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! 


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