Archive for the ‘Homeless’ Category

Salvation Army worker

There’s nothing more “Christmasy” than hearing a Salvation Army bell ringer. I wonder if you’ll take a look at my past with me? A stroll down memory lane if you will…

I had the most beautiful upbringing in the whole world. Part of this heritage includes a family with its roots entrenched in the Salvation Army. My father, the eldest son of Salvation Army officers started his young family where his foundation lay…at the SA. My mother had her life changed when at 15, after a Billy Graham crusade, she filled out her followup paper work with SA for Saint Ann’s Catholic Church, and the Salvation Army showed up at her door. I have a plethora of family members that has served as officers of the Army and are now retired. As someone who has had the pleasure of watching their lives from the inside, let me tell you, they do the most good.

My own spiritual formation took a turn when I was 14. An uncle from my mother’s side started a non-denominational church and we began attending there. However, there have been key moments in my life when I have found myself right back where I started…at the Army. Two times stand out in particular. Once was the Thanksgiving when my father encouraged my family to help serve Thanksgiving dinner at the corps they were attending. My children were all tweens at the time, and at first they were a little annoyed that our family traditions were going to be “interrupted”. But, by the end of the dinner, I can honestly say that they were truly more grateful for things that previously they had taken for granted.

The other time that stands out in my mind was around the same time as the first. We went to church with my parents who were then attending a Salvation Army church in Janesville, Wisconsin. The Army has much more conservative services than my children were used to, and the congregation there was much more…shall we say ecclectic? First, a lady with a FULL BEARD, stood up and gave a testimony. I gave the “look” to my boys, more than once, and eventually they were so intrigued by her praise to God and to the love and acceptance that the rest of the congregation showed that her that they were okay on their own with my evil eye. Next, a lady with an oxygen tank got up and played the accordian for special music. I’ll never forget my daughter whispering very sincerely and innocently in my ear, “This is better than a circus!”

…and then I realized. How many churches would celebrate these dear ones? Would mine? Even more importantly, would I? I am reminded of an old song we used to sing when I was in the Army. “To love the unloved, in the service of the Lord.” It is service to the Lord when I love those the world calls unlovely. And the unlovable aren’t just those who look different than we do…or those who smell different than we do. Sometimes they are the co-worker in the cubical next to us, or dare I say it, the person we are living with…

Please consider giving to one of the most nobel causes on the planet. The Salvation Army has made the world a better place in so many ways. Won’t you help them do it? You can either contribute to your local kettle, or if you’d like you can make a donation here.

Today is Cyber Monday…and in order to get into the spirit of things, I am featuring 4 gifts that you can give 4 Christ’s Sake! So move over Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, here we come!

1. Since human trafficking is the very first issue addressed here at What In The World R U Doing 4 Christ’s Sake? I thought it would be nice to find an item that donates its proceeds toward ending human trafficking. Look what I found! A beautiful necklace!!

This necklace is made by survivors of human trafficking. Isn’t it lovely? The proceeds from the purchase of one of these necklaces goes to Made By Survivors, an international charity working to stop human trafficking and modern day slavery. This lovely jewelry features silver beads as well as semi precious stones. All for the cost of $88. You can purchase this item here.

2. If you are planning on sending Christmas cards, you may want to check out this possibility. Cards That Give is a non-profit organization that features beautiful cards from hundreds of various charities to which a portion of the proceeds goes to your choice of charities. The pictured card is from the organization God’s Love We Deliver, a charity that brings meals to the critically ill.  These cards are appropriately named “Ice Dining”. A box of 12 cards goes for $17, and can be purchased here.

3. Many of you know how much I ADORE Ann Voskamp. Her book, 1000 Gifts has changed the lives of so many, mine included. She has served as an ambassador for Compassion, and her fifteen year old son Caleb, has decided to use his beautiful gift of carpentry to help raise money for Compassion. This beautiful wreath is called Cradle to Cross Wreath and follows the life of Jesus, well, from the cradle to the cross. Isn’t it beautiful? This beautiful way to celebrate the life of Christ is handmade, by Jacob himself and is available for $68. Check out this website for more information…

4. If you’re more interested in helping someone personally, this family is attempting to adopt 2 children from Ecuador. Adoptions can become ridiculously expensive. This family has designed a tee-shirt which they are selling in order to help them with the cost of adoption. $20 makes you the proud new owner of this shirt…and you’ve helped two children find homes!

