Reach Out Day 4 & 5

Day 4:  Practical Acts of Kindness. Currently, A popular trend in evangelism is to go out and do practical acts of kindness…little (or sometimes big) actions that make people stop and think, why are you doing this? The acts of kindness range from washing people’s windsheilds while they gas up their car to holding a free car wash.   Pretty much, any act of kindness can be considered evangelism if the goal is to get people thinking about God and His love towards us.  This form of evangelism is mostly comfortable and easy for anyone to do.  It doesn’t take deep biblical knowledge or years of following Christ to tell someone that God loves them while handing them a bottle of water.

Thursday, we tried out our very first “Acts of Kindness” outreach.  We started by taking rolls of quarters to a local laundry mat.  The goal was to pay for people’s loads of laundry and talk with them while helping fold their clothes or carry baskets to their cars.  To our surprise, there were only  3 people at the usually busy laundry mat.  One guy flat out refused to let us help.  He wasn’t rude, just hesitant…but he watched us interact with the other two people we did get to help.  The woman I helped spoke no English, but love and kindness transcends all languages.  Between my broken Spanish and her broken English, we were able to carry on small chitchat.  Before she left, one of our guys spoke with her in Spanish and we were able to pray with her and her children!

Since the laundrymat had emptied and we were just standing around, we decided to head over to Wylie’s Music in The Park Night.  It’s a free concert.  My thinking was Free outdoor concert +  Public Park  = Hot & thirsty people.  Handing out free water and popsicles to the kids would be a great act of kindness.   We toted our couple hundred waters and popsicles over to the park only to see that another church had the same idea…except they had several huge bounce houses, free pizza, and free sodas.  By no means are we in competition with other churches; God’s Kingdom is God’s Kingdom no matter who presents the Truth, right?  Since the people attending that concert would be ministered to by the other church, we took our stuff to a different park…a park crowded with people! There were more people to talk to here than at the concert.  Making our way around the park, we explained who we were and what we were doing.  Many people initially gave us funny looks, and some even asked the question we wanted to hear “WHY?”  And happily we told them…“To simply show you God’s love in a practical way”

Day 5:  Servant Evangelism at The Friendship House.  If you’ve been following my blog long enough, you’ve heard me talk about The Friendship House (aka FH).  It’s a Christian organization in downtown Garland that provides food, clothing, furniture, household items, and some financial help for people in Rowlett, Sachse, and Garland.  I used to work for FH and still strongly support their work.  The Director and the volunteers that serve there deeply love the Lord and truly love and care for the people that come to receive help.  They never turn away anyone…even if someone comes who does not live in our area, they’ll still not let them walk out empty handed.  It’s truly a place where people’s physical and spiritual needs are met.  Friday, we spent several housing working at the Friendship House…the children and teens helped watch the children, the woman worked with the clothing and food, and the men did some appliance deliveries and helped in the food pantry.

Reach Out Day 3: Jonathan’s Place

In 2008, in Dallas County alone, there were over 5,000 children removed from their families and placed in foster homes or facilities*.  These children, ages newborn to 17, have faced abuse of all kinds, neglect, and abandonment.  Under the Family Protective Services, both children and parents are held to high standards and must meet specific requirements in order for the family to be restored.  Until the children can be returned to the parents, many remain in a group home, institution, or foster home.

One such Children’s Shelter is Jonathan’s Place,  “a ‘home-style’ emergency shelter for abused, abandoned, and neglected children.” Currently they only have about10 children, but numbers change almost daily as children either return home or get moved to a foster home and new ones come in.  Most days, especially in the summer, the children remain at the shelter and do not get to venture outside the walls much.  Although the facility is very nice (& expanding with renovations), the children long to get out & have some fun.

Yesterday we gave them an opportunity to get out by hosting a picnic/grill out at a local park.  About 40 of us gathered together, ate hot dogs, and played some kickball.  Our purpose was not to try to “save” them or counsel them with Scripture; we simply wanted to show God’s love through our friendship and acceptance.  The children from the shelter seemed to feel comfortable with us, and overall we all had a great time.

