Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Love Love.

As our time in Mobile came to an end, the Lord continued to do his work. In just a few weeks, all of these homeless friends became more dear to us than we ever expected.  Paul wrote to the Thessalonians,  "Being affectionately desirous of you, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of Christ  but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us." That is so true of how we felt everyday that we walked into Bienville square.

Our friends Pat and Dean are dating officially. A sweet lady that we met through Habitat, Milly Sue, gave us a 4 tickets to the Christmas Spectacular that was being held at Dauphin Way Baptist. Naturally, we had to take Pat and Dean on their first date. We took them out to Wendy's and then afterwards went to the show. It was incredible. Filled with Christmas music....and Pat loves music.  They held hands and smiled the entire time.  The women usually do not get to stay out after 3 or 4 pm because the shelters require them to be in early so Dean was having the night of her life.  

Pat's sister passed away two weeks ago and the memorial was on Saturday, the day after his date.  So we brought him to his brother's house to spend the night and await the memorial.  We hung out with his brother and sister in law for awhile sipping sweet tea and laughing at how alike Pat and Daniel (his brother) acted.  They welcomed us into their home and by the end of the night they called us family. They even called us after the memorial to let us know how it went and keep us updated on prayer requests. 

The next day we went to the park and saw our friend JP.  As soon as we saw him, he leaned over and whispered into our ears, "Hey, I got saved last night." All that we could think and say was basically, "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!YES!!!!!!!!!!" He told us that he had been going to the service that one of the shelters held every week.  He said that he had been wanting to go forward to accept Jesus but he just couldn't do it....for some reason this particular night, he had to stand up.  He said he was the only one to stand up and get saved.  We cannot even begin to express to you how genuine it was.  The Lord was shining through his eyeballs and he was excited to learn more about our God through scripture and prayer and hanging out with fellow believers.  

At one point, our friend Trinity walked up cussing up a storm and cursing God.  JP leaned over and responded with "Our God is not like that actually.  God is who He says he is and does the things that He says that He will do." After Trinity left, he looked at us and said that something felt different inside of him while Trinity was talking.  He said before he wouldn't have cared but that for some reason today something compelled him to speak truth. The Holy Spirit has made JP a new creation..."They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them." (Romans 2:14-15). It's beauty in its finest form :) 

We spent the entire weekend just hanging out in the square with all of our friends. Praying for them and listening to them.  They are full of broken stories and in need of lots of prayer.  That Sunday we brought Pat and Dean and our friend Amber to church with us.  Afterwards, the church had a big thanksgiving lunch and bouncy toys....which was fun. 

Saying goodbye was almost as hard as leaving home. In just one week of getting to know our friends, we formed a mutual love for one another.  Nancy wept as she thanked us for coming at just the right time. Paulie told us, with tears rolling down his cheeks, how much he appreciated the love we spread throughout the park..."I watched people smile every time you guys came into the park that I hadn't seen smile in weeks." Robby insisted on us staying in touch through email and letters. Patrick could not say enough about how timely God had sent us into his life after his sister died and how much he loved us for showing such love to him and his friends. With tears in his eyes, he called us family and meant it with everything inside him. We know and reassured them that it is Christ's love, not our own, that shines through us. We all cried as we gave our final hugs and went our separate ways.

After that hard goodbye, we spent our last night with our Reality Church family. They treated us to a delicious meal, we sat around a campfire sharing life stories, and ended the night dancing in fountains. Just as we fell in love with our friends from downtown, we fell deeply in love with the people of this church. Again, we cannot say enough about how much this church has loved us and taught us. They have truly put hands and feet to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for theses brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God...Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth." (3 John 1:5-8) We walked in their church as strangers and they took us in like family. They poured into us, met our needs, and sent us on our way with such encouragement. They are our fellow workers for the truth. (So if any of you RMCers are reading this you best text us, call us, stalk us, and NEVER lose touch!)

P.S. World...we are no longer headed to Naples, Florida. We are headed to Homestead, Florida. We also added pics to our last post. That is all for now.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Look into the Woods.

Its been a crazy few days.  For sure, some of the craziest so far.

Saturday morning we served with Habitat for Humanity.  The head guys aloud us to give a short devotional before breaking out the hammers and nails.  We shared with them the story of Mary and Martha, reminding them of the necessity to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his stories. We helped deck a roof and installed a couple windows....no big deal. 

