Sunday, November 11, 2012

This ain't the Bible belt!

      My time in Denver so far has been different, but good! I've been volunteering at the Denver Rescue Mission serving lunch and helping in the kitchen. It's a really great Christ centered rescue mission! One of my first days going out on my own was tough. I went to a park that was pretty much a center for drug dealing. I've never been offered drugs so many times in a row in my life! That didn't really bother me, it was just a really dark area. When I started talking to people and giving them sandwiches, no body was interested in the Bible.  In every other city, when I offer people Bibles, their answer is either, "Yeah!" or "No, I already have one." So it was my first time encountering so people who weren't at all interested in the Bible and kind of seemed annoyed to be offered one. I didn't feel personally offended or rejected by that, but it was hard because it made me so sad to see people so shut off to God.  Here are some of the guys I met that day:
So the next day going out on my own after that started out really hard. Walking through the park, I felt so overwhelmed! I was in a park full of guys who had mostly been completely shut of to God or even receiving a Bible, and it was just a really spiritually dark place. So I walked through almost all of the park and I hadn't talked to anyone. I just felt so overwhelmed and intimidated and I felt like nobody would want me to talk to them. And then, once again, God made one of these precious people an angel on my path to keep me going. I had walked through almost the entire park, and then I saw Sham! I had met him the day before, and I just loved him! That day he had been the only bright spot in a dark day out. He pretty much stays to himself and doesn't like asking people for things. He had such a sweet, gentle spirit, and he let me into his little world a bit. I loved talking to Sham! So when I saw him right as I was about to just leave without talking to anyone, it completely turned my day around! When I see sweet, familiar faces out, it brings me such joy! It gives me a nudge to keep going. So I sat and talked with Sham for a while and God used him to completely revive my spirits and give me comfort and the courage to keep going. After I left Sham, I talked to every person I saw! God used him to totally change my attitude from one of intimidation to loving boldness! I talked to and fed and gave some clothes to everyone after him! And after that, nearly every person that I offered a Bible to wanted one! It was so amazing, and if God hadn't sent me Sham to flip my day around, I might have left the park without talking to or helping any of these people and they wouldn't have gotten Bibles. I'm just so thankful for the way that God can turn a day around. He can take us when we're overwhelmed, weak, and scared and use us to shine light in a dark area. And I love that he uses these precious children that are looked down upon by society and he uses them to minister to me more than a suited up ordained minister. Because I get to look into their eyes and see Jesus. If you read Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus says, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."  I wrote in my Bible next to this passage, "If you want to hang out with Jesus, go hang out with the least of these, look into their eyes, and see Him." And it's so true. If you feel distant from Jesus, go hang out with the poor and the needy. If you want to be more like Jesus, care about what He cares about. He cares about the poor, the orphans, the widows, the outcasts, the prostitutes, the liars, the alcoholics, the people in the streets, the people begging that might use the money you give them for food to buy drugs instead. God loves them! And He tells us to take care of them.
         And I promise you, you'll never miss a cent or a jacket or a minute that you give away to the financially poor or poor in spirit. Being able to pour blessings on people and see it totally change their demeanor is the most beautiful thing I've ever experienced. I got to see this beautiful change in sweet Barbara the other day! She was sitting on a park bench and the only jacket she had was a really light windbreaker, and it's really cold, so she was shivering. I talked to her and gave her some jackets, socks, gloves, a hat, a scarf, a blanket (once again, I really cannot thank people who donate enough), some food and water, and I wrote down the name of some shelters for her to try. I just talked to her for while. She was so sweet, and it was amazing to see her change from a shivering woman with her head hanging down to a woman with a bright smile who would look into your eyes. And this change was caused by something so simple. And really, I think what blessed her most was when I hugged her. It was so sweet, it made her giggle! What blesses people most is love! Even if you don't have any money, food, or clothes to give to people, you can always give them your time, love, and a hug. Trust me, you'll be just as blessed if not way more! God loves these precious babies! And I am so beyond grateful that He has shared them with me. I'm so glad He gave me this wonderful gift of a job. It isn't a duty, it isn't a burden, it isn't a sacrifice. It's a beautiful, precious gift. I'm in love with my Papa and I'm in love with these people. Little ol' me gets the gift of all these beautiful babies. I really couldn't be happier. There's nothing else I'd rather be doing. And He wants to give this gift to you, you just have to open up to receive it! He invites all of His children to be a part of the gift the nonstop cycle of receiving and pouring out love. "Sacrifice" is the most fulfilling gift you could ever receive. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

