Ministry is my life or life is my ministry

This is just semantics right?  Basically the same thing?  A simple change in word order can dramatically alter the way we look at ministry among the poor.  In this culture of a “bottom line”, based on either success or failure, when ministry outreach doesn’t “work out” we begin to look at ourselves as failures, we get burnt out, ready to quit. We go when we should stop, we work when we should rest, eventually we have nothing left to offer others and begin to resent the people we are called to love and serve, and they see our lives not as something to copy, but as something to reject, with the chaotic rhythms and inconsistencies.

On the other hand, when we look at our life as ministry we begin to do everything for His glory and His honor.  Life becomes our ministry.  Our resting, our eating, sleeping, playing, and yes even our menial hobbies and pastimes becomes a way for us to connect to our God as well as to others.  As guest writer in Sub-merge Darren Prince writes:

When all of your life is what you offer as your ministry, then nothing is wasted.  In short, when your life is what you offer to others as ministry, what you offer is multifaceted and rich with meaning.

This is a wonderful picture of what incarnational (living among) minstry can be and should be.  Serenity and I are both realizing that this is what the Lord is calling us towards – ministry among the poor, not ministry to the poor.  We understand that we are not currently doing this – we stay in urban church parking lots for a few weeks and then move on, we are not part of the community, rather, the Lord is using this time in our lives to teach and to transform our own hearts to be closer to His.  We are learning to love the poor not as our ministry, but as a part of our lives.

Northerners in a foreign land

This week has been a wild whirlwind of ministry, fellowship, meeting lots of new people, and learning.

While we have been here in Jackson we have been working with WeWillGo Ministries, the Lancaster and Scone families who have given their lives to God’s work among the poor.  The Lancasters are here permanently, the Scones are interns, training and learning to live missionally.  WeWillGo has placed themselves in the midst of a weird neighborhood of poverty and attorney/business offices.  Their life is ministry.

We have had the opportunity to participate in their Bible Studies for what they would call “church people” and non-church people, their church service/meal on Sunday, prayer for all who come and go, and doing our best to be present when we can.  They have people coming and going all day long, dropping off or coming to receive clothing, canned goods, toiletry items and bus passes.  Prayer always comes with whatever is received and given.  The Gospel is shared over and over again, with much passion and hope.  We have been inspired by their readiness to pray, speak Truth, and offer tangible help to everyone who comes to WeWillGo.

We have had lots of time getting to know the Lancasters and the Scones, along with many others who help with the ministry.  We were even blessed with a date night!  Thank you Jesus!

We are having to really wait on the Lord for Him as we try and wade through the southern culture.  The spirit of racism, judgement, and fear still runs deep in the veins of the south.  Coming in as “northerners” has been a bit of a culture shock, so we have taken many things to the Lord and waited on Him to explain things to us, along with others who have helped us get some sort of grasp of reality around here.  Please continue to pray with us as we often come in as outsiders and do our best to sift and discern what the Lord has for us.

A.C.

A.C.My heart just cannot but thank my Jesus for saving this man’s life.  I had a chance to talk with A.C. for a while today and was totally captured by his jolly little self.

Just a few years ago he was sleeping in a dog house addicted to crack.  This took 20 years of his life, his family, and any credibility he had with society.  He weighed 90 lbs and referred to himself as a walking skeleton.  Until David and Amy Lancaster came into his life and started loving on him.  He would cuss them out after recieving socks, underwear and food from them and they would keep pressing in and loving.  One day he was walking around the neighborhood, as he was normally found doing, cracked out and he started hearing this voice in his head, saying, “It is time” over and over again.  He could not make it go away and finally went to the Lancaster’s house to seek help.  Amy and her daughter, Olivia, listened to him and suddenly Olivia broke down in tears and said to A.C., “A.C., God is telling you it is time to give your life to Him!  It is time!”

From that point until now, A.C. has found Jesus, has gained about 75 lbs, is clean and sober and cooks breakfast for the local shelter every morning.

While I talked to him today he shared with me how he became addicted to crack and it was a story straight out of Proverbs:

“I saw among the simple,
I noticed among the young men,
a youth who lacked judgment.He was going down the street near her corner,

walking along in the direction of her house

at twilight, as the day was fading,
as the dark of night set in.

Then out came a woman to meet him,
dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.

(She is loud and defiant,
her feet never stay at home;

now in the street, now in the squares,
at every corner she lurks.)

