Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Finish where I started

      I'm in Nashville! It's my last day of Love Works: America Tour and I can hardly believe it. This year has been the most amazing, life changing experience and I'm beyond thankful for every day of the journey.
     I got to Nashville on Friday and my time here has been so good! I love that I get to finish where I started. Nashville was my first city of LWAT- where it all began! On Saturday I went out on my own and quickly found some people to feed and talk to. It was a group of about seven people hanging out in a grassy area and they were so open to talk. They were really sweet people too. The one that opened up to me the most was a guy named Allen. He told me about his background and his family life and some of the guilt he deals with about his drug addiction and the way it's affected everyone he knows. It was good to be able to speak life and hope into his life and his situation. The group talked a lot about the injustices they face being homeless. How they really don't seem to have anyone on their side. The government treats them like pests that need to be gotten rid of or at least out of public view, police officers often mistreat them and don't take their requests or need of help seriously, kids throw things at them shoot them with pellet guns, thugs beat them up, and they feel like a lot of the people in programs that are meant to help them don't truly care about them, they just care about the image they want to portray and the tax write offs. It's insane the abuse they take for no reason. Kids they don't even know come up and beat them, throw things at them, and shoot at them for no reason. And then it's crazy how often homeless people, who have hardly anything, get robbed of the tiny amount that they do have. A lot of them can't ever really feel safe because they've been woken up by abuse so many times. A lot of them go through so many things that most of us can't begin to imagine dealing with. These are people with not many to defend them and they're so often overlooked. They are people, but are often viewed as less than human.
     I worked at East Nashville Cooperative Ministry yesterday and today and it was so good to be back there! Yesterday I worked and served in the kitchen. It was so funny being there again and thinking about how much my life has changed since the last time I was in that place. How new everything was to me then and how many experiences I've had now. It's amazing what God can do in nine months! But it was super fun getting to see some familiar faces at ENCM. Two of my friends I bonded with most last time I was here aren't here anymore, which was a bummer. But there were plenty of people that still are! One of my friends I got to see again was Paul. Paul is such a sweetheart! And it was awesome how he remembered me and he still remembered a lot of the conversations we had! It was such a blessing to see him again, especially since Juan and Shannon weren't there anymore.
     If you read my entry where I talked about Paul my first time in Nashville, you know about all his random treasures he collects, one of which is Homie, his little figurine he's had for about thirty years. Today as I was leaving, he gave me Homie!! It was so, so sweet! It's such a little, insignificant thing to most, but it was one of his treasures, so it meant so much that he wanted to pass it along to me!
     Here's me and sweet Paul!

    So today I head home! It's so crazy to me that the trip as planned is coming to an end! It feels like it hasn't been that long since I left the first time, but at the same time I feel a lifetime away from when I started. I can't even put into words how great it has been, and I know I will keep all of these people and memories in my heart for the rest of my life. And even though it's the end of this chapter, I know that this is really just the beginning. It's the first of many adventures to come with the love of my life, my Savior Jesus Christ. If there's any message I would want to get across to people, it would be to just say yes to God. Saying yes to Jesus and accepting Him into your heart is the first yes, but definitely not the last. All God wants is your willingness and it's amazing what happens when you give Him that. When you continually say yes to God, your life will never be the same. It will be so much more amazing than you ever could have dreamed of. And the best part is, He's with us every step of this beautiful love journey. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The beginning of the end!

      On Sunday morning I began the first day or my last loop of Love Works: America Tour! I can't believe I'm already on my last loop. Time has flown by! Yet at the same time I feel like I've lived so much, seen so much, and experienced so much life change that it can't possibly have only been a year! It's hard to believe it's only been a year and a couple weeks since my encounter with Holy Spirit that changed my life. It's only been hardly more than a year since I gave God my life, and man! It's crazy what God can do with a year! LWAT has been a huge part of God changing my life totally around. I'm so thankful for this journey He's taken me on and all of the beautiful people I've met through it. This past year has been the best year of my life, and it's all because of Jesus! He's the only true and eternal joy, peace, comfort, and freedom and He totally has my heart!
      The first city of my last loop (where I am now) is Orlando. I got here Sunday night, so Monday was my first day to actually go out. Sunday night I was talking to my host and she warned me about Orlando's laws against feeding the homeless. Apparently you can get arrested for it! So that was a weird thought to go into my trip with, but I figured that I would just find people and start talking to them and we'd become friends and then I'd offer them a sandwich. So I wouldn't be feeding homeless people, I'd be feeding my friends, and surely there's no laws against that!
      So on Monday I set out for my first day in the city knowing that I could possibly get arrested (though I knew that probably wouldn't happen) and then not 20 minutes into my time at the park, a bunch of cop cars, fire trucks, and a bomb squad truck come surround the area and tape off a section of the park because there was a "suspicious package" found. It was an exciting start to my time here! It didn't take long for all that commotion to die down. Apparently the suspicious package was just a homeless guys backpack full of clothes and such that he left under a bush. Anyway, the first group of guys I met were Donny, Solo, And Will. They were such funny guys! Especially Will, he had lots to say! He told me about his plans of writing a book, how he got hit by a car a while back, and a bunch of other stories. Will had this little dog named Sonny that he got five years ago. He said she makes him money because people have sympathy for the dog. He said sometimes people will fuss at him and say the dog doesn't need to be outside all the time. And he just thinks, "I'd like to not have to be outside all the time!" It's crazy how some people care more about the dogs well being than the human's. But he sure does love Sonny!
      One thing I liked that Will talked about was how one time his brother told him he was a flash. When his brother said that, he thought, "Yeah, I like that!" But his brother said, "No you don't want to be a flash. When you take a picture in a dark room and the camera flashes, it makes you flinch and it hurts your eyes. And it only lasts a second. You don't want to flash, you want to blaze. A blaze like a fire lasts. And a fire doesn't hurt your eyes, it draws them. Be a blaze."
      Isn't that good? I'm so glad my destiny isn't just to be a flash. Just to meet God and have a "spiritual high" that just lasts a minute then leaves and I go back to my old self. And a spiritual "flash" honestly does hurt people's eyes. It hurts their perception of God. But that's not our destiny! Our destiny is to be a huge blaze, burning bright with God's love! Our destiny is for that fire to grow eternally and never go out! And when you really burn for God, and become totally consumed by Him, people see and God's love through you draws them in!

This is me with Will! You can't see it well, but I'm holding a flower that Will picked for me! So sweet!


      Yesterday, my second day out, I spent a lot of time with a sweet lady named Donna. She is such a funny character! Earlier that day I felt like God was telling me to let go of my agenda. He was telling me to remember that it's never about how much I get done in a day or how many sandwiches I give out a day or meeting any kind of expectations. It's just about loving the person in from of me with no agenda. His timing is so good! He was reminding me of all that right before I met Donna. Donna didn't want any food, but she was so hungry for love and attention! I sat with her and we talked for a couple hours. For Donna, love looked like listening. She had so much to say! She told me all about herself; how she's from New Orleans and she plans on going back soon. She told me about her painful family life growing up. She talked a lot about her late husband Leroy who she really loved and misses. She played me a few songs on her guitar, too. She is so funny about her guitar! Before she started playing, she told me that a lot of people tell her that her guitar is out of tune, but "that's just because they've never heard my songs before." So I was expecting a different sound, but honestly that guitar is the most out of tune instrument I've ever heard. But she swore it wasn't! And I don't think she played a single chord, she kind of just moved her fingers up and down. But I loved every second of it, and so did she! She loves her guitar and she loves her music and doesn't believe a soul that tells her there's anything wrong with it. A couple of the songs she played for me were scripture put to music. She also wrote a song about Jesus called "The Greatest King." Donna's music is a prime example of a joyful noise, and God LOVES it! She really puts her heart into it!
      Donna is such a beautiful soul! And even through all of her hardships (which I know is a lot just from the stories she's told me) she has such a strong faith in and love for God. She really loves Him and wants to do what pleases Him. She also wants everybody else to know they're loved. Donna will sit on a park bench and as people walk by her she greets them and says, "God loves you!" She she just wants people to know that and get His name in their head at least one time that day. She is so sweet! And she is herself no matter what reaction she gets.
This is me with sweet Donna!




      Today I went back to the park I went to the past couple days. I met some new people who were really sweet, but not super talkative. Then I saw Donna and we got to talk for a few hours again. She has so many stories! And again, she told multiple people, "God loves you!" as they walked by. She's so sweet! After I left Donna, I started driving and I found another park full of people! In each city I usually go to multiple parks, but there's always one that just feels like home. Today I found my Orlando home! And it's so funny how a lot of times the parks that are home are ones I just "stumble upon." This trip gives a whole new meaning to "Jesus take the wheel!" He always leads me right where He wants me!
      It makes me so happy when I pull up to a park and I see that's its full of people laying on the ground, because when I see that I know I'm about to meet some beautiful people and have some awesome conversations. When I saw that area, I knew I was going to love it! So I got out of my car and started going around and meeting my new friends. The first couple guys I met were Buzz and Mark. They were both so kind! And protective! I had only been talking to them about ten minutes before Buzz was getting concerned and told me to be careful about going in certain areas. And they both told me that if I got into any kind of trouble, just scream their names and they'd come running. Ah, it's so precious! And Mark was so open! He has the type of personality that you just instantly feel connected to. He reminded me a lot of my friend Juan in Nashville. They both have such open, loving personalities! He told me about his friend Mike that started a ministry in Orlando called Jesus Loves You, Love Him Back. The ministry feeds the homeless and that's how Mark met Mike. He said he volunteers with them a lot by helping feed other homeless people. That's another way that Juan and Mark are alike. Both of them are homeless themselves, yet they volunteer their time to help take care of other homeless people. It's such a beautiful thing! But because Mark just got out of jail, he hasn't been to their feeding in a long time or been able to see Mike. He told me I should go over to the feeding (at the time we were talking it was about 30 minutes before the feeding started) and tell Mike that Mark sent me and to tell Mike that he got out and was doing well. He said by me going, I would be blessed and he would be blessed by me giving Mike his message. So, I went! And I really was blessed by it!
But before I went, I met a lady at that park named Elaine. She is an amazing woman of God! She talked to me about how she's from Alaska and is trying to get back. We had a little bit of small talk, then I went to hug her and she said, "Hold on, let me bless you!" So she grabbed my hands and started praying over me and speaking into my life in a crazy way! It blew me away the words God gave her to speak to me! She told me about her time spent with The Lord and what He told her to speak to me, and everything she said was so perfect! I was so blown away and blessed by meeting Elaine! I'm so glad Daddy God crossed our paths! She is such a precious daughter! I wish I could have had that recorded!
After I finished talking with Elaine, I met a couple other guys. While we were talking some guy across the park started screaming at me, but none of us could understand what he was saying. One of the guys asked me if I wanted him to walk me to my car to make sure the screaming guy didn't mess with me. I told him I thought I'd be fine, but he walked with me anyway just to be sure. He said he knew all the guys in the park and nobody would mess with me if he was walking with me. I know I say this a lot, but I just love how the people that most would assume would hurt me are actually the ones who are concerned with my safety and make sure I'm protected! It's so sweet! While I was walking with him I asked him what his name was and he said, "They call me the hippie." The hippie was such a sweetheart! I loved getting to talk to him, even though it was only for a short time. As I was leaving, he told me, "Thank you for what you're doing. Now I don't even believe in God, and that's my issue, but God bless you for what you do." He didn't want to talk about that, but from what he said it seemed that he knew God was real but he just couldn't understand how He fit in the world he lives in, so he'd rather just not believe. I didn't try to argue my beliefs with him because God's told me arguments don't change people's hearts. Love does. So I just loved him and blessed him with the love of the Father that he's not so sure about. I'm really excited to get back out tomorrow and hopefully the hippie will be in the same park!
       After I left that park I went to the Jesus Loves You, Love Him Back feeding. The feeding went by super quick! But while I was there I got to talk to this awesome man named Earnest. He has such a joyful countenance and his smile just warms your heart! He was such an awesome guy, full of love! We talked to each other and I didn't even tell him about what I'm doing, but he told me I'm a missionary! It was so crazy! He said before we started talking he could see it in me. Man, I just love it when people say they see Jesus in me or through me. That's all I want! I'm not living for people to get to know me, I just want them to see Him and know Him! Earnest was so awesome! He pointed out the area of the park that he usually hangs out at, so I'm excited to get to see him again tomorrow!
Today was such a day filled with joy! Every day is, but Today was just so special! God is so good and His people are so beautiful and I am so blessed by all His kids that I get to hang out with. I love that what I do is so far from a duty or a service or a "good deed." It's my joy and honor and privilege! I am so beyond blessed and I am so in love with my Savior!





Jessie

         I'm now in Nashville! My time in New York was so amazing!
        My last day was really good! I have a friend that was in New Jersey, so we met up at Central Park to hang out and get me out of the concrete for a while! It was so cool because we didn't go out with the intention of finding people to help or talk to, we were just hanging out. But as we left Central Park and were walking to the train station, we saw a guy with a sign that said, "Will take verbal abuse for 25cents." And once we sat down with him I saw inside of his box he had out for money he had written some things, kind of like a journal about how he was surrounded by people but felt so alone and felt invisible.
        It kind of broke both our hearts and we knew we couldn't just walk by and not do anything. So we went up to him and started talking and speaking good things into his life. Then we saw that he was reading a pamphlet from a Jehovah's Witness about "What Does the Bible Really Say." So that was a great conversation starter! He told us about how he'd been kind of searching and trying to find out more about the Bible. It was so awesome, we got to pray over him and just speak truth into his life and give him a little guidance and help with some of his questions. I asked him if he had his own Bible and he said no, he hadn't seen one in like over a year. So I was so excited, I got to give him my Bible! I think that will be good for him, because since it was my personal one and not just a donated one, it was marked up and highlighted and had notes in it. I think that could help him since a lot of people who haven't read the Bible much don't really know where to start, so they start from the beginning and try to read it from cover to cover and then they kind of get confused or bored and give up. He said that had happened to him, so I was just like yeah, you don't have to read it cover to cover and I suggested starting in the New Testament because that's where Jesus is. It was so cool how he received everything we said. Even if he had questions, he was more than just open to hearing what we had to say, he actually really received it. It was incredible. It was so cool just to see the way God is pursuing Jessie. He was searching and wanting to know about God, so God made sure we crossed his path that day to guide him, encourage him, pray for him, and get a Bible in his hands so he could really know what the Bible really says.
       It showed jhow there's no separation between outreach and everyday life. When you're touched by the love of God, you don't have to schedule time to share it with others. You just live your everyday life and it overflows into every day encounters. And I love that we as Christians get to partner with God in His pursuit of His kids. It blows my mind. Me and Hye walking by Jessie was proof of God's pursuit of him. Every time we talk to someone, we get to partner in God's pursuit of their heart. That's such a privilege and a beautiful opportunity that I don't ever want to turn down. We get to be a walking encounter with God for lost kids. When we talk to people, they should encounter God through us, God in us.
      I love the way God uses His children to show His love for His other children. It's just such a beautiful tapestry that I'm honored to be a part of.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

NYC

     New York has been so great! I love how God has taught me a specific lesson in each city, it's beautiful! There's always more to learn and there's always more of God to experience.
     I think there's something significant about kneeling down. There's something so special about getting low, getting down to eye level with someone rather than just looking down at them. It's more profound than just a body position. Going down to somebody's level says, "Your not an opportunity for a passing by good deed. You're a person. You're worth stopping for. You're worth stooping for. You have worth. More than you've been shown and more than you know."
     That's what God did for us, ya know? He didn't just give us help as He stayed high and distant. He humbled Himself, He lowered Himself to our level, to be human. And He sat with us, He ate with us, He fished with us, He loved us! Us low little humans. He came down and met us where we were. He met the disciples where they were- just doing their jobs fishing. He met the adulteress woman where she was- in the middle of a judging crowd about to get stoned. He met Zacchaeus where he was- climbing a tree, striving to get a glimpse at Him. He met the thief where He was- hanging on a cross. He met each of them right where they were and then made a way for each of them to, like He said to the thief, meet Him in Paradise.
    Today I met some train hoppers! I love kids who hop trains, they're so awesome!
This is one of the guys, Hunter, who was playing his fiddle on the street corner to make some money



