This last weekend we had our fall soup party. It was a small gathering of about 35 people, but it was a fun time to be together. We are so grateful for the many people who donate goods or finances for our CarePortal program, or who have been active sponsors in our Guatemala program, or who are part of the Circle of Support in our Safe Families program, etc. We have so many people who have been a significant part of helping us make a difference in the Roanoke Valley. And we wanted to say Thank you!
So many people couldn't make it. Weekends are hard. Fall is hard. UGH! But we are hoping to do more things to bring all of the people in our community together and have a good time. We couldn't do this without you. You make such a difference whether you're donating a mattress or helping us deliver a crib or helping us shop for diapers or whether you travel with us to another country. It all matters and we just wanted you to know, we're grateful.
I love this quote.
I didn't when I first read it. When I first read it, I pounced on it like an internet troll. Does this mean that God is passive, that prayer doesn't work, that what changes in the world is only through my own hands? Pish Posh, I thought. Because sometimes I'm a bit arrogant, and sometimes I'm unteachable.
But there was something about this quote that I kept staring at. Some Truth that was there that I could feel but not see. So I mulled on it.
Here is what I know. I know that I have seen God -- not humans -- do amazing things. Once, God had a judge dream dreams that burdened her heart to release an orphan girl to us to be adopted. People didn't do that. People can't make others dream dreams that stir their heart. But here's what else I know. I know that the more I pray, the more my heart aligns with the heart of God. You can see this evident in scriptures. The Psalms are full of the lamentations, the whining and groaning of David who cries out in his suffering for vengeance and justice, only to conclude in praise, remembering that God is sovereign and one day the world will be remade in beauty and justice. When we pray, we begin to see the world the way God does. It's kind of beautiful.
(Ironically, it's kind of annoying when you want to tell God about how your spouse is bothersome, only to be reminded of grace, of your own failings, of the compassion you've received. Come on, God. I wanted to be irritated).
And then I think about the times I've felt God's presence. I've felt it when I was alone. But you know what? I've also felt it when person after person brought me a meal when my littlest daughter was born. Or when we were trying to adopt our daughter from Kyrgyzstan and some dear friends brought us a giant jar of cash and coins that they were using to save for a vacation, but felt they should give it to us for our adoption. Or when we get this surprise check in the mail when our next adoption payment is due from someone who gave such abundance from their generous heart. One time I needed help moving a piece of furniture and my two neighbors came over and did it all. That's when I felt Jesus' love pouring out on me.
And then this quote came alive for me. The truth of it sparkled and broke through the walls of my heart with brilliance, light and clarity.
It's in the hands of people that I feel the hands of Jesus.
And if you look around, the people who hurt the most, are profoundly alone.
In the city, there are so many people who are alone. -- People who moved out from a dysfunctional family, or aged out of foster care, or left an abusive spouse, or walked away from drugs and addiction, or ran from their home country, or were kicked out of their family, or or or.
When I pray, God molds my heart to his. I go and do because that's what being the hands and feet of Jesus means.
I'm to visit the prisoner. I'm to feed the hungry. I'm to sit with the lonely. I'm to welcome the stranger. I'm to love the fatherless. I'm to take care of the widow. And when I do these things, I'm loving on Jesus. So says the Bible.
We're inching towards #GivingTuesday, and we do have some financial goals to help us grow and stretch to serve more children, more families. But it might be easy to think we don't actually need you. But maybe in the praying, you might find God molding your heart like his. You might find you're ready to go wherever he leads.
"You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. That's how prayer works." -- Pope Francis
Here are some things we're praying for at 127 Place:
* We have people in need. We have people donating goods to help. But we need people to help us get the items and take them to the families and children.
* We have financial resources coming in to meet many needs. But we long for a bookkeeper that can help us demonstrate our finances to the government and donors to show the transparency and trustworthy way we honor these donations.
* We have people who are committing to being Safe Families and Circles of Support, but we need someone to help them administer and gather the paperwork that vets them.
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
When James 1:27 began to have an impact on me, I often left off the last part because I did not think that it fit?
That was back when I thought I was a nice person - which was a result of not being really tested as well as an unbelievable amount of self-deception!!
