Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sunday night with the gals

I had the privilege Sunday night of attending a Women's Leadership meeting at HPC. The main speaker was Vera (unable to spell last name) from the Hillsong church in Kiev. She and her husband pastor that church and are starting to do services in Moscow as well. They are a powerful, dynamic couple and it was amazing to receive from them.

She talked about women in leadership; about our role, our importance and the necessity of handling ourselves well. She taught from Numbers 27:1-11 (I recommend reading the story to understand the points). I cannot do the sermon justice, but these are her main points:

1. God called each of the 5 sisters by name because they all had a role to play.
2. being together gave them the courage to stand up and speak in front of authority.
3. they did not come together as a group with an attitude against something, but with an attitude for something.
4. these girls challenged injustice simply by asking questions.
5. if you come together for the cause of justice, God is on your side.
6. God approves not only the right course, but the right attitude and the right means.
7. these girls did not just restore justice for themselves; they passed it on for generations to come.

I think that so often we, as women, feel like we have to force something to happen. This is often due to our own brokenness. If we come from a place where we didn't have anyone to fight for us, we (by necessity) take on every battle by ourselves. Instead of learning to trust in God, we spend our time honing our skills for war. God created us as a helpmate for man. We are called to help men, not battle against them. Men are created to be warriors: strong, decisive, stategic. Why not add our grace, wisdom and compassion to that, and watch God move?

I am so grateful that I belong to a church that values peoples; their gifts, their strengths and their individuality. I'm grateful that my Lead Pastors operate as a team; not as competitors. I really don't know very much about men being men and women being women, but I'm glad God put me in a great place to learn. All glory to Him!

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Glass Slipper

Charity had seen the girl this week for the first time; that meant she was either new to town or new to the street. We walked up the block and tried to find her but she had disappeared. We asked the gas station guy which way she went and he pointed up Florida Blvd. We left snacks for her with the guy and headed back to the Dream Center. We were a little bummed that we hadn’t made contact. A few hours later, guess who walked in?

The name she gave us was Dawn* and she said she had just come to Baton Rouge a week ago. She came with a boyfriend, but he’s gone and she’s still here. She’s not working the street yet. Her roommate does, but we only know that through prior outreaches. She’s hungry, dirty and shaking like she really needs a fix. She’s wearing short shorts, a long-sleeve shirt and gold strappy shoes that look like they probably hurt. It’s 80 degrees outside, so the long sleeves are likely covering the marks of a bad habit. She doesn’t smile often, but when she does her teeth also tell her secret.

We’re able to feed her, pray with her, give her a box of groceries and a new pair of shoes. They’re pink flip-flops, and just her size. She let me take of picture of them. We offered to give her a ride home. She said we could drop her at the corner, but she wasn’t allowed to tell anybody where she stayed. We took her to the corner and watched her walk into the ditch with her groceries, headed towards an abandoned-looking house. We circled back around, heading home to the DC.

A few hours later Crip showed up. She had seen Dawn with food and asked her for some. Dawn told her that the people up the street would give her some if she asked, so she was here to ask. She told Alliece that she hadn’t eaten in 2 days. Alliece gave her a box of leftover pizza, which she immediately opened and started eating. After her third piece, eyes watering, she asked if we had any drinks. I went to get her a water as they continued talking. I returned with the bottle mid-conversation.

Alliece: Is that your real name or your street name?
Crip: My real, real name is Alisha, but my street name is Crip.
Alliece: So are you working the street…you turning tricks?
Crip: You know. Sometimes you got to. I do what I got to do.

She was probably in her twenties. I originally thought that Crip was a gang-related name, like Crips and Bloods. As it turns out, Crip is short for crippled. She walks with a limp due to a knee surgery that went bad, so her name is now Crip. We got to pray for her too, then we delivered her and her groceries back to the Alamo. We waved good-bye to her as she was handing out flyers to her friends for our women’s bible study. God is good.

We did some other stuff down at the Dream Center today. We handed out Depends to a half-dozen agencies that work with the elderly, we gave groceries to two other ministries for them to distribute, and we had our second women’s bible study. Our volunteers showed up, worked hard and blessed people. But of everything we accomplished, I think today was about Dawn and Crip. God knew those women were hungry; not just for food but for hope. We were able to offer that to them. We were able to tell them that the God who saved us was there for them too. We were able to be the hands of Jesus.

