Monday, December 13, 2010

In the Bleak Midwinter - Glory!

As some people know, we had concerns about how things might go yesterday. However, because it was sooooo cold. We didn't have any of the problems we thought we might face. The freezing weather was actually a blessing because it kept the trouble makers of the past 2 weeks away. The people who came yesterday were people who literally live on the street. Many of them came by quickly to have a meal with us before Boutwell opened up at 5.

The attitude of the people who live on the streets and those who live in the nearby low-income housing is very different. They might share some of the same needs but the expectation and response is very different. Our goal is to share the love of Christ by helping people with immediate needs and to provide help to those who want change but don't know how to do it (or don't think they are worthy of it).

Because it was a quieter afternoon for us, we were able to have some great conversations with folks. One example of this is a man I'll call J-J. He showed up wearing sandals because his other shoes had been stolen. J-J has always been a very quiet somber man, never asking for much, and pretty much wouldn't communicate with anyone except JM, the man in charge of the ministry. But when another fella from the ministry took the shoes off of his own feet for him to have, J-J smiled, the wall came down and he opened up. We learned he had recently come off of drugs and wants to stay off them. JM is going to see if he can get him into a local recovery ministry this week.

As cold and miserable as it was yesterday (and the streets of Birmingham were MISERABLE yesterday), it was amazing to see how God used the weather to His glory and how relationships were made and strengthened.

Yesterday I was amazed again by the love God has for people and how I got to see it in action. God can do anything.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Joy of Christmas

Last week R and I got to visit with C again. As I told you, last time we were there, we asked him if we could take pictures and he said yes. During our visit we gave him a picture of the 3 of us together in a frame R had gotten. I’m not kidding you or exaggerating in the least when I tell you it was like we had given him a million dollars. He was thrilled to have that picture. We gave him a couple of other things as well but nothing can or could compare to that picture. It made me realize how different our lives have really been. I take for granted the pictures I have with my friends and family. I’m accustomed to having friends and family around. I’m used to people caring about me… even the people who are crazy in my life are in my life.

C invited us to attend a Christmas party. Actually, he invited us about 4 different times to attend the Christmas party. He told us he wanted to do something for the folks who have done something for him. He wanted to give back and serve us hot chocolate. He said we could “eat and sing Christmas carols and it’d be a real nice night.” I have to tell you, it is the thing I most look forward to this Christmas season. I wonder if C has ever gotten to have a party like this before. The excitement of it is bubbling out of him. We get so bogged down with stuff to do this time of year that it is easy to forget the joy behind it. But the joy is definitely there for C. I’m looking forward to being a part of it because I know Christmas will not be taken for granted that night.

Friday, December 3, 2010

multiplied to be perfect

It’s been a couple of weeks, I know, since I posted. I was out of town one week and then I had the plague. But, I did make it back downtown this past Sunday.

The meal this past week was vegetable soup and it was in the biggest pot I have ever seen. I think it was half my size which is good because we had a huge crowd waiting to eat. In the past the ministry has asked volunteers to prepare meals for 30 to 40 people. But, this past Sunday we had 58 people. KM was serving the soup and about half way through the line she said, “Pray we have enough.” And we did, I feel like I literally got to see the miracle of the fish and loaves multiplied only this time it was with soup. KM literally poured what was left at the bottom of the pot into the last man’s bowl. How perfect is our God!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Visiting C

Last week it got pretty cold down here in the "Ham." Friday night, I was out and about with my mother downtown and I have to tell you, I was F-R-E-E-Z-I-N-G. As we were headed back to our car and home. I couldn't help but look around for familiar faces and wonder where my friends were. I thought about my friend C and his "roommates" and wondered if they had enough blankets. And although I knew I wouldn't because it wouldn't be wise, I really wanted to go check on them. Instead, I prayed for them.

Saturday I woke up early because I had to go to work. Just as I was heading out of my neighborhood, I got a text from JM. I pulled over to read it (because I DO NOT text and drive). He was letting me know that C had made it into a half-way house. I have to admit, I cried a little. I was so happy to learn he was not only warm but he had a bed. It was wonderful news to get.

Today on my lunch break R and I went to visit him. He's at a great place. I'm so excited for him. He was very quiet at first. That's not like him at all. But before we left we prayed with him and he got the biggest grin on his face. It was truly one of the greatest blessing I have ever gotten in my life. He told us, "I'm alright!"

I asked him if he'd mind if I took his picture. He didn't. He even struck a pose.

Keep C in your prayers. They'll be helping him find a job and he needs a good fit. Also pray for him to make new friends since he is missing his other ones. And prayer for the men who the ministry hopes to get into that house with him.

Thank you my friends.

God is Good!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Super Christian or Not

Last week I told you that I had been worried about burning out. But that wasn't totally it. I felt like maybe I was a little bit of a fraud. That maybe I wasn't a good enough Christian to be going downtown. If the people downtown don't know Christ, then I would be representing something they didn't know and I am sooo far away from being a "super" Christian.

As I said, I don't take lightly that God has given me this opportunity each week. I think it is an honor and a gift from God because otherwise I just wouldn't even be able to show up each week. And, it is changing my life, my relationship with God and the people around me. God is definitely teaching me and loving me with this ministry.

