Sunday, March 22, 2009

Philly in Review

If asked to sum up my Christain walk into two sentences, this is what I would say:

Jesus found me when I was hopelessly lost. Since then, I've sought to shake off mediocrity, and to reclaim what being a Christian means, harkening back to the first century, and to Jesus Himself.

The trip to Philadelphia was another step in that journey. Over the past year, I've begun to learn more and more about social justice, poverty, and people in need. I travelled to Philadelphia to meet the poor, to be the one standing outside looking in, and to let God break another piece of my heart, and to remake it as He pleases.

The stories I have shared, only began to capture the scene, the lessons, the memories, etc. As we closed our time in Philly with one last devotion, God led me to share the words of 2 Corinthians 8:7-15. I highly encourage you to read all of it, but I want to home in on verse 14.

"At the present time, your plenty will suply what they need, so that in turn, their plenty will supply what you need."

What plenty has God given you, my dear reader, that you can share or give to those in need?

For me I know that I have extra resources that I can give away, finances that can be spent wiser and better invested. But God has also called me to gather people to pray, to make disciples. Through those ministries, I can raise awareness of the situation, and call others to also one day end poverty.

These series of posts have in essence begun to fulfill that, by sharing the stories of Tim, Will, RaRa, Paul, Sunday Breakfast, that their love shown, their stories would never be forgotten, but instead change the perceptions we have of those on the streets.

I met Jesus on the streets in Philly, sat at his feet, walked with him blocks away, and waited with him in line for food. And he accepted me as his own. He began to teach me to love unconditionally.

Will you do the same?

From here, I can't say where I'm headed. I see many paths before me, different ministries, needs, etc. But this I am resolved of doing. I intend to continue to surrender my life to Him, to let go, and let Him take me where He wishes. Maybe I'll even be a Philip, carried here and there by the Spirit.

"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3:8

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Philly Part 6-What comes around

Friday Day 6

When we woke up this morning, many of us found ourselves beset with groggy throats. The cold steven just began to feel last night was beginning to spread throughout the group.

We headed over into the city and cleaned up a lot with a fellow named Raymond, a former convict. The lot itself, sitting between two houses, sat piled with trash all over, layer after layer, especially car parts strewn everwhere. Raymond exlained that some people used to pull up their cars on the parking lot, and service them there, leaving the old parts just lying around.

After we got in there, we placed about the length of a school bus in filled trash bags, rugs, bricks, etc along the street for the city to haul off. The lot itself remains spacious enough, that it could be used for several things, a small park, a garden, etc.

Later that evening, the Temple group invited us over to their house to hang out, eat ice cream, play board games, etc. Before heading over, we went out to ethiopian, a treat especially for Kellar, as him and Suzzane are looking to adopt from Ethiopia. At the restaurant, they served us platters they set on top of a woven basket resembling an upside down sombrero. We ate of the different meats/salads with our hands and with provided bread.

As dinner was winding down, Brooke and Morgan came over to me and Enrique and presented some stuffing, all they claimed was left of "Jr" (who'd last been seen on Monday after Jaime was squirreled.) All three recounted how the previous evening, they sacrificed him, "Slashing him open with a ball point pen," and "Destroying the squeeker."

Then we stopped back by the CSM house to get the ice cream toppings. Kellar to our suprise volunteered to run inside and get them, litterally running. He then came running out with the bag, ran to the back of the van, and handed the bag to me, asking me to check to make sure it was all there.

When I looked inside, I found "Papa" frozen solid, with a huge chunk of ice sticking out of his butt. Later upon arriving at the Temple house, I found "Jr" sitting in the freezer, his death had been faked.

And so I was squirreled, and to their credit, far more legendary than any of the previous events. Papa took two days to thaw out, three to dry.