Can you even believe that we get to do this? Jesus didn’t have to spare my life, He didn’t have to save me, and He certainly doesn’t have to let me help. But He does: because He loves me, and Crip, and Dawn. He loves the hurting, the broken, the lost and the forgotten. He loves them enough to feed them, to bring them hope, and to be their Prince Charming. A pair of pink, stacked flip-flops might not be your idea of a great gift, but to Dawn they were perfect. All glory to God!

(* names have been changed)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Amplified Weekend

About six months ago the Student Ministries team started planning an outreach that would help an inner-city school to improve their facility. The idea was exciting because it would be the first time in history that HPC would be able to get into the public school system for a work project. The plan had been a school makeover; fresh paint, some landscaping, just kind of spruce up the place. The fruit of that original idea was seen on Saturday March 17th.

Almost 200 kids piled into the Annex at 8:00am; many short on sleep and hygiene but high on enthusiasm. Their fearless leaders, mostly house parents from the homes that billeted the kids for the Amplified Weekend, were present and ready for action. After a short talk from Pastor Tyler the students were separated into teams, each going to a different location. The original idea of one school had multiplied into six. Isn’t that just like God?

The 6th Graders headed to Mohican Center to paint exterior doors and sills and to clean up the playground, while 7th Graders headed to Prescott Middle where they painted floors, doors and each other. A local basketball team was practicing in the gym, no doubt wondering where all these kids were from.

Over at North Highland Elementary there were guys pressure washing walls and girls painting the stairs and sanding poles. One of the girls I spoke with has only been coming to Refuge for a few months. She told me she likes Amplified Weekend because it’s about getting closer to God. She had a safety pin through her bottom lip, and I love that HPC doesn’t care about that. At Banks Elementary they were busy adding color to the place, painting stairs, doors and poles bright red, yellow and green. It was a nice contrast to the otherwise drab surroundings. The students were excited about everything God was doing; from the in-home sessions to Chad Daniel’s preaching the night before. There was an electrical anticipation that God wasn’t done with them yet.

While the Senior guys were busy painting window frames at Melrose Elementary the crew at Belfair Elementary had their hands full too. Between trash pick-up, landscaping, painting and cleaning everyone was pitching in. The buildings at Belfair create an exterior block, with a green space in the middle. They call it the Secret Garden, now with white lattice and colorful benches. As I watched the HPC kids clean up, spread mulch and apply fresh paint, I wondered what the reaction of the Belfair students would be on Monday. I hope that what was once a neglected, rundown area will become an oasis for them; a refuge from the every day.

The lives of over seventeen hundred students will be touched by Amplified Weekend: Project Justice. Some trash bags, paint, brushes and time were all that it cost. There were no alter calls, worship services or prayers of salvation; just a bunch of kids wanting to show another bunch of kids that Jesus loves them. I think that makes God very happy. All glory to Him!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Random Thoughts on a Long Ride Home

March 11/07
A bird just flew over my head. Not directly over it; kind of off to the right but still pretty close. I wouldn’t normally mention that except that I’m inside. I’m sitting in Concourse A of the Detroit airport. I’m almost halfway home but there’s still another three-hour flight and an hour in the car. I’m tired.

I think that the plane I flew here on may have been purchased at a garage sale. It looked pretty rough and smelled like a couch that somebody once gave me because they didn’t want to throw it away. My seat on the plane had all the support and comfort of a well-used lawn chair; not the fabric kind, the one made of pieces of striped plastic wrapped around an aluminum frame. It felt like it leaned to the right a little; like it might give way entirely and shoot me out of the tiny oval window. A little disconcerting.

I was one row ahead of the emergency exit row. Before takeoff the flight attendant came and asked the man in that row if he was willing and able to assist people in the event of an emergency. He said he would be happy to. Less than five minutes later a young woman asked him to help her stow her carry-on in the overhead bin. He said he couldn’t possible help as he had extreme back pain and couldn’t lift more that ten pounds. I’ve never lifted one before, but I’m quite sure the emergency exit door weighed considerably more than ten pounds. The exit row has more legroom than other seats. I had to work through the fact that his legroom was more important to him than my safety. Did I mention I’m tired?

