“I’ll never forget this summer”

CampRio_Arkansas2

Each summer, Ransom Ministries hosts groups of teenagers who want to learn more about living a life of service to God and others. They come from all over the country to spend a week at a time in Mobile doing a variety of service projects along with daily devotions, worship and share time.

We rely on college interns to provide the extra help we need to pull off our camps… all of our normal operations continue, and we are also responsible for up to 40 teenagers 24/7!

One of our interns, Allie, spent the summer with us and was integral in helping organize and implement activities for each camp. Her enthusiasm, passion and humor was a breath of fresh air for us all summer! Here’s what she had to say about her experience!

Ransom_AllieRansom Ministries became part of my life five years ago when my church drove all the way from Little Rock, Arkansas to participate in the ministry’s summer mission teams. My church was one of the first mission teams Ransom hosted, and we’ve been coming back ever since.

I loved all the activities we did that week — it was truly a week about loving God and others. At the time, I was struggling with my faith, didn’t feel very loved and was starting down a dark path. But the Ransom team took me under their wings and poured love and God’s word into me. Since then, I have been a camper, a chaperone and now an intern. I decided one week wasn’t enough time to spend at Ransom, and now as my internship is coming to an end, I can’t help but feel that a whole summer wasn’t enough either.

When you work with kids, there is a certain kind of responsibility that comes with it. That was the hardest part for me — realizing a lot of the kids will look up to me in the same way I used to look up to Ransom’s interns. When I was a camper, I met an intern who helped me through a rough time and whom I know will always be there for me. We still keep in touch.

My youth director told me before I left that my role has changed from receiving to giving. I was no longer the one being poured into. This summer, my job was to pour into others. That struck home for me. This summer was about how God used me to help others’ faith grow. But even though I came here to serve others, God used service to help me grow, too. That’s why I loved this internship so much. In letting God use me, it did make my faith grow. With every kid that “got it” or every person we made smile, He showed me His love, and that only made my love for him grow more and more.

The moment I remember most from this summer was how one of the campers who was going through a lot and having a rough time was still so full of love and caring for others. The campers were making bracelets to give away in hopes of showing God’s love, and this girl comes up to me and very shyly asks if she could make me a bracelet. It was so meaningful to me, and I have yet to take it off.

If this summer has taught me anything, it’s that God can use you to do amazing things if you just let go of yourself and let Him. When I was 16, Ransom Ministries saved my life, and this summer I got to give back to them and see that same change in others. I will never forget this summer, the people I met or all the things I’ve learned.

For more information about mission teams or internships, visit RansomMinistries.com.

CampRio_Wadley2

What WILL Jesus Do?

wwjd

Remember the oh-so-popular WWJD bracelets from the 90s?

“What Would Jesus Do?”

While the sentiment of these bracelets came from a good place, asking this question often leads to a thought process that negates the reality that Jesus is alive and accessible to us through the Holy Spirit. When we ask “What Would Jesus Do,” we put pressure on ourselves to fix people’s problems and give them all the right answers. But only God can do that.

We are not Jesus’ substitute here on earth. He is still alive and active here. We simply exist as His ambassadors and serve to point others to a living God who has the power to change and heal hearts.

So often in ministry or in our daily lives, we focus on the RIGHT, black-and-white response rather than the humble, grace-filled one. We box the living, all-knowing, all-powerful, relational Jesus in, thinking we can always know how He would handle each and every situation and neglecting to ask Him what He would have us do specifically in the moment. So when we don’t know, we so often just don’t act.

“I’m not sure what I should say to that homeless person, so I’m going to keep walking.”

“I am not fully clear on how I should interact with my family member who doesn’t know Jesus, so I’m going to stay silent.”

“Is having a positive relationship with a person living a sinful lifestyle wrong? Not sure… gonna play it safe and let that one fizzle out.”

But what if, instead of asking “What Would Jesus Do” in these situations, we stepped out in faith and wondered with anticipation, “What WILL Jesus Do” if they could just know Him?

