Saturday, September 30, 2006

Guns and Roses

Last night ICU (Inner City Unit) did our first Midnight Outreach in North Baton Rouge. After spending some time in pray we hit the streets armed with two dozen long-stemmed roses and a cooler full of ‘purple drink’. We prowled the streets (as much as one can prowl in a giant white van with HPC written down the side of it), looking for those who were in need of hope. As we drove the streets surrounding the Baton Rouge Dream Center (our new facility), we quickly found dozens of people who were lost, hurting and desperate for a touch from God.

We met Rhoda on the front porch of her friend’s house. She and her friends had been drinking some and were a little skeptical about a church handing out free roses and cold drinks. Nonetheless, they were fairly receptive to our conversation. Once it was firmly established that we were not the government and Pastor Johnny was not responsible for all the ails of the world, they decided that we could pray for their needs. The guys gathered around a young man sitting on the edge of the porch while us girls prayed for Rhoda and her friend. As prayer closed Rhoda threw herself on a volunteer and began sobbing. We helped her down onto the porch, where she immediately wrapped her arms around Pastor Alliece’s leg and started crying out for Jesus to help her. We eventually led her in a prayer of salvation, after which she immediately passed out. The owner of the house stepped out onto the porch and told us it was time to go. Pastor Alliece explained that she was currently tied up, and as we worked on getting her disentangled from Rhoda’s grasp, the guys got to talk to the gentleman, give him a cold drink let him know about Healing Place Church. We were soon back in the van and looking for our next assignment. How cool is God?

One of the purposes of Midnight Outreach is to find men and women who are caught up in drugs and the sex-industry, and to remind them that Jesus loves them right where they’re at. We give each of the ladies a rose, as a symbol of God’s love for them. One of the ladies we met told us that if we were looking for working girls we should go to The Alamo hotel. After talking to a few other people on the street we headed down Florida in search of the Alamo.

We pulled into the lot and parked the van. As usual, everyone scattered until they realized that we were not the police. A woman who had walked past us turned and came back. Pastor Alliece said hello, introduced herself and gave her a rose.

“You’re from Healing Place,” the woman said looking at the van. “You’re from Dino’s church”.

“Yes we are,” Pastor Alliece replied, “Do you know about us?”

“Oh yes,” the woman replied, “I used to go there, and I went to the service downtown at Easter.” The woman looked at us and then at her surroundings. She dropped her eyes and said, “I’m kinda down on my luck right now, but I plan on coming back there soon. Real soon.”

Pastor Alliece continued to talk with her and then we got to pray with her. We prayed for breakthrough in her life and that God would continue to protect her. She thanked us, hugged us and walked away smelling her rose.

As Charity and Jennifer talked to a couple of other ladies, a man approached us with a concerned look on his face. He looked at the van and then at us.

“Are y’all with the church?” he asked, incredulous. Pastor Johnny nodded.

“Do y’all know where you’re at?” Pastor Johnny smiled and nodded again.

The guy introduced himself and stuck out his hand, shaking his head. “Man, y’all are bold coming up in here. I mean bold. It’s dangerous up in here.”

Pastor Alliece grinned at him and said, “We know. That’s why we’re hear.” We talked to him about what we were doing, about our new community center and about reaching out to those who feel forgotten. He was impressed with our vision, but more impressed by our boldness. He thanked us for coming out and told us to stay safe. He didn’t want prayer and he didn’t want a purple drink. He just wanted to thank us. He walked away, his pistol barely concealed beneath his t-shirt.

Guns and roses, baby…I love this outreach!

We stopped by a local bar that had a Happy Birthday shout-out on its marquee sign. We asked the bouncer if he could have the birthday girl come out to get a rose. He complied, and by the time we left we had given out a half-dozen roses and several cold drinks. We met Gangsta Boo when he ran up to the van wanting his purple drink. Our brief conversation focused mostly on the fact that he was a blood donor, and therefore, obviously clean. He was talking faster than I could listen so I just agreed with him and said ‘God bless you, Gangsta. Nice to meet you.” He was gone in a flash, having disappeared into the shiny black car with 20-inch rims.

Circling back around Florida we saw the guy from the Alamo walking the street with one of his girls. She may have been fifteen, but not likely. We asked him if we could give her a rose and he allowed it. We thanked him and drove away. Prostitution is difficult to watch at any age, but it’s particularly difficult when children are involved. God bless them all. We continued on our journey, looking for those who didn’t wish to be found.

