Sunday, September 25, 2011

Carla out of hospital

The miracle continues as Carla has been released from the hospital.

A month ago she underwent a six-hour surgery to remove two brain aneurysms. The doctor then scheduled a 12-hour surgery to remove two more he found deep inside her brain.

People from throughout the U.S. and all the way to the Philippines started praying. A week later, following a brain scan, the doctor said one of those aneurysms had disappeared. Then he said there was no need for a second surgery. Praise God!

Now she is back in the hotel room with her husband Donald. Her memory is bad. She doesn't remember much from her past, including family members. But, she looks good and Martha and I believe she will regain her memory.

Donald called yesterday and said Carla really wanted to see us. Praise God she remembers us. We visited her and Donald last night. It was so good to see her away from the hospital. We prayed with them and really felt the power of God at work in that room.

Please join us in prayer for God to completely heal her brain and totally restore her memory. If God can totally take away an aneurysm and keep her alive and healthy enough to be released from the hospital, then He can certainly restore her memory.

Also, if you would like to help them, they could use help paying for their hotel room. Gift certificates to restaurants are also good. The ones located near their hotel room are: Panera Bread, O'Charley, Chili's, McDonalds, Long John Silvers, Cracker Barrel, Ruby Tuesday and Longhorns. You can mail the certificate to us and we will give it to them. If you would like to help with their hotel room, mail your check to Love In Action and we will put it all toward their room.

Our address is: Love In Action, P.O. Box 85, Dothan, AL 36302

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The roller coaster ride of ministry

Ministry to the homeless is filled with times of great rejoicing and heart-breaking moments.

The past 24 hours was a good example. While eating lunch with my wife and one of our Love In Action board members, Dwight Deal, the ministry phone rang and Martha answered it. On the other end of the phone was a very familiar voice. It was Patrick. We met him when he was homeless in Dothan.

I remember when we first met him. He was totally plastered. We were helping another homeless man at the time and he was friends with Patrick. Even though Patrick had been homeless for a while and was drunk, I remember telling Martha, "We're going to reach that guy." And, thanks to the power of the love of Jesus, we did.

It was a roller coaster ride at times, but we helped him come off the streets into his own apartment and get a job. He eventually moved to Pensacola to work with a company to clean up the Gulf oil spill. When that job dried up, he stayed there and became homeless again. He found a ministry with a shelter and started working with them.

It had been about six months since we last heard from him, so we were excited when he called. He said he was doing good and that this ministry in Pensacola reminded him of Love In Action. He said he was working on becoming a pastor. Praise God! He has an incredible testimony and he realizes what God has done in his life. Our prayers remain with him and that he will stay on this path.

Then, this morning my mom received a phone call from a homeless man in New York City who has become part of our family. Many of you are familiar with Benjamin. He is like a brother to me and a son to mom. Though he is a few years older than I am, he calls me his big brother.

We met Benjamin around eight years ago in Brooklyn. It's a long story, but we worked with a church there to help get Benjamin into a rehab program in Chicago. We brought him to Alabama twice. Once was to sing at mine and Martha's wedding.

Once he made it back to New York, he went down the wrong path and ended up in prison for about four years. When he got out he was doing so good. Martha, mom and I went to NYC last summer and visited Benjamin. What a grand reunion that was.

For the past six months we haven't heard a word from him, which is strange. He always calls. He had strayed again, and this morning he called to apologize over and over again and to say he was going to turn himself into the police because there were two warrants on him. He said that was the right thing to do, and he was tired of running.

He said God used him in prison the last time and he wanted to get close to God again so God can use him again. Mom was in tears when she hung up the phone. It's so heartbreaking. Benjamin knows the difference between right and wrong. He has all the potential in the world, but he keeps falling.

But you know what? God will keep picking him back up and we are still his family. We still love him. What Benjamin and others like him need is stability and accountability. That's why were pray that one day we will have a facility of our own to house homeless men, women and families, and provide a strong, Christian-based rehab program to give them the support they need to change the choices they make in life.

