Wednesday, September 30, 2009

'Go and make disciples'

I know I've said this before in this blog, but I have to say it again. Martha and I love Wednesday nights. The Bible studies at the Love In Action warehouse are awesome, and they keep getting better and better.

Tonight was Lesson 2 in Discipleship Phase 1, a 10-week course written by our pastor Ralph Sigler of Harvest Church in Dothan, Ala. There are five phases in all, and they are great. Thanks Pastor Ralph for writing it and for being so committed to discipleship. Jesus tells us in Matthew 28:19-20, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

That's what we're doing. We are going and reaching the homeless and poor for Jesus, then making disciples. And, I've never seen a more effective tool to make disciples than the course Pastor Ralph has written.

There were 31 people at Bible study tonight; the work release men, people we have taken off the streets this year, and the homeless. One new homeless man was there tonight. I talked to him on the phone last week. He's a really neat guy, and I'm looking forward to getting to know him better.

The participation and discussion was great. I could tell most of the people did their "homework" last week. We have a group who I really believe has a great desire to know God better. It's unusual to have more than 30 people who all are there for the right reason. This group has become a family, and when new people arrive they are welcomed by everyone.

It's so cool. I hear people talking with the new folks and they tell them, "Welcome. Glad to meet you. Glad you are here. Keeping coming." It's a very warm and welcoming feeling people get as soon as they step into the warehouse.

For the past two weeks people have told me they feel so loved and so welcome at the warehouse. One of the men tonight said, "This is my favorite place to come."

I praise God for all of those statements. Most of the people there have never experienced what a loving family is like. When they come, they are treated like family. They are loved and they love it!

Please keep praying for us and please keep supporting Love In Action. It takes money to rent the warehouse, to pay for utilities, and the snacks and drinks. Your giving makes it all possible. People are being saved and being discipled. You are making an eternal impact in the lives of many people. And, when they start reaching others -- and some already are -- the impact will be even greater.

Praise God!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Calvin's new life

Calvin leading worship from Ken Tuck on Vimeo.

Saturday's Love In Action outreach to the homeless in Atlanta was special on so many fronts.

First, 30 people accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. That right there would have been enough, but God did even more. We were blessed to cook and serve lunch to more than 200 homeless men and women. We delivered 250 pairs of new boots and shoes, so the homeless will have good working boots and good boots to keep their feet warm this winter. Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, "... whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (NIV)

Then there was Calvin Smith, the praise and worship leader for Eagle's Nest Community Church. When I first met Calvin, he was a homeless man living on the streets and in crack houses in inner city Atlanta. He had been in and out of prison. He was a fast talker on the road to destruction. Pastor Larry Arnold and Bro. Harold Smith of Eagle's Nest kept loving on Calvin and trying to show him the right way. Every time we visited Atlanta we would find Calvin and let him know that Jesus loves him and so do we. We kept encouraging him.

There was something about Calvin. The world saw someone who was no good and a nuisance to society. God always sees something else, and thankfully He allowed Larry and Harold and those of us with Love In Action to see Calvin through His eyes. We saw a man who had a wealth of potential inside of him. We saw a man who was hurting and needed to experience the love of Jesus Christ.

Calvin knew the Word of God. The key was getting his head knowledge about God into his heart. After several years of reaching out to him and a lot of mentoring by Larry and Harold, Calvin finally got serious with God and accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He stopped running and gave his life completely to God.

His life started changing. He started serving Jesus with all of his heart. He was in church every time the door was open and he started using his wonderful singing voice for the Lord. Then he fell in love with Annie. She had the same back ground. Drugs, crack houses, and everything that goes with that kind of lifestyle. But she too gave her life to Jesus and He turned her life completely around.

Their wedding day several years ago was the last time Martha and I had seen Calvin and Annie. Every time we have been to Atlanta since then they were working. They have their own business and they recently bought their own house. They have been clean from drugs ever since giving their lives to Jesus four or five years ago. They are both very faithful at serving Jesus together at Eagle's Nest.

Saturday as we were preparing for the outreach, a man walked up behind me. I turned around and didn't recognize him at first, but as soon as he spoke I knew it was Calvin. Married life has been good to him. He has put on a lot of weight, but that's good. When he was on drugs he was skin and bones. We gave each other a big bear hug, then I asked him if he would sing to kick off the service. He said he would and we were all excited.

He left to get his keyboard player, and praise God, they rocked the house for Jesus. Martha shot video and I just posted it. Please excuse the movement of the camera. Our tripod broke. After the service, a homeless man asked me if we had a tripod. I told him it had broken, and he said "wait here a second." He came back with a tripod for us. He had it in his backpack. That was so humbling. Martha and I will never forget that.

Please watch the video. You will be blessed listening to Calvin sing praises to Jesus. As you watch and listen remember that there is tremendous potential inside of every homeless person, no matter what their situation looks like now or how they are living. Don't ignore them. Show them the love of Jesus Christ and watch how God works in their lives. There are a lot of Calvins out there. Please help us to continue reaching them.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

30 saved in Atlanta

For nearly 10 years we have been going to Atlanta to minister to the homeless with Eagle's Nest Community Church. Every outreach up there is special. Yesterday was no exception as we experienced another amazing day showing the love of Jesus Christ to the homeless.

Over the summer we were given 3,300 pairs of boots and shoes from Kaufman's Army Surplus in Dothan, Ala. Since then we have given away boots to the homeless in Dothan, and shipped and delivered boots to Brooklyn, NY, northern Virginia, Paducah, KY, and now Atlanta. We loaded our cargo trailer with more than 250 pairs of boots and hauled them to Atlanta.