    Another train hopper I met was Bird. She was awesome, and super sweet and has such a grateful personality. She spends time in Nashville and told me if I ever see her again to say hey! And I really hope I do!
   Another moment that was really sweet was when I met a guy in the subway station the other day and I offered him a granola bar and he said, "Granola is beautiful." It just made my day! It was so sweet how appreciative he was of something as simple as a granola bar and found it to be beautiful. It just makes me want to appreciate all the little beauties in life!
     I've met so many awesome people and even though none of them here have talked to me very long or in depth, our short and simple interactions have been so sweet and impacting. It's so cool getting to see someone go from looking down trodden to smiling. To see someone looking tired and hungry have their face light up when they're offered a piece of pizza. It's incredible what simple acts of love can do to change a person. And it's so easy. I'm so thankful for every person I've met, every interaction or connection, no matter how long or short our time together was. God has changed my life completely and there's no turning back!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Live Big

     My time in Philadelphia was so good! It was such a fun city and I had a lot of interesting experiences there.
     The guy I met in Philadelphia that really opened up to me was Jerry. He was such an awesome, open guy! He hasn't been homeless very long, less than two years. The catalyst for his homelessness was when his wife of over thirty years died. He talked about her a lot. You could tell how much he really loved her and missed her. I think that happening gave him a greater appreciation for life and the desire to never take anything for granted. He was telling me about some of his future plans and said, "I try to live big. Why not? What else are ya gonna do?"




      I met another guy that I talked to for a long time in Love Park, but he wasn't homeless. He was actually a student in Philly, and he really loved science. He talked about his atheist beliefs and that lead to us talking about God- him respectfully explaining why He doesn't believe and me respectfully saying how much I love God. I actually got to share my testimony with him, which was cool! He had a scientific response to explain anything I said or have seen or experienced (a lot of the things I had never heard anything like it before), but it was great how the conversation had no hostility at all. It wasn't an angry debate, he just talked about why he doesn't believe and I talked about why I can't not. One thing that made me laugh was how every scientific explanation he gave just solidified my belief in God. Reasoning that was attempting to show the flaw in what I believe just made me believe Him all the more. God is so beyond scientific explanation and that just makes me happy. It was so cool the way God placed him along my path and prompted him to start a conversation with me in the most random way. Which happens to me a lot haha.
    This adventure with God has just been so much more than I could have imagined, when it go as expected and when it doesn't.
    On this trip, Holy Spirit has often asked me questions. He often asks me if I can find Him here. In a sitting area in the middle of a bustling city, under a bridge inhabited by people who are incapable of interacting with anyone other than themselves, in my car alone on a ten hour road trip: I hear that sweet, familiar voice ask, "Can you find me here?" And I always reply, "Yes, Lord."
Another question He often asks is, "Can you find joy in this?" In the middle of the mundane, repetitive routine of making fifty sandwiches a night, when I'm awoken by the crying of the baby of my host family at 5 am or earlier, when I'm walking alone in my baggy, disheveled going out attire weighed down by the bags of supplies surrounded by well polished social or economic ladder climbers, my sweet friend with His still, small voice leans in and asks me, "Can you find joy in this?" And my reply is always, "Yes, Lord."
      When He whispers those questions in my ear, I can't help but smile. Because His questions are really reminders. He reminds me that yes, I can find Him here, wherever "here" happens to be at the moment. Because He is always with me, even in the darkest of places. And yes, I can find joy in this, whatever this present experience is. Because He is always right by my side experiencing it with me. Joy Himself never leaves my side. And really He's more than by my side, He's inside me, inhabiting my heart.
    So whenever my precious friend sweetly whispers reminders of His faithful, constant presence in my life disguised as questions, my response, by grace, remains as faithful as His presence, "Yes, Lord." Yes, Lord.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

D.C. and Baltimore

      My time in Baltimore and D.C. has been so great! My D.C. hosts lived so close to both I kind of split my time between the two cities, so I'm moving on to Philadelphia a little bit ahead of schedule. My time here has been different, but so good. I see so much purpose in my time here and wouldn't change it if I could. There weren't big crowds of people here, they were more spread out and not really in a hang out spot, so I didn't see most of the people I met more than once. But there was one group I got to see multiple times. The under the bridge crew!

This is Jerry, William, David and I!



      While I hung out with them David told me a lot about his life and how he got to be where he is now. There are a lot of details I don't think should be shared, but it's amazing that he's doing as well as he is and that he still has a soft and open heart after the things he's seen. And David was a sweet guy too! He talked a lot about how grateful he is for all that he has. He talked about how a lot of people would talk to him and wonder how he could be as up beat as he is since he has nothing, but he said that he knew that although he was poor in some ways, really he was rich in so many more ways. He was such a great example of an attitude of gratitude! Their friend Jerry came right before I left, but I saw him a couple days later on the street and I got to talk to him a little bit more. He didn't tell me much of his story, but he still was great to talk to!
     Everyone else that I met I only saw once since people here have tended to be more mobile and not hang out or congregate in certain areas. But I've met a lot of beautiful people!
     I've just had so much peace about things being okay and allowing God to work no matter how things look. Whether things go as planned or expected or not, God can work through all things and have purpose in all things.
     A cool thing God was telling me the other day is about how so many Christians get so focused on bearing fruit in their life. And so many people work hard trying to bear good fruit. But through Jesus, we are taken back to Eden. Through Jesus' sacrifice, He erased the affect of the Fall on us, He gives us the ability and wants us to walk in our original created value. He allows us to live as if we never ate the tree. And working the ground in order for it to produce was a consequence/result of the fall. Before the Fall, man got to intimately walk in the Garden of Eden, the garden of pleasure, with God and in that place of intimately walking and abiding in God, the fruit just was without man having to work or strive. Through Jesus, God allows us to be back in that place of no striving or working to be good, we just get to know Him and walk with Him and good fruit will naturally happen as a result of us walking in communion with God. It's so free and so much easier that way! So many things in the Kingdom are flipped from what the wisdom of the world says. You would think that striving would produce more fruit, but in reality fruit thrives when you abide.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Daughter not a doer

     The past few days have been amazing! God has been teaching so much. It's all about just knowing Him and being with Him and becoming love, whatever that looks like for the person in front of me. It's just so awesome that this journey isn't all about me feeding homeless people. It's about me just being in relationship with my Father and letting Him teach me how to love the person in front of me, whether homeless or not. Whether they need a sandwich or not. Whether they believe in Him or not. Whether they want to talk about Him or not. No matter how it may seem from the outside, this journey has never been merely about feeding homeless people. I absolutely love homeless people and every person I've met on this journey! God has taught me so much and grown my heart so much through the people that I've met, on the streets and in homes. But it's never about what I do. It's about who I am- a daughter. If I ever forfeit being a daughter for being a doer, I'm in big trouble. But I never have to strive to meet a quota or get a good story or feed a certain amount of people or perform well, because that's not what it's about. Feeding a bunch of people or hearing a great story is just a bonus, never the focus. And on this trip where performance could so easily slip into the forefront, I'm so glad my Dad always reminds me that I don't have to strive or perform well to please Him. He's already pleased with me. And He doesn't want a performance anyway, He just wants relationship. He's such a good Dad!
      I've been going back and forth between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore since they're so close. They're different from most cities because in most cities I can find a park full of homeless people, but in these cities the homeless people are kind of sporadically spread out. I haven't really found one central location with a lot of people. And a lot of the parks that I've been to that I would expect to be full of homeless people have actually been full of moms with strollers haha. But despite that, my time here has been great! And I've met some awesome people!
     Yesterday I changed it up and went under a bridge! Sometimes when I go under bridges I find things that are really hard to see. Sometimes under bridge communities are full of people who can't even talk or take in what you say to them. It's areas like, ones that "lights of the world" are often too scared to go into, that need light the most. I think there's something really powerful that happens when a light steps into a place like that. It says, "The light I carry is stronger than the darkness here. The light of Christ is not threatened by this, nor am I afraid of this darkness. I know who is stronger and I know who has the final victory." Placing a lamp in an already illuminated room doesn't change anything. But placing a lamp in a dark room changes atmospheres. Lighting up the darkness is what lamps were made for, not just hanging out in already lit rooms.
     Anyway, yesterday I met William and David (aka Doc) under a bridge. Although it was a place of darkness, both William and David were still in their right minds and we could have good conversation. When I walked up and William and I started talking, he wasn't shy and he just opened right up and told me about his story! He's been homeless about thirteen years and has been living under the bridge where I found him for about three months. He became homeless when both his parents died and he didn't get to keep their house. Him and David have been friends and staying in that spot together the past three months. David was asleep for most of the time that I was there, but he woke up and talked for a while. David didn't tell me much if his background like William did, but he did talk to me about some of his beliefs and his struggles. I got to pray with David and just bless him and tell him how much God loves him. William didn't want me to pray for him, but I still got to pour love on both of them. It was just a good time. I think it means more when I find people in the tucked away places rather than the parks full of tourists or working people. When I find people in the hidden places or the places away from regular society, they're so not used to people being in that area that they're curious and they want to talk. And they know I'm not just giving them a passing glance going to them to share Gods love.

