Posted by: Emily Shemwell | March 22, 2010

March Newsletter

Dear Family and Friends,

Winter can be a difficult time for many people physically and emotionally. The freezing temperatures, the increased hours of dark skies, and the enhanced susceptibility to the thousands of colds and infections can affect anyone. When you camp in the woods or sleep on a thin mattress in a crowded emergency shelter, these characteristics of winter can be even more daunting.

During February, I saw the effects the brutally cold weather has on our homeless guests. The looming chill of the crisp air brought fierce attitudes, dynamic personalities, and short tempers. While students got out of school to enjoy the winter wonderland covering the city, I was behind a counter receiving demands and questions from sleep-deprived and over-caffeinated men and women. Meaningful conversations were rare, as more and more homeless folks came to use our services and fewer volunteers were able to help with 6-7 inches of snow and ice on the ground.

After two challenging weeks, I began to question my calling. “Lord, why am I serving here? What is my purpose?” These questions penetrated me day after day, leaving me uncertain and searching for answers. My heart became feeble. My mind wanted clarity. My soul longed for peace. I was tired – tired of serving, tired of giving, tired of loving, tired of taking on the burdens of others, and tired of bearing my own burdens. I was tired and stuck.

Thankfully, March came with warmer temperatures and sunshine (praise God for sunshine!) However, questions and uncertainty still ran through my body. The enemy was attacking me and he wouldn’t let up. Finally, after days of wandering around in confusion, I realized the problem: it was me. I told God I would go wherever He called me. He called me to the inner city of Louisville and I followed Him. He would sustain me, but I had to fully rely on Him. Recently, I had tried to do life on my own and I was failing miserably. I was not coming before my Father in prayer regularly. I was not keeping my eyes focused on Him.

In the midst of my exhaustion, I started waking up early to spend quality time in prayer with my Lord before leaving to serve at Jeff. Street. Even though I was weary and weak, I continued to dive in to His Word, seeking His wisdom and guidance, and being filled with His promises. Gradually, I am seeing God answer my questions and restore my heart, soul, and mind to the place He’s called me to for such a time as this. My prayer to see Christ in those I’m serving is being answered as He reminds me of my purpose and mission through the faces I see at the shelter and in my neighborhood.

It is faces like the one of Amy, a middle-aged Day Shelter guest, who I first met this summer. My eyes saw her face the other day, for the first time in a few weeks, as she stood in line for a bowl of cereal. When the first free moment came, I went out and sat beside Amy in the cafeteria. My hand rested on her knee as I looked into her eyes, one of them wearing a black and blue bruise. As I inquired about her black eye, a stream of tears flowed down her cheek as she unveiled the details. Amy recently broke up with her boyfriend because he is an alcoholic and is violent. She left him for her safety, yet she couldn’t get away from him. He came to her small apartment the other night and beat her up when she didn’t comply with his requests. Two days later, he did the same thing again, forcing Amy to give up her place and go back to an emergency shelter so her ex-boyfriend couldn’t harm her again.

As I listened to her story, my heart broke for her. In her weathered and bruised face, I was reminded of my mission: to serve “the least of these” in both word and deed. I was reminded that I am to let Christ’s love and hope overflow from me as I love, encourage, and pray for women like my friend Amy.

Even though I continue to try, I can’t do life, or this mission, on my own. I cannot continue my mission without coming before God first, seeking Him, being filled with His Love, and renewed in His grace. I cannot continue my mission without the Christian community I have in my teammates, Jeff. Street staff members and Sojourn church family. I cannot continue my mission without your faithful prayers, encouraging cards, and gracious financial contributions. Thank you for your unconditional support. Thank you for helping make my mission possible.

“All who are weak, and all who are weary,

Come to the Rock, come to the Fountain.

All who have climbed on mountains of heartache,

Reach to the sky, come on and give you life.

If you lead me Lord, I will follow.

Where you lead me Lord I will go,

Come and heal me Lord, I will follow.

Where you lead me Lord I will go.

I will go. I will go.”

– “Invitation Fountain” by The Violet Burning

Blessings and Love,

Emily

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Posted by: Jessica Rood | March 14, 2010

March Newsletter

February has been another emotional month.  I have been trying to love people more. I have been trying to dig deeper into their lives.  I have been trying to see them through the eyes of Christ.  I have attempted this in one simple way by asking the many people I encounter how I can pray for them. A basic question.  It is how we have been encouraged to approach our neighbors, but applying it in the day shelter that has brought on brand new conversations.