The rest of our time in Mobile has been spent downtown in Bienville square.  We have met, hung out with, and fallen in love with so many homeless people.  Every afternoon we pull up in our creepy van and hang out with the same crowd that sits there everyday.  One man, Anthony, put it perfectly...he said that he sits out there "waiting for life to happen." We come everyday, bringing life in Jesus Christ.  They know us as the Christians. Some of them think we are crazy, but the rest of them know they can talk to us when they need to be prayed for/with. 

Once again the Lord is revealing to us the variety of stories and consequential hurts in the world.  We met a guy named Patrick.  Patrick has showed us the ropes to living on the streets. Basically....there are 2 types of people living in the streets, according to Pat.  There are the guys who live in the streets because they want to...because its easier than working...and because they don't have to answer to anybody.  Pat calls them "The Element" because they live in a world surrounded with drugs and alcohol. Then there are the ones who are out on the streets unwillingly.  Circumstances literally left them stranded with no other place to go.  Pat is there unwillingly.  He broke his foot three separate times leaving him unable to work (we've seen it its true). Robby is a fellow southeast Texan who is out on the streets for the first time in his life after getting laid off. Nancy is trying to get away from an alcoholic husband.  Dean left her husband and kids after years of being mistreated and overlooked.  Charles is out on the streets after walking in on his 7 year old wife cheating on him.  Robby said "We are good people, we just aint got no place to stay." It is so true.  

We have watched over and over as these guys looked after each other like a family.  They trust each other with everything.  If one of our friends needed to use the bathroom, another one was quick to look after his belongings for him.  Patrick gave his last few dollars to help a woman get a bus ticket.  He offered up his tent for Robby to sleep in.  A man, Marvin, was beat up a robbed.  Patrick took care of him for some time.  A man and woman walked by in need of a bus ticket and Patrick whipped out his and handed it over.  We had mentioned one day that we like Cashews, the next day, Patrick and his girlfriend, Dean, had gotten us some Cashews.  He insists upon buying us groceries when his foodstamps come in the mail.  It is beyond humbling to watch as this man gives what little bit he has for the betterment of others.


Patrick took us out to Tent-City one afternoon where he lives.  It is just outside of downtown (about 2 miles), off of a country road, in the woods. There are a few Tent-Cities located throughout the woods.  Some are full of the Element and some seek to lead quiet lives, like Pat.  When we walked in our hearts dropped.  It was exactly what is pictured when we think of third world countries. Trash covered the ground in piles throughout the trees. The smell was beyond words.  We were standing in a landfill.  Deeper into the woods is where they slept.  Tents covered the area.  Above the tents hung some tarps that they had tied to trees to control some of the rain.  There was a small community area in the middle of all of the tents.  We climbed into Pat's tent as he showed us the treasures of his life...things that we would throw away in a heart-beat.  The trash, that he held so dear to, covered the bottom of tent, only adding to the smell. Pat's sleeping bag was jammed in next to Robbie's old egg crate. The word sad does not even being to describe the condition of their lives when it is compared to so many of us around America.  We look at other countries and see their poverty stricken lifestyles while these people have been living in the woods of America for years. 

We returned to the square so that Patrick could get a meal from one of the shelters. That is when we met Charles. We've never seen so much fear in a grown man's eyes. He had spent the night before on the streets in a horrible storm and was scared of what the night was going to bring. Charles is new to Mobile and is just trying to make it to Florida where his brother is. Patrick began to tell him the dos and don'ts..where to sleep and where not to sleep. He sat with us and waited for the shelter to start serving. He couldn't focus enough to hold long conversation because the worry consumed his thought. As it got dark the "element" was stirring. We figured it would be better to take them to a calmer meal. We brought them to McDonald's and throughout the conversation we watched as Charles' fear began to fade. 

We drove them back to Tent-City and got out to pray with them. As we did, a man stumbled out of the woods and approached us for a ride. He was clearly apart of the "element." Patrick stepped up in our defense and told him we were not heading his way and we couldn't help him. The man had hate in his eyes as he disappeared into the woods calling out to Patrick, "I'm coming for you in the backpack." We prayed over our friends and Charles' hands trembled. After realizing Patrick was scared to stay in the area, we brought them to a safer place to sleep. 

