Monday, February 25, 2008

A couple of things I noticed...

We had another great weekend at HPC. It had a kinda crazy, off-the-chain feel about it, but it was still great. Here are a couple of moments that stuck out to me:

Friday morning:
I’m standing in the playground at the BRDC in the middle of Ladies Thrive. There are people everywhere because Cooking for Christ is just about to start serving lunch. Miss Frances is praying over the food so most of the people have quit hollering. I’m standing about five feet behind Miss Frances and although I’ve bowed my head, I’m still watching the crowd. This dude named Nathan* comes through the gate and he’s on a mission. Nathan is one of our regulars and he has some peculiar personality traits. I’m not sure how well he can see; his eyes sort of point in different directions. He’s hard to understand because he talks really fast and sometimes repeats things, and it’s hard to know when he’s talking to me or when he’s talking to himself. He’s homeless and I suspect he may have some mental health issues. So, when he comes through the gate at full tilt I immediately go on full alert. He takes about three steps and looks around. He sees people with their heads down and Miss Frances praying. He stops dead in his tracks, takes off his hat and bows his head. As soon as the prayer ends he puts on his hat and continues across the courtyard. I don’t know if anybody else saw him, but I believe that God was pleased with Nathan.

Saturday morning:
I’m driving the shuttle down Mission Street with a group of our awesome volunteers. We’re going door-to-door handing out pasta and inviting people to come to our Family Night at the BRDC. It’s this Tuesday at 7pm in case you want to be a part (this commercial was brought to you by the letter W and the number 7). So, we pass by Dufroc Elementary and I blast the horn about a hundred times because the schoolyard is swarming with HPC kids getting ready to do their school makeover. This weekend was ‘Amplified’, a special retreat for our junior and senior high kids who want more of God. They stayed at host-homes and had prayer meetings, community service projects and unbelievable worship. So, I pass by the school, everybody waves and me and my merry band of men (and women) continue on our way. Then about five minutes later, I get the call. “Hey, we hit a snag at Dufroc…the kids are coming to Winbourne to serve. Any ideas?” God is so funny.

So this is the cool moment that stuck out to me. We had close to a hundred kids show up at our Dream Center and they were willing to do whatever we asked. They painted walls, scrubbed toilets, made grocery bags, whatever. They didn’t complain about the change of plans, they didn’t ask a hundred questions and they didn’t seem to care who did what. All they wanted to know was, ‘how can I help?’ This is the same generation that you read about in headlines. This is the generation associated with school shootings, bomb threats and suicide. I tell you what, we don’t give this generation enough credit.

I went to their worship service on Saturday night. They spent 4 or 5 hours praising, praying and crying out to God. Around midnight about 40 kids got baptized in the pond. I spent most of Saturday night watching a few hundred kids worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It was unbelievable.

All glory to God!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bourbon Street Outreach

The guy sitting alone at the bar was probably in his mid-forties. A couple of seats down from him were two young ladies who may have been twenty. We walked up to the girls and handed them each a rose and wished them Happy Valentine’s. They looked at us suspiciously but took the roses anyway. The guy asked me what we were doing so I told him we were out reminding people that somebody cares about them. One of the girls turned to me and said, “Do you love strippers?” I smiled at her and said, “Of course we do. That’s why we’re here.”

The girls introduced themselves as Diamond and Wednesday. We chatted briefly but said we had to go as there were lots of other women we wanted to give flowers to. Diamond stood up and hugged my neck. “You really do love strippers” she said. I smiled and nodded. I thought she might cry. As I turned around the guy at the bar said, “You guys are the nicest people I have ever met in my life.” I thanked him and wished him a Happy Valentine’s as well. We walked out of the smoky bar and stepped back onto Bourbon Street.

We do Midnight Outreach every month, but this is the first time we’ve done it in New Orleans. We partnered with a great church whose heart is to reach out to the lost and hurting in their city. By joining with Church of the King we had the opportunity to impact hundreds of people who are tangled up in darkness and destruction that comes with involvement in the sex industry. We got to seek that which is lost.

A few blocks down the street a woman stopped us. “Hey, y’all really do love strippers.” She had a rather large tattoo and a rather small shirt. I’m not sure if she had two or three piercings in her face, but it’s her eyes that I remember. She stood in front of our team and said, “I’ve been into every club along this strip and they all say you’ve been in there giving roses to the girls.” She was very intense so we just listened. “I’ve danced in every club on Bourbon Street. You guys are the first people to ever do something for us. You guys care about us. Nobody cares about us. They hate us. You can tell by the way they look at us. They hate us.” Her words were coming out fast enough to tell me she was high and she was moving the entire time she stood there. She told us that she doesn’t strip anymore since she got engaged. Now she just rides the mechanical bull at the Bourbon Cowboy. She told us that if we wanted to ride the bull she could get us in for free. We thanked her for the offer but told her we had other clubs we needed to go to. She thanked us again, lit a cigarette and disappeared into the throng.

