Posted by: Matt Norton | July 6, 2009

Matt’s July Newsletter

With six weeks to go here at Jeff Street I often think back to when I started nine and a half months ago.  I try to remember how I thought, how I interacted with people, and what sort of perspective I had toward ministry.  It seems so long ago, and sometimes I think of how much I’ve changed, while other times I remember how much I’m the same. Even at times when I was distant from God, he was still faithful to me.  God’s faithfulness allows me to say that “[I am] confident of this, that [God] who began a good work in [me] will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6).  Regardless of how exactly I have changed, God will continue to work on my heart to remove all selfish and evil desires and turn it toward Christ Jesus, our servant God.  I love to think how far God has brought me, and then realize he will continue to guide and shape me for the rest of my days.

Last September, at age 19, I started the Hope program, naïve about the world but passionate for Jesus and people.  I remember how I looked forward to going to the Day Shelter and meeting people.  I greeted everyone with a huge smile and friendly welcome, and I thought to myself, “boy I’m making a difference for the kingdom of God!”  I would try to talk to every person I saw. I wanted to tell them about Jesus and the good news about his sacrifice, which reconciled us once and for all to God the Father.  I thought of the hundreds of people in the Day Shelter and residents, and I imaged how lives could be changed.  I spent time with a myriad of people.  I thought, “I’m only here for a year I have to get busy.”

After five or six months I started to grow tired, and the energy that used to be there, due to the newness of my mission, faded.  Hundreds of people hadn’t come to profess faith in Jesus Christ; to tell you the truth I only know of one (that was my friend Zach about whom I wrote in my 2nd newsletter).  Lives weren’t changing miraculously before my eyes.  I started to question God.  I would pray, “God, why aren’t people changing?  What are you waiting for?  I’ve been loving people like crazy. What am I to do?”  That was about the time when my perspective on how to love and interact with people was changing.  God was teaching me to rely on him and his time as well as his strength for lives to be transformed.  He was also showing me that to see profound change in people their must be great investment and unconditional love.  He was also revealing my need for him in every moment, drawing me closer to him.  I was realizing that my time at Jeff Street had brought more Christ-centered change in my life than in any one other person.  As I’ve been changing I have focused more energy on a few friends and think of unique ways to serve and love them and watch as God works strongly in each of our hearts instead of spreading myself thin without loving anyone beyond surface level.

Over the past six months my friend Kyle and I have been spending much quality time together.  He and I meet once a week to fill each other in on what God is doing in our lives and how we can pray for one another.  We are able to challenge, encourage, and embolden each other.  Outside of our intentional meeting we spend a bunch of free time together.  Since we’ve been hanging out I can see so much change in myself and in Kyle. In our time God continues to refine me and teach me better ways to love people and show compassion. God is teaching me how true Proverbs 27:17 is which says, “As iron sharpens irons, so one man sharpens another.”

I am now 20 and just a bit less naïve than I was last September. However, I cling more tightly to Christ because of all I’ve seen, learned, and experienced.  I have realized that most people here in the Bible belt know a lot about Jesus’ sacrifice but many need friends and people to love them where they are. I have realized that a friendly smile, kind words and even sharing the gospel are great. However, hurting people need consistent support, guidance, and friendship.  I still have good interactions in the Day Shelter and God is working in the lives of many, but I approach my time there differently.  I seek to show Christ’s joy and love to all and then be intentional with to those whom God has bonded me.

Prayer Requests

  • Perseverance and endurance
  • Pray that the Hope team takes advantage of every opportunity to love and share with those we encounter
  • Pray for the women’s team as they seek to grow roots in the Shelby Park community

With Christ’s Love,

Matt

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