Sunday, September 30, 2012

Just call me Mama!

      Yesterday was such a touching day! My hosts had donuts and muffins they wanted to get rid of, so all my friends got a treat! So I gave out those and sandwiches and talked with everyone.  I went to an area that I hadn't been to before, Woodruff Park.  I had some competition, because the Mennonites and Christian rappers were already out in that area haha, but I still managed to find some hungry people. As I was walking around, I heard someone call my name, and I looked over and it was Teddy! I had met him once before by the bridge, and he is an awesome guy!
        He told me to sit down with him and rest for a while, so I did. God just sends me the perfect people right when I need them! We talked for a long time, it was really nice and refreshing! He talked to me about his favorite Bible stories and characters, his life experiences, his new job. It was so fun! After he talked for a while, he started asking me questions. He asked me what I wanted to be, and I told him how I don't really want a big career, I kind of just want to be a mom! He said, "Yeah, you're gonna have children. You're gonna have lots of children. All shapes, sizes, races, and ages. You already got about a thousand in Atlanta! These are your children," and he started pointing to all the homeless people around me.
          Words can't begin to describe how much this touched me. I thought my heart might explode. I would write more, but there just aren't words!
My little angel, Teddy

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sow and water

       Today was so fun and refreshing! I started the day at Mercy, which was great. In Bible study we talked about Hebrews 2.  There have been a lot of deaths recently in the Mercy community, so a lot of the discussions have been on death, suffering, and grieving and how to deal with those things.  One thing we talked about was the fear of death. There was this one sweet lady named Dixie who talked about how she has relied on God for her strength in her 11 years of sobriety. She said something that was so simple, but so beautiful in the discussion of death. She said, "When He calls me, I don't hear 'death.' I hear, 'I'm going home.'" Another thing that we talked about today was how Jesus can have compassion because he became like us and suffered. One of the girls there said, "Mercy can't grow unless we're willing to become like our brothers and sisters. We trust those that are willing to walk with us." What she said applies to Jesus becoming like us and how we relate to others. Like Jesus, we need to humble ourselves and be willing to walk with out brothers and sisters, because when we do, we gain compassion and a trusting relationship is formed. And that's a beautiful thing.
        I'm so blown away by how quickly I build relationships with these people. I value them so much, and they so appreciate the small things. One of the guys, George, that I talked to said, "We don't want a hand out, we want a hand up." Homeless people don't just want you to hand them food and walk away. They want and need to be encouraged, uplifted, and shown how valuable they are in our eyes and in God's. The small things, like jelly and having a hand written message on the sandwich bag, make a difference to them. Homeless men are smart, and when you give to them they can see when your heart's in it. How much more will your Heavenly Father know when your gifts are given genuinely or grudgingly? Giving grudgingly still feeds their stomach, which is a good thing, but giving genuinely and from the heart feeds their soul, which is so much more important and that fullness lasts so much longer!
         After we got done serving lunch on the streets, the Mercy crew went out to sing on the streets. It was so fun! People driving by would roll down their windows and some would start dancing, it was great! Just singing about God and His love was so refreshing!
Yeah, my djembe playing would qualify as nothing more than a joyful noise!
I love the Mercy crew!
        One thing that was so awesome today was I went to a little grassy area near some bridges, and when I gave one guy a sandwhich, he said, "Are you Tori?" and I said, "Yeah!" and he gave me a thumbs up and said, "Keep it up!" haha, that was so touching and encouraging! I guess I'd met some of his friends before, but it was so cool that in such a huge city, he knew me before I'd met him. It shows that you really can make a difference, because when you share love, the people you share it with pass it on. Another encouraging thing was I met a girl named Renee, and she told me that she read the message, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you," and she told me she is going to pass that message on. Love has such a huge domino effect! Our reach is so much further than we know, we just have to be ok with sowing seeds of love without having to see the harvest. We can trust God with the harvest, it's just our job to sow and water like crazy!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Happy Birthday, Shorty!

     Today was Shorty's 56th birthday! It was so fun, I brought him a little cake and gave out cupcakes to all the guys, it was such a good time! Nobody else would sing with me, but I sang Happy Birthday to him and gave him a card and a little foam bed cover that I had in my car! The card that I gave him was actually a Thank You card, because that's all I had. But like I wrote on the note, a Thank You card was still appropriate for him, because I am so thankful that God brought us together and I was so blessed by the words he said to me. And I'm just so blessed by getting to know Shorty!
Celebrating Shorty! By the way, guess what. This picture was taken by a homeless guy, and I still have my camera! They aren't all scary criminals like so many people want to believe!
Birthday boy!

     So today was just a really fun day of celebrating Shorty and having a good time. My sandwiches go so fast in Atlanta! There's so much ground to cover!
        I guess I'll go back and tell about Monday now! Monday was awesome! I started the day at Mercy Ministries. They start the day off with worship, prayer, and a Bible study. It was such an awesome time of fellowship! Those guys had so many good things to say! After Bible study, there was a writing class, which was really cool. Not that many people participated, but the ones that did were awesome! The prompt was to write about what gifts you have and how you can share them.  Ivan wrote this awesome piece about how he doesn't have anything of materialistic importance. But he has love, and that's enough. He talked about how most tangible gifts that he's recieved don't really last. But the gift he gives is his heart and his love, and those can't be lost, broken, or run out. His writing was so poetic and so true!
        After writing class, we all went out to feed on the streets. I think it's so cool how the people that eat breakfast at Mercy help to give out lunch on the streets. We're all equal! There's no separation between volunteers and the homeless, because we're all just people!
        After I left Mercy, I went out and handed out sandwiches and hung out with people. Then I went to Bethel again, which was awesome again!
        So yeah, my time in Atlanta has been so amazing! I'm meeting so many awesome people and getting to do things I never could have planned out for myself!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Who's blessing who?

