Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankful for Thanksgiving outreach

The view inside the Love In Action warehouse Wednesday night made tears well up in mine and Martha's eyes. It was a beautiful sight as 200 people filled the warehouse for Love In Action's Thanksgiving service/dinner.

They came from tents in the woods, from a homeless shelter for veterans, from impoverished neighborhoods, and from the Houston County Community Corrections work release program. People who otherwise wouldn't be enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving dinner that most of us take for granted.

The volunteers came from at least five different churches in three cities - Tabernacle United Methodist, Harvest Church, Covenant United Methodist Church (all three churches are in Dothan), Christ-Life Church in Enterprise, and Southside Baptist Church in Ozark. If I left any out, please forgive me. There was an army of volunteers there. It was the Body of Christ doing what we are supposed to be doing ... lifting up the name of Jesus Christ and not individual church buildings. The church is not a building, it is those of us who believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Wednesday night, the Body of Christ was reaching out to the hurting. Providing food and clothing to the poor. Visiting those in jail by bringing them to the service. That's what Jesus did when He walked on this earth. That's what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 25: 35-40 when He said, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (v40). Jesus promises in Matthew 25: 34 that when we live a life like that, we will hear these awesome words: "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world."

The team of volunteers was awesome. We had so many, at first it looked like we would have more volunteers than people to serve. But then people started pouring into the warehouse. It blessed me to see homeless veterans come from the House of Benjamin. Another Vietnam veteran we recently helped come off the streets was there and he was a great help during the clean up phase of the night. He wanted to help. He asked to help. I love it when he tells me and Martha, "You never get too tired to serve the Lord, do you."

We got the word out through word of mouth and through fliers in a popular soup kitchen and the library. Many homeless people enjoy going to the library. Many of them enjoy reading, plus it provides a warm place on cold days. It worked as there were people there Martha and I had never met before.

Then we cleared out the work release facility. Thanks to Emanuel Christian School giving us the use of their bus and bus driver, we were able to bring 37 men to the warehouse in one trip. And, thanks to Harvest Church for the use of their van, we were able to bring nine women in one trip. There were only three men left at work release on Wednesday night. They chose not to come. All the rest of the men and all of the women were either at the warehouse or working.

We have never had 200 people in the warehouse before. To accommodate them, we had to borrow a lot of tables and chairs. Thanks to Tabernacle and Harvest, everyone had a seat at the table. We also thank Calvary Baptist in New Brockton for donating chairs to LIA. Chairs and tables are a huge need now at the warehouse since our ministry has seen tremendous growth this year.

The night started off with Alan Watson and his brother Phillip leading praise and worship. Alan is on the praise and worship team at Harvest and is a very talented and anointed worship leader. Everyone stood up and worshiped God together. It was awesome! I loved it when Alan and Phillip stopped playing at one point and just let the people sing. I know all of those voices reached Heaven. It was beautiful.

Then Brian Turner preached an awesome message about sharing life together, sharing a spot at the dinner table with others. Brian is on the LIA board of directors and assistant to the senior pastor at Harvest. He is an incredible speaker. He digs deep in the Word of God and explains it in a way everyone can understand. He has a great gift of teaching God's Word. He is very anointed. He is one of the best I've heard teaching and preaching God's word.

When he finished, we invited people up for prayer. Our prayer team members prayed with a lot of people as they responded to God's word. There were many needs and many tears shed. One need that really touched my heart came from a child. He walked up front with his cousin, who is in work release, and simply said, "Pray for my family." Wow! There he was, a child, holding his cousin's hand and wanting prayer for his family. So many children are hurting because they either don't have a family or the one they have is dysfunctional. Do you think God heard that little guy's prayer? I have no doubt God did. We see throughout the ministry of Jesus how He loved children, and in Matthew 18, He tells us that we need to have childlike faith.

After the great time of prayer, it was time to eat. Our army of volunteers served our guests. They remained seated at the tables while our volunteers brought their plates stacked high with food and drinks to them. Jesus calls us to serve, so this was another way to serve others.

