Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Arizona: Both and more!

    I thought I should check in with an Arizona update! I haven't been finding as many people in Arizona as I do in most cities. And the people that I find are usually by themselves rather than in groups. I think Arizona might be a little breathing time between two really busy cities! Last week I was in San Antonio, which was full of people, and next week I will be in Los Angeles staying a few blocks from skid row, so I know I will have no problem finding people there! I wasn't worn out or feeling the need for a break, but maybe God thought a slow paced week wouldn't be a bad thing. And it's a really freeing thing to neither get worn out by what I do nor need to be super busy with it to feel of any value. Ministry opportunities may come and go, but God is so constant and steady. He's really all we need!
    Arizona is such a beautiful place! You can see mountains from pretty much anywhere you are. And I love the mountains! My whole drive to Phoenix from Las Cruces, which was about a six hour drive, I didn't listen to any music or have any form of "entertainment" during my drive. I was so in awe and entertained by the beauty of creation that I didn't need anything else! I love how God lavishes us with things that aren't necessary because His love is so extravagant. We don't need the planet to be beautiful to survive, but He chose to make it that way! I'm such a Daddy's girl, I just can't help myself. He's the most amazing person ever. But the other day I took the opportunity of being in such a beautiful place to take a hike and enjoy it! While I was hiking, I realized that I couldn't really enjoy or take in the beauty of the mountain. I was so busy moving through it, and I couldn't take my eyes off the path because if I did, I would miss a step or trip over a rock. And I think sometimes our life with God can be like that. Sometimes we get so busy trying to get somewhere or do something, that we don't really take the time to just spend time with God, admire Him, and get to know Him. Which is really the whole point. The point of me going on the hike wasn't to climb a certain amount of steps or get to a certain point; I wanted to go on a hike so I could enjoy the beauty of the mountain. But once I got going, I got so sucked into making progress and focusing on not losing my footing, that I didn't really get the chance to enjoy the mountain, which was the whole purpose of the hike anyway. It's such an easy trap to slip into with our walk with God, replacing the point of intimacy with God and getting to know him with works and measurable progress. Climbing and progress isn't bad, though! As I climbed higher up the mountain, I got to see more of it's beauty and got to see more of it as I saw it from different levels. Just like with God, as we go deeper with Him, we get to know more of Him. With God we go from glory to glory. The first step of that is glorious! It's glory! But if we're just satisfied with the first glory, we keep ourselves from moving on to greater glories and really getting to know more of God. Even though the first glory is still glorious! Like the way that when I was at the bottom of the mountain, I looked around and thought, "Wow, this is beautiful!" I could have been just satisfied right there and not taken any steps up the mountain, and it still would have been beautiful. But as I went up the mountain, I got to know the beauty of the mountain more, and experience it's beauty. It's the same way with God. Why would we be satisfied with "the amount of God we have" when there's so much more of Him to get to know and experience? He's infinite!  So really, enjoying the scenery and climbing are both important. You just can't get consumed by trying to get to a certain point or making a certain amount of progress and forget the reason you're even there. It's like one thing I heard Heidi Baker say concerning the balance between soaking in God's presence and reaching out to people. She said, "It's not either or. It's both and more."
      I guess it's that we shouldn't ever just want to stay where we are, but we also shouldn't be focused  on getting somewhere. Maybe it's all just about enjoying God and letting Him take you to deeper levels at His pace, as He want to reveal them, rather than you trying to work to a certain point.
     Even if this didn't make any sense, God is beautiful and amazing and I just love the way He continually takes me into deeper freedom than I thought possible! Go climb a little, but don't forget the purpose of the hike!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Adios, San Antonio!

    Today was my last day in San Antonio, and it was an amazing one! I got to say goodbye to most of the friends that I've made, it was just an all around joyful day!
    I got to have a tour of a shelter called Haven for Hope today! It was really cool  and so different from any other shelter. It's kind of everything they would need all in one place. It was really good for me to get to see that place, it got me thinking about possibilities of what I'd like to do some day. I really would just love to have a huge house and a huge van and be able to just go around and pick up all the homeless people I could find and let them live with me!
     After I left Have for Hope, I went to Travis Park and got to spend some time with some of my buddies there for the last time! It was really cool, because I walked up to this group and was handing out sandwiches and socks, and before I could even get to offering Bibles, one girl, Dana, saw Bibles in my purse and asked if she could have one. Then they all started asking for Bibles and they were so excited! It made me so happy how happy they were about getting Bibles! Then I got to pray with all of them, which was so cool. They were just great, fun people! I had been seeing a few of them consistently through the week, so it was really good to get to spend time with them and say goodbye before I left.
My Travis Park buddies, Rachael, Baton Rouge, Rex, Bama, Maria, Dana, Precious, Teddy, and Kev!