       I've been so rocked by God today!  I started my day going to Bethel Atlanta, which was awesome!
         After Bethel, I went to what's becoming my usual spot at the overpass. I handed out my sandwiches and Bibles and all the guys were really sweet again today. Then I got to talk to Shorty. You know how you always hear people say that when you serve people or minister to people, you always end up being the person that feels served and ministered to? My experience with Shorty was the epitome of that statement! I was SO blessed by him.
        I walked up to Shorty and asked him if he wanted a sandwich, and at first he said no. But then he said, "Oh wait, yeah I'll take one! I remember you, your sandwiches are fresh!" So I gave him a sandwhich and sat down to talk to him and he just like unloaded God's word over me, it was insane. I'll try to remember everything he said, it was all so good!  He said, "Yeah, I feel you. You're a Christian, and you have been for a long time. You were raised in a Christian home, but it hasn't been until recently that you really have experienced God in your life.  And let me tell you something, don't try to rush things. Don't try to get everything done and rush everything. God took six days to make Creation. So don't get impatient with things, you're not going to get everything spiritual in a week." So that was so crazy, because I'd never had a conversation with him before, and everything he said was right on point. And with the wanting to get everything spiritual now, that's exactly what I've been dealing with lately. Like I want signs and wonders and every spiritualy gift to be evident in my life, and I've been wanting those things so badly, which isn't a bad thing, but I just need to rest in the fact that love is what's most important. Love is above all those things. None of those things matter if I don't have love, so I just need to keep on loving, and those things will come when God wants to give them to me. And I just have complete peace in that now. And when Shorty was done talking to me, he said how none of that was him speaking. He didn't know what he was going to say when he started talking to me, and he wouldn't have been able to recall the scriptures that he said to me any other time. But he just let God speak to me through him, and he trusted God to give him the words to say. Seriously, I went out to minister to these men, and I get hard core ministered to, it was crazy! Shorty blessed me so much!
       He also talked about how sometimes when he talks to people, they say to him that if he's a Christian, he should have a home and a car, because God says he takes care of his children. But Shorty says that he is taken care of. He may not be content in the physical, but in his heart and mind, he's completely content and God completely takes care of him. And that's what God means when he promises to take care of His children. Shortys says that he doesn't need a house and a two car garage and a Mercedes to be content. He's thankful for where he is, because he feels like he can minister better in the situation that he's in now. How amazing is that that he's thankful for his homelessness because it gives him the opporunity to minister to those men? That's the true, sacrificial love of God in action!
       As I was walking back to my car, I saw two guys that looked kind of angry. In order to be safe, I've been trying to only approach people that I don't think would be violent. These guys kind of looked like they could be dangerous, but they kept looking at me. And God told me to go ahead and talk to them, that it was ok. So I just smiled and asked if they were hungry, and huge smiles spread across their faces and they said yeah! So I gave them sandwiches, and it was just so awesome. They weren't looking at me out of anger, they were just looking at me because they desired that love, too. They weren't dangerous, they were just hungry.  And when I shared that love with them, their entire demeanors totally transformed. They went from hard, angry guys, to smiling softies just by being given some love, attention, and a sandwich. That's all it takes to transform a person! Well, really only love!
       It was so amazing. God is so cool. After I got done talking with Shorty, first of all I was totally blown away! I had to kind of gain compusure before I went out again haha. But then I went and hung out some people who are a part of Occupy Atlanta. They were just really friendly and I got a lot of insight from them! And it was just cool to hang out with them and get to know some more of God's creation. When you decide to just love people with no judgement, it's so awesome. 
       So it's been another beautiful day of pouring out God's love and having it poured right back into me. Seriously,.living in God's love is the most fulfilling life you'll ever have, just surrender.

My occupy Atlanta friends, Mandy and Mike, and some of Mandy and her boyfriend's art:
Shorty, the homeless, amazing, street prophet child of God!


Saturday, September 22, 2012


      Another day full of being astounded by God's love! Today I joined with 7 Bridges Ministry, which is a really awesome ministry that goes either into the really bad areas (like abandoned houses and projects) or under overpasses to give food and hygeine kits to and pray for the people there.  I chose to go under the overpasses! We got to meet a lot of cool people. One guy that really stuck out to me was Bryan. He had such a good heart! He talked to us for a while and one of the things he said was, "Sometimes we get so educucated and so knowlegeable that we forget the simple things. Like love."
Bryan and I:
Praying under the bridges:

       After I was done with 7 Bridges, I was feeling like I might be getting sick, so I thought I might be done for the day, not because I wanted to be, but just because I wasn't feeling great. So I parked somewhere to get some water, but the parking meter was broken and there was a guy that was acting sketchy, so I got back in my car and figured I'd find somewhere else to get water, so I drove away. When I was driving to find somewhere to stop (keep in mind, I don't ever know where I'm going, I just drive until I find where I'm supposed to be), I passed a part of a bridge that I had stopped at a few times before. I love how I keep "just happening upon" this same place! So I looked over and saw some people. A part of me still wanted to just go find water and be done for the day. But God said, "Why would I bring you here if I didn't want you to feed these people?" So I was like, yeah, you're right. Even if I'm sick, these people still need fed, and I may be the only person to feed them. So I parked and took out my sandwiches and Bibles. And, as always, when God gives me something to do, no matter how I'm feeling physically or emotionally, if I say yes to Him, I always leave with my heart completely full!  I gave them all food and talked to them for a while. It was just a really sweet time. There were probably about twenty guys in this area. Usually when there's a group that size or bigger, not everyone will be receptive.  But every single one of the guys I went to in that area was not only receptive, but grateful! And as I was leaving, every single guy shouted out, "Bye!" or, "Bye, Tori!" and waved. All of the guys!  It was one of the sweetest moments I've had in Atlanta.  I love these guys so much, and I don't ever expect anything back from them. So when they show that they love me too, it blows my mind! It's hard to put a moment like that into words.  It's so much more than just some guys waving and saying bye. It's like separation was bridged and walls were torn down. Some of these guys build up a tough exterior in order to survive, so to have all the guys, even the tough ones, give a warm, sweet "goodbye," some even calling me by name, it was so beautiful.
     Choosing to always say yes to God is seriously the best thing you could ever do. I keep saying yes to God, not because I'm some super obedient servant, but because I know that what He wants me to do is what's going to bring me joy. Saying yes to Him makes me happy! Saying yes to Him makes my heart filled to overflowing! Saying yes to God has never hurt me or worn me down. It has only ever brought me more joy than I thought possible! And if you want to say yes to God, but don't know what He's telling you to do, just  loving is a good place to start. Saying yes to love is saying yes to God, because God is love. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

People, not a problem

       I found my Atlanta home today! Yesterday I gave out a ton of sandwiches- they went really fast! So after I ran out of sandwiches I kind of went looking for somewhere to serve and called a lot of places. When making phone calls, I came up with some of the same issues that I did in Chattanooga: volunteering in most places requires orientations and applications.
This is one of the places I went to give out sandwiches and Bibles, under an overpass:
This is my sweet buddy James that I got to see again today:)

        In one place that I went, I talked to a lady who gave me a few suggestoins of where to look to volunteer, and I wrote them all down on a little piece of paper. Later last night, I was going to look up the places that she told me about, so I started looking in my pockets for the piece of paper that I wrote her suggestions on.  I didn't find that piece of paper in my pockets, but I found a notecard that I had forgotten about. I read it and then remembered that it was a suggestion that Eric, a guy that works at East Nashville Cooperative Ministry gave me when I told him that I was going to Atlanta. Perfect!
        So this morning I emailed Mercy Ministries, the place that Eric suggested, and right away, Chad, the guy in charge, emailed me back and told me to come over! I was so excited, finally a place that would take me! When I got there, I instantly knew that it was my Atlanta home! It was so much like ENCM, so I was in love! It's so crazy how I can see how God is putting everything together for me on this trip! Everything is so connected and full of purpose that I never could have put together on my own! Papa is cool that way.
        Mercy Ministries is open Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays. They start the morning with fellowship, a Bible study, and worship with volunteers and the homeless members of the Mercy family, and then they take food out on the streets to feed people on the streets.  Today, I only got there in time for feeding in the streets, but I am SO excited to be there on Monday for the Bible study and worship! I love ENCM and Mercy so much because they aren't about people going there to "do their part" and check off a good deed box. In so many places, you go in, do your job of handing out food, then leave without ever actually getting to know anybody or even having a conversation. But at ENCM and Mercy, it's a group of equals spending time together. There's a feeling of community and family rather than a feeling of segregation that so many outreach ministries have. That's why I love these places so much!
Some of the Mercy people and I:
The guy walking in the back was posing haha he was hilarious!
        After I left Mercy, I went out and found people. I drove around not knowing where I was going, but God took me to all the right people! He took me back under the bridge that I went to yesterday, so I got to see James again! He's such a happy guy, I love it! I love these people so much! One thing I've been thinking about today is how we need to stop seeing the homeless as a problem that needs to be fixed, and start seeing them as people that need to be loved. God doesn't care about social status, where we live, or what we wear, He just wants our hearts! And the hearts of people sleeping under a bridge are just as valuable to God as yours. Jesus didn't die just for comfortable Christians, He died for everyone! His love is such a beautiful thing that we should all be so excited about it that we can't be comfortable with just consuming it. Go ahead and share it, it's ok! It's not going to run out! And no matter how much of it you give away, you won't have any less, I promise! In fact, the more you pour out, the more filled you feel!
This made my heart smile! This is Jo, I gave him a couple sandwiches and a Bible, and as I was walking back to my car, I looked over and he was already digging into the word! So cool!

         If you have been keeping up with my blogs, you might be sick of hearing this, but I LOVE THESE PEOPLE!
         Oh yeah, and look at the awesome place that I hung out with Papa today! He just keeps reminding me that He doesn't care how much I get done in a day, He just wants me to walk in His love, wherever I am. My performance doesn't please Him, my heart does. He's so awesome! And He loves you so much!
Spending time with Him in His Creation is so fun:)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jump out of the boat!

