Posted by: Matt Norton | August 1, 2009

Matt’s August Newsletter

August Newsletter

This time last year I was sending out letters asking for people to support me in an endeavor that many probably thought foolish or crazy.  As a 19 year old, I was about to drop out of school, move six hours from home, and live in a homeless shelter.  As the year is coming to a close I can say that though my experience is an uncommon one, it has been very worthwhile.  I have been able to be a part of such amazing groups of people such as the HOPE team, Jeff Street staff, Sojourn church, my community group, the Jeff Street residents, and the community of guests in the Day Shelter. I have developed many profound and impactful relationships with these folks and it has been God working through them that has changed me in many ways.  Over the year, daily interactions with my community have gradually molded me, changing long held views and beliefs about life and living. My experiences have given me a deeper understanding and a new view on ministry, community, and my future, which will forever influence life decisions and everyday actions.

Before this year, to me, ministry meant what pastors, missionaries, campus ministers, and some really devout normal folks did.  It was, in a sense reserved for the elite.  That mindset made me think that I needed to aspire to be in the ministry, because I wanted to minister to others about Christ. However, over the year at Jeff Street it has become clearer to me that as a Christian my life is ministry.  I am Christ’s ambassador in every moment, everywhere and so as I seek to serve God I minister to myself and others.  I have learned that Christ desires all his people to see their lives as ministry and he has even set for us an example in himself.  We see that Christ willingly came down from heaven to earth to live among, serve and eventually die for broken and needy people.  In John 17:15-18 we see as Jesus prays to the Father that it is his desire that Christians also live in the world as he himself did.
“I do not pray that you take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them by Your truth.  Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them in to the world.”
Christ’s example and his prayer for us reveals God’s desire for us to seek out the hurt and struggling in the world and to show them Christ’s love in order to return them to a right relationship to our loving Father God. Before HOPE I had never thought of this sort of incarnational ministry, where I seek out the hurting as Jesus did.  It has been through my service among the urban poor and talking with others who are seeking to love the needy where they’re at that I’ve recognized Jesus’ example. Living here with my homeless friends has been a huge blessing, which has grown in me a desire to seek out the socially unwanted and the marginalized.  I desire to do this at college and beyond and it has been my service at Jeff Street that has instilled this yearning in me.

My community has astounded me this year.  It has been a community of love, grace, and repentance. Many times this year I have done wrong against a friend, be it Jesse, Kerry, Lindsey, or others. I rightly deserved to be reprimanded, punished, and/or shunned, however they loved me and showed me grace. The grace so many have shown me has softened my often-callous heart and made me want to be more loving and gracious.  In 1 John 3:16 I see where my friends get their motivation to show grace.  It says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”  John is talking about Christ’s sacrifice for all humanity on the cross and he calls Christians to live in the same sacrificial manner, even to the point of death. As Christians, laying down our life not only means the possibility of literally dying for someone but it also means showing love and grace continually, especially when it’s hard and takes sacrifice. When we humble ourselves and seek the good of others, our hearts are softened and God is glorified. It is my prayer that as I leave Jeff Street and the HOPE team that God continues to grow me in showing love and grace, removing all evil and callousness from my heart.  I believe the grace and love lived out here at Jeff Street that I’ve experience is a small taste of God’s kingdom on earth and I desire to share what has been so good for my soul.

Before Jeff Street I had a strong desire to do international missions.  I had my heart set on it and told myself that soon after college I’d be “on the mission field”.  My time here, loving on the homeless and growing in community has shown me how true the statement that we are always on the mission field is. Although, I still believe that one day I may go to a foreign country “on missions” it is not the only mission field.  By living in the inner city and serving the homeless I can see the need for Christ’s followers here in America to seek to love the poor and downtrodden we have in our own country.  I have also learned that God desires his followers to have a right heart seeking after him in all we do, whether we’re a student, teacher, doctor, missionary, cashier, farm hand, pastor, dish washer, whatever.  We don’t have to be in “the ministry” to daily be ministering to others in the name of Christ. God wants us praising and thanking him for his goodness, love and grace all the time in all circumstances, regardless of our profession.  We see this is in Colossians 3:17 where it says, “and whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  I now see that one day I may love others in the name of Christ in other countries as a missionary, but I am also able to love people here in the US in a regular job.  God’s desire in any and all of it is for us to have a joyful heart praising and thanking him.

I want to thank all of you one last time for all of your support.  You have been a blessing to me and to Jeff Street.  I want to encourage anyone that would like to continue to donate finances to do so.  Right now, Jeff Street is in a financial bind because we recently cut ties with a government organization that used to give us $40,000 per year in order to be able to more freely and effectively preach and live out the gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you are willing and able Jeff Street would be blessed by your giving.  If you have any questions about how to give or other needs we have at Jeff Street you can e mail Info@jeffersonstreet.org

Prayer Requests
•    Pray that God provides in Jeff Street’s financial time of need as we seek to be obedient and all for Christ.
•    Pray that the HOPE team may finish strong and continue in the close relationships they have built this summer
•    Pray that “[our] love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” (Phil 1:9)

With Jesus’ love,
Matt

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

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: