Sunday, March 31, 2013

Beauty for Ashes- Easter Morning :0)

Psalm 30:5   For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 30: 10-12  Hear me, LORD, and have mercy on me. Help me, O LORD."

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,

that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever!
These verses fit my weekend... slightly odd maybe for an Easter Blog... but real to  my life.  For whatever reason, Saturday was a very dark day for me.  I couldn't seem to shake a deep sorrow as well as an anger that was with me all day.  I did not feel like myself at all....I felt like laying in bed all day crying...This is about as opposite my personality as you can get.  Depression hung in the air around me like thick dark smoke...It was a horrible feeling, but it gave me a little insight into the feelings that must lead a person to turn to drinking or drugs because it was a mental pain as well as a physical pain in my stomache.  I could see if you dealt with that kind of torment all the time how you would want to do anything to make it stop.  I prayed through the day and felt like I had been through a wrestling match.  I was physically as well as mentally exhausted by bed time.  My family knew that I was not myself and thankfully I have a praying husband who stayed a distance and continued to pray.  I felt it break right about midnight...and thankfully when I came in the morning!!!!
  Thank You Jesus!! I can't imagine living life with that kind of mental tourment and darkness but blessedly Jesus came to free us from that!  On the 3rd day... He rose again!!! Praise God!!

This Easter morning was quite the opposite of yesterday's darkness....Isaiah 61:30 says it best..."To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto thee beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of priase for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness. Oh, that you would choose life by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life!"

Keith and I woke up and headed down to North 1st to set up the tables for today.  We knew if was going to be a bit crazy this afternoon so we wanted a bit of a jump on it.  Men from the mission came out to help us and we in turn were able to minister them one on one with out a lot of business around us.  I had a great talk with "Carolina".  What a beautiful heart this man has.  He is the man who had his birthday last week and who has been clean of heroine for 3 years.  Carolina shared with me that his family moved to the valley when he was 5 years old.  (He is now 61).  They moved here because they followed the agriculture, but ended up staying here.  His mom and dad were both alcoholics and died when they were 42 and 48 respectively.  His older brother died of a heroine overdose and his younger brother shot himself in the head with a "38" calibur.  Carolina's older sister lives in California and doesn't want anything to do with him and his younger sister is an alcoholic.  His middle sister passed also passed away.  Carolina has been living on the streets since he was 14 years old so they are not new to him, but what is so special about Carolina is that he carries Jesus in his heart every where he goes.  He shares Jesus with just about everyone he comes in contact with and you just know that he is special.  Carolina is an alcoholic, but Carolina knows Jesus!  Some people may say that if he truly knew Jesus then he would be freed from his addiction, but I beg to differ.  There are many soild christians who continue to be addicted to food/eating, sex, pornography, sports, work...those addictions do not indicate whether they are Christians or not...As Carolina sings, "With Jesus in your have love in your heart...and He will never go away!"  (Sung with a great Southern accent). 

And Praise Praise Praise Praise God we had 5 people who accepted the Lord!!! Salvation!!! Freedom!!!! Hope!!!!! Praise God!!!!  All because people were obedient today and listened to the Lord as they were being prompted to come out and serve.  Thankfully we had a ton of volunteers which was great because there were a ton of people!!! It was wonderful to see people on both sides of the table being ministered to.  The line of tables seemed to go on forever...and it was beautiful to watch people smiling, chatting, and loving as they were sharing back and forth with each other on the serving side of the table as well as the receiving side.  You don't have to be a theologean to spread God's love...just a willing heart.  North 1st St. is not just a program, I think what makes it different is the kindness and relationship that they stand in line is good, but I believe that the relationship is what they are drawn to .  Carolina said, "You guys are my family each week." is a privilage and an honor to be included as part of his family.  :0)

We never know from week to week how it is going to look.  We had a few ideas about what we would like to do since it is Easter, but it did not turn out the way we thought.  We ended up ministering to people one on one rather than giving one large message.  We prayed with everyone at the beginning and offered communion to them at a table set off to the side after they had gone through the food line.  Communion and prayer were offered individually if people wanted it.  What a blessing because each person out there is dealiing with their own unique set of circumstances and each have their own back grounds.  One of the people who accepted the Lord asked Keith, "What is communion?"  He had never heard of it, but wanted to know more.  Keith explained it to him and then shortly after that he saw the man over at the table receiving communion as well as Jesus in his heart!!! Praise God!!!