Our last roses were given when we saw a couple of ladies standing in a driveway. They too were leery about accepting them until we assured them they were absolutely free. We explained that we were from Healing Place and that we were out reminding people that Jesus loves them and knows where they’re at. One of the women took the rose and smelled it. She looked at her friend and said, “I got a rose…mmmh me a rose right here. Betcha your husband didn’t get you no rose, but I got one right here.” She smelled it again and smiled. Pastor Alliece asked if she there was another lady around, as we only had one rose left. The woman nodded towards a car parked on the street. “Oh yeah, right there in that car…but lemme go with you and I’ll pick out the one who gets it.” After careful consideration the rose was given to the one that she’s seen around on the streets. She explained to the others that it was nothing personal, but there was only one rose left. I was standing in the driveway with the friend and I asked her how I could pray for her. She wanted me to pray for protection, for everyone. After a short prayer they thanked us and hugged us. We got back into the van, out of roses and purple drinks.

In a little over 90 minutes we gave out two dozen roses and 48 cold drinks. We reminded the men and women of the night that God loved them and had not forgotten them. We got to pray for the needs of dozens of people. God definitely showed up.

This city is filled with lost and broken people; men and women doing their best to survive the horrible darkness they call life. Jesus commissioned us to go to the streets and the by-ways, to search the bushes for those who are lost. I am so grateful that Healing Place Church allows us and equips us to fulfill that commission. It is always and honor to serve God’s people…and it’s a whole lotta fun when we get to beat the bushes. Thank you HPC. All glory to God!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Photos from FEMA Outreach

This is my first attempt at posting photos. Hopefully I haven't cut the heads off of everyone (like half the pictures in our family albums).

These are from our most recent outreach at a FEMA park. For more details you can read the post titled 'FEMA, Photos and Friendly Returns'. All Glory to God!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Drunk People, Protestors and the Power of God

I love drunk people. Perhaps it's because I was one for so long, but that's a story for another day. I'm thinking about drunk people because I just got back from Late Night at The Varsity. It was a trip! For those of you who aren't familiar with the area, The Varsity is a bar down by Louisiana State University (Go Tigers!). A couple of times a year the college ministry (Late Night) of Healing Place Church rents out a section of the facility, closes the bar and has throw-down church. The fact that there is no alcohol served during our service doesn't prevent drunk people from other bars from wandering in to see what all the noise is about. How cool is that?

So, I'm standing in the bar tonight listening to Jason and the worship team rock the house. I was looking around and wondering how an unsaved person would fare in this atmsophere. As I was thinking that, a guy walks into the back of me. It was pretty crowded and I didn't think anything of it until he realize he's hammered. He's reeking of alcohol, sweating profusely and is having a hard time keeping his balance. He's wearing jeans and t-shirt, with another t-shirt hanging out of his back pocket.

The band tuned it down some and moved from praise to worship. The drunk guy stepped past me to an opening a few feet in front me. I could tell he was trying to focus on what Jason was singing. The Spirit of God in the place was tangible. People all around had their hands in the air in worship. I'm quietly praying for this guy as I watch God move on his heart. He lifts his hands to his head, and then stretches them toward the ceiling. He loses his balance a little a puts on hand on the shoulder of a guy in front of him, his other hand still extended upward. The song ends and he's weeping. He walks out of the room and into the lobby. He was sitting at a table wiping his face with his shirt when one of our pastors joined him. I love it that God is willing to meet us exactly where we're at.

The entire service was great. Mike Hamen preached for about 10 minutes and dozens of people got saved. It was da bomb! Great atmosphere, great energy, great crowd.

If there was a downside to tonight, it may have been the protestors who were standing across the street with their 'Sinners burn in hell' signs. It's not that I disagree with that statement, I'm just not convinced that a 6'X4' placard is the best way to get the people saved. I'm also not convinced that shouting scriptures at the top of your lungs is the best way of demonstrating the love of Christ. I guess everybody has their own idea of ministry... I thank God for HPC.

There's a part of me that would have liked to have my own sign. I'm thinking maybe a 'I should be burning in hell right now...Thank You Jesus!' sign. It's probably good I don't keep red paint and sheets of cardboard in my car.

I think all of us have a sign; it's demostrated in how we live our lives. I don't remember who said it, but I love the quote "Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, speak."

What is your sign saying?

Monday, September 25, 2006

A big night at New Beginnings

New Beginnings is an outreach of Healing Place Church that helps people who are struggling with addictions. I volunteer there most Friday nights, but this week I was out of town. It was a bad night to miss.

Taneka is another volunteer and happens to be one of my roommates. For the past 9 months she has worked at a hardware store, not because she feels called to hardware, but because it's the only job she can walk to from my house. She has been believing God for a vehicle and a new job. Two weeks ago, out the blue, a friend called and asked me if Taneka would be interested in another job. I told her that I was sure she would be. After the interview, meeting the owner and a day of volunteering, Taneka landed herself a job. She was scheduled to start MondaySep 25th at 8am. The only problem: she can't walk to work from home.

On Friday Sep 22nd, Buddy and Amy (the leaders of New Beginnings) asked Taneka to give a brief testimony on what God has been doing in her life and how she has had to depend on Him. After she shared, Amy handed her the keys to a brand-new-to-you pick up truck! Taneka was floored.