    I got to meet a new friend today, Billy! He was so funny! He gave me some tips on how to make my mission statement sound cooler hahaha. He was such a joy!

     Right before I left, I got to meet sweet Pam! She was one of the happiest people I've ever met! When I left her, I walked away rubbing my cheeks because they hurt from smiling so much! She was so funny and so full of joy! She actually is friends with Brenda, one of the sweet ladies I met earlier this week. Pam's bus came soon after I sat down to talk with her, but even our short time was such a blessing! She told me to "Keep spreadin the love in the S. A.!"

     I also got to see sweet John twice today! I saw him the most this week because he always sits on the same bench in the same park, whereas a lot of people move around throughout the day. Today I got to sit with him and bond with him over pigeons! Before I said my last goodbye to him, we prayed together which was really sweet. After he said he was feeling better:) I also got to say goodbye to Emilio right before I left, the goofball that told me I should adopt him. He's so funny! And he's fully convinced that I am going to move to San Antonio so I can come see him in the park every day. I wish I could see everyone I've met on this whole trip everyday!
    Today was an awesome ending to my awesome time in San Antonio. It was such a joyful week! I love this journey!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Far from bored, full of joy!

     I am having such a blast in San Antonio! I've been going to pretty much the same spots every day and I get to see the same people over and over. It's really fun when I walk into the park and I've befriended most of the people there! Just hanging out with these guys makes my day!
    Here are a couple of my friends. They crack me up, they call themselves the "high class homeless" because they won't go more than a day without a shower, which is pretty hygienic for a housed person, if you ask me! The guy on the left has actually only been homeless for about ten days now. He's really working at getting a job and a place to stay. The other night, he got beat up because a guy asked him for a cigarette and he said he didn't have any. That's really crazy, but he wasn't hurt too bad! I got to see these guys a lot and talk with them for a long time.  They were really funny and sweet! I love how in a situation that would make most people depressed, they stay positive, try to improve their situation, and have lots of laughs along the way!

    This is my buddy Emilio! He is so hilarious! And so sweet! Every time I see him, he tells me I need to stay in San Antonio. Today he asked me if I would adopt him so he could be my son. It was so cute, I wish I could! I wish I could adopt all these sweeties and have a huge house and just fill it up with all my homeless friends! I'm so blessed by each of them that I meet, they make me feel like my heart is going to burst!

     Apart from my time with my homeless friends, God has just been completely rocking my life with His goodness. Stuff comes up that would have derailed me without Jesus, but I have such a steady supernatural peace and joy through it all. Things that would have caused me to question God now cause me to lean on Him even more. I'm so in love, it's crazy! And today was a special day because my host works at Sea World, so I got to pet a dolphin and a sea lion and feed a walrus! It was so cool and fun, and such a special bonus blessing for this animal lover! I wish anyone that thinks life with God is boring would just come join me, they'd change their mind quick! I'm so far from bored and so full of joy!