       God seriously is amazing. Yesterday I started driving to Atlanta and I didn't know if I would have anyone to stay with once I got there. I just knew that that's where God wanted me, so I had to go knowing that He would take care of the rest. And He did! My mom called her friend who called some of her friends that live right outside of Atlanta, and halfway through my drive to Atlanta, I had a place to stay. And its an adorable little barn with the sweetest couple ever, Mr. and Mrs. Purvis! They are so sweet and we have awesome conversations! I'm amazed at how God keeps blessing me!
        One response I get a lot when I tell people about what I'm doing is, "Oh! How brave!" haha. At first I was like yeah, I guess this is kind of a brave thing to do. But now I see it's not brave at all! What I'm doing doesn't take any courage! Every time I step out in faith, God does amazing things and He shows that He has my future all planned out. If He proves Himself trustworthy every time, why would I ever be afraid? He's given me every reason to completely trust Him with my life and my future, so why wouldn't I? He's taking worry and fear completely out of my vocabulary! And I think He wants to do that for all His children, but so many people are too afraid to give Him the opportunity to prove Himself. If you never get out of the boat, God will never be able to show you that He can keep you above water.
      It's so funny how I can see the way God is changing me, even within the past few months. When He showed me the vision of Love Works: America Tour, at first I kind of dipped my toes in the water, but then decided I wanted to find a way to incorprate God's plans while staying safely in the boat by going down the normal college path and keeping God's plan in mind for later. When God made it clear that He wanted me to follow Him now, I timidly got out of the boat by deciding to follow through with the plan He gave me. And now, I don't want anything to do with the boat, my false sense of security in what's safe and comfortable. What's explainable by human capability. Yesterday, I didn't just get out of the boat, I jumped out! And I'm so glad I did!
        I don't want anyone to think that my stepping out and trusting God with my future is a testament to my faith. It's not! It's a testament to my God! To me, trusting God with my future is becoming like trusting that the sun is going to come up in the morning. If someone tells you that they aren't worried about the sun coming up in the morning, they just believe it's going to happen, your response would be, "Yeah, the sun does that!" That's how our response should be to people when they say they are trusting God to have their future perfectly planned! "Yeah, He does that!"
       God longs for you to put your life completely in His hands! He'll be patient with you as you first dip your toes in the water then timidly begin to get out. And He will rejoice with you when you finally realize that you can joyously jump out to meet Him on the water and run into His plan for your life! But you can't just stay in the boat! Trust me, once you get out, you'll never want to go back! :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Nothing Wasted

So, finding my niche in Chattanooga hasn’t been as easy as it was in Nashville. 
       I got in town Monday around 3:30, and I drove around the city looking for homeless people… I couldn’t find any. So, I went to the home of my Chattanooga hosts, the Hutsells. The Hutsells are so sweet and have such a lovely home! I am so grateful for our time together, even if it ends up getting cut short.
       This morning I drove to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen to see if they had anything for me to do there. When I knocked on the door, a lady answered, but she didn’t let me in. She kind of just stood in the doorway and asked me what I needed. When I asked her if they had any volunteer work that needed done, she told me that I would have to call and make an appointment. So that didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped for, but I wasn’t discouraged. I knew I just had to keep looking.
         From there, I went to Starbucks so that I could make calls and Google more ministries that I could try to plug into.  Some of the places I called didn’t answer, some places said I would have to leave a message and have them get back with me, and some places said that they didn’t have any short term volunteer opportunities. So calling and googling didn’t end up being very productive, either.
        While I was sitting in Starbucks, I had really bad neck pains that were making me feel sick and easily distracted. My mom posted something about it on Facebook, and I saw somebody comment on there that maybe I was around someone with neck pains and I needed to pray for them.  But I just went along googling and making calls. Then I went up to get some more coffee and I looked at the barista and asked him if by chance he had any neck pains. He said, “Yes, in fact I do. I have herniated disks.” (Crazy, right? The first person I ask has not just neck pains, but herniated disks!). So I asked if I could pray for him, and he said yes, so I did. When I was done, I asked him if it felt any different and he said, “Not at the moment.” And I told him I believed it would!
       I had never prayed for healing before in that kind of way, but it was really cool! First of all, it was awesome that the first person I asked said yes. After I asked him and he told me about his herniated disks, my neck pain left. The fact that after I prayed he said he didn’t feel any different, might make some people consider the whole situation kind of a failure. But I don’t think it was at all. One thing I thought was awesome was the fact that when I asked him if his neck felt any different, he didn’t say “no,” he said, “Not at the moment.” The way he said that showed that he had hope that it would. I know that God is able to heal, and I know He loves Rodney.  When I was talking to my mom about it, I told her that I think maybe God wants to heal Him later instead of immediately after I prayed for him so that I wouldn’t see Rodney get healed and try to take credit for the healing or in some twisted way be prideful of the fact that God healed him after I prayed for him.  But I continue to pray that God will heal Rodney when I’m not there so that God will get all the glory.
         After I left, I went in search for some homeless people, because I had yet to find any.  I went to a park by the river, and I did find one! I gave him a couple sandwiches, but I couldn’t really have a good conversation with him because I couldn’t understand anything he said. But if he and Rodney were the only reasons I came to Chattanooga, then they were totally worth it!
       After I talked to him for a second, I kept looking in the park.  The park had a map of the world in the ground, so I sat on America and read my Bible and prayed for the country and all the places I’ll be visiting this year. When I opened my Bible, I opened it up to 2 Corinthians 2:13 which says, “I still had no peace of mind…so I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia.”  I felt like that was confirmation that God wants me to move on to Atlanta earlier then planned!
          Today I am going on my final search for some homeless people (I got some leads on where to find them from some people at a college church service I went to last night with my high school friend that goes to UTC), but if I still don’t find anyone, I am leaving for Atlanta today!
         It’s kind of crazy because I don’t know exactly where I will be staying tonight, but I really feel like God wants me to move forward, and He won’t call me somewhere if He doesn’t have the way already mapped out.
         So keep me in your prayers and let me know if you know anyone or any programs in Atlanta!

Sunday, September 16, 2012


     Today God's been completely reviving my soul! I didn't think I could feel any more alive, but God proved me wrong! This morning I went to Grace Center. That experience was beyond words! I seriously wouldn't have been surprised if God pulled an Enoch and took me straight to Heaven right in the middle of that worship service. I got there at 9:30 and left at 1:45, and I wasn't bored for a second! Within that time, there was an hour of soaking, an hour and fifteen minutes of worship that felt like twenty minutes maximum, an hour and a half long sermon, and half an hour of prayer and getting lost in God's presence. It was so amazing and so refreshing!
       After that, I went to serve at the Women's Rescue Mission for the last time.
       It's so crazy that today was my last full day in Nashville! Tomorrow morning I head to Chattanooga! This first week has been so amazing and full of love, I can't even describe this feeling. What I'm doing, in the natural, would make me feel like I'm pouring myself out to the point of feeling drained. But I serve a supernatural God and He's giving me peace beyond understanding, and I'm completely saturated by His love. He continues to pour His love on me so that what I give to others is just an overflow of my endless supply of my Father's love. I don't have any less love or joy because of what I'm doing, because I don't just have love and joy. I am love and joy, because Jesus is love and joy and He lives in me. You can't have less of something that you don't possess. When we allow Jesus to completely take over our hearts, we don't possess love, we ARE love. I just keep falling deeper in love with my God as He shows me more of Himself. And I'm so glad He chose me to take on this journey. I am beyond blessed! Go soak in His presence, He adores you!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

I'm going to miss my friends!

     Today was such a good day! I'm so full of God's love, it's amazing! The day started with me handing out a few sandwiches. Then I went to Nashville Rescue Mission for Women to serve lunch. There were a few other volunteers there that serve once a month with a women's group from their church. They asked me about what I was doing, and when I told them, they were so supportive and encouraging! They said they were my "Nashville cheerleaders"! They were so sweet, and it was such a blessing to get to serve with them today.
My Nashville cheerleaders and me:
I also got to talk with Ms. Roxy, a woman who works there, and she was a sweet encouragement for my day, too!
          After I left the Women's Mission, I headed to my usual spot downtown, but as usual, couldn't find anywhere to park. I feel like my motto of Nashville should be, "When you can't find parking, just keep driving." Everytime I have trouble parking, it's because God wants to take me somewhere better than where I had planned on going! Today, He took me to hang out with my friends from ENCM! When I gave up on finding a parking spot, I decided to head towards the Nazarene Church, because I remembered Juan saying that they hung out in that area sometimes. When I got to the church, I saw some people hanging out in a parking lot across the street, so I drove over to offer them food. When I pulled up, I realized they were my friends! So I got to just sit and hang out with them for a bit, it was really sweet! Once again, I was glad there was no available parking!
My friends Jerry, Country, Shannon, and one of their buddies (Juan took the picture). And you can see John Brown's legs! He was asleep

      After I hung out with them for a while, I went back to my usual spot downtown to find more hungry people. As I was walking, I saw a guy sprawled out asleep. I could tell he was really tired (yeah, it sounds obvious because he was sleeping, but I could tell that he wasn't just sleepy, he was worn out from life) and hungry, so while he was asleep, I put a Bible and sandwich by his stuff. That's my favorite! Blessing people when they can't see me, it's the best! That way they don't get distracted by the messanger, all they see is the message. And I can just imagine him waking up and having a Bible and food, not knowing where it came from other than God. It's so awesome! When I walked back to my car, I saw him, and he was sitting up. From the way he's sitting, it looks like he could either be sleeping while sitting up, just sitting, or praying. But I believe he was praying!
     This journey has been so amazing so far! God shows Himself in every situation. On this trip, He's been my comfort, my guide, my home, my constant friend, my protector, my peace! I feel so amazingly blessed by this trip and all the beautiful people I'm meeting. They really are my friends! I can't even express how full my heart is!
      Oh, and just a random awesome part of my every day while in Nashville is the fact that I get to see God show off His beauty every ride to and from downtown. This picture doesn't do it justice at all, but I'm surrounded by mountains on my drive every morning and night. God wouldn't let me forget how awesome He is if I tried!

Friday, September 14, 2012

We are not less than sparrows.

