Monday, January 28, 2008


This weekend was incredible! It started Friday morning at Ladies Thrive; we got to celebrate what Jesus is doing in the lives of these women and we got to celebrate Miss Gertrude's 87th birthday. We met Miss Gertrude a little over a year ago while we were doing outreach on 39th Street. When we knocked on her door, she not only accepted the groceries we were handing out but she opened her home and her heart to us. She has been an active member of Ladies Thrive almost from the beginning. Every week she shows up with a smile, an encouraging word and a heart of gratitude. No matter what the other ladies are facing, Miss Gertrude's answer is always the same: "God's gonna bring ya through, just hang onto Him".

After the women had finished their groups they enjoyed another great meal prepared by the Cooking for Christ team; meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, green beans, fresh rolls and apple crunch dessert. You have to provide your own lipitor, but a fine meal none the less. Then the ladies lined up for their opportunity to shop for their new clothes at the boutique...mostly organized chaos.

One of the things that continually amazes me is the depth of gratitude expressed by the homeless men that attend our Friday outreach. They can't wait to help us; they move furniture, pick up trash, sweep hallways...and they love it. They get clean clothes from the boutique, and they are genuinely thankful. They don't just find a hot meal and a pair of pants; they find purpose. It's amazing to watch.

By Friday night the Winbourne Dream Center had a completely different flow. HPC's Student Ministries team had their leadership retreat so we got to host a slumber party for about 50 of our young leaders. (I use the term 'slumber' lightly, as there was very little sleeping tht actually occurred.) I walked into the Fellowship hall Friday night about 10:30pm and caught the tale end of Pastor Mike's message. Then I got to join them for an incredible time of worship...2 1/2 hours of young people crying out to God, praying for each other, some dancing, some facedown on the floor. I think it made God smile. Again, simply amazing.

Saturday morning we did our regular outreach at Roselawn: preparing groceries, taking them to the streets and going door-to-door to remind God's people how much He loves them. We had a small crew but we still got to watch God move. I love that He doesn't care about the numbers...just about our hearts. Praise God. After that I went back across to Winbourne in time to catch their outreach; delivering food to hungry people living in appalling conditions. We gave them juice, pretzels and some hot meals (thanks to the good people at Chik-fil-a).

There were a number of people at the retreat that I've never served with before. After watching them on Saturday I am very encouraged about our future leaders: sold-out to God, desperate for His presence and willing to walk where Jesus sends us. How cool is that?

To top off this incredible weekend, we celebrated HPC's 15th birthday Sunday evening at Vision Night. I'm still processing the message Pastor Dino gave...hopefully I'll blog about that further when I get my head around it.

So the word for today: amazing. Amazing people, amazing outreaches, amazing worship, amazing message, amazing God. I am continually amazed that God allows me to be a part of this. All glory to Him!

Monday, January 21, 2008

The River Bank

Saturday morning we had a really interesting outreach. A church in Baker had contacted Alliece about bringing their youth group in for an inner-city experience. The kids had made blankets and wanted to give them out to the homeless. I suspect they got more than they bargained for.

It was cold outside. It was really cold riding in the back of a pick-up truck driving around looking for people who don't want to be found. (Hats off to all of our volunteers who braved the artic wind and still had a smile on their face.) We found our first group of people living under the overpass downtown. Tucked in beneathe the concrete, roaring traffic overhead, they received the food and blankets with genuine thankfulness.

We then headed down to the riverbank where we found a few of the camps. They aren't places you would stumble upon accidentally...we had to be very intentional in our search. As always, God pointed the way for us. As our team carried water, snacks and blankets through the underbrush I wondered what they were thinking. Many of them had never seen people who live like this. I suspect that some of them are still working through it today. One of the youth group leaders told Alliece through her tears, "I drive past here everyday; I had no idea there was anyone down here. I just drive right past them and don't even think about it."

Our last stop was at a trailer park in north Baton Rouge. These people aren't technically homeless, but only because they have a physical address. Many of them live without heat, electricity or running water. They are hungry, cold and desperate. We give them blankets, food and medicine. They hug our necks; some of them cry. All are surprised to see us.

Our group gathered to pray at the end of the outreach. The youth group leaders hugged us, thanked us and cried again. They said they would come back to help us. They thanked us for allowing them to be a part of what we do. We loaded into the vehicles and headed back to the Dream Center. We were cold, wet and muddy...and all of us had a home and a hot shower to look forward to.

Something to think about: But for the grace of God, there go I.
All glory to Him!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Confessions of a selfish Christian

I was in Starbucks Saturday morning before outreach. I ran into somebody from church and he asked what we were doing downtown. I told him, "The usual...door-to-door, hand out groceries, pray for people." We talked for a couple more minutes while waiting for our drinks. As I was walking out to the shuttle that 'still, small voice' arrested me.

It wasn't that thundering voice of God that makes you afraid to breathe; it was quiet and almost exasperated. The words 'the usual' echoed through my mind, bringing waves of conviction with it. I felt like the Holy Ghost was asking me when I allowed the Great Commission to become 'the usual'. When did feeding the hungry, visiting the lonely, healing the sick and setting the captives free become mundane? I stood beside the HPC shuttle, green tea frap in hand, and I wanted to cry.

At some point in my self-important schedule, I have allowed the awesome privilege of serving become ordinary. I don't want that to be true. I don't want to take for granted the opportunities I have been given by being a part of Healing Place Church. I don't want the miracles that I see every week to go unnoticed; by me or by others. God is healing people, setting them free and changing lives...and I have the audacity to call that 'the usual'. Shame on me.

I spoke to a friend over Christmas and he told me how much he misses doing outreach. He's currently at school out of state and can't find another church like HPC. The truth seems to be, very few people have the chance to do what we do.

So, there it is. Despite my best effort to put Him first, bring Him glory and make Him known, I continue to be selfish, self-centered and all about me. God have mercy on me. I'm not sure what to do with this new-found information (new to me, not new to God). I think maybe I need to start keeping a list of the miracles I get to witness. I've asked God to forgive me and to help me replace 'self' with God. That would make me Godish, God-centered and all about Him. I think that would be a much more fulfilling route to take. Please pray for me in this much-needed transformation. Thank God for His mercy. All glory to Him!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Saturday in the Park (no, not the song)

On Saturday morning we did our usual street outreach, but this time we took it to a couple of trailer parks in North Baton Rouge. After loading up the truck with vegetable soup, baby food, ice tea and blue apple sauce (yep, blue apple sauce ‘cause that’s how we roll baby) we headed out to see who we could talk to about Jesus.

One of our street teams that works with at-risk youth had visited the park before, but this was the first time 40 red Serve shirts swarmed the park at once. The residents were surprised, but very grateful. We had the opportunity to tell people about the programs we run at the Dream Center, but more importantly we got to tell them about Jesus.

As I drove along the narrow street I saw a group of children in their yard playing with a grocery cart. I didn’t see any other toys in the immediate area. It made me think of being in Mexico and watching kids play with a sparkplug. But I wasn’t in Mexico; I was thirty minutes from my house. The moment we gave them the apple sauce they opened it, using the peel-off lids for spoons. It was funny and heart-breaking all at once. They loved the applesauce; not because it was blue but because it was food. God bless the children.

As we were getting ready to leave a man ran up to the truck. He wasn’t interested in the free food; he wanted to know who we were. As it turned out, he was released from prison a short time ago. He had found God while incarcerated and has been looking for a church to attend since he got out. He talked to some of our people and got the information he needed. He attended the 10am service today at Highland campus. How cool is that?

That’s why we do what we do. We do it to feed the hungry, to open the doors of the prisoners and to proclaim the name of Jesus. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a Saturday. All glory to God!

Matthew 25:36

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.' Matthew 25:36 (NIV)

We encounter a lot of people at the Baton Rouge Dream Center every week; people with serious problems and desperate need. On Fridays we invite the homeless to join us for fellowship and a hot meal. Some come just for the food, but many don’t; some come just to be seen. Being homeless in America doesn’t just mean you’re without shelter, it means you’re invisible. As a society we turn away from those things that are unattractive; things like obvious sickness, addiction, filth. We don’t just look past the guy holding a sign at the intersection, we look through him…like he doesn’t exist.

On Friday we got to be the hands of God yet again. Thanks to a youth group who raised money to buy coats for the homeless, not only did the men get a hot meal but they each received a new jacket and a fresh set of clothes. For most of them, it’s not like they got another coat; this is their only coat. As the temperature hovers just above freezing, these new jackets provide much needed protection against the elements. This jacket means they get to sleep at night. Their gratitude was humbling. They smiled and thanked us, again and again and again.

Jesus came for the throw-aways of society. He came for the homeless, the addicts, the prostitutes and the dealers. What an awesome privilege that He has entrusted these precious souls to us…that He allows us to be a healing place for a hurting world. Thank you for being a part of changing lives.