Monday, January 21, 2013

San Antonio

     There's been so much going on in San Antonio! It's so good, and I've met so many incredible people! My first day out, I was kind of freaked out, because the first few people I met were pretty aggressive. The first time I pulled up to a park, I had barely parked and a guy came up and started knocking on my window and pointing at the stuff in my car. It really startled me, but I guess he was really desperate! When I got out of my car and started giving him what he needed, as soon as he got his stuff, he walked away. At first I thought, "Oh no, it's going to be another city where nobody really wants to talk to me!" Which it's okay if people don't want to talk, I still want to be able to give them things they need. It just isn't as fun haha. But I soon met a ton of people that let me know not all of Texas is tight lipped!
      One of the first people I met that I got to spend time with was John! He's quiet, but willing to talk to anybody that wants to talk to him. He's from Mexico, but he seems like a funny, sage old Chinese man to me! He reminds me of a combination of Mr. Miyagi and the cute Chinese man in Princess Diaries that is the first to laugh when Mia makes a mess at the dinner. That might be a strange description, but I think it fits him pretty well. John told me some stories about where he's from and some of his life experiences. He grew up catholic and actually lived in Rome for a while and was an intern at the Vatican, which I thought was pretty cool! John is just one of those people that you can enjoy your time with even if there aren't a lot of words spoken.
       There was another park that I went to that was like a jackpot! I got out of my car and opened my trunk and within seconds, word spread through the whole park that some girl had sandwiches! I was bombarded with tons of people, I could barely pass things out quick enough! It was like a huge mob around my car, but it was an extremely happy, loving, thankful mob, not an angry one. I loved it! There was one group that came up for sandwiches of kids about 18-24 years old. They really peaked my interest, because usually I only see older men and women. So I told them I would come over and hang out with them as soon as I was done passing stuff out. When I got to them, I asked them what their story was, because I usually don't see young people out. They were travelling kids! It was so funny to me, because if I had met them a year or more ago, I would have jumped right in and joined them! They had all just come from Mexico. A few of them came down on a random hippie bus that they just jumped on. They all hitch hike, and just travel around wherever they want to go, sleeping in parks or wherever they can find. I know lots of people tell me I'm a hippie, but they haven't met these kids. 
This is Anthony, Jessie, some random guy that walked up right in time for the picture, Ryan, Rodrigo, and Spirit! And Spirit's dog, Frat Girl. They were funny little free spirits!
     I met one lady yesterday named Brenda. She was so sweet, and had such a positive mentality. She talked about how even though her situation isn't ideal, she knows it could be worse, so she always thanks God for all that she has. She was such a great example of keeping your focus on the right thing. Spending time with these people makes me realize how silly and ridiculous the mindsets of so many average Americans are. So many of us stay so focused on how we look, what we're wearing, what we have. You guys, WE'RE ALIVE! Life is such a gift! It's beautiful and God can do so much with a surrendered life, but so often we get so caught up in stuff that really is so insignificant. If you allow your life to be revolved around the external- getting social status, financial security, and your peers' approval- all that junk that does not at all matter in the scheme of eternity, you will put such extreme limits on your life. So many of the people I meet on the streets are a lot better off than those of us with comforts and security, because they have their priorities straight. They don't have all the pointless distractions that we allow to take over our attention and our lives. And they know where their true security lies- not in their jobs, not in their larger than necessary homes, not in their cushioned bank accounts- but the fact that they have a Father God who looks at them as "not less than sparrows." He takes care of the birds that do not store up for themselves, how much more will He provide for us!
     It just shows how easy it is to trust. So many of us have the desire to have that radical trust in God, but we can't let go of our illusion of control and security. But as soon as we realize that that's just what it is, an illusion, we can come into our full destiny that God has given to each of us. One that doesn't involve stress or worry or striving. He loves you! He cares about you! He's going to provide for you! And when you fully understand how great His love is, nothing else matters. You will know that even if all your external comforts and securities are taken away, it's okay, because you have the ultimate Comforter and the ultimate Security. The kind that actually lasts. The kind that actually satisfies.
This is Patty and Brenda!

     I spent a lot of time with Patty yesterday! She's been around so much corruption in the church, it's so sad to see. She's been so hurt by people that are really involved in churches that kind of live double lives, it breaks my heart to see that and the affects it has on people's idea of who God is. I really just poured God's truths into her and who God is and who she is in Him. I loved getting to spend time with her and taking her out to dinner and just pouring love into her and showing her God's pure love. Because she's seen so many misrepresentations of God and has been given such skewed examples of love. And people showing her twisted ideas of grace because they don't understand the freedom that Christ paid for them to have. But that is a hugs topic that I could go on and on about. It was really cool to see the way that by the end of our time together, her eyes had changed, and her attitude had changed. People just need to be shown God's pure love.
    And I loved how through hearing about all that corruption, stuff that used to totally shake my idea of who God is and His goodness, I could know God is so good. I love that security that I have in God now that is totally a gift from Him. He's shown me so much of His love and His goodness, and I've experienced too much of His freedom for the twisted ideas and the falling of other people to affect my idea of who He is. Seeing what other people do can't affect who I know God is. It's so freeing. 

Me and sweet Patty!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Goodbye, Houston!

     I'm leaving Houston and heading to San Antonio today!  My last day out in Houston yesterday was a great one! I got to see a sweetie named Benny under a bridge that I had met once before. And I just handed out some stuff downtown. Then last night I went to Montrose Street Reach, which is a really cool outreach for the homeless and poor. It's in a parking lot and there's food, a raffle, clothes, and a sermon for anyone that wants to come. I helped sort the clothing for the first half, and the second half I got to hang out with the kids in the childcare area, which was super fun!
     The day before yesterday was good, too. Right before I headed home, I got to see Teresa, one of the first people I met in Houston! She was kind of timid, but she was such a sweet heart, and she really was beautiful! I was so glad I got to see her again and got to stock her up on warm clothes. After we parted, I got in my car and started fiddling around with my GPS, and she started walking down the street. She got almost to the end of the street and then turned around and started walking back toward me. I rolled down my window and asked if she needed anything else. She said, "No, I just couldn't remember your name!" It was the sweetest thing! I really love these people, they make me so happy!
       So my time in Houston has been great! God has taught me so much this week and He's just showing me how to see Him working in every situation, even if things aren't the way that I would have planned them. He is so good, and everyday I'm overwhelmed with His love and the way that He's blessing me with this journey.

This is the Montrose Street Reach
And me with the cute kiddos!
This little goofball, Elizabeth, kept me busy! By the way, "juice" is not the best smiling for a picture word, hence her not looking ready for the picture. I think saying cheese works better haha.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The blessing of blessing

      My time in Houston has been so different from the other cities, but it's been so good!  The dynamics here are so different because the people don't really stay in one place. In other cities, I could go to a few parks and see the same people over and over and know that the parks were going to be full of people. But here, there are a lot of parks with nobody in them and I go to the same spots but don't see the same people. But today, God has been doing some cool stuff and putting me right where He wants me so that I can meet certain people.
     This morning before I headed out, I went to the store to get something, and as I was pulling out of the parking lot I saw a guy sitting on the curb with a sign. He was in a part of town that I wouldn't have gone looking for people because I wouldn't have expected anyone to be there. But God knew where Bill was, and everything was just worked together. So I got to talk to Bill for a bit, pray with him, hear some of his story, and get him some coffee to keep him warm while he sat out in the cold to fly his sign.
      Then after driving around downtown for a bit and giving out some sandwiches, I came to Starbucks and started Googling places that I could work next week. I wasn't here very long before a lady named Tanya came in and sat across from me. We started talking for a bit and she told me about her situation being homeless. So I took her out to my car and gave her whatever she needed out of the donated items. And I got to pray with her, too. Tanya has had a tough life with her children being taken away from her and sickness and she just got out of prison in December. But she really has the desire to get better and not go back to the destructive things that got her in trouble. She was really sweet and appreciative, and it was so great to just get to talk to her and pour love into her and provide for some of her needs.

This is Tanya!

      So it's been really cool how today God has brought me people in the unexpected areas. When I've gone out searching for people in Houston, I've found people, but I haven't gotten to really know any of them because they've been so reserved. But in the times that I'm not searching, God crosses my path with these beautiful, open people. I'm so blessed by the ability to bless others and be blessed just by getting to know them. And that's available to all of us! We're all invited to just go bless and be blessed, because we already are blessed by Jesus. So just accept His Blessing, and then accept His invitation to share it with others. It really is a blast!

Sunday, January 13, 2013


      I'm in Houston, Texas now! I got here on Friday night. That morning before I left New Orleans, I went into the city to try to find my friends from the week and say my goodbyes. I didn't see many familiar faces, but I did get to see Randy one last time and say goodbye to him! I was so happy, it made my day! Randy was such a sweet, sweet guy and I was so excited to get to say goodbye and love on him one last time before I left. Meeting him was such a blessing, and so was finding him again on my last day.
      Things have been different in Houston, but still good! The homeless people here are more spread out than they are in most cities. Usually I can find big groups of people in a few parks, but here they are really spread out and I haven't found any areas where a lot of people are congregated. Most of the people I've seen are on their own. And a lot of the people I've met here so far aren't very talkative, but that's okay! The people that keep to themselves are just as important and lovely as the ones that share their life stories with me. Even if they don't let me get to know them, I know God knows them and loves them so much.
       There was one guy I met today, James, who was really talkative! Sadly, he didn't have teeth and he talked really quietly so I couldn't really understand what he was saying, but I still loved listening to him! It was sweet because after I left him, a lady that a met, Teresa, said she's never seen him talk that much before! She said usually he's really quiet and keeps to himself. So even though I couldn't understand most of what he said, I was honored that he wanted to share his heart with me! Other than James, though, not many have really wanted to talk that much.
       Today, after I went through downtown a bit, I got to go to some people living under overpasses. It was actually really cool, because I didn't set out to go to people under bridges. I was just driving and I saw some tents set up, so I slowed down and tried to find somewhere to park, and I saw this sweet lady smiling and waving me to her. It was like she expected me! When I stopped, I found out her name was Sharon, and she brought a few of her friends over to me with her. Even though they didn't talk much either, they just left quickly after they got a few things that they needed, they were really sweet and appreciative! After I left that bridge, I went to another one and gave out the rest of my sandwiches.
       It's funny, because after I went under the bridges I was thinking about how my time in Houston so far has kind of been at a slower pace than most cities. I was thinking that maybe God was trying to teach me to be just as passionate and joyful about serving these people when they are more reserved and it isn't super exciting as I am when they share their entire life story with me and every moment is exciting. But then I thought, "Wait a second. I'm going under bridges into tent communities. I guess that's still pretty exciting." I love what my "normal" has become!
      So Houston has been great so far! I'm hoping that I will get to find some of the same people every day so that they might get more comfortable with me and maybe want to talk more. I just love getting to know these people and bond with them! But even if none of the people here end up opening up to me, I know they're just as special and I've loved meeting them.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Loop 3 Revised Schedule