     Another day full of love and God's perfect plan! We served breakfast and lunch at ENCM, so the day started earlier, but was so good! So many loving people! And the occasional crazy that thinks God intended for us to only ever eat marijuana, and if we don't then it will result in us all eating each other. Yeah, I really don't know how he came to that conclusion. I've never eaten marijuana, and somehow I've never craved human flesh, so his theory is kind of off. But hey, God loves the crazies, too! I seriously can't think about that without laughing out loud. How did he come up with that?!
       Anyway, after I left ENCM, I was going to go park and go into my usual area, but I searched and searched, but couldn't find anywhere to park. So, not knowing where I was going, I just kept on driving. I had no plan, but as always, when I don't have a plan, God's comes through. I eventually drove up to Nashville Rescue Mission, and then it made sense why I couldn't find parking: God wanted me to serve there. I walked in and talked to the director and asked how I could serve and he told me that I could either serve there, or at their location for women and children. I decided to go to the Women's Rescue Mission to serve.  I had a little extra time before dinner started, so I went to my usual spot to give out sandwiches, and I saw my buddies Rodney and Ray!
     It's so fun seeing familiar faces on the streets! I was really proud of Rodney, though! He told me how earlier that day he wanted to go get some whiskey, but then he stopped and said to himself, "Turn around, what are you doing? You don't need no whiskey!" and he went to Starbucks and got himself some coffee instead! It made me so happy, I felt like a proud mama! And then there was sweet Ray! He was my first official goodbye of Nashville, because he's leaving in the morning to go stay with his family in Alabama. He's such a sweetheart, I absolutely loved my time with him! Before I left, he gave me a hug and then had me write him a note in the Bible I gave him. It was the sweetest thing. I can see that Ray has had a change in his heart, and it's so awesome!
My good friend, Ray!
     Then I went to the Women's Rescue Mission.  It was tough to see little kids in there, growing up with that as their normal.  But it was good to get to serve those women and kids.  The meal went by really quickly, but after the meal I got to have a really good conversation with a woman named Kate who is a part of the Hope Center, which is the Mission's Rehab program.  Today Kate is 100 days sober!! I was so proud of her! We just got to talk to each other about God and how He restores us and He desires our love and for us to have a relationship with Him.  That conversation was so encouraging, I know meeting Kate could be the only reason I couldn't find a parking space!  
        After I left the Rescue Mission, I went back to ENCM because a church was hosting a revival there. I ended up not staying for the revival, but I talked to Juan and got to hear his testimony. Juan isn't perfect, but God has changed him so much! Knowing him now, it's really hard to believe that he was the person that he used to be! He used to be violent and angry, and he did some things that he now knows weren't right at all. But now he is such a loving and protective person.  He takes care of the people on the streets, and he's there for them and offers them hope.  Juan has had friends offer a couch or a bed in their home for him to sleep on, but Juan knows that a lot of the homeless depend on him. Some are physically weak and need his help, some just need the emotional support that he offers. So Juan turns down their offers, because he knows God placed him with these people for a reason, and they still need him.  Juan does work hard. He works in the kitchen at ENCM every day for at least seven hours, but he doesn't get paid for it. And he's ok with that, because he knows he's helping people that need him.  Many people may call him crazy. He's homeless and he works every day without pay. Most people would tell him to stop wasting his time volunteering and go get a job that actually pays so he can get his own place. So he can be comfortable. People would tell him to look out for himself.  In fact, I kind of wanted to tell him this at first. But then I realized, Juan's got it right.  Nowhere in the Bible does it say, "Look out for yourself and make sure you're comfortable." God tells us to take care of the least of these. And Juan does that, not just giving them his spare time after he's got himself taken care of, but devoting all his time to them, because he know God has him there for a reason.  And he never worries about how he's going to make it because, as he often says, "We are not less than sparrows." (Matthew 6:26).
          I'm so amazed how God is giving me so many beautiful relationships and wisdom from these people. I am so blessed by them! And He's guiding me to all the right people, even when I have no clue where I'm going! I'm so blessed and happy!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

