Monday, September 6, 2010

First Adventure a Success!

On Saturday, September 4, we had our first Adopt-A-Block. There were five of us: Donnie, Lou Ann, Tim, Teri, and myself. We had a block: 1000 W Monroe. We had a plan (sort of). We had courage. We had tools. All we needed was willing participants.

We prayed and then drove to the block. Because of the parking situation, we had to park at the end of the block (which was good). But which house should we start at? And should we start at the end or in the middle? Well, as God would have it, He made it easy for us. There was a family about 3 houses down getting out of their car. So, we started with them. "Hello, we are here to serve you. We will be on your block for life. We would like to help you with anything you need done around the house. Do you have any yard work we can start with?" The first response was What? No. Wait. For free? Can you cut down my tree? (Of course we said we could not do that this week, but would look into it.) We asked about the vacant house next to his. He said we could clean up the weeds growing on the fence between the two yards. So that was our first task.

This task took 2.5 hours! There were weeds, trees growing in the fence, snakes, toys, did I mention snakes? Tim mowed the grass in the vacant yard. We had one neighbor, Jimmie, come down to ask if we were moving in. He told us that next time when we are on the block if we needed his riding mower, we could borrow it! And he said he did not need anything done right now, but was going in for surgery this next week (so I see some loving we can do for him).

Another neighbor, Monica, said she has a list of things we can help her with when we get to her. And we can borrow any tools we need while working on the block. Her neighbors, Charles (who is in a wheelchair) and June, said they would love for us to help them. There is one house that might be hard pressed to let us do anything. They are young adults who were having an alcohol party (beer, whiskey) when we were cleaning up the yard. So my prayer is that we can meet them where they are, not condem them, and build relationships with them. (I am not going to drink, but I will befriend them and see if I can help them just the same as the other people).

As I told the others who helped me last week, I do not expect anyone else to be committed to this block. I only ask them to help me when they can. But I COMMIT to this block every week. Some weeks I may have to change my days (due to doctor appointments out of state), but I will do something for people every week.

I have been praying for this block not knowing anything about the people or their situations. It is obvious that God had a reason for me to go there. Now I know just the beginning of why. I cannot wait to see what He brings on the 11th when I return.

Keep praying!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Adopt-a-Block Ready to Begin

Yesterday I talked about the Adopt-A-Block adventure. Today I talked with a pastor about putting this into effect. So, I've set a date. Beginning August 21, this will become official. We will begin serving the community. We will become servants to people in Bloomington.

God tells us that we are created to serve Him. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do". Ephesians 2:10.

I am going to scout around the west side of Bloomington and find a block for us to serve. My intention is to tell them we are to be their servants for life. Using what the Dream Center in LA told their adoptees, we will say something similar: "We are your neighborhood Servants. We are here for life. How can we serve you?" Our goal will be to serve them, to love them, to lead them to Christ. We will bless them and to continue to build relationships with them. To show them that they are people and that just because they live in a poor section of town, they still matter to Christ.

The first thing I have to do is to get volunteers. I have blessings from a pastor. I'm going to try to get volunteers from two churches to help. People might not want to do this because it takes time from their day. Some serve the food pantry where I also serve on Saturdays. But knowing that this is a different type of ministry I might get other volunteers. I'm going to bring it up in my small group (Bible study) today and see if there are any volunteers there. They might do it. Some of them are not involved in anything.

God is really talking to me. And I am listening. I am excited because I for once have people backing me and telling me that God IS working in me! What a blessing.

I cannot wait to get to heaven and receive my crown. "Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." John 12:26

Friday, July 23, 2010

My First Mission

Last week I went on vacation. While I was gone, I got a look at other parts of the country - parts that were not as affluent as Bloomington, Illinois. What I saw was a lot of organizations helping people that live on the streets, people that do not have all the things that we have, and people treating other people just the same as we are. In other words, people treating people like people!

So it got me thinking about what I could be doing back home to help people. I am reading a case study about the dream center in Los Angeles. The pastor of the dream center said these profound words: "If the church can be involved with serving their community and loving and being contagious with good works, we can redefine what the church is all about. I believe that God has called the church to set the tone for what the world should be like." WOW! Read that again and let it soak in. It is telling me that we as a church should show the world how to help people and then the world will help others. How fantastic is that!

With that in mind, my head has been spinning. I have been thinking of a million things I can be doing. Of course, I know that you have to start small. One way to fail is to try and do it all and do it all at once. So the first thing I want to do is something that is successful in Peoria and in Los Angeles. It is called Adopt-a-Block.