“Hi, no, I can’t give you money, but how can I pray for you?”

“Hey, I love you and I want you to know Jesus. If you ever have any questions about God, I’m here for you.”

“Regardless of your lifestyle, I know He wants a relationship with you. So please don’t be afraid to approach God. I know if you have a real relationship with Him, He’ll work on your heart like He’s worked in mine.”

Sometimes the Holy Spirit does prompt us to give a hard word of truth to a friend or family member or someone who we’re serving. But that word always has to come from a place of love, relationship and a desire for that person to know Jesus and experience His grace. Knowing Jesus changes everything. If someone doesn’t know Him, we can’t expect them to change.

We believe in a sovereign, living God who has all the ability to work in someone’s heart. We cannot forget that as we interact with others. When we let go of the responsibility of being God, we get to watch him work. Don’t worry about knowing what Jesus would do. Just get people to Him…. and wait to see what He WILL do.

You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. –2 Cor. 3:3-6

 

ReProgram: finding God-given purpose

Ransom_ReProgramLogoIt’s the last week of our third Ransom ReProgram class. We are so proud of our students, who have worked so hard and persevered through tough roadblocks to get where they are today. As of today, 12 students are graduating on March 24, and three of them already have jobs! 

But the most powerful aspect of completing Ransom ReProgram isn’t about getting a job — it’s about learning to embrace your identity in Christ.

As we have gotten to know each of these students over the past eight weeks, we’ve learned how special God made each of them and have seen the labels the world has placed on them melt off as they realize the unique gifts and interests God has placed in their hearts. It’s so important to us that each student leaves knowing who God made them to be — not what the world has told them they are. 

We recently attended one of our students’ graduations from Home of Grace, a Christ-centered drug and alcohol recovery program. Each woman walked in carrying a large poster board with their old identity written on it: “Bound by the chains of sin and addiction,” “Imprisoned by fear and addiction,” and then picked up a new poster: “Freed by the blood of Jesus,” “A new creation.” We loved this visual picture of the life changing power of a relationship with Jesus.

At ReProgram, we seek to help our students discover even more about their new identities: what am I good at? What are my interests? What makes me tick? What is my purpose? What am I created to do?

So often the world reserves these kinds of questions for people who seem to have it all together, but we want our students to have access to hopes, dreams, and the tools they need to walk in obedience to God’s call. This is the only path to true, deep healing. A job might last for six months, but a God-given passion lasts a lifetime.

People who have struggled with addiction, crime, or poverty are not disqualified from redemption. They can be used for his glory in so many beautiful ways. We are missing out when we silence their voices, talents, and ideas. 

ReProgram_Rainbow.JPG
This is the beautiful rainbow that showed up before our students first met their champions.

Mandy, there is a elderly person out there who needs your soft voice, gentle touch, and attention to detail. You will be an incredible caregiver and CNA.

Marques, the dogs and cats of Mobile will be better off having you as their caretaker, and their owners will rest assured knowing you are caring for their pets. Your passion for animals is a gift from God.

Caitlin, you are a great mommy and will be wonderful in the world of customer service. Your humor and fun personality will make someone’s day!

Haley, you will be the most fun, loving cosmetologist. What a great career for someone so passionate about making others feel good about themselves!

Leslie, we can see you being a caring counselor for others who have walked through what you have been through. Whatever you do, we know you will do it with grace and humility.

Sam, you are already doing a great job in construction, and we pray God will give you what you need to also achieve your goals of becoming a personal trainer! God will use you in mighty ways to help others.

Ellis, your humble, gentle spirit has been such a blessing to us. Your awesome attitude paired with your work ethic will make you a great hire for any company!

Stan, you have a servant’s heart. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the restaurant business or working on computers —  you will serve others with joy!

Brian, you are a man of few words who works hard and does what he says he’ll do. We know you will be a dependable driver and will love being on the road one day!