These past couple of weeks, the ministry has made a few changes and again I feel lucky. While I am intimidated by the changes, I'm sort of wondering what I'm going to get to see God do because of them.

This past Sunday I got to talk to C about making changes in his life and finding a way off the street. Two hours before I saw C, I would have thought that I would never be able to have that sort of conversation. But when we started talking it just happened and it didn't scare me. I care about C, as does everyone involved with the ministry. I wasn't alone in talking to C. A couple of other folks were there too. I still have a lot to learn but what an honor God gave me to just get to stand next to him, pray and tell him he mattered. I don't feel so much like a fraud now because I feel like God used me and He knew what He was doing and He gave me what I needed to do it. He made it possible. It wasn't really me. I just got the honor of being there.

This past week's lesson is don't count yourself short in what God is using you to do. If God gives you something to do, then do it with confidence because of who God is. He knows what he is doing.

And I am still not a super Christian. This next week, God might use me to hand out napkins and I'm ok with that. Whatever He wants, I want to be there.

Please pray for C.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Like Jesus

"Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken." Rich Mullins

I didn't post earlier this week because I just really wasn't sure what to say. You know, I love being a part of this ministry. I mean I LOVE IT. But, you get to a point and it just becomes sort of, I don't know.... routine maybe. I'm not sure that is at all the right word.

But, the last couple of weeks, I've sort of had this fear that I would soon be loosing my enthusiasm... or maybe start to burn out. And even though I'm talking about the ministry, I think really I might just mean with everything. When I got involved with this ministry I actually felt a desire to cut out things that weren't good for my relationship with the Lord and I wanted to be around people who had a passion for Him... not just people who knew Him, but people who were seeking Him and serving Him.

The thing about this ministry for me is this, I actually do feel humbled to have the opportunity each week to see God's people out doing something. I would even say, I think God giving me this opportunity is one of the ways He is showing His love for me. Seriously, I feel loved by God because of this ministry that God would allow me to know the people running the ministry and meeting the fellas downtown is a big deal to me.

But here's the cool thing, Just when I thought I might begin to burn out... God puts a whole new spin on it. Last Sunday the leaders of the ministry sat everyone down and discussed some new ideas. I'm excited about it because I don't want to burn out, I want to continue and I want to be surrounded by God's people with a mission. I want to be more like Jesus. I want to care about the poor, the oppressed. I want to know God. God is good and I'm thankful he has given me this experience and the chance to be a part of his hands and feet.

I'll be out of town this weekend but I'll be back downtown next weekend.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fall is in the Air

Sunday was another great day downtown. We had a group of 20 people go downtown with us and we had 29 hungry fellas waiting on us when we arrived. Going back to the parking lot has made a big difference. Lots of people have shown up the past two weeks.

The weather is getting colder and the men are starting to ask for things like blankets, hats, and coats. Last night I considered turning on the heat in my house, in the end I didn’t cave. I am clinging to the warm weather as long as I can. I’m in denial that I’ll have to change wardrobes soon, mainly because I don’t want to give up open-toed shoes and have to wear socks. But today, when I’ve been outside, I’ve been cold. I have on a blouse and a light knit wrap over it but I am still cold and of course, if I’m cold… I’m thinking of the fellas downtown and wondering if they are cold. Today a friend of mine asked me if we’d like some blankets. I’m so excited about getting those blankets because I know the people that can use them. By that I don’t just mean I know they can be used but I am putting faces to those blankets and I want the people I know to be warm.

I had jeans on this past Sunday when I was downtown, but I was still wearing sandals. R asked me if my feet were cold. They weren’t. We stood there and talked about how beautiful the day was and how the weather was cooling off. Talking to someone who is homeless puts a whole new spin on the weather cooling off. When I think of cold weather, I think of cuddly pjs, cozy sweaters, tall boots, warm blankets, hot chocolate, apple cider, and pumpkin pie. Those are the things I’d normally talk about with someone I was discussing the fall air with. But, I’m pretty sure my homeless friend had none of those thoughts. I tried to remember his situation as I talked to him. It’s just a whole different ball game for him. Spending time with people who have so little really opens your eyes to how much we have and how much we take for granted. I really need to just be grateful I have socks to put on and let my open-toe shoes go for the winter.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rain or Shine

I said this last week but I’m saying it again. I know I can be pushy about the things that interest me. I took the Big Five personality test this summer and I discovered that I’m very neurotic. So, I guess I can’t help myself. BUT, I also found out that I am also very agreeable as well. So, I may have strong pushy opinions but I’m fine with you having different ones.

It’s weird because I really do have the homeless on my brain a lot. I’m telling you, sometimes I’ll be talking to someone or listening to something and I’ll think of the fellas downtown and I have to stop myself from mentioning them. I am trying not to be pushy but that’s just where my thoughts go a lot of the times.

I mention this because I have had people to tell me I need to back down and realize that not everyone feels as I do or wants to participate. So ok, I accept that. But, I still can’t help wanting to talk about what I see happening each week.

Anyway, since I am pushy and people do have other passions, when I signed my class up for providing a couple of the Sunday meals I just wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. Not that my Sunday School class has heartless people… it’s just, I’m pushy. And even though I am trying to be better, I can’t say that I am. No one likes to be pushed into anything. Folks in my class have their own interests. Some of them floor me by their dedication and their service activity. Some of the folks in the class have already given to the ministry. They’ve given clothes, bikes, food, money and perhaps other things I’m just not aware of. I’m no where as good of a person as some of my friends are. So, when the time came for planning the meal I wasn’t sure what the response would be. But then when I passed around an envelope for donations towards the meal and the sign-up sheet, I was very humbled by the response. People went beyond what I had even asked for, way beyond. I was so excited.

We moved back to our old location last Sunday. It’s just a parking lot as I mentioned to you last week. A lot of people came out there on Sundays last spring. I didn’t know what it’d be like when we returned. Would we have a lot of people our first Sunday back, or just the few that had been coming? I didn’t know.

I waited until about Wednesday to check the forecast for the Sunday meal. I was disappointed to see it was supposed to rain. I began to fret about the plan because we had decided to buy the men BBQ from Johnny Ray’s, which isn’t cheap. No one likes to be out in the rain, not even the homeless. If it was raining we wouldn’t have many people show up but if it wasn’t raining, we could have a big crowd. I knew no matter what happened, no food would be wasted; but, I still wanted people to come out for the meal. So even though, Birmingham was in need of rain, I started having people pray that it wouldn’t rain Sunday afternoon. God totally answered that prayer. It rained all Sunday morning but by the time we got downtown, it had stopped and it was perfect. No hot sun, no humidity, and no rain. God is good.

Seeing the effort put forth by my Sunday School friends for the meal was such a beautiful thing to me. I was so blessed by them. And, the men downtown loved the BBQ. By the end, we were scraping the pans to fill to-go plates. Not a scrap went uneaten. And so many new people showed up. It was just all in all a great day down there. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for everyone this Fall.

You know I never intended to actually get really involved with this ministry last Spring. I thought maybe I would just contribute something somehow every now and then but God is so funny because now I see it as the most amazing thing to be a part of. I think it’s totally changing me too. I’m so grateful God has given me this opportunity and all the wonderful people who are involved with it. They are the best. They inspire me and make me want to know more about my God and the love He has for His people.

In closing let me just put a plug in for Johnny Ray’s in Pelham on Hwy 31. We ordered the meal from them and they were good to us. So, go and have dinner with them one night.

Prayer Requests: Continue to pray for the ministry and the leaders of it. They are so dedicated to the men downtown they give a lot of their time to them every week. Pray for the new folks we met and will meet. Pray for wisdom, courage, and understanding for everyone who is down there. The goal of the ministry isn’t just to meet needs but to change lives. If people want off the street then the ministry wants to help them do that. Most of all, we want people to know there is a loving God, it’s not just a story.

As to the personal prayer requests I have made, God has been good. He is good.

Monday, September 20, 2010

You Are the Plan!

Yesterday was a long day. I say that because I fully plan to use it as the excuse for the doubts I mention later. If you’ve been keeping up with this blog or just me in general, you know that being involved with the homeless is something that has really impacted my life. I’m pretty passionate about it… and to some even a little pushy.

Last week I found out more about the Biscuit Ministry my church started a few years ago. I contacted a couple of folks about it and I was invited to join them this past Sunday. They meet at 6:45 AM. That’s AAAAAAAA. MMMMMMM. In my book that’s crazy early. I mean REALLY crazy early. I wanted to join them and I was enthusiastic about the opportunity but as Sunday approached I wasn’t sure I’d really be able to get out of bed. But, God took care of that because I woke up at 2 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep. So, I was the first person to arrive that morning at the church. I was there at 6:30. I’m glad God got me up because it turned out to be a great experience. It’s a little different from the other ministry I’m in but in some ways it’s the same. I guess really, it’s very much the same. They had 72 hot sausage biscuits to hand out and we drove around the city until they were gone. I was hoping we’d run into some of my friends down there. But, I didn’t see any of them. However, I did see one of the fellas I had met briefly once before. I mentioned him in an earlier post as the fella who could talk your ear off. It was nice to talk to him a little more. We ended our biscuit mission on the Southside of town where we all spent some time with the men that were there and when we left, we took 3 of them with us to church.

When we got back to church, I went and washed my hands and my face a little bit and then went back out to wait for the Worship Service to begin. I saw the three men from Southside sitting in the café area and so I went to talk to them and got to know them a little better.

I got home from church around 12:45. I ate a sandwich and laid down for a short nap. At 2:30 pm I was back at a different church ready to head downtown with the ministry I have been involved with these past few months. It was a super-hot day. I knew this because I was dripping with sweat. I could have used a nice breeze. It wasn’t until I got in the car and saw that the temperature read 100 degrees that I realized I had a very good reason to be sweating. Oh my gosh, it was hot. We fed 8 men under the overpass yesterday. I think perhaps more were fed with to-go plates as well but I’m not sure because I left the underpass to go directly to the airport to pick up my parents who were returning from vacation.

