Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Celebration 2009

Our first Christmas Celebration at the Love In Action Ministry Center was a huge success. More than 180 people attended the event on Dec. 23, and there were smiles all around as the love of Jesus Christ was poured out on everyone.

We had so many wonderful volunteers who came from Dothan, Ozark, Enterprise and Illinois. Yes, a couple traveled all the way from the Midwest. They were moving to Dothan earlier this year and they contacted us about serving with LIA. But, something came up and they had to stay in Illinois. But, they were visiting Dothan for Christmas, so they came to serve. Thanks Ky and Nick.

What thrilled me the most was seeing those we have helped throughout this year serving others. Some of the people we transitioned from homelessness to having their own homes were there serving. It was awesome. They understand God delivered them, and now they want to give back to God by serving others through LIA. Praise God!

Alan Watson did another great job of leading worship. God has blessed Alan with a wonderful gift of music and he uses it for the Lord. Thanks Alan for leading us all in praise and worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Emily Hinderliter delivered a great message about serving the "least of these brothers of mine" from Matthew 25:35-40. Emily is a wonderful woman of God. When God showed her earlier this year what His call on her life is, she accepted it and has been sharing the love of Jesus Christ with the homeless and needy ever since. Emily and her husband Ricky are such tremendous blessings to LIA and those we serve. They have made a huge difference in our ministry. Thank you both so much.

Tabernacle United Methodist is just an incredible church. They sponsor Celebrate Recovery at the Ministry Center, and thanks to their generosity and servant hearts, we were able to host the Christmas Celebrate. I can't say enough great things about the people at Tabernacle. More than 150 lives have been touched through Celebrate Recovery since we started in October. Thank you so much!

We couldn't have nearly 200 people in the Ministry Center without chairs, and churches have donated for that need too. Our home church of Harvest and Covenant United Methodist have given us more than enough chairs. It is so nice not to have to borrow chairs any more. Thanks so much.

Emmanuel Christian School in Dothan, Ala., once again donated the use of their bus so we could pick up the inmates in the Houston County Community Corrections work release program. With 51 from work release attending, it would have taken multiple trips for us to pick them up and take them back. That was a great blessing.

You see, it takes the body of Christ working together to do effective ministry. That's what took place Wednesday night. There were no church banners raised; only the banner of Jesus Christ was raised. Jesus was indeed celebrated Wednesday night. The Ministry Center was overflowing with the love of Jesus. Everyone had a great time.

Hearing those who don't have family say this is their family is awesome. Seeing family members of those who are serving time in the Houston County Community Corrections work release program come to the Ministry Center and celebrate Christmas together was awesome. We are seeing families restored at the Ministry Center. Want to see fewer people in jail and prison? Then help build strong families and it will happen.

Martha and I are just so excited about what God is doing through Love In Action. It's been a great year of ministry. Let's keep doing our part and keep watching God radically transform people's lives.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's much more than a warehouse

While we were driving back from Memphis, TN, a couple of weeks ago, we were talking about the awesome things God has done this year at the Love In Action warehouse in Dothan, Ala. That's when LIA board member Justin Swasey said it was much more than a warehouse and suggested that we call it the Love In Action Ministry Center.

Justin is absolutely right, it is much more than a warehouse. Yes, we do store a large amount of supplies there to help the homeless and needy in Dothan and throughout the nation. It has made that phase of our ministry extremely effective and efficient.

But God has transformed it into so much more than a warehouse. A year ago we started having Bible study on Wednesday nights. At first there were three of us - Martha, me and a homeless man. It has grown to where we average 30-40 people every Wednesday night.

On Oct. 3, we started having Celebrate Recovery at the warehouse every Tuesday night thanks to Tabernacle United Methodist Church. There were 63 at the first meeting. Now we average around 80, in just over two months.

Through Celebrate Recovery and Bible studies, we have seen souls saved and lives transformed. We have become a ministry that has embraced the entire Great Commission Jesus gave all of 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."

For the first eight years of LIA we did a great job of "going" and reaching the lost and hurting and leading them to Jesus. Since we didn't have a true headquarters or home base like we do now with the warehouse, we always referred the homeless to churches who will help them and teach them the word of God (discipleship). Now that we have the warehouse, we are providing discipleship. However, we are not a church, so we make sure to encourage everyone to be in church on Sundays. Many of them go to our home church at Harvest.

For the past two months. we have taught Discipleship Phase 1 on Wednesday nights. Last week, 15 people completed all the requirements to move on to Phase 2. It's an awesome course written by our pastor Ralph Sigler of Harvest Church. It's life-changing, and we witnessed some of the men from the Houston County Community Corrections work release program putting what they learned into practice last Tuesday night during Celebrate Recovery.

As the band led worship, a homeless man walked through the front door. I greeted him and he said his name was Jessie and he had just gotten off a train. He had been "riding the rail" from Austin, TX. There are train tracks directly behind our warehouse and the trains are often stopping and hooking up and unhooking box cars.

