God is the author and illustrator of this world well as life! Today He orchestrated a beautiful smorgasbord of people, stories, and food down on North First Street. God's orchestrated stories are so beautiful and filled with "aw". Today was no different, God left me with my mouth wide open saying, "Wow!!!"
The line was bound to be long since it was the 5th Sunday of the month. It is long when there are only 4 Sundays in a month....so I knew today was going to big. In preparation Keith bar-b-cued about 600 hot dogs. We had about 100 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that we had frozen from the West Valley High School kids. An old friend brought by a big pan of baked beans, potato salad, and potato chips left over from their gathering the night before so I figured we would be set. We had a big bag of Don's Donuts and a trailer packed to the top with clothes!
We had an awesome assortment of volunteers for sure today! We had volunteers come who had not been here for about 9months come visit us and help, we had high school kids volunteering, foreign exchange students from Germany, Vietnam, and Korea (who loved it and who want to come back and help again! Yay!), there were our faithful ones who come so regularly, and even one who was homeless, but is not any more and who loves to give back! Only God could bring together such a wonderful group of volunteers hungry to serve others! (See, we don't have a sign up list... we trust that God will bring the people who need to be there... and there are always loving hearts who show up ready to serve. It sure grows my faith!)
There was such a huge mixture of people standing in line today. There were some of our old favorites along with many many new faces who we have never seen. There were young children, old people, pregnant mom's, healthy looking faces as well as sickly, weak, under nourished meth- faces. One of my favorite old timers lay along the wall of the near by building with his dog faithfully sitting there by him. He had passed out with his jacket laying half covering his legs and a half finished fifth of whiskey. I gently placed a bag of left over doughnuts next to him trying not to alarm him. He made a couple unintelligible utterances and then lay back in his fog. I have such a huge heart for Bill but I know that the bottle of whiskey has him shackled.
On the other hand... I heard that another favorite old timer was doing much better. Willy was the older gentleman who was asleep inside a big hollow pipe when someone lit him on fire. Willy wasn't able to care for his burns so ended up back in the hospital where they eventually moved him to a nursing home. Henry, one of Willy's friends, said that Willy looks really good! He said that Willy had a bath, that he gets 3 meals a day, and is doing really great! Whenever he tells other people where Willy is staying, he always warns them not to bring any liquor around because Willy has not had a drink since he went in and he wants to see Willy have a chance. The drs. at the hospital told Willy that if he hadn't come back in for treatment that he would have probably lost both of his arms. I am so happy that Willy is not going to lose both of his arms...how could he hug me back? :0) Please keep praying for Willy.
Our friend Amanda lives by the river with a few other friends who all take care of each other. Amanda needs to get to Neighborhood Health this week because she is almost sure that she is pregnant. If you could see Amanda, you would probably know she was pregnant. I gave her my quick talk about the importance of getting pre-natal care for the baby. We talked about special needs babies and how important pre-natal care is. I pray that Amanda isn't drugging any more...if she is pregnant, we will have more talks about the effects of drugs on an unborn baby. I like Amanda and her friends a lot. They have kind hearts...being a drug addict does not mean that you have an uncaring heart... it means that something else dictates your every move...As we stood around, Amanda's two friends started sharing with me a little bit about their lives. The only man in the group is in his late 40's. He was standing with a lady who was his first friend when he came to Yakima back in 1979. He was 12 years old when his mom threw him out of the house and said never come back.... yes, no kidding.... he has been on his own since he was 12 and his friend was 14 years old when she was kicked out of her house. They have been hanging out ever since and just try to take care of each other as well as the few other friends that have joined them. So is it a surprise that he is fathering a child that Amanda is carrying? Not really, but it is a mystery to me how they have survived that way of life for so long. Mr. D. as I call him, did not go on through school past 12 years of age. He has worked on and off helping roof houses, carpentry jobs, etc.
