Thursday, 29 January 2009

Focus on Fairfield

This Saturday morning, Redeemer will be taking part in a community event called Focus on Fairfield. Restoration Academy hosts this event quarterly, with the assistance of several other local organizations and churches, including CityWorks, Christ Episcopal Church, and Church of the Reconciler. Here is a breakdown of all the info about this day:

-Projects that Redeemer will assist with will largely be landscaping/gardening/yard work, as well as painting. However, there are several other possibilities including demolition, minor construction, and working on abandoned houses. NOTE: No construction or work experience is necessary, just come ready to serve! Also, there will be family-friendly work opportunities, so bring the kids too!

-We will be interacting directly with many Fairfield locals, which gives us a unique "foot in the door" to begin relationships that we hope, as a church body, to continue longterm

-We will also have the opportunity to interact and grow with students, teachers, and faculty of Restoration Academy

-Following the workday, Restoration Academy will have a very affordable lunch for everyone to purchase, which will go a long way in supporting the school. Restoration Academy is also playing against the #1 seed in the state a very important basketball game at 1:00 that we highly encourage anyone who can, to stick around for!

-In summary, this will be great for our church in several ways:
-kick-off our involvement in Fairfield with this introduction to the area and our partners there
-the opportunity to begin lasting relationships with Restoration Academy and neighborhood individuals
-good church-wide event
-good for community groups to serve together

-Important Info:
-THE DAY STARTS AT 7:30, not 8 as we had previously announced. Please try to be there at 7:30 if possible! The work will last til around 11:30, with lunch and basketball game to follow
-Meet at Church of the Reconciler--located next to Restoration Academy and Fairfield Park (at the corner of Gary Ave. and North Plaza )
-Dress in work appropriate clothes
-If anyone has any gardening tools or painting supplies PLEASE bring them!

We are SO excited about this opportunity and hope to see many people from Redeemer come out to actively live out the Gospel in Fairfield!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Be Reconciled To God!

"From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Praise the the Lord for reconciling himself to us. He who knew no sin was made sin for us! What an unbelievable gift-what an exchange-that we might become the righteousness of God! May we, as a result, bring this message of reconciliation to a needy, dying world! Lord, may we be found worthy ambassadors of your message!

Last week was full of wonderful provisions by the Lord, in the form of scheduled meetings, (less scheduled) divine appointments, financial support for my position, ideas and opportunities for outreach, growth in knowledge of the Word and how to preach the Word, and overall joy for all of this! One of the most exciting parts of this past week was a meeting that Joel and I were able to attend together. We met with Robert Record (who is heading up a medical clinic and community center in Woodlawn, both currently under construction/renovations) and Tracy Hipps (head of Mission Birmingham) to explore Woodlawn. During this time, we heard the exciting vision and heart of the medical clinic and the community center, met several great leaders at Woodlawn High School, and were introduced to the InterFaith Family Homeless Shelter (the only homeless shelter in Birmingham that provided facilities and means for whole families). It was so exciting to make these connections and see the Lord allow us to get our foot in the door. Tonight I am attending a community meeting at Woodlawn High School, so pray that the Lord will open the door for more relationships and discernment in how we can use this to advance his Kingdom.

Pray this week that the Lord will continue to teach each of us what it means to be part of the Body of Christ: What it means to be part of a community of believers that challenges, encourages, teaches, corrects, loves each other as themselves. What it means to reach out to the local community around us, as the hands and feet of Christ's Body- to love the unlovable, to be pushed outside of our comforts, our normal lifestyle, our own wants and desires and schedules. What it means to preach the Gospel so fervently that we determine to know nothing but Christ and him crucified. What it means to learn to die to self, to be crucified with Christ, that we no longer live, but Christ lives in us. What it will mean to live as New Creations- to be messengers of reconciliation! Lord, we ask you to teach us to know and be these things for Your Kingdom this week- that it may be on earth, as it is in Heaven!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Want to read a challenging book?

I just finished reading a very insightful, very challenging book about urban ministry and helping the poor. It is called Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor by Bob Lupton, one of the most respected and experienced trailblazers in this area of ministry. The book is actually a nearly identical reprint of one of his earlier books titled And You Call Yourself a Christian. If the former title isn't enough indication of the convicting nature of this book, let me assure you, it is hard to walk away unchanged after reading. However, while the book is unapologetic in its sometimes-harsh approach, its urgency and force is not without cause or firm Biblical foundation. This book has caused me to rethink almost every single model of outreach to the poor, including many of which I have endorsed and taken part. It has caused me to examine not only my heart motivation for reaching out to the physically and spiritually needy, but it has also forced me reexamine the the ways that I do this. And particularly for our church, how will we reach out to those in need in our communities? I challenge each of you to find and read this book if you ever want to know how to best obey Christ's commands to care for the "orphans, widows, and the least of these". It is a short book full of personal examples and stories of Lupton's own failures and incremental growth to reach the point at which he now is.

