Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tears and smiles for the homeless

Two homeless men, Richard and George, enjoy a spaghetti dinner at the Love In Action Ministry Center.

A friend met two homeless men in Dothan, Ala., Monday night. She told them to go to the Love In Action Ministry Center the next night for Celebrate Recovery. There, they could get a good meal and pick up some supplies to help them.

My friend, Emily, is the director of our Celebrate Recovery. She knew these men would experience the love of Christ and receive the help they needed at the LIA Ministry Center.

They came and they enjoyed the night. They couldn't get enough of Diana's spaghetti with meatballs. They enjoyed the music and the preaching too. And, we were able to help them with some supplies.

They are transient homeless men from Spokane, Wash., and they are trying to get back home, and we are trying to help them get back home. One of them, Richard, is experiencing some health problems and he said he has a doctor in Spokane. The other one, George, is worried about his friend.

They spent the night in the LIA bus, which isn't up and running yet. But, it was a good place for them to get out of the cool night air. The temps were in the mid 40s, and that's cold, especially when considering most of us sleep in houses with our heat and cooling units set between 65-70 and higher.

I told them we would work on getting money for their bus tickets, and if they would come back tonight I should have a better idea on what we can do. We prayed before we left last night, and it brought Richard to tears. He said he knows God is on his side and will take care of him. He's worried, but at the same time he is trusting God to take care of him.

We did everything we could do for them, but it still hurts to see people living that way. I know most of the time we make the beds we sleep in so to speak. But so many of the homeless, especially those like Richard and George who have been homeless for years, they constantly get beaten down by society. If a person is told enough that he or she is a loser and a nobody, they start to believe it. In fact, during an outreach at a skidrow hotel in Los Angeles about seven years ago, we saw a young woman with the word "Nobody" tattooed on the back of her neck. That's who she thought she was, a nobody.

After last night, Richard and George know there are some people in Dothan, Ala., who care about them, and they saw God's love in action last night. They will again tonight. That's what happens at the LIA Ministry Center. Every volunteer hugs and genuinely shows they care and love every person who walks through the doors. People always say they feel loved there, and that's what we want to happen. God is love, so we should reflect our Heavenly Father in our lives.

After we left Richard and George sitting outside of the bus last night, Martha and I went to a homeless camp where three men live. We took them a large amount of spaghetti, salad and bread. Diana is a wonderful woman who cooks every week for Celebrate Recovery. She loves serving the men and women who attend. And, she is an incredible cook with a heart as big as the size of the meals she prepares every week. We have 80-plus people attend each week.

We had a lot of spaghetti noodles left last night, but no more sauce. She said if I could go next door to the Piggly Wiggly and buy a couple of bottles of sauce, she would prepare the rest of the spaghetti for our homeless friends. She did, and they were so thankful. It was 10:15 p.m. before we made it to their camp, but that was fine with them. When you don't know where your next meal is coming from, you are thankful to receive food any time during the day or night.

It's hard not to cry after loving on the homeless. I don't fight back the tears, and neither does Martha. Our hearts go out to them, and we thank God for giving us a ministry that helps them. And, we thank God for all of the volunteers with the same kind of heart for the homeless and poor, the broken and the hurting.

We often shed tears, but we also smile. The smiles come when we see the homeless accept God's love. When that sparkle of hope twinkles in their eyes. The hope that there is a God who loves them, and there really are people who care what happens to them.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A great Saturday; new homeless friends

Today was a great day as we held a work day at the Love In Action Ministry Center. We got a lot done as about 15 people came out to help. From cleaning furniture to picking up furniture to sorting and organizing, we accomplished a lot.

A great thing about those helping is they came from at least four different churches, and four the people helping were men we have helped come off the streets. It's great seeing them help like that. It means they care about what happens at the LIA Ministry Center.

We will have another work day on April 10 at 8 a.m. until noon. We will be getting set up for the charity auction and doing more sorting and organizing of items.