However, thanks to operation chestnut, Jaime, Brooke, and also Morgan were all squirreled over night this past wednesday in a joint strike operation. At the crib of each was hung a squirrel, with a note, awaiting their rise from morning slumber. Even Morgan, tucked away inside Cotton Dorm, thanks to an inside job.

At this point, I've recounted the Philly Trip. There remains one final post which should appear sunday evening, with post thoughts, and where we head from here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Philly Part 5-Divine Appointments

Thursday we worked with Manna, an organization that prepares meals for people with disabilites. The meals are prepackaged, then delivered each week. Many of us worked in an assembly line, adding various components to each plate.

Monday through Thursday we worked at an after school program in camdem, NJ, just across the river from Philly. For the most part, several of us did house work/cleaning, others tutored. I used my pocket knife to
1) Cut down some thick bushes out back
2) Take down vines
3) Unclog the vacuum cleaner
4) Give the carpet a hair cut (cut the loose strands that were just haning around and or cloggin in the vacuum, etc

One of the head tutors, Sean, recognized I was from the south, by my handiness with a knife, he being from Georgia. Also some of the kids we worked with, when told we were from East Carolina, recongnized us for our football team proclaiming "yeah we see them on sportscenter all the time, ya'll are good."

Jersey kids are among the best in the world.

Later that evening during debrief, we convened at a coffee shop. While there we noticed a bible study going on with college kids. After meeting we walked over and introduced ourselves. Our new brothers and sisters attended a nearby church of Christ.

As we walked back to the van, one of the guys accompanied us. Along the way, he would ask every person he met, what they knew about Jesus. If the opportunity presented itself, he would proceed to share the Gospel with him. I must say this was a first to witness for me. I don't necessarily agree with his methods, but I can't dispute his boldness. Just before departing, me and Enrique prayed with him, and he for us.

Steven got pretty sick this evening. Came down with a cold. When we got back to the CSM, he went straight to bed. The rest of us, listened to a visiting Missioneer. A missioneer is someone who works like a missionary, only is planted within communities, and works to establish a better communal life. He shared so many great points, and jokes. Of them I will say that he pointed out that in Luke 16:19-31, the rich man died without a name, only Lazarus the poor man was remembered!

One last thing that cannot go untold. Remember how Wed, we talked with a guy named Roger who presented us with a verse where God called people 'gods', and we couldn't find it. Well lo and behold, Josh Morgan sent me a text to check out Psalm 82 "and to know that God answers prayers." When I turned there, in verse 6 there the verse sat. UNBELIEVABLE!! I immediately ran downstairs and shared it with Kyle, Kellar, and Jaime who were talking in the kitchen. They couldn't believe it either.

Granted Josh was making the point that we needed to keep praying for the helpless mentioned in Psalm 82, but little would he know when he first contacted us that God meant for a different prayer to be answered.

Wes upon hearing this, and reading the text messages, became "creeped out." I know God answers prayers, sometimes right in front of our eyes, but it blows my mind every time He does.
If that doesn't show you the value in prayer partners for a trip, then nothing will.

Philly Pranks

Couple of fun memories I must make mention of before continuing with the series.

After Brooke got squirreled Sunday, Jaime got squirreled monday morning just before heading out. As of last thursday, (which can be found in next post) "Jr" remained missing, Jaime being the last to have seen him among the living.

Tuesday night, SpiderPake again did some webbing. He added more to Kyle's bed, making it more difficult. SpiderPake also layed out webbing between the two beds, one shin high, the other about chest level.

With so many guys staying at the CSM house, we were left one bed short. Chris Kulp (temple) opted to sleep on the floor on a mattress between bunks. Since he enjoyed our late night conversations monday night, from a few beds away, we moved his mattress between our bunks. Our late night conversations became known as "the tea party."

Remember how I shared a bunk with kellar? Well he was on the bottom and this particular evening, he passed out quick, sprawled out across both his and Enrique's bed next to his. Throughout the night, in between loud snoring, and moaning, our tea party continued. At one point, we started messing with Kellar's feet to see if he would roll over completely onto Enrique's bed, so that when Enriq came up, he wouldn't know that to do.