A young man named Jacob also met Keith.  He was interested in taking communion but wanted to know more about it.  He accepted the Lord in his heart and so Keith asked if someone would grab a bible.  Each of the bibles were signed with a personal message of encouragement.  "I'll never forget..." he said to Keith.  Keith and Jacob prayed together that Jacob would be able to see his daughter down in Texas as soon as he finished his program at the mission.  The program is about a year and a half- Jacob wants to be clean, wants to change his life around, and then wants to go see his 4 year old daughter.  Praise God!!! Be in prayer for him that he will be able to grow in his relationship with Jesus and will have the strength to meet his goals.

Keith has ministered to a guy for the past 6 months...just very casually... in line Keith always shakes his hand and says, "God isn't mad at you."  Keith didn't know the guy but he always said the same thing to him.  Well today the guy came up to Keith at the very end and asked if he could get some water, a pair of 32 pants, and a shirt.  Keith tried to stall a bit while he looked around for the man's requests....he did not feel very hopeful in finding his specific things because it was the very end of the day.  Keith's brother Brian heard them and promptly went to the trunk of his car and pulled out sweat pants, a sweat shirt, and a clean t-shirt for the guy.  Brian said that the Lord told him the day before to leave them in his trunk...  he didn't know why, but now he does!  :0)   Keith said, "See, things are gone, but look what the Lord has done.  He was planning for your today...yesterday... God has not forgotten you and is not mad at you."  The guy teared up and started to share that he was a para trooper in the army and that he has seen and done things that nobody should have to see or do.  Keith grabbed a bible for him and wrote his favorite verse- Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding, but in all things aknowledge Him and He will direct your path.  The young soldier said that right before they would jump out of the airplane- he and his other team would recite Psalm 23.  The guy opened the bible to the exact psalm and started reading it aloud to Keith.  By the time the soldier had finished the verse, Keith had big tears welling in his eyes.  He and the soldier prayed for healing hearts and that God would erase those things that go through the young man's head...."Always remember....God is not mad at you and He wants to comfort you." 

It is these types of stories that show how joy truly does come in the morning!!!  God's promises are real and He does not ever go back on them....God has great joy for every single one of us.  He does not promise us a perfect life here on  earth, but He does promise that He will never leave or forsake us!  He promises to exchange beauty for ashes and oil of joy for mourning!  The darkness of my yesterday was so radicaly different from my joy that I found this morning with my Risen Lord God and Savior!!   God did not just change my "emotional state", but rather through serving others...He healed my  hurts within.  God is my healer, my savior, my hope!!!

Thank you again to ALL of the amazing people with beautiful hearts that helped us to minister to our friends on North 1st street as well as to be ministered to by them as well.  May God bless you today and through out your whole week,  In Jesus Holy Name- Amen!


Sunday, March 24, 2013

About My Father's Business

  God's love is so beautiful!! This morning Keith got up and started his bible study like he always does...gets up, listens to worship music, takes time in prayer, and reads the word.  Well this morning, part way through...Keith felt the Lord prompting him to "Go set up for North First St."  Now??? thought Keith...At 8:00 in the morning?  The answer was a very clear "Yes" so off Keith went pulling the trailer behind him...headed for North First St.  Keith grabbed a few boxes of Don's Donuts to take down with him not knowing exactly who he would run into.  It is amazing the adventure that God takes you on when you are listening to the Holy Spirit.  Shortly into the drive Keith spotted "Ron", a man who appeared homeless...he had on his backpack and was carrying his sleeping bag as he walked down the road.  Keith pulled the car over and motioned for him to come over to the car.  The man walked over and gladly accepted the donuts as well as the invitation to come down at 2:00 for food and clothes.  Ben was the next guy that Keith came across along his journey.  Ben was leaning up against a building....just standing there....He was also so blessed to have something to eat.  He gladly accepted the donuts and water for him and his wife.  "God bless you!" called out the man as Keith drove away.

