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!