When Dan "Diesel" Domanski came in (from the temple group) he saw the top line of webbing, but as he was ducking undereneath to join our tea party, got closelined on the second one, hidden in the darkness. A short time later, Kyle got socked in the face by a pair of socks Wes rigged up on a swing from his bottom bunk, although Chris manned the weapon during the two consecutive strikes. Whack-Kyle-"You guys are out of" -whack-.

Chris got squirreled by John monday evening, and subsequentlty squirreled Kellar's pillow. While Kellar was dreaming of shrimp we all deduced, well I should say me, because I know that kellar is a shrimp enthusiast, he would shift on his pillow and we would hear the squirrel squeek inside.

Between the sock rigging, the webbbing, and kellar, it was a long time before any of us other than kellar and steven fell asleep.

Editor's note. We later discovered that kellar played us the whole time. He discovered the squirrel Chris planted earlier in the day, and manipulated it throughout the evening to mess with us. We also discovered this, by his recounting of the stories we shared.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Philly Part 4-Illegal Love

Day 4

Wednesday night, we headed out to the parkway about 6:30-7ish, and gave out bag lunches we had prepared earlier in the day. Many of the homeless people gathered, expecting a group to be there with food. And so we sat with them, and listened as they shared their stories.
Its actually illegal to give out free food in Philadelphia. I don't know about the rest of the group, but every time a cop car came wizzing by with lights on, I kept an eye on it, until it it continued on its way down the street. Illegal love in the park.

I talked to a guy named Paul, who I found easy to converse with, because he resembled a cool professor I have here at East Carolina. Paul I found out, had graduated high school, had held several jobs, but in his mid 30’s had been homeless for about 8 years. He’d once been a trucker, but “felt that a monkey could drive a truck” and so tried seeking a job that would use more intellect.

When he hit hard times he returned home, to his parent’s house in Philly. But his father is an alcoholic, and unbearable to live with. Finding no help there, Paul took to the streets. He dislikes staying in the shelter, because of how depressing it is. He used to stay fit, running a lot, but then lost motivation to keep it up.

From talking with him, the biggest hurdle he faced was the loneliness that gripped him. He has a hard time finding company, even a friend to talk to on a regular basis. With no one in his life, no one around, he found little reason to try to get his life back. He simply lost all motivation to go out and find a job, even though he has several qualifications that would benefit him.

I listened to him for a while, able to relate somewhat to his story. I encouraged him, telling him that I have faith, and still do, that he could work construction again, land a job that can pay well enough to begin getting his own place for the very first time in his life.
Even now I am praying that this comes to pass.

After prayer and he departed, I walked over and joined some of the other members in our group as they talked to Roger, a guy who could be Samuel L. Jackson’s double. They were talking about faith. Roger doesn’t believe in Paul, or Peter’s testimonies. He also quoted a verse where according to Roger, God called people gods. We were unable to find the verse to read it in context.

Eventually we did find some common ground, we then prayed the Lord’s Prayer together. Never have I prayed the following verse so appropriately

“Give us this day our daily bread”

Returned to the CSM house overwhelmed. After mustering up the energy to get cleaned up, some letters were delivered to us. Students in CCF had written encouraging letters to us, reminding us of the power of God, and personally reminding us of the work of God through us. After reading the letters, I became ready to finish the rest of the week. To those who wrote, you brought me back from the brink of hopelessness.

Philly Part 3-Sunday Breakfast

Day 3-
Before telling you the about day 3, I must share some things that happened last night.
First off, SpiderPake made his debut, webbing Kyle’s bed at the foot, where he climbs up on top. SpiderPake also laid out some webbing knee high between both beds. When Kyle came in, he had some trouble getting up onto the bed, but still managed.

We also squirreled John, one of the temple guys.