She took hold of him and kissed him
and with a brazen face she said:

“I have fellowship offerings at home;
today I fulfilled my vows.

So I came out to meet you;
I looked for you and have found you!

I have covered my bed
with colored linens from Egypt.

I have perfumed my bed
with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.

Come, let’s drink deep of love till morning;
let’s enjoy ourselves with love!

My husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey.

He took his purse filled with money
and will not be home till full moon.”

With persuasive words she led him astray;
she seduced him with her smooth talk.

All at once he followed her
like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer stepping into a noose

till an arrow pierces his liver,
like a bird darting into a snare,
little knowing it will cost him his life.”

A.C. was approached by a woman to try something new.  So, he tried it and was instantly addicted to whatever IT was. The first hit was free but by the end of the day, he was with the woman and had wasted $1200.  He was tricked by the devil.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10

A.C. has been brought back to life by Jesus Christ, praise the Lord!!  These stories give me Hope in this broken world.  So many people have been lured by the Thief with drugs, money, sex, the American dream, security, pension plans, popularity, and so many other things.  These things cannot satisfy the spirit in us who craves the only One who brings Life.

Thank you Jesus for A.C.’s beautiful testimony and thank you for your Love that beckons us to Life.

Seren

Isaiah 58: 6-12

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness [a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Great Blessings

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Matthew 6:26

As many of you know, we have not done much to solicit financial support.  Before we left we sent out our fliers to just about everybody we knew, everybody our family knew, and everybody our friends knew, but the fliers just told about our ministry and what we were doing, as well as how to support us if the Lord led.

We decided to garner support through “anonymous donations” with Isaiah’s Stump, so in our view the Lord was supporting us, no faces, no names other than Jesus.  It has been so freeing to know that we do not need to worry about where our finances are coming from, to be completely secure in the fact that if God wants us out on the road loving on people, He will finance it.  Our support has come directly from the Lord, via His followers.

Another thing you may know if you have been reading the website is that we have had to take Big Buster (our RV) into the mechanic a few times, and even more frequently over the past few months.  To take Big Buster into the mechanic is no easy feat.  Usually the only shop who has the correct parts and service equipment are Freightliners, which charge $125 / hour.  Just to give you an understanding, a bear bones minimum oil change for Big Buster costs nearly $300 (as one guy said, (read in a deep South accent) “you can’t just roll this thing into Jiffy Lube.”)  We have had a list of different repairs done the past few months: bad veggie solenoids, new veggie pump and filter, new fuel lines, new front barrings, wheel alignment, new tires (we have actually replaced all six on our journey – 1 in Spokane, 2 in Calgary, 1 in Cheyenne, 2 in Atlanta), new front brakes, resurfaced rotors, along with a myriad of other smaller interior and exterior fixings.

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We have been adamant about living simply, not only because we believe this is what God wants from us, but also because we feel that the cheaper we can live, the more we can do for Him as well as be good stewards with the finances that so many of you are giving towards this Kingdom work.  We have been able to live on $900 / month – until we get a $1,000 bill from Freightliner, which doubles our monthly budget.  Since November we have had over $3,000 of expenses on Big Buster.  On top of that, our home church of Grace Chapel, like so many other churches, is going through budget issues of their own and are ending their financial support starting this next month.  Their support of our ministry the past 7 months has been a blessing, and we have appreciated the finances as well as the prayer support we have received from being “missionaries” from Grace.

The Lord has filled us with His Spirit, not one of worry or fear.  We fully understand that if we do not have finances, that the Lord is calling us to come home.  Well, the Lord is asking us to keep on truckin’.  Because so many of you have faithfully given and have listened when the Holy Spirit prompted, we have been funded above and beyond anything we could have imagined.  Our God is a big God!  Last month the account balance was down to $0.  We are now funded for the next two months, and all mechanic bills are 100% paid off.  This is truly a miracle!  Thank you Jesus for allowing us to keep loving on people, may all the glory, honor and praise be to the Lord!

God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 2 Corinthians 9:8

Florida

Before we got to Florida, Andy and I were feeling VERY depleted.  We felt exhausted from many breakdowns with Big Buster, many tiring hours of making contacts all over the States, and meeting new people over and over again, telling our story over and over again.  Personally, I didn’t know if I had anything else to give to this ministry and home was on my heart a lot.  I didn’t even know how to pray because I didn’t really know what I needed and I knew home wasn’t the answer.  Andy was tired of the many breakdowns, his shoulder was really bothering him, and it seemed like our efforts to minister continued to get shot down.

We kicked off our time in this strange and wonderful state at a beautiful beach house in Englewood, FL.  God knew we needed rest, comfort, and play time.  We are in awe of how God arranged that beautiful arrangement with the Spofford family.  But other than the Spoffords, we had no contacts in Florida.  We had made several attempts but all fell through until the last minute, of course.  God likes to keep us on our toes.

God knows us and is in control.  This is what we are learning and I am loving Him more and more as He has proven His awesome faithfulness.

From enjoying His beautiful landscapes, facing awkward moments with New Day Christian church, loving on people at Walmart, meeting many, many broken people and having opportunities to pour out His love, spending Christmas in a foreign place, finding fast, deep friendships, making last minute contacts with Common Ground, Lifequest and United Church of Christ, and learning a ton about poverty, God used all these things to stir our hearts and remind us of why we are out here.  God has put more fire to our passion for Jesus while at the same time giving us peace and satisfaction with continuing on with the vision He has for us.

He has sent us out for a multitude of reasons, some we know, many we don’t.  But our purpose out here is not to figure it out, it is to go and love like Jesus.  Often our everyday tasks, maintaining children, problems with our house on wheels, and many other struggles have distracted us at times to make us wonder what in the world we are doing out here.  Many days go by when we don’t have any contact with anyone.  This is life.  It is an unknown, crazy adventure that we can either be hopeful in, depressed in, or complacent in.  We can either choose to dive into our relationship with Jesus and experience Joy and Sorrow like you have never known or we can choose to do it our own way which is “safe”, kind of boring, and pretty predictable.

I don’t know about you, but I choose Jesus and I would never go back.  I’m so glad we followed Him on this whirlwind around Florida and we will continue to follow Him wherever He takes us!

Seren

Food Not Bombs

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We have had a chance to work with and get to know some of the folks at Food Not Bombs, an activist group that shares free vegetarian food with hungry people and protests war and poverty.  They had a food sharing time Wednesday night that we participated in.  They gather fresh vegetables from a food plant that services the many hotels that surround Disney World.  The food may be going bad and need a little “surgery” or some of it may be perfectly fine, just left over and can’t be saved and used the next day, so they leave it outside for anyone to take at no cost.  FNBs comes and gets it every Wednesday morning, usually more than they can haul in their pickup truck, and uses it to cook for a vegan food sharing time downtown Orlando, and then for neighbors to come and gather what they need for the week.

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We did not intentionally seek these guys out but have been connected to them because UCC has attempted to pour out on them, participating in their sharing times and also giving them a room to use as an “office” at the church.  Which is a huge step to a bunch of secular radicals who view the “church” as part of the problem, we give a lot of credit to Alan and the rest of the staff at UCC for seeing FNBs as a ripe mission field and loving them even if they have upside down crucifixes on the walls of their house.  Because of this relationship, the hearts of some of these young activists have warmed to the idea of Jesus and the Kingdom, and so our family gets to add onto this, welcoming them into our house on wheels, eating with them, and visiting their home, while explaining and showing with our actions and words why we do what we do – simply ‘Jesus’.

Food Not Bombs’ ideals and hopes to end hunger are all well and good and for the most part, we agree on many things.  But THE difference would be our motives and reasons for why we do what we do.  They focus on the physical pains of this world with no eternal perspective, spending their time and energy looking at the negatives of this world (i.e. evil corporations, developers, war, poverty, police brutality, etc.). Even with all the good they are doing to help feed not only the homeless in downtown Orlando, but thier hungry neighbors, the point is being missed: without God our efforts are futile.

This is a hard statement to swallow for a lot of us.  It is difficult to think that efforts towards improving the earth, hunger, social justice, poverty, etc., could be meaningless.  We obviously don’t have the opinion that God cares only about the soul of a man and not about his or her physical needs, if we did, we wouldn’t be out here, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that God cares more about our physical needs than our spiritual ones.

Jesus answered, It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

Matthew 4:4

Can man live his life here on earth without bread – clearly the answer is ‘no’, but even more importantly, we cannot truly ‘live’ without knowing, following and loving our God.  Our prayer is that FNBs loves so radically that it would be obvious that thier strength comes from the Lord, not any human perspective or motivation to do good.