Here's a picture of William reading the Bible I gave him right after I left



After I left them, I found one more spot under a bridge! I found someone's camp, but the person who lived there wasn't home. I left them some stuff, anyway! I love giving anonymous blessings!




     Earlier today I met a different kind of "homeless" person! I was starting to drive into the city then I decided I wanted to go to Starbucks for a bit and spend a little more time just hanging out with my Dad. And God placed lovely Char on my path! As soon as I got out of my car, a lady that was walking past my car started talking to me about my bumper stickers. From there we just started talking and she told me about her story. She's been living in her car the past 6 years. I know there are a lot of people who are homeless but live in their cars, but I haven't met too many of them. Other than Char, the only people who live in cars that I've met we're the acrobatic musicians in New Orleans. Anyway, Char and I just had a fun little time talking about music and art and traveling. Our conversation about music led to me giving her a few awesome worship CDs and a Bill Johnson sermon CD I found in my car. She seemed really excited about getting them, and I was excited to get to give them to her! CDs aren't usually something I can give to the people I meet, but since she had a car with a cd player I could give them to her. And worship music is so special to me, so I love getting to share it! And Bill Johnson is pretty cool, too! I just love the way that God knows that the past few days the searching process has been different than usual, so today He just brought a houseless person to me when I wasn't even looking. He is so good.
     Another thing Gods been teaching me is how when I'm talking to someone, I don't have to try to figure out how I can strategically fit Him into the conversation. I just live in communion with Him and when I'm talking with people, He'll come out naturally. There's just no pressure in the Kingdom and I love that. Everything comes out of a place of resting in Him. God is so good!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Orlando

     I'm in Washington, D.C. now, but before I write about my time here, I want to catch up on my time in Orlando. Orlando was so amazing! Every single day was so full and I met so many awesome, loving people!
     Thursday was probably my busiest day. I headed out to the parks early and my sandwiches ran out super fast. After the parks I had lunch with a girl who is a worship/intern at the church that my host family goes to. It was a really good time! We got to share our stories with each other and just talk about God, which is always fun! At lunch she invited me to go to a college age worship night at her church. She also invited me to speak for a little bit.
     My hosts had connections, so I got to go to Universal Studios after lunch and get my roller coaster fix! It was such a good time!
     Then I went to the worship night. It was so good, I love corporate worship! In the middle of the service I got to go up and share a little bit about what God's done in my life and things He's taught me through this year. After I finished I thought to myself, "That was fun! But I'm not very eloquent." And God said to me, "Neither was Moses." Haha isn't that awesome? We don't have to have a ton of great skills or qualifications in order for God to move through us. We just have to be obedient! And in our weaknesses, God is strong. And when we aren't qualified, yet God moves through us, that just makes sure that all the glory goes where it belongs. Because we can't do anything on our own, it's all Him! It's so beautiful the way that God wants to touch people through every single one of us, whether "qualified" or not. And really, all though not always from the world's perspective, we are all qualified in the Kingdom. Because the only qualification in the Kingdom is being covered by the blood of Jesus and having a surrendered heart. We don't have to try to measure up, Jesus did that for us. And now we just get to live in the freely given purity and righteousness in Jesus, not scrambling to be good enough or worthy of His love, because we already are and that was proven on the cross. Because even though we didn't earn His love, He still thought we worth dying for. And the Bible proves that God loves working through seemingly unqualified people. Moses, who first of all most Christians would disqualify from ever being a leader of God's people due to the whole murder thing, was also not an eloquent person, yet He led God's people out of slavery. David was the smallest and wasn't even "qualified" to fight, yet he was the one who slayed Goliath. Jesus' disciples, the guys who healed the sick and cast out demons, were just a bunch of young guys who were fisherman and such, not trained in the temple with Pharisees or anything like that. Yet Jesus picked them. Because He knew that its not about how "qualified" we are. It's about how powerful God is.
     On Friday, I went back to the parks all day. It was a super fun day! I got to meet some new friends. One was Greg. He was such a sweet guy! He talked to me about his struggle with alcohol and how he was trying to wean himself off. I could tell that there were a couple people in the park that cared about him and supported him. But I just got to encourage Greg and listen to him and love him. Another new friend I made was Kimberly. She was so funny! Her and Tyrell were full of advice for me, they were hilarious. And they were so excited when I gave them Bibles! I only got to see Greg and Kimberly that once, but meeting them was such a blessing! After I was done talking with Kimberly a couple of people that I met at worship night came out to the park and joined me! While they were there we were talking to a group and a guy walked up that didn't speak English, but he wanted to pray. So we got in a circle and prayed and then he prayed in his language. It was sweet!
      Saturday was my last day out in Orlando. I saw Donna that morning and she was in a great mood because she got the news that her friend got her a bus ticket to New Orleans. I was so happy for her, and I'm so glad I got to hear the news before I left so I know Donna's going home and she's going to be well taken care of. My time with Donna was so sweet! She told me about how she's a people person and feels kind of down when she doesn't have anyone to talk to. And in the park that she hangs out at she doesn't have many people to talk to, she just greets people as they walk by, but she doesn't really get to have a lot of conversations. I'm so glad I got to talk to her a couple hours a day while I was in Orlando and get to meet that for her. She's such a sweet woman, the way she talks about God's love unashamedly as people walk by, whether they respond or even listen or not, is so encouraging. After I left Donna, I went to the other park. I got to talk to Elaine some more! Elaine is just awesome! Everything she says is so powerful because most of what she says are just things God has told her or testimonies of what He's done in her life. She's so great! She just hangs out with God all day and reads the word and then when people come and talk with her, she shares what He's shown her with them. Elaine is such a bright reflection of Gods light!

This is Elaine! I think she was talking about feeling Holy Spirit like electricity when I took this picture haha. She's so great!


This is something that she wrote that she showed me that was pretty cool. If you can't read it, it's mostly about how God wants the ones He's called to do great things (everyone who gives their life to Him) to believe that He can do all that He says He can. That with Him all things are possible.



After I left Elaine, I went and sat alone and read for a while. After a little bit, a guy was riding his bike by, and said hello, then put down his bike and came and sat with me to talk. His name was Angel. He said he didn't really know why he came and talked to me because he normally doesn't talk to people, but for some reason he just stopped! We had a good conversation! He talked about his job his love for Jesus. It was really good and sweet!
After I left the park, I went to a thing at my hosts church called Joy Prom. It's a prom for people with special needs. It was so sweet! Before the dance, everyone was introduced as they walked into the prom on a red carpet and everyone cheered for them. It was such a sweet, joyful night!









My time in Orlando was SO good! Every day was filled with joy and love and new friends! I left the park every day with my heart feeling so full! God is so good and His children are so precious!

Monday, April 8, 2013

From Albuquerque to home!

