mission in 2006, and his life, and the lives of thousands of others, was changed forever.

Help given in the Name of God

Executive Director Hans Erchinger-Davis has been working at the Mission since 2006.

Erchinger-Davis estimates that there are between 800 and 1,000 homeless people in Whatcom county at any one time, with the majority living on the city streets of downtown Bellingham. Volunteers and employees of the Mission make regular contact with these struggling men and women, giving out coffee and clothing, and inviting them to “base camp” for a hot meal and shelter for the night. Already at “base camp,” counselors share the good news of Jesus Christ, and offer resources and referrals, letting the new arrivals know that there is a way out of the despair in which they find themselves.

Those who are willing to move up from “base camp” into a formal program of recovery must commit to being off drugs and alcohol before they are admitted to recovery houses that build on the foundation of drug-free, value-filled living, to begin training towards a productive life. “The Christian message is always part of our teaching,” says Erchinger-Davis. “Ninety-nine percent of our graduates are Christians or become Christians.”

“We follow Jesus onto the streets and encampments in our community. The message of Jesus cannot be separated from the services we offer. It is in our DNA to carry out the mission of healing homelessness with Christ’s power and love,” said Erchinger-Davis. “It’s because of this that the Lighthouse Mission declines any offers of government funding for programs and services that might limit the ability for us to provide our homeless friend voluntary participation in prayer, worship, Bible studies and basic Christian discipleship.”

Eager to do even more

Now, in 2023, the Lighthouse Mission is in the middle of an ambitious construction project: the building out of which the Mission did its main work was in rough shape, and the Mission’s board decided that the most cost-effective solution was to tear it down and re-build a more suitable facility, with room for more training, more beds, more cooking facilities, and room for small retail businesses that those in the program can operate.

Whatcom County (in which Bellingham is located) has a fairly liberal governing “county council,” although there are believers among the county representatives. Officials have acknowledged publicly and privately that the Mission does invaluable work among the homeless that local government is not able to provide. As a result, both the city and county had committed to helping fund portions of the construction project that were centered on humanitarian aid (things like shelter, meals, and vocational training).

Setbacks, but no compromise

The Mission provides hot meals, but they don’t stop with providing for the physical. It is always delivered in the context of the Gospel.

Recently however, one of the county council members made it her personal mission to deny any funding to the rebuilding project due to the Mission’s “discriminatory” hiring practices. (The Lighthouse Mission requires that all of its employees acknowledge the organization’s Christian roots, including a Biblical understanding of human sexuality and the sinfulness of homosexual relationships.) The council member won a temporary victory, as the body decided not to provide funding for any of the Mission’s rebuild (even the portions of the work that could be described as humanitarian aid).

Again, by the grace of the Lord, this temporary setback was overcome in God’s providence. Just a few days after the council made its decision, a local donor contacted Hans to let him know that he and his family would be donating $400,000 to help cover the shortfall. But that was just the beginning! Kathy Kershner, a Christian who serves on county council, lobbied the other members of council, reminding them of the valuable services that the Mission provides to Whatcom County. Kershner moved to rescind the motion denying funding, and a majority of council agreed.

Hope for future rests in the Lord

Despite many victories and successes for the Mission, Erchinger-Davis’ personal life has been visited with tragedy. His father, a faithful Christian, struggled with bi-polar disorder. His best friend from high school became a drug addict, and despite intervention attempts and help that was available so close by, died of a drug overdose a couple of blocks from Hans’ office. Echinger-Davis’ sister was a victim of domestic violence, and recently took her own life, leaving behind two young children.

While some might despair at these tragedies, Hans is able to rejoice in God’s goodness, and to accept that God has a plan that he can’t fully understand. “It’s hard! My friend died, and I was not able to help him, but partly through my own work, the Mission has been able to help thousands who have escaped lives of brokenness through God’s love.” The Lord has put His people where they are needed to fulfill His gracious plan. Hans summarizes: “We aim for healing homelessness both in the present, the future, and for eternity with the tender love of Jesus Christ in Whatcom County.”

Assistant Editor Marty VanDriel is a board member of the Lighthouse Mission Ministries Foundation, which provides long-term funding for the work of the Lighthouse Mission Ministry, and was asked by the editor to profile the organization. Pictures have are frame captures, taken with permission, from Lighthouse Mission Ministries Foundation’s 5-part video series “Hope for Bellingham: Response to Homelessness,” the first of which you can watch below. Find the rest here.

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Pro-life - Abortion

Pro-lifers aren't helping people after they're born?