The tip of the wing looked a little funny, like maybe it was flapping in the breeze a little. I noticed a sticker on the engine that said proudly made by GE. I think they made my fridge. Am I in a fridge with one bad wing? Okay, now I know I need sleep.

I try to sleep but the no-support-leaning seat makes it impossible. I finally wadded up my jacket and put it in the hole where the lumbar support should be. That helped the pain in my back and greatly improved my posture. I was now sitting like I was expecting to meet the Queen. So, my back felt better but now every time I dozed off my head would drop forward and then snap back up, waking me up every few minutes. I think I may have given myself repetitive strain whiplash.

Anyway, I’m now safely in the airport. I’ve had something to eat so I feel less angry and while I’m writing this, a really cool fountain is making designs with water jets. It’s a bit like watching a lava lamp…soothing and somehow familiar. I have another couple of hours before I board my flight for New Orleans. I’m pretty sure the fountain can keep me entertained for that long.

The fountain makes me think of God; mysterious, full of wonder and simply a blessing to watch. I’ve seen a lot of God this weekend at the youth retreat. I saw Him in the faces of the kids as they came up out of the water from baptism. I saw Him in the eyes of the leaders as they watched their flock press in to God’s presence. I heard Him as I spoke to young woman about purity, authority and trusting Him. God is so good.

I have no idea why God’s let’s me live this great life. I’m so grateful for His mercy. I love that He loves me…no matter what. I want to learn to love others like that. I want to love everyone…no matter what. He’s got a lot of work to do in me. Thank God He’s God. All glory to Him!

Random Thoughts: Part Two Mar 12/07

It’s been approximately 14 hours since my last entry and here I sit; no longer watching the soothing fountain, as I am currently sitting in Nashville studying the rituals of a strange collection of individuals known as ‘the ground crew’. They drive around in little train-type vehicles, loading and unloading luggage, pushing mobile stair cases into position and guiding massive aircrafts into parking docks with multi-colored light sabers. They’re quite fascinating.

I’ve slept approximately 90 minutes since I woke up 24 hours ago. (That includes the repetitive-strain-whiplash nap on the garage sale plane.) You may be asking yourself, ‘Why isn’t she safely home in bed?’ I’m asking myself that same question. The answer: free stuff. As I was preparing to board my plane last night that voice of free stuff came over the intercom. Anyone who has ever flown knows the voice. It’s a mixture of hope and exhilaration; something between Mother Theresa and Bob Barker. ‘Due to an overbooking on this flight we are looking for volunteers with flexible travel plans who would be interested in taking the next available flight in exchange for compensation.’ Compensation means somebody is getting free stuff. Why not me? I approach the gate on a recon mission: get a feel for the deal, find out what is actually on the table. I talk to the agent and get the scoop: if I change my flight I get comped for my hotel, dinner and a free round-trip ticket to anywhere in the continental US or Canada. Sounds like a winner. I make the deal.

Now really, it is a good deal. One of the benefits of being a writer is that I’m nothing if not flexible. I’m already wondering where I’ll go with my free ticket from heaven, wondering what hotel I’ll stay in and what I’ll eat for dinner. As I’m counting my proverbial chickens I neglect to consider the cost. My luggage will not be joining me on this mini vacation. The only belongings I have with me (probably because I’m a writer) are my laptop, notepads and four books. They fill the time, but you can’t brush your teeth with them. Too late for second thoughts…I’m on the shuttle to The Clarion.

The front desk gives me a complimentary toothbrush and I buy a stick of ‘Sure’ at a neighboring gas station. By an absolute miracle of God I have a blue hairbrush in my carry-on…I didn’t even know I owned a blue hairbrush. I use my dinner coupon on a grilled chicken salad and retire to my room. I watch a couple hours of TV and decide to take a bath. There’s something about traveling that makes me feel dusty. I watch some more TV and I can’t sleep. I want to sleep, but I’m too far past tired to close my eyes. By 4am I decide to change my 3:42pm departure to the 6:25am. I’m already up; might as well head home.
So, that brings me to here: watching the ground crew at the Tennessee airport. Last night when I started this little memoir I was tired. Now, fourteen hours later, I’m more tired, in a different city, and still in the same clothes. Did I mention my makeup is already in New Orleans? Yeah…no makeup, improper hair care products and the same clothes I put on twenty-four hours ago. But hey, I got free stuff.

