Posted by: Matt Norton | October 11, 2008

Matt’s October Newsletter

October 2008

Dear Friends and Family,

I have been here now for three weeks and I love it at Jefferson Street Baptist Center. There are two male members of the Hope team, Kerry, and myself. There is one female member, Lindsey. We work down in the Day Shelter serving the homeless five days a week. Mondays are considered our “Sabbath” which is set aside to relax, rejuvenate, and have some more contemplative time with God. Wednesdays are outreach days where Kerry and I get to be intentional about spending quality time with the residents here. This week we are hosted a coffee and game day in our apartment for any resident that wanted to come. Those are the basics of the week, but every day is unique and exciting because of the good community and conversation we have.
In these few weeks I can already say that this has been a transformative experience. I have met so many wonderful people who are now becoming the faces of the “homeless” for me. During the week, besides spending time in the Day Shelter, we spend time with the Transitional and Permanent housing residents. All residents are formerly homeless, have a mental illness, and have suffered from an alcohol or drug addiction. Kerry and I eat dinner with them nearly every night conversing and deepening our friendships. They are very open about their lives and what they have done, good or bad. One of my friends comes over at least four days a week and he tells me about his past and what he’s been up to. I quickly learned he plays board games so we play Chess and Stratego together. I am so blessed to be living in this community with so many wonderful guys.
God has also blessed me with a fabulous church community. The whole Hope team goes to a church called Sojourn. The congregation is very welcoming and loving. They receive with open arms everyone from a homeless man to a rich city dweller, all age groups, all races, whatever. This body of Christ welcomes all people as Jesus would. We are also blessed to have a teaching Pastor, Daniel, who is very passionate and Christ-centered. It is very obvious during worship that Jesus is the reason we meet every Sunday. The worship atmosphere reminds me of a giant family. It rejuvenates me and helps to keep walking down God’s path. I have already met numerous members and they are willing to help in any way possible. I’ll say it again I have been very blessed.
One thing that I had not expected when I came to serve at Jefferson Street was to be witnessed to by countless men and women in the Day Shelter. Now daily, many will come up to me out of nowhere and let me know about the presence of Christ in their lives. Every day I am humbled more and more by their words and their actions. As I learn from these Christ followers daily, it made me ask myself what does the Bible say about witnessing and testifying to God’s work in my life. I found that in three of the four gospels there is the story of Jesus telling the disciples about witnessing. He says in Matthew 10:18, “On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.” It goes on to say in verses 19 and 20 “ At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” From this I realize that as Jesus’ follower I am going to asked to testify for Him and I need to rely on the Holy Spirit to lead me. Jesus’ words and the example shown by these brothers and sisters in Christ encourage me to share the story of God’s steadfast and patient work in my life.
One particular instance of a Day Shelter guest witnessing to me happened to me a few days ago I was in the closet, which is a big room where our guests can store two bags of their personal belongings. I don’t usually work there, so I believe that it was one of those God things where He made sure I was in the right place at the right time in order for Him to teach me and encourage me in my faith. There were very few people coming into the closet and so I was about to close up when there came this middle aged looking man. He came up showed me his ID and I let him get his bag. I asked how he was and his response was more than a common reply.
He said something to the effect of I don’t always feel well with the discomforts of homelessness, but I have joy in the Lord, my provider. He went on to tell me about his life and how God has brought him through difficult times. He told me that for the majority of his life he has been homeless. He then told me that he is 62, only had a third grade education and that God has always been a faithful companion with him. At those comments I was astounded. This man has spent decades on the streets and he is still praising God for every day he has. Everything he said, he said with cheer and peace. He said things haven’t been easy but he has made it through with Jesus, his Savior at the center of his life.
When he got his suitcase out he opened the front pocket and took out a very old battered Bible. He had bookmarks and on the pages there were countless notes he had made. He turned to Isaiah 40:13 which says, “Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed him as counselor?” and then next to it he had a note that said, 1 Corinthians 2:16. He flipped there and read, “For who has the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” As Christ is our Lord, those who put their faith in Him may little by little gain understanding of God. He said “I can use that understanding and live for Jesus Christ or I can live for myself and follow the devil. When we let the Holy Spirit lead us it is the Lord working through us for the good.” He told me this all in love and with joy. He encouraged me as the Holy Spirit led him. He reminded me to keep focused on Christ, loving people, and showing them mercy and grace. He took what he needed from his bag, was on his way, and I haven’t seen him since.
This is just one of the many experiences that I have had since coming to Jeff St. I thank and praise God for every day I have here. It is a blessing to be here and all of you are blessings to me. I want to thank all of you who have supported me with your prayers, money, and encouragement through letters and phone calls. I truly appreciate it. God is doing wonders here in my teammates and I but it is not without struggles, so again, I thank you for your prayers. Please keep them coming! I love you all and thank God that you are a part of my life.

With Christ’s love,

Matt

TO DONATE TO HOPE | Send your tax-deductible donation to
Jefferson Street Baptist Center | Attn: HOPE 733 East Jefferson Street l Louisville, KY 40202
Matt Norton Fund ID #: HOPE-0809-MN1 Make sure to include ID in the check’s memo line
Fundraising Goal: $6,600 I Raised to Date: $3,535
Visit the HOPE website at http://www.hopeforlouisville.com
Visit our online journal at http://www.hopeblog.wordpress.com

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