A Bigger Boat—and a Step of Faith
“Sometimes I feel like the man who was picking up victims of a sinking ship with his small fishing boat. He cried out in the midst of an already overloaded craft, ‘O Lord, for a bigger boat!’ That’s our constant prayer here, ‘O Lord, for a bigger building, more room, more adequate facilities!’”
—G.O. Pitney, late 1960s
In 1971, The Mission was outgrowing its original home on Kishwaukee Street. Director G.O. Pitney checked out the Germania Club building for sale not far away, on South Madison Street. The 79-year-old building was twice as big. It had been the site of Rockford’s first automated bowling alley, and now had a ballroom that G.O. thought could be turned into a chapel. The three-lane bowling alley could become a dormitory. A 50-foot bar downstairs could be converted to a sobering-up center. Another bar upstairs could be torn out and converted to office space. The building’s asking price: $30,000.
G.O. raised most of the down-payment money during revival meetings in his native Missouri. But the Mission’s board members weren’t so enthusiastic. The bank had said they would have to personally sign for the loan. None of them wanted to do that.
Mel Schlueter, a Christian lawyer in town, shared G.O.’s vision. He said, “Pitney, if you’ll sign your name for the bank, I’ll cosign.”
Mel’s signature was the only one that meant anything. Outside of the money for the down payment, G.O. didn’t have a dime. But Mel signed for the full responsibility of the loan. And
Rockford Rescue Mission had a new home for the next 28 years.
Mel’s step of faith was one of the most important contributions anyone ever made to the Mission.
Adapted from Rescuing the Raggedy Man, ©2004 by Perry Pitney and Jim Killam