When Martha, my mom and I arrived at Eagle's Nest on Saturday morning, Bro. Harold Smith was there to meet us. Justin and Jeremy Swasey drove from Enterprise, Ala., to help. Along with some volunteers from Eagle's Nest, we unloaded the trailer and organized the boots. Then we started grilling hamburgers and hotdogs to serve for lunch.

The homeless started lining up more than two hours before the outreach began. In 10 years of ministering in Atlanta, there has never been a line so long. When Bro. Harold opened the doors to the church, a steady stream of people filed into the sanctuary. As they did, Eagle's Nest's praise and worship leader Calvin Smith was singing.

Calvin is a special friend to Love In Action. He has an awesome testimony. He was once homeless, strung out on drugs, in and out of prison and living a life of destruction. Every time we went to Atlanta we would find him and love on him. Pastor Larry Arnold and Harold never gave up on Calvin. They kept loving on him and working with him. Today, he is married to a woman who had the same kind of background, they have their own business and they have bought their own house. He's the praise and worship leader, and they are both very faithful to the church. It's amazing what God has done in their lives the past five years. So seeing and hearing him lead worship was wonderful.

I then shared a message titled "Our God is amazing." It was a message God placed in my heart as we drove to Atlanta Friday night. The sanctuary was packed with more than 200 homeless people. It's the largest crowd we had ever seen at Eagle's Nest. God's presence was so awesome during the service. When the time came for the invitation to give their lives to Jesus, about 30 people came forward. I never get tired of praying with people to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, so that altar call was awesome! I just praise Jesus and thank Him for allowing me to see something that amazing happen.

I talked with Bro. Harold today and he said a lot of the homeless men who attended Saturday's outreach were in church today. That's awesome. They need to be in church to learn God's Word, and they will receive physical help as well.

Following the service on Saturday, we served more than 200 lunches and then gave out the boots. After the outreach at Eagle's Nest, we delivered about 100 pairs of boots to Common Ground, a Christian ministry that reaches out to the homeless. Justin found them and set it up for us to deliver boots to them. We look forward to working with them more in the future.

Thanks to everyone who prayed for us. Prayer is so important and powerful. A lot of people told us they were praying. We could tell they were. We also thank those who give financially to Love In Action. It takes money to do what we do, and we couldn't do it without your generous giving.

Most of all, I thank Jesus for His love and for working through Love In Action like He does. It's very humbling to be part of what God is doing.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Homeless teenagers

Imagine being a teenager, being rejected by your parents and faced with life on the streets. We were introduced to two teenagers this past week who are homeless here in our hometown of Dothan, Ala. They were scared and not sure what they would do.

It's not unusual for 18 year olds to be living on their own. However, it is very sad when they are forced to do so by a parent. They both work and are determined to make it, but being kicked out on the streets wasn't what they were expecting.

They showed up at Harvest, which is our home church. Brian Turner, who is on the Love In Action board of directors and assistant to the pastors at Harvest, met them and called me. We were able to put them in a hotel. Brian is doing an excellent job working with them, and one of the men we have been working with this year is also helping to mentor them. They are now surrounded by people who love Jesus, and they are experiencing the love of Jesus.

They were in church this morning and enjoyed the service. They will be in Bible study on Wednesday nights as well.

They are good kids and very encouraged how God is working in their lives during a very tough time. One of the teens wants to go to college and the other wants to finish his GED. They are "surviving" right now, but they want to do more than "survive."

Thanks to those who pray for us and support us financially, we are able to help these homeless teenagers and other homeless people. Thank you for your support.

Please keep these teenagers in your prayers.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A soul saved

Martha's dad, Billy Mills, shares the Word of God during Wednesday night's Bible study at the Love In Action warehouse.

Last night's Bible study was great. Martha's dad, Billy Mills, taught on Three of the Keys to the Kingdom of God - Love, Faith and Obedience. Dad knows how to bring God's word. When watching him speak, it's easy to see where Martha gets her compassion and tender heart from.

I was a little upset before the Bible study began. We had been averaging 30 people a night, but the work release guys haven't been allowed to do anything other than work for the past couple of weeks. Some guys (not any in our group) got caught smoking in the facility, so the director put them all on lock down. I certainly understand why, but it was disappointing because a number of the guys were really coming around. Please pray for them and that they will be allowed to return to church and Bible study soon.

Last week we had 13 people in attendance, which was still a good crowd. Last night I didn't have anyone to pick up for the first time in months. Four of our guys were working, which is a good thing, one was sick, one just got out of the hospital and her husband is taking care of her, and two others were in Georgia visiting family. I was wanting everyone to hear dad speak. But, as dad and I talked, we said Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

As it turned out, the right people were there to hear dad's message. When he finished speaking, there was such a sweet spirit in that room. The Holy Spirit was working. I couldn't dismiss without giving people the opportunity to accept Jesus. One lady who has been coming to Bible study and church for the past couple of months did just that. She accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior.

Tears filled my eyes when she raised her hand. I never get tired of leading people in prayer to receive Jesus. Dad brought the word of God and talked about the love of Jesus Christ. God had given him the right message for the right time for her. It was awesome. She's really been faithful about going to church and Bible study. She's really excited that we're starting Discipleship Phase 1 next Wednesday night.

God is so good and continues to do wonders in people's lives.