Thursday, April 21, 2011

Angels are rejoicing

You are never too far away from the saving grace of Jesus Christ. No matter what you have done or where you are at, Jesus will forgive you and give you eternal life.

We witnessed that tonight at the Love In Action Ministry Center. The topic of tonight's Bible study was the passion of Christ and came from "The Passion of The Christ, A Biblical Guide" by Greg Laurie. We looked at the "Four Reasons Why Jesus Had to Die on the Cross" and the "Seven Statements from the Cross."

It was a powerful study, and as always, there was good discussion and some great thought-provoking questions. At the end of every Bible study we always have a time of prayer. There is not a lack of prayer requests. But before we prayed for those requests, I asked if anyone was saved. There were two who wanted to make sure they spent eternity in Heaven - a young homeless woman and a man from community corrections work release who wanted a personal relationship with Jesus.

Those who follow this blog and our Love In Action Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/lia.ministries) have read a little about this young homeless woman. I won't go into her story again, but she has gone through a lot. She needs to know that God loves her and that there is a group of people at Love In Action who love her and want to help her.

The change in her since we first met her a few weeks ago is great. It's amazing how showing the love of God to people and giving them encouragement can make such a huge difference. She was all smiles tonight, and she told us, "Y'all give me strength." That is from the love and encouragement.

See, she felt like she wasn't worthy of real love. She didn't believe she deserved to be treated with respect. She had no self worth at all. Now, she knows Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She knows she has hope. She still has a long ways to go, but she is on the right road now and is actually making some plans to keep moving forward and improving her life. God's love can change anyone's life.

The young man who accepted Christ tonight has been down many wrong roads. But he knows that God loves him any way. He has many tattoos and he has been judged by others because of them. The first thing he noticed about Love In Action was we didn't judge him or making any comments about his tattoos. It's what's on the inside that counts. Jesus looks at the heart.

Tonight, he is a born again, forgiven child of God. No tattoo can keep Jesus Christ away.

There is a big party going on in Heaven tonight. What? A party in Heaven? Yes, you don't think Heaven will be boring do you? And tonight they have plenty to celebrate. In Luke 15:10, Jesus says, "... there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”


There were two who repented tonight. Just imagine the celebration that's going on. Praise God!


It doesn't stop here, though. Now discipleship must take place, and we will be following up and teaching them the Word of God and helping them any way we can.


But tonight, we celebrate with the angels. God is so awesome!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

International doors opening in Philippines and Ecuador

When Mike Shroades and I started Love In Action International Ministries 11 years ago after much prayer and discussion, we decided to put the word "International" in the ministry's name. Some people asked us why, and we answered that we believed God would use this ministry to reach the world.

Over the years we have helped share the love of Jesus Christ in the countries of India, Haiti, Dominican Republic,and Panama. Local ministry has been and will continue to be our main focus. However, God has also connected us with other ministries throughout the nation, and we have helped them reach the homeless and needy in their cities as well. We have seen God do amazing things in cities like Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Memphis and Baton Rouge. And now, He is opening more doors internationally.

Recently we partnered with Homegrown Harvesters in Hawaii to help churches in the Philippines. Homegrown Harvesters is a ministry started by my friend Micah Lewter, who worked at the Dothan Eagle as one of our sports writers and page designers before moving to Hawaii. Micah has a strong walk with the Lord and he is a man of godly integrity. So, when he started his prayer ministry for the Philippines I was excited and knew it would be fruitful.

Micah has great connections in the Philippines through indigenous pastors, so when he told me of a couple of needs there I knew they were real. He introduced me to two of his contacts.

One need was for Shiloh Bible Baptist Church in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines that needed to expand. They do a great job of reaching their city for Jesus Christ and needed more space to accommodate their growth. All they needed was $600 and someone donated that amount. The church has already built its expansion with the money. Here is Micah's blog, with photos, about it: http://homegrownharvesters.blogspot.com/2011/03/photos-from-shiloh-bible-baptist-in.html

The second need was a  small church in Salug, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines that was in danger of losing its land, which they had rented for eight years. They needed $3,000. For them, it might as well been $3 million. We made the need known and people responded, and within a month we were able to transfer $3,000 to them. Little did we know God was going to use that money to give that small church a larger lot in a better location. Read Micah's blog about this exciting news: http://homegrownharvesters.blogspot.com/2011/04/salud-to-salug.html

Now we are being asked by believers in Shell, Ecuador to bring Celebrate Recovery to their city. We learned about Shell through two friends and Love In Action volunteers, Ted and Karen Hils. They have been helping an orphanage in Shell. Ted has been to Shell to help and minister several times and Karen recently went for the first time.

They told Martha and me of the great work being done for the children in Shell. Then Karen said one of the main reasons there are so many orphans is their parents are alcoholics and cannot raise their children, and many of the parents end up in jail because of alcohol and drugs.

Karen said recently that as she asked God what could they do to help that situation, Celebrate Recovery came to mind. We chatted and searched on the Internet and saw that there is a Spanish translation of the Celebrate Recovery materials. Karen started talking with her contacts in Shell, and four different missionaries said there was not such a program in Shell, but one was very much needed.

One missionary in Shell said, "We would receive help in this area, either with training or missionary volunteers, with open arms."

Love In Action's CR Director Emily Hinderliter is on board to help us take CR to this small South American country. We thank and praise God for this awesome opportunity. The key will be to train those in Shell and provide the resources they need to have an effective CR there. They know the language and the culture, so equipping them will be key. Please pray for us as we enter new territory.

If God puts it on your heart to help financially with our international efforts, when you donate please indicate that it is for Love In Action's international outreaches. We have a separate account for those funds.