Everyone enjoyed their dinner and walked out stuffed and talking about how great everything was, from the music to the preaching to the food to the fellowship. It was simply an incredibly awesome night. Thank you God for Wednesday night and for everything you are doing.

Martha and I want to say a very special thank you to all of the wonderful people at Tabernacle. They sponsored the entire event. They bought the food. They cooked it all. And, many of their members were there serving the people. The event wouldn't have happened without them. We are totally blown away by how they have come alongside LIA. They are investing a good amount of money and time to reach the lost and hurting. Celebrate Recovery happens every Tuesday night because of Tabernacle. Lives are being changed by the power of God, and He is using Tabernacle in a great way.

We also want to thank our home church, Harvest. Some of the best people in the world attend Harvest. They support us in so many great ways too. Their financial support has helped us get close to 40 homeless people off the streets this year. They give us the use of a bunch of chairs. They have donated many different items that have made our ministry at the warehouse much more efficient and effective. People come out an invest their time through volunteer work.

There are other churches like Christ-Life in Enterprise, Southside in Ozark, and Crossroads in Enterpise that have come alongside us and are helping us reach the lost and hurting.

There are so many individuals from our hometown of Dothan, Ala., and throughout the nation who financially support LIA. We couldn't do everything we do without each of you. It takes money to do ministry. We have rent each month on our warehouse, which God uses to reach the homeless throughout the nation. We have utilities to pay each month at the warehouse. We have insurance each month on the warehouse and van. Soon we'll have insurance and a monthly payment for the bus. We purchase and ship hygiene items. We transport items like boots, blankets, hygiene items, coats and other clothing to places like Atlanta, Baton Rouge, and in a couple of weeks, Memphis.

Every dollar, quarter, penny given to LIA goes into the ministry. God has blessed Martha and me with good jobs, so our needs are taken care of through our jobs. Nobody receives any money or perks. Everything is done entirely on a volunteer basis. We like it that way. It means more people can be helped, and for those involved it means more when you do something for others not expecting anything in return except for the wonderful blessings of God.

Martha and I have so much to be thankful for. We thank God for His son Jesus, His Holy Spirit, our marriage, our family, LIA and everyone who supports LIA, and for all of the homeless, lost and hurting God has allowed us to meet and minister to.

Thank you and we pray everyone enjoys a beautiful Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Digging through a dumpster; pray for mercy

After church this morning, Martha and I went to the LIA warehouse to get a homeless man some camping gear (cot, air mattresses, blankets, food, etc.). As we pulled up to the warehouse we noticed two men digging through our dumpster. We knew this was a good opportunity help them.

They had found some old worn out clothes we had thrown away (our philosophy is if we wouldn't wear them, we won't give them away. You would be surprised at some of the clothes that are donated.) I asked them if they would like to come inside and get some good clothes. They were delighted at the offer.

We showed them the clothes and told them whatever they needed they could have. People are usually surprised when we tell them the clothes are free. Many ministries sell clothes to help support their ministries. That's fine, but we have always believed that God wants us to give everything away as a hand up to people who are struggling.

They picked out some pants and shirts and we gave them each a pair of boots, blankets, pillows and pillow cases, hygiene kits, socks, and food. Then I told them about our Tuesday nights Celebrate Recovery and Wednesday nights Bible study. They were very thankful and hopefully we will see them on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. What was cool was seeing them leave behind the junk they found in the dumpster and leaving with good items that will really be of help to them.

Because people donate items such as good clothing, we can help the homeless and the poor. Because people donate food, we can provide them food. Because people donate financially, we can purchase items that they need, such as hygiene items.

It takes all of us working together to help the homeless and poor and show them the love of Jesus Christ. Thanks to everyone who helps.

The opportunity to help those two men came immediately after an awesome sermon that guest speaker Bill Dorminey delivered at Harvest. It was a powerful one. He talked about how only 4 percent of Americans are actively involved in church. More say they are Christians, but only 4 percent are actively engaged in church. That's a sobering and unsettling statistic.