The first time I asked someone how I could pray for themit was a dud.  I asked a former participant in our addiction program. He told me that he had no prayer requests. I was a little discouraged.  But when he came in a few days later, he asked if I remembered the question I asked him...I couldnt. He explained that out of the months he had been in the program I had never asked him “how could I pray for you?” We had talked about God, but I never really asked what was going on in his life at that moment.  I told him “that is very sad, I am sorry and I should have”.  This was a defining moment for me, as well as a spark of encouragement for me to ask this question much more.
A week or two later Christine came in. She was going through a rough time which in turn caused her to lash out at other people.  Due to this, she was very loud in the day shelter, causing people to get frustrated with herwhich of course added to her frustration.  My teammate Emily had to take her aside and ask her to keep it down. Her emotions got the best of her, but she eventually calmed down, and later apologized to Emily. Something must have changed in her heart that day, I was at the front desk when Christine came up and asked if she could talk to me and another teammate. There were tears in her eyes, and we graciously accepted her conversation.  She explained that she had been doing drugs. She explained that she grew up knowing Jesus, but turned away from him.  Her voice broke as she explained that she was trying to turn her life around. We listened patiently, but as she prepared to leave, I interjected Can I pray for you?  She eagerly obliged, and I grabbed her hand and prayed for her right there. She cried the whole time. Later that day, I shared my experience with Emily and we discussed starting a Bible Study with Christine. She agreed to meet with us on Thursday morning.
Thursday came.  Emily, Christine, and I went into the residents cafeteria and had a Bible Study.  We studied Psalm 22.

My God, my God, why have you forsake me?  Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I pray out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent..” Psalms 22:1-3

This was the chapter we studied in church the previous Sunday. After more conversations it seemed that this chapter was very applicable to Christine’s current situation.  As it turns out, Christine felt the same way.  She felt abandon by God and persecuted by others, but knew God was still there.  We did not always stay on topic, but it was a time of just answering questions and just talking to Christine.  After we closed in prayer we said our good-byes.  She came in the next day and told us about some more things going on in her life, but I have not seen her since.  That was over a week ago She was in a rehab program so I hope she is still in it.  Please pray for her.

I feel that the women so often just come in for a short time and then are gone.  I just continue to pray for them and hope they are doing okay. I hope to see them again, but then in the same breath, I hope I do not because that could mean they have a place to stay and are no longer on the streets. I just pray for them and their safety. I may never see some of these people again, but God can change their lives. I am just thankful that I can be a part of their lives even though it is very tough emotionally.

Please pray for Christine.  I do not know what is going on in her life, but she was going through some hard times. Pray for all of the women at Jeff Street.  Please pray that I can share the Gospel and how Christ died for them because He loved them and always will love them. Please continue to pray for me as I work with these people who are broken.  It is very tough to see people hurting and not have a way to fix it instantly.

Thank you for your love, support and prayers.

Posted by: Darrell Johnson | February 28, 2010

a-praise.

…When you assemble, each one of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” —1 Corinthians 14:26

Two weeks ago I asked my friend Frank if he would be interested in joining me to attend a Sunday morning worship service with Sojourn Community Church. His answer was, “sure, I’d like that;” so this morning Frank accompanied me and one of my neighbors to worship our Lord. This was an answered prayer, a praise you could say. Over the past few months I have felt led to pray for and be more intentional with Frank.

There are many faces that come in and out of the day shelter and it’s impossible to be intentional with all of them, in the sense of building a trusting friendship. I knew of Frank since I began serving at Jeff St. back in May, but I never really got to know him…that is until a familiar face became rather unfamiliar.

The winter can be rough for people with homes, let alone those who have no roof over their heads. In Frank’s case he does have a roof over his head, but there’s no central or gas heating where he dwells, no running water or plumbing, and no electricity. No my friend’s life, for the past few years, has not typical by any means this is because Frank’s a camper.

We have guests in our day shelter who live in cars, vans, maybe a friend’s apartment. Some stay overnight in the shelters that provide beds for the night while others live out on the streets, but those who choose to camp live a life that is often seen as absurd by the other day shelter guests. I mean…”why would you CHOOSE to live that way?” At least that’s the question that I’ve heard on several occasions by folks who just want to find a place to stay. And it’s true, I’ve heard some of the folks who camp how they got where they were and most of them have told me straight up that they would rather live a life out in the woods or along the river than live in the shelters or bounce from apartment to apartment. It’s not exactly the American Dream, but maybe that’s why it’s so appealing.

As winter came into full swing, the numbers in our day shelter increased significantly. During one of our busier days, I found myself talking to a man that I didn’t recognize. Why? Because his hands and face were covered in soot, it was Frank. It turned out that the soot on my friend’s face came from burning railroad ties to keep warm. Frank wasn’t the only one with a soot laden face, four of his friends also looked unfamiliar to me. Later that same day, I attempted to learn how to play Rummy with the camping brethren. I learned two things that day ONE…the tar from those railroad ties leave a pungent smell and TWO…I am terrible at Rummy.

More importantly, I came to learn that God had a reason for the soot laden face. Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have talked so much with Frank had it not been for the conversation about his appearance…also I may have not played cards with him and his friends. It’s a long shot to some, but I’m convicted that God’s hand was in all of this. I mean come on, He’s God.

From then on whenever Frank came into the day shelter we regularly speak with one another. During one of our conversations, Frank told me that he was in need of new pair of boots. It just so happened that a pair of very nice hiking boots were donated to Jeff St. that were his size. I grabbed the boots, placed some socks in one boot and a Gideon Bible in another with Psalm 27 bookmarked, it’s a psalm that I’ve been meditating on since the new year. A few days later Frank told me that he had read the psalm and that it spoke to his heart. He thanked me for putting the bible there and I told him that he was in my prayers.

A few days had passed when Frank came up to me and he seemed be a little bit different. He wasn’t shook up, but I could tell that something was on his mind. When I asked him what was up, he told me that he was held up at knife point by another camper who was quite drunk, who wanted whatever Frank had. Frank gave him what little he had at the time and did not retaliate. As Frank told me this he made it clear that this was handled a bit differently and that in the past he would opt to return the threatening act to anyone who would mess with him. He then went on to share with me that God had taken care of it, and that he was glad he didn’t take matters into his own hands. When I asked Frank how that was so he told me that the same guy who held him up had gotten very drunk and ended up burning the same hand that held the knife nearly to the bone after he fell into the fire. All that had occurred over that week seemed to have sent a message to Frank, he would eventually share with me that he would like to slow down, possibly even stop drinking and that he would like to move on from the camper’s life. And two weeks ago after he told me all of this, after much prayer and contemplation I invited my friend to join me to worship our Lord.

“Only the living God is worthy of our best PRAISE.” -Daniel Montgomery, senior pastor @ Sojourn.

It just so happened that the morning that I Frank came to Sojourn we learned about the privilege and importance of worshiping our God. It was a sermon that spoke not only to my own heart, but it spoke to my friend’s as well. After the service on the way out, Frank said…”I think I’ve found my church.” And that my friends is something to be thankful, a praise I guess you could say. : )

FACT: God is good!, He is Holy, and Faith in His Son Jesus is our only HOPE and that changes everything!

Please pray for my friend Frank and pray that I would be a good friend to him and that we would both grow in Christ as brothers.

Wait for the LORD;
Be strong, and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the LORD.

—Psalm 27:14

OH LORD, guide us all.
-Amen.

Posted by: Darrell Johnson | February 22, 2010

Lego Sets, Socks, and Lessons Learned

Life at Jeff St. is a gift. It’s a gift that I am thankful for (at this moment), but sometimes I take it for granted. Again life at Jeff St. is a gift. Sometimes it’s that LEGO set you always wanted as a kid, sometimes it’s socks. One gift you may have valued more important than the other but whatever the case it’s something that should be appreciated. I mean really… who wants socks for Christmas or their birthday? Maybe some folks do, and that’s cool; but for the most part we never sat on Santa’s lap and asked for a good ole pair of Gold Toes.

There are good days and their are down right demoralizing days; days where you just want to throw in the towel and retreat. Days when the enemy just has you cornered and tears you apart. It’s easy to lose hope when you are around so much negativity. But thank God we have a Savior who has endured so much more than I ever could (my own sin included) and has never held it against us for doing so. He willfully made the sacrifice that makes it possible for me to look forward to better days. But while I walk this fallen, beat up world I must take refuge in that truth.

Wants vs. Needs….LEGO sets vs. Socks…Selfishness vs. Selflessness…and, well you get the idea.

