Luke 24:1-7 "But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn't find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, "Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn't here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day."
Praise God!! Jesus has risen!!! Easter Sunday was a wonderful day on North First Street. It wasn't like any Easter that I have ever spent before. I did not have a dress on, but rather my North 1st St. work pants and my tennis shoes. I brought down boxes of toilet paper and sewing kits instead of pots of Easter Lilly's. We spent time looking for shoes in the correct size or the right size jeans rather than looking for Easter Eggs. Church service was standing room only but not because the church was so packed but rather because our people are more comfortable standing than sitting down in an aisle of chairs.
We had 30 wonderful volunteers serving spaghetti, french bread, cookies, and snacks. The sun was shining down on God's people who had come together to fellowship and worship Him! It was beautiful. Our North 1st St. friends gathered together in line with smiles and hand shakes as they waited in line to get their food. After the meal was served, Keith brought out a starter tree that he had picked up at the local Fred Meyers. We formed a large circle around the tree and Keith proceeded to share with our North 1st St. friends how the tree was going to be called the "Freedom Tree" because it represented the freedom that Jesus offers to all. Freedom from oppression, addictions, and all of the things that bind and terrorize them. Many people gathered around curious as to what was happening. The day was not following its normal routine. A circle was formed around the tree while those who wanted little to do with the celebration, hung back against the near by wall- watching from a safe distance. It was really neat though because before Keith began to speak, he started off singing. It is amazing how people respond to music. As Keith started singing, "Jesus Loves Me" acapella , people pressed in closer then he wrapped it into "Oh How He loves You and Me", followed by "Because He lives." I think it helped draw in our homeless friends who weren't quite sure what to expect. Keith walked around the circle and continued singing until the last notes were to be sung. He definitely had their attention. Many of the people knew the words and sang along softly at first and then louder as their confidence grew. Some wept as his songs moved into words. Keith began to explain how Jesus was sent down from heaven to free all of us from our sins and from oppression. He also explained that it was on a tree that Jesus was hung to suffer for our sins and that Jesus ascended into heaven on the 3rd day. Now He offers eternal life to those who want to receive Him.
Keith explained salvation and he invited anyone interested in salvation or in re-dedicating their lives. As a group we followed Keith in a prayer of salvation and re dedication. Following the salvation message, Keith's brother Brian explained communion and what it stands for. As a group, those who were interested took communion and celebrated the body and blood of Christ together. It was beautiful! Here we were on North 1st St., standing in the middle of an empty lot in a big circle, under the beautiful Easter Sunday skies, people from all different backgrounds, ethnic groups, age groups, and socio-economic groups stood around giving praise to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for dying on the cross so that we all can have everlasting life. From earthly standards it looked like volunteer standing by drug addict, standing by prostitute, standing by volunteer, etc. but from a heavenly perspective it looked like..... sinner standing next to sinner standing next to sinner and then with Jesus----; forgiven standing next to forgiven standing next to forgiven.... A truly beautiful Easter Sunday in My book!!!
After our short but memorable service, we brought out the cake and celebrated Jesus' Resurrection as well as birthdays for the month and milestones that were so important to those who were making them. There is something special about celebrating 2 weeks of sobriety with people who really do care. Next we brought out the boxes of clothes and toiletries. The day continued with physical needs met as well as spiritual needs. People stood around and fellowshipped for some time until finally the last good byes was said and hugs were given.
We were exhausted, but so fulfilled! Jesus allowed us the pure joy and honor of being His ambassadors. Jesus, You are our Mighty Lord and Savior! Thank You so so much for dying on the cross for our sins!!
Thank you also for all of those who donated their time, money, food, and clothes to those who are dying to find out about the One who died for them! You are so appreciated!