Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Discipleship: It's a very good thing

Martha and I always look forward to our Wednesday night Bible studies at the Love In Action warehouse. We invite the homeless, but right now the majority of those at the Bible studies are men from the Houston County Community Corrections Work Release. A married couple from our home church, Harvest, are mentors and bring the guys to church on Sundays and to the warehouse on Wednesdays. Now that we have our van we can help Doug and Janice by picking the guys up.

There were nine of us at the Bible study tonight. The theme for tonight was "Discipleship." We studied and talked about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. As always, there were questions and good discussion. I always encourage the guys to join the discussion and ask questions. More of them are getting involved now.

Before we closed in prayer, I asked for any prayer requests. One of the men, who is just 25 years old, raised his hand and asked for prayer for the guys who are being released this month and next month. One of those guys is his friend who attends every Bible study and church service. You could tell he was really sincere in his request. He wants to see his friend live for Jesus and not end up back in jail. What he said next made my night.

He shared how he never was one to pray, but he's been praying lately. He said, "I don't know if my mind is playing tricks on me or what, but I'm seeing things happening." He is seeing God working in his life. He has heard sermons at Harvest about prayers. We have had a Bible study about prayer and often talk about the importance of prayer. He decided to start praying, and God is honoring his obedience.

It was awesome to hear him share that and to see the smile on his face. That's growth. That's the result of discipleship.

I praise God for those men. Sure, some times we get guys who aren't serious and they end up messing up and getting sent back to the main jail. But you know what? They still hear the Word of God, and eventually something may stick. Then there are guys who really dig into God and become free spiritually before they are set free physically. We're seeing that happen and it's awesome. God is awesome!

Thanks Doug and Janice for introducing us to those guys. You both do a great work. I said tonight that I love those guys, and I meant it. To see them growing in Jesus is wonderful.

God never gives up on anyone, not even people in jail. Please pray for the men in the work release program, and pray for those of us who minister to them.

Monday, March 23, 2009

LIA's transitional house is now open




We are so excited about what God did this weekend. Transitional housing is such a huge need in efforts throughout the country to help the homeless. It's no different in our hometown of Dothan, Ala. Recently, God blessed us with an opportunity to begin a transitional house. This weekend we moved the first person into our transitional house. Go to our Web site - www.loveinactionministries.com - for a new photo gallery of the transitional house.

Richard Jackson is not what some people might call a "typical" homeless person. He doesn't have a drug or alcohol addiction, and he doesn't have a police record. He has good job skills and he knows God is doing something wonderful in his life. By the way, there is no "typical" homeless person. People are on the streets for a wide variety of reasons.

Richard left a sinful lifestyle, because he was miserable. He knew Jesus as his Lord and Savior, but he knew the life he was living was not pleasing to God and that it would ultimately destroy him. So he left it all and moved to Dothan with nothing but some clothes and a desire to seek God.

It's amazing the change God has already made in Richard. And you want to talk about someone fired up for Jesus! Let me tell you, Richard Jackson is a man of God on a mission for God to reach the lost and hurting. He has allowed God to minister to him and he doesn't miss a Sunday morning service at Harvest or a Wednesday night Bible study at the LIA warehouse.

Richard is now in our transitional house, and there's nobody else Martha and I would rather have as the first person in the house. Richard is already reaching the neighborhood for Jesus. (More on that in my next blog.)

The next step is finding Richard a job. He's and excellent mechanic. In fact, he is a class 5 certified auto technician. If anyone in the Dothan, Ala., area knows of a mechanic job opening, please let me know so Richard can apply for it.

Someone has donated a car to Richard. He is working on it to get it in running condition. In the meantime, that same person has given Richard a vehicle to drive until he gets the other car running. What an awesome blessing!

We're excited what God is doing. What Richard needed was some love and compassion in his life. He needed confirmation of what he already knew - that God loves him and has so much more planned for his life. He is experiencing that, and God is working through him to touch other lives. He has become a vital volunteer for LIA as well. It's so awesome how God works.

Richard is the first, but he won't be the last. There are more who need to transition from a life on the streets and in shelters to a productive life living for God and living in permanent housing.

We could use your help to keep our transitional housing program strong. We pay $450 a month for the house, plus utilities. If you would like to sponsor a month, please notate that on your tax-deductible check to Love In Action. If your church, Sunday school class, small group, civic club or your place of employment would like to sponsor a month of the transitional house it would make a great project.

Please send you tax-deductible check to: Love In Action International Ministries, P.O. Box 85, Dothan, AL 36302.