I was doing my laundry last night in the HOPE apartment and as I folded my socks I realized two things…ONE: The LEGO set I got in first grade is long gone & TWO: Socks area good thing/practical thing to have (especially in Winter). Again life at Jeff St. is a gift…the moments that we long for are their and they are great when we take advantage of them, but for those moments that we don’t necessarily look forward to or the conflicts that we may have to endure will help us out down the road. And prepare us for what waits ahead post-HOPE and that is the continuing trend of living in a jacked up world that is in need of a perfect, compassionate Savior.

Please pray for Jeff St.:
-the men who participate in the programs offered there
-the day shelter guests who come in daily, pray that the Gospel would be shared with them in both word and deed.
-the staff who work tirelessly and faithfully
-the HOPE team who are learning so much as we venture through this season of our lives…pray that we would stay True to the Gospel and that we would be bold to share it and patient/faithful during trying times.

(2) through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (3) Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; (4) perseverance, character; and character, hope.
—ROMANS 5:2-4

OH LORD, guide us all.
-Amen.

Posted by: Emily Shemwell | February 22, 2010

Finishing the Race… Prayers Needed

“Do you have any more sugar?”

“I need a razor. What about socks? I need those too.”

“Are you making any more coffee?”

“You have a washer open. Where am I on the list?”

“Can I get a glass of ice water?”

“Give me a big towel and face towel.”

“Do you have a razor? I don’t like this one, do you have a double-blade?”

“Emily, you have a washer stopped, but someone’s clothes are still in there. Can you get them out?”

“I need a wet washcloth. I spilled my coffee.”

“One at a time please,” I calmly spoke, trying to not become frustrated with the quick demands and questions asked.

Then I hear, “Quit talking about my Mama!” Seriously? Two grown adults are arguing in the middle of the Day Shelter cafeteria over a comment made about someone’s Mama? Am I babysitting five-year olds? Yes, this was happening.

That was Wednesday. Tensions were high. Attitudes were fierce. Personalities were dynamic.

Thursday wasn’t much different. Two more guests were suspended for arguing. The reason for the argument: bad mouthing the other person’s Mama. The lady had taken so much of the verbal exchanges that she threw a chair toward the male guest. All over a comment made about her Mama.

As I left the shelter Thursday I found myself struggling to have any positive thoughts. Why am I here? What good am I doing? On top of the demands from the guests, a woman I was intentionally tying to build a relationship with left that day. She and her boyfriend, who recently beat her up when he became drunk, moved to Texas for work. Not exactly what I wanted to hear. I am glad she has a greater possibility of obtaining a job, but moving away from her children with her boyfriend wasn’t exactly encouraging words to my ears Thursday morning. Seriously God? Am I doing any good?

The last several days have lowered my spirits and weakened my faith. I’m struggling right now to see any fruit from my labor. I’m struggling to find the motivation to finish the race I’ve started. Dear friends, I need your prayers: prayers for endurance, prayers for strength, prayers for perseverance, and prayers for a joyful spirit and a loving and serving heart.

Lord, may I keep my eyes on you. Amen.

“…And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith… Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.” —Hebrews 12:1-3

“But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carrying out the ministry God has given you… I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” —2 Timothy 4:5-8

Posted by: Emily Shemwell | February 15, 2010

February Newsletter

Dear Family and Friends,

The emails are flowing in this month as volunteers want to serve meals at Jeff. Street. As the coordinator of meal volunteers for the shelter, I’m seeing many new folks desire to get involved in the vision of Jeff. Street’s mission, “Community. Transformation. Christ.” As these emails come into my Gmail inbox, I filter them by adding labels. An email from a volunteer interested in serving a meal receives the label “Meals;” an email from my aunt gets the label “Family;” an email from a teammate receives the label “Hope;” and a message from a community group leader at my church obtains the label “Sojourn.”

Just like the emails in my inbox, so many times I label others around me. I define the people I serve by what they do or don’t do – Addict. Drunk. Bum. Felon. I classify them by their situation or circumstance – Widow. Runaway. Druggy. Victim. I label them instead of loving them. Before I know the emotions of their heart and understand their circumstances, I view them as the label I’ve given them.

Pastor and author Henri Nouwen states that, “In the face of the oppressed I recognize my own face, and in the hands of the oppressor I recognize my own hands. Their flesh is my flesh, their blood is my blood, their pain is my pain, their smile is my smile.” In his book The Irresistible Revolution, Christian activist Shane Claiborne elaborates that, “We are made of the same dust. We cry the same tears. No one is beyond redemption. And we are free to imagine a revolution that sets both the oppressed and the oppressors free.”