When Keith pulled into the Mission parking lot, a small group of men walked over and offered to help set up tables, cones, and rope to tie off the area.  Afterwards Keith offered them donuts and access to any clothes they might need.  They were so happy to be able to help and it wasn't until they were all finished that Keith brought out some of the clothes as well as stamped envelopes and stationary that were donated last week "It is so you can write somebody back home if you want."  A few of the men were very happy to have that.  "There are pens too!" shouted one of the guys..... pens too....We take a lot for granted!  Another of the men who helped set up said, "It helps take away some of the anxiety when you set the tables up early because then we know that you really are coming."  This gives a little peek into the minds of some of the people who suffer from mental illness.  We have come down every Sunday except for one week over the last 18 months and there is still anxiety over whether we will really make it down there or not.   :0(   Very sad to me because many people have been so let down by those people closest to them that they have a really hard time trusting anyone....even after 18 months.  When Keith was finished setting up, he told the men that he would see them at 2:00 and then off he drove headed for the shop to sort and load clothes for the day.  The sun was coming through the windshield and Keith could not stop praising God for how He beautifully orchestrated the morning.  God is so so good!

Act 1:8
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."  There were so many people who were witnesses of God's amazing beauty and provision today.  We had wonderful volunteers who  brought incredible food and love.  Good thing too because there were so so many people today.  When we drove up there was already a huge line.  Someone told Keith that they had started lining up at 1:15.  It is extremely humbling to serve Christ in this manner. 

In Luke 2:49 Jesus was questioned by his parents as to his where abouts.  Jesus replied, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?"  Today was a great day to be "about Yakima" doing our Father's business.  It was so fun sharing the Good News of the Lord!  It doesn't happen in a "normal" clean way where there is an attentive audience listening intently to your it looks much different....Like I run around like a chicken with my head cut off....scrambling from picking up trash to grabbing things that need to be hauled out of the truck...hugging Carolina after seeing his handsome cleanly shaven face and shampooed hair.  Never in 18 months have I seen him shaven and clean.  "I served in the mission kitchen today and helped Keith set up this morning," he beamed!  I have no idea what motivated Carolina to take those awesome steps... but something is happening in him!.....back to the food line....grabbing a plate of food for an older man who has a hard time walking ....bending down to open up the pack of water...which leads me closer to the clothes area so I wind up grabbing pants, socks, and boxers for a man...which leads me over to Glenn who is waiting patiently- resting against the back of the car.  We talk a bit and he tells me his health troubles, his random drug use for pain, and his difficulty setting boundries with people who use him.  Mid sentence I stop him and ask, "Do you know if you are going to heaven?"  I have hung out with Glenn for 18 months now and so I felt like the question was long overdue.   After rephrasing the question a half a dozen times, I felt confident that he really did know Jesus...Glen's mental instability handicaps him as much as any physical handicap.  Life is very confusing to him and very difficult to move through successfully.  ....back to check on everyone serving in the food line to make sure they don't need anything and I run into Marey......Marey who was a meth addict 3 months ago (went through re-hab and was baptized a couple weeks ago) was serving food in the line----food that she prepared for North First Street.....I hugged her and told her how beautiful it was to see her serving in line and how much her food was blessing those in need......back over to the front of the food line to try and figure how to bag up food for the river people to take with them.....It was great to share with our volunteers how their hard work preparing the food would bless the people who lived by the river for the next two or three days.  And trust me....the people by the river appreciate it so very much!  They do not have anything in their interactions with us that shows anything except true whole hearted appreciation that we think of them.  One man said, "Don't the people who prepared the food want to take the left overs  home? Don't they have families to feed?"  I was floored... he said it with all sincerity and finally accepted that we wanted to give it to him since he always shared it with his friends that live by him.  Another man told Tracy, "I'm a Vietnam Vet. and nobody wants to help us except you guys."  It isn't us... it is God's love that they are is overwhelming...totally joyful.....and the most beautiful thing to experience!!!

I headed to the truck once again to grab a bag of food that I had made up from home for a few of our homeless friends who always help us set up and serve.  They are so faithful every week to us that I wanted to give them a special thank you.  And nothing says thank you like some bread, eggs, milk, and pasta :0)    As I was headed over I saw one of our old friends who told us that he has been in an out of jail a lot the last month.  He was discouraged and afraid that he might be headed to prison because of avoiding parole.  I can't change his learning system or help the learning curve to improve any faster regarding life and consequences but I could offer prayer, a hug, and a compassionate ear.  I asked Chris if I could pray for him and he said, "Yes!"  After we prayed Chris thanked me and walked away.  I am so glad that he knows that he is always welcome and loved...even as he makes mistakes along the way. 

Two older women walked up at the very end and asked if we had any food left.  I had groceries in the back of the pick up that I had picked up right before I came down.  I knew that I had grabbed groceries for 7 people who were living in a motel room that I was supposed to deliver to after we were finished.  God knew that these two ladies would need food.  The longer we talked...the more we could see the wall of guardedness melt....The Lord provided them with food....paper towels...and hope!! Watching the ladies could see that the younger lady took care of the older one (but both were well into their 60's and maybe early 70's for the older lady).  "I am so glad that you have each other out here," I said.  "We need to because we only have each other."  I explained that we were there every Sunday at 2:00.  "Thank you," smiled the younger lady, "and God Bless You."  The ladies continued on over to the curb where they settled down and began to dive into the food that God provided! 

With our cars packed up...Keith and I headed out to one more stop.  The lady from last week who I thought had died because I hadn't seen her for so long called me today right before we headed out to North First St.  She and 6 other people were sharing a motel room.... all gathered together trying to survive...survive not only physically, but spiritually.  It's a room full of people with very hurt hearts.  We pulled up to their place and every one of them came out to meet us.  They thanked us repeatedly ...and you could feel the despair....the lady who called asked if Keith and I could give them words of hope...wisdom....and encouragement.  What we gave them was some of God's promises.  His promises hold the wisdom, the hope, and the encouragement. 

Another week finished...and another week overflowing with God's abundant joy.  Not the kind of joy that you feel when you get a Christmas gift...but the kind of joy that settles deep in the center of your being... a joy that is fulfilling and peaceful.  A joy that keeps us dis-satisfied with the thought of not going down each week...the kind that keeps us hungry for more... more of God's love flowing through us to His people.  I want to be "about doing My Father's business" for as long as God allows me to.  Thank You Jesus for Your unfailing Love!!! In Jesus Holy Name- Amen! :0)


Sunday, March 17, 2013

God Wants To Do Miracles....

2 Kings 4 tells about the poor widow who had nothing.  The poor woman called out to Elisha as he was going through her town...Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord.  But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves."  Elisha instructed her to go to her neighbors and to ask for empty pots for oil...not a few.... but many!  The poor woman did as she was instructed and she poured oil from her container into the pots.... the oil filled every last pot.  The woman was instructed to sell the oil to pay her debts and then keep the rest that was left over for her and her sons to live off of.  How  beautiful to see the faith of a poor woman...God remembered her faithfulness and met her needs.  She knew to fall at God's feet (or someone who was a prophet of God) in her time of need. 

In 2 Kings 4:8 the scripture continues to tell us about a different woman.  This story is entitled, "The Shunammite's Son Restored To Life".  The main character in this scripture is the opposite of the poor woman from the previous scripture.  The woman in this scripture is a well to do woman who on the outside appears to have everything that she needs.  She has plenty of food and many jars of oil.  It would appear as if all her needs were met...Yet she had a deep need that money couldn't take care of...she was barren... and she had lost faith that God remembered the desire of her heart.  Her hope was very low...It took Elisha to speak "hope" into her let her dare to "believe" that God may have a different plan for her future than the one that she had played out in her head....the one that did not include a child.  The woman finally opened her mind to the possibility of God hearing her cry....thanks to Elisha's insistence.  The  following year the woman had a baby.  The boy continued to grow until one day he grew ill...and appeared to have died...the woman could not accept the news and immediately went straight to the prophet who was her link to God.  Elisha stretched out over the dead boy's body....face to face...hand to hand....until the boy finally came back to life. 

There are so many miracles that God wants to do in our lives.  Whether rich or poor... we all have things to overcome as God tries to pull us towards our future.  God has greater things for us than we can imagine!  He knows the desires that live within the confines of each of our hearts.  Sometimes it is easy to think that we are fine....that we don't need anything.  We are comfortable in our lives with enough food and is easier to think that those "street people" obviously need the miracles...they need "help".  And yes... they do indeed need the help.  But too often it doesn't matter if you are poor or wealthy....we have dreams in our heart that are to scary to really dream upon...Sometimes people have been so let down, so discouraged by words of condemnation...that they dare not think too long about the flickers of hopes...and dreams...that live within.  The truth is that God wants to give us something great!!  Jeremiah 29:11  "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."

Today on North First I was able to witness a few of these answered prayers.... prayers that started as desires deep in the hearts of their owners.  Dreams of a life different than the one that each person was living.... dreams of being the person that lived inside....not the one that lived in the circumstances of life.  Marey was abused throughout her life and found it easier to do meth...than to feel the self hatred that she felt.  It was easier to numb herself than to face the names that her loved ones called her.  It was easier to leave her dreams boxed up inside until one day God's voice became louder than the outside voices.  God started whispering who she really was in Christ....Just nudges at first...enough to give her the strength to go into rehab.  She made it through rehab and has recently reached her 60th day clean!!! She was baptized 2 weeks ago and has rededicated her life to the Lord!  Today she came to North 1st to help serve in line instead of was while she was in line serving that someone tried to pull her back away from her dreams and put her in a prison cell made up of her past.  We were serving hotdogs and he made a very crude and degrading comment to her that was uncalled for.  I called him on it in a joking way to let him know that I knew exactly what he was talking about.  He turned sheepishly and continued down the line....leaving Marey deflated.  I quickly whispered in her ear that our identity is not defined by our past mistakes... our identity is defined by our God and Creator who loves us, forgives us, and who made us.  We are precious to Him!  I told her to never let people take away the dreams... the dream of being precious...of being "good enough"... of being loved and never used.  God is the author of our dreams and He wants good for our lives.... whether rich or poor.

I heard an awesome saying..."God is greater than the circumstances of our past".  Yes indeed!!! Another new friend has lived a hard life.  She is in her 20's...her mother is in prison...and she has lost custody of her children...she lived on the river for a time and is getting her life together.  The Lord has stirred a desire in her heart...a desire to be more than homeless...a desire to be more than a continued cycle of poverty and crime....a desire to be a "chef".  Through a variety of steps...she is enrolled in The Art Institute of Seattle and is working with the counselors there to get financial aid set up as well as housing.  God has thrown the doors to her future wide open!!!  He heard the cries of her heart and has helped her to work through the steps necessary to achieve her dreams!!! "You are not defined by your past, but by how God sees you!"  We serve an amazing God!  Our God sees through the surface of your life....He sees under the layers of bad choices, betrayal, and pain....he sees the desires that lay deep in your heart!  My new friend came down today and helped serve a matter of fact...she brought a big pan of food to serve.  God is so amazing!!

Jesus wants to cover us...cover our old identities and make us new.  Today was Carolina's (our friend on North 1st St.) birthday!  He joined our circle of prayer when we were finished serving people.  It was beautiful.  He told us that it was his birthday and that it has  been 3 years that he's been off heroine!  Carolina was nearly ran over by a train 3 years ago where he had passed out from too much heroine.  Carolina went through rehab and was able to kick heroine.  He drinks every day and still lives on the streets, but he sings a song of Jesus everywhere he goes.  Carolina will tell you with the most genuine of amazing Jesus is!  Carolina still lives on the streets....and has substituted alcohol for heroine...but Carolina knows Jesus to the depths of his core.  I can't answer the "why" of "Why is he still on the streets...or why does he still drink?"  I don't need to know the answers...I just need to know the Jesus that lives in Carolina's heart and I need to let Him into the places in my heart where my dreams live...."

When we first got down to North First today and were setting up...I heard some of the men talking in line about being at the bottom of the bucket and how about how you can only go up from here.  Being the "ear jacker" that I am....I piped up and said, "That is right!  When I was at the bottom of the the end of my rope...I thought...well, it can only get better from sure can't get worse."  One of the men chuckled and said..."ya. but what happens when you start to get used to it there."   The Lord does not want us to be content at the bottom of the bucket.  He does not want us to be wallowing around in the mud of life....God wants us to dare to dream...he does not want us to be like the "well to do" woman in 2 Kings....He does not want us to say.."We are just fine... we don't need anything."  God wants us to share every aspect of our heart with Him.  He wants us to dare to share the desires of our heart...the dreams that may lay dormant.  He wants us to invite Him in and to bare our deepest dreams to Him. 

Life does not always end up like a fairy tale with everything...happily ever after.  People get sick, some die, people divorce, jobs are lost, children go astray...But God promises us in Phillipeans 4:13 that "In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  I would much rather dare to dream....dare to share my heart with the God of the Universe than to sit in my pit of yuck because I am too afraid to be disappointed.  I don't want to "get used to" being at the bottom of the bucket.  No...I want to turn my eyes up and to keep them fixed on my God... My Lord and Savior...who loves me....the real me that He created...never to be defined by the mistakes of my past.  Thank You Jesus!  I pray that my life continually points to You and that Your Glory radiates!!! In Jesus Holy Name... Amen  :0)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Light Cuts Through The Darkness!

1 John 2:7 seemed to fit this last week so well.......  "Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning.  This old commandment- to love one another- is the same message you heard before.  Yet it is also new.  Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it.  For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining."

I do believe that this is happening on North First Street.  The darkness seems to be disappearing little by little.  Every bit... is a step closer than it was.  The week there seemed to be a lot of joy in the air.  Almost all of the people we spoke with seemed happy to see us and we for sure were happy to see them.  "How was your week?" many of them would ask us.  We seemed to have a lot of new servers mixed with our dedicated regulars.  It was so fun to see our volunteers embrace our North First St. friends with the love of Jesus!  It was interesting because one volunteer asked one of our faithful regulars...."Where do they get to hear the word of God?  Is the gospel preached?"  I love love loved how she responded, "They don't hear the word of God...they see it being lived out."  Absolutely beautifully said!!!  It is so true that they see it every week.  This is not boastful in anyway about what "we" are is wonderful amazement at what God is showing ALL of us (as I used to say in the is amazing people on both sides of the box.)  I stand in utter "awe" of God!  The true light is shining!!

One of our North First St. friends that lives down by the river asked if he could bring some food back to two of his buddies that couldn't make it.  In the previous weeks it was the buddy who was bringing food back to the other guys who were sick....they really do try and take care of each other.  Light is shining bright!!

One of our river friends was sad today because his girlfriend had left was hard to see him broken, but I was glad that he shared with me and that God gave me words of encouragement.  I couldn't fix anything, but I was glad that he found be at the beginning of the day and shared.  I packed him up the things he needed and he was off to try and make sense of the pain that relationships bring. 
I hope that the relationships that he is making with to convey the love of Jesus...a love that can not be found in the world.

One of our faithful volunteers shared a beautiful story with me about this weekend....a 20 year young man came to the valley with the carnival but was left behind.  He decided to go back to school to get his G.E.D. so he enrolled in a local alternative degree program.  This young man currently lives and works at the mission  while attending school.  On Sunday morning, he went to church with one of our volunteers.  This young man is seeking a future....he is seeking an earthly future as well as an eternal future!! I am so thankful for our faithful volunteer for letting Jesus work through her to help change eternity for another person.  God asks us to be available, but it is He who directs the path and saves souls!!!

"God bless you.." they are now calling out to us as they leave...smiles on their faces and a rambunctious wave..."see you next week!" The dark is disappearing....the light is getting brighter!

It only takes a Sunday visit to know that there is plenty of darkness.  I met a woman today whom I had never met before...and for a good reason...she had only been in Yakima 2 days.  This woman's story touched my daughter Olivia and I very much.  We approached her as she sat on the side steps of the mission.  We asked her how her day was and she replied, "Not so great."  Olivia and I sat down on the curb and listened to the story that left feeling sad and a little sick.  The woman was from southern California and had arrived in Yakima two days prior.  Her boyfriend of a year had brought her with him on his long haul truck route.  Unfortunately the man was verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive to her.  Olivia and I listened to this beautiful 52 year old woman tell us how he would not let her talk to anyone at rest stops and how she had to turn her head the other way when they would pass other trucks so that she would not have eye contact with other truck drivers.  He routinely called her horrible names and through time.... distanced any contact with her family or friends.  He insisted on getting rid of her phone because they only needed his....which she could only use with permission.  She rarely had cash and despite her beautiful smile...she was so beaten inside. 

A few nights prior to the day I met her, the woman chose not to have relations with him...the man became very angry and he poured his urine all over her face...getting it in her eyes, mouth, and all over her pajamas.  The woman changed her clothes and went back to sleep.  She woke up with 2 police officers over her.  The woman's boyfriend had broken the mirrors on the truck and then called the police.  He claimed that she vandalized his truck.  Because of legal issues regarding the trucking company and its "rider" policy, the police ended up taking the woman to the mission.  She has never been to Yakima and does not know anyone here.  The woman called back to family in southern California and is currently waiting for them to wire money to her so that she can get back home. 

The woman was so broken....Olivia and I listened with sadness.  The woman's first husband was abusive also.  He broke both of her wrists, her ribs, and would beat up her face badly.  She divorced him, however she fell back into another abusive relationship.  This is darkness....but Jesus' light is brighter than we could ever imagine!  My first marriage was abusive.  After getting a divorce... it took a lot of prayer and work trying to figure out what a "healthy" relationship looks like and what the characteristics are of an abusive relationship.  It took learning and embracing my true identity in Christ to break the mind set of an abused person.  I understood why she stayed and tried to make it work as well as the fear that kept her from trying to leave.  It is hard to explain to someone who has not experienced it.  You want so badly to be just loved for you and you think that if you just try a little harder and do things a little better, that the abuse will stop.  You even start believing that you probably deserved what you got.  The Lord spoke truth to this woman through my words.  I explained that she needed to trust that God would get her back home but that she needed to start working on getting herself healthy mentally.  We talked about the mindset and how when we understand our true identity in Christ...we replace those old thoughts that hold us captive.  We talked about how you really have to address the things of the past to understand how you could ever get to the point of thinking that it was acceptable to be treated that way.  "Your mother did not hold you in her arms when you were born and say ' I hope this child is abused,' " I said.  We talked about breaking the cycle....her daughter is 24 and is also in a very unhealthy relationship.  If the mama can break out of the gives hope and a model for her daughter...and her granddaughter.

Light broke through the clouds as we stood with our hands  on our new friend.  We prayed for her and for God's mighty strength to cut through the darkness!  As we we praying for our friend, Keith was standing with another volunteer and a man who lives at the mission- they were praying for a bike for him.  The man works and lives at the mission but he comes over to help hand out clothes and food.  So with heads bowed...they prayed for a bike that he can ride around since he does not have a car.  But wait...there is more because while we were praying with the California woman and Keith and his group were  praying with the man from the mission...   Diane (wonderful volunteer!) was praying with a wonderfully colorful character who also lives on the street.  Actually...he was the  one leading the prayer...and what a prayer it was because his words blessed all those in the circle.  Keith said it was so beautiful to look up and see three different groups of people (all unaware of the other)  praying at the same time.   God is so so wonderful and so so faithful!!! His light cuts through the darkness and allows wonderous light to flood through!!  Thank You Jesus for shining Your amazing light down on us as well as our friends on North First Street!  Your Love Truly is Amazing!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Psalm 139:14

Psalm 139:14  I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful!!!  I love this scripture so much because it honors the Lord for making each person and it honors each individual person...God doesn't make junk....ever!  Life happens to a lot of people and they may struggle dealing with it, but people are never junk. 

I think that a great way to describe what motivates me each and every week is to take what Psalm 139:14 says and put it together with Nehemiah 8-9  "The joy of the Lord is my strength!"  I find so much joy in ministering to all of the individual people that we meet on North First Street.  It brings me great joy to talk with them and to serve them in the love of Jesus. I guess it is my own natural "high" or "rush".  It isn't that I feel good because it is "me" doing something for someone therefore making me feel important but rather I think that it feels so good because I am feeling God's love flow through me as I serve others and it is His joy that I am feeling.  It is a fulfilling, complete joy that is not dependent on the weather or the ease of the job.  It is equally joyful on a warm sunny day that has light numbers as it is on a rainy or snowy day when we are swamped with 250 + people and working our tails off.  No... "The joy of the Lord" really is "my strength" every week!

Today was an incredibly windy and surprisingly cold day!  That sun was deceptive :0)   But it was also a really fun day to hang out with our North First St. Friends.  The Awesome Cash-n- Carry people donated 9 pastrami roasts so we cooked those up and had warm pastrami sandwiches.  We also had peanut butter and jelly for the folks who didn't like pastrami or who couldn't eat it because of lack of teeth.  It was so fun making and serving the sandwiches today because I was able to talk to each person while we put their sandwiches together.  I loves asking, "How was your week?"  "How are you doing?" It is a chance to give a few words of encouragement and life to them.  It is amazing how what a few kind words and a big smile can do.  Thank You Jesus!!! 

Our daughter Olivia had her 12th birthday this weekend so she and some of her classmates made cupcakes as part of her birthday party activities.  They decorated them so colorfully and made each one different and unique just like our friends.  I know they really appreciated getting them today.  Thanks for having beautiful hearts girls!! You are all a blessing to the Lord!

Two young men came through the line today.  I see them weekly- they are about in their mid-20's or younger.  We've thought for a long time that they are either drug dealers or pimps...but probably both :0).  These guys have a hard exterior...tough...sort of "gang banger" like.  Am I profiling?? Well sort of...but more like just stating the facts in a descriptive  Anyway... I was asking them what kind of sandwich they would like and how many and then I added, "I just have that mama thing and want to make sure that you have enough good food...and that you are taken care of."  As soon as the words left my mouth, both guys let a wall of "guardedness" down and gave me big smiles.  A softness came over their faces like a 5 year old boy who wants his mom.  It was very sweet.  I flashed them a big smile back and encouraged them to "stay safe this week and have a good one".  It is these types of short encounters that are so filled with joy.

Another funny lady came through the line.  She was wearing a long skirt and top without a coat.  I have seen her often, but never in a skirt.  As my eyes continued down I saw that she was barefoot.  What??? Was she crazy or what?? We were all bundled up and freezing.  I asked if she needed some shoes and she said, "No I like going barefoot and I really don't want any shoes."  "O.K."...."Not a problem."  :0)

One of my favorite older men who comes over to have lunch with us on Sundays seemed much cleaner and put together than normal.  He always has his fluffy dog with him on a leash but is often very drunk.  He didn't seem drunk today...he was cleaned up and his speech was much clearer.  He always calls me "Dar'lin"  "God bless you Dar'lin" he often yells out as he is leaving.  Today he came through the line with his brother who was all shaven and clean.  He told Keith "I'm clean and more.  I am tired of it."  Praise God!!! Whether he relapses or not....whether his brother was drunk today or not....he was clean today...he is trying...and he is working towards a better life!  That is hopeful!!  He gave me a big hug before he left and flashed a beautiful.  Our God is hope, encouragement, love, and future! :0)

My day ended with picking up garbage...but I didn't get very far because I saw two of my river friends that I really enjoy talking to.  I sat on the pavement by the big green dumpster talking to them as they organized their belongings and food before heading back to their home.  While we were sitting there, I glanced over and saw an open can..."It is a energy drink..." he said with a sheepish smirk.  I told him not to worry about it, it didn't matter to me.  "It helps me with my mental issues," he continued.  "No problem, really," I said, "It isn't like the hard stuff that you used to do right?"  He agreed and I then encouraged him to just take it day by day...little by little...just keep working in the direction that is helping him to get closer to being healthy.  He agreed that he has improved a lot but still has work to do.  "Don't we all!" I replied!   Everyone has something.  We talked about mental illness and I asked them both about medications.  They were surprised to know that I am on some of the same medications that they have are supposed to be on.  We all have issues....They have just recently started working with the medical community but are afraid to tell them where they live for fear of being found and kicked out.  Right now they feel safe and are with a few other people they can trust.  It is a complex issue...But with God... All things are possible!!! Little by little....step by step.... Thank You Jesus!!

Keith had the story that just blew me out of the water today though....The newspaper ran an article today about what we do on North 1st. St.  (Thank you April... you did a wonderful job!!)  A man walked up to Keith shortly after we had gotten set up and started because he wanted to volunteer with the clothes area.  Keith introduced himself and got busy showing the gentlemen what he could do to help.  They grabbed a couple boxes filled with socks and men's shirts then walked down the line of people handing out all of their goods.  The man was very joyful and seemed to really like the work as well as the interaction with the people.  Keith eventually asked him how he had heard about it.  He commenced to tell his story.  Earlier this morning the man's dad read the article in the paper and cut it out for his son to read.  The son read the article and then came out to volunteer.  He said that he was released from prison 30 days ago.....and that he had been in prison for 20 years!!! Yes...20 years!!!! He grew up her in Yakima and dropped out of school when he was 17.  He got into a lot of trouble and was put in the Yakima County Jail for a period of time.  This is where he accepted Jesus into his heart and became a Christian.  He spent the remaining 18 years serving out his sentence in prison as a Christian.  In prison the man said that, "The Lord protected him all the way through."  He said that he got good jobs in jail and was not ever hurt.  When the man got out of jail a month ago, he met up with a man who had offered to take him to church back before he ever went to jail.  The man didn't accept the invitation 20 years prior.  God is so awesome because it was the same man that invited him to church over 20 years ago that offered him a job a few weeks ago.  The man ended his story by saying that he is going to go with his friend to his church next weekend and that he really loves his job.

We have serve an Amazing, Incredible, Wonderful God who continually blows me away with his grace, mercy, and restoration!!! Thank You Jesus for loving us...for forgiving us for our sins....and for never giving up on us!!! It is an honor and a joy to serve You Jesus!!!  "The joy of the Lord is my strength!!!"  In Jesus Holy Name, Amen!!