I should be in my house in about 5 hours. I love my house. I don’t have wireless on my laptop so I can’t post this until I get home. I know this isn’t what I normally write, but this hasn’t been a normal day. Thanks for hanging with me through it all. Peace and love. God bless.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Hey there from Wausau

It's Sunday morning and I'm sitting in a hotel room in Wisconsin. I had an amazing opportunity to help out a friend at a youth retreat this weekend. About 60 highschool kids spent their weekend learning more about God, fellowshipping and spending time in His presence. It was awesome! Last night fifteen kids got baptized in the pool while everyone around them applauded and encouraged them. I love my life!!!
It is such a privilege to be able to share God's Word with people; especially our next generation of warriors. My thanks to Cindy, Chris and Grace Christian Church for allowing me to be a part of this incredible weekend. All glory to God!

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Hey folks...sorry it's been so long since my last post. I've been busy with WOW Jam but I think we're getting to the other side now. Here's a report on how it went:

I arrived at Gus Young Park about 10am on Saturday morning. The WOW International crew was already setting up their stage and running cables to the sound booth. About a dozen volunteers were unloading trucks and waiting for further direction while a crew of neighborhood kids were buzzing around, eyeing bikes and asking questions. The day had finally arrived: HPC’s first WOW Jam.

We had distributed close to 10,000 flyers in the few weeks prior so the neighborhood knew we were coming. They didn’t know what to think of us, but they knew we were coming. As volunteers continued to pour in it was as if a carnival just rose up out of the ground; tents everywhere, music, food, games, face painting; it seemed to just appear. People wandered into the park, first dozens and then hundreds. Gus Young Park, normally known for violence, drugs and gang activity, had transformed into a sanctuary for lost and hurting people.

Ladies, young and old, who have been wounded by this world and beaten down by the every day, sat down with friendly faces and received makeovers, manicures and a listening ear. Young men, desperate for change, received haircuts, spoke with career counselors and discovered that there is a way out. Children received affirmation, hope and the opportunity to believe for something more than they currently have.

Over two hundred volunteers showed up to fix bicycles, serve food, cut hair and to love people. They handed out raffle tickets, dressed up as clowns, rocked babies, distributed groceries and played dress-up with kids. They opened their hearts to a lost and dying community that most have turned away from. They gave up their Saturday for a stranger’s eternity.

Although God showed up for this entire event, at the end of the day He really showed off. Steve and Linda Travani (founders of WOW International) did the alter call. As I stood by the stage I looked out over the crowd; men and women weeping, their hearts breaking in repentance. Children with tears streaming down their faces, hearing for the first time of hope for a better life. They came forward, in twos and threes, some whole family’s and they pressed in, seeking forgiveness and hope…seeking a fresh start. I stood in awe as over three hundred and twenty people gave their lives to Christ. Glory to God.

The following day, in 59 degree weather, we baptized almost thirty people. From troughs that are normally used to feed horses, these new believing rose up out of the water into their new lives. Our volunteers rallied around them, feeding them, loving them and welcoming them to their new family. It was awesome.

We partnered with WOW International to make this event possible. They travel the world and host these WOW Jams in inner cities almost every weekend. But as much as the Travani’s and their crew did, we could not have pulled this off without you. Whether you served up hot dogs with Cooking for Christ, volunteered your skills at hair and makeup, played with kids or fixed their bikes, this event would not have happened without you. Thanks to Operation Blessing we were able to bless hundreds of families with groceries and snacks. Local businesses sent us supplies and laborers to man the tents. BREC allowed us the use of their facilities and provided behind-the-scenes support. Local politicians helped us to navigate the waters of an event this size. Everyone, absolutely everyone was needed to pull this off…and we did!

I know that heaven celebrates when one of the lost are found. I believe heaven also celebrates when we put aside our differences, when we’re not tripping over titles and traditions to decide who is responsible for these souls. We are responsible. Jesus told each and every one of us to go. This weekend we went. Souls were saved, lives were changed and we’re one step closer to populating heaven. Thank you for going. God bless.