     I'm home! I got here last week and it's been so great to be back with my family and friends! I've been super busy so I'm just now getting to catch up, and a lot has been going on so this post could get pretty long!
     My last post was on Albuquerque, so I'll catch up from there. My time there was so amazing and I met so many beautiful people! On my last day, I met this funny guy named Paul who had a little baby bird! Now before I go on with this story, I want to make sure you know that I am a huge animal lover and I can find cuteness in all things, so for me to think an animal is freaky looking, it's got to be pretty weird. Anyway, I started talking to Paul and he told me all about He-She (named that because he didn't know it's gender), the little bird he saved. He was in a park and he saw the little baby bird fall out of a tree and thought for sure the fall had killed it. But when he walked up to it he saw that it survived, so he decided to save it and nurse it back to health. When I met him, he had had the bird for two and a half days, and he was in love! He put the baby bird in his hat and would smuggle it in his jacket when he was going places where having a bird would be frowned upon. He also would mush up food and put it in a syringe to feed it. And he just thought this bird was the cutest little thing! At first I thought, "Oh my gosh, this is so cute! An adorable baby bird!" But then I actually got a good look at the thing. I don't know if you guys have seen a bird with pin feathers, but it's not cute. It's freaky. And this bird had pin feathers. And on top of that, it was a baby pidgeon. I don't really have a problem with pidgeons, but most people affectionately refer to them as "rats with wings" and apparently they carry all kinds of diseases. Now I really tried to think the bird was cute, but I couldn't. The fact was, this bird was just plain gross looking. But not to Paul. To Paul, this bird was adorable and lovable and worth saving. And he saw the bird for what it was going to be. What I saw was ugly half molted pin feathers, but Paul looked at those things and said, "You're gonna have some great wings! Yes, you are, you're feathers are gonna be beautiful!" And isn't that so like our Dad? When we were down and out, when we've fallen so hard most people wouldn't think we'd survive, our Father comes and saves us. He saves us when nobody else would find us worth saving. When we're ugle and gross and the lowest of lows, He calls us beautiful and lovely and HIS. And He loves us when we're at our least lovable state. When we're ugly and helpless, He doesn't look at us the way the world does. He sees as as what we're going to be. He sees in us what He wants to do in our hearts and where He's going to take us. He sees past our current situation or state of being. He sees us as His adorable, lovable, worthy of saving children. And I can't thank Him enough for that.
      Meeting Paul really was such a blessing and a demonstration of our Father's love for us! And it was so sweet to see the way a grown man just turned into a little kid with such a loving, proud heart when he was with this baby bird! He loved it and he loved showing it off!
Here's Paul with He-She, imagining it as a full-feathered, flying bird!
     From Albuquerque I went to Oklahoma City. My time there was so great and stretching. I felt like I just got a deeper understanding of love while I was there. In a post a few months ago I talked about a conference called School of Power and Love that I went to. Well, one day when I was in Phoenix, I randomly decided to look up their schedule and "it just so happened" that there was going to be a school in Oklahoma City while I was already scheduled to be there! But I know there aren't coincidences with God! So while I was in Oklahoma City, I got to go to the School of Power and Love sessions, and in between some I got to head into the city and hang out with some of the sweet homeless men there. It was such a great time, it was like I had the best of both worlds! One of the times I went out, I took a friend from the conference with me. It was cool to get to have someone else come along and get to see how awesome these people are. I love getting to see walls and stereotypes come down, because in reality, no matter where we lay our head at night we're all just God's kids! It was also amazing the way most of the guys we talked to told us about their faith and the way that God is the one who gets them through. It's always so beautiful when the people that you go out to share hope with and minister to actually tell you about their hope and minister to you. God is amazing!
    From Oklahoma City I went to Little Rock. I wasn't in Little Rock very long, because I wasn't really finding a lot of people, but the few I did meet were very sweet! And not finding a lot of people just meant that I got to be home in time for Easter!
    So now I am in Memphis for the month of April, and my time home has been so great so far! God is just working out stuff that I wouldn't even think to ask for. He really does love taking care of His kids. He's the best Dad!
It didn't take long till I found sweeties in my home town to love!
 
    Today I got the awesome opportunity of being on Live at 9 news! It was such a fun experience! It was also super humbling. It made me realize how privelaged and blessed we are in America to have the freedom to openly and publicly talk about and worship Jesus. That's such a huge thing that we so often take for granted. To be able to have a conversation about God broadcast on a news channel and not fear for the safety of everyone involved is something that's unthought of in many countries. Being on the news today really opened my eyes to that and made me want to pray more for the people that don't have that freedom. It also makes me want to take full advantage of that freedom to let the world know how great my God is! People are shouting that from the rooftops in places where they will get martyred. How much more should we in the safety of America unashamedly proclaim the good news! Our God is a loving Father and when people come to Him, our family grows! So let's all spread the news so we can have more brothers and sisters:)
Here's us on the news set this morning!
     So my time home has been amazing and full of blessings already! I'm constantly amazed by the greatness of God. I also want to share with you about my awesome brother, Trevor! If you're ever praying for me, remember to lift him up as well. This Wednesday morning he will be leaving for London to be a part of Youth With a Mission (YWAM), a discipleship training school and outreach base, for about 2 years! I am so proud of him and I know God's going to do huge things through him! I'm so humbled by the fact that God wants to flow through every single one of us. There is noone that cannot be used by God in mighty ways, we just have to give Him our yes!
 


Monday, March 18, 2013

Albuquerque

    I've had an awesome time in Albuquerque so far! In comparison to some of the other cities I've been  to, the amount of homeless people isn't huge, but they aren't too hard to find! And I've loved the people I've met so far!
    Before I go on with Albuquerque, I'll talk about my stop at the Grand Canyon! It was my first time seeing the Grand Canyon and I am obsessed! It's so beautiful! It just blows my mind how God does all this stuff that He doesn't have to do. He didn't have to make the world beautiful; it could have been plain and boring and still completely functional. But He made it beautiful. And a ton of the ways that He blesses us, we would be okay without, but He chooses to bless us anyway. Just because He loves us so much and loves blessing His kids. It blows my mind!
Here's me at the Grand Canyon! I could have stayed there forever!

   Back to Albuquerque. My first day out, the guy I talked to longest was Alex. He's quite the character!   He's pretty easy to find, too because he always has on a cowboy hat and a bright green bandanna around his neck. By the way, an interesting fun fact I learned from him was that a bandanna tied around your neck is a sign of train hoppers- and different colors mean different things. That made me laugh because I have a scarf that's kind of like an over-sized bandanna that I tie around my neck that way. I always thought train hopping would be fun, maybe it's in my blood! (Just kidding, mom!) But now I'll always think of my train hopping friends when I wear that! Anyway, Alex kind of peaked my interest because he's young- only 20. Whenever I see young kids out, I want to hear their story because usually I only see older homeless people. For most older people, they have a story of losing their job for different reasons and that's how they ended up where they are. But for young kids, it's always different. Some times the kids got kicked out, a lot of times they're just looking for adventure, but most of the time there's a common denominator of a not so awesome family background. A tough family background is actually a huge common denominator in the older homeless people, too. It makes me think of Randy's story about when he was a kid, he lived in an agricultural area. He remembers watching a farmer walk out to his fields, pick up some of the dirt, rub it in his hands, and sniffing it before he would plant anything. He would do that all the time. Randy said when he was younger, he didn't really know why the guy always did that with the dirt, but now he knows that he was making sure that the soil was good. Because his seeds were precious and he didn't want to put them in bad soil.   He compared that to having children. How kids are seeds and they're precious. And they need a good environment to grow up in. It's so true- so many of the people I meet when explaining their situations, start with the issues of their childhood. Pretty much all of their issues start there. It just proves how impressionable kids are and how important it is to provide them with a nurturing environment. Even though that's all true, I'm so glad that through Jesus, we no longer have to be defined by our childhood or family issues. Because we start fresh, adopted into a new family- the Kingdom. And we have a perfect, loving, ever-present, all- knowing, all-powerful, full of mercy, full of joy, quick to forgive Daddy who's love never fails, never gives up, and never runs out. And He totally fills any voids that were left from a not great childhood! It's so awesome to me that family issues don't have to have any affect on us at all, because we're new creations, adopted into a new family, with a perfect Father who fulfills every need and satisfies every desire.
     But talking to Alex was really fun! He talked to me a little bit about how he got where he is and what he wants to do in the future. One thing he said that it wouldn't hurt all rebellious teenagers to hear was how one of his friends said to him, "I wish I could be more like you, just take off and not have to deal with my family anymore." And Alex said, "Don't you ever say that! Your family's all you got!" And he talked about how at first, he just wanted freedom, but now he's realizing he misses his family. But Alex reminded me a lot of my old self. He talked about how all he wanted out of life was to be free. All he wants is to have fun and have freedom. I know now that true freedom is only found where the Spirit of the Lord is. You can say that all day, or hear that all day, and just shrug it off- until you experience it. Truly experiencing God changes everything!
    Yesterday I got to hang out with some Navajos! I met Eldon, Sophia, and Carlos at a park. They were really sweet, funny people! Except for when they were making fun of me for saying, "Yay!" too much haha. I can't help it, I get excited! Eldon and Carlos were just funny, but Sophia was more open to talking about her past and her issues. Sophia is so, so sweet. She grew up living on the reservation with her grandma and aunt, but when she was really young, there were Mormons who preached door to door on the reservation, and she went into one of their foster programs. Through some bad situations with her job and husband, she turned to alcohol to cope and now she's living on the streets. She's had a lot of hardships in her life, but she does trust in God and she says she prays to him for help and He gets her through. I just love Natives so much, and I know God loves them even more than I can understand! And it's so awesome how both Eldon and Sophia talked about God and their faith in Him.
    I only have a couple more days here in Albuquerque! I love the people here, but it's also really evident how much Albuquerque needs light. Even Alex talked about how New Mexico isn't called "the land of enchantment" for no reason. And he said it's not "good" enchantment either, it's dark here. People are just searching for freedom and power, but settling for a dark counterfeit, when there's a freedom and power that brings life! Let's all pray for God's true, life bringing power and freedom to break through all over New Mexico!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Everything bright and beautiful