Where I began to have doubts seep in is from talking with a couple of the men. I really am a silly naïve girl. Yesterday, I think I just began to realize it. I really want to believe good things about people. Even so, I have always been pro boundaries but yesterday I saw a need for more boundaries with these men. I want them to know they matter to me but at the same time, I need a boundary. I need a boundary that will still let them know Jesus loves them but also with a healthy distance for myself. A couple of fellas yesterday asked me things that I don’t even discuss with close friends. To a normal person that wouldn’t be a big deal, but I’m not normal. I don’t mean I’m going to stop caring or going downtown or even that I will start avoiding people but I just need to figure it out because what I realized yesterday is that I don’t think the same way as some of these men do. I’m a feminist but I have to call it, I cannot be a friend to these men in the same way that another man can. We need more Godly men to step up for these men on the streets… actually the world needs Godly men and women to just step up in many situations.

On an encouraging note, the other thing I realized yesterday is how much I love being around the Godly people I have met through these ministries. Yesterday, I got to know a few more of them from going downtown with the biscuit ministry and it was great. There are high school and college age kids involved every week in these ministries. It’s inspiring to see them out loving people for the Lord. Being with other believers with a passion for serving the Lord is a blessing all on its own. It too, is changing me.

I heard Gary Haugen, who is one of my heros, say this week... God has given us the plan for the lost, for the hurting. We know what to do.
Micah 6:8 says

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

You are the plan!

Prayer requests for the week. 1) that I figure out the boundary thing. And 2) that next Sunday is cooler. We are leaving the Overpass for another location. It’s where the group met in the Winter and Spring. We had more people show up there, but there is no shade and it’s a parking lot. It’s hot even if it’s not hot. I am such a wimp when it comes to heat. I really am. Seriously!

And as a P.S., If you go to my church you should check out the Biscuit Ministry… And if you want to check out the other ministry I write about, let me know. You should check it out too.

Monday, September 13, 2010

If a Thing is Worth Doing, It is Worth Doing Badly

I was back under the Overpass yesterday. I really missed not being there last week. It was good to get out of the car yesterday and see familiar faces waiting for us. And, I am happy to report, that I remembered many of the men’s names. So thanks if you prayed for me on that. Keep praying please.

I had the opportunity to speak with many of the men yesterday. Although, I always have that opportunity when I’m down there, yesterday felt a little different. I talked to them in a way that was almost like we had become friends. Like, we just didn’t talk about the weather or the bugs; but, I learned about their families and how they spend their days, and what they enjoy doing. Things that friends talk about. I don’t want to paint some sort of rose colored image of our relationship or what I experience when I’m down there. There are reasons people are on the street. Bad reasons. Don’t ever forget that. BUT, these men are still people. They are people that want to matter. They want security. They want to be warm. They want to be cool. They want a change of underwear. They want what everybody wants. And, God loves them and they need to know that.

Yesterday as I was talking to them, I was remembering my blog and how I talk about them. I felt a little guilty. These are real people in my city and I’m talking about them behind their backs or at least that is how I was feeling about it yesterday. If these men are going to trust me by telling me about themselves I don’t want to betray them in any sort of way. But, I want you to know about them because I want them to matter to you. I want you to know they are people, good people, people who struggle, real people who really should matter to us because they matter to Christ. I want them to matter to me too. I don’t want to forget about them when I’m inside, away from them and comfortable.

You know, the odds are against these men... Even the men who have been helped into a recovery program. It’s a tough world. People struggle, people stumble. We make mistakes. I found out that one of the men who had gone into recovery left the program last week. He stumbled. It breaks my heart. It was a brave thing he did just to go into the program. Pray for him. He knows he messed up. Pray that he will not feel that he failed but instead understand that he made a mistake. Pray that he will learn and grow from the mistake and try again.

Chesterton said, "if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” That doesn’t mean we have an excuse to put forth a poor effort. But these men are facing such a huge challenge that mistakes are going to happen but it is still a very worthy thing they are doing. Don’t over judge them. They may not get it perfect the first time.

We had another man ask about going into recovery yesterday. JM is going to be talking to him about that and see if he is serious and ready. Pray for both of them. Change is hard and scary. It’s a brave thing these men want to do.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Under the Overpass with Rain and Pudding

This past Sunday when we pulled up under the overpass there were about 5 men waiting on us. It was RC and my week to do the meal and we fixed Ham, potato salad, watermelon, baked beans, banana pudding, rolls and cokes. A mighty fine meal… if I do say so myself. Clearly, I was responsible for the less difficult items to prepare. And of course, you know I didn’t do the potato salad because that involves one of my great fears in life, Mayonnaise. But, you’d be proud of me. I helped serve the potato salad and even though I can’t be sure I didn’t have a crinkle in my nose while doing it, I did it.

Soon after we had gotten the food out to serve, it began to pour rain. One minute RC and I were standing at the car filling plates all nice and dry and the next minute we were standing in a river of water several inches deep. It was CRAZY! And the wind was blowing everything around… it was a little chaotic. I think the rain kept many people away. I don’t think we fed more than 10 folks this past Sunday. But, we were still able to give most of the food away via to go plates.