Concrete jungle
marble grey and bleeding
Unaware of Who it is they are needing.

Dripping rain forests
lush emerald gold
Downpour weeping stories untold.

Middle-aged prostitute,
mascara lines on face,
vanished, gone without a trace.

Homeless beggar
cardboard prayer
rolling by on life’s conveyor.

Profane rappers
subconsciously plead
calling for spirit-mouths to feed;

See right through us
Conflicted souls,
fear in eyes, shot through with holes.

Flames of fire
simmer deep within
Follower’s hearts to free from sin.

Christian’s hide,
trembling we cower
As if God-in-us doesn’t have the power.

Bold and aggressive,
Yet meek and mild,
We must become the Church in the Wild.

**This poem was inspired by the radically relevant teaching we have been receiving by Anthony Thompson at FHC’s Saturday Night Services. I will be linking this poem with the D’Verse community where we were given the writing prompt of Wild.

This post is written by a woman that I hope becomes a new friend.  Kristin Bridgman has a beautiful blog called Ponderings, and one of the things she has pondered is the plight of the homeless in America.  Her husband takes amazing photographs journaling their travels together.  Here, she chronicles her journey from homeschooling housewife to an advocate and friend to the homeless in her hometown.  I know you will find her story as inspirational as I have!

An ordinary man and a miraculous story
An ordinary people and a miraculous God
Ordinary blankets and miraculous outcomes

God is definitely not ordinary but He uses ordinary things to produce the miraculous. If you don’t believe that, just ask me sometime about a cottonwood tree.

A blanket ministry started because of an ordinary book with a miraculous story about a couple and a homeless man of different races and the incredible bond of friendship that was born and the wisdom that flowed both ways, and the miracle of love that changed them all.

God brought this book to an ordinary woman who read the entire thing in one day. Then he led her to a book club where they were discussing this very book and then she discovered there was a homeless population in her town. God laid it on her heart to bring blankets to the cold and homeless. I believe because of two small words that came out of the mouth, “Yes Lord”, the miracles began.

This mild, meek, quiet woman suddenly was filled with boldness and began her mission and the blankets began to appear. A blanket is an ordinary thing but look at what it can do. . .

It became a mission project in her church bringing children together to tie blankets and a girl scout troop to make mittens for the homeless. It introduced these children to a world they had not seen before. It made them realize that not everyone has a home, refrigerator full of food, and nice cars in the driveways. They saw that not everyone has warm coverings or even a bed to climb into. The woman prayed that this was an opening to understanding about gratefulness and truly being thankful for their blessings and not just saying the words. To understand that even though some are not clean, do not smell pretty, God loves them just the same.

What can a blanket do? It brought a teen age boy into his school to tell fellow peers about the homelessness and asked for them to consider helping. They did and big bags of blanket donations were brought in to help warm the cold.

A blanket brought another group of high school students together to sew even more blankets for the homeless and needy. For just a moment, it took the teens away from their world and opened their eyes to a bigger world beyond themselves. They saw past the video games, the pretty clothes and make-up to see a group of people that need love, compassion and understanding. They took time from their own world to open up their hearts to gratefulness for their own families, what God had blessed them with, and compassion for those who are struggling so. Gratefulness, love, compassion; that is more beautiful than all the make-up in the world and designer jeans!

A blanket brought a newspaper reporter to do a story on the blanket ministry. An ordinary paper brought miraculous results. 24 straight days of e-mails and phone calls with donations of blankets and money and every one of them came through. People in Wal-Mart came up to the blanket lady and put cash in her hands for blankets. They came from people at church, hotels, and friends. It brought a job to a homeless man who was also reunited with his family. It brought a man from church to offer a complete stranger, a homeless man, a job, a home with him and his wife. They planted numerous seeds within this young man that hopefully one day will let God water and grow those seeds into something bigger for his life. A blanket brought sweet ladies from church on Wednesday mornings week after week to sew blankets and mittens. A blanket witnessed a lady who suffers with pain in her body, stand over a table and cut fleece for 1000 pairs of these mittens. She walked to the bridge to give, and she sat for over 6 hours at a community fair handing out blankets because she cares so much for others. God blessed the blanket lady with this awesome friend who has a huge servant’s heart. The blanket lady was also blessed with another servant hearted friend whose family stepped up and made food bags for the blanket couple to give out.