This is why we do Midnight, so that women like Diamond, Wednesday and Rose can be reminded that they’re more than what they do. They are precious, important, wounded people. They are not just strippers and prostitutes; they are somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister. They are the ones Jesus went to the cross for…just like you and me.

I am so grateful that HPC allows us to go beyond the box of ‘what is acceptable’. I am so grateful that we are, like Pastor Mike says, a second mile church. How cool is it that we are now known, on Bourbon Street, as a church who loves strippers? What an awesome privilege. All glory to God.

Thrivin' Friday

Ladies Thrive this week was off the chain. We had about forty women there from the community and another dozen or so from HPC Women's Ministry. Miss Alliece taught on Mephibosheth (2 Sam. 9) and how he wasn't forgotten...even though he was crippled, orphaned and left behind in Lo-debar. She talked about how Mephibosheth was lame because he had been dropped as a child. She asked if anyone in the crowd had been wounded by someone else's actions...if anyone else felt isolated and left behind. The room was silent except for the sniffling. Heads were nodding as tears ran down their faces.

The point of the teaching was that David remembered Mephibosheth and brought him out of Lo-debar and into the palace. Instead of living in isolation and shame, Mephibosheth 'ate regularly at David's table, like one of the king's own sons'.

The teaching ended with Miss Alliece leading the women in a prayer of forgiveness. Before they broke into their discussion groups our volunteers delivered gifts to each of the women. The HPC chicks brought cupcakes, cookies, chocolates and socks for the whole group. The ladies also got a long-stemmed red rose. They were overwhelmed. More tears; but this time tears of gratitude.

Regardless of what Feb 14th brought for these ladies, our Valentine's party of the 15th was a huge win. Encouraging message, cool gifts and a red rose from the Lover of her soul...everything a girl could want. Happy belated Valentine's day to all.

Friday, February 15, 2008

One True Love

Valentine's Day can be rough. Single, married, divorced, dating or recovering from all of the above; there's a lot of pressure. Between tv ads for diamond pendants (what exactly is the purpose of a 'pendant'?) and the sympathy cards from happily married friends, it makes for a tough 24 hrs smack in the middle of February. I have no idea if guys feel the squeeze or not, but for us gals just making it through the day is a win. And here's the thing: I love my life! I love what I get to do, I love my friends, I love my church, I have a great family. If Feb 14th weighs this heavily on me, what does it do to someone who doesn't love their current life? Over the past 36 hours I have had the opportunity to witness the effects of this 'holiday'.

We had big plans for Valentine's Day: Midnight Outreach in Baton Rouge in the mid-day and then off to New Orleans after that. God is doing a really cool thing right now in allowing us to partner with a great church in New Orleans called Church of the King. We're working with their outreach team a little to help them launch some new ways to reach the people around them; including a Midnight Outreach for people tangled up in the sex trade. More about that in a later post...

So, we're at the Dream Center packing chocolate, pulling thorns off roses and preparing ourselves for a long night of God-only-knows-what. We are pumped!!! Then we get a call and everything changes. Instead of going to Hooters to give roses to the girls serving cold draft and chicken wings, we're headed to Scotlandville to meet with a girl who just told us that she's contemplating killing herself and her two small children. Hold the wings and hit the gas.

We find Trisha* in an apartment that would need renovations before it would be nice enough to condemn. She has no heat, no lights and no water. There's almost no furniture and the whole place smells like a dumpster. We hop out of the van and hand her a rose. She takes it and tries to smile. While Charity talks to her we make conversation with the neighbors and give the guys some chocolate. After a while Charity asks me to come inside with them. I get a quick rundown on the situation and then we pray for her. As we're praying I get that nudge from the Holy Ghost so when we finish I ask her, "Do you know who Jesus is?". She shakes her head and says, "No. I think maybe he's in the bible but I never read it." (Selah)

We take her through a brief teaching on Jesus being the Son of God and dying for our sins, and in the back of my head I'm thinking, 'she almost died today and took her 2 sons with her...and she doesn't know who He is'. We have so much work left to do.

Charity led her in a salvation prayer and she accepted Jesus into her life as her Lord and Savior. How awesome is God? She came to Ladies Thrive today and brought her two little boys. They're coming back to the Dream Center to meet with us again on Tuesday and we're going to help her sort through some of the pain and chaos. God's grace amazes me. For Valentine's Day she got a rose and salvation. She got hope. Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving. All glory to God!