I was glad to see that C was there again. He was funny. After we had gotten everyone a plate I turned around and saw him talking to some of the girls from the ministry. He saw me and said jokingly, “don’t pretend you aren’t going to come over here and talk to me.” Of course, I was headed his way. When I got there, he hadn’t started eating yet. But as RC and I stood there, he tried the banana pudding and went crazy over it. He finished it up almost immediately and RC got him another serving. Before he left that day, we filled a whole to-go plate with banana pudding for him. I don’t think I’ll ever see banana pudding the same way again. We told him we missed him last week and asked how Q and T were doing. He said he hadn’t seen them since last week. That scared me a little because I had no idea why and I had introduced T to them. Though I don’t know all the details and it is difficult to understand what C is saying sometimes, what I gathered is that everyone who stayed in their abandoned building was arrested last weekend. I’m not sure if it was for trespassing or for some other darker reason. Whatever their problems are, I believe Q and C are good people. It makes me sad they were arrested. As I stood there listening to his story I wanted to hug him and tell him I loved him and how sorry I was about what happened. But I’m not sure that would have been the thing to do for various reasons. There is so much I don’t understand about life on the street. But, I know it does often involve bad choices and I don’t want to seem to be something I’m not going to be able to be for them. Listening to C on Sunday made me really realize how much some of these people mean to me. I want an ideal world, I want them to be better and I want them to live happily ever after. C is trying to give up smoking cigarettes pray for him on that. Also pray for him while his friend Q is away. Pray for them both and for T.

My prayer request this week is that I am able learn people’s names better. I know I have asked several of the men 3 or 4 times what their names are and I keep forgetting. It’s hard to make someone feel like they matter when you can’t even remember their name.

Keep praying for the folks going down each week ministering to these men. The ministry isn’t just going down there to meet needs, they want to help people who want the help, get off the street.

I won’t be going down to the overpass next Sunday because I’ll be out of town. But, I’ll be back the following week.

Monday, August 23, 2010

It is God

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast,because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:3-4

So, in previous posts I've been telling you how abnormal it is for me to be out talking to people on the streets because I'm a quiet, awkward person. That is so true. I mean seriously, you put me in a crowd and I shut up. Even around friends, the bigger the crowd the quieter I am. And that's also true in talking to people I don't really know. Typically, I joke that you have to know me about 2 years before I'll actually really talk to you in any sort of normal way. That's not because I don't want to talk to you, it's because I'm weird and talking is just not normal with me. It's like my brain is literally blank... not a thought in there at all. It takes a good person to stick it out and befriend me. However, I don't hate being quiet, I mean, I regret the awkwardness; but, I honestly don't even always notice lulls in conversations around me sometimes.

I tell you the above just because I want you to know that my participation in the homeless ministry is a God thing. It is God. It is God. It is God. I wouldn't have the opportunity and I wouldn't be capable of participating if it wasn't. Yesterday, I was talking with a fella I had never met before. As I already told you, I was doing the needs list so I had a task to perform in talking with the man. But, as I was talking to him I was learning a little about him. I found out he was a 60 year old Vietnam Vet. What do you say to that? "Thanks for serving, sorry you are having to live on the streets now?" That doesn't seem sincere... I mean it might be true... but it seems sort of generic.... I mean the man served our country and now he's living on the street! Now there may be some other things going on with him that led to where he is now, but that doesn't mean it's not sad. And, I'll tell you, he told me that part of his story looking for an answer, an answer I don't have. I didn't have much to say but I did give him a hug and he seemed happy with that answer, for now. If you know me well, you also know I am not a huggy person. I'm not. If you get hugs from me, you are among few. But, I think that hug was an answer from God. He gave me that answer and I was grateful for it. Because whatever his story is, it seems he did deserve something.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Today the homeless helped me

After the worship service this morning, I was walking down a hall I don't normally walk down in order to get to my new Sunday School class location. This hall took me past boxes and boxes of donated items for the biscuit ministry. Now years ago, I had heard someone started a ministry for the homeless at my church but I didn't know it was still going on until recently and I certainly didn't know any details about it. I still don't. But, as I walked past all the boxes of things I started to think about the hands & feet who would be delivering it all and the people who would be receiving it. I couldn't help but say a little prayer for them. I am sort of looking forward to passing all those boxes each week from now on and getting to see how the items change. I will not take that walk for granted. Each week I will be blessed by it and I will pray for the people that I don't even know who are involved on both ends of that ministry.

All week I've been looking forward to seeing my friends downtown. When I tell you they are a blessing to me, well that doesn't really convey it all. There truly are no words to describe what it's like to just have the opportunity to show up and love somebody because of who God is. He is love. But today after lunch I was feeling a little down and a little hopeless myself and I just didn't know of what use I would be or could be. But as always, God was good to me. The minute I got out of the car under the overpass my woes started to disappear and I began to just see the men who had come for food, necessities, and company. Plus, JM asked me to do the needs list, that's simply just taking down any needs that people have so that we can try to help fill them. I was grateful to have a task to do to help keep the woes away. I immediately noticed Q, C and T were not there. Q and C always show up so I'm a little worried about them. I heard Q was in church today but I'm still a little worried. I hope C is alright and, of course, you know from last week I was already worried about T. Please keep them in you prayers.