One Man's Trash

         Today had some really good, happy moments, and a lot of hard, heartbreaking moments.
I worked at ENCM again today, which was good as always! Ribs were donated, so that's what we made for lunch, and word must have gotten out, because it was packed today! After cooking, feeding, and TONS of dishes, I got to do what I really enjoy: hanging out with the guys.
Today Maurice, aka Piano Man, came in! He's pretty popular not just at ENCM, but through Nashville! He let me video him playing!
By the way, if you're wondering why I don't have more pictures or videos, I'd really like to, but I can't video/photograph everything out of respect for the guys. Not all of them are comfortable with being on camera.
I got to hang out with Paul, too! Paul's the drummer of the group. He always has drumsticks, and he's always drumming! He's such a funny guy, always happy and always willing to help. One awesome thing about Paul is the fact that he can pull things out of his pockets for days! He has so many random things, but they all mean something to him. His most treasured trinket is a little figurine he calls Homie. He's had this little thing for thirty years! When he was showing me Homie, he said he just found it laying in the street and he picked it up because, "One man's trash is another man's treasured posession." Later when I was driving home thinking about Paul and his Homie, God told me that's how he sees these people, the homeless. The world sees them in the street and writes them off as worthless trash. But God sees them, picks them up and dusts them off, and consideres them His treasured possession. He does that with all of us. We're all His treasured possession, no matter how dirty and beat up we are when He picks us up.
This is Paul:
and his many treasures (Homie, Robot man, his old dogs' tags, a heart that reminds him of Valentine's Day which is when he was saved, a watch he's had for about twenty years, dice, and a drum key that belonged to Led Zeplin's drummer!):
After I left ENCM, I went to Starbucks for some coffee and journaling before I headed out to find people. I sat down, and the guy at the table next to me, Strider, started talking to me. He told me that he was about to head to McKendree to serve dinner to the homeless, and I said, "Perfect! That's what I do!" So he invited me to go help. God just keeps showing me where He wants me!
There were a ton of people at McKendree, and I actually saw a lot of people there that I know through ENCM. It was so awesome to see familiar faces and get to talk to them in a different environment! When everyone had been served and most of the people were gone, we started cleaning up. It took us a while, and the whole time there was one lady left who was there way after everyone else was gone. Her name was Denise. Denise didn't have a big story, but she had a huge smile. She was the sweetest person I've met so far, so softspoken and tender hearted, and so sweet. I really didn't get to know much about her or her background, but from the short time I spent with her, Denise really grabbed my heart. We walked and talked for a while, and when we parted ways, I asked her if she knew where she was going for the night. She said she'd probably head to the park and find somewhere to sleep. As soon as we left each other I couldn't keep from crying. This lady who was sweeter than anyone I've met had to go find somewhere to sleep and hope she'd make it through the night safely. It's heartbreaking, I just want everyone to have a safe, warm home. The homeless aren't just things you see on the street, they're people. And when they become your friends, homelessness just breaks your heart.
And they really are becoming my friends. God showed me that when He brought me comfort through one of them. After I left Denise and I was really torn up, I saw my buddy Ray that I met yesterday and I sat with him. I was crying, and I said, "I just want everyone to have a home." He didn't say much to me in that moment, but he brought me comfort, just being there, being a friendly familiar face. Then he started talking to me about how he's doing better, and the things that are going on in his life. I love these awesome people!
After I left Ray, I met a guy named Memphis who's from Memphis and he actually spent time at the Union Mission, where I've served with Highpoint! It's such a small world!
Then I met a guy named Adam. Adam was a parking attendant that saw me giving out sandwiches and he started asking me about what I'm doing. I offered him a Bible, but he said he didn't want one because he's Muslim. Then he told me about himself. He's from Africa and became an orphan we he was four years old. He's one of the Lost Boys. He told me that when he was in Africa, he was always hungry and would have to sometimes go a month without food. He told me about one time when a Christian girl came and gave him food (noodles) and how he would never forget that because it meant so much to him. Because when you're that hungry, it's the worste feeling. When you're hungry you don't know what you're doing. He said, "So what you're doing- asking people if they're hungry and giving them food- that's everything. I know, I've been hungry."
Guys, impacting people is really simple. It's as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The other day a guy gave me knucks, just because the sandwich had jelly on it! It was awesome! That little thing means so much. And my friend Rodney, he couldn't stop thanking me just for listening to him. I don't want any of you guys to think I'm doing something special or out of the ordinary. I'm just loving people, meeting one of their basic needs, and listening to what they have to say. It's so easy, you can do it wherever you are. And trust me, you'll never regret listening to these people, they have so many awesome stories and things to say! We all need to learn to see people's hearts instead of their social status. Let's ask God for His eyes.

Some of the ENCM kitchen crew:
Some of the guys from Nashville Korean United Methodist that I served with at McKendree:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"Stranger: a friend you haven't met yet."

     I was going to begin this post with a theme of the day, but I really don't think I could narrow it down to just one. This day was so amazing and so full! It was just another peice of evidence in my life that God is so sovereign and He has our future mapped out.
      When I left this morning, I really didn't know what I was going to do. Even getting in my car, I didn't know where I would end up.  But I knew I had to start somewhere, so I entered the address of East Nashville Cooperative Ministry into my GPS as a starting point.  I hadn't been in contact with ENCM at all, so I had no idea if they would have anything for me to do once I got there, or if they would be receptive of me.  God knew, though! I got there and started to walk into the building and I met a man named Greggo who was outside sweeping.  He asked me if I was a volunteer and I told him that it was my first time there, but I was there to help! So he took me in to meet Alan, who was kind of the man in charge. 
         I went in there totally blind, but they were all so receptive! Alan told me about ENCM and I told him about Love Works: America Tour.  After talking for a little while, he immediately plugged me into their program and sent me to work in the kitchen with Donna, Tammy, and Juan.  It's a small kitchen, but they make it work and they make great meals! At ENCM, they serve lunch to the homeless Monday- Thursday, Fridays they serve breakfast and lunch, and Saturdays different churches come in and serve dinner and provide a Bible study.  ENCM is a great place that really builds up the homeless of Nashville. Not only do they provide basic needs, such as food and clothing, but they really respect and dignify the homeless.  They want there to be minimal separation between the volunteers and the homeless. So much so that a lot of the homeless are actually volunteers!
       Juan, one of the kitchen workers, is actually homeless, and he has such a servant heart.  I'll talk more about Juan later.
        Once we finished making and serving lunch, I was able to go just hang out with and listen to the people.  One of the guys I met was Tom.  Tom is such a character! He's a writer and he shared some of his songs with me, along with his story.  Tom has been through a lot, and you can see God's hand in his life through everything. His parents were alcoholics and his mother had "many kids with many men."  When he was eleven he got put into a foster home, but was abandoned by the foster mother, so he went out on his own where he grew up quickly, seeing the ways of the streets and thinking it was normal life.  But Tom talks about how he never hurts anyone.  He used to hurt himself a lot, but he doesn't hurt others.  His philosophy is, "There's no excuse for bad behavior." A man who was emotionally, sexually, and physically abused and could easily do whatever he wanted and blame it on what's been done to him, has decided to not allow himself to make any excuses. It's a concept that many who haven't been through half of what Tom has been through cannot grasp. That we can't blame our circumstances for the choices we make. But here was Tom, a simple man in a homeless ministry, convicting me. 
          Tom really gets it! A man who many would say has every reason to ask God why, choses instead to thank God for the good in his life.  One of my favorite things Tom said while he was telling me his story is, "I may be the product of a whore, but I'm the son of a King."  That's so beautiful! It doesn't matter where you came from, your a child of God. That's where our identity is!
        After I left ENCM, I decided to go to Starbucks for a while to blog and get rid of my caffiene headache.  When I sat down to start blogging, I realized that I had left my laptop charger at the Young's, so instead of my plan of being alone in Starbucks working out, God's plan of me meeting people in the streets worked out.  While I was walking back to my car, I met Jerry, Ben, and Sherri.  Jerry was just a sweet man that I gave sandwiches and Jesus's love too.  I didn't get to know him well, but he was very sweet and harmless.  I got to know Ben, a man selling papers written from the homeless' perspective, better. Ben also has quite the story.