Originally, I had planned on flying to California, but due to the fact that I'm too young to rent a car, my original loop 3 and loop 4 have been combined to one loop, which changed the order and dates of some of the cities. So here is my revised loop 3 schedule!

Loop 3:
New Orleans:    Jan 4- Jan 11
Houston:    Jan 11- Jan 18
San Antonio:    Jan 18- Jan 25
El Paso:      Jan 25- Feb 1
Pheonix:     Feb 1- Feb 8
Los Angeles:    Feb 8- Feb 15
San Fancisco:     Feb 15- Feb 22
Redding:     Feb 22- March 1
Fresno:    March 1- March 8
Las Vegas:     March 8- March 15
Albequerque:   March 15- March 22
Oklahoma City:    March 22- March 29
Little Rock:      March 29- April 4

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


       It's another cloudy day in New Orleans! I came inside because it's raining, but I got to see a lot of people before the rain started, and I'm hoping it will clear up soon so I can go back out. But it has been a great day so far! I got to meet new people and see some familiar faces. One of the first guys I met today was James. He actually lost his job yesterday, so he doesn't know exactly where he wants to go from here. He's only been homeless for eight months and he tries to keep to himself most of the time. But he was happy to talk to me and we got to talk for a while. He talked about how God puts certain people in your life for a reason. I know that's true, I've met so many beautiful people on this trip who have taught me so much. Some of the most overlooked people have the most to share, and I've been so blessed that they've let me into their lives and have been willing to share their stories and their time with me. My life and my perspective has been so changed for the better by these people. The blessing they all are to me is overwhelming!
        Another guy I met today, Ricky, was giving me a lot of suggestions of where to find people. He told me about one spot where there are a lot of young teenage homeless who train-hop. I'm hoping I'll get to meet some of them before I leave, but just knowing that there are people out here younger than me is crazy. The range of homeless people is so wide. There are young and old, people who work and people who don't, people who have been homeless for years and people who just became homeless, people who are mentally ill and people who are mentally healthier than a lot of people in homes, people who cling to Jesus and people who don't even know who He is despite the fact that they get food or shelter in churches. There really isn't one box that they all fit into despite our prejudices. So many of them are so ready to love, and they totally come alive when they are shown love. They really are beautiful people and I'm so glad I get the gift of getting to know so many. 

This is Randy! He is SO beautiful inside and out and has such a sweet, gentle spirit. I met him the other day and I'm so glad our paths crossed again. I can't get across how sweet he is! He's definitely one who has captured my heart! If you look closely, you can see that the name on the jacket he's wearing says Angel. I think it's very fitting:)

He's kind of shy, so I didn't know if he would be okay with taking a picture, so before I asked, I snapped one of him from behind. I also thought his jacket was cool (if you can't read it, above the cross it says "Once for all"). But here's Randy hanging out!

