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!
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!