A policeman told us today that he thinks we are crazy for doing what we are doing.  He said "these people do not want your help." As if to say that they all want to stay where they are at.  After watching Nancy break down in tears, holding the trembling hands of Charles, and talking with Pat, it is impossible for us to believe that they do not want the life that Jesus offers.  There are so many people driving up and down the streets right beside Tent-City oblivious to the need in the woods.  Homeless people crowd the streets in America and people will not even look at them in the eyes.  They are brushed off as people who choose to be in the streets...we are not called to pick and choose who we will help out or who we will share the gospel with.  We are called to help the widows and the homeless...regardless of how they got to the streets and regardless of why they are still on the streets.  

"To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.  I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means, I might save someone. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." 1 Cor. 9:22

Thursday, November 11, 2010

One Body.

Yo! This is us, holding to our facebook pinky promise...updating you more often!

The night before we left the Hammond area we got to go back down to Baton Rouge with Rachel and Abe (Our friends that we stayed with in Springfield...we went to see their parents...who are awesome).

So, whilst we were in Baton Rouge, the first time around, we noticed that the football team that we loved on did not have any water to drink.  Jenna immediately texted Paul (ETBU women's soccer coach) and asked him to send us some water bottles.  They did not arrive in Baton Rouge until after we had left for Springfield.  The fact that we got to go down the Baton Rouge again with Abe and Rachel was super exciting because we knew that we would get to deliver the water bottles to the boys finally.  So we did.  We handed it to the football coach, he loved it and was super appreciative.  It was good to see them again :)

After we delivered the bottles we decided to find Tom.  He had told us where he lived and we remembered that it was not far from where the football guys were practicing.  We found his van, pulled into the parking lot, and saw Tom sitting outside with a friend of his.  Tom was obviously in the same mess that he was in before we left.  We approached him with a lot of joy and he introduced us to his friend. We proceeded up the stairs to meet his family. His wife Tina, who we have spoken to on the phone, was excited to "finally meet" us. It was sad to see the condition of the place. Clothes, trash, and stains covered the room while his one year old sat in the middle of it unnoticed. We gave Tom a bible and a letter that we had written him. He took it with a smile and promised he would read it. We headed to Mobile Alabama excited that the Lord reunited us with the football team and Tom.

Our first night in Mobile was our first night in the van and what a good night it was :) We spent Tuesday praying over the city and seeking God's guidance. This was our first stop with zero connections. We sat on the Starbucks patio spending time with Jesus and He opened up doors. We overheard two women having their own bible study. We exchanged a few words about the greatness of the Lord and before they left we found out where they went to church. They gave us their numbers so that we could meet up with them for the Wednesday service. We also listened in on four older women carrying on about their faith and Christian walk. It was encouraging to hear women so on fire for the Lord. As they were leaving, we confessed our eavesdropping and asked them what church they attended. They gave us their information and cheerfully went on their way. During our conversation with the older ladies, we noticed two men sitting at another table. When they got up to leave they confessed listening in on our conversation. They asked us about being from Texas and what brought us here. As we told them, they sat down in curiosity. We exchanged thoughts about our faith and how much the world needs it. In just a few hours, God blessed us with eight fellow believers as well as two contacts.

Wednesday we attended Reality Church, the church the two ladies attend. Reality Church has just recently opened, August 8th, and is being planted by a former director of the Mobile Master's Commission. We attended their youth/college group session and watched as the Lord broke down barriers of insecurity, abuse, neglect, etc...

After the service a few of the girls who are a part of the Reality Master's Commission approached us and told us that we were more than welcome to come stay at their house....(They all live in a house together). We loved living in the van but a shower and a toilet sounded mighty fine.  We accepted, gratefully. So gratefully.  The Lord created the body to work in a way that has been demonstrated so strongly to us since the day we left.  We were able to talk with the people at Starbucks like we had known them for years because we are all a part of the same family.  The people at Reality Church took us in without hesitation because we have the same Father, the same Love, the same Purpose.  These guys are solid.  They love the way Christ told us to love through their willingness to help us out in our time of need. Our foundation is the same and consequently we were able to immediately begin working together towards our common goal. Its good stuff...The way the Lord created the body...Good stuff. "...That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together" (1 Cor. 12:25). Love it. Read the whole chapter.

Anywho, Through prayer this afternoon we are learning that our ministry in Mobile will be with the homeless people in the city.  So we ask for your prayers.  That the Lord will open doors. That we will be able to confidently provide a few of their physical necessities as well as share with them the hope of Christ.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Darkness Has Not Overcome It.