Monday, January 7, 2013

New and familiar

      So far today I've gotten to see some new faces and some familiar faces. Yesterday when Amanda and I stopped to get lunch, I saw a guy who looked hungry ordering and he asked for the cheapest cup of ice he could have. So I went up to him and told him if he wanted some food, I would get it for him, and he did! He was really sweet and appreciative.
       Today, I went out to the area I've been going to and I was handing out sandwiches. I got to one bench and started approaching the person sitting there, and as I got closer, I realized it was Hector, the guy I bought lunch for yesterday! It was so good to see him again, I love seeing familiar faces! And it was cool to get to talk to him for a while and get to know him. He actually has only been homeless for six months. He was in the movie industry and his business stopped doing well, and that's how he's ended up on the streets. He's a musician and songwriter and actually went on tour with Rage Against the Machine in 1993 and worked merchandise for them, which is pretty cool. His good friend was in their opening band, and occasionally he got to play percussion with them! He talked about how he's been so many different places in his life, from living in penthouses to on the streets. It just goes to show nothing in this world is really secure. But Hector is so awesome because he's so positive and determined to not lose the battle in the streets!
This is Hector!

      I also got to see Vernon again and a bunch of new friends! I'm having a great time in New Orleans, and I'm meeting so many awesome, talented people! I'm so excited for this loop, and I'm grateful for the great start it's had:)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

"If You want me, You can have me."

         It was another great day in New Orleans! It was a little rainy and overcast all day, so there weren't as many people out as usual, but there still were plenty. Today was fun because Amanda, a member of my host family, joined me! This was the first time I'd had anyone go with me! So it was different, but it was really fun, and I love that she wanted to join me!
        We started out in the same spot that I spent the most time at yesterday, but there was barely anyone there because of the rain. When we got to the end of a long walk way, we came across Kenneth! Kenneth was such a sweet blessing! When we offered him food and socks, he said, "Yes! I was just thinking how I need socks, God sent you to me!" We started talking to him, and asked if he had any friends around or knew where anyone would be, since we hadn't seen many people yet. He said yes and took us to a spot where some people were hanging out. So we went up with him and handed out sandwiches and talked with them. We met one lady named Parrish who is an awesome example of perseverance. She just moved into an apartment from living in a rescue mission, and she's working and doing well, which is so awesome to see! But she has been separated from her young son, so we got to pray with her because God loves restoring families. After we talked a while where they were hanging out, we took some of the guys back with me to my car so they could go through any of the stuff I had (like coats and blankets) and take what they needed.
        It was awesome, because as we were walking to my car, I started talking to one of the guys, Nathan, who said he was from Nashville. We started talking about the city and he brought up the Bridge Ministry, and I told him about how I went there when I was in Nashville. Then I asked if he had been to East Nashville Cooperative Ministry,  and he said yes! And we talked about The Contributor, which is the homeless newspaper in Nashville and he told me that he used to sell them. It was crazy to meet someone in New Orleans who was from Nashville and had been to all the places I worked at. He actually just got to New Orleans recently and wants to go back to Nashville soon, so I might see him again next time I go to Nashville!
        After the guys went through and got what they needed, most of them left, but Kenneth stayed a while and talked to us some more. Kenneth is so amazing! He told us some awesome stories about the way God has pursued him and provided for him. He talked about how he remembers being young, and saying to God, "If you want me, you can have me," and they've just grown together from there. He talked about how he was never really good with reading, but God's given him understanding for His word and has just revealed himself to Kenneth. The way God provides for Kenneth is awesome, and it's great to see how Kenneth credits that to God and not just coincidence. He talked about how as needs arise, God meets them. When he gets really hungry, he finds hot meals left out. When he starts to really need new clothes, he will find clothes in his size. Kenneth also loved talking about how powerful God's love is. And he's proof of that!
This is Jason, Mike, Nathan, and Kenneth!
       After we left that area, we handed out sandwiches to people staying under the interstate overpass. Going under the overpass was harder because most of the people there weren't doing well mentally. But God calls us to shine in the darkest of places, and I try to give those people all I can offer them. And really, the only thing I can give them that will last is Jesus. And He's what they really need. So I just pray that God will reveal Himself to these people through me and that Jesus will show His power and the true freedom that comes through Him to these people. And I trust that the Holy Spirit will grow any seeds that I plant in the hearts of these people. And I thank God for the way He longs to reveal Himself to us. 
        God is so good, and His children are so precious! It's amazing what He will show us and what He will do with our lives when, like Kenneth, we say to God, "You can have me." 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Orleans!

