Sunday, July 31, 2011

"I was in prison and you came to visit me"

For the past two years Love In Action has been expanding its reach to further obey everything Jesus says in Matthew 25:35-36, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

For more than 11 years we have been providing food, drink, clothes and shelter for the homeless and poor. This past year we have started helping with health care issues and taking care of the sick through the Love In Action Health Care Clinic for the Homeless.

But today I want to look at the part about "I was in prison and you came to visit me."

Jesus loves and cares about everyone, from the homeless to the rich. In this verse He shows his concern for those in prison as well.

We started working with the men and women at Houston County Community Corrections Work Release more than two years ago when I was asked if they could come to our Bible study. That began a wonderful new ministry of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those incarcerated and showing them His great love.

We took it a level higher when we started Celebrate Recovery Inside. We have a busload of men and women each week attend CRI, and we are seeing so many lives being changed.

This year as we have been renovating the Love In Action Ministry Center we have been picking up 10 men every Saturday to help us with the renovations. Without these guys we would not be as far along as we are.

Most of them are very talented in areas of carpentry, dry wall, painting, flooring and plumbing. We also have a lot of fun on Saturdays as we work. But to me, it is about a lot more than accomplishing the renovations. Saturdays really give me a chance to mentor and speak into their lives. I enjoy that.

On Wednesday nights we usually have between 10-15 men at Bible study, not always the same group of guys as some have to work on Wednesday nights. We have seen many accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and we enjoy watching each of them grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.

We have seen God answer many prayers in their lives, from jobs to healing. We love these men and want to see them all succeed and never go back to jail when they are free again.

These guys are like all of us. At some point in our lives we needed a second chance. These guys are learning that through Jesus Christ, they have another chance at getting it right, and many of them are. Within the past two weeks we have seen two of them join Harvest Church and one of them was baptised this morning. Praise God!

About 10 of our former work release guys are members at Harvest and some are serving as ushers and driving the van to pick up the guys in work release to bring them to church. Most of these guys still come to our Wednesday night Bible study and lead small groups at our CRI. Praise God! They understand that we need to be saved, but also serve Jesus.

These men are wonderful examples to those in work release that they can turn their lives around through Jesus Christ. The ones who get connected and involved with Love In Action and their church make it.

The current group of work release men we minister to are a great group of guys. They made mistakes and are paying for it. Most of them will tell you they are thankful they got arrested, because they were heading for destruction. Today, they are learning to live in the light of Jesus Christ.

We love these men and are very thankful for them and for the change God is doing in their lives. The keys are they know that God loves them and that we do too. They often thank us for treating them like real people. Like the homeless, those serving time get treated differently. People look down at them and think they are worthless. Lies, all lies! They are of great worth. Jesus died for them too. Look at who was next to Jesus on the cross ... a thief. And, what did Jesus say to the thief when he turned to Jesus? "Today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)

Our CRI has recently gone even further. Our CRI director, Emily Hinderliter, goes every Wednesday morning to the Houston County Jail and ministers to up to 14 women. God is doing an incredible work through Emily, and these women's lives are being changed by the power of God. I will write more about this in another blog.

The thing is, God loves those who are incarcerated. They are the outcasts of society. Throughout the Bible, God shows He has a great love for those living on the fringe of society. People like the homeless, poor and incarcerated need to know that God loves them and has a better life for them. Love In Action is carrying that message to them.

Please keep us and those we serve in your prayers.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Same Kind of Different As Me

If you don't read another book this year, you must read "Same Kind of Different As Me." I just finished reading this book, and it is one of the best books I have ever read. It is captivating and extremely inspirational.

The book was written by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, and it tells about their very different paths in life and how God brought them together through Ron's wife Deborah. Ron was a very wealthy white art dealer in Ft. Worth, Texas, and Denver was a mean and dangerous homeless black man who spent time in Angola prison in Louisiana.

Deborah was the one who allowed God's love to flow mightily through her for Ron and Denver, and she make a huge difference in the lives of the homeless in Ft. Worth. She sets the example for all of us on how to love the unlovable. Just an incredible woman.