My favorite part of Saturday occurred about 1:30 p.m. That's when we met five new friends. A friend of LIA, Sean Nix, had met five homeless people who live in the woods. He earned their trust, so when he told them they were invited to the Love In Action Ministry Center for lunch, they came.

Ricky and Patrick fried fish, which were perfectly cook, and Emily and Diana helped with the rest of the food preparation and some of the cooking. So we had a great lunch for all of the volunteers and for our new homeless friends - Bill, Kenny, Nathan, Brad and MJ.

We welcomed them and talked with them as they ate. We made sure they felt welcomed and let them know they are welcome at the LIA Ministry Center any time. I explained our expansion to them, and you should have seen their eyes light up when I mentioned we were going to install showers and a laundry room. Oh, how I wish we already had it built, but we're so close to being able to start with the construction. All in God's perfect will and timing.

I told them that they were welcome to have anything we had that would be use to them. They found a tent, blankets, boots, hygiene items, clothes, a sleeping bag, and food. One of the men has a pickup truck and we nearly filled the back of it with supplies.

They were very thankful, and you could tell they were glad they came. They said they would start coming on Tuesday nights for our Celebrate Recovery. One of them told me he was an alcoholic and that he wanted help. Celebrate Recovery will be a great first step for him.

We had a small Coleman stove and we gave that to them. They needed fuel for it, so I told them that I would go get some later in the day and bring it to them. It's so important to keep your word. That's how you earn trust.

I did that, plus picked them up a little cookware. They were so thankful for all of that. Then they did something which showed me that I have their trust. They invited me to their camp. In the homeless population that's a huge thing. They don't want everyone knowing where they live. So I was honored to be invited into their "home."

A big reason why they trust us at Love In Action is Sean had already earned their trust. So, if he recommended us, in their eyes we must be good people. Yet another example of the Body of Christ working together to change lives for eternity.

I can see the potential in our new friends, and I know what God can do in their lives. I told Sean, if they let us work with them, people will not recognize them a year from now. I can see them serving and worshiping Jesus, working and living in their own homes. Please pray for them, and please pray for us as we minister to them.

Thanks to those who pray for us, give financially, donate items and your time to support LIA, we are seeing lives change by the power of God.

Thank you Jesus for all that you have done, are doing and will do.

Friday, March 26, 2010

An encouraging week

Martha and I don't have children of our own, but the homeless and those we serve have become our "children." In fact, some of them even call us "mom" and "dad." I'm thinking that it's not because we are old, but it's because we take care of them. :-)

We do love them, and when they hurt, we hurt. When they celebrate, we celebrate. This week has been a great week of celebration. It's been a real encouraging week.

Three of the men we have been working with for a while received some great news. One of them, Richard,who is still technically homeless, though he is living in a hotel, received word that he will start his new job on Monday. This is the job he has been praying for and waiting on for a while. In the meantime, he has worked other jobs and side jobs, but now he will be working where he wanted to. It's a very good job, and soon he will be on his own. Through the past year-and-a-half Richard has really grown in the Lord and we have seen a tremendous change in him. Soon, he will have his own home.

Patrick has been out of work for a month. When we met him last summer he lived in a tent in the woods. He has his own apartment now, but times have been tough. Well, things are turning around as he found out that he will start his new job this Sunday. As I dropped him off at his home Wednesday night following Bible study, we prayed. We prayed that this job would open up. He received the phone call Thursday that he had the job. Coincidence? No way. Like Patrick said, "This prayer stuff works." He is so excited and so thankful. He wanted us to pray together Thursday evening, this time with him leading the prayer, and he thanked God for everything. God is doing a great work in him.

Then there's Charles. He has a job, but they haven't been working because of waiting on contracts to come through. So, he's been working through a temp company. Then on Thursday he got a call from someone who is doing demolition work in Dothan. His boss called this man and suggested he put Charles to work, because he is a hard worker. Charles starts with that man on Monday. That should keep him busy until those contracts come through. He's excited.