*not her real name

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pickled peppers and fast cars

We had another great weekend downtown at the Baton Rouge Dream Center. It was about 8:45am when I arrived at the building Friday morning, so I was a little surprised when we already had handful of homeless people waiting for the opportunity to serve. They were chillin' down by the dumpster, waiting for Craig to show up and hang out with them. How cool is that?

We had about forty women join us for Thrive; all of them anxious to hear what Alliece had to say this week. As the ladies listened to the teaching the homeless guys were busy sweeping halls, picking up trash and painting the nursery. After the teaching the women sat around in their small groups while the homeless guys took turns getting their new clothes from the boutique. As always, the men were grateful for the clothing, and grateful for the opportunity to serve.

At our Saturday morning outreach we had two teams going door-to-door handing out pickled peppered, pinto beans and tiny bags of hershey's kisses. (As you can see, we're big believer's in a balanced diet.) While one team was over on Wyandotte, our other team was visiting families on a cul-de-sac a few blocks away. From out of nowhere, a car sped down the street and crashed into a parked car. Thanks to our quick-thinking volunteers (and a big hand from the Holy Ghost) everyone was safely moved out of the way. During the excitement one of the neighbors invited the team inside her home and we got to pray together. Next week we're going back to that street to do a block party. It's so cool that in the midst of all the chaos and confusion in that area, that God has called us to spend time with those particular families. God cares about all of His kids; and I love that we get to watch His light show up in dark places.

The Dream Center, like all of Healing Place's outreaches, is about being a healing place for a hurting world. Next weekend we're going to feed the hungry, visit the widows and bring hope to the hopeless. Wanna help? Meet us at 450 Roselawn at 10:00am Saturday morning. God's going to to show up and show off. It's guaranteed to be a blast! See you there.

All glory to God!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Just down the street

Saturday morning we had our door-to-door street outreach in north Baton Rouge. It was extra cool this week because we had a couple dozen kids from student ministries come and help us out. I love the enthusiasm and energy they bring, but I particularily love seeing the next generation taking the doors of the church to the street. Tyler, Crystal, Tweezz and the gang are doing an incredible job of forming this group of young people into a mighty army for God.
The team I was on went to a stretch of apartments on Prescott. A tuff hood indeed...not an easy place to spend your days. The first woman I talked to was sitting in her car with a baby in the back seat. We gave her some pretzels and applesauce and she asked us where we're from. We told her a little bit about the Dream Center and HPC. She didn't say much, just nodded a lot. I asked how I could pray for her. She told me that her sister's baby had just died. She wanted prayer for her sister, their family, just everything. As I was walking away I thought about how much God loves His kids; how He sent us to that very parking at that very moment so that we could pray for a greiving woman and her family. He is so good.
Another team member came up to me a short while later and said they had prayed for a baby with a tumor in his head. Incredible. We also got to pray for Mr. Hank; an elderly gentleman with bad knees who was sitting on his couch in an apartment that smelled worse than any I've smelled in a long time. Mr. Hank doesn't have any teeth, so we traded out the pretzels for a bag of hersey's kisses (no nuts). He thanked us for the prayer and the food, and he told us to keep safe.
There are dozens of other stories from Saturday but they all come down to one thing: Jesus came to seek that which was cool is it that He lets us help? All glory to God!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Friday recap

Friday was a crazy day...Miss Alliece was out of town, half of our volunteers were away and I was speaking at Thrive and didn't have anything to say. When we got together for morning prayer Adam looked at me and said, "So Donna, what are your thoughts?" I shook my head and answered, "I think that if God doesn't show up, we're falling flat on our faces." I don't think that was the encouraging word he was hoping for.
Personally, my life has been very stressful lately. There are some things shifting and changing and some days I don't feel like I can get me feet under me. That's how I felt on Friday. With less than 30 minutes until I was scheduled to teach, I sat at Miss Alliece's desk and told God that I couldn't do it. I asked Him to be God; to show up, give the women His message, and basically just carry me through the day. He is so faithful. I have no idea what I spoke about other than I started with a scripture from Exodus. Afterwards, one of the volunteers told me it was the best message I had ever preached. All I could do was point up.
Firday night I had the privilege of speaking at New Beginnings. That is such a cool ministry. Craig, Yvonne and their whole team do an amazing job. Working with people struggling with destructive behaviors is tough. God definitely put the right people in the right places. About three minutes before we started Craig asked me how I felt. Again I shook my head, "I got nothing, Craig. I've got a scipture I don't want to use and no idea what to say." Craig shrugged and said, "Forget the scripture. Talk about whatever you want." I took the mic and God showed up again. He is so very good to me.
I know that the scripture says that when we are weak, He is strong. I'm so very grateful that when I am nothing, He is everything. All glory to God!