The book is well written, using very descriptive writing so you can picture the beautiful ranch called Rocky Top that Ron and Deborah owned, and the dark, rough streets Denver called home. It is also written how they speak, so Denver's uneducated dialect shines through. But don't take his speech as someone who doesn't speak with wisdom. As you read, you will quickly see Denver is extremely wise and definitely hears from God.

This is a true story and if you work with the homeless you have to read this book. Or, if you want to learn how to love people who are totally different than you, then you must read this book as well. It is one of those books that can change your life. It will definitely change the way you think about and treat others.

I won't spoil anything about the book for those of you who will read it, but I love this quote from Denver. Actually, you will find many of his quotes that will touch your heart. This man is filled with God's wisdom.

"Even though I'm almost seventy years old, I got a lot to learn, too. I used to spend a lotta time worryin that I was different from other people, even from other homeless folks. Then, after I met Miss Debbie and Mr. Ron, I worried that I was so different from them that we wadn't ever gon' have no kind a' future. But I found out everybody's different--the same kind of different as me. We're all just regular folks walkin down the road God done set in front of us. The truth about it is, whether we rich or poor or somethin in between, this earth ain't no final restin place. So in a way, we is all homeless--just workin our way toward home."

Wow! He really says it all right there. We are all different. Just because some have more money and bigger houses than others doesn't make you better than those who live on the street, under a bridge or in a car. God loves us all. We must learn to see each other through God's eyes. When we do, the world will never look the same again, and our lives will be radically transformed.

Purchase this book and read it. I promise, you will not want to put it down until you are finished.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Homeless couple

We met a homeless couple tonight. Their names are Donald and Carla. They seemed to be a sweet and humble couple. Thankfully we were able to help them with some needs.

Every time we minister to the homeless I am reminded how blessed we are and how good we have it.

Donald seems to be a hard worker and he goes out each day trying to find work and often finds an odd job here and an odd job there. Some times it is enough to pay for a night's stay in a hotel, but it definitely isn't a hotel most people would look forward staying at. I could tell they weren't comfortable with some of the activity that goes on there, but that's a good sign. They don't want to be around the drugs and prostitution. But all the same, they didn't complain one time about their living conditions.

All they asked for were the bare necessities. They didn't ask for rent money. They asked for food, hygiene supplies and shoes. Their hotel doesn't have a refrigerator or a microwave, and there isn't much room for one any way.

He was out working an odd job when we arrived to give them their supplies. Carla was at the hotel, and what a sweet and humble woman she is. She fought back tears of joy as we helped her carry the bags of items to their hotel room. "It feels like Christmas," she said with a smile on her face.

Christmas? Think about that for a moment. How many of us would consider bags of non-perishable groceries, hygiene items, socks, and some paper plates and plastic ware Christmas gifts? But to those who have nothing, it is just as good as Christmas morning opening presents around a Christmas tree. Again, I realized how fortunate Martha and I are.

We discovered Donald needed some tennis shoes. His were very worn out. We asked her if she wanted any shoes. She hesitated, then shyly asked for some sandals. So, Martha and I told her we would be back with both of them some shoes.

As we pulled up to the store, our phone rang. It was Donald. He said we didn't have to do that, but if we were going to buy him shoes to please use that money instead to purchase her an undergarment that she needed. Now that's thoughtful and someone who loves his wife to put her needs before his. We still got him shoes.

It is amazing the basic needs most of us take for granted. However, there are many Donalds and Carlas out there, and thanks to those of you who pray for and give financially to Love In Action, we are able to help.

Please pray for Donald and Carla. He is a carpenter, so if anyone hears of a job please let us know. Hopefully they will come to our Bible study tomorrow night. They seemed interested. They know that we care. Most importantly, they know that Jesus cares for them and loves them very much.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Reaching out to the Philippines

Since being introduced to the Shiloh Bible Baptist family of churches in the Philippines, Martha and I have fallen in love with them. Their love and passion for Christ and for reaching the lost is contagious. Their desire to see people saved is inspiring and encouraging.

