The 60th Anniversary Gala for Omaha’s Open Door Mission showcased the success and pride of the Mission, and the communities it serves. Leadership, faith and character were among the lessons imparted by keynote speaker, College Football Legend, Coach Bobby Bowden.

A capacity crowd of Mission supporters and guests filled the Hilton Hotel Ballroom for the November 12, 2015 event.

Doing God’s Work

“Open Door Mission is a Gospel Rescue Mission founded in 1954 committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty. Each day, Open Door Mission’s campus offers 816 safe, shelter beds to homeless men, women and children, serves over 2,000 hot, nutritious meals and provides preventive measures to more than 275 people living in poverty.”

But the Mission is much more than a shelter and temporary help for people in need. The Mission helps people help themselves, sponsoring the New Life Recovery Program “a Bible-based 12-step residential program committed to providing men, women and families the tools they need to become self-sufficient, contributing members of the community.” Another, the Journey to Work Program, “focuses on breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty through personal development, money management, job training and educational skills” and offers GED classes.

Open Door Mission has a very informative website where we learn more.

Sharing Pride

The theme of Gala celebration was “Diamonds in the Rough.” Dinner was followed by a poignant video demonstrating the resemblance between the earth’s precious diamonds and the Mission’s students who graduate the programs – both may have a rough, pressure-filled start, but finish as a gleaming point of light, annealed by passage of time and all that came before.

More than a dozen Mission graduates proudly took the stage, testifying to the program’s success. They told of seemingly insurmountable problems in their past, the blessings of the Mission and their aspirations going forward in new-found life. Their beaming pride and presence on the stage, alone, was a great testament.

People Helping People

Coach Bowden, lively and witty as ever, complimented the Mission and the people of Omaha, “You folks are doing it right!” Referring to the Mission’s operations and a budget based on the generosity of private donors, Coach expressed “that’s the way God wants it to be.” Churches used to be the place where people turned for help, not the government. “That’s the way it used to be,” Coach said. People helping people, rather than the government.

Coach said he’d like to take the Mission’s programs back to Tallahassee.  Giving directions on how to drive there, he said “just follow the Mississippi River all the way down to Louisiana, then take a left.”  He gave the crowd a lot of good laughs.

He said our whole country could us a program like the Open Door Mission.  A lot of heads were nodding.

Other people share Coach’s sentiment – we can accomplish more if people help people, not the government. There is a place for government, but the greatest efficiency is gained through organizations like Open Door Mission. From the dais, President Candace Gregory shared what the website confirms, “Open Door Mission devoted 88 percent of all fiscal 2015 expenses to food, shelter and life-changing programs for homeless and near-homeless men, women and children in the Heartland.”

Sharing Life’s Lessons

With charm, wit and humor, Coach used several stories to effectively share many lessons he learned in 55 years of coaching. One of the most memorable was the importance of “believing.” Unwavering belief in the the goal, the cause, whatever it is, and the power to get the job done is critical to the outcome.

Turning to the topic of leadership, Coach outlined three essential ingredients: integrity, compassion and conviction. And, he spoke at length about character, observing that everyone, including himself has some sort of problems to solve. “Solving problems,” Coach said, “builds character.” His message – none of us would be a strong as we can be if we didn’t have problems to solve.  Solving them strengthens us.

Bobby Bowden is the author or co-author of several books on leadership, faith and football. All appear to be recommended reading for anyone’s list.

Coach closed by quoting Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” And, he said, the Bible verse “is not referring the muscle in one’s chest.” It speaks of our thoughts, words and deeds, and how we treat one another. Can you imagine what a world it would be, said Coach Bowden, “if we would all just be kind to one another.”

May God Bless Coach Bobby Bowden and his family.

The 60th Anniversary Gala was a celebration to remember, but not just for the inspiring words and a lifetime of lessons shared by a coaching legend. Mostly, we’ll remember the pride we all shared in the accomplishments of the Mission and the graduates, representing scores more no doubt, who stood proudly in testament to this shining diamond on the Omaha landscape.


How may we serve you?

Article by: Mike Mostek
Photo by: Aaron Burden

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