We, as Christians, must pray and ask God for forgiveness and for his mercy for us and our nation. We must be engaged with our churches. We must reach out to the lost and hurting. Jesus tells us,"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." (Matthew 28:19). We, as the Body of Christ must heed what Jesus tells us.

Let's be sure to pray for this nation and ask God for mercy and to send a real revival. With your help, we are reaching the homeless, the poor ... those who are on the fringe of society. God is doing a great work. Please continue to support Love In Action with your prayers, volunteering your time, donating needed items and finances.

God is dealing with us on what we need to accomplish in 2010. We are continuing to pray and seek God's direction. I will be sharing that with you before this year is over.

Thank you for your support. Martha and I love and appreciate each of you.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Powerful prayer tonight

It was great being back at the warehouse tonight. Martha and I were on vacation last week, and it felt weird not being at the warehouse last Wednesday. We did our Bible study together in the mountains as Brian Turner led the meeting at the warehouse. Thanks Brian for teaching. You are a great teacher of God's word.

I picked up where Brian left off in lesson 6 of Discipleship Phase 1 - Prayer. I thought I would quickly finish lesson 6 and move on to Lesson 7. However, God had other plans. For the first 30 minutes I thought we could still finish lesson 6, but I felt God leading us to stay with prayer. So, that's what we did, and it was powerful.

A lot of people shared and asked questions. It was great. Just like God's word in Proverbs 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." We were all learning from each other.

Then I asked for prayer requests. Many were given. Most of them were requests for other people. Family members and co-workers who have cancer, a father who needs delivering from alcohol, people needing jobs, prayer for salvation of family members, prayer for veterans and active military, and the list went on. It was humbling hearing people ask for prayer for Love In Action and Martha and me.

Then all 26 of us formed a circle, held hands, and prayed -- one at a time out loud. Wow! It was a very powerful time. The presence of God in the warehouse was so strong. I know God heard our prayers, and in His own time and according to His will those prayers will be answered.

It definitely won't be the last time we end Wednesday nights that way. It is so awesome seeing God at work in everyone's lives. All 26 people there tonight are truly seeking God. Everyone is so hungry and thirsty for more of God.

I thank God for everyone there tonight. I thank God for moving on all of our hearts like He did tonight. I thank God most of all for His son Jesus Christ. And, I thank God for everyone who prays, volunteers and financially supports Love In Action. Lives are being changed for the glory of God. It's so cool to see Him at work.

All praise, honor and glory to God.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

God is transforming more lives

There are many steps to take to bring a person out of homelessness. The most important step is showing them the love of God and introducing them to Jesus Christ. Then discipleship must take place. When we are in other cities we always point the homeless to the church we are working with. In our hometown of Dothan, Ala., we invite them to the Love In Action warehouse for Tuesday nights Celebrate Recovery, Wednesday nights Bible study, and to our home church of Harvest or another church we know they would be welcomed and taught the word of God.

Then the needs of shelter, food and jobs must be taken care of, as well as helping them get IDs and other things most of us take for granted.

Jobs are the main thing because without a job you can't have shelter or food on a permanent basis. This year we are seeing God do amazing things in the lives of the homeless, and He is taking them off the streets and into lives He had planned for them from the beginning.

For example, two homeless guys we met back in April in the woods in Dothan are now out of the woods and well on their way to experiencing the lives God planned for them. Charles is almost there. He recently started a permanent full-time job. He has his own apartment, and beginning this month, he is able to pay for his utilities and rent on his own for the first time. He has his own car now, and he put gas in it on his own for the first time last week. As he says it, he's so excited he doesn't know what to say. God has really blown his mind.

His friend Patrick is on his way now too. Charles took him in as a roommate because Patrick had nowhere else to go. Charles said the reason why he took Patrick in is because of what God has done for him, and that those of us with Love In Action have shown him how to help others. Praise God! That's a great blessing. He has experienced God's love in action, and now he wants to help spread God's love to others.

