We reached the 7000 meal mark last night. That could never have been done without the countless volunteers that help week-in and week-out. A BIG THANK YOU to our ever faithful morning leader Doug of Church Army that dedicates every Thursday to organize a group of volunteers into a well-oiled assembly line that puts together the over 300 meals weekly. He never knows how many people will show up and I know there are times he would rather be sleeping in, as he works a night shift, but he is always there. Then you have the countless evening volunteers that are there faithfully, even after many have been working a job all day. It is so cool to see this unique mix of people, from C of O students, retirees, recovered/recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, store managers, real estate professionals, multiple church denominations to basically all walks of life, load up like a band of gypsies in a Jesus van to feed people in need and spread the Gospel, without using words, but purely through acts of love.
I get so humbled and inspired when I am around recovered addicts and alcoholics. To know that the only reason they are alive today and brought out of the pit of their addiction is because of God’s saving grace. They have such a deep dependence on God in the everyday things they do. Having been blessed with organizational and leadership skills, I tend to take my dependence off God and put it on myself and the things around me. When I have worry and fret, there is always one addict that will usually ask me straight out “who are you depending on”. Often times it’s that way when I wonder where the resources are going to come from for the next month of meals but if I let God lead and depend on him he always comes through with them.
I am so blessed because every week I get to see HUGE acts of love. We often times run across people with all kinds of needs and it’s amazing what just a little love, caring and hope will do for people. We knew a lady that needed a coat. A recovering addict said she had an extra one, made a special trip back to her house, got the coat and gave it to her. That was so BIG for me. If you know about addicts and alcoholics they are the most selfish individuals when they are in their addiction but through God’s transformation she was now unselfishly giving her extra coat away. A few other of our gypsy volunteers took an unemployed, drunken motel resident to Ozark to have a tooth pulled. They arranged the appointment so that there was no cost to him. Now he is being transformed. He has cleaned up, for the moment not drinking, and has gotten a job. All as a result of their love (and God of course). Every week we see these things.
Sometimes you wonder if you are making that much of a difference. We aren’t like an agency, we don’t really have a plan for getting these people out of these motels and into housing. We don’t even know how to keep this service going most times as we are totally dependent on God to provide the resources. Often times many of us are tired from working all day, kids, and life in general. We never know who will show up to volunteer (we leave that to God too), but last night we had a motel that was concerned because hadn’t arrived yet and they were worried we might not be coming. When that happens it makes it all worth it. You see, while the food is important, it’s more about fellowship and relationships with these folks that’s being built. I truly believe if you have a service, product, food, clothing, etc. the most effective difference you can make in people’s lives is not by renting a building and opening your doors but by going to where they live and providing the service to them in their own environment. When you do this there is no way not to become involved in their lives.
God must have an incredible sense of humor. If you had told me over a year ago that Amy & I would be involved in feeding people in our community, driving a band of gypsies around in a Jesus van, watching Jamaicans play Wii and eat jerk chicken at our house and picking people up for church service from motels on Saturday nights, I would have told you to “check into Church Army, they have a great recovery program because you must be smoking crack”. To think, at that time I wanted to sell everything I owned and ride the Harley to Mexico, live on the beach and open a tiki bar. Now we want to sell our stuff so we are not held hostage by consumerism. It is funny how God works. David must have been saying to himself “you’ve got to be kidding me God” when he faced Goliath.
Imagine….Converting a motel into affordable housing, a weekly motel having their own garden for residents to grow fresh fruit and vegetables, a non-profit ministry that gives fair market value tax receipts for cars to donate to those without transportation, free bicycles to use at all weekly motels, playgrounds for kids at the motels, converting 1 room at each weekly motel into a classroom for life skills classes, restaurants that provide a free meal everyday to weekly stay folks. When you have a former drug addict giving away a coat, a recovered alcoholic stomping through the woods to leave food at a homeless camp…anything is possible.
There is so much more I could share but this email is already lengthy enough. Please visit our website, read our blogs and check our Wish List. Also be sure to read my wife, Amy’s email below. As always if you would like to learn more about us, see God alive and at work, I invite you to “Come and See” every Thursday night.
I’m not convinced that Jesus is going to say, “When I was hungry, you gave a check to the United Way and they fed me,” or, “When I was naked, you donated clothes to the Salvation Army and they clothed me.” Jesus is not seeking distant acts of charity. He seeks concrete acts of love: “YOU fed me…YOU visited me in prison…YOU welcomed me into your home…YOU clothed me.” – Shane Claiborne’s “The Irresistible Revolution”