God Knows

        I'm now in Denver! I didn't write much while I was in Kansas City, but my time there was such a blessing!
        The organization that I worked at in Kansas City was Hope Faith. I worked in the laundry room my first day and in the kitchen the rest. When I wasn't there, I was either downtown looking for people to talk to and take care of or at International House of Prayer. I went to IHOP almost every day, usually after the sun was setting and it was too dark to go out. My time there was so good for my soul!
         Even though I loved my time in Kansas City, it was there that I had my first really hard day. I didn't really want to write about it because it really hurts my heart, but it is a reality for some of the homeless people. One day while I was driving around downtown looking for people, I saw a guy with plastic grocery bags wrapped around his feet. I stopped and went up to him and asked what size shoes he wears. It was kind of hard to understand him because he didn't speak well and what he said was hardly audible. I started asking him what all he needed, and he would respond to most things, but he wouldn't tell me his name. It was sad to me that he wouldn't tell me his name, but I thought maybe he just had his guard up because some strange girl he'd never met before was coming up to him and just giving him a bunch of stuff and asking him questions. I figured he would warm up to me after a few minutes and tell me his name. So I got him some food to eat while I looked in my car for shoes that would fit him. I didn't have his size, so I asked him what kind he would want so that I could go buy him a pair. He asked for a pen so that he could write down what he wanted. While I was driving to get his shoes, I was just thinking about how sad it is that he lives in a city full of people that pass by him every day, yet he was walking around with plastic bags on his feet. That just blew my mind. It took me a while to find a shoe store, but I eventually did and I picked out some black tennis shoes that I thought were really nice and would look cool, yet give enough support for all the walking that this man does. When I got back him I pulled the shoes out for him, and honestly I was kind of expecting a good response. Maybe happiness, excitement, gratitude. At least something positive. But when I gave them to him, he didn't give any kind of reaction, he just kind of nodded. So I kind of just said my goodbyes (we couldn't really talk much because I couldn't understand most of what he said), and started walking to my car. Before I got in my car he came over to me and asked me if I could return the shoes. The shoes fit the description of what he asked for (black boots or tennis shoes), so I asked if they didn't fit well. But he said he wanted boots instead. That part of the story really makes me laugh, because I thought, "Sure, I'll go get you boots...but why did you write down tennis shoes if you really didn't want them?" Haha. So I went back to the shoe store and got him some sturdy black boots and prayed that he would like those because it was starting to get dark. When I got back to him, I showed him the shoes and asked if he liked them. He nodded his head and he started packing the shoes away. I kind of wondered why he wasn't putting them on. I asked him if he wanted to try them on before I left to make sure they were the right size, so if they didn't fit well I could take them back, but he said they were fine. I tried to talk to him for a bit longer, then I said my goodbyes and went to my car. I couldn't leave, I just sat there and sobbed. I was talking to God and all I could say was, "He needs more than just shoes!" This guy was so sad! He could barely speak, he had grocery bags to keep what you could barely call a shoe on his feet, and he wouldn't tell me his name. It was just so sad. And I thought, "Whoopie. I gave him shoes. Now he's a sad, lost homeless guy that has a new pair of shoes." I felt so useless. A pair of shoes is helpful, but it doesn't change his life or his circumstances. It might make him happy, but it doesn't change his heart. It didn't even really change this guy's demeanor. I gave him a Bible and told him about Jesus' love for him, but he wasn't very responsive. I just felt like I did absolutely nothing for this man. I still was sitting in my car, and he came up and knocked on my window. I rolled it down and he asked me if I could help him get to the hospital. He needed some money for a bus ride to the hospital. I said yeah, and asked how much. He said $1.50. As I was looking for the money in my purse, I asked him what was wrong and why he needed to go to the hospital. He told me he had to go to the hospital to change his shoes. When he took off the old ones, they wouldn't come off clean, so it had to be done at a hospital. My heart just broke even more. Then as I was giving him the money, I found four quarters first, then I gave him a dollar bill. He tried to give me back the two quarters, which shocked me. I told him it was fine, he could keep the quarters, I wanted him to. But he refused to take any extra money than what he needed for the bus. He wouldn't even take fifty extra cents. He tapped my car and said thanks, and he walked off. That just killed me. A man with bags on his feet that wouldn't even tell me his name or take two extra quarters, when usually homeless people will take as much money as you offer and some even ask for more.
        That was the first completely heartbreaking homeless reality encounter I've had. And it was truly heartbreaking. I did all that I knew how to do, though. At first it made me kind of afraid to go out again. Because that was so hard. But I can't let how hard it is keep me from trying to help these guys. I was so sad. The next day, I was scared when I first headed out on my own. But the first person I found was sweet Eric! The people that I find when I'm sad, and they turn it around and bring me joy in the midst of this sometimes really emotionally hard journey, those people always hold a really special place in my heart. Ray was one of these people in Nashville when I sat with him and he brought me comfort after I was so upset about sweet Denise sleeping in a  park. Teddy was this person in Atlanta when I was so upset about Mike, one of the guys who had some mental/spiritual issues. And Eric was this guy in Kansas City, who cheered me up after being so torn up over the guy without shoes. It's funny, because these people don't really do anything to comfort me. They're just there when I'm sad and they make me feel better. It's like being with them says to me, "It's ok. Some of us are alright, and we'll help you get through the hard ones." So when I call them friends, it's not just something I say. While I'm in the cities, these are the guys I hang out with. These are the guys that I'm excited to go out and see. These are the guys that cheer me up. So I was so excited to see Eric. For some reason, I just loved him! He melted my heart! For the group that he hung out with, he was kind of the baby of the group. He was a bad alcoholic, so Eric always had to be taken care of. Also, in his family, he was the youngest and came twenty years after his brothers and sisters, so he's kind of been the baby his whole life. And I just loved him. His story of alcoholism is really sad, though. Both his parents were alcoholics, but he didn't really look to drink on his own. He was a really good drummer, and in a band with older people when he was about fourteen. The older band members would ask him where his cup was and ask him what was in it. He'd tell them where it was and that he had coke or something in it, and they'd take it and put alcohol in it and tell him to drink it. He said it was just downhill from there. It's just sad how innocent a fourteen year old is, and he was just interested in the music. But that influenced his entire life path.  Eric was so sweet, I was always so excited to see him!
Here's me and Eric with his new glasses!