When it comes to the topic of abortion, I often hear the claim that pro-lifers aren't helping people after they're born. The idea/objection is that pro-lifers are hypocritical and thus shouldn’t speak out against abortion. Is this a good objection? I don’t think so, for two reasons. Reason 1: It isn't true First, is it true that pro-lifers aren’t helping people after they’re born? Well, maybe some aren't. But many are. Witness the proliferation of crisis pregnancy centers/ pregnancy care centers. According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, in the U.S. in 2017 there were 2752 such centers, providing much help to women and their children. Also, witness the fantastic response gotten from a newspaper editor who asked via Twitter (disparagingly and dismissively, expecting no good answers) what pro-life people have done personally to help lower-income single moms. It turns out this editor received 13,000 responses indicating that pro-life people in fact do a lot! Permit me to speak from personal experience. My wife Carla is deeply pro-life. But she is also humble and doesn't talk much about the good things she does. She sees such talk as morally inappropriate – as bragging. So I will brag on her behalf! When Carla and I were dating and during our first years of marriage, Carla worked in a group home caring for – helping – children who were severely handicapped physically and mentally. Later (while I was completing my PhD and beginning to teach philosophy courses) we lived for eleven years in a low-income, high crime neighborhood. During this time Carla (along with a couple of her friends) began a community center to help our needy neighbors. This community center was supported by one church initially, then two, then three, then seven—and more. Carla also tutored some of our neighbors' kids. She also taught single parents how to make inexpensive but nutritious meals (Carla even took the time to become certified by our local health department to do this). She also helped organize a weekly food distribution. She also helped a neighbor (a low-income single mom with five kids) learn to drive, obtain a driver's license, and find some part-time employment (subsequently Carla often loaned our car to this mom for grocery shopping). Carla also helped a young woman deal with her abusive husband. Carla also used her nurse training to help injured neighbors as well as neighbors with young children, including a home birth. Carla also was instrumental in having our family provide ongoing financial support for an orphanage in Bolivia begun by a young couple at our church. And there's much more, but space doesn't permit. (She also homeschooled our two sons during this time!) You get the picture: Pro-life people (like my wife) are against abortion and they often do lots of good stuff – which we tend not to hear about. Reason 2: Even if it was true, so what? Second, an important logical point should be made: Even if pro-lifers weren't (contrary to fact) helping people after they're born, this would not make the killing of unborn children morally correct or permissible. And it wouldn’t mean pro-lifers shouldn’t speak out against abortion. Pro-lifers hold the view that abortion is the killing of an innocent unborn child – and is wrong, period. Maybe the following parable from Scott Klusendorf will help: Joe found the young girl unconscious in her upstairs closet. By the time he got there, the structure was a raging inferno. No one else dared go inside. Scooping up the girl, he took his only exit, straight out the second-story window and into the bushes below. The girl lived. Joe sustained three cuts and two sprained ankles – and an avalanche of questions. The media wanted to know how he planned to pay for the girl’s food, clothing, and health care now that he’d rescued her. A pastor asked if time spent saving the girl from temporal flames might be better spent saving people from eternal ones. The social justice coordinator at a local parish insisted that if Joe truly cared about saving lives, he’d care about all life and spend equal time rescuing poor workers from rich corporations. The local Congressman asked if Joe supported tax hikes aimed at reducing fire risk. Joe just kept looking at the girl. The above story is contrived, but it’s played out in the real world every day. Only the issue is abortion. The minute you state your pro-life convictions, foes attack. Or think of it this way: I believe that killing kittens by suctioning off their legs (via a high-powered suction machine) is wrong, period. Objecting to my view because I don’t volunteer at my local animal shelter is beside the point. (Oh, by the way, our cat Rupert came from our local animal shelter.) The critics' objection is beside the point, too. Conclusion In conclusion, the objection that pro-lifers aren't helping people after they're born is often false and it’s not relevant to whether or not a pro-lifer should speak out against the killing of innocent human beings via abortion. Hopefully, pro-choicers are helping people after they're born, too, to provide a real choice, and thus not merely advocating for the right to kill unborn children. P.S. Permit me to brag about my wife once more. Carla donates blood regularly. At time of writing, she once again donated blood – for the 73rd time! Seventy-three blood donations. SEVENTY-THREE. Pro-lifers aren't helping people after they're born. Yeah, right. Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is a retired philosophy professor and author of "Untangling Popular Pro-Choice Arguments: Critical Thinking about Abortion," now available at and