What God is showing me over and over is that I can not assume that every person started out with the same set of life experiences growing up as I did... du? right? But we judge people as if they had the same roof over their head growing up as we did, the same table full of food, warm blankets, a bed, a mom and dad to kiss them good night, an education, someone to go to when school was hard or friends were mean....and we think- "Why don't they just go get a job....stop living off of the system....get a life- we all had to." But see, the race isn't fair- we are running the race with legs.... and some of them are trying to stay in the race as amputees- running through life on the nubs of their amputated limbs. I personally couldn't have made it on the streets at 12 years old. I was still playing with dolls when I was 12... or at least dressing them and doing their hair :0). I couldn't have found my own food, stayed warm, or figured out how to stay safe. And if I had... I surely wouldn't have a kind hearted attitude to others like Amanda and her friends. They care for each other and try to protect each other. I pray that Amanda's baby is safe and that she is not doing any drugs at this time... if she is... it only means that I have huge compassion for both she and the baby.
Linda from the river came right at the very end today wearing a short little skirt and a borrowed coat. We had all of the boxes packed up and we were getting ready to pray. She said, "I missed the food, but I am here for the best part!" She joined hands with us and we all prayed a beautiful prayer of thanks for God's beautiful provision! After we were finished, Linda whispered in my ear that she has been clean for 45 days. She only needed a coat or sweater because the one that she had on was borrowed. Keith looked in the back of the trailer and laying on the top of a ton of empty clothes bins were two nice warm women's jackets that were perfect for her! I don't know how they weren't given out because we went through so many bins of clothes, but they were waiting right there for her! God is so amazing and it was fun to share that with Linda! I am so proud of her and happy for her that she is trying very hard to get clean.
My friend Lucy started working at Walmart and is back with her man who would like to marry her and who has stopped drinking. They are both seeking the Lord and seeking a life together without the things that messed them up in the past. Praise God!!!
So as you can see there were a smorgasbord of stories, but there was also a smorgasbord of food!!! We brought about 600 hot dogs, plus the food I spoke of above, in addition to a huge roasting pan filled with chili dogs that someone brought, pans and pans of macaroni and cheese, quiche, potato dishes, spaghetti, water, chips, 20 Domino's pizzas that they donated, Don's Donuts, homemade cookies, fruit snacks, a huge cooler of homemade potato soup, and probably more that I am missing, but you see God orchestrated all of it! He knew that the need for food was going to be huge today and he prompted so many different people's hearts. We don't sign up on any lists or call each other. I told a couple of the ladies that we were doing hot dogs, but everyone else brought the food on their own accord. The Lord prompted them and they acted in beautiful obedience! Close to the end, one of the volunteers said that we were not going to have enough hot dogs and wanted to know if I had any peanut butter or jelly in the car. I did not have any because I didn't think we would need it. By the time that I got over to check and see exactly how many people still needed food, the volunteers at the front of the line all looked at me with amazement and then told me how they only had one hot dog left, but when they went to move the pan, more hot dogs rolled across the juice filled pan. I also stood in amazement as they pointed to the last man in line and said, "See, that was the last hot dog." I wanted to jump with joy and cry at the same time! How great is our God that He cares for each one of those homeless people- even the ones at the end of the line--- the man at the end of the line today was looking up, talking to himself- looking quite disconnected from life- yes, God cares for ALL people! Even the ones who don't look like they have a purpose or a place. At God's table, there is Always a place for EVERYONE! Thank You Jesus for Your amazing provision! Thank You that you never give up on us and that You Pursue ALL people! I talked with a lot of people today who knew and were very thankful that God prepared a banquet for them!
I have been reading in Colossians this week. Colossians 1: 6 says, "This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about
God's wonderful grace." How beautiful is that? God is changing lives.... changing the lives of the volunteers as well as the lives of our North First Street Friends. What I see happening on North First Street... is that lives are changing... people are making changes towards improving their lives... changes in their daily decisions, changes in how they see God, and changes in how they see that God views them. Further in Colossians 1:10 it says, "Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you lean to know God better and better." Every day I am learning to know God better and better.... til the day I die I want to keep learning to know God better and better. I know that many of our friends on North First Street are also getting to know God better and better. Thank You Precious Lord for Your beautiful, gentle way that You reveal Yourself to us as we continue to trust You and lean into You! We love You Always!!! In Jesus Holy Name- Amen :0)