Then my wife and I adopted, and we were thrown into a fire that we had no idea was coming and that completely overwhelmed us! We learned one thing very quickly: we no longer had time for our former lifestyle! We were in up to our necks and going down fast. The only thing that we had time for was survival! Of course, that did not mean that we stopped sinning! As a matter of fact, we probably increased our sin output! But it was different because we were trying to follow God's lead, and we were going through the refining fire! We were learning that giving does not come out of our abundance. We were forced to give when we had nothing left. Don't get me wrong - it was not a pretty sanctification - it was downright UGLY!
So what does it mean to be unpolluted by the world? Here is my thinking about being polluted by the world in America in the present day:
Our response to the need for fostering and adopting is "What would the impact be on my family?" We don't ask ourselves, "What the impact would be for the fatherless if we don't?" Or even "What will be the impact on our families if we tell them the same thing we have been telling ourselves (see the bullet points above). What kind of Christians will we be molding our children to be?
Before I go too far down the road on fostering and adopting, I want to say loudly that I truly believe that not everyone needs to foster and adopt, but - as the saying goes in the Christian orphan care world - Everyone Can Do Something.
This week we were working a request for $1300 rent assistance, as one of about 5 we were working on. Here's what we know about the request this week: Client is maternal grandmother caring for her four grandchildren. Maternal grandmother lost her job a few months ago and only recently began working again. As a result of lost employment maternal grandmother got behind on her mortgage. This grandmother is currently attempting to build a healthy and stable living environment for herself and her grandchildren ages 2, 5, 7, 9. The grandmother has obtained employment recently and has a plan to address this in future months. She is need of $1300 for her mortgage payment. Any contributions would be greatly appreciated.
With requests this large, we often work together across a number of churches. For this particular request, four churches pitched in. It's always exciting to witness different denominations and church bodies coming together to help the vulnerable. Any my heart never ceases to light up when another church responds with, "we'll help!"
But requests like this do often come with some questions.
* There are agencies that provide housing assistance; so why are we helping?
* When there are other groups that can meet this need, why don't we pass these people along to someone else?
These are definitely valid questions and we want to give them an honest look. Truly, we need to have the humility to say we don't need to reinvent the wheel.
There are some practical reasons that we should explain. In order to get assistance from some agencies, there is a process. You have to go to the center, fill out appropriate paperwork, sometimes provide a bit of documentation, and wait for the process to take its course. One significant set of factors in this is that you need to take off work, and drive to the location.You can imagine that if someone needs a handful of different services, this could require multiple days off of work. And if there's not a working vehicle, then it would involve a combination of bus routes and walking, and possibly with children in tow. It's not a simple feat.
The Church offers something no one else does.
But one of the most significant reasons is that these organizations are NOT THE CHURCH. And that doesn't particularly matter except in terms of relationship. One thing that we want more than anything else -- is not to meet a need -- but to become reliable, consistent supports in the lives of vulnerable people. We want these families to know someone has their backs, and feel the love and acceptance that God is offering to them in these moments.
So yes, we can use these other agencies, but not as a means to wipe our hands of this work. If we want to use another agency for their resources, then we must volunteer to come along side this family and walk with them through the processes. We must sit with them to fill out the forms. We must help them find the transportation to get to the organizations. We must be Christ to them in their time of need.
Because we are image bearers of God.
Because we know the Light needed for dark places.
Because God first loved us.
Because we are called.
Because our lives as Christians doesn't mean we got "fire insurance." It means we become active participants in bringing God's kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.
Because we count it all as joy.
Because in the dark we can see the greatest miracles.
Because Jesus said we are taking care of him.
Because how else will they know that God loves them?
So we step in, when we could step out. We say yes when we could look away. And in the end, if for no other reason, but God is transforming us to be more like him and drawing us closer -- the Potter refining the clay. So we can give praise.
This has been so much work behind the scenes, and as we get closer to our launch date, our excitement is growing!! The store will be open to everyone on September 24.
In a nutshell, we wanted to design a store where 100% of the profits would go straight to 127 Place. Imagine that needs arrive in CarePortal and instead of networking and asking for help with each need, we instead had a reserve of money to pull from to immediately help families in crisis. We are so psyched about this.