A couple of weeks earlier Buddy had felt impressed to see what he could do about helping Taneka get a vehicle. He made some calls, sent an email and asked if anyone was willing to donate a car to a young woman who had a need. He explained that she had been faithfully volunteering, was trustworthy, and had a good heart. Someone replied and said he had a pick up truck that was in good condition and he was willing to give it away. He was concerned about the tires, so he put new ones on all the way around. Another guy offered to do the minor repairs it needed, and someone else was instructed by God to give Taneka money for insurance. How cool is God?!

Isn't it great how when we're busy with God's business, He always takes care of ours? I am so excited about what God is doing, in Taneka's life and in mine. I'm also relieved that God is no respector of person...which means He can get me a new vehicle too. All glory to God!

FEMA, Photos and Friendly Returns

September 19/06

The day started out as overcast, but we really couldn’t afford another rainout. We had promised the residents at the Mount Olive FEMA park that we were going to do free family photos, and we had already cancelled once due to sideways rain and severe lightening. But, the prayers of the righteous availed much and the weather cleared. We had a bright, sunny afternoon.

Dr. Cheri and Joseph were there, along with their crew from Healing Hands (mobile medical). Once we got the photo shoot set up (complete with country-style back drop, a wooden bench and glare-control side panels) we got out the basketballs, hula-hoops and kid’s activities. Kari Smith and I were very quickly schooled on the court by sixth-graders and retreated to bubble-blowing and baby holding. At one point during the festivities, Kari set her cell phone down on the table. When she went to pick it up it was gone. Rats!

We separated our volunteers into teams and went house to house (or rather trailer-to-trailer) letting people know that the doctor was in and the photographer was ready. Most of the kids had already headed over, but we did get to talk to a few adults. Other than a string of profanity from one disgruntled resident (not disgruntled with us so much as just disgruntled in general) it was a productive time. We saw Allen carrying his poodle. They were heading over for their family portrait. I told one woman about mobile medical and that we were doing photos. She waved a handful of multi-colored weave at me and said, “I’m fixin’ to get done right now”. I love ICU!

We walked back over by the photo shoot and watched kids posing and bowing up to the camera. Hulk Hogan would have been proud. Jenny was sitting at the picnic table talking to a neighbor. Other than some small scars she seems to have, at least outwardly, recovered from the brutal domestic attack she endured a few months earlier. I sat down with her and asked her how she’d been. She told me that her 2 year-old had just gotten out of the hospital. Apparently a couple of teenage boys from the park had held him down and forced him to inhale whatever drugs they had been doing. When he lost consciousness he was taken to the hospital and put on a respirator. He was in a coma for 2 days, but then he woke up. I watched him running around blowing bubbles and playing with his little friends. God is good.

Taneka and Jason were talking when she called me over. Jason is probably about ten and he’s in a wheelchair. He’s unable to go anywhere unless someone pushes him, so Taneka and Kari had been taking turns being his tour guide. I sat down on a cooler in front of him and said, “Hey Jason, what’s up?” He shrugged his shoulders and Taneka said, “Jason says he doesn’t know how to pray”. I asked him if he knew who Jesus was. He nodded firmly and said “God”. Rather than get into a theological debate I agreed. I then explained that prayer was like sending a letter; you just say whatever you want and then put a stamp on it by saying ‘In Jesus’ name’. I told Jason that by praying in Jesus’ name that sends the request right up to God. He seemed to understand. I asked Jason if he wanted us to pray with him and he said yes. I asked him what he wanted to pray for. He looked at me and said, “I want to walk”. I asked if he believed that God could do that and he said yes. Taneka and I laid hands on him and prayed for healing. He didn’t get out of his chair and walk, but I believe he will some day soon. I told him that I believed that God was going to strengthen his legs more every day and that one day he would just get up and walk. I told him that as soon as that happened I wanted him to run over and tell me. He smiled and said he would. A little while later I noticed a commotion on the basketball court. Kari had wheeled Jason over to shoot hoops with the other boys but the basket was too high for him. The players set down the ball and gathered around the pole. Three of them pulled the pole down until they had it low enough for Jason to shoot. His first shot missed but they handed him the ball again. They all cheered when he made his second shot. There were smiles all around. I later heard that Jason had never played basketball before. Maybe we got a little miracle after all.

Somebody hollered my name and I turned to see a man pointing at me. I had talked to him earlier and invited him to come and get a free medical check up and a picture with his family. He waved me over to his car so I grabbed Kari and headed his way. Joseph was kind enough to come and stand guard a few feet away, which is always comforting when dealing with a 300-pound man in fully tinted Chevy. He asked me if I remembered him and I said of course. He waved me closer to him and said, “I don’t want anybody to know what’s happening so just be cool.” I nodded and took another step toward him. He continued, “I don’t want nobody getting in trouble, but somebody tried to sell me a phone. They said it belonged to a doctor or something. I told him that these people was out here helping us, that we couldn’t be stealing from ‘em. Anyway, I got the phone back, but don’t let nobody know.” Just then a woman walked past the car and he pointed to a mark on his face and said, “like I was saying, I don’t know what it is but I think I need some medicine.” I looked him square in the eye and said, “That’s why I think you should let Dr. Cheri look at it.” The woman walked away so we returned to phone talk. He gave Kari her phone back and asked that we not say anything. She thanked him and carefully slid the phone into her pocket. As another passerby approached I said, “Come here early next time and then you’ll have time for the doctor to look at it.” He said okay, smiled at us and drove away. Did I mention that God is good?

Our volunteer photographer took over 40 pictures before we called it a wrap. Healing Hands was still there finishing up with patients when we pulled out of the gravel lot. It was a great day. Jason shot his first basket, dozens of families got their pictures taken, and Kari’s phone was safely returned. A good day indeed.

Thank you HPC. All glory to God.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006 Chick Night?

For any of you who know me well, you'll know that hanging out with hundreds of manicured, fluffy, smiling women stretches me to the max. I don't know how to act or what to say...or what to do with multi-colored tissues that smell like chocolate. Don't get wrong, I love the manicured, fluffy people (and I would secretly like to be one), I just don't know how.

Dan Ohlerking (you should check out his blog) was helping me set up this blog a few weeks ago. We were perusing layouts and he said to me, "There's a pink one, but you really don't strike me as a pink person". I looked at him and said, "Pink wouldn't be a bad a color if it looked more like black". He laughed, but I wasn't really joking. Back to Chick Night...

Are you ready for the big surprise? I had a great time! The worship was slammin' (thanks to Jaque Deshetler from Joyce Meyer Ministries) and Miss Priscilla brought a strong, on time word. It was 9pm before I even looked at the clock. That's huge for me.

Pastor DeLynn and her crew did an awesome job. The "I will Survive" skit was definitely a highlight. I hope we see it on the big screen on Sunday. Chick Night was so good, I might go back again some time. I love Healing Place Church! All glory to God!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Movin' on down

Yesterday we did our first official ICU (Inner City Unit) outreach from our new building in North Baton Rouge. After praying over our new facility we hit the streets armed with nothing but enthusiasm and postcard-sized flyers. You know the coolest thing about God? He'll take whatever you have to offer and bless it abundantly.

We got to talk to neighbors, prostitutes and business owners. We talked to people who were very high and people who were very low. We knocked on the door of a rundown house and were greeted by a woman whose entire family had been in a car wreck the night before. When we offered prayer she invited the team in, laid hands on the bruised face of her young son, and cried out to God with us. A local motel clerk told us, "Thank God you're here. We all need help."

One of our team leaders was told, "This is a dangerous place. Y'all need to get up outta here before something happens." The leader simply smiled at the woman and responded, "That's why we're here."

I thank God everyday that I belong to a church whose mission it is to be a healing place to a hurting world. We have been called to go to the streets and to the alleys, to search behind the hedges to find the crippled, the lame and the blind, and to bring them all to God's table.

What an adventure! All glory to God.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Slow start...

Okay, I realize now why I seldom journal for extended periods of takes extended periods of time. I hope to get better at this whole blogging thing, but for now I thank you for your patience. Here goes entry #2:

From Aug 28-Sep 1 I was in Slidell, LA volunteering with Operation Blessing International. They are a disaster relief outreach of The 700 Club, and are still on the forefront of recovery efforts in New Orleans and surrounding parishes. Their primary focus is helping the elderly, the disabled and the uninsured to rebuild their homes and their lives. While I was there I helped gut the house of a single mom with three grown children and 5-year-old twin boys. She has Lupus, very little money, and is still recovering from the shock of her husband of 25 years being beaten to death outside of an alternative lifestyle bar. Hurricane Katrina is not the only storm in her life.

It's cool to watch God meet people where they're at. As the days passed and we made more progress on her home, I watched eyes brighten. The desperation was still there, but at least it was cut with hope. Thank You Father, that you are still King over the flood.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Family... and other random thoughts

I got a call the other day asking me to pray for a police officer that had been shot. The following day I spent several hours with his wife, sitting at the hospital. I had never met them before, but a mutual friend knew that I had a flexible schedule and that I could hang in chaos. Jesus talked about 'true family' in Matt 12:49. Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

How cool is it that God can raise up a family for us in an instant? I have a great family, biologically and spiritually. I sometimes say that I was raised by orangutans, but they're still great. Much of who I am was shaped by who they are...the good, the bad and the ugly.

I'm very grateful for my families; the one I was born into and the one God has placed me in. Y'all know who you are...God bless you.