The two year anniversary of North First Street is this weekend…yes, it has been two years, 103 weeks (We took 1 weekend off last year). We had no idea that first week that it would extend into another 102 weeks. I never would have believed it if you told me back then that that is what we would do…never in a million years. God is so funny- He just takes it one week at a time….Love on the people in front of you…one week, one day, one hour, one minute, one person at a time.
The Lord promises us in Jeremiah 27:11-13 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. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
This is my life verse…you see I grew up believing that God was a tyrant and that He only wanted me if I made the right choices. When I didn’t…I believed that He did not want me anymore. I didn’t know God’s character at all. Once I gave my heart to the Lord and learned Jeremiah 27:11-13, I knew that my God is an amazing loving God who wants a good life for me.
Over the last two years Keith and our family have been seeking the Lord with all of our hearts on North First Street. We have listened to the voice whispering in our ears to go out of our comfort zone, out of our normal sphere of influence into a world that we knew very little about. The cool thing is that when you know that it is God whispering directions to you…you know that God has your back and He will never leave you or forsake you!!
As Christians we know that Jesus is the answer… is the answer to all the world, the hope that we all seek! Jesus is the way, the truth, the life!! God meets us right where we are at….He never forces Himself on us in any way shape or form! He also takes us at whatever speed we can handle. If we need to take little tiny baby steps… then He moves us with little tiny baby steps. If we need to take huge steps…. He moves us in huge steps.
Well let’s just say that He has moved many people over the last two years forward… closer to Him. The people who have been moved have been people on both sides of the box-both the givers and the receivers. We have been so blessed to see many people from North First Street move closer to the Lord and closer along the path to a healthier life style.
There was Wayne and Virginia- some of the first people we met down there. They were living by the river in a tent. They looked like they were about 15 years older than us, but it turns out they were about 4 years younger. One night they decided that they wanted to start turning their lives around so they chose to stop doing drug runs for people. This idea didn’t go down so well with certain people so in retaliation- the person lit their tent on fire while they were inside sleeping. Both had significant burns but didn’t seek medical help. That night they decided it was time to change their way of life. Keith and I spent a few evenings speaking life into the couple and encouraging them to seek a better life for themselves. They ended up leaving town shortly after to return to Oregon to reunite with family. They were Christians who had fallen away in the past and who decided to run back into the arms of God.
We have been blessed to see many people get jobs, choose to return home to their families, or to enter into a rehabilitation program. One young mother went into rehab, got cleaned up, and then reunited with her children who she had lost custody of. The love that people have shown by donating clothes, food, money, toilet paper, toiletries, and time have meant so much to so many people whose stories we may never know. But it is o.k. because by being obedient to what God has told each of us…has made eternal difference for so many people. Many people who have already asked the Lord into their hearts in their past, have found their way back to Him.
Just today Keith was driving through town and he saw one of the guys that we used to always see on North First when he was homeless. He is now in Triumph Treatment Center and is trying to get his life on track. He walked with the Lord earlier in his life, but fell off the path somewhere along the way. Today was wonderful because he asked Keith if he could lose his salvation. Keith had the joy of telling him about the great gift that Jesus gave us when He died. Keith explained that Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that the gift could be taken away if we make bad decisions….. no, Jesus died on the cross to save us from ALL of our sins!! Two years ago Keith would not have been sharing the gospel on the side of the road with a recovering addict. Today it is one of the best parts of his day!!
One young family and a separate young man…both returned to their families in California last month. Both went for different reasons, but both were seeking healing and more of God!
God has grown us all so much! He has brought together both believers and non-believers to volunteer on Sundays. We have never in 103 weeks of serving, asked for people to sign up on a list to volunteer. We have just trusted that the Lord would bring enough people to serve and help out. Every single week there has been enough volunteers and enough food to feed the many friends that come on Sundays. We have seen salvations, a demon cast out, healings, births, and deaths…. God’s might provision as well as His protection! Fishes and loaves is real! We have witnessed it so many times. These things don’t happen with a lot of “hoop la” and attention…but when we look back over the two years…. We can see where these visible miracles were dotted throughout and where many miracles that we could not see…must surely be strewn throughout the weeks also.
We have learned that every single homeless person has his or her own story and that each story is unique. There has never been a story that could be solved simply….they are always layered with complex issues that have truly made the phrase “Love Not Judge” real and necessary. We have not just ministered to strangers… we have made true relationships with so many people. I can only say that we have given many of them hope because that is what they have told us. My words to the line of strangers 2 Novembers ago “Jesus has not forgotten you and you are not a bum!” meant more to them than I will ever know. We just know what they have shared with us.
The Lord has shown us that all people should be shown love….it is not based on whether we deserve it or not because none of us deserve it. We all have “stuff” in our pasts, the stuff may not be as visible as a homeless person’s but it is all the same- sin.
I am so thankful that I get to be a part of God’s work. It is not a credit to me as a person….it is a credit to God for bringing so many people together in a beautiful way to show love and support for others. We are not promised a “next week” with anyone. We have learned that if you have something to say to someone, say it this week because there may not be a next week. If the Lord is nudging you to step out of your comfort zone and to reach out to someone else…. Try it…. God won’t leave you hangin’ ….. He will take care of the details… just step out!