Thank you and may God continue to bless and keep you.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Love In Action now has a van


God has answered another prayer request. Love In Action now has a van. Through the kindness of some people in Dothan, a 1993 Chevy Astro van was donated to us. And, it's in good shape. It only has 123,000 miles on it. The transmission has been repaired and it has new tires.

We will use it to pick up the homeless and the guys from work release for our Wednesday night Bible studies at the LIA warehouse. We will use it for outreaches by hauling stuff and taking people with us to help with the outreaches.

It's going to be a great blessing. Thanks to those who gave and worked hard to make this happen. May God richly bless each of you.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

It's good to worship God

Many of you know that I'm the editor of the Dothan Eagle. Whether you live in Dothan, Alabama or London, England, you heard about the 11 people who died in a shooting spree in the small Alabama towns of Kinston, Samson and Geneva last Tuesday. Nine people were gunned down in Samson. The shooter killed his mother in Kinston, then killed himself in Geneva.

It was a horrifying day. I didn't know until Friday night that one of our pastors at Harvest and his wife were in Geneva where a shootout happened. Just to know that two people Martha and I love very much were in such a dangerous situation is unsettling.

The week at work was filled with coverage of what was the worse killing spree in the history of the state of Alabama. I am very thankful for and proud of my staff. Their writing, editing, photography and design told the story of what happened in a very professional and compassionate way. We were able to find some amazing stories to tell people about, including how the last shooting victim had tried to run the killer off the road after witnessing two people get shot at a convenience store. The Dothan Eagle was quoted and our photos used throughout the nation and the world. Our front pages were held up in front of the cameras of major news outlets. In the business, that's called owning a story.

The loss of life is extremely sad, and I can't imagine the pain of the people whose loved ones were gunned down. Especially, the sheriff deputy whose wife and child were murdered and whose 18-month-old baby was injured. Thankfully she is back home and doing good. Or, another man who lost his wife and 15-year-old son. Please pray for everyone whose loved ones died in the shooting spree.

It was a tough week. All week we covered this story. All week we were writing about and talking about death. It was a very long week going into the office early and coming home very late. By Friday, all of us were completely drained.

On Thursday I received an e-mail from Harvest. It was a reminder of the special Friday Night Worship service. I had forgotten about the service. I told Martha that I needed that service. I needed to worship God.

As Friday went on I grew more and more tired. I started thinking that I would just go home and go to sleep. But, thankfully I didn't give in and met Martha at church. Oh, it's so good to worship God. To be surrounded by life and worship the One who gives life lifted me up. After two hours of praise and worship, I left feeling good and energized.

No matter how you feel - whether you are on a mountain top or flat worn out - it's good to worship God. Our God is so awesome. He gives His all for us. We should give our all for Him. When we do, He blesses us and lifts us up. I love you Father God.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The joys and heartbreaks of ministry

Over the past nine years we have had our share of heartbreaks. Any time you do ministry, no matter what kind, that will happen. We have also experienced great joy when lives have been changed for the better through the power of God.

Recently, we have experienced both emotions. One man we have worked with for three months had yet to make any progress. He showed signs early on for wanting to come out of the homeless lifestyle, but after turning down two jobs, it was obvious he wasn't trying. I pray he comes around and sees that God provided him with another great opportunity to turn his life around, and that something sticks that we shared with him. You can help people, but they eventually have to want to help themselves.

Then another man who had made great strides has fallen back into his old lifestyle again. His problem has always been beer. For two months he stayed sober and grew in the Lord. He knows the Word of God very well, and while he was serving God he was always smiling and having fun. He even helped us at our warehouse by framing and sheet rocking a restroom. But, he couldn't withstand a temptation to drink one day and he's been drinking ever since. We don’t even know where he’s at. God had restored so much to him, and now he's lost it all again. There's still hope, but he has to make that decision. We can't make it for him.

Martha and I cry when people fall back. We pour all of ourselves into people as we see the potential in them all. We know that if they will just let Jesus keep working in their lives they will be able to overcome and come to the point where they never want to go back. We try to get people help for their problems, but they have to want it for it to work.

On the joyous side, there is a married couple who is no longer homeless. They have their own permanent housing and are doing great. It's wonderful to call them or they call us and we just talk about how good God is and the changes He has made in their lives.

There's a family of six who is no longer homeless. We have been working with them, as have our home church, Harvest, and some members of Harvest. Then a couple of weeks ago a person from the Catholic Social Services asked me if we knew a family with children who were homeless. We did, and they became the beneficiaries of a grant that paid for the deposit on a house, turned on all the utilities and paid their first three months of rent. I wish I had my video camera when we helped them move in. The children were so excited.

