Posted by: Emily Shemwell | August 5, 2009

Newsletter… The first of eleven more to come

The summer term here at the HOPE program is winding down. We have only 2 weeks – only one week working in the Day Shelter – remaining as we leave Louisville on August 14. My time here has flown by. I can’t believe it’s already August… another summer passed, and in just 8 days, another year of life gone as I celebrate another birthday.

I look at right where I am today… I’m sitting here in the computer lab at Jefferson Street Baptist Center in Louisville, Kentucky – a place where I’m uncomfortable, yet it feels like home. Sometimes it’s hard being kind and loving to some of our guests, but yet that’s what I want to do. I want to show the love and kindness that Jesus Christ has shown me because for some of them they’ve never seen that. They don’t know what it looks like; they haven’t experienced the greatest love ever known to mankind. While I thought that I could show this love to everyone I’ve met this summer, and I’d like to think that I have, I still feel that I need more time to reflect Christ’s love accurately and more intimately with the guests, especially the women, here at Jeff St. During the countless hours I’ve spent contemplating the pros and cons of staying on here for the year term, I seem to come back to the thought of “I need more time.”

I need more time to love on these guests… I need more time to take relationships deeper with the homeless women many who are calloused and leery of people showing true interest in their lives… I need more time to learn from the stories I hear from the guests and neighbors I meet here… I need more time to learn about others circumstances for how they got to where they are… I need more time to learn about the realities of poverty right here in my home state, Kentucky, and right here in my home country, America – “the land of the free” – but yet, as a fellow teammate noted, it sure is so costly to live here… I need more time to establish community within Sojourn, a collected body of believers that challenge me to be a better servant and to live out my faith in both word and deed… I need more time to become disciplined and grow in my relationship with God… I need more time to completely establish my own beliefs and values and to then fully live them out and make a difference in this world. I… just… need… more… time.

While I come back to this thought over and over, I also arrive back to the question, “How is this going to advance my career plans?” Why don’t I just obtain a job gaining experience in a nutrition setting right now? How is staying on at Jeff St going to help me climb the experience ladder? Well, it may not help me advance my current career plans, and you know what, it could possibly even change these plans… It may not help me climb up that ladder, but why am I worried about this? Why am I worried about the future when I’m not even guaranteed tomorrow? Through the loss of my friend at only 20-years-old, I’ve come to realize the meaning of the old hymn, “One Day at a Time.” For that is all we have been given… today. “Yesterday’s gone… And tomorrow may never be mine.” So, I need to stop worrying about yesterday and tomorrow and focus on today. What can I do to best serve, honor, and glorify the Lord today? For this is what we, as followers of Christ, are called to do. And, this is my deepest desire. It is the longing greater than any other desire God has given me – to serve, honor, and glorify Him, at this moment and time in my life… without worrying about the future… a future I’m not even guaranteed.

So, I have decided to stay on with the HOPE program for the year term. I feel that this place, this program, this city, and this lifestyle is the best way for me to serve, honor, and glorify the Lord at this time in my life. While I seek to bring him all the glory and honor, I also seek to make a difference in the world around me. I want to help others, but more than that, I want to help bear their burdens of pain, sorrow, depression, and addictions and tell them of the hope I’m discovering in the one and only Hope – Jesus Christ.

As I turn another year older, I feel that this upcoming year of my life is going to be one of the best yet. Yes, I’m certain that it won’t be easy, but I know that God will be with me every step of the way. I know that I can’t do this on my own and, thank the Lord, I don’t have to. I feel the need to take this year to be intentional in growing in wisdom and knowledge with Him, living out my Christian faith, and healing in the arms of the Great Comforter and the Prince of Peace.

This summer some of the HOPE team members heard Francis Chan, a California pastor and author of the book “Crazy Love,” speak at the Southern Baptist Convention at the Exposition Center here in Louisville. Mr. Chan spoke on the topic of “One Love.” During his captivating message, Francis shared a story. He said that he recently asked a friend this question: “If you could honestly know God’s will for your life right now, would you really want to know it?” His friend replied back with an unsure, “I don’t know if I would.” Francis summed up the story by challenging us when he said, “When you get to Heaven, do you want to look back and see all that God had in store for you and be astonished and say, ‘That’s what you had for me?!’ Yet, you had missed it.”

I want to think that I would not be like Mr. Chan’s friend and instead answer “Yes” if asked that same question, but I don’t know if that would be my response today. However, I want that to be my response. I don’t want to look back and regret not taking a risk or facing a challenge. I don’t want to get to Heaven and see all that the Lord had in store for me, but I had missed it. I want to become the woman that God wants me to be so that I won’t miss HIS life and HIS plans for me.

As I embark on this new, exciting season of my life, I’m asking for your support. I cannot take on this mission without your faithful prayer and financial support. It will cost $700/month to continue to be part of the HOPE program. The total cost for the year is $7700, which includes the cost of housing, health insurance, transportation (bus passes and gas money), reading curriculum, living expenses ($90/month), and grocieries ($15/week).  If you, or anyone you know, would like to help in this way, please send the completed response card with your tax-deductible contribution made payable to Jefferson Street Baptist Center, attn: HOPE, 733 E. Jefferson Street, Louisville, KY 40202. Please make sure to designate your check to my support by writing my personal account ID number (HOPE-0910-ES1) in the memo line.

Please prayerfully consider how the Lord wants you to contribute to His work here in Louisville through my year commitment as a HOPE team member. Thank you to those who have come along side of me in prayer and financial support this summer. I hope you will continue and I hope others will join me on the exciting and wonderful adventure God has ahead for me.

In Christ’s Love,

Emily

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