With Adopt-a-Block, you don't need any facilities. You don't need money. All you need is faith and volunteers. I have faith! Now all I need is volunteers. What the program entails is to pick a block in the city and get your volunteers. Then go to the block and knock on the doors. Ask the people at the house how you can serve them. Rake the yards, trim bushes, paint the house, help pull weeds, or do whatever they ask. If they say "no thank you", then ask if you can pray for them. Then go to the next house. Next week, go back to the same house. Continue to do this week after week. Build a relationship with these families. Invite them to church. Love them. Show them that they are people loved by Christ just like you!

This is going to be the first thing that I am going to tackle. Pray for me as I am going to seek out volunteers and try to get this started within the next month. I don't know how it will go, but with God's help, I know we can be a success.

Love to all.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

So what is holding me back? You mean besides the fact that someone is telling me that God is not telling me what I thought He was? Oh - what is holding me back is that I am scared! I guess I lack faith that I can do it - faith that I can do the things that God has commanded.

And want to know what is so sad about this? I am forever telling people to remember to have faith. Matthew 17:20 says "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Another favorite verse of mine is Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." So, with this being said, I looked up the word FAITH in the Bible, and found there are 422 instances of the word in there. And I am scared? God is telling me (and you) to have faith. Why am I lacking it?

As I said in the first post, I run the food pantry that is housed in our local church. Right now the pantry just gives people a sack of groceries, some toiletries, and bread items. We do not minister to the patrons, nor do we do any other type of outreach. However, due to what started out as an unfortunate circumstance, but turned into a fantastic blessing, my friend Pat and I became the "Drive By Bread Ladies".

Each Saturday at the pantry, we get between 20-60 banana boxes of bread and pastries. We give this bread and pastries to our patrons. But when we close each day, we have a lot left over. So what are we to do with the leftovers? We cannot just get rid of it. And we were told we cannot leave it in the church. Because I want this posting to remain positive, I won't go into details as to how it became started as an "unfortunate circumstance". But let's just say that this one time I listened to God telling not to throw out the bread or waste it. There was something more positive I could do with it. It took some time to think about it, but what could that be?

Other food pantries in town already have their fill of bread; the mission gets bread from Panera. And we are the only pantry open on Saturday. So what were we going to do with 30 or so extra boxes of bread? Why not go into the low income neighborhoods and see if people who don't come into our pantry need it?

So we decided to turn this "unfortunate circumstance" into something positive. Give God the credit. I listened to Him and knew in my heart that He would help me give all the bread away. We drive through the low income neighborhoods and give it to anyone who is sitting outside. At first people are skeptical. No one gives you something for free!

We are building relationships with the people on the streets. We are meeting them in their neighborhoods. We are treating them as real people - not like they have no money. They know our trucks; they smile and wave when we come down the street. One Saturday two ladies dubbed us the "Drive By Bread Ladies". That is how we got our names!

So, the first leg of my journey has begun. I have started to follow God's calling and am starting to do more than just feed people. Yes, I am still giving them bread. But I am building the relationships with them. I am giving them Bible tracts. And I am building trust with them.

And when I am ready to move on to the next leg of my journey with them, it will be an easy step.

Friday, July 9, 2010

My first adventure

Welcome to my adventure!

I have decided that I am going to begin a blog to help me document my journey on following God and what He has in store for me. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "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." What plans does God have for me? Am I listening to Him? If I have been hearing Him, am I following His word? If not, why? And am I going to start?

About 7 years ago (give or take a year), I started leading a local food pantry. God has helped me grow this pantry. Although we are a very small pantry (serving 40 people a week), we have quadrupled in the number of people and volunteers over the last two years (we have went from serving 9 people a week to serving 40 a week)!

Five years ago I began hearing God tell me that I needed to do more than just run the pantry. I heard Him tell me that I needed to equip these people with more than food. They need to learn life skills: filling out an application, cooking, saving money in the grocery store, learning how to go for an interview, etc. Along with that, we needed to help these people understand that Jesus Christ is their savior. But first we need to meet their physical needs and then meet their spiritual needs - we need to build the relationships with the people and then build trust.

I brought my feelings to someone I felt I trusted (a spiritual leader) and was told that God was not telling me this. Boy, was I taken aback! I had been asking how I knew if it were God telling me something or if it were just voices in my head telling me something. I was told that if you could find verses in the Bible affirming what you believe and people could affirm it, then it was God telling you. These things were happening. So...why did this person tell me God was not telling me this?

So I just keep "feeding" people groceries and have not done anything else. I keep ignoring God telling me to feed their other needs. But I keep hearing God tell me to listen to Him and meet their physical needs. I just keep ignoring Him. I keep having this nagging feeling that I am not being obedient and that I should follow. So what is holding me back?