Connections: Jim Harriger
More Than a Rescue Mission
Jim Harriger is the executive director of Springfield Victory Mission in Springfield, Mo. He spoke recently with Pentecostal Evangel Editor Ken Horn.
evangel: Springfield Victory Mission is far more than what some people envision a mission as being. For example, here at the Assemblies of God National Offices, we have the Branch Bistro. It is catered by Victory Trade School.
Harriger: When we said back in 1998 that we were going to open a restaurant and operate a trade school, there weren’t a lot of people who believed it.
We needed to expand our food service. We didn’t have enough kitchen or dining room space, and this was a way to comply with zoning laws and grow our program. So we opened the Cook’s Kettle restaurant in 2003, using men who had come out of the rescue mission, Teen Challenge, Salvation Army programs, etc.
They receive a year of culinary arts training at Victory Trade School. We are accredited by the North Central Association [a post-secondary school accreditation agency], and certified by the State of Missouri and the U.S. Department of Education.
evangel: It’s quite an accomplishment that Victory Trade School has become accredited.
Harriger: We wanted to create the curriculum, create the format within which all of this happened, and then make it work with men coming from varied backgrounds from across the country.
Most of them come to us already knowing about Jesus. But this is the place where they receive not only restaurant skills, but leadership skills as well. They learn how to work with others, how to be valued employees no matter where they go, and they learn the Christian survival skills that will allow them to thrive once they leave the school.
evangel: What kind of interest is out there for the kinds of programs you provide?
Harriger: It’s not just the trade school. Organizations are calling to see the other things we do in social enterprise. They’re interested in the way we manage to operate a warehouse and recycling center. We touch almost every other nonprofit in the community. This flows from simply believing that we have a responsibility to share whatever God gives us, wherever it needs to go in the community.
evangel: You’ve found a number of different ways to do things that aren’t typical of rescue missions.
Harriger: We were involved in starting a food co-op. It began in March. We have 18 families that are now referring to their co-op rather than coming to our food pantry. It is part of helping people stop being dependent, whether it is on us or any of the other pantries in town.
We have started a project where we receive items from Home Depot every other week and share them with the community and neighborhood associations. For instance, people from the neighborhood northeast of us will come to our warehouse, look at the items Home Depot is providing, and take what they need to do home repair. In this way, they can improve their houses — which then improves our neighborhoods.
evangel: You have a real burden to build your community.
Harriger: We do. Five years ago my wife and I decided we needed to live in a neighborhood with people who come to Victory Mission. Now we see them on the streets as we walk our dog. We see them at the community meetings. We’ve become part of the solution in our neighborhood — not because we are standing out there throwing stuff at it but because we are working within the neighborhood.
We need to put the transformational power of Christ into effect in our neighborhoods. Whether it’s an upper-class neighborhood or the poorest in the community doesn’t really matter. We should be part of the transformation.
For more information: www.victorymission.com.
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