Please keep Benjamin and all the others in your prayers. We can reach them. They are not lost causes. God never gives up on His children. We shouldn't either.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Prostitutes need Jesus too

Prostitution is a trap women in the inner city find themselves in. Many do it for drugs. This lifestyle leads to total destruction of their body and more importantly, their souls.

Prostitution takes place in Dothan more than people think. These women have come to a point in their lives where they have no self esteem ... no self worth at all. It's an extremely sad situation.

That's another reason why we wanted to locate the Love In Action Ministry Center in downtown Dothan. There are many hurting people living in the inner city. Living is the wrong word to describe their lives. Existing may be a little closer. But, dying is more accurate.

Love In Action is here to bring hope back into their lives, and that hope can only be found in Jesus Christ. Society looks down on prostitutes and consider them a loss cause. The Bible tells us a different story.

Remember Rahab the harlot in the Old Testament? She made the Hall of Fame of Faith in Hebrews 11:31: "It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies." (NLV)

How about Mary Magdalene? Most people believe she was a prostitute before becoming a believer in Jesus. In Luke 7:36-50 Jesus talks about her. Even if this isn't Mary Magdalene, it is a prostitute Jesus is talking about. Look at what He says, “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” ... "And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” - Luke 7: 47-48, 50 (NLV)

We have been ministering to prostitutes for years and even more so since moving to our new ministry center. One prostitute ended up in the Houston County Jail and is in our Celebrate Recovery Inside class which meets every Wednesday morning inside a cell block in the jail. She told our CRI director Emily to tell me thank you for talking to her as she was leaving the hotel next to our ministry center and to let me know she was OK.

This past Saturday a prostitute who is strung out on drugs came to us for help with clothing. She had only what she was wearing. We gave her clothing, a hygiene kit and invited her to eat lunch with us at the ministry center. She was so thankful.

This is how we reach these women for Jesus. We take care of their physical needs like clothing and food. We don't judge them. Instead, we show them the love of Jesus. It doesn't take long for them to know that we care about them, then that opens the door to share Jesus with them. That's the beginning of leading them out of a lifestyle that destroys and into a life of love and hope with Jesus Christ.

They never dreamed of living a life of prostitution and drugs. Somewhere, somehow, their lives fell apart. Our mission is to restore their dreams and show them that God has much more for them (Jeremiah 29:11).

Those who support us help us reach these women. Thank you. You are helping us make a difference for Jesus.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

God loves crazy people too

Over the past 12 years we have met some interesting people. Some of the people we minister to are what a friend of mine calls, "shot out." In other words, they are not in their right minds.

Some of them have mental conditions that have gone untreated for years. Others have lost their minds due to drugs and alcohol abuse.

There is a man who lives near the Love In Action Ministry Center who has lost his mind because of years of drug abuse. Injecting drugs intravenously and smoking crack has taken its toll. He has told me some very creative stories about his life. One time he was working undercover for the U.S. Army and hot on the trail of his ex-wife who was selling missiles to terrorists. Today, he was working on "flying machines, you know, spaceships." He said he used to be a rocket scientist.

He will make sense for a short time, then his mind flies off to another world. I can't help but laugh at some of the things he says, but at the same time it's very sad. Here is a man who who may have had a dream early in life about being a hero in the U.S. Army. Maybe he dreamed of working for NASA. But somewhere along the way drug abuse destroyed his dream.

The fact of the matter is, no matter his state of mind, God loves him and he needs to be shown the love of God. He doesn't need to be shunned and pushed aside. He needs to be shown that people care about him too. Who knows what will trigger a turn around in his life. Some may say, "Ken, that dude is too far gone." My answer is nobody is out of the reach of my God. He can transform anyone's life, and He can restore a person's mind ... nothing is impossible for God. He still works miracles.

This man knows we care about him, because he keeps coming back, and at the end of the day today we gave him more proof that we love him. We had a large, and very heavy, desk that we didn't need. He saw it and wanted it. He said he could put some wheels on it and push it home. I immediately told one of our work release guys to help me pick it up and put it in the back of my truck and deliver it to this man's home. I told my young helper that God loves everyone and we need to show His compassion to everyone, even crazy people.