We were introduced to the Shiloh Bible Baptist Church family by our friends at Homegrown Harvesters. Beginning in April, Love In Action started working with Homegrown Harvesters to help the Shiloh church family spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the Philippines, and it has been a joy to see what God is doing there.

In that short span of time we have been able to help one small church in Salug purchase land to build a church upon; we helped a church in Dipolog City expand to accommodate their ever-growing church; and we most recently helped provide Bibles and Christian tracts to a church in Sindangan.

These churches have very few resources. They are located in poor areas, so the people they reach have very little to give to support the church as far as finances. However, they have much to give in their desire to work hard to build God's kingdom in the Philippines.

Prayer requests pastors often email us are for souls to be saved and followed up with baptism, to reach children in the schools in their areas, church growth, success in evangelism outreach, spiritual growth of church members, and financial needs. Their prayers lists are a lot longer. That is just a handful of requests.

These pastors believe in the power of prayer and they are praying for Love In Action as well.

The best way to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in foreign countries is to support and work through native ministers. They know the culture, language and needs. In developing and Third World countries, lack of finances is the biggest hurdle for Christians.

Yes, it is good for us to go and visit and minister in these countries, and Love In Action will be doing more of that. In fact, I have been invited by two of the pastors in the Philippines to preach at their churches. I look forward to that day.

But, the biggest need is to support these pastors and churches financially. Let me give you an example. One pastor shared with me his church's need for Bibles and Christian tracts. He said his church consists of mainly new Christians and they don't have Bibles for them. First of all, they don't have the finances to purchase them, and secondly, if they did have the money they would have to travel 4-6 hours by bus to purchase them. That broke my heart. I can drive five miles in any direction here in Dothan, AL, and find a place to buy a Bible.

The same church needed Christian tracts for evangelism outreaches. Some areas they do outreach in cannot be reached by motorized transportation, so they walk 4-5 hours to tell people about Jesus. Is that dedication and passion for the lost or what? Incredible! That is where the tracts would come in handy.

We were able to send the church money to purchase the Bibles and tracts. Here is the pastor's response:
"To God be the glory! I was so grateful to God for using you and your ministry in answering our prayers with regards to the needs of tracts and KJV Bibles. Heartily and honestly, we really thank you for being a blessing to us and to the church. We also personally thank you Brother Ken and to your wife sister Martha for trusting the church's heart with this blessing.

"By Monday, July 4, I will be going to Iligan to purchase KJV Bibles and tracts that we have been long praying. On July 7, the church will be having its BIBLE SUNDAY. This whole Sunday will be dedicated to preach and school out the church members the importance of the Word of God. After the service, we will be distributing these KJV Bibles to the newly baptized believers."

Now that is exciting! We praise God for that opportunity.

There are many needs and we are asking those of you with a heart for international missions to join us in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Philippines. There are three ways we can help right now, and each of them are with finances.

One way is helping the churches purchase their own land. Most are renting and some are in danger of losing their rent once the land owner sells the property. We went through that last year ourselves so we understand that need.

Another way we can help is by helping to build and expand churches. It doesn't costs nearly as much to construct buildings in the Philippines as it does here in the U.S., and they need buildings to meet in.

The third way is to support the pastors. As I already mentioned, these churches are located in poor areas, so there is very little to no support for the pastors. Any help we can give them will be appreciated.

We will post needs as they come up. One of the first needs is $12,000 for the church in Dipolog City to construct a building, including a parsonage. This is a fast-growing church and is in need of a new building. Another need is money to build a new church building in Salug where we helped them purchase land for a church. When we receive the construction cost on that project we will share it as well.

There is always needs for Bibles, so giving toward that is a constant need.

When you send donations to Love In Action please note that it is for the Philippines. Every dollar you send will go there.

You can give online on our website through PayPal. Or, mail donations to:
Love In Action
P.O. Box 85
Dothan, AL 36302

By helping us reach the Philippines with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are fulfilling the Great Commission Jesus gives 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."