Saturday, August 25, 2012

Helping the homeless through the storm

As I write this blog entry, those of us here in Dothan, Ala., and along the Gulf Coast of the U.S. are under the threat of an oncoming storm - Tropical Storm Isaac. It is expected to become Hurricane Isaac as it enters the Gulf of Mexico.

The current track his it heading directly toward us. If it stays on its current track, it will hit us either late Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. The effects of the storm – high winds and heavy rain – could be felt from Tuesday through Thursday. We have had a lot of rain the past six weeks, so widespread flooding definitely going to be a problem.

My prayer isn’t for it to change directions, because I don’t wish anything bad on anyone else. I pray for God to weaken the storm, and if we have to go through it, I have all confidence in God that He will protect us and get us through it. It’s not unusual for us to get hurricanes living this close to the Gulf of Mexico, but it has been a number of years since one has directly hit us. For that, I am thankful.

But, as this storm approaches, I think about Jesus and the disciples when they were in the boat and a storm came.

On that day, when evening had come, He told them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea.” So they left the crowd and took Him along since He was already in the boat. And other boats were with Him. A fierce windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke Him up and said to Him, “Teacher! Don’t You care that we’re going to die?” He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Then He said to them, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?” And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!” - Mark 4:35-41 (HCSB)

The storm hit with a vengeance, but Jesus slept. Why? He was not afraid. He had peace in the midst of the storm. He had all confidence that His Father would keep Him safe. The disciples were terrified. As Jesus told them, they didn’t have faith.

As this hurricane roars toward us, my focus turns even more to the homeless people we minister to and help here in Dothan. These people live in tents in the woods; some sleep in abandoned buildings. This storm could really bring devastation to them.

My prayer is for those of us at Love In Action to show the faith that Jesus did in the boat. I want the homeless to see the peace of Jesus in us. I want them to see that Jesus sent us to them to calm the storm and to be a place of refuge for them.

Please pray for our homeless friends, and please pray for us as we help them make it through this storm.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Homeless camps in Dothan

A homeless camp in Dothan, Ala.
Many people in Dothan, Ala., would be surprised to know there are people living in tents in the woods throughout the city. It's true. It's reality.

The reasons why people are homeless are varied. Some can't find consistent work, while others deal with mental issues and addictions. Some have been down for so long they think living a homeless lifestyle is their lot in life.

It's heartbreaking to see people living like that. But most of the ones living in tents don't complain. They live day-to-day surviving the best they can.

When I see homeless people, I see people who have lost their dreams; people who never planned on being homeless, but somewhere along life's journey they got knocked down and have never been able to get back up.

These are precious people. They need to know they are loved. We all want to be loved. Imagine thinking nobody loved or cared about you. The homeless need to know they are loved by Almighty God and by the people of God.

That's what we try to do at Love In Action. We show the homeless the love of Jesus Christ. It doesn't take most of them long to know we are genuine in our love for them. They know they are welcome at our ministry center. They come to worship, study God's Word, eat, take showers, get food, have their clothes washed, and to just hang out and talk.

We are also welcome in their homes - their camps. It's an honor when a homeless person welcomes you to their camp. That means they trust you. They don't trust many people, not even other homeless people, so earning their trust is the first step to leading them to Jesus and helping them see that God has more for them.

Please pray for the homeless. Pray they come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ if they haven't already, and that they will realize God loves them and has great plans for them like He promises all of us in Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (NIV)

Please keep us in your prayers as we continue to reach out to the "least of these." And, when we say "least" we aren't talking about people who are not important. Everyone is important to God. We all have great value to Him. That's why God gave His only Son for us.

I like what Bishop Paul Leeland of the United Methodist Church Alabama-West Florida Conference said about the "lost." Have you ever heard anyone say they've lost a bag of garbage? No. When you lose something it is something of value.

When any of us don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ, we are lost. God doesn't want us to be lost. He wants us to be found, found in Him through His son Jesus Christ. That includes the homeless. They are not bums. They are people like you and me who need Jesus in their lives.

Pray that they will see they are of great value to God and to us.