All that said, Here is where my great blessing came from today, it was from talking to J, a fella I briefly mentioned a few posts ago, the guy who gave away his sandwich. J doesn't seem to be your average homeless fella. He's clearly very educated and loves the Lord. He is a definite example on how you can make a bad decision or face difficult circumstances, struggle with it and still love God. Right before we left today, RC and I were talking with him. He was talking about his faith and how hard it is to trust God sometimes. But he said, "God is mighty and He is all you need, you just have to remember that." J explained that sometimes you get knocked down and that's what you need. How you grow from such times, thats what makes you who you are and we have the Holy Spirit to help us. Today J told me what I needed to hear because I was ready to count God out on my problem. I'm still not sure what God is going to do. I've been praying about it for years and years but I shouldn't count God out. That'd be a bad move.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Under the Overpass

I just finished a great book called Under the Overpass. It’s by Michael Yankoski. If you haven’t heard of him, then you have probably heard of his wife Danae. She cowrote Crazy Love with Fancis Chan.

I stumbled across Under the Overpass a few weeks ago and immediately went to my local library to check it out. FYI if you live around me, it’s not at a library in our area but you can still get it through Inter-Library Loan which is what I did.

Even if the homeless are not a calling for you, it is a very interesting and eye-opening read. It’s an account by Yankoski of living 5 months on the street in 6 different cities and what he experienced. Really, it’s a very interesting read and a fast one. You should get it. It's the story of what it’s like for someone to live on the street and how people, even people who call themselves Christians respond to them.

Here’s the thing about me, as much as I love going down to my overpass each Sunday, if you were to transport me to a different location today with similar circumstances, I don’t know what my behavior would be. Would I show compassion for people? I don’t know.

I can tell you that last month when I went out of town, I found myself surrounded by men clearly living on the street and I did not respond in any way that might be considered compassionate… I responded in an unsure of my surroundings/nervous/careful not to make eye contact way. And, it didn’t even occur to me that I had done that until a week later. If Michael Yankoski had been one of those men, he wouldn’t have been able to report anything good about me. NKW was with me at the time. She responded to the men as if they were normal as if it was no big deal they were around us and I remember thinking at the time, “You are crazy. These men do not look like the people we need to be around.” I didn’t say that out loud, I just thought it. But now looking back, I realize that she was just treating them like people. While I’m not saying you shouldn’t be careful on the streets, I am saying I don’t want to treat anyone like they aren’t people or like they don’t matter. I hope if I am ever in that situation again, I respond like NKW or better yet, like Christ.

Yankoski’s book isn’t judgmental…. But I’m telling you, it might make you see things differently.

Monday, August 16, 2010


This past Sunday I also spent some time talking with T. It was his second Sunday to be down there with us. He’s a mid age/older man. Maybe in his 60s. It’s so hard to tell sometimes. Life on the streets is hard so I don’t know if he really is older or if he has just aged faster. Anyway, he seems to be a quiet man. I myself am quiet. I really struggle to talk to people sometimes so I tend to notice that in other people and sort of feel a connection with them. Last week, I had welcomed him and asked him how he found out about us. He answered with short answers. Not much for me to follow up on. But he smiled when we talked a little.

Yesterday I was excited to see him under the overpass waiting on us. I wasn’t sure I’d get to see him again. I went over to tell him how happy I was to see him again. He just smiled. Then he quietly got his lunch, sat and ate it. He doesn’t seem to separate himself from others really. He’ll sit nearby and listen and grin from time to time.

Right before we were leaving, I wanted to talk to him again. I’m really not good at talking to people. I cannot stress that enough. But I wanted him to know he mattered to me. So I went back over and asked him where R was. I had learned he followed R to the group last time. He said he didn’t know and that he really didn’t know R that well. I said, “Oh.” Then after a minute he looked at me and said very quietly, “I really don’t like myself.” I was a little startled and not sure I heard him correctly because I really do have a hard time hearing people sometimes and he speaks very softly. So I stepped closer to him and said, “What?” And he repeated it. I asked him why. He said he didn’t know but he just didn’t and he didn’t know anyone. I’m telling you, heart to heart conversations and counseling sessions are not my thing. They really are not. You know how girls are known for being all emotional and caring…. That’s not me. I somehow missed that girl gene. I was somewhat lost. I told him that no matter what he thinks or feels that he matters, that he matters to me and that God loves him. He mumbled, “I know.” Then I pointed to the group and asked, “do you know any of the other fellas here?” He said no, so I turned to C and Q and introduced them to him. Q, immediately started talking about his shoes and invited him to follow him back to his place, the parking deck, to see if he had some shoes that would fit him. I could have hugged Q’s neck for that. I wasn’t sure that was the thing to do really but I couldn’t imagine living on the streets and feeling so alone. Before they left, one of the guys for the ministry prayed for Q and C and he prayed for T too. I heard him but I think T had stepped to the side so I’m not sure he heard it. I hope he did. Prayer is so powerful and it’s always nice to know people are praying for you. I assume that’s true even if you don’t know if you believe.

If you read this, feel free to pray for T and pray for the people in the ministry and me to have the words to encourage T. He broke my heart this week. I don’t know his story but I want him to be happy. I want him to have hope.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Friends on the Street

Yesterday, I was back down at the overpass. We had a lot of people go down there with us this time. I think there were 12 of us that ended up down there. When we arrived, there were 7 or 8 men waiting on us. Most of them were new or newer faces. By the end of the day we had served about 15 men under the overpass and the leftovers had once again been delivered to others on the street. So, I’m not really sure how many men were fed yesterday.