   The past few days have been amazing! I've had so much fun getting to know some of the people of Las Vegas!
   Two guys I met yesterday were Randy and Dustin. I talked to them for like three hours! They had the best, funniest personalities and they were both so full of stories. Randy's usually had some point to them or gave wisdom, but Dustin's were always just to get a laugh. They also both had really interesting stories of how they became homeless. Randy's story sounded like it came straight out of a movie- it actually reminded me a lot of The Outsiders! And he's doing a good job staying gold:) But he talked a lot about how much the environment a child grows up in impacts their entire life direction. When he was a kid, his dad was a violent alcoholic and a pool shark. Growing up, his job was to watch his dad play pool and get his dad a beer whenever he was asked. So naturally, he grew up to be a pool shark, too, which led to an incident in a pool hall that landed him in jail. But Randy is so positive and his faith is amazing. He chooses to make the best out of any situation he's in, and he loves to try to help other's through telling them of the lessons that he's learned through his life. Both Randy and Dustin talked about the way that trials make you stronger, and if you don't give up, you'll come out on the other end a better person. Randy also had some crazy stories about the way God evidently has His hand in his life.
     He had one story where God intervened and totally protected him from doing something that would have changed the whole direction of his life. When he was in jail, there was a guy in the cell next to him that he was having troubles with, so he made himself a shank and decided on killing the guy. This was on January 19, 1994. He planned on killing the guy the next morning, so after he made the shank that night, he said to God, "Now Lord, I'm set on killing this guy. So if you want to stop me, you gotta do something about it, cuz I'm gonna kill him."  Across from his cell were some vents that led outside. So he went to sleep that night planning on killing the guy the next morning when they let them out of their cells. He said that night a calm came over him and he slept like a baby. The next morning, he woke up to the guards telling him he had to get out of there or he'd freeze to death. It was -27 degrees outside and the cold air had come in through the vents. So they moved him to another cell, away from the cell of the guy that he wanted to kill, in an area that they wouldn't have to interact anymore. That night was the coldest recorded night in Indianapolis. He said, "The Lord dropped the temperature 100 degrees so I wouldn't kill that guy." I just Googled it, and he was right! January 19, 1994 really was the coldest recorded temperature in Indianapolis! Randy's prayer set a record! How cool is it that he told God he was going to have to step in if He didn't want him to kill that guy, and God dropped the temperature to a record low so that he would be moved to a cell and wouldn't have to interact with that guy anymore? That's some divine intervention for ya! If he had killed that guy, he would have had to spend the rest of his life in jail. But he said that prayer, and God answered and did something to stop him, and now Randy's out, talking to people about Jesus!
    Randy and Dustin talked a lot about the way they just know God's going to take care of them. They say, "He hasn't failed me yet!" Homeless people are constantly selling or trading cigarettes, and while I was talking to them, a guy came up and asked if one of them had a cigarette he could buy. They both said yes, but Dustin said, "Randy, let me get this one! You don't need it, if you need money all you gotta do is pray, and you're getting money!" And that led to Randy telling me a story about how through another crazy circumstance, God answered his prayer for twenty bucks to get by.
   I feel like I could write a whole book on what Randy told me just in those three hours, so it's hard to limit to one blog entry, but those are some cool stories he told me!
Here's me with Randy and Dustin! They were so amazing!

     Today I got to hang out with Rick for a long time! He was such a sweet, loving guy!
This is Rick! 

   I met so many great people while in Las Vegas! The park I hung out at was full of a lot of hurting people that cope in different ways, but in spite of that, it was also full of love! As I left today, I got hugs, kisses blown, and lots of "Love you!"s. These people are so beautiful, and I'm so blessed to get to know them! It just shows how loving someone totally changes the way you see them and the way they react to you. I think one of the biggest things that a lot of the homeless people appreciate is the fact that I'm not afraid of them. I'm not scared to just sit in the middle of a park full of drug deals and ex-cons. And I think when people see that you aren't looking at them with judgement or fear, but with love, it changes the way they see you. They no longer see you as a snooty person coming to do their good deed of the day, but they welcome you in as one of their friends that they want to talk to. And I know I don't have to be afraid because I know I have the protection of God AND a park full of people who tell me that nobody's going to mess with me, because anyone causing trouble would have to get them first! I'm so protected, there's no fear in me while I'm out in these parks! But when they see you genuinely love them, they'll usually love you, too. When you show them that you see them as just a person, not as a convict, than they usually act like just a person and not a convict. The way you treat people totally affects the way they act. Love is so powerful!
  And to close, I'll just write a life changing verse I read last night about the way we get to walk out this life: "Not with the grim strength of gritting your teeth, but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful He has for us." So let's all walk out this life with God's glory-strength so we can take part in everything bright and beautiful!

Monday, March 11, 2013

God-shine

    Yesterday was such an amazing day! The people I met were really open! I was so excited, since the two days before nobody really wanted to talk.
    The first person I met that I got to really talk with was Michelle. She was super sweet and positive. She told me about her two older daughters and how she's pregnant now. She is pregnant with child from getting raped. She told me about how she didn't feel like she could keep the baby due her situation, but she also knew she couldn't abort it, so she's giving it up for adoption. Whenever I meet mothers who chose to keep the baby even though the circumstances are bad, I'm so proud of them and their bravery in not aborting! It's easy to make a pro-life or pro-choice stance when you've never been in the position to make the choice, but I'm sure it's a lot different to actually have to chose. So I think it's so beautiful and brave when women chose not to abort their baby even with the circumstances would make most people tell them that abortion was acceptable and better. It's also really cool, because she actually knows the family that is adopting her baby. There is a woman that comes out to the park that Michelle stays in and she feeds and helps the homeless people out every once in a while. She and her husband had been trying to have a child, but couldn't. So that family is going to adopt Michelle's baby. It's so cool the way God can work bad things into something beautiful. Because of the servant's heart of that woman to help the homeless, she met Michelle. And through meeting Michelle, her and her  husband get the joy of helping a mother and a child by adopting her baby. And Michelle gets the joy of knowing that her baby is going to a good, Christian home like she wanted, and she also will get to see the child. It was just a really cool story, and it was awesome to see the way that Michelle didn't let bad circumstances ruin her life or attitude. She stayed positive and happy and made the best out of everything. Michelle was such a beautiful person!
    Then I got to hang out with Brady! Brady saw me handing out sandwiches and Bibles and asked if he could have a Bible. After we talked for a while, he told me that the past few days he had actually been praying for a Bible. He was an alcoholic, which really go him to where he is now, but he's been sober a few days! And he thought having a Bible would help him stay sober. I'm so glad God provided him with a Bible, and I just pray God brings it to life for him and they become so much more than just words on a page or a method of good living for him. I know Holy Spirit can do that and just keep breathing life into Brady's heart! I got to highlight some of my favorite scriptures in his Bible, too! It was awesome, and as I was leaving, I turned around and saw him already having the Bible opened and reading it. That always makes my heart smile! Brady showed such a determination to get himself to a better place. He's had a few bumps in the road because he lost his id and social security card, which makes it nearly impossible for the homeless to better their situation. Even though he has a lot of obstacles, I can tell by his spirit that Brady isn't going to be homeless forever. I just pray that God gives Brady a deeper understanding of grace. That he really understand that God loves him and hears him right where he is. I'm excited to get to see Brady again today! He talked about how Christians have a "God-shine" and you can tell if a person knows God by just looking at them. And I know God so wants to give him that God-shine that's available to everyone! When Brady really gets who God is and what His heart is like, and when he gets that God wants to live in him and he lets Him, people are going to come to him asking what's making him shine!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Las Vegas