He thought it was so great that we did that and thanked us several times. I told him that God loves him, and he said he knows that.

No matter a person's state of mind, we must show God's love to them. You never know when the next miracle is about to happen and God may be wanting to use you to bring about that miracle.

Friday, September 16, 2011

God keeps blowing my mind

If you have noticed an extra bounce in my step and a smile stretching further across my face there is a reason for that. His name is Jesus!

It seems like more and more every day I am seeing the love of Jesus transforming people's lives, including my own.

God has been showing us His great power and grace in greater measures with each passing week. We have seen prayers answered like we've never experienced before. For example, we asked for prayer for a homeless woman who had four brain aneurysms. The doctor removed two and scheduled a second 12-hour surgery. Before that procedure, God removed one of the aneurysms that was deep in the back of her brain and the doctor said now there is no need for that second surgery. Praise God!

One of the guys in our Wednesday night Bible study has been asking for prayer for his sister who the doctors didn't expect to live for another day or two. This was nearly a month ago. Wednesday night, David said, "I have a praise report. My sister is doing so good. She ate a steak and potato dinner and has been getting up every day this week." He praised God. His sister was at the edge of death, but God had other plans.

We are seeing men and women who had no hope in their lives giving their lives to Jesus and now they have hope and understand that God has great plans for them (Jeremiah 29:11).

The renovations of the Love In Action Ministry Center are nearly complete. What started on the last weekend of January is now coming into fruition. God has given us a beautiful facility, and He has worked through the hands of many volunteers. Some were homeless, some work release inmates, others were volunteers from various churches throughout Dothan and the Wiregrass, and others were businesses like Bob Woodall Air Care Systems who donated the entire HVAC systems (five units, duct work, labor, etc). And, other businesses like Lakewood Landscaping who takes care of our yard for free and is planning a renovation of the landscape in front of the ministry center. Lowe's of Dothan donated items like insulation, lights, blinds, doors, etc. and brought an army of volunteers to work. Goldfingers provides lunch free of charge for our volunteers every Saturday, and Chicken Box To Go provided food one Saturday.

Churches like Harvest, Covenant, Tabernacle, Greystone, Highland Park, Wiregrass, Crossroads (Enterprise), Mt. Gilead, and more have helped us in so many ways.

It has truly been the Body of Christ coming together to accomplished a great work. And, lives are already being changed through activities at the ministry center.

Tremendous discipleship takes place every Wednesday night at our Bible study. The spiritual growth taking place is incredible.

The Laundry Ministry has been a great blessing to those we serve. Up to 14 loads of clothes every Saturday keeps our two washers and dryers running all day.

Saturdays are always our big work days, but it's also a great time of mentoring. We get to speak into those men's lives and teach them how to work together as a team to accomplish something for God.

I'm excited because so many people are getting involved. People are praying, giving financially, and volunteering their time. More than 50 people came to our first volunteer meeting. Thursday night 13 attended our Leadership training.

God also keeps opening doors internationally. Martha and I will travel to Ecuador in late October to work with an orphanage, minister to tribes in the jungle, and hopefully some street ministry.

God has opened Asia up to Love In Action as well as we have been working with a wonderful group of churches in the Philippines called Shiloh Bible Baptist Church. They are a family of churches in some of the poorest areas in the Philippines. We have helped some of them purchase land for churches and build/expand their current facilities. We also help one church feed 70-80 children each month.

This week I was invited to be the guest speaker at their Two-Day Revival Conference in January 2012. All of the pastors and missionaries will be there. In addition, we have been invited to help with the outreach to the children, which will include serving them food and giving them gifts.

God is really blowing my mind with all that He is doing. We serve an awesome and mighty God, and every day I am seeing more of His glory and power at work in people's lives and in mine.