       Ben has been through a lot.  His parents were both alcoholic and he grew up watching his mother be severely abused and being severely abused himself.  He's been stabbed and shot at by his own parents.  He also has a lot of physical issues. He's had 38 surgeries from the waist up, has spina bifida, and has bad intestinal issues that keep him from being able to digest food or even eat.  When I asked him if he was hungry, he said yes, but he couldn't eat because he can't digest food.  As of today, he hasn't eaten in four days!   Some more of his background is that he's from San Francisco.  He was a ninth generation fire fighter. When the earthquake in 1989 happened in San Francisco that broke the Golden Gate Bridge, he was one of the men that went in to find bodies.  That's where he found his daughter.  She was on the bridge during the earthquake and she lost both her parents, who were her only family in America, because she was origionally from the middle east.  He got a government translator and called her family overseas, but they didn't want the expense of having to take care of her, so Ben adopted her.  He's such an amazing person, and like I told him, with all that he's survived in his life so far, it's obvious that he has a huge purpose here.  Sadly, he seemed really shut off to the idea of prayer and God due to all of the struggle in his life. But I know God loves him, can heal him, and obviously has huge plans for Ben's life because through being shot, stabbed, and 38 surguries, Ben is still here. So please lift Ben up in prayer! That God would heal him of spina bifida and his intestinal issues, and more importantly that God would heal his wounded heart!
        Then, I met an artist named Sherri.  She had a canvas in her hand, so we struck up a conversation about art which led to other things (by the way, you can find her on facebook at Honky Tonk Art, if you're interested).  She was telling me about how she had been a victim of violence in Nashville when someone hit her in the mouth with a pistol.  When I told her I'm glad she's still here, her response was, "Yeah, and he's not!" and then she told me the wild story about the guy that hit her.  He was a musician, and a while after he hit her, he was on stage, and in the middle of playing "Raspberry Beret" his heart burst and he collapsed and died on stage.  She wasn't happy that he died or anything, but that's a crazy story!
        After meeting all of these people and hearing their stories, all I could think all day is, "Why doesn't anyone want to talk to these people?! They're so interesting, and they have so much to share!" The homeless are real people with so many experiences, and wisdom from their experiences, but so many people just want to write them off as lazy and unimportant.  But you can't know what somebody's been through until you stop and listen. And no matter what they've been through, God created them in the same image as you: His. And he values them and loves them. They're just as important to Him as you are.
         At 5:30, I headed to Jefferson Bridge for the Under the Bridge Ministry that Juan told me about.  I actually saw him riding his bike right when I pulled in, so I got to hang out with him the whole time and he showed me around and introduced me to some people.  The Under the Bridge Ministry is a really cool thing.  They actually meet under a bridge, feed the homeless, have a worship service and sermon, a raffle for a bike, tent, and sleeping bag, and then they send everyone off with a bag of food.  It was awesome to sit and worship with them and pray for them. 
The Under the Bridge Ministry:

My kitchen buddy/tour guide/street protection (he told me tonight that people know him and he wouldn't let anyone hurt me! haha). Today he told me that a stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet. Juan quickly went from being a stranger to being my friend! Juan:

       So my first day of being out in the city of Nashville was so great beyond expectation! I had no idea what I was going to do this morning, but God already had my day mapped out for me. I just had to step out in faith.  And God is showing me how to do that more and more.  He's also getting rid of my fears completely.  I walked into ENCM not knowing anyone and nobody knowing me, but I wasn't afraid. I went in to Nashville not really knowing where I was going or who I would meet, but I wasn't afraid.  I went to Under the Bridge Ministry not knowing any of the volunteers, and I didn't even sit with them. I just stayed with Juan and his homeless friends. But I wasn't afraid.  And that's not me being brave, that's Jesus giving me peace beyond understanding and showing me that He holds my life in His hands, not the potentially dangerous people I will encounter.  We just have to trust Him with that, and know He's always with us.  Wherever we go, He is there, because He's in us.
        I'm so overwhelmed by God's love and His plan! God loves you, and has huge things in store for you! Go shine your light and share God's love!


The Tour Begins!

       Monday, September 10, 2012 I began the Love Works: America Tour journey! It was a crazy, exciting day full of last minute preparation, but it went so well! I packed my car full of peanut butter and Bibles (thanks to all the donations of friends and churches!)...
got my trusty car ride companion...
my first tank of gas of many to come...
and headed to my first stop: Nashville, Tennessee!

       The car ride went smoothly, besides being pulled over for driving too slow, in true Tori fashion.  No worries, though, the officer was gracious and didn't give me a ticket!
        I arrived safely at the Young's home, my hosts for the week, at about 5:30.  I decided that was probably too late to head into the city, so I stayed in for the night to make sandwiches and spend quality time with Papa to get mentally and spiritually prepared for what the next day had in store. In case any of you were wondering, making 40+ PB&Js is more time consuming then you would imagine! Maybe that's just because it takes longer to make them with love:)