Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Few Hours on the North Side

On Friday morning we were doing some preparation work at the Dream Center for the Saturday outreach and we delivered another truckload of product to Desire Street Ministries. With almost 100 teenage boys, most of whom live on-site, there is always a need for more food. Thanks to our partnership with Operation Blessing and our friends in the NFL, we were able to provide groceries and athletic apparel for the students. As always, the staff at Desire Street was very grateful.

Most of the students that attend Desire Street are still unable to return home, as many of them are from the former 9th Ward of New Orleans. But regardless of their circumstances, each of the young men that I have met have been courteous and eager to help. The staff at Desire Street is an example of how the power of God’s love will change lives. I am confident that God has mighty plans for these boys and the entire ministry. It is a privilege to be able to partner with them and watch God move.

Saturday morning we did another give-away in North Baton Rouge, handing out groceries and hygiene products to people in the neighborhood. As is His custom, God showed up big. We sent three trucks out, loaded with everything from red beans to hand lotion. Our volunteers knocked on doors, prayed for people and shared the love of God and the hope of Jesus Christ.

One of the places we sometimes go is to an apartment complex on North Street. Most of the residents are elderly, disabled or Katrina evacuees. Every home has another version of tragedy; another tale of brokenness. Thank God that our church believes in being a healing place for a hurting world. The people pour out of their apartments, meeting us in the parking lot. The need is so great at this particular venue that we don’t even have time to go door-to-door. Their gratitude is evident in their smiles, and often in their tears. We hand out food, pray for needs, and believe with them that things will improve.

We also stopped by The Alamo, a by-the-hour motel on Florida Blvd. Again, surrounded by utter brokenness, I watched God move. Leaning against one of our now-empty trucks, I looked across the parking lot. I saw three of our volunteers kneeling in prayer, laying hands on a woman and her baby. I saw a young man talking to one of our pastors, nodding in agreement with something that was said. I saw another volunteer with a kitten tucked into her jacket, having been given to her by a family who couldn’t afford to feed it. I watched individuals and families receive food, prayer and hope.

From there we hit another couple of streets before returning to the Dream Center; more houses, more families, more lost and hurting people. Back at the building we unloaded boxes, straightened the warehouse and closed in prayer.

We didn’t get to feed everyone in Baton Rouge, but we made a difference to some. As I rode home I heard the voice of a woman from the apartment complex saying through her tears, “God is so good, He is just so, so good”. I couldn’t agree with her more. All glory to God!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

< 1%

My church is gearing up for a big weekend so all week we've had morning prayer from 6-7am. I struggle with corporate prayer sometimes because I don't normally prayer quietly or in one place. I'm a pacer and a talker; on the move and out loud.

This morning I was sitting still and reading Judges 7. Pastor Mike Haman talked about Judges 6 a couple of days ago and I kind of got hung up there. I felt like God was using it to encourage me in what He's going to do this weekend (Miracle Offering). In this chapter Gideon has been called by God to fight the Midianites so he gathers up his troops (32,000 of them). God basically tells him that if he uses all his troops then they will claim the victory for themselves instead of giving God the glory. So, God starts to separate who will go and who will stay. To start with, God says that everybody who's afraid can go home; 22,000 of them tip out. Of the 10,000 that are left God has all of them drink from a stream and the ones who cup the water in their hands to drink instead of sticking their face in the water are chosen. 9,700 more of them go home. Just to help you with the math, of the 32,000 warriors we started with, only 300 are still in the fight. That's less than 1%.

With those 300 warriors, Gideon defeated the entire Midianite army. The Word says they had a torch in one hand and a ram's horn in the other, and they held their position while the enemy slaughtered themselves.

Here are some interesting points that God showed me:
- less than 1% of the people who showed up actually witnessed the victory, although everyone got to enjoy the freedom
- the only differences between the 300 and the others were that they weren't afraid to fight and they had the sense to keep watch (while drinking from their hands)
- all they had to do was hold their position
- the entire victory was won without a single sword being drawn
- the victory was obtained through obedience to God

I wonder how much more victory I could walk in if I simply showed up, wasn't afraid, held my position and obeyed God. I don't want to be one who simply enjoys the victory, I want to be part of the battle; one who gets to witness the miracle. I believe God is going to do some incredible things this weekend at HPC. I can't wait.