    I'm in Las Vegas! I got here on Thursday night. Yesterday was my first day out, and it was really rainy throughout the day, so it was harder to find people. But today I found a great spot! It is a little area near the highway where homeless are camped out. The people I met today weren't very eager to talk. They were nice, but they seemed pretty closed off to hanging out and talking. I'm hoping that tomorrow when I go back, they'll recognize me and maybe be more open. Either way, I was glad to have helped them!
  Since I don't have too much exciting to write about since I didn't really get to talk in depth with anybody, I'll just write down a prayer I wrote that's kind of a theme of this year, or really my life in general.
    "In the midst of my busyness, may I never lose sight of my desperate need for you.
In my service of others, may I never fall for the illusion that I alone can change their lives.
May I never step out of your Presence as I step into the dark places of the world.
May I never focus more on the corruption, sadness, and sickness I see
Than the One who brings peace, joy, and heals every disease.
You, God, are what this is all about.
So as I'm stopping for the one,
May I never forget the One who stopped for me."
    I've been staying in the awareness lately of how He's really what it's all about. I'm no good without Him, and I'm so lost without Him. I joyfully forfeit my independence to live yolked to Jesus. It's so much better!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Farewell, Fresno!

    My time in Fresno is ending, but it has been so great! I love all of the people I've met, homeless and homed!
    Today when I went out Eric was awake, so I got to hang out with him again! I got to see a lot of other familiar faces, but I haven't seen Melissa or Martha since my second day here.
    One thing God does that I love is the way that when I'm out and I meet a lot of people that are dealing with really dark issues, he always ends the day with people that are full of joy! He never lets me end the day on a sad note! Toward the end of my day today, I was around a lot of people that weren't really doing well. There was one woman, Connie, who deals with a lot of anger issues and mental issues. Then I met a woman who says she is becoming a preacher. She told me that she is trying to help some of the people get off the streets and she takes them to her house to let them eat and shower. All of that sounded great, but then she told me about how she ministers to the homeless by bringing them beer and drinking with them and sometimes giving them weed. I didn't really know what to say, and she really did think what she was doing was best. So I just prayed with her and asked Holy Spirit to guide her in her own life and to bless her in her ministry and show her how she should go about helping the homeless.
    After being around sad and twisted stuff, I went to one area near a bridge and got to hang out with Don, Troy, Condor, Calvin, and Leah! They were such awesome, joyful people! They invited me to play a game with them and we chatted and got to know each others' stories. It was a great end to my time in Fresno!
This is Don, Condor, Troy, and I!

    Another super sweet thing that happened today was when I gave Ben a Bible. It was so beautiful! I could see how hungry he was for God; as soon as I gave it to him, he left the group, sat down, and started reading. I could tell that he had a reverence for it that a lot of people don't. He didn't just treat it like another hand out like a lot do, he really valued it and saw God's word as precious and important. Ben was such a sweetie and I just pray that Holy Spirit brings the Word to life for him and I know God is going to bless his hunger for more. 


Monday, March 4, 2013

A rainbow stick and some colorful people

    Today was such a fun day filled with awesome people! I'm so, so happy to be back in the swing of things after my Bethel break! I went to the same area today that I went to yesterday, but I didn't go down all the same streets.
    I hung out a long time with Eric today, which was such a blast! I met him yesterday, but we didn't get to really talk. Today I got the chance to hang out in his "living room" and talk and have fun with him and some of his friends, Brown and Free Daddy. The three of them were SO funny and had so many stories to tell! Eric was super open, as opposed to a lot of people who tend to be more guarded or territorial, and he let me check out his tents and even take pictures of the inside! He had two tents, one for sleeping and one for just hanging out. Between the two tents was a living room area, which is where we hung out, that has a little fire place made from cinder blocks. The homeless' homes in Fresno are really creative, I've been super impressed! I met a few girls, Melissa and Martha, who live in a homeless home made of tarps and random plywood, that actually has multiple rooms that their friend put together!
This is Sommer, Eric, and I!
This is one of Eric's tents and part of the living room:
This is the inside of that tent:
And this is the inside of his sleeping tent:

It was exciting to get to check out his tents, I felt like I was getting the inside scoop! Eric is such a sweet heart and so open and inviting! Both Free Daddy and Brown talked about how if they ever have anything going on, Eric is always the guy they come to talk to. And I see why! Eric and I talked about some deep stuff, but also some funny stuff! He's hilarious! He had a stick and a sling shot that he had made and painted rainbow to use as protection. The rainbow stick as protection I guess from any unwanted intruders, and the sling shot as protection from squirrels who steal his cookies, which happened the other night! Eric is so awesome! He can make you laugh and make you think, but either way, when you're with him he makes you feel like you're with a friend! '
     Another person I really got to talk to today was Melissa! She was really sweet! She gave me the scoop on the area. We talked for a while and she ended up telling me that she had a college degree and a nursing license. Even though she doesn't work at a hospital anymore, she hasn't stopped nursing! Even while I was there with her, another woman came by to have her check on an injury she had. 
     Today was so fun! I loved getting to spend time in their community today, and I'm excited to head back out tomorrow! God is so good! 

Fresno!

    I'm in Fresno, California now! My time at Bethel was so amazing and refreshing! God showed me so, so much while I was there, I feel like I couldn't even begin to write it all out! But there were just so many good things and revelations during my Bethel visit.
    Bethel was amazing and I felt like I could have stayed even longer, but I am SO happy to be back out! Even though it had only been two weeks, I had missed being on the road, and even more than that I had missed hanging out with my sweet homeless friends! Yesterday was my first day going out in Fresno, and I could tell that my time here is going to be amazing! The area that I went to is a lot like Los Angeles's skid row. There are tents and makeshift homes made of wood and tarps lined up along the sidewalks. Everybody that I talked to yesterday was super nice and thankful, and I'm excited to get to spend more time with them today! I could also tell my time here was going to be good because I ran out of my sandwiches in no time without having to really search for people!
   So yeah, I'm so excited about my time in Fresno, I know it's going to be amazing! And I'm so thankful for the way that God continuously works things out perfectly in ways that I couldn't do on my own!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Redding

    I'm in Redding now! My time in San Francisco was so good! On my last day out, I got to say goodbye to all my friends, and I was pleasantly surprised because I even got to see Randolph again! He moved to another park, but didn't like it, so he came back on my last day. It was so good to get to see him again!
    One thing that was exciting and unique about my time in San Francisco was I gave my first haircut ever! It was so fun! Keith's hair was pretty long and he needed a haircut, so he asked me to do it for him. I told him I'd never cut anyone's hair before, but he said that would make it fun. So the next day I brought some scissors and cut his hair! It actually looked pretty good for my first one! So now I can add hair styling to my list of things I have to offer my homeless friends!
    This is me and Francisco! I saw Francisco every day, but we didn't really have a good talk until my last day. He actually had a home and lived with his family, but they kicked him out pretty recently because of his drinking habits. It was fun talking with him, and he gave me a mini Spanish lesson (even though I forgot it all already) but it was a blast!
   So yeah, I absolutely loved my time in San Francisco! It was so great, so fun, and I met so many awesome people! Now I'm in Redding, and I am soaking up my time at Bethel! It's been so good so far and I'm really excited about the week!

