“I’ll never forget this summer”

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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.

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What WILL Jesus Do?

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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. 

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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?

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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!

 

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

Homeless on Purpose – Day 3

I got up this morning and still felt like I was supposed to pack up my tent, sleeping bag, and the food I had received from the church yesterday and that God would lead me to someone who needed it. After getting it all packed up, I headed out to the bus stop. I had $5 left, and I could buy an all day bus ticket for $3.

The bus wasn’t there yet, so I waited. It came around 7, and my money was still wet, so it would not go into the machine. The driver did not have any dry money to swap with me, but a nice younger guy had some ones he traded with me. I really had no idea where I was going, but I knew this bus would at least get me to the mall, where all the other buses leave from. I got to the mall around 7:30 and waited on the next bus. I prayed and felt like I was suppose to go to the Tillman’s Corner area. I got on that bus and was shocked to see all the people that use the bus to go to work. Think how hard it would be to time it so you weren’t late to work.

I met a lady named Joan who is homeless, and she rides the bus all day long for $3. She doesn’t really have anywhere to go, but it gets her out of the weather and she mostly sleeps.

“I bet that is great when it is raining,” I said. She nodded her head. She was nice, but painfully shy, so I didn’t get much of her story. The bus takes you to the Walmart on Rangeline Road, so I got off the there. My feet were still killing me. The bottoms of both of my feet were covered in blisters. I started walking toward the Tillman’s Corner area. I was walking across a parking lot, asking God to show me who needed the stuff I was to give away.

I walked for about 30 minutes, and then I saw a man coming toward me. I felt in my spirit that he was the man who needed it. I walked up to him and asked if he knew anyone who needed a tent.

Butch started to tear up. He said he and his wife had been sleeping on the ground in the woods, covering up with a tarp at night. I told him God wanted him to have this one, along with a sleeping bag and some food.  Butch was a very hard looking man, but I could almost visibly see his hard exterior melt away and reveal a man who was hurting and in need. God used me to me that need for him. I now knew for sure I had heard from God and it wasn’t me just wanting to go home.

Butch asked me if I wanted to meet his wife, so I walked back in the woods with him and met her. He showed me the spot where they had been staying, and he was very proud to show his wife the tent. She was excited, but you could tell she did not totally trust me. It was so awesome to see God meet the need of someone I didn’t even know, and He let me be a part of it. They just wanted someone to care. It didn’t matter who.

I left them and went to McDonald’s to get a cup of coffee and to charge my phone. I started walking back toward the woods where I had left Butch and his wife, and I met Jeffery. He was an older gentleman who had lost his job and had been out of work for a while and had really just given up on ever finding work again. We talked about how long he had been homeless and then got into a conversation about church and Jesus. He assured me that if it wasn’t for Jesus, he couldn’t make it out there, but he was feeling defeated.

Then, a man named Roger walked up and began to talk to us. They told me that most of the people out in the streets are not bad people. They said there are some bad people out there, but they don’t hang around with them. I saw some really neat qualities in these two guys that I wish I had sometimes.

I know a lot of people, including myself before I really started getting to know people in this position, would see these guys and think, “Bum! Why don’t he get a job?!” but these guys are people — hurting, confused, struggling, people. I count it a blessing to have met these guys and hear about their stories and struggles. They seemed to open up to me because I was one of them, but really I think they would open up to anyone who seemed like they cared. It was an eye-opening experience, and I thanked God for leading me there.

I decided I was going to walk back to the bus. It was now close to 11 a.m., and I could get on the bus and maybe go get a hot meal at 15 Place, a place for people to eat and get help downtown. I got on the bus and it took me to the mall, and then I had to get on another bus to go downtown.

We got downtown around noon, and the dropoff was about 12 blocks from 15 Place, so I had to walk. It was Mardi Gras, so there were many people downtown that day. I got to 15 Place, and they were closed. I then walked to the square downtown and asked a couple of homeless guys if anyone was feeding today, and they said the Salvation Army was at 3 p.m. I was hungry. I started to walk around looking for something to eat. I walked down Government Street, and there were parades going on. Everyone was having a blast.

I had only been out there three days, and I missed my family so much. Watching all these people with their families made it even worse. As I walked, people on the floats threw things my way. A MoonPie landed at my feet, and I picked it up so fast I just about hurt my back. I ate that thing so fast and then went looking for more. That was the best MoonPie I had ever eaten! I probably ate eight MoonPies, and I needed some water, but only had 15 cents.

I walked and saw a vendor booth and went up to the man and asked him if he had some water and how much it was.

“This is donation only. We are trying to do what a local cafe does here and help people out,” he said.

I smiled and thought, “God you are so good!” He just kept giving me signs that I was right where He wanted me. I told the man at the booth I only had 15 cents. “Well, that’s a donation,” he said.

I had to walk another 10 blocks to catch the bus because the bus was not coming all the way into town since it was Mardi Gras. When I got to the bus stop it was 2 p.m., and I waited for the next bus. It never showed up, so I had to catch the bus going into the downtown bus station and then catch the bus back to the mall. We pulled up to the GM&O building as the mall bus was leaving, so I had to wait another hour. I got to the mall around 5 p.m. and then back out to the Providence Hospital bus stop at 5:30 p.m. I walked up to my car at the cafe at about 6 p.m. I put my backpack in and climbed inside my car. As I sat down, I began to weep. All that I had experienced, all I had felt, and all I had seen hit me all at once. It was a flood of emotions. I thought about how blessed I am, and I thought about all those I had met and thousands of others all over this country who do not have a place to go home to. I drove home feeling so overwhelmed at all I had learned and all God was teaching me through this experience.

My thoughts on day 3:

I learned that there are good people who are just in need of someone to show they care. I also learned that if we just get to know someone, we might find out they are not much different from us. Everyone has struggles. We don’t all have the same ones, but we all struggle. We all want to belong and to be treated with respect, and just because we don’t have a home doesn’t take that desire away.

I would like everyone who reads this to understand that all people are made in God’s image, no matter where they live or what they do. God loves them, and He wants us to love them, too. Show your fellow humans respect, and treat them with the same respect you want to be treated with.

We also need to be led more by the Spirit of God and not by our own spirit of fear when it comes to helping others. God will lead us to a need, and He will also give us the ability to meet that need if we would just ask Him. It breaks my heart when I think about all the blessings (like the one with Butch) that I miss because I let my fear, busyness, ignorance, and indifference lead me instead of God’s spirit.

I wonder how many times people cry out to God to meet a need and He puts it on someone’s heart to meet that need, but they ignore it because they are too busy or too scared. It looks to the person in need like God doesn’t care when it really isn’t God that doesn’t care, it’s us. We as the church need to stop preaching about a loving, caring, God and start living like we believe it. People are tired of hearing about it. They want to see it, and it starts with us.

I hope this has blessed each person who has taken the time to read it and that the next time you see a homeless person you will remember they are really just like you. You never know, you might meet a new friend.

Homeless on Purpose – Day 2

It is 6 a.m. at the start of day 2, and I had a rough night! Sound really carries in the woods, and it sounded like everything was right on top of me. I got out of the tent and gathered all my wet clothes and put them in my wet backpack. I had decided to go to the laundromat and dry all my stuff including my bag. I headed that way. As I was coming out of the woods, a police officer was sitting in his car right where I came out, and I thought “Oh no, I am busted,” but he didn’t even look at me.

I kept walking and stopped by a local hotel. I went in and asked if I could get a cup of coffee and the man at the desk said yes and pointed me to the coffee. This had to be the best cup of coffee I have had in a long time. I then walked to the convenience store close by, and I decided to ask if I could use the restroom. (For those that know me, I have a thing about public restrooms, but I have a bigger thing about going out in the woods!) They said I could use their facilities, so I did and I also washed up while I was in there. It was now 6:45 and the laundromat didn’t open until 7 a.m., so I sat out front and waited for them to open. I took $2 and put everything I had in the dryer and dried it. At the same time, I charged my phone up and looked at the newspaper. It was slow and not many people were there, so it was nice. Once everything was dry, I decided to go in their bathroom and put on my dry clothes and then dry the ones I had on. After I finally finished drying everything, I decided to start walking, and once again, it started to rain. I ran to an overhang of a local business so I could keep everything dry. It didn’t rain long, so I got back to walking. I decided to figure out which church God wanted me to go to, so I started to pray. I walked and I was thinking, man I am hungry. Then some friends and their son came by and handed me two doughnuts and I was thankful! Answered prayer! I hope they’d do this even if it wasn’t me.

I continued to walk and I felt the Lord lead me to a particular church. So, I headed that way, walking past other churches and watching families going into church together. I started to miss my family and wondered what it is like for those that are out there each day who don’t have anyone to see these people with their families. I continued to walk and got to the church at 9:55. The service started at 10. God had confirmed this was the church where He wanted me. I went to the front door and the greeters were very friendly and pointed me to the door leading in to the worship room. I went in and it was dark, which was good. I sat on the back row and put my bag under my seat. The worship band was good, but I could not concentrate.  I kept thinking how hungry I was, did I stink, what if that cop goes in and tears up my tent, where am I going to get more food, man I have to walk all the way back and a host of other thoughts.

To say it was hard to worship was an understatement. I actually left 30 minutes into the service. I began to walk again. I walked past other churches and saw people filing in. I really just wanted to be going to church with my family. I then stopped to rest a while. From walking with soggy socks and wet feet the day before, the bottoms of my feet were now one solid blister. I decided I would stop at another church and see if they offered any kind of food assistance. At the first church, I was met by a man at the door who asked me what I needed. I asked if they offered any kind of food assistance and he said, “No, we don’t do that,” and that was it. I walked away feeling kind of like an idiot. I came up on another church around 12:30 that had some cars in the parking lot and a sign out front that said “All Welcome,” so I thought maybe I could get some food here. I saw a man walking out and I said, “excuse me sir” and he kept walking, and then I said again, “excuse me sir” and he looked toward me. I asked him, “Does your church offer food assistance to those in need?” He said, “I don’t know. I haven’t been going here long. Go ask someone inside.” So I walked toward the door, and a couple came out carrying a large plate of food. They would not look at me.

“Excuse me, does your church offer any kind of food assistance?”

“We don’t know. There are some people inside.”

So I go inside, and there were two gentlemen inside the door.

“Can we help you?”

“I sure hope so. Do you offer any kind of food assistance?”

“No, we haven’t got that going yet, but maybe soon.”

I saw a bunch of people in the other room and a large table full of food. I guess they were having some kind dinner for their members. I just said“OK” and walked away. This was probably the most humiliating, sad thing I had experienced in this journey so far. I was really mad to say the least, and I could see why the homeless I had met were so turned off by the church. I am not saying all churches are this way, but there should not be one like this. I walked some more. I now know what Isaiah 58:7 means when it talks about the “poor wanderer.” I was just wandering with no real purpose or plan. I was at a loss. Honestly, I was getting a little frustrated by now.

I walked to a gas station, and they let me use their bathroom. I drank water from the bathroom sink for what seemed like forever. I went outside and sat down on the sidewalk, not really knowing what to do next. Well, I started walking and I came up on another church with a car in the lot. I thought to myself “Why bother?! They won’t give you anything. Why try?” I guess that is how those who are homeless feel, too.

I decided to go ahead and walk up there. When I did, I could tell the two ladies in the car did not want to roll down their window. A man came out from inside the church and the ladies rolled down the window. I asked them the same question I had asked the previous two churches and really expected the same answer, but to my surprise they said “Yes!” Praise God!

They got the key to the food pantry and we went inside. They were very nice. They started to fill a bag for me with the typical canned vegetables that most churches give away: green beans, corn, and cranberry sauce. I told them I had no way to cook or open a can. They loaded my bag with pop tarts, canned beef stew (with a pop top), cereal and even gave me some soap and razors (I guess I looked pretty bad). They then offered to pray with me and to give me a ride to the Waterfront Rescue Mission. I told them thank you, but the food was enough. They were really nice and it made me very happy to see people actually doing what the church is supposed to do.

When I got outside the door, I put all the food in my backpack so it was easier to carry and went on my way. God impressed on me that I should go back to this church and let them know what I was doing and donate toward their food ministry. I started walking back to my tent, thinking the whole time about making sure my tent was OK. It was around 3 p.m. I got back to the tent around 4 and everything was good. That was a relief.