All glory to God!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Spaghetti for Miles

Last Saturday we had another opportunity to serve the people around the Baton Rouge Dream Center. We blitzed the streets with almost thirty volunteers and handed out groceries to 160 families. The houses received a variety of staples from beef broth to spaghetti, and since the pasta was in 10 lb bags they should have plenty!

We’ve been doing these grocery give-aways for a few weeks now and it’s interesting to watch the reaction of the people. Some of the residents in North Baton Rouge were initially a little suspicious. Given the violence and chaos that continually surrounds them, I probably would be too. There is a man who lives a couple of houses down from the Dream Center and every week we offer him groceries. He always says no thanks, but he watches us. This week, as I was watching him watch us, a cool thing happened. A friend of his was over and the friend accepted the groceries we offered. Then the friend accepted the prayer we offered. We thanked everybody and walked away, as the guy continued to watch us. It’s been my experience that consistency can change a person’s heart.

One of our teams visited The Alamo again and we passed out a whole truckload of groceries. We were able to talk to some of the people we’ve been building relationships with and got to pray with them again. One of our volunteers built part of her testimony at The Alamo, so it was cool to see her talk to these girls and to be able to tell them there is a way out. God is good!

Over on 39th Street we met dozens of kids of all ages. We were able to get some groceries into their homes and to hang out with them a little. A teenager had her trombone with her and she showed us the two notes that she knew. We encouraged her to keep practicing so she could play some more the next time we saw her. She gave us a big smile and said she would. As we walked away I wondered if anyone else in her life had ever heard her play D and B-flat.

Pastors Dino and DeLynn came down to help out and a woman at one of the houses recognized Pastor Dino as the man who had given her a turkey four years ago. Who remembers a turkey from four years ago? I guess it just goes to show that we never really know how much of an impact these outreaches can have.

So, a few hours and about 1600 lbs of pasta later, we called it a day. We went back to the Dream Center to stack the boxes and close in prayer, and then we all had lunch together at CiCi’s before heading home.

There’s something about spending time with like-minded people that encourages me to serve. I can sometimes get wrapped up in the work of the kingdom without seeing the faces of the kingdom. I’m so grateful that, even in my performance-driven mindset, God loves me enough to help me see the importance of a B-flat. May God give all of us eyes to see and ears to hear. All glory to God!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

New Heights

I just got back from Slidell, LA where I had the opportunity to tag along with HPC’s full-time Elevate students on a short-term mission trip to Operation Blessing. I have to say that as a church, we are privileged to have such an amazing group of young people in our midst. Not only do they say they’re fully committed to loving God, they back up that commitment in their choices, their attitudes and their actions.

Most of the group are in their early to mid-twenties, with many straight out of college. I know what I was doing in my twenties, and it wasn’t looking for ways to demonstrate the love of Christ to others. I was awed by their compassion for the hurting and their willingness to serve others. It was humbling to witness.

Operation Blessing had some great projects lined up for us. I just love that organization. We got to build a small deck at their medical clinic so people wouldn’t get their feet wet when it rains. That may not sound like much, but for many people in New Orleans who don’t have a dry pair of shoes to change into, it’s a big deal. We also got to help out at St. Mary’s Academy, a Catholic high school for girls. Although our outside project got rained out, we learned a lot about book classifications from the Sister in charge of the library. I think we may have overwhelmed her a little when a dozen of us showed up to help, but she soon had us all on track. (I’m fairly certain that I couldn’t make it as a librarian or a nun, so my hat is off to her.) As we were leaving she hugged me and said, “You learned from me today and I learned from all of you. God bless you and thank you.” God is so good!

None of the Elevate students have jobs because they volunteer at the church full-time. They still have to pay their bills and buy groceries, but they’re willing to sacrifice creature comforts in order to serve God. When they’re not working in their various departments or sitting in class, they’re fundraising for their overseas mission trips. These kids are busy all the time. I love these guys!

The more time I spend with them the more I want to be around them. They’re fresh and pure, untainted by the world’s cynicism. It’s not that they haven’t been through some things; they just choose, daily, to push onward to the upward call of Christ Jesus. I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to get to know this group. You see them everywhere…church couldn’t happen without their help. Say hello, invite them for a meal, share their lives. You’ll be glad you did.

All glory to God!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Clubbin' with ICU

One of HPC’s edgier life groups is ICU (Inner City Unit). Headed up by Alliece Cole, we endeavor to take the doors of the church to those who might not otherwise be exposed to the love of Jesus Christ. Last Friday night a bunch of us loaded into an HPC van and headed for the streets. For those of you who couldn’t make it, here’s a play-by-play: jump in, strap on your seatbelt and pray…

We left the Annex about 10pm and headed towards the Baton Rouge Dream Center. We made a quick stop at Hooters (yes, Hooters…risqué family dining at it’s finest) and dropped off roses and chocolate for the ladies working the floor. The girl at the cash immediately placed the eleven roses in a vase on the counter so everyone could enjoy them. How cool is it that HPC brought roses to the Hooter girls? God is good.

We continued to the Dream Center where we spent time in prayer, crying out to God for the city, salvation and the breaking of strongholds. We also prayed for God’s favor, His direction and protection as we prepared to meet the wandering souls of the city. With roses and a cooler of ‘purple drink’ we hit the streets.

Our first stop was at The Alamo, a no-star motel that caters to those with short-term lodging needs (by the hour). Before we were parked I saw a woman hurrying across the lot. We jumped out, rose in hand, and offered her a cold drink. The conversation went something like this:

Us: “Hey, can I give you a rose? It’s free.”
Her: “Okay. Why you doing this?”
Us: “We’re with Healing Place Church. We’re just out reminding people that God loves them and knows where they’re at. You want a cold drink?”
Her: “Yeah, I was just going to buy one.”
Us: “Here you go…we have some chocolate too. You want that?”
Her: “Yeah.” (pause) “I been smoking weed.”
Us: “God knows and He loves you anyway.”
Her: (pause again) “I got no business being here, smoking weed and drinking and stuff.” She spilled her drink trying to read the card on the rose. She’s trying not to cry.
Us: “You know what? When I was smoking weed and drinking and hanging out in places like this, God loved me, just like He loves you right now. And even though He loves us right where we are, He loves us too much to leave us here.” She threw her arms around a volunteer and started weeping.

We got to pray for that woman and speak life over her situation. More than a drink and a rose, we were able to offer hope to that woman. We told her about our new outreach center and gave her a number to call if she needed anything. She hugged us all, twice, and thanked us for coming to see her. She walked off smiling, wiping her eyes and smelling her rose.

We saw several others at The Alamo, but it was soon time to head towards the next spot. We stopped at a bar on Florida Blvd. but the bouncer was less than excited to see us. We gave out a couple of roses and purple drinks and then we headed out. You certainly don’t want to overstay your welcome at a place like this.

The last time we did Midnight Outreach we worked the North Baton Rouge area. This time we headed across town to meet some of the people who are closer to our Highland campus. One of the reasons for this was because the person designated to pick up the roses (me) inadvertently purchased 48 instead of 24. That meant we needed to find four-dozen working girls, and what better place to find them than at the strip clubs.

Our first intended stop was at Southern Cumforts, but that turned into a drive-by. We decided that we didn’t have peace about that one yet and, without peace, nobody gets out of the van. We continued east until we got to Kitten’s. Maybe I’m just closed-minded, but I really didn’t expect a place named Kitten’s to be a hip-hop peeler joint. But, sure enough. While two of our volunteers went inside to see if they could give roses to the ladies, I stayed outside and talked to one of the security guards.

Ethan was working the lot and was more than a little surprised to learn we were from a church. He had heard of Healing Place and told us we were doing a good thing. He started telling me about his life and his struggles. It seems that he’s a good Baptist boy that’s just slightly off course. When we offered prayer he immediately accepted. Before long our team was back out and ready to go. We gave Ethan a cold drink and thanked him for his help. With a big gold-tooth grin he told us to come back anytime. I love God’s favor!

We continued east and stopped at Escapades. This club had more pick-up trucks than 20-inch rims so I felt a little more at home. We pulled the van right up to the doors so our volunteers had a straight path in. The rest of us were in the van praying when some guy came and knocked on Alliece’s window.

Him: “Y’all from the church?”
Alliece: “Yep, Healing Place, just down the road.”
Him: “I know, I been there. Whach y’all doing out here?”
Alliece: “We’re here giving roses to the ladies to remind them God loves them.
You want a cold drink?”
Him: “Naw…I was drinking me a little beer in my truck when I saw y’alls van. I just had to come see whach y’all was doing here. Do you do this very often?”
Alliece: “We come out some Friday nights. We were at Kitten’s earlier and now we’re here.”
Him: “Y’all were not at kittens.” (Alliece grins) “Oh my God, y’all must be prayed up!”
Alliece: “Well, we were at the Alamo before that.” (still grinning). The guy physically moves away from the van and shakes his head. “You know the Alamo?”
Him: “Yeah I do…off of Florida. Okay, y’all are some prayed up soldiers. Prayed up! I’m telling ya. I’m in the world and I don’t go to the Alamo. Y’all are prayed up soldiers…that’s all I’m saying. Y’all are doing a great thing. Most people ain’t out here worrying about us. Y’all are good people. I’m gonna go back to Healing Place sometime. Sometime…I will for sure. God bless y’all.”
Alliece: “God bless you too. Can we pray for you tonight?”
Him: “Naw…y’all just stay safe and keep doing what you’re doing. Prayed up! I’m telling ya.”

Our team from inside the bar came back empty-handed. The guy thanked us again and headed back to his truck. The volunteers who had gone in said the bouncer not only let them hand out the roses, he gave them an escort so the customers wouldn’t mess with them. How cool is our God?

In a little over two hours we handed out four-dozen roses to ladies who sell themselves to pay their bills. These ladies are not wicked or evil, they’re simply trapped in a lifestyle that offers no hope. They are surrounded by addiction, perversion and lack. They need love and forgiveness, just like the rest of us.

I am so grateful that I belong to a church that doesn’t put God in a box. I’m grateful that Pastors Dino and DeLynn don’t make decisions based on how something will look to others; they make decisions based on souls.

Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.’ (Luke 14:23 NKJV)

All glory to God!

Reaching Out in D'ville

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to volunteer with HPC’s Healing Hands ministry at the Donaldsonville Dream Center. I’ve been around Healing Hands several times, as ICU (Inner City Unit) always partners with them when we’re at Mount Olive FEMA park, but this was the first time I worked with them directly. Being as that all of my medical training has come while trying to stitch myself up from my latest misadventure, I wasn’t sure that I would be much help. Fortunately, all they asked me to do was pray. That I can do.

Dr. Cheri Leblanc and her husband Joseph oversee the mobile medical unit, which goes to various locations to provide free medical care for those who can’t afford to go to a doctor. Over the course of about 4 hours, 25 patients were seen, treated and given free prescription medication for their ailments.

My job was to pray with the patients after they had seen Dr. Cheri. Isaac and Joe were praying for the men while Miss Beverly and I (both first-time volunteers) prayed for the ladies. It was a great experience.

I expected that there would be lots of prayer requests for physical healing, and there were a fair number. Some of the other requests though, were a little surprising. As Miss Beverly and I listened to each woman’s story, I realized how broad the scope of Healing Hands really is. We prayed for broken marriages and upcoming court cases. We prayed for healing for other pastors in the community. We prayed against domestic violence, abuse and addiction. I was shocked at how much information these women were willing to give complete strangers. It was definitely God.

By 7:00pm I felt as if I had been through a war. Miss Beverly and I sat in the nursery-turned-prayer room, just looking at each other. The needs in this community, like so many others, seem overwhelming. I’m so very grateful that my only job is to lift those needs up to God; it’s His job to meet them.

We gathered with the other volunteers for closing prayer. We gave God honor and praise for the twenty-five souls that had been touched; through physical healing and the power of prayer. We thanked Him for the opportunity to serve Him and His children. After handshakes and hugs everyone loaded into their cars and headed back across the Sunshine Bridge. Driving into the darkness I realized that Healing Hands might start with the body, but that’s only to gain access to the soul. All glory to God!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Acorns from Heaven

Here's the thing about blogs...when I don't post something for several days most people think it's because there's nothing going on. The truth is, so much is going on that I don't have time to write it down. I'm going to make a concerted effort to blog more often, if only to keep the stories from backing up in my head. Right now I'm trying to keep the details straight between Thursday's mobile medical outreach, Friday's midnight outreach and Saturday's food give-away downtown. AHHHH! God is so good!

Tonight though, I'm not writing about any of that. Instead I want to share something that happened a few days ago during my prayer time. Most days I go for a walk at a school that's close to my house. I try to spend an hour or so walking and praying, and just listening for God's voice. Sometimes I make up songs and sing to Him, but mostly I just talk to Him about what's going on, what I need, what my family needs, etc. I love the idea of Adam and Eve walking with the Lord, through the garden, in the cool of the day. That's what I shoot for during my prayer walks.

The other day I'm walking and praying, and I'm a little overwhelmed by the financial needs in my life. I'm currently living by faith, which means I'm depending on God for everything. So, I'm thanking God (by faith) for His provision in my life and I am simultaneously making a plan in my head in case He doesn't come through. (Not very spiritual, I know, but there it is.) As I'm working on Plan B, an acorn falls out of the tree I'm walking under and hits me (hard) on the head. It made me laugh out loud. God, in His infinite wisdom, was telling me I was nuts.

Every single need I have had since I left my job has been met by God. I don't know what it is about me that is determined to worry and fret, when I know that God continually supplies. I suppose it's probably pride...that vicious lie that tells me that I have some power or control over what happens around me. Stupid lying devil.

I repented to God for pride, for my lack of faith and for making a plan. And then I laughed out loud again. I imagine God talking to a squirrel, instructing it to kick that acorn loose at just the right moment so it lands squarely on my head. I imagine the squirrel looking at God and saying, "Can't You just tell her that You've got it handled?" and God responding, "I have...she's not listening. I told her Myself, I wrote it in My word, I've had other people tell her...she's just not listening. You go Squirrel, maybe she'll hear it from you."

So finally, the message got through. God has me: He's got my finances, He's got the plan and, if necessary, He's got a squirrel on stand-by in case I forget. I love my God! Thank You Father that You continue to speak, even when I need to get hit on the head by You.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (2Corinthians 9:8 NIV)

All glory to God!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Double-header at HPC

Okay, I think it's safe to say that Healing Place Church is the best church in the world. (If that offends anyone please remember that you should think your church is the best ever. If you don't, come check out HPC). I went to service tonight and heard a great message on finances, then I decided to stay for Late Nite. As the band was tuning up I noticed that the worship guy looked like Johnathan Stockstill, but I figured it was just the crazy hair. Sure enough, when the band fired up it was Johnathan. For those of you who don't know, Johnathan is the worship leader at Bethany World Prayer Center. Bethany is a huge church about five minutes from HPC. Anyone who has been in church more than twice knows that 'competing churches' don't usually share very well. That's why HPC is so cool. Pastor Dino doesn't compete, and apparently, neither does Bethany. No wonder God is doing such cool stuff in Baton Rouge!

After an awesome time of worship Pastor Joel Stockstill (Johnathan's brother) gets up an does an incredible teaching on John 21:15-19. I can't do the sermon justice by writing about it so you'll have to take my word on it.

What it comes down to it this: do I love Jesus (agape - the highest form of sacrificial love) or do I simply love Jesus (phileo - a convenient friendship type of love)? That's what Jesus asked Peter, three times. If Jesus stood before me tonight and asked 'Do you love Me?' would I be able to answer 'I (agape) love You'?

There is nothing convenient about agape love. It's painful, threatening and uncompromising. It's continually putting others before yourself; it's always representing the love of Christ, regardless of how your flesh feels.

I would like to think that I agape love Jesus, but like Peter, the answer cannot be in my words but in my actions. Am I willing to feed His sheep, even when they're dirty and dumb and smelly? Am I willing to leave the comfort of the flock to chase down that one stubborn sheep that refuses to listen? Am I willing to put aside prestige and pride, to lay down in the dirt and hold the one that's too wounded to get up? All good questions.

I believe that I am willing to die for Jesus...the real test though, is will I live for Him?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sabor Latino at Jambalaya Park

I spent much of the day yesterday at the Sabor Latino (Latin Flavor) Festival at Jambalaya Park. HPC's Spanish Campus was sponsoring this event as a community outreach and to celebrate Latin culture. I was there because I had been asked to write a piece on the event. I had planned to meet up with Missy (Pastor Fernando's wife), get a translater, get the info and get out. (Not the right attitude, I know, but I try to be honest.) She was busy with preparations, so I told her I would look around and come back.

I spent the next hour wandering around, feeling quite out of place. The people were very nice, but I had no idea what they were saying. I don't speak any Spanish and it was very disconcerting. I started thinking about how immigrants must feel; coming to a new country with strange customs and a new language. I started thinking about the Hispanic family that had lived next door to me. They were gone now, but I wondered how welcome I had made them feel. Oh sure, I had said hello to the kids when I saw them and waved at them across the fence, but I don't know any of their names. I don't even know for sure when they moved. I wish now that I could tell them about the Spanish church, or at least introduce myself. Too little, too late.

The festival was great...loud music, amazing food. It seemed more like a family reunion than a community event. What makes that really cool is that these people are not just from Mexico, they're from Columbia, Peurto Rico, Honduras, Dominican Republic and other places I can't even spell. The kids all played together, dancing and laughing, as parents congregated and made new friends. It was awesome to watch.

I stayed until it was over; not to get the story, but because I was enjoying myself. God's love is not limited by language, nor is His kindness. Even though I didn't speak a word of Spanish, those people were friendly and welcoming to me. I smiled at them, and thanked God for the opportunity to fellowship with His people. Even without words, the love of Christ shines through.

All glory to God!

A Downtown Saturday Morning

On Saturday we had the opportunity to do our first door-to-door grocery give-away at the Baton Rouge Dream Center. Thanks to our partnership with Operation Blessing and Pastor Dino’s heart for the poor, we were able to bless dozens of families in the North Baton Rouge area. We started out with 40 boxes of groceries and 25 gallons of Bluebell ice cream. Once that was gone we loaded a pick-up truck with as much food as it would hold. Three hours later we had 2 empty pick-ups and some very grateful neighbors.

One of our main focuses right now is to build relationships with the individuals in the neighborhood. We do this by visiting their homes, giving them food and basically meeting them where they’re at. Sometimes that’s on their front porch, with us trying to act cool with their 100-lb Rottweiler, and sometimes it’s in their living room praying for the ‘evil spirits’ to leave them alone. Whatever the locale, God is always faithful.

While most of our people were on the street, a few volunteers came back to the warehouse to reload the truck. During our packing a woman drove up and asked for food. She told us that the men at the tire shop had said we were giving out groceries, and that she had hungry kids at home. She works as a security guard at the graveyard, down at the end of the street. She had to hurry back there, but was desperate to get food for her children. We were able to give her some cereal, canned goods, applesauce and 2 gallons of peanut butter and jelly ice cream. She thanked us, allowed us to pray with her and hurried back to the graveyard.

During our door-to-door outreach one of our teams met a young boy named Jason who was visiting his grandma’s house. It was his birthday and he was turning six. Jason had been born with arthritis and has difficulty walking. He wanted prayer so he would feel better. After praying for him and his family, the team returned to the Dream Center warehouse. They filled a box with toys, new shoes and a Nike jacket, the returned to grandma’s house. Everyone was surprised and Jason was a little overwhelmed. While grandma looked at all his new things he hid in the corner. Sometimes abundance is hard to receive.

Once our outreach teams were back at the Dream Center we headed to the apartment complex down the block, which is predominantly occupied by people with disabilities, the elderly and Katrina evacuees. We pulled into the parking lot and started bagging groceries. Before we had a chance to knock on doors, residents were pouring into the parking lot. In less than an hour we gave away an entire pick-up truck full of food. We weren’t able to feed all the residents, but we certainly made a difference to some.

A gentleman named Jarred was one of the people that got groceries. He had heard that we were giving away food, so he walked from The Alamo over to the apartment complex. Jarred is a Vietnam vet who was wounded overseas and can’t walk without crutches. He was very grateful for the groceries we had given him, but was unable to carry the box back home. We crammed ourselves into the cab, making room for Jarred, and headed to The Alamo. We told him that we’re sometimes at The Alamo on Friday nights doing outreach. He told us that he doesn’t leave his room after dark, but that we were welcome to knock on his door. We helped get the groceries into his room, prayed for him and said we’d see him the next time we were there. He was standing in his door, Bible in hand, when we pulled out of the lot.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” … The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25: 35-36, 40)

All glory to God.

Friday, October 06, 2006

From Apple Sauce to Ziti

Last Friday a few of the ICU (Inner City Unit) volunteers got together at our downtown warehouse to sort groceries and pull orders. Our new building, unofficially named the Baton Rouge Dream Center, is the center of our North-side outreaches. One of the ways we plan on reaching out to the poor and hurting is by following Jesus’ example of feeding the hungry. Thanks to a great partnership with Operation Blessing International, we have the opportunity to get food into the homes of those who need it most.

Although we haven’t done a neighborhood grocery giveaway yet, we were able to supply food to some local ministries who are already reaching the people. The food pantries at the Highland campus and the Spanish campus received supplies, as well as Cooking For Christ, Randy Knighton’s ministry and an educational facility that works with inner-city boys. In less than 6 hours we distributed (among other things) over 300 cans of soup, 800 lbs of pasta, 1000 lbs of dried beans and 2160 drinking boxes of Yoo-hoo. God is great!

It’s funny how God works. I spent much of the morning packing boxes and moving pallets, without much thought as to what I was doing. I would read the list, pull the order and move on to the next thing. There were some volunteers there, steadily sorting groceries and enjoying the company of other believers. Different ministries would come to pick up their supplies; we’d load the trucks and wave goodbye. It was pretty much a no-brainer for me. And then, I went on a delivery.

We went to a facility that is a residential Christian school for boys, grades 6-12. These young men are predominantly from New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. Having lost their homes and school during Katrina, they were moved from New Orleans, to Florida and then to Baton Rouge. They live on-site and only get to see their families on weekends. Most of these boys are in this facility because they didn’t function well in the regular school system. Most of them need help in more areas than just academics.

We arrived at the school just before 1pm. The students were finishing their lunches and preparing for afternoon classes. Miss Bobbie, the woman in charge of the cafeteria, had some of the boys help us unload the truck. As I walked into the storeroom with another box, I saw two kids looking through the items and opening their book sacks. They were discussing the canned ravioli and who would get it to take home. I politely asked if they were supposed to be shopping right now. They looked at me, cold busted, and said “no ma’am”. I smiled at them and they went to get another box. It was funny and heartbreaking at the same time.

Earlier that day I had looked at cans of ravioli and they had no affect on me. Now, every time I see canned pasta I think of those boys. I think of 14 year-olds feeling the pressure of trying to provide for their families in another city. I think of families that live in such poverty that it makes sense to them to steal from those who are providing for them. I think of them and I want to take cases of ravioli to every boy, just so he doesn’t have to worry about where his next meal will come from. But I know ravioli is not the answer; Jesus Christ is the answer. My sanity comes from the knowledge that God knows the needs of everyone, and He is well able to provide.

I thank God that Pastor Dino has such a heart for the poor. In the busyness of loading pallets and packing boxes it’s easy to forget that each can of soup will touch someone’s life. The food we distributed last Friday won’t solve the world hunger issues, but it will make a difference in the lives of some. It will matter to those boys when they drink their Yoo-hoos while doing homework. It will matter to struggling families who come to one of HPC’s food pantries to help them through the month. It matters to me, that I belong to a church that gives and gives sacrificially. I have been in situations where I needed help to put food on the table, and places like HPC were there to for me. I am so grateful that God’s grace is sufficient, for all of us, all the time.

All glory to God!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Work it til it hurts!

Okay...I prayed, worshipped and cried out to God...all in an effort to get myself to go to Healing Place Church Women's Night. It took some effort, but I'm glad I went.

I'm not well equipped for spending an even with beautiful, smiling, well-dressed, articulate women. I'm much more comfortable handing out roses to street prostitutes at midnight, or moving heavy things for extended periods of time. I'm not good at small-talk and I have no idea what to do with lotion that smells like frosting. I'm not good at being fluffy, but I am trying.

Somebody that knows me saw me there and said they were surprised that I came. I explained to them my new philosophy about HPC Chick events. It's like going to the gym: it's hard to make myself go, I know it's going to hurt, but I'll feel better about myself once it's over. That philosophy proved true again last night.

Pastor DeLynn is delightful. I know I should probably use a different word to describe one of my Lead Pastors, but that's just her. From the stage she's genuine and transparent, whether she's leading worship or delivering the Word. And then she steps off the platform and continues to be genuine and transparent. I love that about her! Too often I have met people whose personality is dictated by their audience.

Her message was about being a confident woman. Looking around I wondered if the message was exclusively for me, as all the others already seemed confident. I sometimes have to remind myself not to judge my insides by someone else's outside. I have been in plenty of situations where I have outwardly 'pulled it off' and inwardly felt like I was dying. I thank God that my confidence is in Him, not in myself.

So, I survived another trip to the gym (aka HPC Chick event). I'm not sore today, but I certainly have been stretched. Hopefully one day I'll be able to attend without having to talk myself into it, but for now I guess I'll just follow Joyce Meyer's advice and 'do it afraid'.

All glory to God!