On the topic of Urban Ministry and community development, I am also currently reading Theirs is the Kingdom by Lupton, Restoring At-Risk Communities by John Perkins (widely considered one of the grand-fathers of urban ministry in America), and Ministries of Mercy by Tim Keller. Each of these books is proving very helpful in my personal growth in knowledge and experience of urban ministry, but especially in regards to how we, as a church body, will approach the harsh realities of Woodlawn and Fairfield with the Truth, Love, Mercy, and Justice found in the Gospel. I will be sure to keep you updated on each of these reads, as well.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

What a week!

This week has been a whirlwind of exciting activities, meetings, studying, and much more. At the start of the week, I don't think I had anticipated this kind of week, but it seems that at every single turn, the Lord provided the start of another vital relationship, another opportunity to grow and learn, and continual direction for ministry opportunities. Here is a basic breakdown of how my week has looked:

Monday: meeting with Joel and Jeff, study time, email/call contacts, blog, met with supporters

Tuesday: men's Bible study, meeting with Tracy Hipps (an incredible man of God involved in every facet of ministry in Birmingham, 30 years experience), made church contacts in West End, meeting with Restoration Academy staff, spent time in Woodlawn, spent time with Joel and Jeff, picked up a temporary computer that the Lord provided, completed paperwork and gov. info for church position, phone interviews with supporters

Wednesday: Meeting with Sonny Culp- actively involved in Birmingham ministries, especially in Fairfield (actually was moved to next week), attended a Benevolence Training Meeting at Faith Chapel in Ensley with Tracy Hipps, contacted supporters, coordinated with Cornerstone School, extensive study time

Thursday: Disaster Relief Meeting with Tracy Hipps, Christian Service Mission, and Mission Birmingham; attended Woodlawn Business Association Meeting-met several great people including Woodlawn High School representative, Woodlawn City Council Members, Police Dept. Crime Prevention Officer, and several other Woodlawn business representatives interested in RCC; about to go to meeting with Robert Record, Tracy Hipps, Joel Brooks, and Wayne Owen-this will be the biggest meeting yet, where we will discuss every opportunity to get involved in Woodlawn; meet with Cornerstone

Friday: Meeting with Benjamin Smith, spend time in Fairfield, coordinate with Gates Shaw and CityWorks


Anyways, as you can see, this week has been very busy and fruitful. It has been so encouraging to learn from such godly men who are very active in what the Lord is doing in the urban areas of Birmingham and who have an immense wealth of experience! Pray that the Lord will continue to grant discernment and growth with these relationships and partnerships!

Monday, 12 January 2009

"Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised..." Psalms 96:1-4

It's Monday again, and the start of a new week. Thank you Lord for new life, our daily breath! Thank you for salvation, for the Cross of Jesus Christ, without which, we would be hopelessly lost! But we have hope and meaning and purpose in this New Life found in Christ! Praise the Lord for the joy that we can have with this in mind, as we go throughout this week. Lord, teach us to live every breath in faith, trusting that you hold the reigns-nothing is outside of your Sovereign hands. Teach us to live a lifestyle of worship, giving thanks and glory to you in ALL we do. We confess we do not know how to do this-our days are most often preoccupied with ME. We live to glory ourselves and gain pleasure, worth, and purpose apart from you. Teach us to find our ultimate joy in you, our satisfaction, our hope in you. May we recognize that every good thing is from you, so that we may worship you in a spirit of thankfulness, by simply enjoying your blessings for Your Name's sake. Teach us to trust your heart and plan in the times of despair, emptiness, pain, longing, stagnation, lack of desire. May we look to you for our Life and Salvation in these times, worshipping you even then with hearts thankful for a renewed dependency on you. Turn our hearts to things unseen, not what is seen. Fix our perspective on things eternal, not things of this temporary life. Show us the way in which we should go this week- guide our path. Give us wisdom, discernment, boldness in our relationships. Give us opportunities to share your life-giving Hope, the eyes and ears to recognize the opportunities, and the courage to obey. We love you Lord, we submit our lives anew to you.

"It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God...It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philippians 1:9-11,20-21

Friday, 9 January 2009

"For who is God besides the Lord...

..And who is the Rock except our God?!" (Ps. 18:31) I hope everyone is having a wonderful, joyful Friday morning! Since it seemed to work well-enough to bullet out ideas and updates last time, I think I will go with it again this time. So here is what's new:

-Bad news first-so that whole idea that I was going to get my fixed computer back soon...not so much. In fact, I got a call the other day from the Apple repair depot in Texas during which I was informed that my computer is entirely ruined. They cannot fix it and since it was liquid damage by the user (while I almost died), it is not covered by the 1.5 year of full warranty that I had left. As you can imagine, this was very, very frustrating for me to realize that this was a total loss of a newish computer of about $1500-just down the drain. Especially since it is one of the only necessary tools for my job. So, I am trusting that the Lord is working good through this, teaching me to trust Him even more, and will receive glory. I would appreciate your prayers that I will be obedient to these ends.
-On to the good news...attended the Restoration Academy monthly luncheon yesterday, and was able to bring a friend along. I would love to continue bringing more people from our church who may be free the first Thursday of each month! It is an hour long, during lunch break, from 12-1.
-At the meeting, I "happened" to run into some contacts from the area whom I had been eagerly seeking out! We are scheduling a meeting for next week to learn of more ways to get involved in Woodlawn and Fairfield
-I was able to schedule a meeting with the faculty at Restoration Academy for Tuesday, in order to nail down the ways we can help them this year. Please pray for wisdom in this meeting!
-I learned two new things at the meeting: 1. The post office next to the school had just been held up by a woman with a handgun only an hour before. Do we need a better demonstration of a needy area? 2. A local Christian doctor, Dr. Tom Edwards, has decided to open up a medical clinic in the adjoining building to Restoration Academy! This is a HUGE resource and life-giving source for the people of the area, and we may be able to help in the future!
-Last night, as I was watching the football game at a friend's house, I "happened to run into a mutual friend who I had been wanting to meet for some time. After talking to him for a while, I learned he is on the Board of Trustees at Restoration and we discussed a number of ideas for involvement! It was such a providential meeting and another blessed piece of the puzzle that is beginning to foster a beautiful relationship with this area and school.
-This morning I had an extremely encouraging support meeting with a Birmingham man, during which we were mutually encouraged by each other, and the Lord reminded me of his incredible faithfulness!

Continue to pray that the Lord will guide our church as we continue to seek His Will for the ways that He would have us seek the welfare of our city. I leave you today with this verse, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." Colossians 3:1-3

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Catch-up time...

As promised, I am about to attempt a swift and concise summary of all that has taken place over the last month or so, along with my defense/explanation for the sporadic posts, haha. Since I have found that it is quite difficult to adequately encapsulate lengthy breaks without turning them into novels, I have decided to simply bullet out the major events of said time period, including both personal events and church/city-related events. Here goes...

-First, a late Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!
-During Thanksgiving, my grandfather died and is now with the Lord, which was a very bittersweet time for my family, and kept me in N.C. for a longer than expected
-A quick (if that's possible) trip to P.A. and N.J. for the funeral followed. Again, very hard, but also a time of rejoicing
-My short return to Birmingham allowed: a meeting with Shannon Bottoms, the Volunteer Coordinator for Cornerstone Christian School in Woodlawn; several financial support meetings; attendance at a Christmas Block Party in Fairfield -made several great connections; coordinating with Restoration Academy about opportunities
-Another trip to be with family in P.A. and N.J.
-A weekend in Montgomery for Jeremiah Sizemore and Sarah Wolf's wedding
-Time home with family and friends for Christmas
-Almost died in a wreck on the way home, somewhere around 3am in Spartanburg, S.C. Escaped totally unscathed, thank you Lord!
-In near wreck, my computer was soaked in water...has been unusable since-one of the main reasons for lack of updates. Should be getting it back from being fixed any day
-Met with several supporters at home, as well as several contacts doing similar ministry in the inner city for their churches-great exchange of info/ideas
-New Years in Birmingham with friends going to, living/ministering in, coming from: UAE, Northern Ireland, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Uganda
-More encouraging support meetings with very helpful commitments-now have about 60% of my goal committed! Praise the Lord! Keep praying that I will trust Him to provide
-Visited Southtown housing project area and learned of ministries there, church reps from Red Mt.
- Firmed up more opportunities with Cornerstone for this year
-A young girl from Woodlawn High school was shot and found dead, along with another boy the Sunday before New Year. There was a community gathering/vigil for her in the days to follow. This is out our backdoor, church. Pray for this area and it's people
-Restoration Academy's monthly informational/fundraising luncheon is tomorrow, Thursday at 12. I am taking several interested people- if you want to come, let me know!

Well, that still ended up being long. I hope it served it's purpose, though. Please continue to pray for wisdom as I may contacts and relationships for the ministries and partnerships we will be announcing and taking part in very soon! As soon as I get my computer back, you will see much more frequent updates! Have a great day!