Its been a crazy week full of learning and growth for the both of us. When we arrived in Baton Rouge we were completely lost as to what to do and where to start. We met with Matt Dearman, the youth minister of The Chapel on Campus. He gave us an idea of how the city was set up and told us some general ideas of where to go. For the first few days we drove around the city and prayed for direction and guidance. We were filled with confidence in God's calling for our lives and simultaneously filled with a billion questions.
Where are the lost? Where are the hurting? How do we talk to them? Do they even care to listen?
Then we slowed down and looked up. There they were. People everywhere. Walking up and down the roads looking for money, people busy with studies in Starbucks, and people in and out of the grocery store. All over the busy intersection of I-10 and College St. was a need that we have the power to meet. We have the power within us to introduce the lost to salvation and the power to encourage those who are already in relationship with Him.
We walked under the overpass and chilled there for a little while. At the time there were no homeless people hanging out there. Just us. We sat for a while and watched and listened. It was one of the most depressing sounds in the world. The sound of busyness. People were rushing on the highway above us and the highways around us. The sound of honking and engines filled our hearts with a sound of pointlessness. God wants to speak to us in a whisper and the people in Baton Rouge...and all around America...are too busy to listen.
Two business men in Starbucks told us they were too busy to talk. So we moved to the grocery store. We served. Did not say much but hoped that they would see the love of Christ in our servanthood. We sought out people who needed help with their groceries. They were usually just walking out to their cars which did not give us much time for conversation. We moved down the street and found a homeless man holding a sign. We handed him a water and asked him how he got to Baton Rouge. He told us it was a long story. When we told him that we had time to listen he responded with "I'm a little busy, I have to make a couple dollars." Business men, shopping moms, and even those with no jobs are too busy.
Eventually we ended up at this area called Gardere...or something...we call it "Guard your ear" cause we cant pronounce it. It is a place full of poverty, brokenness, and darkness. We stumbled upon the neighborhood park. They have a football program for boys up to thirteen. Three times a week they meet for practice but rarely have actual games. We are there every evening covering the place in prayer and slowly building relationships. We have been sitting in the stands with a couple parents who attend the practice and playing with the children who seem to be overlooked and unwatched by theirs.
Then there is Tom. Tom is a 50 year old man that comes to the park daily with his little boy and the two from next door. He hasn't worked in six weeks and struggles to keep his head above the consuming lifestyle he and his wife live- in and out of jail, drugs, and alcohol. He has shared with us that he is a believer who accepted the Lord at age 26 but now says, "i don't know where my soul is headed." Pray for Tom. Pray that God reminds him of Romans 8:38-39 "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither, angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
We met up with a church called the Healing Place. We helped out with their homeless ministry yesterday morning, passing out free food and giving away some clothes. Last night we went with the church to do this outreach called Midnight. We walked into a few of the stripper places around the city passing out roses to every lady that we saw. We did not say anything. Just gave them a rose (that had a note reminding them that God loved them), smiled at them with the love of Christ, and left. There was a stripper at Gold Club who had long hair. We will never forget her face. She held her rose so tight and smelled it over and over ...probably in curiosity as to why someone would give her something, expecting nothing in return. We saw women who were so empty. We also drove up and down some streets and found prostitutes, transvestites, etc. standing on corners and walking into hotels. It is so hard to look into empty eyes knowing that we are overflowing with life. Our hearts broke. Like the heart of Paul when he said "I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers" (Romans 9:3)
Anyways, all that to say...God is doing what He wants to do and we are so grateful that we get to be a part. From being spit in the face by little kids to being rejected by business men to watching the little glimpse of hope come across a stripper's face when we hand them a rose...it is all more than worth it.