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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tears


Tears. It was that kind of day.
From a mother with 4 kids stranded in LR who is helped to feed them and get them 3 hours back to their home.
From a man who has failed so many times at getting things right, but asks the Lord for one more try.
...
From a man who was found on the ground behind the dumpster this morning. Badly beaten , broken and bloody. (Thank the Lord for ambulances and paramedics)
From a middle aged lady who received her new teeth today,
and when she saw herself in the mirror was overcome with joy.
Praise the Lord for providing whatever is needed. Tenth chances, healing hands, a way home and a new smile.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Not Just a Homeless Shelter



A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you how proud I am of Mieka, one of our summer interns. Today I want to tell you about one of our other interns, Jake. I could write about the heart he has for the hurting and brag on how well he is doing, but instead I will just share what he wrote about his experience, it says more than I ever could.

The Ministry: Part 1
I have not had the opportunity to share my views on here lately but now I am going to share something quite different. This summer I am an intern at an inner city church and a ministry for the impoverished. The latter of the two is commonly referred to as a homeless shelter, but that could not be further from the truth, which I will address later. I want to share my experiences here and attempt to recreate the shock and enlightenment I have received in these short two weeks.
 
I would like to start with explaining why I carefully chose my words and wrote ministry for the impoverished. Someone came up to me one day last week and asked me how the homeless shelter was going. The first emotion that raced through my veins was anger. But, as I stopped and thought about it, I remembered that I thought the same thing before I started working there. See, the clients (the term used for the people at the ministry) are not all homeless. Are there some clients here that are homeless? Absolutely. However, there are people here who have their own place, who have a job, but have just run into some absolutely terrible luck and turned to this ministry. 

Every week I want to share an uplifting story that shows how God moves in this ministry that I either see or experience myself. Every day before lunch is served there is a devotional, and if you attend you have first dibs at the line. Yesterday I was supposed to lead the devotional (A short 10-15 minute) sermon, and to be honest I completely forgot. When I got to the ministry I immediately began writing trying to fill time and get through it without too much embarrassment. I was about 3 seconds away from getting up and telling the director of the ministry that I was not prepared to give my sermon, but before I could get up a man walked in to the office I was in and asked me if I could listen. He did not ask for a conversation, he asked me to listen. He sat down on the chair across from me in the 15 square foot office and shut the door. My mind and heart were racing because my immediate supervisor was on vacation and this was the first time I had one-on-one interaction. The man then began to proceed to tell me everything that he thought was going wrong in his life. His girlfriend was being argumentative so he turned to alcohol. His alcohol abuse turned him to cocaine. His cocaine turned him to pornography. By the time his benders were over he cursed himself and told himself he was the scum of the earth. He had an incredible knowledge of the Bible and as he was explaining what was going on he would stop and quote the verse where he knew it said what he was doing was wrong. He kept emphasizing that he had judged himself to harshly and that he could not forgive himself for what he had done.

I sat there and listened completely and utterly astounded. The exact thing that he was talking about struggling with was the same thing I was addressing in my sermon that I almost backed out of. We talked until the devotional had to start and when I went up to the makeshift podium, there was a sense of incredible calm in me. Not 20 minutes earlier, my knees were shaking and here I was smiling and joking like I had done this a million times. The devo started with the most beautiful singing I had ever heard. There were people missing notes left and right, and there were people not even singing at all, but the situation we were in made those few songs absolutely beautiful. I gave my sermon and it was received beautifully. I kept looking at the man who talked with me earlier and he just kept smiling and nodding his head. Afterwards he told me he wanted to fix what he had done. He wanted to end the cycle that he thought never ended. This morning I helped set him up with a local cocaine anonymous group, something I never thought I would say as long as I lived. But God has always had a sense of turning what you know and what you want upside down. This internship has already been one of the greatest physical and spiritual experiences of my life. The even better news: I still have seven more weeks.

 Luke 9:2 “He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal”

In Him,

Jake Russenberger

Posted on June 16 by jrussenberger at thenarcolepticpenguin.wordpress.com

Thank God we have young people like Mieka, Jake, Tori, and Sara who are willing to dedicate their summers to this work because of a clear understanding of who Christ is and what he expects of us. Please pray for God to bless these wonderful interns and send us more people with beautiful hearts like theirs. 

*Picture used by permission and does not show the man described in the story.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Seeing Jesus

Actually seeing Jesus is life changing! Paul's Christian journey which lead to the founding of numerous churches, countless converts, and the shaping of Christianity as we know it all began with seeing Jesus. It shook up this man's world and lead him to change his life and follow his true calling.
Sadly, many Christians claim they've never seen Jesus and don't expect to, unless it's when they meet Him in the air. But, I encourage you to do as the song says: "Take a look, open your eyes, He's here in plain view."