Do I sincerely believe that no one is beyond redemption? Do I believe the man who shouts at me “I don’t like you anyway” can be redeemed? Do I believe the woman who beat up and murdered my frail friend, James, is beyond redemption? Do I believe the man who degrades women with his smug remarks and long glances can be redeemed?

While my verbal reply to these questions is “yes,” it’s not always the reply of my heart and mind. I find it difficult to always believe that these three people are not beyond redemption. Yet, they are. No one is beyond redemption. So many times my flesh steps in and I see them through the eyes of my labels instead of who they truly are. I fail to see those I’m serving as children of God who are in need of His redemption, grace, and love; I fail to see them through the eyes of Jesus. I fail to see that they are no different than me. They are as equally broken as I am; they are as equally in need of a Savior.

Pray that I have the eyes of Jesus daily as I serve our homeless guests and Jeff. Street residents. Pray that I have eyes of love, eyes that look past the flesh, eyes that see Him in everyone. Pray that I daily deny my fleshly labels, attitudes, and thoughts in order to pour out Christ’s love to those He desires me to minister to.

Thank you for your faithful prayers and financial support of God’s work in Louisville. I am still in need of financial contributions. I have raised about 35% of my $7700 goal for my mission here. Please prayerfully consider how you can contribute to the work God is doing. If you can give a lot, give a lot. If you can give a little, give a little. I challenge you to be obedient to how God is calling you to be involved in His work. God is on the move and it’s humbling to be a small part of such a magnificent power behind a bigger movement. Won’t you join me?

Blessings and Love,

Emily

Posted by: Caleb Butler | February 13, 2010

Caleb’s February Newsletter

Family & Friends,

Greetings!  I write to you once again and am reminded of the faithful prayer and support I receive from you all.  It is beyond encouraging; it is life-sustaining.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I could not do this without you.  My entire experience in Louisville and at the Jefferson Street Baptist Center is a gift from God, a truth I am coming to realize more and more each month.

However, this gift is often challenging and heart-wrenching.  In the past month, we have seen a handful of residents walk away from the program.  For one reason or another, these men let their addictions get the better of them.  It is always difficult to see a dear friend leave an environment of Christian community, accountability, and encouragement in which he can find true transformation of heart and mind.  Around the same time that these men were leaving, JSBC received a large financial donation from a local church.  We were all witnesses to spiritual warfare, as God’s blessings and the devil’s attacks came simultaneously.  Needless to say but a good reminder, JSBC needs your prayers.  It needs my prayers.  May we faithfully ask God to be seen at work in our lives and in the lives of the homeless and poor.

I often reflect on my time in Chicago with the youth group.  It was the summer of 2006.  We stayed one week in a church that was actively involved in ministering to the homeless.  The church was only supposed to serve dinner one night of the week, but our youth group served three nights that week because we wanted our homeless friends to keep coming back!  We also took carloads of sandwiches to Lower Wacker, a notorious underground community of homeless men and women in Chicago.  It was my first genuine encounter with homelessness.  God used the weeklong mission trip to change lives in our youth group; I just had no idea how radically He would use it to change mine.

I will never forget meeting Del.  I went to Lower Wacker the first night while others stayed at the church to serve dinner.  When I got back that night everyone was saying, “You have to meet him!  He’s so sweet.”  Indeed he was, beaming with life, always smiling, talking, and laughing.  Our youth group fell in love with Del.  Our hearts were broken by his story, a Gulf War veteran who returned with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which quickly ended his marriage and forced him into homelessness.  PTSD also caused Del to stutter badly, but even though his voice wavered, he didn’t waver in his faith in God.  The second night I made it a point to sit by him at dinner.  We talked for about fifteen minutes, and I especially remember him saying in all seriousness, “What does Bible stand for? Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.”  Little did I know, those fifteen minutes would forever change my life.  It’s funny how God works.

You know where the story is three and a half years later, or I wouldn’t be writing this to you.  I never expected to spend a year serving the homeless, but God put a humble man named Del in my path.  Maybe years later I will run into one of our homeless guests at JSBC in a different setting.  He will tell me how he gave his life to God and how things have been so different since.  I will ask him what caused all of it and he will say, “It was a fifteen minute conversation you and I had over lunch one day.”  Maybe.  Maybe not, but I am still called to be faithful in loving my neighbors and to expect God to work.

May we faithfully look for opportunities to love the least of these, whether it be an exhausted coworker, a lonely next door neighbor, or an impoverished addict.  May we faithfully pray for open eyes and a pliable heart.  God has a sense of humor; He may surprise you.


