Thursday, May 31, 2007

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

Does anybody remember that song from Sesame Street? 'Who are the people in your neighborhood...the people that you meet when you're walking down the street, the people that you meet each day.'

I had the opportunity today to meet the people in my neighborhood, or more precisely, in the BRDC neighborhood. (I like to think of that as my neighborhood.) A few of us were downtown working at the warehouse; sorting boxes and pulling groceries. I was looking at some paperwork when Barbara came in and told me there was a man there that needed to talk to me. I went outside to find two men waiting by the door. I introduced myself, shook their hands and asked how we could help them. The first gentleman told me that he had just gotten out of work-release (final phase of prison term) and was staying with a friend. He had a job lined up, and money that was coming to him, but for right now he was hungry. He said someone had told him that we were a church that helped people. He wondered if we would help him. I smiled and nodded. I asked his friend if he could use some groceries too. He nodded and said it would be appreciated. I asked the volunteers to make a couple of boxes for the men. Then we gathered together and I asked how we could pray for them.

The first guy asked for prayer that the job he has lined up would come through. When I asked the second man how we could pray for him he said, "I buried my wife on Sunday. She died on Mother's Day but it took us some time to get things together for the funeral. My daughter is in Baton Rouge General. She has sickle cell disease and cysts on both ovaries, but Praise God, she's being released today". It was all I could do not to weep. We joined hands and prayed for these precious souls. Before they left I ask them about salvation...not in so many words, but I had to know. Both assured me that they knew God. I told them that I never want to feed somebody's body and them let them go to hell. They smiled and nodded, thanking us again for the groceries. They both plan on coming to the Dream Center tomorrow to volunteer.

A short while later a man came up, pushing a woman in a wheelchair. They too had heard that we sometimes help people. The woman had just gotten out of the hospital and had prescriptions that needed to be filled. I referred her to some local agencies that help with that and asked if they needed food. They said they had been homeless but recently found a place to live. As the volunteers made another food box I told the woman about our support group on Friday mornings. She said she would come for sure. We all gathered together again and asked how we could pray for them. The woman needed healing in her leg and for things to get better. The man also needed healing, as last month he was shot by a security guard while on 'the boat'. We prayed for them and invited them back again tomorrow. Again, they both planned to come.

So, these are the people in my neighborhood: grieving widows, ex-prisoners, the lame and the walking wounded. I believe this is the exact neighborhood where Jesus would choose to live. I'm so grateful that HPC allows us to serve this community. All glory to God!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Another packed weekend

It's hard to describe what God is doing down at the Dream Center. On Friday we had ninteen ladies join us for our women's support group...and about five guys...and a half-dozen kids. Obviously, Ladies Thrive wasn't appropriate for all, so we did what HPC always tries to do: we made room.

We set up the guys outside and put them to work packing groceries for the upcoming block party. Some of the kids helped too, but most of them just got busy shooting hoops in the BRDC parking lot. So, the ladies met for their support, the guys hung out with Craig and got ministry, and the kids found a safe place to play. All in all a great morning.

Saturday we had about 50 volunteers at our neighborhood block party at 39th and Odell. For anyone who doesn't know the area, it's not normally a safe place to hang out and bar-b-q. But, the hand of God will never place you where the grace of God will not protect you. We had a group of Blue Sushi volunteers (young leadership class) face painting, doing manicures and helping out with the kids' games. The guys set up the grill and cooked up some burgers, brawts and hot dogs, while across the street we were giving away free groceries. Oh yeah, and some dude from the neighborhood who was probably sixty completely schooled the young guys on how to play basketball. It was great.

Saturday night we had our Memorial Day celebration at the HPAC; complete with fireworks and the whole bit. Pastor Dino preached a slammin' message on getting planted in the local church. It was a great weekend. I love my life. I love my God. And I love that I get to share Him with such great people. All glory to God!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Full House

We had our weekly bible study today at the Baton Rouge Dream Center and the ladies showed up! We had twenty women (ages 14-80) join us today for Ladies Thrive, along with seven or eight volunteers. When we started this a couple of months ago we were grateful to have two or three in attendance. Nobody can tell me that God doesn’t answer prayers.

Today we were learning about fear; it’s causes, consequences and remedy. One woman shared that she didn’t sleep well at night because she had been attacked in the dark. Another shared that she had raped. Looking around the circle, no less than a half-dozen women nodded in knowing sympathy. The brokenness in the circle was tangible. There was a sense of hopelessness and resignation, the result of living in silent torment for decades. But as Pastor Alliece continued to bring forth the Word, something incredible happened. The spirit of heaviness started to break; women lifted their heads, looked at their neighbors and nodded in agreement. Collectively we called on the name of Jesus and took authority over the schemes of the devil. The ladies learned that Jesus’ name is greater than any fear, and that His power is available to anyone who calls on Him. When asked what to do when fear rises up, one woman hollered out JESUS! at the top of her lungs. The group laughed and cheered, encouraging each other and them selves.

While the ladies were inside learning what the Bible says about fear, some of them men that brought them were outside working in the parking lot. Instead of just sitting around waiting for their women, they pitched in and bagged soup for us to hand out on tomorrow’s outreach. Everyone had the opportunity to give.

Once we had finished our small groups and everyone got prayer, we put groceries and drinks into the hands of everyone present. Many of our first-timers were surprised and very grateful, assuring us they would come back and see us again.

As I was getting the warehouse back in order I was thinking about the women, the neighborhood and the Dream Center. What an awesome privilege (and an awesome responsibility) for God to entrust us with all of these souls. Generations of people gathered together, the common bond of pain and suffering, all at our fingertips. Thank You Father, for this assignment. Please help us to show them You. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Full Circle

I've had an awesome week! Last week my dear friends from St Louis came to visit and stayed with me for a few days. They got to visit some of our HPC campuses, visited New Orleans and had fun hanging out in the south. Then on Saturday I had the opportunity to volunteer at a the 'Just Girls' conference that's put on by 'Yes I Can' ministries (Art and Gail Moore). Several hundreds girls showed up and were blessed by speakers and performers from across the US. They talked about purity, dating, and what guys really think. It was raw, real and powerful. I don't know how many dozens of young women dedicated their lives to Christ, but it was awesome to be a part of it.

On Sunday Pastor Dino did a slammin' sermon for Mother's Day. The coolest part was at the end when he asked all the men to leave their seats and stand around the perimeter of the room. Pastor Dino asked the men to join hands, encircling the women who were still in their seats. The women were asked to stand, and then Pastor Dino repented to us on behalf of men; for not being there, for not being faithful, for not treating us right and for not protecting us. Then all the men were asked to pray and to commit to looking after and serving the women in their lives. The spiritual climate was altered. The energy in the room changed as men cried out to God for their wives, their daughters, their mothers and the women in their lives. It was possibly the most powerful move of the Spirit that I have ever been a part of. It was life changing.

I believe that one of the greatest strengths of HPC is the value that is placed on men. Lots of churches complain about the lack of male leadership, but then complain when men try to step up and be men. God made men to be lead, to fight and to conquer.

It was wonderful to be surrounded by God's warriors; to feel safe and protected. That circle of power and prayer is where I want to live, safe and protected by God and by the Godly men in my life. Kudos to Pastor Dino for teaching our men to be men. We ladies appreciate it greatly. All glory to God.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Everybody's pitching in!!!

This was another happening week down at the BRDC ( Baton Rouge Dream Center). On Thursday we were working in the warehouse, prepping for Saturday, getting orders ready for pick up, etc. This guy from the alarm company came to do something with our system and for a while the alarm was going off constantly. I was walking through the building with this “Burglary…Burglary…Get Out of the Building Immediately!” ringing through at about a thousand decibels. I passed the room where our pre-school reading program is held and I looked at the kids. They were playing with toys and turning pages in books, completely oblivious to the deafening alarm going off around them. I realized that, for them, a screaming alarm had no impact. They live surrounded by sirens, alarms, gunshots and mayhem. This minor annoyance didn’t even register. It hurt my heart that these three and four-year olds were so conditioned to chaos. It also made me grateful that, for three mornings a week, they can come to a safe place and be surrounded by caring, godly people who loved them.

We had to make a run to Turner Plaza to drop off some items to a woman who had recently moved in. She had been homeless and was released from the hospital only a couple of weeks ago. She had been attacked by a pit bull and required surgery to close the wounds. Future surgery is possible, depending on how her leg heals. We got to take her some stuff and visit with her. She told us that, I the midst of the attack, she called on the name of Jesus. She said that immediately the dog let go of her and walked away. She lost consciousness due to blood loss, but when she woke up she realized that even the dog submitted to Jesus’ name. She decided that if the dog knew enough to obey, that maybe she needed to line up with God’s will too. Powerful stuff.

On Friday it was raining sideways, but we still had a visit from one of the ladies we met several months ago. When we met her she was living on the street, turning tricks, strung out on drugs and pretty sick physically. I’m happy to report that she’s doing much better now. She’s living in an apartment and working a real job. There are still lots of issues to work through, but she’s making progress. We got to pray with her, give her a Bible and send her home with some food. God is good.

On Saturday we did another grocery give-away, this time over on 38th Street. The people were very open and grateful for the food. We started out going door-to-door but then we had cars stopping in the middle of the street. It was like an Albertson’s drive-thru. We told people about the BRDC, what we’re doing and how they can get plugged in. One woman, after receiving soup and prayer, insisted on getting out of her car and hugging everyone wearing a red shirt. It was fine. Then we hit The Alamo and got to serve a bunch more people. I love the The Alamo because it’s always hopping.

Saturday afternoon we had our second Men’s Bar-b-que. Craig and the guys did a great job, feeding and fellowshipping with a couple dozen men from the neighborhood. Our new volunteer (Marlin), rounded up about a dozen homeless guys and brought them over for food and fun. Does it get any better than this? All glory to God!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Solomon was right

I spoke to a woman this week who had been viciously mauled by a pit bull. She has had to undergo surgery for the 5 inch gash in her leg, and may require further surgery depending on how it heals. She told me that during the attack she was knocked down and the pain caused her to lose consciousness. She remembers, just prior to the darkness, calling on the name of Jesus. She told me that His name came out of her mouth and the dog immediately walked away.

I got the call late yesterday afternoon about Gabby. For those who didn't know her, she was a beautiful young woman who was full of life and expectation. She was tragically killed in an auto accident. She will be missed greatly by all who knew her.

In Ecclesiastes Solomon says that when he looked at all that his hands had done and all that he toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless. I think about Gabby; how hard she studied, how she stressed over her grades, job opportunities and life stuff. It might be tempting to look at the loss and consider it meaningless. But I also think about Gabby and picture her leading her group at New Beginnings; speaking life into those women, offering hope, love and encouragement. You would be hard-pressed to convince those women that any part of her life was meaningless.

Undoubtedly, the loss is staggering. One minute Gabby is driving her car and the next she's walking the streets of gold with Jesus. I'm happy for her but I'm grieved for the rest of us. I pray for her family and friends; that somehow we would be comforted in knowing that she's at peace and at home.

I agree with Solomon, that anything resulting from our own works is meaningless. But I also believe that a life of faith and service, a life like Gabby's, is precious and honored by God. I don't understand God's timing, but I am once again drawn Ecclesiastes 5:2 "...God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few."

All glory to God.