Monday, 23 February 2009

Is this not the fast that I choose? "(Is. 58:6)

Well, it is the start of a new week and after yesterday's message at church, I am both healthily convicted and excited about being intentional and responsive to the needs of those around me. If you were not able to be at church last night, Joel preached from Isaiah 58 about the fundamental responsibility of Christians to minister to the poor, the needy, the less fortunate, the orphans, the widows (you can listen to a podcast of the sermon here). In other words, we are to love and care for our neighbors as Christ did...and if we need clarification on who our neighbor is and what this looks like, go read Luke 10:25-37. One of the most vital parts of the message last night was the realization that such sermons and passages in Scripture should not guilt us into action. Guilt alone condemns and offers no framework for lasting, heartfelt change. Rather, we should reach out to the the poor and needy as a response to the Gospel. Our outreach and ministry should be an overflow of the mercy that Christ has extended to us, as we wallowed in our sins and had no merit or reason to be shown love and mercy. If we as Christians, if I as a wretched sinner saved by grace alone, allow this to sink in, we would have no problem at all extending this same mercy and love to "the least of these". And to keep in mind that this outreach is supposed to cost us, for giving something that costs us nothing is not true sacrifice. It may require stretching, discomfort, time, money, and many more ways of dying to self. I pray that the Lord will allow these truths to give us a holy conviction, and transform our hearts and lifestyles to more closely align with his.

Yesterday we had several more families and groups sign up to provide and share a meal at the Family Homeless Shelter on Tuesday nights. For more information about this weekly opportunity, read this. If you are interested in signing up for a Tuesday night, you can either leave a comment or email me at Right now, this is what the signup schedule looks like:

2/24: The Klings and Davis's
3/3: Eli, Ryan, Kate, Amanda Blake
3/10: The Brooks and deVilleneuves

Have a great week and may we today embrace all that the Gospel means to us!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Family Homeless Shelter

Well, as promised for some time, we finally have one of our first consistent ministry opportunities as a church! Over the past few weeks and months, I have been forming a relationship with a family homeless shelter located in Woodlawn. This shelter is a very unique ministry for several reasons: First, it is designed to specifically house families as a unit, which is very uncommon. In fact, this is the only shelter in Birmingham that allows families to stay together! Most places split up the men from the women for safety, space, and to deal with gender-specific issues. Additionally, many places cannot house children at all, which obviously creates a problem for parents. So, to start, this shelter offers the very rare blessing of allowing families to remain intact, as well as ministering to all family roles in the same place.

Another one of the main "pros" to this place is that it trains the families in life skills, in addition to offering a place to live. As I have been reading and studying about urban ministry, I have been learning about the absolute necessity of accomplishing something called empowerment instead of enablement. There are many, many organizations and ways to reach out to try to address the needs of those around us, but unfortunately, one of the biggest problems with most of these remedies is that they offer short-term solutions for deep, long-term problems. In a very real sense, they attempt to put a band-aide on a very deep, festering wound and expect everything to be better. However, the reality is, that while this is often a genuine attempt to reach out and to help, we really are not helping the heart of the issue. In fact, we often make the problems worse by creating a dependency amongst the poor and needy, where these acts of kindness are not only expected, but become a necessity for their survival. I admit that I have been part of such outreaches. And while these simple "acts of kindness" had some merit in them and made me feel better, they did little to help solve the greater issues. Therefore, the type of ministry that we want to be part of is one which seeks to go deeper-we want to help address the problems behind homelessness and poverty - Problems like poor money management skills, lackadaisical work ethic, lack of opportunity, and many more. Therefore, when you find an organization that goes beyond the surface, that doesn't just give a handout, but seeks to empower people to create life changes, it is a breath of fresh air! This shelter is one such organization. Each family that lives there stays for several months at a time, rather than a fly-by-night or occasional stay. They are put on a strict time-management schedule, the parent(s) must hold a steady job, and they must maintain appropriate lifestyle and conduct for their families and the house. Since all is provided at the shelter, they must save every penny they earn, thus allowing them to also pay off debt. All residents must participate in a communal dinner every night, to give their family some routine and interaction. All of these things are absolutely vital to help empower people to overcome their difficult problems rather than fall back into a cycle they soon cannot escape.

Since each family is required to all eat together every night, we want to take advantage of this opportunity. Every Tuesday night, we want a family or small group of individuals to prepare dinner for the residents, and then to spend meal with the families. Not only is this a great opportunity to feed these families a meal and for them to spend time together, but also for a family from our church to minister together, as a family, to families, in the least intimidating form. In this organic way, we can begin to form genuine relationships in a laid back, small group setting, with the hope of consistency. If some families or groups from our church commit to making this a regular occurrence, true relationships will form and Christ within us will become very evident.

We will begin this ministry next Tuesday, February 24th, and continue every Tuesday evening, so if you are interested in signing up for a certain week as a family or small group of individuals, please email Dwight (! We want to be faithful with what we start, and so have taken our time in choosing which ministries to take part in. Now, as we begin to introduce more ways to get involved, ask the Lord what part He wants you to play in being his hands and feet to those in need! We are so excited about how the Lord will work through this opportunity!

Friday, 13 February 2009

Recent Happenings

Well, I am finally back in town...and with a regular internet connection! It is so good to be back in Birmingham and to really dig into the relationships and ministry here. My last few days of catch-up have been very exciting and fruitful! Here are a few highlights:

-during my trip to L.A., I was able to visit a place called the Dream Center, a HUGE inner city ministry, and gain several contacts and ideas for ministry
-attended a Woodlawn Business Association meeting and met several people that I had been praying for opportunities to meet-isn't the Lord good?!
-spent more time building our relationship with the Family Homeless Shelter in Woodlawn, and nailed down how our church will be getting involved VERY soon!
-met another pastor from a local church
-went by Cornerstone Christian School in Woodlawn and was finally able to sit down with Nita Thompson, Executive Director and Principle, and Shannon Bottoms, Volunteer Coordinator, and finalize specifics with them as well!
-had a great meeting with Joel and Jeff, in which we narrowed down all of my "research and relationship building" and determined how we should get involved in the community
-met with Adam Keller, who is going to do his Beeson internship with Redeemer, and will be able to help out a lot with the urban ministry end of things
-the Lord provided an opportunity for me to do a small side project for a week or two for some extra income

Well, that's the main points from the last little bit! We are about to kick off a whole bunch of new ministries in the next week or two, so stay tuned for the new updates! I have been trying to upload a video of Ms. Ruthie (one of the ladies we were able to help during Focus on Fairfield) blessing us with her voice, but it won't work...I'll keep trying...

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Focus on Fairfield Pics

Yay! I finally got to a good internet connection! As I said before, we had an incredible time at Focus on Fairfield this past Saturday. Over 40 people from Redeemer came out to help, which was a HUGE help and encouragement for everyone involved! We were able to help many families from the community, as well as several people from Restoration Academy. Thank you to all who took the time out of your busy schedules to come serve those in this community. Here are some pictures from Saturday. More to come in the following days...

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Pictures to come...

OK, so I am out of town this week, and internet is absent, or inconsistent at best. I have been trying to upload Focus on Fairfield pictures for over an hour now and it won't work. However, as soon as I am able to find more reliable internet, I will be posting pictures and videos and updates of how Focus on Fairfield went this last weekend!