The cookout was the start of a partnership with Jonathan’s Place.  From here on, we’ll be providing dinner and activities once a month.  I anticipate that we’ll get to build better relationships with the kids and a chance to speak Jeremiah 29:11 into their lives:

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.

*taken from the Dallas Family Protective Services 2008 data book.

Reach Out Day 2: Food Distribution

“He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.” Proverbs 19:17

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,” Matthew 25:34-35

Throughout the Bible, our Lord commands us to take care of people – to feed the hungry & thirsty, to clothe the naked & cold, to support the widows,  tend to the sick, visit those in prison.  On & On He reminds us to look outside of ourselves and to reach out to our hurting neighbors. I don’t take this command lightly.  I know I can’t reach everyone who hurts or who is in need, but I can do my little part and pray that God is doing something Big through my actions.

Last night, 7 members of my church gathered up the bags of food we aquired from the food drive and headed out to 9 families who are in need of some extra help.  The families ranged from single moms with school age children to an elderly couple and to young parents with small children.  But all had 2 things in common:  they were hungry.  They needed encouragement & reassurance that everything will be okay.

When I first contacted the families about our gifts of food, most received it without any hesitation.  One lady (“Melba”), after hearing my offer, busted out in sobs, explaining that she’s at the point of giving up.  She’s raising her Middle school grandson, but hasn’t been able to work due to some medical issues.  Now that school’s soon to start, she’s feeling more pressure than ever before, but she feels hopeless.   I talked with her for a little while and guided her to additional organizations that may be of further assistance.

The next day, i received a phone call from Melba.  After having a day to think about it, she had grown scepticle of who I was and why I wanted to help.  She just couldn’t understand why some random person would want to help out someone she didn’t even know.  She put me through a round of questions and then said okay.  But i guess it wasn’t okay because an hour or so later she called back and simply said, “I don’t know you and have to think about my grandson’s safety.  Thanks for the offer but I’ve changed my mind.”  Then Melba hung up.

To make a long story short..Melba ended up doing her own investigation and found out the truth of who I am and that what our church was doing was legit, so she profusely apologised to me and greatfully accepted the food.

But Melba’s story got me thinking.  Aren’t we all weary of the gifts promised to us?  Don’t we doubt the Truth and go through fazes of acceptance and denial?

Through His Scripture we read of the many promises that God has for us.  Upon first reading of His promises, we are thankful and excitedly anticipate seeing those promises birth in our lives.  Then, the more we think about them and look at our circumstance, we begin to question their authenticity.  We begin to doubt that those promises are really for us…how could it be True?  Look at how I live.  Look at my circumstances.  God wouldn’t bless me! We forget that God is Love and takes care of His children…we just may not see the promises unfold the way we want them to unfold in the timing that we want them to come.

But we should be like Melba, too.  We need to investigate the Truth to the point where we can’t deny the authenticity of God’s promises.  Where His Word isn’t just head knowledge (where doubt can interfere), but embedded deeply into our hearts where nothing can move us from the Truth.

Many of the people we visited yesterday don’t even have the head knowledge of God.  The ones who do, believe only in a God who is inactive and simply just watching us suffer.  They’ve forgotten the love, hope, & purpose found in Him. Just by offering them food, we’ve been able to show them that God has not forgotten them and that He loves them.  As our members prayed with them, I believe that God worked in their hearts and am praying that one day they will fully grasp the promises of God!

If you can’t go out of the country…

I love overseas mission work. Every year I try to go to at least one other country to do some ministry.  This year, however, I’ve not been able to leave for various reasons.  Originally, I had planned a trip to Mexico for our church members, but, again, for various reasons, we had to cancel that trip.

So, I got to thinking that if I can’t go out of the country for a mission trip…I’ll bring the mission trip to my neighborhood.  This week starts our local mission trip – a weeklong series of ministry right here in our area.  Some days I’ve partnered with other organizations, while others I’ve just found stuff for our members to do.  I’m completely stressed out about it, but am having fun and know that God is behind this and is going to work great things all for His glory.

Today was our first outreach:  a neighborhood food drive.  Last Monday, myself and a few members of our church (Livingway Church) passed out flyers in the neighborhood asking for food donations.  This morning we returned to the same neighborhood to pick up the food that the residents donated.  The morning started out with pouring rain, but by the time we drove to the neighborhood, the rain had let up.  As we drove down the first street, we noticed that no one had any food on their porches.  My heart sank and a small panic started to rise…How are we going to deliver food to families if we have no food? But I continued to stand strong in my faith that God would provide exactly what we needed.

At the end of the first street, a large box, taped shut, sat on someone’s front porch.  Josh, my husband, thought that it was a delivered package and not for us, but we decided to check anyways…sure enough it was a huge box of food with our flyer taped to it.

By the end of the food drive, we had enough food to fill up 20 grocery bags – which we’ll give to 9  families (about 30 people)!  Tomorrow we will deliver the food to these families, talk & pray with them.

When chaos thrives

It seems that almost everyone I know, including myself, currently faces difficult situations in our lives.  From illnesses, loss of jobs, stressful family situations, and other sources of discouragement and pain, it seems that nothing is turning out right and blessings are few and far between.

Humanly speaking, we have every reason to rush to judgments, panic, bitterness, unforgiveness, and anger. We quickly look at our circumstances and wonder why these situations continue to come.  It is easy to look at all the chaos around us and become discouraged.  But discouragement, when allowed to fester, can have detrmintal results in our lives. God may seem distant, uncaring, or perhaps even absent. We forget that we are fearfully & wonderfully made and created with a purpose.

However, the truth is that, as Children of God, we are to “Walk by Faith, Not by Sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7)  And we walk by faith by trusting God – remembering that He is our Sovereign Lord.  He knows what is happening in our lives – he allowed these things to happen!  God is in all our life’s circumstances (the good and the bad), working for us, not against us.  God is at work, despite the difficulty of your situation and even when you can’t see or understand what He’s doing.

And beyond that…He gives us Wisdom and strength to face our circumstances with victory. When we take our eyes off our situations, place our focus on Him, and strive to Know Him, we become full of His truth.  Psalm 119:105 says that “His Word is a lamp to [our] feet and a light to [our] path.” By meditating on His Word and then applying it to our lives, we will lead us through these times of trials and straight into where He wants us to be. He is Faithful to show us what we need to do!

But it’s all a choice.  A choice to meditate on Truth or listen to the lies that bring us down.  A choice to praise & thank God during the hard times.  A choice in our attitudes, actions, and thoughts.  Choose today to engulf yourself with the Promises of God and meditate upon his many blessings!

This morning on the radio, I heard a devotional that speaks directly on this topic.  The following paragraph is from God to you.

Draw Near To Me with a thankful heart, aware that your cup is overflowing with blessings.  Gratitude enables you to perceive Me more clearly and to rejoice in our love-relationship.  Nothing can separate you from My loving Presence!  That is the basis of your security.  Whenever you start to feel anxious, remind yourself that your security rests in Me alone, and I am totally trustworthy.

You will never be in control of your circumstances, but you can relax and trust in My control.  Instead of striving for a predictable, safe lifestyle, seek to know Me in greater depth and breadth.  I long to make your life a glorious adventure, but you must stop clinging to old ways.  I am always doing something new within My beloved ones.  Be on the lookout for all that I have prepared for you.

an overdue update

Last time you heard from me I was at the beginning of a battle against an enemy that I knew little about. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read it HERE).  Many things have happened since then, and I can say that the battle has been much easier than anticipated.  I’m still not ready to publicly reveal  the issues, mainly because we still don’t know 100% what they are; however, the issues are manageable.  Turns out that this enemy is much more puny that I originally thought.

One of the biggest accomplishments came through a Fast (which you can read about HERE)  I’ve done fasts, including the Daniel fast, in previous years.  Each one was a true test of discipline…and I usually failed at them by “cheating” with a nibble of cookie or glass of tea.  This time, I stayed strong and focused.  Sweets and prohibited foods truly did not have any temptation on me!  After 10 days on the strict diet, I felt so clean and renewed…and felt God saying, “see, you CAN do it!”  Self-doubt has become replaced with confidence.  Not just in my eating habits, but in many areas.

Thanks for your prayers…they’ve worked!

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