Mark Criss has been providing help to those in need through Lansing’s City Rescue Mission for more than 11 years. Now, as the executive director, he is spearheading the City Rescue Mission’s newest project, the Maplewood Center for women. Estimated to be completed by the end of this year, the newly renovated building will house up to 130 beds and facilities in order to feed, shelter and clothe homeless women and children.
Criss’ journey began almost 12 years ago, when he was the chief information and technology director at a large company, on his way to a baseball game. Upon noticing the “Jesus Saves” cross on Michigan Avenue, Criss asked his pastor what it meant. He learned the sign was for the City Rescue Mission of Lansing.
After talking to the then-executive director, he began volunteering every Thursday afternoon serving meals to the homeless. After a few years, he began sharing a message in the chapel at the Mission. Ultimately, he came to serve on the board of directors.
“Long story short, eventually I went from my technology career into the ministry,” said Criss. “I started seeing how God would change hearts and change lives, and that got me excited.”
Inspired by the generosity of others and the ability of those in need to make permanent changes through the support of the Mission, Criss believes that his job is “more of a blessing than a career plan.”
“There are so many people willing to help,” said Criss. “The Lansing community is a very giving, caring community, and I’m thankful for that. People make a difference.”
For the future, Criss plans to go wherever the need is and meet it. However, the ultimate goal is to reduce the need for these services.
The chance to be a mentor to young men who grow up without a father in the shelter is something that Criss enjoys about his life.
“With any parent, you want to see your kids succeed. I love it when my stepchildren are successful,” said Criss. “Even with men who come through the program, some of them don’t have fathers and grew up without dads … We give them advice with relationships and work and church. That’s exciting, that’s a great opportunity.”
Currently, Criss and his wife are working on renovating a house and plan to move to Lansing by the end of the year. Outside of the Mission, Criss enjoys teaching at the First Baptist Church of Okemos.
When asked about what might surprise people about himself and his work, Criss said, “It’s not like it’s a burden. Maybe at one point I thought, ‘Boy it must be a burden to help the poor,’ but it’s not. It’s a privilege. It’s a blessing to see how much God can provide.”