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Bowery Mission

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Member Reviews

Bowery Mission
Grit and Grace on Manhattan’s Oldest Street
by Jason Storbakken
Plough Publishing
Plough Publishing House
Christian | History
Pub Date 05 Nov 2019



I am reviewing a copy of Bowery Mission through Plough Publishing and Netgalley:



Jason Storbakken a recent director of the Bowery Mission and pastor of the Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship.  He writes of his ministry that includes providing meals and other support to the homeless in New York City’s notorious neighborhood.


Bowery Mission is a mixture of history and memoir.  It tells of Bowery Missions service to the homeless and hungry from it's founding in 1879 to present day.  Storbakken uses personal anecdotes drawn from his own experience as Director of Chapel and Compassionate Care with compelling narratives of the Mission’s founding, development, and transformation over time. 



I give Bowery Mission five out of five stars!



Happy Reading!
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Over 100 years, the Bowery has been an infamous street in New York.  The Mission has been helped by people coming together to provide the simple basics of life .  What are they? Hot meals, showers, clean beds and warm clothes.  They are helping the homeless get off the streets and back on their feet.  The Bowery Mission helps the mentally ill, troubled war veterans, drug addicts and those down on their luck.  They even help those who were in prison but now are out.  It’s a place that one goes to when there is no other place to go for help.  The book is a history of it helping the unfortunate.  

If nothing else, this book will make you grateful for what you have.  It’s all too easy these days to be down on your luck or homeless and nothing to look forward to.  It is too easy to feel that no one cares.  The author has written the interesting history of this mission.  It’s amazing that it has existed for such a long time.  I think differently about places like this now.  It’s amazing.
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This book chronicles the fascinating history of New York's famous Bowery Mission. The history is enlightening - I had no idea the Mission had been involved in worker's rights and antipoverty work. Interspersed throughout are some unbelievably inspiring stories of lived changed and healed. My favorite is the story of what the men did with their nickels. The author doesn't hide the reality that not all visitors to the Bowery Mission experience transformation, that often the struggles of drugs and alcohol can overcome so many individuals, that Bowery employees and volunteers can even experience violence in their line of work. Still, as one member of the mission wrote, "We are looked at like dirt, but we are somebody." The book is not just a history and and a description of lives changed but a call to action. I learned that the numbers of homeless in NYC today "parallels" those of the Great Depression  The writing is choppy at times, but the stories and the photos overcome that shortcoming.
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For 140 years the Bowery Mission on New York’s Lower East Side has been helping the homeless. Jason Storbakken was a director for many years and has now written this compelling history of the mission and its work, introducing the reader to many of the people who have supported and worked there over the decades as well as many of the people it has helped. It’s a Christian mission and the Christian ethos pervades the account, but even for a non-Christian it’s an uplifting and inspiring story. It’s a salutary lesson for us all to see Christian beliefs and values in action. I found it a compelling read and felt that I gained a deeper understanding of what it’s like to be out of luck and on the streets.
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This book contains many positive values and I am excited to see in writing the understanding that being part of a faith community to mean including literally everyone, no asterisks. That being said there were one or two things I struggled with, so this layout of this review will be my positives followed by "hms"

Positives- 
1)  I think stories like this are important and I appreciate the person-first language that Jason Storbakken used when discussing individuals experiencing homelessness. 
2) I appreciated the thorough history given of the mission and how it has evolved over time complete with some graphics it made it interesting from a historical perspective. 
3) The length was appropriate and did not make it feel like the writing was dragging. 

Hms- 
1) I was turned off by the narrator's voice. Especially at the beginning it felt more about the narrator and how great he was then about the mission or the organization. Throughout it very much felt like there was still some white savorism happening which led to feeling uncomfortable with the narrative. 
2) I felt that it was highlighting stories of "success" that are how we understand success as a nation i.e. going to college, cleaning up their act etc. and I think there are many ways to be successful that do not fit into this box.
3) The book espouses radical love and seems very progressive, but upon reviewing the bowery mission there is still a lot of gendering of God/Holy Spirit (which are not actually assigned genders in the Bible) and there was no clear statement regarding whether they are affirming of the LGBTQIA population as a part of their faith.
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The Bowery Mission has stood on the Bowery, one of New York City's most infamous and crime ridden streets, for 140 years. I've passed the Bowery Mission before and looking at its red doors thought "if only these walls could talk!" In this book, Jason Storbakken, the Mission director does his best to speak for the mission and it's history, telling the story of the birth, life and growth of the mission and peppering its historical timeline with tales of the people that have lived and died and fought demons of all nature there. Many of them were homeless due to substance abuse, mental illness, criminal backgrounds or from carrying the burdens of coming home from war. Some succeeded, some failed, but all received love and support from the Bowery and its myriad of programs and volunteers. Its compassion for the poor seems truly endless. 

This book has a lot of ground to cover, and in doing so doesn't go quite as deep as I'd like into some aspects. There is a solid overview of the general history of the Mission and it's leaders, and has good illustrative stories of the types of people you find at the Mission and how some of them have found success and even become mission employees and volunteers, all of which I loved reading. 

Perhaps this is a topic for a whole other book entirely, but I would have liked to read more about how the Mission actually works. Some protocols are mentioned on how to handle different scenarios (people coming in on drugs, or panhandling for money, or who try to deal drugs from the Mission) but none are gone into much depth. I would have liked to know-- how does this mission really handle the flood of humanity crashing against their doors everyday? How do they keep going on when at times it has to seem hopeless? The Bowery Mission is a Christian mission, so of course some of the answer will be found in the workings of faith and compassion.
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Fascinating read about a difficult subject.  The Bowery Mission is an eye-opening account of the difficulties faced by real people, both the homeless who are served by the Mission & the staff who trying to make a difference.  I enjoyed this book for it's look at the history of the Mission and the impact it has on individuals.  Thank you NetGalley for an ARC.
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Inspiring and challenging! 

From the beginning of this book, also known as the “Forward”, I became engaged in the stories shared within the pages of this book.  The Bowery Mission has been active as a haven for the homeless and others who have lost their way in life and has also provided programs to assist its clients with turning their lives in a positive direction. The author brings the reader into an intimate view of the work being done behind the Mission’s red doors.

While much is being said about the current homeless situation in our nation, the Bowery Mission is one of the organizations that has been on the forefront of this battle. In fact, they have been there for more than 140 years. 

The author shares the history of the Bowery Mission in this ongoing battle. The reader is transported to 19th Century Lower Manhattan and then continues the journey to the present-day work of the Mission. On this journey, the author shares stories about the clients served in a way that is respectful, but real. The stories shared allow the reader to see beyond the nondescript, homeless persons they may encounter to people who have experienced trauma in ways that have led to their situations – experiences none of us would want to have. Yet, The Bowery Mission continues the work it has done from the beginning to impact their clients’ lives in significant ways. Do they win all the time? No. However, they have made significant impact in the lives of many clients while continuing the fight in this overwhelming battle.

I encourage everyone to read this book. Then, purchase a few copies to give as gifts. Not only will you be impacted, but you will impact the lives of those receiving those gifts in ways you will not believe.
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Very interesting read about a place in history. Colorful characters and history about Bowery Mission. Entertaining read. Enjoyed reading about this place, the people, and events that took place. Would recommend.
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I put a review on Goodreads under my name Jeannie Huie.

This is a very interesting book about the history of the Bowery Mission.  It has lots of real life stories about the people involved in the Mission in some way!  This is not a thriller, but if you are a people-person and are curious about "bad places" you really need to get this book!
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