Ray, what a journey it’s been. We are so proud of your dedication to make things right and walk into the life God has for you. Your sweet spirit will be a gift to your employer!

Hargrove, it’s been great to see you grow and embrace the truths we’ve learned in class. We know you will continue to grow and be a great employee.

Shaun, we need more brains like yours! You will be a great computer repairman!

This message isn’t just for our ReProgram students. Every believer has gifts, passions, and purpose. Don’t ever believe the enemy’s lie that you aren’t important. What has God called you to do? 

Ransom ReProgram is an 8-week job skills training program that seeks to provide participants with support services to overcome barriers to employment, helping them move out of dependency and into personal responsibility and self-reliance. ReProgram utilizes the Jobs for Life curriculum, an internationally-recognized job training program that boasts an 80 percent success rate. Participants are paired with a mentor and are taught spiritual principles about work and relating to others. For more information, visit RansomMinistries.com or contact site director Molly Broders at molly@ransomcafe.com.

 

 

 

That logo is cool… what does it mean?

Print

We get a lot of questions about the meaning of our logo, which is exactly what we had in mind when we designed it. When we wear our Ransom T-shirts or hand out flyers, we love telling people the meaning behind the symbols. This gives us yet another opportunity to share the love of Christ one-on-one with the people around us.

BeSaltBE SALT

We are all called to be salt in Matthew 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Salt has two uses: to give flavor and preserve. We are called to give flavor to and preserve the culture and people around us by being a positive, involved, Christlike presence in our communities. However, we should also remember that too much salt is unhealthy, so while we must be salt, we should not be overbearing or pushy.

THE SYMBOL

The symbol for salt comes from the Alchemical symbols, which were used to denote elements and compounds until the 18th century.

BeLightBE LIGHT

We are called to be light in Matthew 5:14: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” We are to shine like a lamp (not a spotlight) so people may see this Jesus we love through our lives, as well as the love we have for others through our interactions with them.

THE SYMBOL

The symbol for light comes from electrical symbols used by electrical contractors. On a set of electrical plans, this symbol represents a source that generates light when an electrical current flows through it. This symbol is personally meaningful to Ransom Ministries because of God’s provision through a job in the electrical industry that allowed Matt to start Ransom.

BeJesusBE JESUS

In 2 Corinthians 5:20, Paul tells us that we are ambassadors for Jesus: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” As ambassadors of Christ, we strive to emulate Him in the way we treat people, love people and carry ourselves on a daily basis. This is why Ransom Ministries exists — we want to be a picture of Jesus’ love for everyone in our community.

THE SYMBOL

The symbol for Jesus is a combination of the first two letters (XP, or Chi Rho) of “Christ” in Greek. The X and the P are superimposed to create what is known as the Monogram of Christ, Chrismon or Labarum. While it was used long ago by persecuted early Christians in the catacombs, the circle around it represents eternity.

Thanksgiving 2015 at Ransom Cafe

We had another great Thanksgiving at Ransom Cafe! This year, we hosted Thanksgiving meals at all seven of our cafe locations, had 275 volunteers come out to help, delivered plates to lots of local businesses — in all, we served 1,100 people!

It was a great turnout, but those big numbers don’t tell the story adequately. To really understand why we continue to celebrate Thanksgiving at Ransom Cafe each year, we have to zero in on a few individual stories.

→ A pharmacist cried when strangers brought her a to-go plate full of turkey, ham, dressing, green beans, sweet potato casserole and pie.

→ An older couple said they weren’t invited to any Thanksgiving celebrations and were so happy to have a place to go. They ended up staying for over an hour and opened up to volunteers about their strained family relationships.

→ Last year, a group of volunteers went out into a mobile home community and met a man who said he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He was all alone on Thanksgiving. The volunteers prayed for him. This year, they went back to his home and found him! He was shocked and humbled they remembered him and came to check on him again.

→ Firefighters were so appreciative of someone thinking of them and wanted volunteers to stay and spend time with them.