There's another homeless man who beginning next week will be able to stand on his own as he has been hired for a job that he's really enjoying and will be able to support himself. This man is a Christian and has been active in helping us reach out to others. He even helped me move the family of six into their new house. He also loves going to Harvest. We have seen him grow in the Lord so much the past six weeks.

Martha and I cry tears of joy when the homeless come off the streets and become self-supportive. When we see them living for Jesus with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength ... there's just nothing better.

The joys and heartbreaks of ministering to the homeless come with the territory. Knowing that doesn't make the heartbreaks any easier, but when God allows us to see lives changed, it makes it all worthwhile. We thank God for calling us to do this ministry. We wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

God is doing a great work through Love In Action. Thank you for your prayers and support. We could not do it without you. Much more is on the way. As LIA board member Dwight Deal told me yesterday, “hold on and buckle up. It’s about to get real good.” He is right. We serve an awesome God!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Transitional housing almost ready



A big need for helping the homeless come off the streets and transition back into society is transitional housing, which bridges the gap from living on the streets and in shelters to permanent housing. The leaders of Love In Action have been praying for transitional housing, and our prayers have been answered.

Beginning March 6, Love In Action will have its first transitional house in Dothan, Ala. Three men will be the first occupants in this three-bedroom house. The house also has two bathrooms, a kitchen, dining area and large den. It also has a large front porch, and a back porch with a washer and dryer.

We have set up a 90-day program designed to help the homeless in several key areas of their lives. First, we will provide them with discipleship through Bible study. Each person will be required to regularly attend church on Sundays and LIA's weekly Wednesday night Bible study.

Secondly, each person will be required to attend financial classes where they will be taught how to budget their money and about tithing, which we believe is an essential part in all of our finances. If a person doesn't have a job, we will help with the job search, including preparing a resume and interviewing skills training. If the person needs to learn job skills, we will help him acquire the training.

After the person has completed the program, he should be ready to move into permanent housing. Through providing the transitional house and food, the person will be able to save enough money for a deposit on a home, the first month's rent and turn on the utilities.

I want to thank my wife and all of the LIA board members for working so hard to help make this happen. Most of all, I thank God for bringing it all together. I know we will learn more as we go, and I know God has a lot more ahead for us to accomplish. Please continue to pray for us. There are some potentially awesome things coming up. I don't want to elaborate, but let me put it this way. If it happens, the landscape of how the homeless are cared for in Dothan will forever be changed.

Visit our Web site at www.loveinactionministries.com for a photo gallery of the transitional house.

From tears of fear to tears of joy


Love In Action President Ken Tuck (left) and LIA board member Susie Tuck talk with Kilbert, a homeless Hispanic man in Dothan, Ala.


God had a plan for the Southeast Alabama Coalition for the homeless cookout at Kinney Park in Dothan, Ala., on Saturday, Feb. 28. Once the hotdogs were ready it started raining. Some of the homeless braved the weather, but it was a light turnout.

It stopped raining around 1:30 p.m. and 10 minutes later a Hispanic man named Kilbert walked through the doors of Mama Tina's Mission House. He took his plate of food back outside and sat down on a bench on the porch. Several of us went outside to chat with him. He spoke broken English, and a few of us spoke broken Spanish. He looked tired and hopeless. He was. He tried to explain his situation to us. He was homeless and lived on the streets. As he talked, tears started streaming down his face. He was afraid. Fearful of what might happen to him next. Little did he know, God had a plan for him.

Mama Tina's Mission House and T.O.P.S were the host for the cookout. Ken Glasgow, the founder of T.O.P.S., told me that they had just gotten a house for transitional housing, but they didn't have any beds. I asked him if they had a bed could Kilbert stay there. Ken said yes, so Martha, my mom, our new friend Richard and I immediately went to our warehouse and loaded a box springs and mattress onto our trailer, as well as sheets, pillows, pillow cases, towels, hygiene items, socks and food.

We pulled up to the house and unloaded everything and sat up the bed. When Kilbert arrived he walked into the house and saw everything we had set up for him. Immediately tears started flowing down his face again. But this time the tears were different. They weren't from being fearful, they were tears of joy. The complexion of his face changed. He smiled and I could see hope in his eyes. We stood in the kitchen and prayed. He kept patting my back as we prayed. He was so thankful. As we were leaving, Kilbert was standing on the front porch pointing toward Heaven and raising his hands in praise to God.

It's amazing how the love of God can change a person's outlook on life. It's also amazing what can happen when Christian organizations work together. T.O.P.S. had the house and Love In Action had the bed and other supplies. Put them both together and a homeless man filled with fear had a safe place to stay and hope entered his life.

Go to our Web site at www.loveinactionministries.com for a photo slideshow.