Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Used to be a killin' zone"

Wednesday afternoon wasn't much different than any other Wednesday with teams.  We had picked the week before where to host the block parties and I was set to lead the one at Brother Larry's home.  Brother Larry's home is right behind House of Hope Church in the upper 9th ward which is where we've worked since 2010.

Brother Larry & Pastor Rod from Clear Lake IA
One community resident Kevin begins to share with us through tears what this community used to be like.  He tells us how in his words "this used to be a killin' zone; this was the Florida projects, 9th ward."  He goes on to show us bullet wounds and that someone of my "color" would never have been accepted here.  

The once 'Florida Project' has since been demolished and the empty lot that now remains sits across the street from House of Hope.  I've heard multiple times from Pastor Gerald how this used to be the most dangerous project in New Orleans.  According to Wikipedia, it was one of the most crime-ridden areas and:

As of the census of 2000, there were 1,604 people, 399 households, and 346 families residing in the neighborhood.  As of the census of 2010, there were 6 people, 2 households, and 2 families residing in the neighborhood.

getting set up! Thanks Dordt!

Giovi from Dordt with community resident Ms Ruby!
So yes the neighborhood has indeed changed (where have all these families gone??) and the obvious emotional scars that Kevin among many other residents have still resides.  So what can a NC girl who grew up in the suburbs with 16 volunteers from Iowa do for our brother Kevin?  We pray with him.  We pray for him and he prays for us.  We fellowship with him.  We let him know God has not forgotten him nor his community.   We break bread with him (well hot dogs but you get the gist) and Kevin even runs home to bring out cans of chili and a pot for us to make chili dogs.  We share with each other all we have and show each other love of Christ!   

Community resident Sean with Chipper from IA
Kevin's willingness to not only stop by but to bring friends, to accept prayer and pray for us, to open his heart to complete strangers, to let his guard down and be vulnerable with his brothers and sisters in Christ is something I pray I can imitate in my own life.  Kevin wasn't afraid to stop and meet us right where we many times am I too afraid to stop and meet someone right where they are?  Kevin was willing to take a chance on I willing to a chance on others?

Thank you Lord for the opportunity to meet Kevin.  Thank you that this encounter has challenged the context of the purpose of Christ in me.  Thank you that we all come to the cross in need of a Savior, in need of redemption!

"How good and pleasing it is when God's people live together in unity." Psalm 133:1

Sunday, March 3, 2013

We're March'in on!!

Well Hello March 2013! We've been waiting for you!

Before I start out with what March has in store, February was a great month too!  Intern Katie has been on the ground for 2 weeks now and has received lots of training on what does a crisis response ministry look like and where she fits.  She'll be starting this week with coordinating the volunteer teams coming and investing in them while they serve on the ground.

As a ministry we were able to gather together last week and it was GREAT having everyone together again!  Our staff from New Jersey came along with our remote team that is scattered throughout the nation.  It's always such a blessing to see everyone face to face and be encouraged by what the Lord has done in us and through us.  Also it's a time to plan and dream big about what does next look like for us.  My takeaway from the week was the reminder that while serving in the wake of a crisis, our end result is not just the home being rebuilt, but about establishing reproducing faith communities.  Our goal is not just to build physical homes, but play a part in God's redemptive plan in the areas we serve!

We have a team of 5 from Praise Christian Fellowship in PA.  One is a 3.5 year old boy who while boarding the plane last night sang "Jesus loves me" for all to hear.  God can use anyone no matter how old or how young to share the story of Jesus's love! I praise God for how He'll use this team to hang sheetrock and mud at Mr. Willie's home but also how He'll use them to further His Kingdom in the lower 9th and beyond!

Last week, two teams who I've met in the past, Bible EFC (Tomah WI) and Church at Charlotte (NC) served at my church Castle Rock to renovate the old sanctuary into a Youth Community Center!  It looks AMAZING!! They are praying to have all the work completed by May!  There will be hip-hop services held there and its purpose is to allow youth a safe place to gather where they can hear the Good News of Jesus and allow Him to transform their hearts and lives! Praise God for the lives that will be impacted by this facility. 

Please pray for:

March will be a busy month of teams and more teams.  There are 4 colleges coming to serve this month and my prayer is that God would work in their hearts and raise up interns from these groups!  We have 4 interns approved for Haiti this summer but not any for New Orleans.  Please pray that God would work in their hearts now, they walk in obedience to His Spirit and desire to serve with us this summer and beyond!