Me, Kyle, Wes, and Kellar continued talking for a while, at times rather boisterous. Little did we know we were disturbing our new brothers on the other end of the room, until one of them called out asking for things to get quiet. Sorry Waynesburg!

Tuesday we headed to Sunday Breakfast, a shelter/soup kitchen that’s been around the biz since 1878. After a tour, we started by organizing stock, a task that called for some of us to climb high atop shelves. Around eleven, we headed upstairs, and led a chapel service with all the homeless.

Never have I felt such genuine worship. People, with nothing but the clothes they are wearing, their only shelter, being Sunday breakfast and the meals they provide all praising Jesus like He had just walked in and given each a winning lottery ticket.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

We led some songs without music, just lifting our voices, and clapping our hands. I then led a short devo/message after Kyle Johnson shared his testimony. I had just found out the night before, so being short on preparation, I turned to the creator of all words, and hope.

Then the Holy Spirit took over. He began speaking through me from John 17:3 which says “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” When we pray we begin to come into God’s presence, thus as we encounter His presence we begin to KNOW Him. That is how we have eternal life here on earth. And how knowing Him is so much richer than anything else in all the earth.

We then led another song, after numerous requests. Then Russ, who we worked with down in packaging, came up, and following the Spirit’s guidance, also shared about prayer from Exodus 17, and how Moses had to continue holding up his hands even when they grew weary. Sometimes through prayer, we must wrestle, and continue, even wearily. The Holy Spirit used us as a tag team.

We then headed to the kitchen, and brought out plates, serving our brothers. Once everyone was served, we came out and ate with them.

However, everything didn't go completely perfect. To quote Morgan Pruit from her blog, who is far better with words, and prose than I am:
Unfortunately, a fight over lunch broke out [between the men, not the team]. It's totally disheartening to see Jesus punching somebody out. It shouldn't be that way. I have never had to fight for food. No one else should have to either.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Philly Part 2-Weary feet

Day 2:

Monday morning we did Philly Explore. We drove over to the parkway between the art museum and town hall. About 10am we split up into groups of 3. Our task was a scavenger hunt of sorts. For the next four hours we would need to visit several destinations, answer a list of questions, talk to locals, and homeless alike

and we were each individually given a dollar to figure out lunch. Nothing more did we carry except the coats we wore, and a dollar in our pocket. Well I also had a pocket knife, and my Bible in a cargo pocket on my camos.

So me Brooke, and Kellar set out on the streets of Philly. First we stopped at a Basilica, the largest church I've ever walked into. The catholic church had some king of big meeting there years ago. After talking with a volunteer inside, and spending a few minutes praying we departed. The church was beautiful, laden with gold, murals everywhere.

We then headed toward the hotels because we needed to find out what the most expensive hotel room in Philadelphia is. At the Four Seasons hotel, you can stay in the presidential suite for over $5,000 a night, furnished with a baby grand piano, and a pool table. We asked to see the room, but it was occupied. Staying 3 nights at that price, you could buy someone a brand new car.

Later on we doubled back, and arrived at Logan's circle. We talked to one lady from Toronto about the homeless situation in Philly. Toronto stated that "The problem is that many of the homeless don't want to be helped. Some of them also have psychological problems." After leaving her to go on her way, we walk to the other side of the empty fountain, and found two guys sitting on one of the benches. Spotting a Bible we walked up.

Will as it turned out was from out west, his friend Tim, he'd known since being a kid. Both were homeless. For an hour we talked to Will and Tim, eventually sitting down on the gravel at their feet to continue listening as they shared their stories, and their daily life. Through our humbleness, we became brothers with them.

Will and Tim go from day to day, taking care of theirselves, by getting clean clothes and a shower at a nearby shelter, and eating when they need to. During a "Code Blue" when the temperature drops below freezing, officials come by and move all of the homeless people indoors regardless until the temperature rises back up.

