Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Inviting Those Who Need Him

For several years I have believed in ministering to those in need.  I believed it, wrote about it, prayed about it, got on soap boxes about it.  I really believed this, and I'd do what came across my path (write checks to help others, bring cans of food to food drives, participate in angel tree gift giving, etc).  But then one day I was reading Compelled By Love by Heidi Baker, and I came across something that stopped me.  She was talking about the parable of the banquet in Luke 14:12-14.
12And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. 13"But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Heidi Baker spoke about how in Mozambique they literally invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind to a feast.  She then said something that sliced my heart raw.  I don't remember her exact words (and I have loaned that book out to a friend; otherwise I'd throw that quote in here!); but the gist is this: I might agree with that idea in theory, but if I were to truly invite all the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind that I personally know, I'd be hard pressed to find anyone to invite.  This was a hard pill for me to swallow.  She was right, and I knew it.  Though my mind and heart believed in serving those in need, within my personal circle of friends, there were precious few who fell into that category.  I had orchestrated my world to keep out certain people, and If I were to give a feast to the needy, I'd know nobody to invite.

The idea of truly loving and serving the poor was something that appealed to me.  Reading biographies of people who did that exact thing was so compelling.  And yet the reality was that it was not part of my daily life.  As Heidi B. Neumark states in Breathing Space, it was "safe to gawk at on an airbrushed screen or page, but far too threatening to engage in any meaningful, life-changing way."

In other words, there were very few actions to back up my beliefs.  My comfort zone was...well, comfortable...and predictable and clean...but far from where I knew I wanted to be. 

And then things changed...  We stepped out of the boat and directly into the need. 

On Palm Sunday, the ministry team we are a part of loaded up a couple of pick-up trucks full of clothes and a vehicle filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, and we invited several needy families to a special event.

Tables were set with a cute Texas cowboy theme.

Boxes of Valentine candy that had been donated to us were redecorated as gifts for each guest.

And a potluck table was spread thick with foods brought by people from many Latin American backgrounds.  Most families, despite their need level, brought a dish to share with everyone.  The poor know what it is like to be hungry, and they know how to share the little they have with others.  (And this food was amazing!)

Worship music in both English and Spanish was enjoyed immensely by our multicultural group.

The most beautiful bilingual Palm Sunday story was told by a lady who does "sand stories" in this portable set-up featuring a miniature town of Jerusalem.  The children were all given palm leaves and asked to lay them before Jesus as he rode his donkey into town.  

After the music and food and Gospel story, all the families were invited to come take as much clothing and fresh produce as they wanted.  We had 6 tables of clothing set up, as well as several tables loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables.  A new volunteer wonders: "What if there's not enough food and clothing for everyone?"  And we smile and tell them to sit back and watch God multiply it.  And He does.  Every family goes to the tables and fills bag after bag with food and clothing and shoes, and when everyone has finished, we have leftovers of everything.  In fact, when we packed up the boxes of clothing at the end of the day, we packed the exact same number of filled boxes that we had originally brought.  It makes no sense in human terms.  We SAW many people leaving with bags filled with clothes, and yet we saw very little change in the number of clothes we had on the tables.  Doubtful??  Well, just ask anyone who was with us Sunday.  :)  Some new volunteers left shaking their heads and wondering what in the world had just happened.  We smile and tell them that God still multiplies fish and loaves to meet the needs of those who are hungry.  

If you want to see miracles happen in real life, just go where God is...with the poor and needy, the hungry and broken, the lame and blind.

"He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; Then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?" Declares the LORD.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Clothing Ministry

It's a gorgeous spring day in Hill Country.  We have a gentle wind that rolls up over the hills and across our breezeway nearly all the time, and it somehow lulls me into a peaceful reprieve every time I'm out here.  This morning we planted some seeds out here, and the fresh air was too alluring to leave.  So I've decided to camp out on the breezeway for a bit longer...catching up this blog while I enjoy this near-perfect weather.

What have we been up to while the blog has been silent?  Well, besides the usual life things, I've been entrusted with the clothing ministry at Light Shine Ministries.  The clothing branch of the ministry is in its infant stages, and I've been given the job of coordinating it.  Clothing these precious families that come to us is equal to clothing Jesus.  It's a completely satisfying work to do.

Just as I found God ever-present in the fields of the fatherless, He is just as intimately close in ministering among the needy, the forgotten, the broken.  And I can say that nearly every week I witness a miracle of some sort within this work.  If you doubt that miracles exist here and now...if you doubt that God still speaks and moves...then go find the poor and be Jesus to them, and you will see God in ways that will make you wonder why you ever settled for anything less.  
Several weeks ago, when I was given the clothing ministry, we began with plastic shelves.  But the vision God had placed in my mind was a room that looked and felt more like a boutique.  So I began to ask God to give us a big piece of furniture that could house the clothes.  I simply asked Him and then waited.  When you're dependent on God, you will find Him.  And He always answers, always delivers.

A text was sent to the ministry with the following photo.  A family was wanting to donate this entertainment center and wanted to know if we could use it.  At the time, I had no idea how it could house all our clothing, but it was so beautiful that I knew God was sending it to us. 

While talking with God about this entertainment center, I was thanking Him but not at all clear on how this met the need I had asked Him to meet.  "Thanks, God.  It's beautiful...but I don't know how to use an entertainment center for these clothes."  Then He brought to mind a project we did last year where we had added shelves onto a similar piece of furniture.  

So, with that in mind, we bought 8 shelves and the hardware and headed to the ministry office to begin work on the room where the clothing ministry (Angels' Closet) is located.  First, we covered up the scuffed-up walls with a fresh coat of paint (not to mention changing it from white to a warmer color...fresh paint works wonders!).

And then my husband and boys began to put in the shelves...4 shelves on each side of the big center piece, hooked onto the side pieces.  

Huge difference.  LOVE IT!

And now the shelves were ready for some youth group volunteers to organize clothing.  With such a big group of workers, we were able to get done in 2 hours what would have taken me eons to accomplish on my own.  So, thank you, sweet teens and parent volunteers!

 We still have a long way to go until it looks like the boutique I envision, but the fresh paint, new furniture and help of volunteers gave it a healthy push forward.  

And that, my friends, is what I've been up to.