By the second decade of the 20th century, city missions—or rescue missions, as they were starting to be called—had come of age. The first North American mission, the McAuley Water Street Mission in New York, celebrated 41 years of existence in 1913 and had already launched many men and women to start other missions across North America and around the world. Thirty of these mission pioneers saw the need for sharing their expertise to help new directors get established, trained, and spiritually fed through the International Union of Gospel Missions (today, Citygate Network).
Many of the names on the Articles of Incorporation are not immediately recognizable—their missions have since closed, and their stories have been lost to history. “Rescue mission men were not known to keep complete files,” according to former IUGM Board president Leonard Hunt in the 1964 publication The IUGM History and Future. Several, though, were men and women whose vision for ministry would still impress us today. “They were highly individualistic,” Leonard wrote. “They were as independent as could be, giants in their own areas. Yet in spite of this individualism, they had heart-warming fellowship together around the cross of Christ, and the common cause—rescue.”
(Rescue mission leaders) were highly individualistic...as independent as could be, giants in their own areas. Yet in spite of this individualism, they had heart-warming fellowship together around the cross of Christ.
What a challenge these men and women faced! Their smaller missions didn’t have huge budgets or staffs, and many had to work for another organization while running their shelter. But they had a vision for an organization that would unite them in providing assistance, training, encouragement, and challenge to this special niche of leaders both in North America and around the world. More than 100 years later, the organization that started in the office of the Water Street Mission continues to advance—still seeking to provide education, networking, and services to the men and women ministering to the neediest in our cities.
Sidney Whittemore and his wife, Emma, were wealthy, cultured, church-going people living in New York City. In 1874, they paid a visit to the Water Street Mission to see what their giving supported.
“I…went down to Water Street, feeling that I was such a big one in church life that I knew everything, and to go down and shake hands with Jerry McAuley and his wife—why, yes, I would, and encourage him in that way,” Sidney said, according to the 1907 book, Jerry McAuley: An Apostle to the Lost, edited by R. M. Offord.
The refined couple stood out among the needy individuals attending the service, but the husband and wife went forward during the altar call to kneel with the crowd of broken men. Sidney had planned to just sit and observe, but instead, he increased his nights at the mission until he and Emma spent five out of seven nights a week with the McAuleys and Sidney served on the board of the Cremore Mission.
In The Romance of Rescue, William Paul quotes a 1921 association document stating that the IUGM was a “child of the heart” of Sidney. As the first board president of the IUGM, he had a vision for furthering the cause of rescue.
Before her conversion, Emma Whittemore admitted that she matched the prevalent character of church people—“a card-playing, theater-going, dancing Christian,” wrote Samuel H. Handley in the 1902 volume, Down in Water Street. When she first visited the mission, “it was with the district understanding that I was never to go to such a place as that again,” according to Jerry McAuley: An Apostle to the Lost. But after hearing the call at that first meeting, Emma not only helped her husband, but also organized the Door of Hope for lost and helpless girls. She went on to establish more than 50 Door of Hope missions in other cities, and served as the second elected IUGM president, carrying on her husband’s vision after his death.
Englishman John Wyburn came to America to take charge of his brother’s business. When his brother died in 1882, John inherited a large share of the business along with a generous cash legacy. Three years later, despondent with life, he withdrew his money and began drinking, and ended up penniless at the Bowery in New York City. Since John didn’t intend to stay at the mission, he planned to ask Superintendent Samuel Handley for a “loan” of $10 and move on but ended up staying for the service and surrendering his life to the Lord.
Rather than returning to his business, he found work as a clerk at a lodging house and returned to the mission every night of the week. In 1896, he became superintendent of the Bowery Mission, met a pretty young volunteer, May, who eventually became his wife. Three years later, John returned to Water Street as the assistant to Superintendent Handley who he succeeded following Handley’s death in February 1906. John served in that role until he died in 1921, according to Arthur Bonner’s 1936 book, Jerry McAuley and His Mission.
I shall never forget a convention of rescue mission superintendents [and] one thing that really gripped me… ‘We never give a man up,’ others may speak of wasted time and wasted money, but [Wyman], never.
“On at least three occasions, Mr. Wyburn was approached just before the annual business meeting and urged to accept the nomination for the presidency of this organization,” May Wyburn wrote in her 1936 work, But Until Seventy Times Seven. “But he declined fearing it might take him away too often from his work in Water Street, which always took precedence over everything else.”
Sara Wray, superintendent of the Eighth Avenue Mission in New York City, spoke highly of John Wyburn in But Until Seventy Times Seven. “I shall never forget a convention of rescue mission superintendents … where Mr. Wyburn [gave one of his] eloquent addresses [and] one thing that really gripped me… ‘We never give a man up,’ said Mr. Wyburn. Others may weary, others may say it is of no use, others may speak of wasted time and wasted money, but he, never.
Englishman John R. McIntyre worked his way to the top of a large company in London as a member of the Royal Exchange before emigrating to America to start fresh and try to escape his drinking problem. He became a department head at a store in Philadelphia before liquor consumed him again. Finding himself in the gutter, John walked six miles to the Whosoever Gospel Mission and became the first convert there, eventually rising to the position of mission superintendent, and serving for 50 years.
A beautiful testimony of John’s compassion for broken men can be seen in the Episcopal Cathedral’s stained glass window in Washington, D.C. where artist Lawrence Saint depicted the redeemed drunk, with the lost sheep carried around his neck. John served as president of the IUGM from 1919 to 1921, and as the chairman of the executive committee for 20 years.
A mountain boy from the hills of North Carolina, Lucius B. Compton, grew up crippled due to malnutrition. His family assumed his disabilities made him feeble-minded, and only allowed him six months of schooling. At the age of 14, he ran from the law, and turned into a tramp, roaming from city to city. In Cincinnati, he wandered into a service at the mission, attracted by the singing. He gave his life to the Lord, was healed of his stuttering and started participating in street meetings.
Lucius eventually returned to Asheville and founded an orphanage and home, as well as a farm connected to the home, a rescue mission, and a Bible conference grounds. He also became an internationally known evangelist. This unschooled mountain boy served as president of the IUGM from 1947 until his death in 1948.