I thank everyone of you who support Love In Action in prayer, finances and through volunteering your time. We could not do this without.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Officially an ordained minister

All of us who follow Jesus Christ are called to be ministers of the Gospel. That's clearly seen in Matthew 28:19-20, when Jesus said, "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.” (NIV)

He has given us all different gifts in which to minister. According to the Apostle Paul, Jesus also gave certain offices to be held in the Body of Christ by those He called to serve in those capacities. In Ephesians 4:11-2, Paul writes, "Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ."
I believe God calls people, not man. So, I don't place a lot of stock in a piece of paper that says I am an ordained minister. However, I know it is important to have that piece of paper for a variety of reasons. First, it is like a seal of approval, the first of which comes from God through His Holy Spirit, of course. Being a licensed and ordained minister is also a recognition from those God has placed in authority to appoint people to certain leadership positions within the Body of Christ.

For more than 11 years I have responded to the calling of evangelism God gave me. For many years people have been calling me "pastor" and "preacher man." Love In Action co-founder Mike Shroades has told me for years I am a pastor to the homeless and poor.

I started having a desire to become a licensed and ordained minister. I felt God was leading me to, and I knew it would be good for the ministry as well. Also, people we have ministered to have asked me to marry them in the past, but I couldn't because the state of Alabama will only give an ordained minister the authority to officiate weddings. Being an ordained minister I could also baptize people, which I have been asked to do.

I searched for the right organization to be ordained through. I didn't want some flaky bunch that prints out any kind of ordination certificate for any kind of religion, and there are a bunch of them out there. I finally came across an organization called the National Association of Christian Ministers. I thoroughly investigated them. Being a journalist for 20 years has given me good skills to do that. What I found was an upstanding organization that is biblically grounded. Their beliefs and values line up with the Word of God.

They are also an independent Christian organization, which is important as well. Since we have people from so many different Christian denominations, I didn't want to align myself or Love In Action with a particular denomination. We are all about the Body of Christ working together to reach the lost.

Last Thursday I received the confirmation of my ordination. Here is the what the N.A.C.M. sent:

"The National Association of Christian Ministers (N.A.C.M.), LC acknowledges that:
You have demonstrated a devout belief in the Christian faith, a call to ministry, and have passed the scrutiny of the Council of Elders. Therefore, on the authority of Matthew 28:19-20, this religious organization deems you an Independent Ordained Minister with all of the obligations and rites that are associated with this title.

"Father, in the name of Jesus we set apart your servant this day requesting that you make use of them in the ministry of your Kingdom.  We ask that you give them wisdom to know your ways, strength to resist sin, courage to face adversity, and a love for people that fulfills your law.  We thank you for your purpose and calling on their life. By the blood of Jesus and the power of His Spirit –AMEN.

"Congratulations on your acceptance and recognition into the Christian ministry of Jesus Christ. The N.A.C.M. has enlisted you in its Minister Verification Database (MVD) so that government and civil agencies may confirm your good standing with our organization."

I thank Martha, my beautiful wife and ministry partner, for her love and support, and our Love In Action board of directors for their guidance and encouragement. And, I thank N.A.C.M. for approving me for ordination.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Our God can do anything!

A week ago we sent out an urgent prayer request for a homeless woman, Carla, who had four brain aneurysms. She had just gone through a six-hour surgery to have two of the aneurysms removed. During the surgery, the doctor found two more in the back of her brain.

We have a praise report. After another brain scan, the doctor can only find one brain aneurysm. Praise God! The second one just disappeared. Who says God doesn't still answer prayers? We praise God for His healing power.

Now, we are asking you for your continued prayers. Donald has asked that we pray for God to heal Carla of the last remaining brain aneurysm. A surgery is scheduled for next Friday. Let's pray that God would miraculously remove that one as well so she doesn't have to go through another surgery.

Also, please pray for her brain. Damage was done due to those first two aneurysms. To what extent we don't know yet, but due to her speech and actions it is obvious there is brain damage. But, we know God can heal her from that as well and make her brain as good as new again. Please join with us in continued prayer for Carla and Donald.

Thank you, and most of all we thank God!  He is awesome! Our God can do anything!