Last week I told you that Q had been attacked and unable to come to lunch. But he showed up yesterday with a smile and a hug. He and C stood together. They always seem to stick together. I asked them how long they had known each other. C answered me, “About 8 months.” That’s when C moved into the parking garage that Q had been living in for 2 years. They’ve been looking after each other ever since. Q was quick to tell me that when he had been hurt last week, C walked with him to the hospital. And when he got out the next day, C was there waiting for him. Then C spoke up and said that when he is sick, Q is there to take care of him. (C suffers seizures). Q said, “We’re all each other have.” I really like the two of them. I wanted to tell him that’s not true, that they had me. But, I didn’t say that because I don’t know that it’s true. I do care about them but I show up for a couple of hours each week, when I can. They don’t really have me to count on in all circumstances. I am such a small part of their weeks. And, of course, that is what makes JM, who heads the ministry, so special. He is committed to the men he meets on the streets. He is their advocate. They really do have him to count on.

One of the things I’ve learned over the past few months is that people really aren’t that interested in the homeless. Sure, they are interested the first couple of times it is mentioned but after that, they lose interest and seem to wish I’d shut up about it. But I can’t. What I see happening is so amazing and such a blessing. How can I not talk about what I see God doing? People get hungry every week. People need to know they matter every week. The blessing of being a part of that is huge and there is plenty to go around so no, I don’t think by showing up one Sunday that I shouldn’t have to show up again for a while. I’m not saying that’s true for everyone. People have different callings and passions but that is the sort of attitude I get sometimes, that maybe I should put other things ahead of my street friends from time to time. But, I don’t want to and honestly, I’d miss them. I’ve thought about C and Q a thousand times since I saw them yesterday. I look forward to seeing them next Sunday.

A coworker and I are planning the Sunday meal in a couple of weeks, She, RC, has been going down there on Sundays too. She has become such a blessing to me. It’s so wonderful to have someone to share experiences with, who understands them. Like C and Q, RC and I have a common bond. We work together and we spend our Sundays under the overpass. When someone on the street tells me a story, I know I can tell RC and she will understand and know what I mean and where I coming from. I am so grateful for her. We asked C and Q what they might like the day we cook lunch. Q asked “What?” then they both just laughed and said whatever we cook will be fine. I don’t guess anyone has asked them that question in a long time. We still don’t know what we’ll cook for them. I’m pretty sure it will involve beans and maybe some banana pudding but outside of that, I guess it’ll be a surprise for C and Q.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Out from Under the Overpass

"The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people from everyday Christian life in community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ; for in the poor sister or brother, Christ is knocking at the door." Dietrich Bonhoffer, Life Together

After we had given the men their lunches and their needs bags on Sunday, we had a lot of sack lunches left. So after leaving the overpass JM (the leader of the ministry) drove us around the streets looking for other folks who looked in need of a meal. A couple of the fellas from the street had hopped in the back of the truck for a lift. We stopped by a brick warehouse that appeared to be abandoned. There was a large cardboard box laid out on a porch. An older man was there sleeping. I was told, “that’s his place”…. Meaning that’s his home. JM knew him, and said that he could talk your ear off. I wondered if that was a God given talent… (If you are an introvert like me you see that as a gift) or did he spend so much time alone that when he found someone to talk to he just couldn’t shut up.

After leaving there we went by a gas station where a couple was standing. JM knew them too. He said they were bad news. They refused our meals and we left quickly. They were most likely up to no good and perhaps smoking some crack. I don’t know and I don’t want to know but they made me nervous. JM told us a little more about them in the car. They definitely live a shady lifestyle and I never want to come across either one of them alone.

From then on I kept glancing to the back of the truck to see how our friends reacted to people we saw. If they smiled and waved I felt better. Finally, we stopped by Lynn Park. We gave a guy a meal and as soon as we did we had about 50 people rush the truck. PW, one of our friends in the back of the truck said, “This is trouble.” We gave all the food we had away and there were still 20 or 30 people who didn’t get a lunch. We gave them bottled waters. Many of the folks at the park were not happy with us for running out of food. They scowled and turned their backs on us. J a new fella who had come to the overpass for the first time that Sunday was in the back with PW. He gave his sack lunch away to one of the men at the park. That was such a generous thing to do, but the recipient didn’t even thank him. Stopping by the park was a very eye-opening experience for me. In a weird way the Overpass in its own way was a comfort zone for me. I know the rules there. I know the people there. And although I have a healthy respect for what it is I’m doing there and my surroundings, there is a sort of comfort in it. But seeing another side of homelessness was shocking and even more heartbreaking. I wonder if there is hope for some of the people I saw there. How trapped are they by that lifestyle? It is a sort of community. Do they want that lifestyle? It’s very dark there, I almost never want to go to that park again. In the past, for various reasons I’ve gone through that park several times. I will never go there again without being more aware of my surroundings, without knowing that the girls on the corner, they aren’t just hanging out. It’s a very scary, heartbreaking world. I’m sad for them. I dont know what to do but pray for them.

C's Birthday

I feel there is so much to say about what I’ve seen happening in downtown Birmingham since I started going down on Sunday afternoons. I don’t know that I can actually catch you up.

But I will tell you about yesterday…. beginning with last Sunday. Last Sunday after helping serve the food I was sort of standing around awkwardly. I’m an awkward girl so that’s what I do. Since I’m also kind of a quiet girl…. That adds to the awkwardness. So I was standing around being odd when R drove up on his bike. R is one of my favorites. Is it odd or bad that I have favorite homeless men? I feel like I shouldn't but I do. R is a younger fellow. I’d guess him to be around 25. I have no idea what his story is but I like him and as soon as I saw him drive up, I was happy. I knew I’d have someone I could say hello to. He came over and gave me a hug and we talked about sunglasses, ice cream, and the weather. Then he started talking to another fella from the ministry team. So, I went over to say hello to a couple more guys from the street that seem to hang out together. Q and C. Q is probably in his 40s. I don’t know his story either. But, he is always nicely dressed. He’s dirty but his clothes are nice. So, Q tells me that next week (yesterday) was C’s birthday. At that point, C took off telling me about how he was going to walk proudly down the street on his birthday and drink a big ol’ Dr. Pepper. He went on and on about that Dr. Pepper and he seemed excited that he would get to spend his birthday with us.

So… now to yesterday. Knowing how important it was to C that it was his birthday I had gotten him a button that flashed Happy Birthday, and a small cooler with some ice and Dr. Peppers. I put it in a grocery bag with his name on it so it would blend in with other bags we had for the fellas. A coworker of mine had dropped off some cupcakes from Savages for him as well. I also kept those out of site for most of the afternoon. People get jealous of what the others get so I didn’t want to cause trouble or hurt any feelings. But as soon as we got to the overpass where we meet on Sundays I went over to give him a birthday hug and put his birthday pin on him. Immediately he started talking about his birthday Dr. Peppers. He said he had walked to the train station and paid $2.50 for a bottle of Dr. Pepper that morning only somehow he lost it. I think he said he put it down to do something and went back and it was gone. But he seemed happy to have gotten a few sips from it. Q wasn’t able to come to the overpass yesterday because earlier in the week someone who stayed in the same rundown building had beaten him up and injured him. I can’t imagine living in such a way. I worried for Q and felt sad for C because even his friend couldn’t help him celebrate his birthday. KM (a lady who heads up a lot of what the ministry does) walked over and joined us. She asked him how his birthday was going. He said it was better now but he had woken up sad because he was alone and didn’t have anyone to celebrate with. So KM told him we had something for him and we gave him the cupcakes and I told him about the Dr. Peppers. We sang Happy Birthday to him and he was so pleased and excited. We gave him so little and it meant so much to him. I think the only way I would have looked that pleased and excited is if someone had decided to pay off my mortgage.

R was also there again. He came over to me and very proudly showed me his “new” tennis shoes. These were shoes the ministry had been able to get for him from a local running shop. They were used but they looked brand new. R was so grateful for them. He told me that when he picked up his needs bag last week that he had no idea he’d have shoes in the bag and that he was so excited when he saw them. He had needed some new shoes for at least a month. I’m a little worried I didn’t respond to R as well as I should have because I was so focused on C and his birthday. I wouldn’t want to hurt R’s feelings for the world and he was so appreciative.

These men are such blessing to me… These men are homeless… and they bless me. I sort of wonder why that is. How can I be blessed by their poverty? Am I blessed because they are grateful to me for little things? That makes me feel like a bad person. But, I do care about them. I think about them all the time… When I’m outside and hot, I wonder if they’ve found a cool place to rest. Even today in the public bathroom at work when I saw toilet paper on the ground and a smudge on a door, I snarled a little at it not being perfectly clean and then I thought about my homeless friends and how they didn’t have bathrooms like I do let alone toilet paper. It’s a different world for some people. And most times we all just walk by and not even blink at it. It’s amazing.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


For several months now I have been going downtown with a local ministry to help serve lunch to the homeless and to help meet their needs. The ministry's goal is to build relationships with the folks on the street, to tell them the good news of Christ and to offer them hope and a way out if possible.

Someone this past week thanked me for my servants heart. But I don't have a servants heart. I have a grateful heart. I cannot believe God has blessed me with the opportunity to see Him in action each week. Granted he is in action around me all the time. But this is an out of the box, away from the church building... In the dark sort of thing... Where people don't really have hope. They don't have a bed or a change of clothes. They don't even have a toilet, much less hope for a better tommorow. They are sick, they are addicted, they are without work and they need to be loved. They need to see God's love in action and they need to know of a hope in Christ. They need to know they matter. That Christ paid a high price for them and they are of great value...

And each Sunday I am privilidged to see the Love of God at work. It is an awesome blessing and I am honored beyond words to be a part of it. And I can't keep from talking about it.

So maybe instead of annoying my friends as much with these stories on twitter and facebook maybe I'll blog them. I can't promise to stop the tweets but I will try.

And fair warning, I am not above taking the clothes off of your back for my friends downtown. Especially if you happen to be a man.