Our plan was to be in New Orleans for the past two weeks but God led us to the small towns of Springfield, Hammond, and Albany Louisiana. We stayed at our friend's house in Springfield, who are now our t-shirt models. We spent time with their church and youth group. We couldn't have asked for a better home church during our stay. They took us in and loved us as one of their own. We love 'em.

We are realizing real quick that this journey is for both the lost and for our personal walks as we learn more about who God is in the mist of a broken world. In Albany, we learned more than we served. We worked with Redemption Outreach Center and several other churches in the area. They were all working together to put on a crusade. The focus of the crusade was to knock down the walls of addiction, religion, racism, and bondage. We prayed with them in the evenings and served in small ways as we were needed. 
What we learned: Our hearts in reaching the lost are not denomination specific. We understand that the Lord is going to place us with a variety of churches. We have non-negotionable beliefs (The Trinity, Jesus' death and resurrection,  the path to salvation, etc..). We do not agree with some of the things that the more "charismatic" churches believe and we will not negotiate or sacrifice our beliefs. We will seek to correct them where they are wrong and also be in a position to be corrected where we are wrong...in hope of being of the same mind...the same biblical, spirit led, effort to reach the lost. Within the past month we have worked with the typical "conservative" churches who have beautiful hearts and are so solid in what they believe biblically.  They teach and disciple the way Jesus told them they ought to. With compassion and knowledge. It is so so beautiful. However, their desire to reach the lost and to step outside of the building is sometimes not a priority.  Though the churches in Albany are lacking some in their discipleship and teachings, they are actively reaching the lost with the same gospel message...Jesus died and rose again, to save the lost because he loves us all.  They have devoted their lives to finding the lost and leading them to the cross. It is so so beautiful.  It has been a long time since we have seen a church so heavy for their community. They are determined to see God's spirit save the lost and free the bound. Surely, somewhere between the more conservative church's knowledge of the bible and the charismatic love for the lost there is a place where we can all find the absolute truth...both in our knowledge of scripture and through our actions. 

Not every church has it right. Paul was constantly correcting churches as they sought to be more like Christ. "Standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel...Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord, and of one mind" Philippians 1:27b-2:2. We are in this fight together and for the sake of the gospel we will go where the Spirit leads regardless of denomination. 

Anyways, we spent the majority of our time in Hammond. We chilled at a little skate park in the area. We brought the kids gatorade and gave them high-fives for doing cool tricks.  We were there everyday right after all the kids got out of school.  We did not hear one happy story. These kids are hurting so deep and are struggling everyday to control the anger that is built up inside of them.  We met a kid who physically fights with his dad often. He said "My dad is missing his teeth and I prolly knocked out 3 or 4 of em." His dad does pills and acts "Stupid." We met a guy who smokes weed and considers himself to be a good kid because he is not doing the same drugs that the rest of his family does...like crack.  

A kid, Jordan, told us that he doesn't believe in God because he had watched a video on youtube that attempted to disprove God.  We gave him Indescribable by Louie Giglio and made him pinky promise us he would watch it.  We watched his video and realized how easy it is for kids to believe anything...but Jesus sometimes.  Jordan avoided us for the rest of the week.  We met a kid named Brooke. She was super sweet and excited to hear about the Gospel.  We gave her a bible and she pinky promised that she would read it.  We met a girl named Angie. That girl be so crazy and energetic. We love with our whole hearts.  After an awkward approach...given by Stacie Hooks naturally...we learned that she shares the same story as Stacie. Our hearts broke. We hung out with her as often as we could.  At the end of our stay we were compelled by love to tell her the greatest story ever told.  Kids were talking about drugs and sex and cussed every other word the entire time we were there.  They seek so hard to find meaning in all of the wrong places.  We sat as a group of kids started lighting up some "legal weed." Though we do not have much to offer, we gave all of these skater kids what we knew...love. We tried to love them through gatorade, through talking, through listening, and through sharing the story of Jesus.  We prayed for them everyday and will continue to pray for them every night.  We are learning more and more everyday what it means to be broken for the things that break the heart of God.  Though we struggled to find opportunity to share the story of Jesus with Angie, we literally could not help ourselves.  We love her too much. We love them all too much.    

The darkness that we, as a church so often talk about, runs deeper in this world than we ever imagined.  It is more than just a thin layer that covers the planet.  It is a deep hurt that controls the lives of so many individuals.  But :) we serve a God who is bigger and deeper and wider and brighter than all of this pain. "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:4-5.