Then to top off the week, a pickup truck was donated today for a couple we have been transporting back and forth from work, church and stores. Mike and Michelle were homeless and living in their car when Pastor Sean Nix of Harvest Church introduced us to them. Martha and I fell in love with them quickly. They're a precious young couple who just needed to experience the love of Jesus and receive a hand up.

They moved into a home a couple of months ago, then their car died. So, we have been taking them where they needed to go. Keeping them employed was key to keep them off the streets. Then they started asking for rides to church.

Working with Mike and Michelle has been a great example of what the Body of Christ can accomplish, and how we can make a difference in people's lives. It hasn't just been Martha and me providing transportation. Sean and members of his small group at church have been helping, and a wonderful woman named Laura from Wiregrass Church has been giving them rides to work and to town so they can shop.

Today, a pickup has been donated. Thanks to everyone helping, they are both still employed and now they have their own wheels again. Thank you Sean, Laura and everyone in Sean's group. It's been incredible watching how God has touched Mike's and Michelle's lives through all of this. It has shown them that God loves them and that there are people who love and care about them.

To everything I mentioned above, add to it a wonderful Tuesday night Celebrate Recovery and Wednesday night discipleship groups, and it has been an incredible week. It's been so encouraging. It's God showing all of us that He hears our prayers and knows our needs. We just need to trust in Him completely and turn everything over to Him, and He will work it all out.

Praise God!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

True worship

My Bible study this morning was Isaiah 58. Wow! What a powerful chapter that is. I encourage you to read it and let God minister to you.

Israel is complaining that the Lord isn't listening to them, even though they are fasting. The Lord quickly points out that they are fasting for selfish reasons. Then He tells them the kind of fasting He desires:

"Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help." (Isaiah 58:6-7 NLT)

"Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble." (Isaiah 58: 9b-10a NLT)

That sounds like a lifestyle change to me. That's true worship. God wants us to help the poor and the homeless. This is only one chapter in the Bible that deals with this issue. There are many other verses where God calls us to help the poor.

It is evident that God wants His people to help those in need. Not just one time, like at Christmas, but throughout the year. And, don't do it for selfish reasons. Don't do it then say, "OK God, I've done my duty. Now bless me."

No, make it a lifestyle. When you do, then the true blessings of God will come upon you. Look at what God says are the results of doing what He tells us to in Isaiah 58: 6-7, 9b-10a NLT):

"Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply." (Isaiah 58: 8-9a NLT)

"Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes." (Isaiah 58: 10b-12 NLT)

Wow! Now that's awesome! God is awesome! Help the needy. Help those who cannot repay you, like Jesus talks about in Luke 14:12-14, "When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”

When you help Love In Action through financial donations, volunteering your time, and donating items, you are helping us help the needy like God tells us to do. When the Body of Christ works together, it's awesome seeing how God blesses and uses that to change the lives of others. We serve such an awesome and loving God.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Are the needy precious to you?

A friend sent this New Living Translation Bible Life Application Daily Devotional to me last week. It's a great devotional. Read it and ask yourself if you are doing all you can to help the needy.

"He will rescue the poor when they cry to him; he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them. He feels pity for the weak and the needy, and he will rescue them. He will redeem them from oppression and violence, for their lives are precious to him." Psalm 72:12-14

God cares for the needy, the afflicted, and the weak because they are precious to him. If God feels so strongly about these needy ones and loves them so deeply, how can we ignore their plight?

Examine what you are doing to reach out with God’s love. Are you ignoring their plight or are you meeting their needs?

Join us at Love In Action in reaching out to the homeless, the needy, and those in jail. Remember what Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:40, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (NIV)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Crying out to God

We are seeing God transform people's lives at the Love In Action Ministry Center, and especially during our Celebrate Recovery services on Tuesday nights.

This past Tuesday we heard a powerful testimony from a former homeless man, who was also a hardcore drug addict and had spent the majority of his adult life in prison. When we met Danny a year ago, he was homeless and hitting drugs hard. He was stealing to get the drugs. One thing about Danny was every time I confronted him, he never argued with me.