“And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating – to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes!” (Jude 24-25, The Message)

Posted by: Jessica Rood | February 12, 2010

February Newsletter

February Newsletter

What is Love? Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “strong affection; warm attachment; a beloved person; unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for others”.  I so often think of love as a strong affection and not much more.  I know the Bible teaches us to love our enemies but how do I do that?  How do I love the men in the shelter who hit on me day in and day out?  How do I love the woman who distracted a resident and in turn he ends up leaving the program returning to his old life style?

I have been reading The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. Although I do not agree with everything in his book, his writings have challenged me to want to love my enemies.  While in the Hope Program we have a mission question which is “In this moment, how can I best love both God and people”? I so often forget the mission question and just love myself. 

There are so many men in the shelter who have attitudes.  My first instinct in dealing with them is to have an attitude back.  That is not showing them love.  That is treating them like everyone else does.  I need to show them kindness but in a way that directs them to Christ in discipline.

On Thursday at the shelter, with some staff members ill and others off, Emily, Caleb, and I were in the day shelter by ourselves.  It was just a day of craziness.  One guest wanted to get a bag out of the closet but could not do so because her name was not on the tag tapped to the bag.  She was angry because she was getting ready to leave on a Grey Hound.  I felt bad for her and went up to talk to my boss since all other staff was out.  He stated and I agreed that we could not allow her to take out the bag because we are protecting the person whose name is on the bag. The man’s whose name was on the bag would not come down and get it out for her. She did not want to leave because it had everything she owned in there.  Could you imagine fitting everything you own in just two duffle bags?  I know I would want the bags protected because they would have the most valuable things I own in them. She came back on Friday and told me that the owner of the bag was coming to get his bag for her.  I felt much better, but still felt sorry that her trip was delayed a day. 

Later that morning I went upstairs for a moment. As I looked out the window I saw a guest drinking in front of the shelter.  When I asked my boss to confront him, the guest had already left the situation and would not confess to it.  I hated to see this because I have recently developed a relationship with him. Through playing several games of cards, we have developed a friendship. I felt hurt and confused on what to do.  Even on Friday when he was confronted, he did not own up to drinking yet again.  I am not sure how to feel about it.  I feel betrayed and second guess myself, but I know what I saw.  How do I not let this affect our developing friendship? How do I show someone love when they lied right in front of my face? Should I confront him or let things go?

I returned back down stairs. At that time I came across Emily who told me of a situation with the laundry services.  We have laundry facilities, but you need to make an appointment to use them.  She was telling me that someone was in the washer that didn’t make an appointment.  I asked if she knew who.  She did not.  I asked around and figured out who it was.  While he was taking out his laundry I confronted him and he stated that it was his friend’s laundry.  I told him he needed to take the clothes out of the washer.  He replied, “You’re becoming like the rest of them.” What he meant by this comment was that I was all about the rules and just causing angst.  There is a reason for rules.  If we allowed everyone to do their laundry whenever they wanted, fights would break out. Some of our homeless guests tend to not respect authority.  How do I show them love, but still discipline them?  How do I best love this man who always tries to bend the rules and cause problems?

I do not know the answer to any of these questions.  How do I love like Christ loves?  More often than not, I allow my human flesh to get in the way.  I do not want to let things go.  I do not want to love them.  Choosing to write them off and forgetting about them is much easier then showing love and compassion. 

I am here to love these people.  I fail at it daily, but when God reveals His love for his people through me it is an amazing thing.  There are such great friendships developing.  People’s lives all around me are changing because of the Love of Christ that is being shown to them through my teammates and myself.  I am excited to see the Love of Christ changing lives but I daily have to remind myself to love others.  This is not something you master once, but it is something that you continually work on.  You will make mistakes; you will get hurt but just keep on loving.  God never gives up on us.  He loves us so much that when we hurt him, he turns the other cheek.  I so glad that He never gives up because if He had, I would not be where I am today. 

 Please continue to support me in love.  Love can change the world.

Posted by: Darrell Johnson | February 12, 2010

February Newsletter

February Newsletter

Dear Family & Friends,

I just realized that my year long mission here at Jeff St. is half way through its course and that’s pretty difficult for me to comprehend. Still this year, as well as this past summer, would not have been possible without your prayers and support. Thank you all so much for all the love and encouragement you have bestowed to me and to the ministry at Jeff St. I look forward to what the Lord has in store for this ministry here while the 2009-2010 yearlong HOPE Team continues its service, so please keep us all in your prayers!

