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 way...lol. 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 sober...no 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!!