It was starting to get cool, and I knew I was in for a long night. I broke open the beef stew and ate it. Yes, I ate it cold, and it was good! I started to put on layers of clothes. I stayed outside the tent for an hour or so, and the whole time I couldn’t relax. I kept thinking someone was going to come walking up on me. At about 5, I got inside my tent and inside my sleeping bag so I wouldn’t get too cold. Then, it hit me that I was going to be in there for the next 13 hours with nothing to do. I started to read my Bible.

At this point, I felt God telling me this would be my last night as a homeless person, but I wanted to make sure it was Him and not me. As I read, He led me to Isaiah 58:7 “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter.” I knew I was to pack up my stuff in the morning and He would lead me to someone in need of my tent, sleeping bag and the food I had. It was getting dark and cold outside, so I laid down.  I remember thinking, “12 hours, 11 hours, 10 hours…” until daylight. I couldn’t get comfortable, and I kept hearing all kinds of noises, thinking the worst of course. I prayed what seemed to be all night, but I did get a few hours of sleep and then it was morning. Thank you, God, for the daylight!

My Thoughts on Day 2:

Day 2 helped me begin to understand the daily struggles of those in need. I felt the frustration of humbling yourself to ask for help and not receiving it from where you feel you should. I felt the feeling of hopelessness and a lack of purpose that they must feel — what it’s like to just be wandering through life.

I know most of you want to know what churches I stopped at, but I am not going to say because we must decide which church WE will be. I will say I went to three different denominations. We are each the church and it is up to us individually to make a difference. I know this, most of us have placed the homeless or those in need into two categories — either criminals or lazy. I see that it doesn’t matter if they are good people; we have already cast judgment on them based on their situation instead of the person that God made them to be.

My 10-year-old daughter told me when I was getting ready to do this that I didn’t have to be afraid. I asked her why not and she said, “because you are the one they are going to be afraid of.” I asked her why she thought that, and she said, “because people are afraid of homeless people.” I asked her why she thought people are afraid of homeless people, and she said, “because they don’t know them.” I asked her if she was afraid of the homeless people we have met at the cafe, and she said, “No, because I got to know them.”

We need to get to know people before we pass judgment on them. I understand we must be careful and not just give a person the keys to our home. I also know if we walk in the Spirit and allow God to lead us, He will show us what to do. When someone says all Christians are hypocrites, it’s not fair to the Christian. When someone says all homeless are criminals or lazy that is not fair to them, either. Many times in the Bible, God says help the poor and needy. God just wants us to be willing to help anyone and He will bring those in our path that He wants us to help. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. We just have to be willing. Join me today and ask God to show you a need and give you the ability to meet that need.

Day 3 coming next, and you will find out who God led me to give my stuff to. It is awesome!

Homeless on Purpose – Day 1

Over the past few months I have been praying about how to better relate to those we reach and come in contact with every day. I have really never been without, and I’ve never been homeless. So I prayed about it along with my wife Tara, and I got this strong feeling to go homeless for a little while. I will tell you at first, I pushed it out of my mind. But it kept coming back and would not go away. I have made friends with many people in need because of job loss or other things out of their control as well as those who are without a place to lay their heads at night. I have learned a lot through these friendships, but I knew I really had no idea what they went through. So I kept praying for it to go away, but it wouldn’t.

Tara and I decided on a date, and everything really worked out for me to do it. So  I started making plans to go homeless and see how long God would have me do it. The following is an account of the day-by-day journey and its struggles. The days leading up to this were very stressful. I could not concentrate on anything except having to do this. I guess in a small way it was like what someone goes through when they are first in danger of losing their home. I had feelings of fear, uneasiness, and dread.

 

Day 1

I started with a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, books, one change of clothes, a protein bar, flashlight, $10 and the clothes on my back. It was Saturday, February 19, and I was still hoping God would change His mind and tell me I really didn’t have to do this.

