Posted by: jcwillyams | April 22, 2010

April Newsletter: Glimpses and Reflections

Each month I find myself sitting at this laptop writing and deleting. I tend to repeat the process about 3-10 times. This month I seem to find myself a bit stuck. Perhaps this month I am not meant to provide my words of wisdom and deep thoughts. Perhaps this month I am not meant to cleverly wrap up the month into just one story. Perhaps this month I will let the events speak for themselves. It has been eventful around Jeff Street. A month without caffeine (Praise God, lent is over :)). A month of goodbyes and new faces. A month of change and transformation.

We have had 6 colleges visit Jefferson Street in the past 4 weeks. Thus there has been some ‘extreme makeover-homeless shelter edition’ taking place. This can be seen both in the building and in the Hope team. There have been a lot of highs and lows with so many people running around Jeff Street. Things can become a little stressful and the workday has been a little longer. But in the midst of it all – there has been renewal. We have seen the passion and grace that God has placed in the hearts of the visiting college students and it has inspired change and transformation in the hearts of me and my team members.

We celebrated the graduation of 5 Fresh Start residents recently. It is bittersweet to say goodbye to many of our new friends. They have done so well and are an endless source of encouragement. The ceremony was humble, but moving. There was a well delivered message by the Executive Director and some tear jerking speeches from the residents themselves. It was a source of affirmation and motivation to hear their praise for the Hope team. Each of the graduates mentioned the distinct effect that we have had on them and that left me in awe. I often feel like I do so little – but God doesn’t need much to work wonders.

We are mourning the loss of two of our day shelter guests and realizing the true nature of a life on the streets. There is urgency in this ministry to share the Gospel – tomorrow might be too late. It is easy on the streets to build a bubble of ‘protection’ that hinders your ability to accept the council of others. That is why we strive to build deep relationships with the people we encounter daily. I am learning that there is a sense of obedience that God is demanding in this. Spike was 28 years old. He had a Mohawk. He was an amateur surfer. He was always smiling. I wanted to know more about him. God wanted me to learn more about him. But my own insecurities deferred deeper conversation. He was found hanging from a small bridge at Waterfront Park. Could things have been different? I don’t know. I am not called to dwell. I am called to mourn and repent. I am called to learn, to grow, and to change. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

We attend Sojourn Community Church for our Sunday worship. They have begun a vision campaign that is calling us to remember who we were and where God has brought us. It is a campaign for the Church to not become nostalgic, but rather to push forward – to learn and to grow. It can be applied to our own lives. We must dream, set goals, and develop structure. We must organize and send ourselves forward. We can’t look back on what once was in envy. We can’t undermine the leadership. It leads to closure. It leads to a dead end. It leads to hopelessness. If you are on the correct path, if you are following God’s plan for your life, then you must press on. You must keep going. You must continue to develop and grow. As a Christian there are times when I wonder what life would be like if I never found God. There are times that I envy the life I once led or could have led. But as I see the fate of those who are stuck in paths that they have planned – as I see them crumble – as I see their bondage to addictions, sin, and idolatry – I realize I have only found freedom in this new life and that I must persevere.

Ryan is doing well. And he is struggling. His faith has exploded into his life and is transforming him daily – but he is haunted by his past…trapped. He lives with an old friend and is exposed to drugs and alcohol on a daily basis. The temptation is no longer there. Quite the opposite – he has witnessed the ugly truth. He has seen what lies under the rock that he used to worship. Now he is working and saving and praying towards escaping that scene permanently. He serves with his church every week. He is in a community group with fellow believers. He successfully gave up sugar for lent – despite my temptations of cake (I’m kinda mean to people during lent…). He has truly found joy in putting God first and has received notice and praise for the change in his spirit and demeanor. Let’s praise God for His great work and pray that it will continue!

I am wrapping these thoughts up on Good Friday. Today 2000 years(ish) ago a love beyond all love was displayed. As I ponder and wonder and imagine the mystery of this great sacrifice I find myself back in the warm Israel sun. Walking the Via Delarosa. Stopping at each station of the Cross. Feeling the weight of the heavy beam upon my shoulders. Feeling the sting of open wounds. Feeling the humiliation of spit on my face. Feeling the growing numbness rob my limbs of their mobility. I can only imagine the physical pain and mental anguish…I can only barely begin to grasp it. And as I do – I realize something that changes everything. I realize – God understands. Christ knows pain. He understands suffering. My struggles are not beyond him. He knows them – he feels them – he died for them. Good Friday is the day of Christ’s crucifixion. I pray that I will join Him on that Cross. I pray that I can die to myself anew and be restored to a new life in Him.

The next week will be spent rejuvenating. We have a week away from the ministry of Jeff Street. A week to allow Easter to permeate our minds and revive our spirits. I celebrate and welcome Spring (minus the allergies), but I pray that we will not confuse the coming of a season with the miracle of a resurrection. There are similarities: change and restoration – the blossoms of new life. But the meaning of Easter is not eggs and bunnies. It is death and resurrection. The meaning of Easter is not to gather the most candy – or the most good-works. Those who crucified Christ had a list of good-works much longer than yours. They lived the law to the letter. But they were blind. May we open our eyes and see that our sins are what bind Christ to the Cross. And our sins can stay on that Cross. They can die. We can be born to a new life – resurrected with Christ. Simply have faith in His promise. Repent of your sin. No longer live in the bondage of a sinful nature, but in the freedom of Christ’s pure Love. This promise of new life is Easter; that is why we celebrate.

Here I am still writing and deleting – and I feel like that is often my life. With seven months at Jefferson Street much has been added to my story. Much has been deleted – and edited – and revised. But this novel is not complete. I am amazed that despite my constant errors and inconsistent metaphors you continue to take interest in what’s to come. Thank you for that. Thank you for contributing to a work that is incomplete and sharing in its development. I continue to turn the pages, sometimes finding them already written and sometimes filling in the blanks, but I flip with excitement. For even when tears stain the pages and smear the ink, I already know the end. I already know that this novel is just the introduction to an eternal series. So even in a month of struggles, even in a month of praise, even in a month of transformation, even in a month of conviction, even in a month of tears – I can enjoy every moment and persevere – knowing that it is all part of the journey and that the destination will be even sweeter.

Blessings in Christ,

JC Williams

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