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 doing...no...it is wonderful amazement at what God is showing ALL of us (as I used to say in the beginning...it 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 him...it 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 us...help 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 cycle...it 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!