Jessie said he heard the music and came in. He stayed for the entire Celebrate Recovery service. After Russell Ham preached God's word I gave an altar call. I saw three of the men who never miss a Wednesday night walk over to Jessie and start ministering to him. They listened, talked to him and prayed for him. It was awesome to see. They learned how to share their faith and were putting it into action.

We were able to help Jessie with supplies that we have at the warehouse, like new boots, duffel bags, clothes, food, hygiene items, and an inflatable mattress that rolls up to make it easy to travel with. But Jessie left with so much more. He left with the love of Jesus. After we all prayed for him, he had tears rolling down his face when he gave each of us a hug. You have to understand, the homeless, especially those who have been homeless for years, don't trust people. So, a homeless person hugging others is unusual. We hugged him back, and he left with great encouragement.

That's just one example of what God has done in the lives of people at the LIA warehouse. That's why we will start referring to it as the LIA Ministry Center from now on. It is still a warehouse, but it is really a ministry center.

Thank you for praying for Love In Action and thank you to those who give financially and donate supplies like food, clothes and furniture. We couldn't do it without you.

Thank you and have a very blessed Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

300 boots delivered

Have you ever met someone and just knew God brought you together? That's how Martha and I felt when we traveled to Memphis on Dec. 11-12, for a homeless outreach with Joe and Kelli Carson. They are outreach ministers for the Life Church of Memphis and they minister to the homeless in the inner city of Memphis.

We met Joe and Kelli during a homeless outreach in Baton Rouge, La., back in October. Martha and I told them we would bring a trailer load of new boots to Memphis, and that's what we did last weekend. LIA board member Justin Swasey traveled with us.

It was a great weekend. On Friday night, we joined Joe, Kelli and other volunteers to serve chili to the homeless. It was the perfect dinner on a cold Memphis night.

It rained Saturday afternoon, but that didn't stop us from helping the homeless. With the use of a tent and our cargo trailer, we handed out about 300 pairs of boots, 120 pairs of socks, 120 cold weather hoods, 120 cold weather overalls, and more than 150 pairs of wool mittens.

We had eight chairs set up under the tent and the homeless tried on the boots to make sure they fit. They were very appreciative of the boots and other items they waited in the rain to receive.

We not only handed out a lot of boots, but we also planted a lot of seeds of God's love. Being out there in the rain on a Saturday showed the homeless that we care about them. This outreach will go a long ways in the homeless being even more receptive to Joe and Kelli. The more they trust Joe and Kelli, the more the homeless will be receptive to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that Joe and Kelli presents to them.

It was an honor and a privilege to serve with the Carsons. They have a wonderful family, and they all have hearts for the homeless. The Life Church of Memphis is a dynamic place to worship. We attended their Saturday night service and it was fantastic. The praise and worship was very energetic. Great job Johnny and the praise team.

Joe and Kelli's work with the homeless is in its beginning stages, and they are off to a great start. We look forward to continuing to work with them to reach the homeless in Memphis. This is only the beginning.

Please keep Joe and Kelli, the Life Church of Memphis, and the homeless in Memphis in your prayers.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

15 accept Jesus; 30 rededicate their lives

Just when we think Celebrate Recovery couldn't get any better, God does the miraculous.

Tuesday night, Dec. 8, 2009, will go down as one of the most incredible nights at the Love In Action warehouse. On that night, 68 people attended CR and 45 of them made decisions for Jesus Christ - 15 first-time commitments and 30 rededications. Praise God! There was also a lot of prayer time for other needs.

CR is for anyone with hurts, habits or hangups. That pretty much covers all of us. You don't have to be homeless or in jail to have one or all three of those issues in your life. And, the first step to recovery is turning your life completely over to Jesus Christ. A lot of people took that first step on Dec. 8.

Diane prepared another delicious meal. This time it was red beans and rice with spicy crackers (one of my favorite nights). Then Emily and Diane surprised me with a birthday cake (red velvet, yum!). Dinner is always a fun time with plenty of fellowship. It's great hearing all of the laughter.

Sean Morgan led worship. Our CR band, Root of Jesse, couldn't make it, so Sean filled in. The worship was great, and the Spirit of God filled that warehouse. It was great hearing Sean lead worship. He was the praise and worship leader at the church Martha and I attended when we lived in Enterprise, Ala.

It was my night to share God's word. For the past two or three weeks one message had been on my heart to share with CR. It was titled, "I'm tired." Not physically tired, but tired of seeing people not living the victorious life God plans for all of us to live. Tired of seeing people play with God and not take Him seriously. Tired of seeing people return to the sin God delivered them from.

The scripture I preached from was Exodus 20:1-17, Matthew 22:36-40, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and Isaiah 9:2, 6-7. The Ten Commandments (Exodus) are still very relevant today. Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments in Matthew. The first four Commandments are wrapped up when Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." Jesus wrapped up the last six Commandments when He said, "Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul tells use who will not inherit the Kingdom of God, and in Isaiah 9, the prophet Isaiah prophesies about Jesus.

Following the message, people responded in droves. It was awesome! God is awesome! I can't wait to see what God does next.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Follow You

This is a great video and song. The words of this song really sum up what we do at Love In Action.

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