Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cold Night Shelter

Our friends Justin and Holly live just north of Boston. Their blog is currently posted with all sorts of snow storm updates and photos of frolicking in the winter landscape. But here in Florida, the standard of "cold" is much different. As I write, the temperature in Melbourne is 53 degrees, but the mercury is expected to "plummet" below 45 during the night. Compared to New England, this doesn't seem very cold, but to homeless Floridians with no food and no shelter, it's quite chilly. So tonight, the Cold Night Shelter, another one of His Place's gracious ministries to the poor, is open. There are probably about 75 people sleeping on mats and blankets throughout the church's fellowship hall and sunday school classrooms. They have already been fed a hot meal and will enjoy a good breakfast in the morning and leave as the sun rises with a packed lunch.

Lindsay and I have been looking forward to experiencing a Cold Night Shelter, but unfortunately we left Melbourne this afternoon to return to Orlando. After just a few hours away we already greatly miss our friends there. Our hearts are filled with both sadness to have left them, and gladness to know of the extravagant love pouring through them this evening.

We pray that as many step off the cold streets tonight to enter the warm embrace of His Place they will know and feel God's great love for them.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dry Bones

Part of Elliott's training in Melbourne was to do a 4-part preaching series. He has been teaching on God's Faithfulness and how that relates to our faith. Last night was his third part in the series and he spoke on God's faithfulness to redeem. The Lord used Him in a mighty way.

He spoke on Ezekiel 37- The Valley of Dry Bones. There is one point that I thought I would share because it really spoke to every heart in the room last night. After God brings all of these bones back together and forms bodies with tendons, muscles, skin, breath, and life, the bodies look back at God and complain. Despite the miracle of redemption God has just done in their lives, they say to Him: (v. 11) "Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone, we are cut off." Elliott made these powerful observations about the response of the people:

1. They are so consumed with what they were, that they can't see who they are.

2. They are still defining themselves by the results of past sin rather than the transforming work of God in their lives.

How many times do we loose sight of what God has done in our lives because we are still stuck on what we have done in the past? How much freedom do we forfeit because we can not move beyond our past failures and sins? Look at what God HAS DONE! Look at the redeeming work He is doing in your life! God is continuing to redeem you because He always finishes what He starts. Today, let us rejoice in the redeeming work of God in our lives.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

40 Bags per Day

This week we spent several hours in the food pantry at His Place organizing and shelving hundreds of pounds of food. I've never seen so many cans of green beans. And corn- lots of corn too. And who knew you could buy mashed potatoes in a can??? Lindsay took charge of the fruits/veggies/legumes section while I shelved the soups, condiments, and canned meats and fishes. I use the term "fishes" loosely to include tuna, salmon and clams.

New donations to the pantry arrive each day, which is great, but unfortunately many bags and boxes include waaaay too much cream of onion soup and chicken broth. It made me wonder, "What goes through people's minds when they prepare to provide for the homeless? Are they just digging around the back of their own pantry looking for 'too much of something?'"

A sign near the door provides guidelines for giving: 1-3 person family = 1 bag/6 items; 4-6 person family = 2 bags/12 items. About 40 bags of food go out each day, so the pantry can be drained fairly quickly if new donations don't come in. Never the less, like every other aspect of this ministry, there's always room for following the Spirit as He leads. Food is not rationed out of fear but rather distributed with trust that God will provide all that is needed. Yesterday a homeless man came by the church not to ask for food, but rather to give it. He had used his food stamps to purchase several bags of goodies and then brought them by the pantry so they could be shared with others living on the street.

Being here with Terry and Betty we continue to experience more and more of God's faithfulness. We'll write more about that soon!

Some other funny (and some sad) food items we shelved:
1. Beanie Weenies
2. Blueberry muffin blueberries without the muffin mix
3. Dog food
4. Chinese wafers(?) from an oriental supply store
5. Condensed milk (high fat, med fat, and low fat varieties)
6. Watercress
7. Cans and cans of pumpkin pie filling (must have been on sale after Thanksgiving)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Melbourne, FL

Well, we made it to Melbourne and have had an awesome first few days. We are staying with Terry and Betty Morris who are our leaders and mentors. Thirteen years ago they felt God calling them to minister to the homeless and drug and alcohol addicts in Melbourne. Taking a big step of faith they moved here from Jupiter, FL with open and obedient hearts and started His Place Ministries. Now, thirteen years later they have a recovery home where 19 men can live and go through a Christ centered recovery program. The men all live together in 2 duplexes, are required to hold a job, and go through a series of Bible Studies and a 12 Step program. It is neat to see how God is using this ministry to restore hope and change men's lives. They also reach out to the homeless in the community. Each Sunday night at Street Life the homeless can come and receive a hot,free, home cooked meal. They also have a Cold Night Shelter on nights where the temperature drops below 45 degrees. Anyone who does not have a warm place to sleep is welcome to come. Everyone piles into the Fellowship Hall of the church and is provided a sleeping mat, blankets, and a meal. In addition to these ministries to the homeless, they always have an open door to anyone that is in need. His Place is a place where all feel welcome, and all know they can come to receive love and help for their physical needs. Terry is also the pastor of His Place Church, and Betty leads the praise band.

Elliott and I feel like sponges...we are soaking a ton in! This time here in Melbourne has been invaluable, and we are so thankful God has crossed our path with Terry and Betty's. We will update soon with stories and pictures from our time so far!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Saying goodbye to the City Beautiful

It is hard to believe, but this is our last week in Orlando. We leave on Saturday to begin our ministry training period in Melbourne, Fl with Terry and Betty Morris. While we are sad to leave friends and family in Orlando, we are very excited that we finally get to go do what we have been talking about for the last 3 months.

This time of support raising has been trying at times, but overall God has used it to bring people around us to hear our story and encourage us. We have received so much love from the body of Christ during this time. People have welcomed us into their homes and offices, taken us to dinner, and come to desserts to hear what God has called us to do in the DR. We hope that God has used us to open peoples hearts to what He is doing around the world, and how He wants them to be a part of it. We serve a BIG God!!

In August God showed us that we were not to go off and be lone rangers for Him in the DR, but that He wanted to raise up a body of believers to "send us out." We are confident that God has built that body, and that while we are the ones physically going there are many many many others going with us in prayer and in spirit.

Here are some pics from our time in Orlando!

Please pray for Elliott this week as he prepares the 4 part sermon series on God's faithfulness that he will preach during our time in Melbourne. Pray for wisdom and discernment as he prepares to communicate what God has placed on his heart.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My FINAL final, finally!!!

Today I took my final final! Due to my health struggle last August, my graduation plans took a little detour. My nice little plan of graduating early in December '06 suddenly had to take a back seat to my health and our new marriage. So, for the last year I have had the joy of embarking on a "non-traditional" college plan. In January, I started the daunting task of taking 2 of the hardest classes ever to be created....Swimming and Aerobics, along with a Public Speaking class. And, in August I began my last class online through Baylor. It is quite a struggle to be self-motivated to study for the class that you avoided registering for 7 semesters in a row, but I made it. And now I am waiting until December 15th when I will officially be a college graduate!

Thanks to all my awesome friends who called today to congratulate me. Y'all are the BEST!

Elliott surprised me with a celebration picnic in Mead Gardens. Mom, Dad, Hap and I walked up to the sight of balloons, and a brightly colored bouquet of flowers decorating a picnic table. El brought take out from my favorite Mediterranean restaurant, and we finished lunch off with a big piece of Key Lime Pie! After lunch we played a game of bocce ball and walked through the gardens.

I was reminded today that I have the best husband in the world, the best family in the world, and the best friends in the world. I praise God for these incredible gifts!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Noel trounces our future home...

According to weather radar, tropical storm Noel has officially passed over the DR, but the effects of its torrential rains and high winds remain for our Dominican and Haitian brothers and sisters. The DR's Emergency Operations Center's latest bulletin reports that at least 41 people are dead, 20 are missing and more than 50,000 have been evacuated. We assume that flooded rivers and mudslides have caused the most destruction.

On Monday, Jack and Jenny had to leave Cielo prematurely due to flooding in the streets below. Apparently Cielo residents were marooned for some time as the rising river surrounded our beloved hilltop village. Nick took these amazing, comparative shots of the river valley from Club Bamboo.

Jack, Nick and Jenny flew home yesterday, and although their flights departed as scheduled, heavy rains continued as they took off. According to Jack, many were concerned because the 30+ inches of rain forced the government to increase water flow out of the country's river dams, increasing the risk of more severe flooding downstream. Anyway, we're very grateful that they are home safely.

Lindsay and I made fast friends with a missionary couple back in March. Michael and Kristen Shaul live in San Juan de la Maguana, officially in the DR's "Sur" but actually northwest of Santo Domingo. San Juan, notorious for flooding, lies at the base of a major mountain range called Cordillera Central. We are very concerned for their health, especially since Kristen is eight months pregnant. In addition to praying for our friends in the communities, PLEASE pray for Michael, Kristen and the babe, and their ability to minister in the midst of disaster.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Desserts and Dinners in Orlando!

Rick, Lea, and Darby Steinberger were the hosts of our first dessert in Orlando! Thank you Mark and Pam, Matt and Amy, Dayne and Stephanie, Kelle, and Becky for coming to hear about the call God has placed on our lives. We are very very grateful for your support and encouragement.

Last Friday night we headed over to the Chapin's house for games, dinner, and sharing. First, Brady entertained us with his collection of spaceship and dragon LEGOs. Then we headed outside to play some tackle football (Lucky for me Annalee and Brady were only interested in tackling Elliott). Dinner and dessert were delicious!! Nancy is quite the chef. It was especially special for me to get to share our hearts with the Chapin's because Nancy and Robb have been faithfully praying for me since I was in elementary school. I know that their prayers have been powerful and effective in the past, and I am so grateful that they will be lifting prayers on our behalf in the future!

Thank you so much for your prayers last week while we were in the DR. We had a fruitful trip and trust that the Lord used us for His glory.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Our First Post...

Thank you for checking out our blog! We have had a wonderful first week in Orlando. It has been great to reunite with family and friends. We are off to the DR this afternoon for an unexpected trip. We will be there until Saturday afternoon. Please pray for our safe travel, and that the Lord uses us to administer His grace and healing. We will post again when we get home with pictures and stories from our first week in Orlando!