→ A man had been recently divorced and was missing his daughters on the holiday. He came to the cafe for the first time on Thanksgiving because he didn’t have anywhere else to go. He struggles with guilt about not being able to provide for his daughters. He came back the next week and talked more about his insecurities as a dad and even opened up about feeling unworthy of God’s love. Volunteers prayed with him and talked to him about the assurance we have through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He got a haircut, too, and left feeling much more confident.

→  A brother and sister couldn’t go home to celebrate and were so thankful they could enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal together without having to go to all the trouble of cooking for just two people!

→ A family was in the process of being kicked out of the hotel room where they were staying. Our volunteers showed up at that precise moment with a meal. They were able to pray together.

→ A woman whose mother died the day before Thanksgiving served with us. She said coming to volunteer was exactly what she needed during her time of grief.

It’s amazing what God will do when His people show up and say “yes” to serving Him! We love partnering with churches and volunteers to open doors for them to have these kinds of experiences. We exist to empower others to find out how God wants to use them to show others the Gospel in their daily lives.

To find out more about how you can get involved, visit RansomMinistries.com, email us at info@ransomcafe.com or comment here!

 

RansomLogoClearBackground

Meet Diane!

Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” —Deuteronomy 15:10

When you think of a homeless person, what image comes to mind? Are they male or female? Black or white? What kind of personality do you think this person has? What’s their story?

IMG_2025

What we’ve found in working with all types of people is that it’s really true that each person is unique. Labels and stereotypes don’t adequately describe giant groups of people. When we start replacing generalized terms like “the homeless” or “the poor” with individual names, faces and stories, we start understanding why God is so obsessed with the individuals that make up these marginalized people groups. Did you know the Bible contains more than 300 verses dealing with God’s deep concern for the poor? These individuals are always on God’s mind; therefore they should also be on our minds, too. Each person we meet, whether they’re rich, poor, employed, unemployed, black, white, young or old deserves to be seen as a child of God. And when we begin to see people this way, God begins to bless us with deeper understanding of his character and his amazing grace.

We’d like to introduce you to a friend of ours who might help illustrate this point. This is Diane.

Ransom_Diane2

Before Diane, our homeless friends received haircuts sporadically — volunteers would show up every now and then, but no one could help meet this need on a regular basis. In 2014, we gave 168 haircuts, and in January and February of this year, we gave zero. Then in March, we met Diane, a cosmetologist who was homeless and lived in Tent City.

Soon after discovering Ransom Cafe, Diane began coming each Monday to give haircuts. From March to July, Diane has give 211 haircuts — more in five months than we were able to give the entire year of 2014. When people offer to tip her, she directs them to our donation box. Her positivity and generous spirit brings life to a place that can seem hopelessly dark some days.

Ransom_Diane1

Almost every time Diane shows up to cut hair, she brings someone new with her.

“This one doesn’t belong out there,” she’ll say. “We need to help him get out.” She helps others get set up with a tent, a much more desirable setup than sleeping on the street.

It takes a special woman to earn respect and protection out in Tent City, and Diane has done just that. Although she has recently obtained housing, Diane still spends most of her time with her homeless friends. She is the “momma” of Tent City, and each week, she enlists new people to help her, reinforcing our goal to give a hand up instead of a hand out.

After she moved into her apartment, a friend of Diane’s asked her why she would still choose to help others when they couldn’t provide her anything in return. She replied that God has been so good to her and others helped her when they didn’t have to — why wouldn’t she pass along the blessing to someone else?

Diane is now a student in Ransom ReProgram, an 8-week job training program that helps candidates overcome barriers to employment. She hopes to continue to help with haircuts and even wants to train others through apprenticeship so they can make a better life for themselves.

What a journey these two years have been!

As you can tell, I am not much of a blogger, but I thought it was time to share some things God has been teaching us as well as some of the awesome things that have been going on with Ransom Ministries.

The Homeless On Purpose project really changed the way I looked at things when it comes to those in need. Many times we look at someone and see what we want to see and think what we want to think. This causes us to judge a person before we know the situation they are are in or coming out of.

I know the past two years have caused our family to rely on God and His leading and trust him fully. Each day, we realize we are right where God wants us, and that is an awesome feeling, but it’s also scary at times. God keeps on showing Himself to us in so many ways. I can’t begin to tell you everything He has done in our lives and in the lives of those He has let us meet.

We had a great summer. We were able to reach out to the community with a great group of students from Little Rock, Arkansas. Over the week, we saw many people realize that reaching out to those in need (which really is everyone you meet) is not that hard — you just have to be available. We saw them grow as the week went on, and each of them came away with things that changed their lives and lessons they could take home with them. This week also changed us and helped us do what we do. Watching my sister and her family serve was the most rewarding thing I had experienced in a long time. They were able to carry it home to Colorado, and they are reaching out where they are as well.

We have seen so many people who are hurting and just need someone to love them or listen to them come through Ransom Cafe this year. We have seen young children who just want to play catch with a ball, widows who just need to belong, elderly men and women who just want someone to listen to them, young people who want to serve, but need someone to lead them, homeless people who just want a meal or a shower, families who want to know someone is struggling like them, and people from all walks of life who need to know someone cares.

We have seen that if we are there for them, a door is opened for Jesus to heal them and give them hope. We know that we don’t have anything in and of ourselves to give them, but we have the best thing we can give them and that is Jesus and His love.

We have seen God open so many doors to reach people. We have seen people come to the saving knowledge of Jesus through serving them a hot meal, giving them a pair of shoes, letting them take a hot shower, and having them wash dishes, sweep floors, wipe tables or just talk. That is what is so cool about what we get to do — it’s just everyday activities that reach people and let them see the real Jesus, not the one we have made up in our minds or seen in the religious crowd.

We know that many people dont understand what we do and why we do it, so I want to try to put it into words the best I can: WE LOVE PEOPLE WHERE THEY ARE, plain and simple. I know Jesus spent a lot of time around the dinner table (thanks to my friend Brett) and showed that He was willing to sit down with people that most saw as outcasts. We have also seen that most of His ministry was not done in the church or temple, but in the community, homes, and streets. We feel that if it was good enough for Him, it is good enough for us. This is a long and messy process sometimes, and it takes just being there and letting God do everything else. Sometimes we make this so much harder then it has to be. Jesus showed us the way to get into people’s lives, love them and take them as they are, and then be there for them.

This is all very overwhelming at times, but we know that when we are in so deep we can’t depend on our knowledge, strength, skills, or our own abilities, we have to depend on Him, and that’s when he is REAL to us.

God keeps stretching us in ways we never could have imagined, sometimes to the point of not being able to breathe. Then, He does something or sends someone with an encouraging word that just shows us He is in control. Who would have thought two years ago we would be starting our third location in three different churches and denominations. We have seen the vision of Ransom come to pass in ways only God could do. We have seen people come together no matter what church they are a member of to reach the needs of their community, and it is so exciting to be a part of.

One thing we need everyone to realize is that a great way to plug into this ministry is to come in and eat with those you might not get to meet in your day-to-day life. So next time you are thinking about going to lunch at one of the many restaurants in Mobile, come out to a Ransom location near you, and know your money is going to help others understand God’s love and see it come to life. Hey, you might even meet someone who could change your life — I know we have.

I guess to sum it all up, God has been teaching us that this life is not about us; it’s about Him. We also have seen that this ministry is for everyone because everyone has needs and struggles with something, no matter how it looks on the outside. I know we do, and this has allowed us to see that He is there for us.

I know that God has made each of us with a purpose, and for a long time I searched for mine. Now I know this is what He made me to do. I must admit, there are days I wonder why, but then again it doesn’t matter!

Ask God what He wants you to do with this life He has blessed you with. He will use you no matter where you are. So just surrender and give it to Him. My prayer for you is to just step out there and see how He will hold you up when you don’t think you can go on.