   

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Just Listen

     I had another great day! I didn't get to see Cricket again and all her stuff was gone today, so I think she must have moved on to another place. Maybe I'll still get to see her again before the week is over!
     But I did get to talk to Randolph again today, and he was doing so well! It was great to see him so encouraged! He got an address so he can move forward with getting his social security. He's moving out of that park today, too, so I might not get to see him again. But I loved that I got to leave him on a good note, seeing him doing so well and having such a positive attitude! He talked to me about his plans for this summer. He wants to get out of the city and go camp in the mountains instead of the streets. I think that will be so good for him! Randolph is such a great guy! He talked about how he's come out of a destructive lifestyle and he's a Christian and he wants to live a better, healthier lifestyle and not go back to that stuff. I know Randolph is going to be okay, I know there's no reason to worry about him!
    I also got to talk to Keith for a long time today! I had met him once before, but we hadn't really talked that much. But today we talked a lot! Keith had so much anger and frustration built up. He talked a lot about how much has been stolen from him and how much corruption he sees around him. He was just so angry, and like a lot of people I've met, after ranting for a while he brought up something about his family background. That happens with so many people that I meet. They have all this rage against everything and everyone around them that seems to be coming out of nowhere, but then it comes out that they're still holding onto pain from their childhood and being mistreated or rejected by their family. Family issues seems to be a huge common denominator for so many of the people I meet on the streets. Sadly, so is having issues with corruption in the church. But I kind of just sat there and listened to all Keith had to say. I felt like God was saying to me that that was enough, I didn't need to feel pressured to have any answers for anything he said. So I just listened to everything he had to say about everything. After a while he kind of got a little calmed down. He said that talking to me helped, and sometimes you just need somebody to listen, so you can get it all out so you don't explode. I'm glad I got to be that for Keith today. I mean really, a lot of these guys don't have anyone they can really talk to, either because they have to be tough around the people they're with or because the people they're with are struggling enough on their own and don't want to talk about anyone else's problems. So I was glad Keith got to get some of that out today, I could tell how desperate he was to have someone he could talk to that would just listen to him. Keith is one of the people I've met that most obviously desperately needed the peace of Christ. When I was about to go out, I asked Keith if I could pray with him before I left, and he said yes. It was one of the most amazing prayer times. I started praying and I just said to God, "I'm not going to try to think of what to say, You just let me pray over Keith whatever he needs and let me say whatever he needs to hear." So it was so cool to just get to pray the peace and joy of the presence of God over Keith. It was beautiful, and after the prayer Keith's demeanor was changed. I absolutely love that when Holy Spirit makes a visible change in someone just in a few seconds of prayer. After we prayed, we hung out and talked for a little while longer. And he gave me a hat, which was really sweet! When I was leaving, he said, "Thanks for the prayer. It was good, I felt it." That was so awesome! I love Holy Spirit!
  This is me and Keith! I love him, he's so awesome!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stay Sweet!

     It was another great day in San Francisco! Sadly I didn't get to see Cricket today, but her stuff was still there, so I'm hoping I'll get to see her tomorrow! I saw a lot of other familiar faces, which I always love! One guy that I saw that I met yesterday was Randolf. He actually just got in town last Friday and he's having some trouble in San Francisco. Once you're homeless and you lose your identification and social security, it can be really hard to recover. He's trying to get his social security, but in order to do so, he has to have a mailing address, which he doesn't have because he's homeless. In a lot of cities, homeless ministries will have P.O. boxes that the homeless can use for purposes like this, but San Francisco's homeless ministries seem to only do that for residents. It's kind of a vicious cycle and makes it really hard for homeless that are trying to get jobs or homes to do so. It can be very discouraging for people who are trying to improve their situations.
     I met a new friend today named Earnest. He's really new to living outdoors, too. He's also really trying to get back into a home, because it's been really rough for him so far; getting jumped, robbed, and not being able to find work. Earnest was a really sweet and open guy and it was fun getting to talk and pray with him and offer him some hope and encouragement. Something I thought was kind of funny is a lot of the people in San Francisco, when I'm leaving them, say, "Stay sweet!" I don't know if that's a San Francisco thing or what, but I like it!
     I meet so many people that totally break the mold of the stereotypical homeless person, and I love that! It just proves that we're all just people, despite the fact that society dehumanizes the homeless. People living on the streets are people. They're people with stories, interests, personalities, and a lot of them with high educations and a lot of job experience. I just love getting to hang out with them all the time! I meet so many beautiful, open, warm people!
    Go love on some people, and stay sweet!

Monday, February 11, 2013

San Francisco!

    I got to San Francisco Friday night! That morning before I left Los Angeles I stopped by skid row to say goodbye to all my friends! Sadly, Latoya and Chocolate weren't there so I didn't get to say goodbye to them, but I had fun hanging out with Gary Lewis and Herbert one last time before I left! And the drive up the 101 was absolutely beautiful!
Here's me and Herbert, my fellow Memphian!

    San Francisco has been great so far! I'm really excited because today I found my San Francisco niche! In some cities I find my niche the first day, but sometimes it takes me a bit longer. But today I found my San Francisco home, and I'm so excited about it! And once again, I just "happened upon" this park when I had given up on my searches and just started driving around aimlessly. I think God just really wants to prove to me that I don't need to try to plan things. When I just let go, He shows me what He wants me to do. Even as I'm writing this, He's making that more of a reality in my heart, showing me that I don't need to worry at all about anything in the future. I just need to stay in the peace of God, knowing that all things work together for my good, because I love Him. He's a good dad.
    So I met a lot of people at my San Francisco home today, but the person I talked to most was a lady that goes by Cricket or Morning Star (I call her Cricket). She told me a lot of her story and a lot about the things that she believes. I'm really glad I got to meet Cricket and I'm looking forward to getting to spend more time with her while I'm here! She's been through so much, having a terrible young home life, being put through foster care that misrepresented who God is, and she became homeless when she was only 12 years old. Because of the way was treated at home, she likes her life outside and feels constricted even staying a few nights in a tent. She's been through so, so much. Her mother was wiccan and she has been also her whole life. She talked about how she doesn't do bad spells on people though, and she was really into love and peace. I want her to experience real love and peace! Wicca, New Age, and Buddhism/meditation/enlightenment are all such counterfeits of the power, freedom, and peace that God has to offer. I love meeting people like that, because I know what they're searching for! I used to be searching for it, too, but I've found the real thing! I feel like those people are so ready for the Holy Spirit. Cricket does have a lot of strange beliefs. She talked a lot about reincarnation and her past lives, who she believes she is, and what she thinks is going to happen in her life. I know that no amount of arguing is going to change the way Cricket thinks, so all I know to do is listen to her, love her, and try to show her who Jesus really is. I got to pray with her, which was so good. It was so awesome, because God knows what Cricket needs. I love that we get to just take everything to God, because He knows what to do so much better than I do. Yeah, that time of prayer with Cricket was so beautiful and so full of peace. And I love the freedom that we have in God. I love the assurance we have that God is so much more powerful than anything else out there. God loves His children that fall into witchcraft. And He wants them to know that. So it was so cool to be able to sit with a wiccan and not have any fear or judgement in my heart. I didn't want to hide from her, I didn't want to argue with her, I just wanted to love her and I just want her to understand truth and who God is. 
     So I'm just trusting God for huge things during my time in San Francisco! He is so good, so faithful, and so able! 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Skid Row Sweeties!

     I leave Los Angeles tomorrow! I've loved meeting the beautiful people of skid row and getting to know them all! I will miss the people! It's a tough city to be in because it seems that almost everyone here is hurting in a visible way, whether they're aware or not. But it's been a good week! One thing I really love about the people that I meet out is how protective they are! They always make sure to tell me to be careful, and that nobody's gonna mess with me while they're around. It's just sweet and makes me happy! I love them! Another stragne thing about my time in LA is how everyone warned me about how careful I need to be on skid row, but really, I was more comfortable there than I was in the rest of the city. Not in terms of safety, but I just was happier there and would rather be with them then just on my own exploring the city. They're awesome, welcoming people. In a city that seems so attractive to outsiders, the people of skid row were by far the high light of my week.
     This is me and Lamar! Lamar was so funny and loved to talk! We talked a lot about school and interests. He was really sweet and funny

This is me with Gary Lewis! Gary is hilarious! He's very opinionated, which always makes me laugh. And he loves feeding the pigeons! It sounds strange, but it's really easy to bond with people when you're pigeon watching. Maybe that's just me hahah.