Jesus takes many forms, but you can be sure, anywhere the love of God is being shared, you can find Him there. I caught a glimpse of Him just the other day. Mieka is one of our summer interns, and she's just the person we needed. She can sit down and talk with anyone, she shares her love freely, and serves gladly in any way she can. Probably the greatest strength I've seen in Mieka is that she intuitively knows who is hurting and needs a little extra help and attention. Mieka helps Deb in our Ladies Bible Study, and this is what I saw:


That, dear friends, is were I saw my Lord. I see His face and His heart in Mieka's love and care for the hurting. She took time to make one of the most fragile women I know feel loved, safe, and special. Wherever the hurting find healing, the lonely find love, and the weary find a friend to share their load, you can see Jesus there.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Grateful

       After a long night studying for my midterm, I finally crawled into bed and began my regular routine of bedtime prayer followed by listening to an audiobook until sleep comes. At 2:40, my 20 month old, who still can’t grasp the concept of sleep, woke me up. By 4:45, she finally started sleeping steadily, but I couldn’t sleep. I gave up, got up, and grumbled all the way to the shower. As I brewed, I remembered a lesson I learned a long time ago.

I often visited RCM before I began my apprenticeship. The youth group and I would worship with River City Church and then prepare lunch at the ministry. At that time, my understanding of serving the poor amounted to a vague sense that Jesus expected us to do something for the poor. One visit, I sat talking with the first person I ever met who lived under a bridge. I thought trolls were the only people living under bridges, and furry green grouches were the only people living in trash cans (since, I’ve met several people, no grouchier than you or me, who spend nights huddled in dumpsters to stay safe and dry). I couldn’t help but think how devastated I would be if this was my life. Church service began while I sat stunned, not knowing what to say. Not knowing what to do. That same man got up and reminded us of what we had to be thankful for, but maybe not in the way you think. He didn’t tell us how blessed we were, no, he told us how blessed he was.

“God has seen me through so much. I should be dead, but He protected me when I was in a gang, even when I had a knife to my throat, He protected me. He didn’t let my sin or my stupidity get in the way. He showed me patience. He let me wake up to a warm dry day, He made it a joy to be outside. He gave me a family here that loves and accepts me. He gave me time to come to Him, time to change. So today, I get to walk in His world, enjoy its beauty, and listen to what His creation tells me about Him.”

When he finished, those of us who knew his story sat in tears. I have a wife, children, job, and home and I don’t wake up that thankful. He taught me that we choose the tone of our narrative, we don’t have to just whistle along to the devil’s tune. He, like Paul, learned to be content in whatever state he found himself (Phil. 4:11). Not just content, grateful.

I stood this morning at the bathroom mirror, I recalling that lesson and staring ingratitude in the face. I thanked God for my beautiful, healthy, precious, sleepless children. It changed my attitude. I went to watch the sunrise over one of my favorite spots on earth. I listened to the choir of birds and babbling brook and, like my teacher, listened to what God’s creation taught me about Him. God speaks as loudly through the hard concrete slab beneath a bridge as He does through the beauty of the sunrise. God speaks everywhere and through everything if we have the ears, eyes, and heart to recognize it. I pray you find the words of this dear brother as life altering and comforting as I have.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

My Shawn


“Good morning Shawn.” Mrs. Lilly said for about the hundredth time. Mrs. Lilly has a little place of her own, lives alone, and finds comfort in the community aspect of RCM. She visits us about 3 times a week and always greets me this way. It would be really sweet, except my name isn’t Shawn!


Mrs. Lilly is one of the first people I met upon coming to RCM. She has no teeth, and can be difficult to understand, but she loves to sing. She sings old spirituals, new praise songs, old church standards, and especially songs of her own invention set to the tune of old classics. She reads everything she can get her hands on (including an entire encyclopedia set, article by article, someone donated) and asks me every day if I have something new for her to read. And I better never give a book to anyone else unless I also have a copy for her or she says “I’m gonna get you Shawn!” Again, this is not my name! I found it hard to believe that someone that is on this familiar of a level with me could not know my name.

Finally, one day I said, “I’m not Shawn, Mrs. Lilly, I’m Steven.”

“You’re my Shawn.” She said. Now I was even more confused! But, hey, if this sweet old lady insists on calling me another name, what’s the harm?

Then the craziest thing happened. Mrs. Lilly brought a friend to meet me and she said “This is Steven, he’s my shawn, the preacher.” And it finally hit me! She wasn’t saying Shawn at all! She was calling me her son this whole time! As I mentioned, her toothless speech can be hard to understand. Here I was feeling that she didn’t even bother to remember my name and the whole time she loved me enough to call me her son! How often do we miss what we mean to people and what they really mean to us? How often do we miss the blessings of human connection and compassion that God gives us? Sometimes I have to take a step back and realize the blessing of being where I am and having the place in people’s lives, and the people in my life, that I do.

“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits” - Psalm 103:2 NIV

“That is why you are no longer foreigners and outsiders but citizens together with God’s people and members of God’s family” - Eph. 2:19 GW