Will and Tim fare well by making many friends, and by passing and receiving information by word of mouth. By doing that, they learn of the shelters, and when and where help can be received.

We shared with them of how we were seeking to learn more about the homeless situation. We also shared how we only carried a dollar and needed to find a way to eat off of that.

"They only gave you a dollar? The homeless people have more money than that to eat with!"

They then walked us 6 blocks away to St. Johns, a hospice shelter that serves meals. We couldn't eat as a group however, because St. John's only feeds men, which meant Brooke couldn't eat with us. Along the way we met, RaRa, a former homeless bully, who would take from the other homeless people. Will informed us that in the past year RaRa had drastically changed; still homeless but no longer bullying people. We then parted with Tim and Will, and following their advice, headed two blocks south, to a popular square and proceeded to ask for money to eat with.

I tried walking up to a guy, and began the conversation by asking if he was from Philly.

"No, I'm eating. GO AWAY!!" He then hurried off, food in hands.

The city of brotherly love.

Kellar found better luck gaining a dollar from another fellow. We gained 3 more from a couple, after sharing our stories as a group. We approached them after noticing them putting a few ones in their pockets, something Will and Tim taught us to look for. With $7 we then went to McDonald's and each got a double cheese burger and an apple pie off the dollar menu. With the rest, we bought a burger and a pie we gave out to a homeless person sitting on a bench who had no lunch.

And so we walked a mile in the shoes of the homeless.

Will and Tim, thank you for accepting us as your own. Thank you also for being willing to give us a few dollars. We look forward to being rejoined with you in the coming kingdom, when we all will be rich beyond compare.

Philly Part 1 addition

Something I forgot to mention in "Philly Part 1-Day 1"

The night before, me, Wes, and Enrique went out to walmart at like midnight, and bought two stuffed squirrels with squeekers in them, and some fishing wire. The idea for the squirrels was for a new prank we launched-squirreling.

When we stopped to a town somewhere in northern VA, I planted "Papa" (the big squirrel) in Brooke Davis's bag. When we got to Philly, she unloaded and when she would move her bag, she kept wondering why it squeeked. She opened it upstairs to find "Papa" stashed inside.

When she came down she first accused Kyle Johnson of the prank. Sorry about that best friend (catch a later post for the story on that shameless plug). Then she figured it out it was me. And so the squirreling epidemic started.

The fishing wire would find uses throughout the week.

Philly Part 1-Day 1

We arrived in Philadelphia around 4pm ish. Navigated our way through the city and over to the west side to what would be our base of operations for the week, a renovated row house on 42nd. When we arrived, we learned that two other groups were also staying at the CSM (Center for Student Missions) house. One group was from Temple University, just across town in Philly, the other from Waynesburg University which is about an hour south of Pittsburgh.

We had a lot of trouble getting Waynesburg right, calling them wingate, wingsburg, wingsboro, waynesboro, etc. We didn't get to hang with them as much because of the scheduling of when groups were out on work sites. We did however make some long lasting friends with the Temple group. I always enjoy meeting, and making new brothers and sisters in Christ from all over the world.

Marie Johnson served as our host and tour guide for the week, intent on winning our hearts. We spent some time unpacking, and taking control of some bunk beds. Our group got a row of 3 together at one end of the room, I somehow chose what would be the top bunk over top of Kellar. Those of you who know him, know this week is allready going to be interesting.

All in all about 35ish people were all staying in one house. Somehow the shower rotation never became a problem, nor preparing meals. After settling in, we headed out and ate Indian food, and got to know our hew hosts, and the Temple group. Of all the ethnic restaurants, Indian would be my favorite because of the all you can eat buffet, and the "Milk balls" (I can't remember what they were called) that tasted just like milk and pan cakes. YUM!

Afterwards we loaded up and took a prayer tour around the city. We started at love park right in the heart of the city. Many of the homeless people hang out around the park, and along the parkway running to the art museum where Rocky once ran up the steps. We headed nearby and sat under an overpass, as Marie shared with us statistics about the city.

