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.