Patrick begins a permanent full-time job tomorrow. Praise God! It won't be long before he can have his own place and car, etc.

Another homeless man we met earlier this year in Dothan also has a permanent full-time job, a car, and soon he will have his own apartment.

All three of these men attend church with us and attend Celebrate Recovery and Bible study when they aren't working.

Finding these men permanent full-time jobs instead of them working through temp services was our prayer. With a permanent job they can truly get back on their feet financially. And, we offer them financial advice if they want it. Most are excited to receive the help.

We have four more men and two women we are working with who need full-time work. Right now they are doing side jobs and working through temp services and it's a real struggle. If anyone in Dothan, Ala., reading this owns a business or knows of any labor or restaurant jobs available in Dothan, please contact me at 334-494-4995 or loveinactionministries@hotmail.com

It's exciting watching God transform lives. It's exciting being part of that transformation. Those of you who pray for this ministry, volunteer and give financially are part of that transformation. We wouldn't be seeing all of this take place if not for your faithfulness and obedience to God.

Thank you and may God continue to bless you, your families, churches and businesses.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

God's goodness

Martha and I are constantly amazed at God's goodness. We see it in our lives as we approach our fifth wedding anniversary on Nov. 6. God has blessed us so much in every area of our lives. Living and serving God together is incredible. We have never been happier and we both thank and praise God for everything.

I love my precious wife. I know I am a very blessed man. I thank God for blessing me with such a godly, beautiful, sweet, compassionate wife. She has such a great quiet strength and loves God with all her heart, and I have no doubt of her love for me. The homeless and poor we minister to know that she is sincere in her love for them. Happy anniversary beautiful.

We continue to be amazed at how God is working in the lives of the homeless and those who live on the fringe ... the marginalized. God is showing His love in so many magnificent ways. This past week another awesome thing happened. For those who have followed Love In Action and this blog remember Charles. When we first met him back in April he was homeless and living in the woods in Dothan, Ala. He didn't trust anyone and didn't know much about God's love.

Since then, he has experienced what God's love is all about. He decided to give his life to Jesus, and six months later he has his own apartment, a full-time job, and now a car. A Ford Taurus was donated to Love In Action last week and on Tuesday night, Oct. 27, the title and keys were presented to Charles. He couldn't believe it. He was in total shock. He was so happy he cried. So did everyone at the warehouse that night.

Charles told me, "That's another step to freedom." When you are homeless, you are bound by so many obstacles. You have no roof over your head. No idea where your next meal is coming from. No job and no transportation. Charles is experiencing the freedom that Jesus promises in John 8:36, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." And, Charles is also learning about what Jesus said in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

He is one happy man. You couldn't take the smile off his face if you wanted to. He drove himself and a friend to church for the first time today. He said, "I'm not ever going back (to the way he used to live). I've been experiencing this for six months now. I'm not going back." Praise God! Keep Charles in your prayers.

We praise God for what He is doing in Charles' life and in many others lives.

Then there is Russell. He is a former inmate of the Houston County Community Corrections Work Release. While in jail, he decided to turn his live completely over to Jesus Christ. During his time in work release he led many chapel services and never missed a Wednesday night Bible study at the Love In Action warehouse or a Sunday at Harvest. Now that he is free, he still doesn't miss a Wednesday or Sunday. Now that we have started Celebrate Recovery, he doesn't miss a Tuesday night. He also helps bring the men from work release to the LIA warehouse on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

On Oct. 20, Russell preached at our Celebrate Recovery. Martha and I watched and listened to Russell with tears in our eyes. It is so awesome seeing a life transformed by the power of God. Russell is anointed to preach. He did a wonderful job.

Check out a photo of Charles standing next to his car and watch the video of Russell preaching on our Web site at http://loveinactionministries.com/

Each of you who pray for us and give financially to Love In Action are a very big part to what God is doing. We couldn't do what we do without all of you. Thank you and may God richly bless each and every one of you. This is a great adventure God has us on. Let's keep going and see what God does next.