Earlier this morning I was working the front desk when one of our day shelter guests, Mark, stopped by to speak with me. Mark is very polite; he keeps to himself and is always moving around in the day shelter. When asked why he never stays in one place for very long, Mark tells me that he has to keep on the move to retain his sanity. At first I heard that and just agreed with him somewhat, but then he told me, “No. Seriously, I’m diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic.” He then shared with me that crowds make him nervous and that he can’t stand the noise collective.

Mark doesn’t only spend his days by himself; he also camps out by himself. Last night was one of the coldest nights of the year thus far and Mark told me that he spent the night out in his tent underneath a bridge over in the West end of town. I asked him if he ever considered going to one of the overnight or emergency shelters in town and he told me that he tries to avoid those at all cost. “The chaos in my head and the chaos of the crowds are not a good mix,” he said, “and making four bucks for two days worth of collecting can ain’t cutting it either.” It was obvious that the bitter cold and my friend’s condition were taking a great toll on his mind, body, and soul.

Most of my conversations with Mark have been surface level at best. I’ve never really asked him how he ended up in Louisville nor have I asked him how he became homeless, until today. Eventually I began to ask him about his life on the streets and where he grew up. He went on to tell me that he came to Kentucky looking for work and that he has family in Central Indiana, whom he has not spoken to in years. When I asked him why that was so, he paused and then looked at me and said, “I was in prison from 1988 to 2001.” Respectfully I asked if he wouldn’t mind sharing with me his reason for his imprisonment; he quickly, but somberly said, “murder.”

I didn’t really know what to say, I just kept listening intently and made sure that our conversation didn’t end on such a depressing note. “Not a day goes by when I don’t regret what I did,” Mark said, “I mean…look where it got me.” Mark scratched the scruff on his face and wiped his nose on his worn camouflage jacket before he took a sip of his coffee; he then paused and said, “sometimes I just want to die.” Concerned for my friend’s well being, I told him that there is reason that he is still with us. I told him that I appreciate our conversations and that the example that he sets inside the day shelter is something that people notice. And that’s so true, if there’s one thing I’ve learned while being at Jeff St. it’s that everyone here has one thing in common, other than being sinners in need of God’s Salvation, and that is we’re all people watchers. In an environment where it’s so easy to get caught up in all the drama of others, Mark scans the room and keeps to himself; he speaks if spoken to and I’ve yet to see him be rude to either the Jeff St. staff or the other day shelter guests.
Mark left the front desk to go get another cup of coffee, I prayed for Mark right then and there for his heart to open up to the Gospel and for God to grant me the wisdom to speak Truth into his life. I prayed that Mark would get connected with people in his life that care for him and would be able to help him find a way out of his poverty. Whether it be some long lost relative or a would-be employer; I prayed that Mark’s time here would not be such a burden and that someone would step into his life and help him out.

Not too long after he left the front desk, Mark returned to continue our dialogue. I quickly asked him if he had a bible, to which he replied, “Yea I have two of them, I try to read it every night before I go to bed.” I then followed up by handing him a strip of paper with “Psalm 27” written on it, I asked him to keep this in mind when he’s feeling miserable and just has no hope. He appreciated the consideration and advice very much and folded the strip of paper and placed it in his wallet. Soon after that, Mark left the front desk and headed out for the rest of his day.

Please keep Mark in your prayers. Pray that he would recognize and believe that God loves him and that His Saving Grace is for murderers just as much as it is for people who cheat on their taxes. Pray that we, as God’s people, would step up in our communities and shine for Jesus Christ and that our deeds would be rooted in His Word. Also keep Jeff St. in your prayers. Pray for the staff, the volunteers, the day shelter guests, the residents, and my fellow HOPE Team members. Pray that God would continue to provide and that we would continue to submit and humbly follow Him. Again thanks so much for all your love, prayers, and support!

For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.

-Psalm 27:5
Take care & God Bless.

OH LORD, guide us all.
-Amen.

Posted by: Darrell Johnson | February 9, 2010

Stars Fell on Alabama & that’s not a bad thing.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
— 1 John 1:9

This past Saturday I agreed with a concern/comment that was made by one of our residents. At the time it made sense to me, at the time I was frustrated and tired, at the time I allowed my sinful nature to get the best of me. Yea, Saturday was a rather eventful day. (As to what I agreed with, I’ll get to that later).

