Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bumps and Mountains....

My heart cries so deeply for bumps and mountains....bumps and see what are small bumps for some are huge mountains for others.  My heart breaks for some of the mountains that I have heard on North First Street... Let  me explain....

For me to go on a 3 month long excursion to Australia is a mountain!  For one.. I can't afford the flight....I couldn't afford the money that it would take to stay that long, nor the food that I would have to buy, nor the clothes that I would need, nor the money for fun excursions, not to mention a month away from my home, my family, and my responsibilities here, but for others.... that would be just a little bump... it would just require a few phone calls, reservations, shifting of schedules, and it would be no big problem at all...

This is the way it is with so many people in poverty.  The things that are mountains for them to get over, are often just small bumps for us.  I met a man last week who served the U.S. Military in a manor that required him to see way more than any one should.  He explained to me that it is much better for him to live away from other people because he doesn't trust himself...he is afraid that he might hurt someone so he lives on the fringes... on the fringes of society.  As he explained to Keith.. "I live down the path... over by the fence.... where you see the pile of blankets.  :0(   This is a place where he can get to town for what he needs without his past memories clashing with the people who are in his present.  But this is not the mountain for him... No the mountain for him is getting over to the medical supply store to explain how his colostomy supplies were stolen as well as all of his other possessions.  My friend showed me his colostomy bag under his shirt as he sat on the curb next to his cane.  Getting around is hard.... getting to the medical supply store with his bad leg is hard.... explaining that his much needed medical supplies were stolen and even though they are only issued once a month... what are his choices??? He has to ask... it isn't like a baggy would do....For me to get from one side of town to the other is not a mountain... it is a is a problem that is easily solved... no big deal.  But for others...given his is a mountain.

Another friend down on North First is working full time and taking classes at YVCC while living at the Mission.  His mountain happens to come in the form of fractions.  See for whatever reason whether it be his parents moving around when he was growing up, or he was learning English as a 2nd language through the years that he was exposed.. therefore making "gaps" in his learning... fractions are a mountain.  He is a smart man with a will to learn, but he just needs the "gaps" filled in like.... how to make mixed numbers into irregular fractions, how to divide using decimals, or how to multiply fractions.  To some this is only a little bump... but to someone without resources.... people to ask....someone to be available to ask those simple questions and fill in the "gaps", it can appear to be a mountain!  He was so grateful for the short time that I spent answering questions and was so grateful that he can bring his workbook next week.... maybe the mountain will become more like a bump.  (And yes... there are numerous resources at YVCC to help people with tutoring and help... but that is Middle Class thinking... We know that because we have friends or relatives who have attended college and understand "the system", it is second nature to us.  But for people who do not even know anyone personally who has gone to college... or has ever grown up learning how to access those types of resources... it is a confusing and intimidating place.)

One of my friends that lives by the river knows that she needs to be on the "correct medication."  She understands that she has mental illness issues and that she is currently using illegal drugs to help self-medicate.  Her mountain is "how to jump back into society....the steps needed to get back on her feet and get the proper help that she needs."  For some people a simple dr. appointment is only a small bump... but for others... it is a massive mountain!  ( And a scary one at that!)  She set up an appointment for a psych. eval. and I took the day off of work to go to her appointment with her.  I met her at the designation.... only to find out that it was actually scheduled two days later.  But in order for her to let me know that.... she had to ride a half broken bike part way across town  which she did.  It was not all a loss because we had a great "God Appointment" talking for 3 hours which was awesome.  I couldn't go with her two days later which again for some would have not been a big problem, but for her.... it was a mountain!  There was so much anxiety and fear for her that she skipped the appointment and felt even more like a loser.  A dr. appointment for one person.... may be a step into a life changing appointment for another... which is a very scary step.  I will go with her to her next appointment but the dr. only comes here once a month for these types of evaluations... so for now she needs to hold tight.  My bump.... is her mountain.  Sometimes we have opportunities to help someone make their mountain a little bit smaller.

One of our long time regulars was held up last night with knife at his this guy has been living out by the river for quite some time and there isn't much that looks like it would bother him too much.  He is the kind of guy who seems to be quite at home living off of the land- mostly fishing....dealing with the inconveniences of "permanent roughing it in the wild".  He is the first to tell you that he was a special needs student in school.  But today.... he was really shaken up.  They took what little he had so today things like.... a pair of socks, a pair of pants, a little extra food, a fishing pole.... were mountains to him.  Possible small bumps to others.... but for him today... they were mountains.  I was so glad that we were there today to help make his mountains a little smaller.

A lady that lives close by comes to get some food and clothes for her kids.  Getting from morning til night during the summer months is a bump for many families (How am I going to keep my kids occupied all summer?  There are so many more dishes to wash... clothes to change... everyone is hungry all the time.)  But for this lady, each day is a mountain.  She takes care of her 3 kids, her friend's 3 kids (because her friend is working), some of the neighbor kids who come over because they run out of food.... and she wonders how she is going to feed them, keep the lights on... stretch what little she has.  Her husband works at Burger King and she does the best she can to try and help the people around her.  She is doing the best she can with what she has....I have never seen her drunk or drugged up... just poor...tired... and always mountain climbing.  Her son was munching on an apple from lunch and he asked if he could have more apples-  You would not believe how happy he was when I gave him a whole box of apples.  That little 7 year old looked like I had given him the moon!!! What was just a little bit of a bump (going out of my way to re-box them and haul them to their car) was helping to over come a mountain to him.   I am praying for groceries to take her.... she is working so hard- doing the right things.

There are people with needs of bikes- to get to their jobs..... needs of people for boots or gloves to protect their hands and feet while they work.... needs of some food to get them through the last 6 days of the month until pay day.... the need for a Savior.... to tear down all of the mountains in their lives!!! Every Sunday gives us the incredible opportunity to show the love of the Master Mountain Remover!!! When we share the love of Jesus over time... with no other motive except to love on them.....we are not asking anything of them.... the mountains that surround their hearts start to melt and turn into smaller and smaller bumps.... so that through time... the desire of their hearts which is to be loved and accepted is revealed.   God is melting mountains every week..... and every day each of us have opportunities that arise where we can be Jesus with skin on and help make some one's mountain a little smaller.  All anybody really wants is to be loved and accepted...I believe that  that is at the heart of every person in the world.... rich or poor.... addicted or not....Jesus, I give you all of my mountains as well as my bumps and I thank you for helping me continue to push through!!! I love you and am honored to serve You with my life.  In Jesus Holy Name... Amen!! :0)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Christ In You, The Hope of Glory!!

 Colossians 1:27  "To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of Glory."

God has given us the beautiful mystery...Christ in us.... what a beautiful gift!  Think of that, If you have Christ...then He is with you wherever you matter the place, the time, the people you meet.   Christ is the Hope of Glory!!!  Not the wishing kind of hope like.. I wish I had an ice cream sundae or I wish I could go to Hawaii... No this is the wonderful Anticipation of the Glory of God!  The Glory of being before God...The Creator of the Universe!  And just think... that Glory is in us... and is a gift to others when we share it. 

I always say that we never know from Sunday to Sunday what happens in the hearts of the people on North First Street  after we leave.  See.. after serving our friends lunch, visiting with them, gathering clothes, sharing stories, etc.  we load up the trailer... pick up the last bit of trash...pack into our vehicles...and leave North First Street if we had never been there to begin with.  But the thing is that everyone who participated in the day...goes away changed... a little altered... a little touched... a little different than when they first showed up.  The Holy Spirit swept through the line, touched all of those in His path... and left them a little different... different for the better.  It doesn't matter if you are spooning hot casserole from a pan, handing out doughnuts, or receiving doughnuts... you know that something very special has happened.

Usually when new people come through the line on North First St., they are distrusting, wary, and just can't quite figure out why we are out there doing what we are doing.  It often takes a while before they start to soften.  I guess that is part of the fun... you know- watching how the love of Jesus drills through their tough exterior.  One family in particular has probably witnessed to much, been disappointed by too many, and left to trust no one except each other.  Well today Keith finally broke through the first layer of hard exterior... In his funny way... God's Glory shone.... through his persistent kindness and hilarious sense of humor... he finally got them to crack some smiles... real smiles after about 8 weeks of distrust.  This is a step forward.

I tend to be an analytical person by nature and a "Curious George" to say the least... I always want to know "why?" and "how?".... so I can't help but think "How do I know that something special has happened?"  Like any person who looks for cause and effect relationships...I look for evidence... evidence that makes me believe that "Something special is happening here."  I can go on and on sharing how the Lord has worked on my heart and personally changed me... but I would rather share the wonderful things that people have shared with me... their stories are much more interesting!  lol

Chris is a guy who we have befriended over the past year and a half.  We have seen him in and out of jail, wasted, drugged out of his mind, dirty as ever, as well as cleaned up and looking kind of together.  Today Chris showed up looking filthy....but something was different about him.  Today Chris was dirty because he had been working lay asphalt all week and he didn't have any clean clothes.  He not only has job but also has a place to stay.  Thank You Jesus!! It is a start!  Keith asked him what made him want to sober up and get a job.  He said, "Because I was sick and tired of going to jail."  He has been to jail 6 times in the last 6-9 months and wanted a change.... I believe that Jesus has a whole lot to do with that!!!

Another of our river friends also shared that he had been working asphalt all week... and he had the black goo stained on his legs to prove it.  We were able to give him some work glove, pants, a clean shirt, and a lot of encouragement to take with him into his week.

Chedda', a great lively guy who has been hanging around for the last year, accidently left a lanyard with two keys on it in the back of the trailer.  He returned to find them and was so excited..."Oh ya.." he said, "I forgot to tell you, these are the keys to my new place.  I am not homeless any more!!! I got housing!!"  Wow!  this is huge!  Chedda has been homeless for over a year.. Praise God!!! Needless to say we grabbed Chedda's hands and pulled him into our circle because there was so much to thank God for!! He was more than happy to join the circle!

A lot happens from Sunday to Sunday!!  God does so much in the hearts of all of us... things that can't always be seen... but little by little... stuff is happening!  Thank You Jesus!!

Another friend came up today to give me a big hug...he so badly wants to be sober... but isn't quite ready.   He was kind of drunk... not big drunk ...but it didn't matter to me.  I told him that there would be a day when he would hug me and he wouldn't be drunk.  He wanted to know why he couldn't kick it.  He shared how much he loved the Lord and that he had known the Lord since he was a little boy.  My friend shared how he reads his bible and wants to quit... but he can't quite get there.  We talked about how alcohol numbs pain and that God wants to heal that pain.  Tears streamed down his face as we talked about how God wanted so much more for him.  "Baby steps"  we talked about how some things take baby steps.  God is with him every step of the way.  As the tears steamed down his face a smile suddenly shot through the sadness..."I forgot to tell you," he said, "I start school in September!!!"  This guy has a full time job now, but has been accepted into YVCC for the fall.  He has his financial aid set up and has taken his Math/Reading tests to get in.  "Look how God is working in your life!!" I told him.  I shared that little by little God would replace the need to numb his pain with the want for a better life!  He agreed that his baby steps were moving in the right direction. 

God's Glory is invading the hearts of so many....His Glory is changing us all from the inside out... and it is truly AMAZING!  As you go about your day... working through your week... remember that God's Glory is in You and that You never know what sharing it will do.  It may be something like a little smile or it may be something much the breaking open of a heart for Jesus!!! Thank You Lord for allowing us to be apart of this wonderful adventure!! Thank You for Your provision and Your protection!  In Jesus Holy Name-  Amen!!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

It makes no difference who you are or where you are from!

Acts 10  34-36

34-36 Peter fairly exploded with his good news: “It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel—that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone. 


Believing this…. We head out to North First Street to try and share the Good News to whoever will listen!!  From infants to the elderly….all receive the love of Jesus shown to them through many hands giving food, clothes, toilet paper, and soap.  What beautiful words….”If you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open.”  Beautiful words of freedom, of hope, words of future, words of life!  Old or young… rich or poor…can receive Jesus!! And like a turtle crossing the road…what is a short easy trip for some … is a long long journey for others.  But little by little Jesus is moving people further and further along the journey to the feet of the cross! 


I love Keith’s words today as he was reflecting about the day…”Ten out of ten people were so thankful and grateful today!”  The poor often get a bad rap with labels like: greedy, ungrateful, hoarders.  Like all people, you can always find someone to fit the mold…but after a year and a half of serving our friends, I am convinced that the majority of people who we see are very thankful and gracious…in addition to being survivors.  I met a mom today who has three young children under the age of 10.  She works as a nurse’s assistant and earns $10.50 an hour.  This lady works 12 hour shifts and her husband works at burger king.  Another single mom lives with them who also has 3 children.  The nurse’s assistant does not qualify for food stamps but because of her job, but she can’t always make the money stretch far enough.  Her kids are all in school and tries hard to be a good mom.  We always try and pick out the name brand kids clothes for her kids because it is so hard to look different from all the other kids.  They are very appreciative.  I told her to please let us know if there are specific things that they need that would help.  They are working very hard… make life work!  She told us how much our Sundays mean to the people in her neighborhood.  Her neighbor boy came over and reminded them that it was time to head over…It made me smile.  They are good people…. Trying hard with what they have.


Others….need Jesus as much as I need Jesus…but they are shackled by ugly invisible chains that override their dying bodies and souls.  As I was shaking hands and handing out granola bars in line- I asked a man if I could help him…he was drunk but I asked him if he wanted help getting into rehab.  He said, “I love Julie…and I could never leave Julie. I can’t live without her.”  He might actually love Julie…but I think the part that he wasn’t saying was…”He loves alcohol…and he can’t imagine life without alcohol.”  I didn’t realize that the Julie he was talking about was the lady who has significant mental problems who sits by the fence next to the mission.  She lives on the streets and keeps everything she owns in an old shopping cart.  Julie is covered in dirt and grime and sits comatose like staring at the cement with an absent look on her face.  Tom may really love Julie….but Tom really loves alcohol too.  My prayer is that Jesus will invade his heart and soul and give him the courage to abandon one of his loves….and it is not Julie.


See the people who we meet on North First are at different places along the “Crisis Highway”.  Some are new on this crazy road…and are shell shocked by the craziness which people travel along this path.  Others have been on the “Crisis Highway” for a very long time…some for their whole lives and they know no other….We get the honor of being the flaggers along this highway.  We get to hold up flags of encouragement, of hope, of love.  We get to redirect them to the off ramps that lead to freedom… that lead to Jesus!!!  We have wonderful people who pour their love into the food they cook for us… others pour their love into the music they play out there…while others pour out their love through the hard work they do serving where they are needed.  They give of themselves to try to offer whatever encouragement they can to reduce the number of travelers along this crazy “Crisis Highway”. 



One particular woman who is trying to find the off ramp of this crazy life told me that she has a psych. Eval. At D.S.H.S. in the morning!  I was so happy for her because she is taking the steps necessary to reach the off ramp leading to a new life.  I asked her if she would like someone to go with her to the appointment and she said “yes” so tomorrow I get to give her a little encouragement along what must be a kinda scary path.  I am so happy that she wants to try… try to get the correct medication for her depression and anxiety rather than the meth that she is using. So tonight as she lays in her sleeping bag by the river under the stars…she can possible imagine a life that is a little less crazy.  I just need to remember to bring her a brush so that she can freshen up a bit before her appointment. (This was her request…because even homeless ladies- want to look pretty).


Another man who we have often prayed with came late today to get a hug and a word of encouragement.  I asked him if he had signed up for the rehab program at the Mission yet and he told me that he had not, but that he would in a week or two.  We talked about how scary it might be but that Jesus would give him the courage to take the steps needed.  We continue to pray for him.  He is in the process of deciding if it is time to take the off ramp---He is starting to look for the signs on the side of the freeway indicating where the exit is…. This is progress!


As I was picking up garbage towards the end of our visit I walked up to a woman sitting on a cement planter and asked her if she had any garbage.  She said no but asked if I had any water.  Long story short- she did not want to eat but was extremely thirsty….as well as extremely mentally ill.  The woman spoke to many people around her….even though there were not people around her…. In many variations in her voice….she rocked back and forth and had a hard time looking at me.  I headed back and grabbed a couple glasses of water along with a half a jug of Kool-Aid that was left over.  I brought them to her and in return was thanked by many different voices….I walked away and knew that I had given a cup of water to someone who was very thirsty….and who was moving very quickly down the “Crazy Crisis Highway”.  Maybe she will slow down enough to start to see the signs of encouragement and who knows….she may one day seek the off ramp….to help…to hope….to a new direction in her life.  A direction led by Jesus Christ.


After we loaded the last boxes and shut the trailer doors… we headed over to a small park by Minda Lanes Bowling.  This little triangle of grass houses anywhere from 4-12 people.  Now this place has a whole different feel from North First Street…. Different dynamics.  We are familiar with the “culture” of North First Street, but the culture… the pecking order of this area is different.  Regulars who reside on this small patch of grass have their own set of rules….of leadership- or should I say… rank and order.  We pulled up with our hotdogs, mac-n-cheese, and water.   Keith had come upon these people one morning after he set up the tables on North First.  He has stopped at different times and visited with the people who regularly stake out the grounds.  The people here were older than the folks we see over on North First and drunker too.  Let’s just say that 99% of them were swaying back and forth as I introduced myself.  They were very nice to us…but seemed to bicker amongst each other.  Silly I did not pick up on this of course.  Oh I had no problem seeing that they were inebriated, but I didn’t pick up on the feuds between the people who reside there on a regular basis and the ones that had stumbled over.  I am an equal people giver…. I will give anyone anything that I have if there is a need…. I am glad that Keith came over and helped keep the peace.  Loll!   I was in the trailer crouched up on the stack of tables, trying to dig through boxes.  I just wanted to help meet the needs….meanwhile…Keith was noting the rise in agitation because some people received things that other people wanted.  “We need to get out of here Camille… no really …. We need to get out of here.”  Okie Dokie….I know that tone…. It means, “I don’t mean to be mean… but you need to crawl out of that little space and get in the truck pronto before a feud breaks out between the A team and the B team”.   Next time I plan on making up some premade bags of clothes in the correct sizes as well as bagged up food so that our stay is maybe a little shorter.  Oh… it was harmless, but I know what he meant.  When we first started handing out the hotdogs… a little older lady came running back to the trailer…”They stole my hotdogs!  The lady in that camper stole my hotdogs!!”  She sounded like a little girl…and I thought she might cry- it obviously hurt her feelings.  After a little talking and a guided arm around her shoulders-  we pointed her in the direction of “more hot dogs.”  I should have taken note right there.  We don’t really see that down by the mission, but then again… these people are farther from the mission and so they don’t have access to the bathrooms, meals, and water.  Let’s just say it is like dry camping versus camping with a full hook up.  They were needier and more desperate… but also they seemed more impacted by their addictions across the board.


There were two young men- 21 years old…. The same age as my son who I had just said “goodbye” to earlier this morning as he left to go back to Kansas where he goes to college.  I contrasted that memory with the picture of the two boys standing in front of me.  One young man had not eaten in 2 days and the other was trying to take care of his mother and father who were living in the motor home parked next to the grassy area.  He had come up from Arizona to try and help his parents get their lives together, but along the way… he got messed up.  The boy brought his mother her food, collected the clothes she needed in her size, and asked for size 10 shoes because she only had a pair of flip flops.  He helped me hand out clothes and wanted so much to keep the peace amongst the people there.  He tried to make sure that everyone got food and that everyone got a pair of pants or a shirt if needed.  The boy shared that he did not have his GED and that he was special needs when he was in school.  “My dad says that I am slow, but I don’t think I am that slow.  I want to get a job.  I want to try and have a good life.”  He continued, “But ma’am, I have to be honest with you.  I have a past.  I have charges against me for robbery and drugs…. And I have a problem… with using.”  You know how angry you get when you think of someone beating up a special ed. Kid in a wheel chair?  Well I felt a surge of anger….that someone (namely his parents) led this kid who has special needs- down the path that led to the “Crazy Crisis Highway!”  The boy… who is more like a young teen… is carrying the responsibility of taking care of his mother and father who look younger than me.  This boy should be taken care of….not operating as the primary care taker.   I want this young man to find the exit to this crazy highway…. I hope that softens and opens to the Jesus that comes to visit him on Sundays.


Dear Jesus-  Thank you so much for giving me the peace in knowing that You are in control of everything and that Your heart is for all people to receive You… and for all people to live in the freedom on Your highway…Your incredible amazing peaceful, adventurous, fulfilling highway of life and love!  In Jesus name Amen!