Did you know that Pennsalvania is one of the richest states in the US? Yet Philadelphia is among one of the poorest cities? While millions of dollars are spent on high rises and grandiose architecture in the attempt of outdoing one another, thousands walk the streets, with few places to go, fewer jobs with which to take, and get out of the circle of poverty.

1 in 4 people never graduated high school for that matter. We visited another section where the city built and EL right over top of some neighborehoods, essentially burrying them, blocking the sunlight, and the rain from ever reaching the ground again. A valley where life was decaying, all because of a city who only cares for those with money.

Through the prayer journey, we began to see and to feel the hopelessness the poverty stricken feel living within the city. Imagine being a little flee on a football field. Loneliness sadly runs rampant throughout the city of brotherly love.

When we returned, we debriefed, then headed up stairs to head to bed.

Never in my life, have a simple mattress and taking a short shower made me feel like i was richer than even Soloman in the Bible.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What to expect on Philly

I've now returned from the city of Philadelphia, which has been life changing. Each day was an adventure in and of itself, every encounter unique.

Over the next week, I'm going to post a series broken up into 8 parts to chronicle the sights, smells, and the amazing stories. Questions you can look forward to receiving answers to:

What's the most expensive hotel room in Philly?

What does a squirrel and an ice box have in common?

How many ways can a pocket knife be useful in cleaning?

Which food spicier, jamaican, or ethiopian?

How clutch can prayer partners be for mission trips?

How has God regrabbed my heart and attention to following Him?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Headin to Philly

Hey Everyone

I am less than 6 hours away from leaving for Philadelphia with the crew from ECU for a spring break mission trip. There we will be allowing God to break our hearts for the homeless and people in need, whatever form they come in.

I'll do a couple of blog posts to highlight the trip upon my return

For His Kingdom

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Round 5 goes to the Devil

"When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "Oh, my Lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked.

"Dont be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And Elisha prayed, "Oh Lord, open his eyes so he may see." Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses, and chariots of fire all around Elisha. II Kings 6:15-17

Spiritual warfare is all around us all the time. Usually we're oblivious to its presence and proximity to us. When we are, we can get completely broadsided and never know what hit us.

This week, I found myself in the midst of some spiritual warfare. As I fought I made two mistakes.

1) I forgot early on to pray. The thing that God urges us to do more than anything is to pray. To fight with prayer, to call on His assistance.

2) I found myself mishandling the word of God

How did I manage #2? I didn't even realize it until God used a dream to open my eyes to see what was happening in the spiritual realm. In the dream, I was arguing with the devil himself in the flesh. As I argued, I pulled out pages of the Bible to prove my point, literally. I was tearing out pages to use the words written there on. Then there was this odd cutting off point where it hit me that I was being deceived, then I woke up.

In Matthew 4, Satan came to Jesus and tempted Him by twisting the scriptures around to catch Jesus in a trap. Satan is the father of all lies, and if he can twist the truth you better believe he will in every instance. Satan is also a master deceiver.

"And no wonder, for Satan himself masquarades as an angel of light." II Corinthians 11:14

Thats how I began to mishandle the word of God. In getting frustrated, I began to pull verses out of context, symbolized by ripping the pages out in the dream.

Jaime reminded me earlier that knowing truth is hugely important. Knowing that God's word, when handled properly and in context is truth, and that we as humans don't define truth within ourselves, as philosophy likes to teach us.

"For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

My mistake is best summed up by 2 Timothy 2:15
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

When we do not spend time in God's word, and properly study it as a whole, we can begin to misuse the Word of God. Not only do we then begin to spread false truth, but we can also lead others astray, while causing harm to others, potentially shattering the faith of some.

Round 5 indeed went to the devil. Just thinking of him as I saw/felt him in my dream sends shivers all over my body. So sinister.