We are and always will focus mainly on local needs in Dothan, Ala., but God has called us to reach the world, so we are going to be obedient. And, seeing how He is opening the doors in the Philippines and Ecuador, the time to reach the world is now.

Thank you for your prayers and support. We cannot reach Dothan, the U.S. and the world without you.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

'He heals the brokenhearted'

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" (Psalm 147:3)

When the homeless are hurting, it is good for them to have a safe place to go and people to talk with. That's why it is so important to complete the renovations at the Love In Action Ministry Center and open the doors for all of the ministries that will operate out of it.

Last Saturday I met a young homeless woman who was "staying" at the hotel next to the LIA Ministry Center. She said she had been abandoned in Dothan and ended up there. What that usually means is she is desperate and was selling her body for money and/or drugs. That's not passing judgment, those are just the facts. After 11 years in this ministry, we have learned most of the signs.

She was high when I was talking with her. My heart broke. She didn't wake up one morning and say, "I want to become an addict and a prostitute." No, her dreams were shattered at some point through some event. She said life was good until her husband died in a car accident. Life has been a living hell ever since.

I listened to her and told her she was welcome at our ministry center and that we would be having Bible study Wednesday night. She said she would probably be "buzzing" by that time. I told her she would still be welcome, and that I would rather for her to be "buzzing" in a safe place than "buzzing" on the streets.

Tuesday night she showed up at the ministry center. I was at our health care clinic for the homeless when I received a call that a young woman was at the ministry center crying and scared. I knew who it was. I also knew she needed to be ministered to by some strong Christian women. So Martha and two of our volunteers, Denise and Emily, went to minister to her along with my mom and another volunteer, Gia. Talk about a powerful group of women.

They listened to her, talked to her, prayed with her, encouraged her to sing (which made her feel better), prayed, talked and listened some more. She had been in a bad situation where she had been hit, and she was terrified. The women of Love In Action did a wonderful job ministering to her, and she ended up at a safe place where she wouldn't be beaten.

She didn't think she deserved to be treated right, or respected or have good things happen to her. She has been completely beaten down spiritually, physically and mentally. People in her condition have no self worth. They think they are nobodies. But nothing could be further from the truth.

They are somebody. They are people God wants to save, heal, deliver, restore and love. Their dreams have been shattered, but God wants to give their dreams back to them. I have seen people like this young woman receive their lives back through the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the restoration power of God. There is hope for her and His name is Jesus.

There are many more people like this young woman in Dothan, Ala., and we are reaching them. When the ministry center is renovated and fully operating we will reach a lot more. This is what God has called us to do, and though we often shed many tears, it is worth all the heartache when we see one of these hurting souls saved and lives restored.

Please keep these precious people in your prayers, and please pray for us. It takes a lot out of you spiritually and physically when you are doing intense ministry like we do. We treasure and appreciate your prayers.

Monday, April 4, 2011

'Be still, and know that I am God'

Psalm 46:10 has been revealed in such a powerful way as we stepped out in faith to purchase our own building.

Love In Action had never owned its own building, but God provided the perfect building in the perfect location in downtown Dothan, AL. The building may not have been perfect as far as the condition it was in, but the second we saw it, we saw the potential of the kind of ministry we could do with it.

As the renovations began, we continued to trust God to provide. I will be the first to tell you I am not a "handyman." So, we trusted God to send people our way to accomplish the tasks needed for the renovations and for the finances to pay for it. He has.

We have the best volunteers. On Tuesday nights and Saturdays you can find many of them giving of their time and talents to renovate the Love In Action Ministry Center. From electrical work to flooring and building and tearing down walls, volunteers are rolling up their sleeves and getting the work done.

Great progress has been made and we still have much more to do. But this past week will be one that Martha and I will always remember as we saw God provide for one need after another.

A few weeks ago I was invited to speak to the Dothan Rotary Club. I showed our new video and explained how Love In Action reaches the homeless and needy. During the presentation I mentioned two vital needs for the renovations - plumbing and HVAC.

After the meeting, a man who owns a very successful heating and cooling business in Dothan handed his business card to me and said, with a smile, that he knew a thing or two about heating and cooling. Bob Woodall of Bob Woodall Air Care Systems and two of his men came out to the Love In Action Ministry Center on Thursday to assess our needs, which are great.

As we stood outside by the old and destroyed condenser units, Bob told the other two men to write down everything that we need, take pictures, and they would take care of it all. Wow! Talk about a grown man ready to cry tears of joy and shout hallelujah! That was me.

I immediately thought back to last summer when we met in our former building that had no A/C. Despite summer temperatures of 100-plus degrees, more than 100 people came out every Tuesday night to worship God. I told them that God would bless us for our faithfulness to worship Him in such extreme heat.

I didn't know how God would do it, but I knew He would. Then, when God did it, He totally blew me away. We serve an awesome God!

Another man called me after the Rotary Club meeting and said he would pay a plumber to do the work we needed. There I was ready to cry tears of joy and shout hallelujah again. The building's plumbing needs to be totally re-worked. Basically, starting from scratch. And now, that work is being done as another individual has committed to purchasing the plumbing materials that we need.

Then, a local business donated about $600 worth of new faucets, then someone else donated an 80-gallon water heater. Praise God!

Add all of that with the great work of our volunteers, and you can see why we are so excited about what God is doing. I told someone the other day that if we ever had any doubts that God wanted us to renovate that building, all doubts were removed last week. Of course, Martha and I didn't have any doubts, but wow, God has certainly showed us time and time again that if we will just "Be still, and know that I am God," He will provide everything we need.