I parked my car at the cafe at 7:30 a.m. and began to walk. Thank God there was a break in the rain. I had decided where I was going to put my tent, so I started walking there. It rained off and on all the way, and I had to duck into McDonalds one time when the rain got real heavy. After it let up, I walked a few more blocks and I got to the location I thought I would stay at around 9:30 a.m. It was raining a little harder then, so I darted in the woods to get to my spot.

As I am walking in I noticed two people leaning against a tree covered by a blue tarp. I walked slowly, trying to make some noise so I wouldn’t startle them. I talked with them a while and did not get a good feeling about them, so I prayed with them and moved on. I walked up to a bus stop cover and sat under there for about an hour while it poured down rain. I didn’t know what I was going to do except walk and try to find another place. Once the rain let up a little, I began to walk, really not knowing where I was going to tell the truth — just wandering without a real plan, and for me, that was difficult. I walked and walked and along the way checked wooded areas as I came to them to see if there was a good spot, and each time there were either signs of someone staying in the woods or there actually was someone.

You really don’t want to stay in a place with others, because to be honest, you do the same thing in the woods that most people do in their homes. (wash up, use the restroom, etc.) And if you don’t like people walking up on you in your home, so it goes in the woods. I kept walking and looking, feeling a little more desperate as I went. It really started to rain so I got under an overhang at a church to get out of it. By now everything is soaked — my clothes, backpack, what was inside the backpack — so I just sat there, frustrated, cold, and really wanting to stop this. I sat there and someone drove up. They saw me and immediately backed up and left. I continued to walk again after the rain let up a little. It is was around 12 p.m., so it had only been a few hours, but I can tell you it seemed like much longer.

I checked a couple more wooded areas, but again, each time there were people in them trying to stay dry. About 2:30, I found a place to set up my tent that looked good and could not be seen from anyone on the road or walking around. I set the tent up in the rain and had a hard time keeping the inside dry as I did it. I was done setting up around 3:30, and I got inside and sat there, wondering if it would ever stop raining. I then realized I had no water or food to eat, so I began to hope the rain would stop so I could get out and get some water at the very least. Finally it let up, so I unloaded my backpack of all the wet stuff so I would have something to carry the water in. I went to the gas station and had to buy a gallon jug of water and then I went to the laundry mat to see if they would let me charge my phone, and they did! Well, I sat there and then the bottom fell out. It began to rain so hard I could not see the light pole in the parking lot. I began to wonder what was happening to my tent and how I was going to get back before dark because I had forgot my flashlight.

I sat there until about 5:30 and realized that it wasn’t going to stop, so I begin to walk. I went into the woods and the path that I had taken was 6 inches under water, so I waded back, thinking my tent was probably soaked through. When I got there, it was fine, and I got inside and tried to figure out if I had anything dry. I didn’t, except my sleeping bag, a t-shirt and a pair of underwear that I had in a water proof bag — thank God. Well I got into my sleeping bag at 6:15 and realized it was 12 hours until daylight, and I’m in a tent with lightning storms and tornado watches going on. As hard as it is for me to admit, I was scared and wanted to go home. But then I thought of those who don’t have a place to go home to, and I prayed for them and it took my focus off of me. I pulled out my Bible (I did put that in a Ziploc bag) and began to read. It helped with my fear. God’s word is cool like that. I tossed and turned and thought every noise was someone coming up on me, a tree coming down or a host of other things. It rained all night and I do mean all night, and the wind blew as well. I probably slept 30 minutes or maybe an hour, and then praise God, it was daylight. Now what?

Some of my thoughts on Day 1:

Day one was eye-opening to say the least. I felt frustration, anger, fear, resentment, embarrassment, joy, and conviction all in the first day. I will tell you this, I noticed people don’t really notice what is going on around them. Most of the time, we are all in such a hurry with our lives when there are people in need all around us. I wanted to feel what they feel, but had no idea how overwhelming it would be. The end of that day brought knowledge to me that no book had ever done. I also thought that sometimes it’s just easier to not know what is going on in the world around us because it takes away the obligation to do something. But that is not what I read in God’s word. Those in need are His heart and who He talks about the most. We all need to just open our eyes — there are needs all around us that God wants to meet through us, but if we ignore the call, we miss so many blessings.

Day 2 coming soon!!!!!