While I was giving a tour of Jeff St. to a seminarian who wanted to research homeless shelters and other organizations that promote mercy, he asked me the question of what made Jeff St. different than all the other shelters in Louisville. Now being that I am not too familiar with all the other shelters in the city, I encouraged the student to ask one of our residents who was very familiar with the other shelters in the city. Our resident replied with, “This place is a lot more secure than other shelters,” the student hurriedly took notes and listened with great intent. And sure enough something rather ironic took place; just after the Jeff St. resident praised the security at Jeff St. something came over my radio along the lines, “Darrell there’s a fight in the cafeteria.” I quickly excused myself from the second floor and headed downstairs to the day shelter.

When I arrived I heard yelling and saw two men engaging in fisticuffs (yea, that’s right I used the word fisticuffs). With the help of other staff, some volunteers, and day shelter guests, the rumble subsided and we were able to separate the two men. Only one our guests sustained some mild injuries, but the tension in the air was thick and we quickly asked the guest who was not injured to leave the premises and informed him that he was suspended indefinitely as we do with any party that is involved in a fight. I spoke with the young man who was injured and asked him why the fight took place, he looked down and slowly told me that it was over the state of Alabama. Not a sports team or any kind of rivalry of sorts, but the actual state itself (this was definitely a first).

The young man I spoke with was talking with his friend, who is from Alabama, and made a comment that didn’t settle well with an older gentleman who has some ties to the state. Some words were exchanged and the two men quickly found themselves in each other’s faces. It was really a sad sight. When I asked the young man if he understood why we were going to have to suspend him from Jeff St. he brushed it off and seemed to not realize how fighting was not the answer to anything. I found myself rather frustrated with the situation that had taken place and the conversation I had with the young man.

Later that evening at dinner, I was sharing with one of our residents what had transpired and he said something that I didn’t expect him to say. He said that since Jeff St. is in the process of parting ways from government funding that we should be more exclusive about who we allow in the day shelter. His comment wasn’t promoting defining the lines between the bourgeois and the proletariat, but for the “good” folks (my interpretation) to come in and the “bad” folks to not come in. And in the midst of my frustration with my previous conversation with the young man in the day shelter, I foolishly said, “you may have something there.”

Looking back on it now, I can’t believe I agreed with that statement. Because I know that my agreement was due to my sin. It was due to my judgment and anger I had towards that young man who was quite disrespectful to me as I spoke with him.

Is that how heaven works??? NO ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!

My foolish rationale resonated with a line from a Matthew Good Band song “Load Me Up” which claims:

…”if heaven is for clean people, then it’s vacant.”

Such cynicism is so far away from the Gospel that I’m having a hard time admitting to this to all you folks out their in cyberspace. But as we learn from 1 John 1:9, if we confess our sins we will be forgiven. Now if I, a believer who serves in a homeless shelter, am hesitant to own up to my own sin how is that I could be so callous to expect someone who may not have any idea what the Gospel is to understand the importance of being repentant of sin.

Heaven is full of clean people who were washed in the Blood of the Lamb, just like the old hymn says. It’s not vacant! The two men who were fighting over the state of Alabama may very well be up there with me one day, but if I sit and say let’s allow this person to come in, but this person not to due to a unfair assumption of another person’s character or lack thereof then we’re pretty much shooting ourselves in the foot when we wish to share the Good News.

“The least of these” are not just those that we get along with, they are those that we do not understand and sometimes have to ask to leave for being in a fight. But to not give them a chance would be such a disservice to folks.

Owning up to your own sin isn’t always easy. Jeff St. has made some bold decisions to be able to advance the Gospel, not make our place an exclusive ministry. This is my confessional blog, this is my cry and plea. Please continue to pray for Jeff St. Pray that we, as staff, would seek out the wisdom,peace and love of our heavenly Father and that we would not fall into the temptation of the enemy. That we would be lights that shine for Christ  who show His mercy to those we’ve been called to love and serve and not people manning a velvet rope at our day shelter entrance. Pray for God’s kingdom to be advanced in our community, pray for the two men who we’ve suspended due to fighting.

Question for myself and the masses:
ARE YOU DENYING THE CROSS’ ABILITY TO FORGIVE YOUR SIN?

“Forgiveness yields real, lasting joy…unconfessed sin yields heartache and devastation.” —Chad Lewis, a pastor at Sojourn Community Church

OH LORD, guide us all.
-Amen.

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