       I'm in my first stop of my third loop: New Orleans! Leaving home this time was the hardest it's been! This is my longest loop so far, 3 months, and I was feeling overwhelmed with how much I would miss everyone before I even left. I had a lot of tearful goodbyes, and even the first minutes of my drive were full of tears. But as always, God is faithful to turn my tears of sadness into tears of joy.  While I was driving, crying because of how sad I was to leave, I took my heart and emotions and handed them over to God. Because I knew if I didn't surrender my heart to God, I wouldn't last this three months. When I allowed Him to come into the situation, He totally shifted my focus, and I went from being overwhelmed with sadness to being overwhelmed with joy. I was crying happy tears, overwhelmed with how blessed I am that God took me on this journey. It is such gift, and I absolutely love it. Even when it's hard or I miss my friends and family, this is such an amazing gift. 
          When I got into town last night, I went to church with my host family. They were having a time of prayer, and the head of each ministry would come up for a few minutes at a time to pray for their ministry. When the Outreach pastor got up, one of the things he said was, "If you keep your feet moving, your head will follow." That was something I so needed to hear. I knew I would never quit this trip, but I just didn't know if my heart would get back into it this time, because I felt like I left so much of myself at home. So him saying that just affirmed, that if you give your yes to God, if you go, no matter how hard it is to leave some things behind, God will be faithful to bless your yes. You won't stay sad, your heart will follow and your fears and worries will be left behind. And that has happened so much already. My heart is already catching up to my feet!
          Today was my first day going out to the city. To be honest, I wasn't feeling as excited as I usually do to go out. I was still feeling so sad to leave home that I feared that I might have lost my passion for this. But I knew, regardless of how I felt, that this was exactly where God wanted me and what He wants me to be doing. So I pushed past my feelings and gave my yes to God. And He is so faithful to bless when you give Him your yes!
           As I took the first few steps from my car, I was apprehensive as to how personable or receptive the people here would be. As I usually am, I was pleasantly surprised with so many amazing, sweet, beautiful people today. They were all so nice, so appreciative, so loving. God was just like, "See, Tori! You love this! I know you love this, it's why I brought you here! You have no need to worry. You didn't 'lose your passion.' You aren't going to be miserable doing the work I have for you. You love it, and you love these people." I lost sight of that while I was focusing on what I had left behind. But it didn't take long for my Dad to remind me.
          I'm so thankful to God for this journey. For these people. And I am so thankful that He gave me the boldness to say yes to Him, because I know that boldness didn't come from me. I am so thankful He gave me the boldness to follow through and not give up on this loop, even when I felt overwhelmed. And He's immediately shown me that if I say yes despite my feelings, He will give me unimaginable joy, passion, and love.
This is Rob! He was so sweet. His friend that was with him was named Stoney (he didn't want to be in a picture, so he took this one). Stoney was such a sweetheart and had such a father's heart. They told me about how there are a lot of young homeless people that they've taken under their wings. They both live in abandoned houses, but because that's illegal, they have to move around a lot. Meeting them was such a blessing!

This is me with Richard and Billy! They were the first people I met today. They were so funny and full of joy! And so appreciative of everything. I loved getting to talk to them! Richard is actually a Katrina survivor. He told me a lot about things that went on when Katrina hit and how bad it really was. It's so awesome to see how much he's been through, and continually goes through as a homeless man, yet he is still so full of joy. 

Billy's first Snuggie encounter! It was funny because Richard kept getting first dibs on all the stuff I gave them, and when I brought out the blankets, he called the blue one right away. They were saying how they both wanted the blue one, but once Billy unfolded it and realized it was a Snuggie, Richard started trying to trade!

These guys were awesome! This is Paul, Max, Shallon and I. They played music on the street, but Max sang and played while Shallon lifted him around with her feet. I know it sounds really awkward, but it was cool! The three of them live in their cars and make a living through their music. We bonded over our gypsyness haha!

This is one of the many positions they played in!

This is Vernon, another super joyful blessing of a man! He has a reputation for his funny signs and personality. People actually come out to the park to see him, and I can see why! He was so fun to hang out with!

        So my first day in New Orleans has been so amazing, such a blessing, and has totally brought me back fully into my passion for the homeless. Even when I was feeling sad, I knew I loved these guys, I knew that it's what I'm supposed to do, and I knew that I was going to keep doing it, but my heart wasn't fully in it because I felt like my heart was still at home. But now my heart is fully back in it, and I'm so grateful God blessed me with an amazing first day and didn't let me give up or stay in my sadness. He always turns my sadness, my weakness, into overflowing joy. In the middle of His will is where I want to stay!