What can a blanket do? Because of all the donations, many blankets were given to 3 children who had come into their school crying because they were so cold. It was discovered they were living in a place with no heat and no beds. They were sleeping on a hard floor with only their coat for warmth. They have sleeping bags and many blankets now to keep them warm. A patient from the hospital getting discharged and having to go home to recuperate in a very cold mobile home was given blankets to keep her warm.

What can a blanket do? It brought a huge smile to a little girl’s face who was not getting any Christmas gifts that year. She was given a very soft, warm, red blanket just her size with cute holly leaves and snowmen. You would have thought she had been given a bike or doll by that smile she gave and the way she hugged it all morning!

What can a blanket do? It can bring a husband along on the journey he never thought he would be a part of and it opened his eyes and heart to see something…someone differently.

A blanket can bring people together that otherwise might never have met. Like the drifter off of the highway freezing and hungry.

Like the older homeless man under the bridge, a war veteran who’s been out on the streets for 10 years.

Like the bag lady who has a great big smile, but virtually has lost all her teeth.

Like the children at Salvation Army who gave us great big hugs and smiles.

Like the big ex-con this ordinary woman met at her downtown square park and formed a friendship with. Five weeks later he asked her to help him pray the sinner’s prayer.

The following week he was baptized in her church.

This man went from being an ex-con to a redeemed child of God. He is now in 3 different Bible studies and volunteering 2 days a week at Hope House, a place that helps the homeless and needy. He also attends church service every Sunday.

Homelessness is not a pretty subject and people have asked, “Why do you do this, they are there by their own choices, they will just take advantage of you.” Ahh, she would say, look at them through the lens of Jesus’ eyes. . .

Psalm 139:14 says that we are His masterpiece and He wants us to know that full well. Some people don’t know this yet, and if they can come to understand that they are loved and feel that love when a blanket is handed off to them, well. . .is that not worth it? For them to feel the beauty of Christ’s love, to see them smile through their wrinkled faces and tired eyes. . .that is beauty we see through the lens of our eyes.

Through a horrendous act on a hill long, long ago, those who believe see the beauty of that day. Through the Savior’s broken body, blood, pain, sweat and tears, was astounding, beautiful love that still brings tears to my eyes when I close them and think about it. Not sad tears but tears brought on by the overwhelming love He had for me, so undeserving was I, and he has this for all these people on the streets as well, some who say are undeserving. We are ALL undeserving but we are all given a chance. Some of us came to know of this love through a church home, loving parents who shared and taught, a friend who experienced this love and then shared with another. Some may be on the street, waiting for that certain word, a touch, a hug, a blanket handed to them touched by the prayer and love of others.

In the beginning, the ordinary blanket lady did not think she could do much. Alone she could not, but with a miraculous working God, anything is possible. God took an ordinary occurrence, the reading of a book and took it into a miraculous ministry of handing out over 1000 blankets.

A blanket is just an ordinary piece of cloth, fibers woven together to make a covering. But ask God to be a part of it, and He will take it and bring a covering of warmth over an entire city. For some, warmth for their bodies, and for some, warmth for their hearts.

A favorite quote goes like this. . . “God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” That’s all of us. Is He calling you to do something, to go somewhere? Don’t be scared or anxious. For wherever He calls you to go, He will be right there with you, equipping you with whatever you need, whether that be material resources like blankets or internal resources, like boldness and courage.

I pray next time you see a blanket, whether on your bed or on a store shelf, it will make you smile and ask God, what will be your ordinary thing. Then listen. . . obey. . . and watch Him make it miraculous.

 

 

Linking with the lovely Jen this morning.

 

and the beautiful Emily at: