Saturday, March 29, 2008

Pressed down, shaken together and running over

A couple of weeks ago we did adopt-a-block with Blue Sushi (our junior leadership class). We were picking up trash around the Dream Center to spruce up the neighborhood. During orientation Miss Alliece mentioned that when we were in St Louis we used to do lawn care as part of our adopt-a-block. At the end of the day one of the Blue Sushi dad's told Miss Alliece that he wanted to help.

On Thursday that dad showed up at Roselawn with a trailer full of yard equipment. He brought us 6 lawn mowers, 5 weed whackers, 4 blowers, gas cans, the whole nine...all completely free of charge. How cool is our God?!?

Ask and ye shall receive. All glory to God and many thanks to Shane.

Numbers 16:48

"And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped." Numbers 16:48

I had the privilege of speaking at Thrive on Friday. It was really cool because our visiting team from Chicago opened it up with a drama presentation of the Gospel. We rarely have the men and women in the same room but we got them together for this special occasion. The team did a phenomenal job; by the end of it both men and women were wiping away tears. Very powerful.

I spoke to the women for a few minutes about facing the floods in life; physical, emotional and spiritual. I talked about depression, anger and suicide...and about God being King over the flood. After the teaching the ladies broke into their groups to talk about what was going on in their lives.

During lunch Charity came and got me; she wanted me to talk to a woman who had come to Thrive. We walked into the fellowship hall and Charity waved a young woman over to us. She asked Joan* to tell me her story. Joan recently lost her job and, as a result, was losing her apartment. She's a single mother and had decided that her children would be better off being raised by someone else. She didn't want to live anymore and was planning her suicide. That was on Tuesday.

That afternoon she met Charity's outreach team who were handing out snack packs and flyers. Charity works primarily with at-risk and homeless youth. Joan was handed a flyer with Charity's hotline number but she disregarded it. A few minutes later her son walked over and handed her a copy of the same flyer. She wondered briefly if it was God.

After much debate she called Charity and set up an appointment to meet with her. Charity invited her to Thrive and she actually came. We were standing in the hallway and she grabbed my hand. "I felt like you were talking just to me," she said, "all that stuff about the water rising and were talking right to me". I shook my head and said, "That was God talking to you girl, not me".

She told me that she hadn't had a drink since Tuesday, that Charity was helping her get her stuff straight, and that she didn't want to die anymore. She smiled and hugged my neck, continuing to thank me. I told her that if she held onto God she was going to make it.

The mission team that was visiting from Chicago handed out the flyers on Tuesday. Friday afternoon I shared this story with them. We talked about Numbers 16 and how Moses sent Aaron into the middle of the congregation to intercede for the people. Aaron stood between the living and the dead, and God stopped the plague. That's what the team got to do this week. That's what we get to do every week. We stand between the living and the dead; in the midst of addiction, depression, suicide, and violence. We stand there and offer them the same Hope that was offered to us. We offer them new life.

A black & white flyer, a team from Chicago, and a woman on the edge...add God's mercy to that and we get to witness another miracle. All glory to God!

Down the tracks

We had another great team in this week staying with us at our Winbourne Dream Center. Harvest Mission Community Church of Chicago sent us 16 of their college age members to help us with outreach, facilities improvement and our after school program. They were awesome...great attitudes, solid skills and a heart for God. What a privilege to serve along side them. Pastor Jimmy and Hannah did a great job leading this fine group of servants.

We tried to get them involved in a little bit of everything we do. On Thursday afternoon we went down to the river bank to take some food and blankets to some of the folks who stay down there. The first couple of camps were empty but on our third stop we found some people to visit with.

Homeless outreach is always a little dicey...very hard to know what to expect and things can change on a dime. As we were walking down the railroad tracks and through the woods I was praying that the visit would go smoothly. The entire Chicago team was Asian and I wasn't sure how we would be received. I went in first and spoke to the three men and one woman who were at the camp in the woods. I told them we had a team in from Chicago that was helping us out. The team filed in behind me and waited. There was a brief silence and one of the homeless guys said, "Any of y'all Korean?" About half the team raised their hands.

I wasn't sure where this was going and I didn't know what I should I prayed. I am seldom shocked by anything that happens on outreach but what happened next definitely caught my attention. The homeless guy smiled and said, "Welcome" in Korean.

We got to visit with them and give them some cookies and tea. We prayed for them and they prayed for us. It was such a blessing. As we were driving back to the Dream Center I was thinking, 'who knew that a homeless dude living down the tracks spoke Korean?'

I am continually amazed by God mercy and His timing. All glory to Him!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

10 days of outreach

I don't remember when I last feels like forever ago. These past ten days or so have been incredibly busy but really cool. I think this is how it went down:
- Last Friday we had about 35 women and about 20 men at Thrive. After the message and group time the ladies lined up for our shoe giveaway extravaganza. Nothing sets up a girl for Easter like a new pair of red stilettos.
- Friday night we took the show on the road for Midnight Outreach. We went to strip clubs, bars and the back streets of North Baton Rouge. At one point a police officer joined our search and gave us a guided tour of the prostitute stroll. He drove ahead of us, lights flashing, and used his spotlight to point out some of the people who would rather not be found. It was an incredibly effective tactic. 200 roses and several hours later, we headed back to the HPC to grab a couple hours of sleep before our next outreach.
- On Saturday we threw a serious block party at Palmer Apartments (Prescott/Mohican Crossover). As we were shooting hoops and grilling hot dogs a crowd of dealers sat across the street and watched us for an hour. They were waiting to see if we had undercover cops at the party before they were willing to cross the street. About thirty minutes before we packed up they were laughing with volunteers and eating burgers. I guess we passed the test.
A nineteen year old girl with her baby showed up, even though she was scared and didn't want to come. She had called our hotline because she and her baby were homeless. We were able to feed her, give her some groceries and get her into a shelter before nightfall. Pretty cool.
Another woman was driving by and turned around when she saw the Healing Place Church tent. She's going through a rough time right now and a friend of hers told her that HPC could help her. She's in the middle of a nasty divorce; with a drug-dealing ex-husband that threatening to burn down her house. She works as a counselor, but stood in tears as she told us her story. When the counselor needs counselling, it's cool that people think of HPC. We got to pray with her and gave her some direction to get some more help. She stayed for lunch and hung out with us for a while. She looked better by the time she left.
Palmer Apartments is a rough hood; in fact the whole area is rough. The kids are hungry; for food, for attention and for direction. The parents are desperate; many of them lacking both employment and the skills to gain employment. Drugs, violence and hopelessness...those are the prevailing traits of the area. Nobody plans for the future...they just try to survive from one day to the next. That's why HPC is there; we want to offer them the hope and future that's found in Jesus Christ. So, we show up. We play games with the kids, we feed anyone who will eat and we invite them to get involved at the Dream Center. We pray for people, laugh with them and cry with them. Our goal is to do life with them; a life centered around God.
- Saturday night our first visiting mission team arrived to stay at the Dream Center. We had 55 high school students from Guts Church in Tulsa spend a week with us. They were great: dedicated, enthusiastic and eager to serve. We did lots of work, lots of outreach and had the opportunity to touch a lot of lives.
- Sunday afternoon Blue Sushi joined us downtown for Adopt-a-block. They picked up trash, cleaned yards and served with willing hearts. That's pretty impressive for a group of fifth graders.
- Monday we spent the day at Winbourne with our Guts mission team. We painted, scrubbed, hauled and bleached. By 4pm I was ready for a nap (one of those Rip Van Winkle naps). I went home to bed while another team headed to New Orleans for a special St. Patrick's Day edition of Midnight on Bourbon Street. Once again we partnered with Church of the King and the New Orleans Dream Center. How cool is that?
- Tuesday night we had our second Family Night at Winbourne. Great fellowship, exciting entertainment and another opportunity to present the Gospel. Adam did a great job bringing the word and our volunteers, as always, were top-notch.
- Friday morning our Guts team left and in the afternoon we bussed some of our Winbourne people in for Easter service at Highland. The really cool part is that we had to call in a second bus because we had so many people who wanted to attend. I think we ended up with 70+ at church. Pastor Dino preached a great message and about 25 or 30 of our people responded to the alter call. What a humbling experience to be a part of that. Jesus came for the lame, the blind, the oppressed and the broken. He came for everyone on the bus. I watched Mr. Clyde, an old homeless man with one eye make his way to the front of the church. I watched our Thrive attendees, men and women, tears streaming down their faces, find hope at the alter. Teenagers from Prescott apartments walked the aisle; many for the first time. Like I said, humbling.
- Sunday morning I attended the 10am service at and everyone else in the Greater Baton Rouge area. It was great. I sat in the back foyer with about 15 other people (on 12 chairs). The way cool part was that the people didn't care that they were crammed into the foyer. They listened, they clapped and they were engaged in the service. They were a part...even if they were the back part.
So, that's been my week (or 10 days or however long it's been). I'm wore out, looking rough and feeling like I slept on the clothesline. But, that's how we roll here at HPC. I wouldn't have it any other way. All glory to God!

Monday, March 10, 2008

K-Ron and the boyz

We had a volunteer orientation last week for people in the community who want to get involved in what God is doing at our Baton Rouge Dream Center. It was a great group...a few people from Highland, a couple of homeless guys, some Ladies Thrive attendees and a handful of kids that attend our After School program.

Adam Hymel and Miss Alliece were facilitating the session but there was lots of feedback from the audience. We were talking about the core values of of HPC (reach, serve, give and build) and our mission of being a healing place for a hurting world. Miss Alliece was doing a basic teaching on salvation; how we need to be grounded ourselves before we can reach out to others. She asked the group if anyone knew what it was like to lost.

K-Ron is a twelve-year-old who attends after school. He currently has a broken bone in his hand so he has a blue cast halfway to his elbow. At Miss Alliece's question his skinny arm shot straight up. "I got lost in JC Penney one time." The group laughed and Miss Alliece asked what happened. He said, "Well, I was lost, and then I walked around for a long long time til I got found."

That is so the story of my life (minus the JC Penney). I once was lost but now I'm found.

I saw K-Ron a couple of days later...he had just been pulled out of a fight and the police were on their way. Somebody had jumped somebody earlier in the day so now it was time to pick sides and start swinging. He's short, skinny and has a broken hand. And, he's doing everything he knows to do just to survive the day.

We got to pray for him and Charity made a deal with him that he wouldn't fight anybody over the weekend. We made plans for him to help us out at the block party so that he'd have something to do on Saturday other than run the streets. He showed up early.

I really have no idea what all God has planned for us at the Dream Center. I know that the needs are overwhelming, the people are desperate and there aren't enough hours in the day. And, I know that without intervention, there's a very good chance that K-Ron and his friends will die in the streets.

I don't have anything to do with budgeting, financial decisions or anything of the like. I know it costs lots of money to run a facility the size of Winbourne and to do all the outreaches we do across the city. I'm so grateful that HPCers are givers; that we're built on the sacrifices of many. I'm grateful that HPCers don't just take care of their own kids; they take care of the K-Ron's that nobody else is caring for.

Whatever God is doing downtown, I'm excited to be a part of it. I'm excited to see what God is going to do in and through K-Ron. The future's bright, y'all...come be a part of it. All glory to God!