He ended up back in jail, but this time something happened. He surrendered totally to God, and for the last six months he has been clean and living for Jesus, serving Him every way he can with his wife Dana. Once I get the video of Danny sharing at Celebrate Recovery edited and posted to our Web site you really should watch it.

After he shared, we had a time of prayer and invited people forward for whatever need they had. One former homeless man who we helped off the streets came forward to thank God for providing him with a job, and to pray for peace about another situation in his life.

Then one of our CR leaders, Robert Risner, walked over to me with one of the work release men. The man was crying when he said, "I just want more of God. I just want to be closer to Him." Robert, Danny and I started praying with him. I placed my hand on his chest as I prayed.

Tears flowed like a river down his face. As we prayed, his tears fell on my hands. It was a great and humbling experience seeing this man literally crying out to God. He was so hungry for more of God. It made me think about my own walk with God. Am I this hungry for more of Him?

God continues to transform lives, and it's so wonderful to see. I want to thank those of you who pray for us and who give to support Love In Action. And, I want to say a very special thank you to Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Taylor for sponsoring Celebrate Recovery. What a tremendous difference you are making for the Kingdom of God.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Volunteers make it happen

Love In Action relies totally on volunteers. Martha and I both volunteer all of our time, as does my mom. Nobody receives any money or perks. We do this because it's God's call on our lives.

However, we can't accomplish everything on our own. We rely on volunteers to help us get things done and minister the love of Jesus Christ to the homeless, needy and Houston County Work Release inmates.

People like Franklin Moore and Robert Pedrick are invaluable to Love In Action. They have done so much work at the LIA Ministry Center. From electrical to plumbing to building walls and hanging ceiling tiles, they have done it all. Other volunteers like Jim Kaye and Kelly Hudson have been a big help at the ministry center.

This past weekend was another great example of what volunteers can accomplish. Franklin and Robert were at the ministry center before Martha and I arrived. Robert was busy replacing ceiling tiles in the front half of the ministry center to make it look better. These aren't normal ceiling tiles. These tiles are made of sheet rock. He spent a large part of the day walking up and down a 10-foot ladder replacing the tiles. Nobody asked him to do it. He saw the need and did it.

Franklin was helping a woman and her son pick out furniture. They had just got an apartment. Before then, they didn't have a home. They were staying with family and friends. Her husband is one of the work release men who attend our Celebrate Recovery and Bible studies. He was worried about her not having furniture. We assured him last Wednesday night that we would take care of her.

Just before I arrived last Wednesday someone asked if we needed a bed. I said we did, because we didn't have any left. I didn't know that Monica needed one until I arrived at the ministry center and he told me that she did. I just smiled and told him that God had already taken care of that need. He left Wednesday night smiling and praising God.

Franklin and I moved the furniture we had at the warehouse, and a washer and dryer, to her apartment. She was so thankful. We are now out of furniture, so if anyone has any good used furniture to donate we could use it. Working washers and dryers are needed too. Please, no junk though.

On the way to her apartment she told me about her car. The alternator had died and she had bought one from the junkyard, but it didn't work. She didn't have the money to buy an alternator. I immediately called Richard. He's an outstanding mechanic who loves the Lord. We met him more than a year ago. He was homeless here in our hometown of Dothan.

I picked up an alternator at a local auto parts store and Richard put it on. It's his heart's desire to be able to help people like that, so he was thrilled to do that Saturday. Another volunteer making a difference for the Lord, and someone giving back.

We love and appreciate everyone who volunteers at Love In Action. This blog just points out a few. Those who volunteer for Celebrate Recovery are incredible, and that's an entirely different blog entry all together that I will write at a later date.

Thank you to everyone who volunteers at Love In Action. There is no way we could accomplish everything we do without you.

If you are interested in volunteering, please do. Here are some opportunities:
- We need small group leaders for Celebrate Recovery.
- We need people who can help us get people to and from work and to job interviews and shopping.
- We need people to help sort and organize clothes.

More opportunities will be upcoming as we expand the ministry center. I encourage you to come out and find your place in the ministry.