The other goal that we had was, to the best of our ability, to make sure that your shopping experience is as ethical as possible. It is no secret that much of our clothing and belongings are made in sweatshops, with child slaves, with the abusing of our fellow humans. So the items that we sell from around the world are fairly traded, or made right here in the USA.
What are we going to sell? EEK! We have so many things coming down the pike, but right off the bat, you'll find inspirational items, gift items, things appropriate to gift to your favorite fostering and adopting families, holiday decor, and so much more!
If you're curious and your interest is piqued, we'll let you get EARLY BIRD ACCESS with a special welcome discount when you submit this form:
As I write this, I'm sitting on a comfy couch. It's so comfy, that this is practically my favorite spot to be. Call me Sheldon Cooper. Move over children; that's my spot.
I like this spot on the couch, not only for the comfort and the arm rest, the outlet that's near by, but also the view of the sweet little backyard that bumps up to the forest edge. Sometimes while I'm sitting here I see deer or bunnies, a fox or a coyote. The birds rest on the fence and I can see the little chickadees flutter around until the bully Bluejays rush them off. The couch is also near the kitchen of the house, and so family mill around grazing on fruit or packaged bars. The dogs snuggle beside me to sleep. It's time that feels perfect.
And while I relish my time on the couch; there is a danger in it too. Perhaps you think that sounds too dramatic. But I'm not sure it is. Yes, I'll call it a danger. Because all this comfort; comfort that I LOVE, is also pacifying. It's intoxicating. It lures me into complacency. I read an article a couple years ago about a woman who came to America from Iran. After living in the States for a while, she longed to go back. Why, you ask? "There is a satanic lullaby here. All the Christians are sleepy and I’m feeling sleepy.”
My comfy couch makes me feel sleepy. My comfortable life can make me feel sleepy.
That's why it has been so impressive to know two men, in particular: James Adams and Dan Baker. I see each of them once or twice a week. They show up and connect the 127 Place trailer to their hitch and load it with different pieces of furniture. Sometimes it's a couple of beds and dressers and mattresses; sometimes it's a fridge or washer and dryer. All of these things have been gently used items, donated by amazing people around the Valley. In the backs of their vehicles, they load up boxes of diapers, formula, bedding, grocery gift cards and the like. And then they head from one home to another, in the dark parts of the city to deliver.
Are there actually dark parts of the city? I will say yes. There are places where it feels unsafe, where the police must keep close attention. There are places where the darkness of night provides the right cover for guns, drugs. This is where landlords don't worry if a home has bedbugs, and the families are too poor to do much about them. This is where there are often unidentifiable smells that make you not want to walk inside.
But James and Dan show up. Week after week in the dog days of August summer, they do this heavy lifting of loading and unloading furniture. They do the emotionally heavy work of engaging with broken and hurting people.
This isn't normal. This ISN'T NORMAL. (Saying it again for the folks in the back, folks like me on our comfy couches). This is not normal, but is spectacularly beautiful. And this is why God sends us. This kind of love and care and work is COMPELLING.
Yes, yes, I hear Christians who would rather fight about for their rights instead of serving like Jesus. Yes, I've seen people wave banners of hate in the name of Jesus. But James and Dan, they actually look like Jesus. And if I needed a safe spot in this hard world, I wouldn't go to the shouters or the banner raising hell condemners, but I would go to James and Dan. I would know that I could be safe with them. That they'd see me, and not my mess. Like Jesus does.
So if your couch is feeling a bit too comfy today, and if your world feels a bit too small today, then we can try this CarePortal thing together. Maybe in the doing, God will refine us a little more, so we too can look like Jesus.
CarePortal in the Roanoke area is really busy right now!
A few weeks ago, there were only three open CarePortal requests in the Roanoke area. Today, there are 30 open requests. Three of those have no responses at this time. I am going to attach screenshots of those requests to this email in case anyone can help in any way - big or small - with any of them. These requests are very typical of the type of requests we are getting these days. Beds and rental and utility requests are very common.
Some awesome news: