Posts Tagged ‘charity’

Join me in welcoming Jen Ferguson. She has a lovely blog called Finding Heaven. It is where I first found community here in the blogsosphere. She is so dear to me. I think you’ll understand why when you’ve gotten to know her!

I am blessed to be a part of a church that values missions outside of our town and inside of our town. With this dual focus, so many people in our church community are able to participate in Jesus’ call to serve those who need help (physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc), whether they are around the corner or across the ocean.

Each day of this Spring Break vacation, our church, St. Luke’s on the Lake, partnered with organizations in the Austin area who needed help in various forms. Parishioners took part in as many or as few days as they could, but each moment given produced fruit for the Kingdom of God. Sometimes we may have had the amazing opportunity to witness with our words to those who may not know Jesus, but we always had the opportunity to witness with our actions, with our gifts, and with our smiles. I am struck by the fact that task that are not normally considered heroic or herculean are so incredibly appreciated. And I also appreciate that entering in for the long haul can really assure someone else that God just might be in for the long haul, too.

On the day that those who could help the Refugee Services of Texas, our team literally showed a new refugee (from the Hutu tribe of Burundi) how the bus system of Austin works. This means that they all waited. A lot. However, what we may view as mundane, is life to another. To know and understand where vital resources are in this city is of utmost importance. And in the waiting, a relationship was built, the heart of Christ lived out. Our team leader, Barbara, received this email from the head of the organization:

Thank you again for St. Luke’s generous day of service. Bus orientations are not the easiest task to conquer, however they are valuable for both parties as they give a great inside perspective on the challenges refugees face upon arrival. It is also very demonstrative of refugees’ incredible ability to survive, overcome, and learn new skills in this country despite having faced years of oppression, violence, and displacement.

I am confident that those who traveled around with this newcomer learned as much from him as he did about Austin that day.

At many of the places we visited, there was a lot of gardening, of cleaning up, of beautifying. Those who need help usually don’t have a lot of time to focus on the external growing of things — God is so busy at work at the internal, there is not a lot of time for the other realm (plus, there is often the issue of funds). Or, perhaps their bodies have failed to keep up with the desires of their hearts and they just cannot do the things they long to do anymore. But even though physical labor was a great need, time spent building relationships with the people within these organizations, perhaps produced even more beauty and fruit. After the crew that helped one of Mrs. Josephine, one of elderly ladies that relies on the FarNorthwest Caregivers, this happened:

Ms. J’s personal attendant came out with tears of gratitude in her eyes. Ms. J cannot walk and her health is deteriorating. Her attendant said that she gets so much pleasure from looking out the window at her garden and the birds, but that the garden had become run-down and unkempt. She called us “angels.”

Not only did we enrich them, bringing kindness, smiles, and fun, but they enriched us, often without even knowing they were doing it. Our team leader writes, after she returned from Elderhaven:

I saw God in the tenderness and unspoken connections the Elderhaven clients have one for another. One man held the hand of a woman he has only known a very short while (I’m pretty sure he thinks she is his deceased wife) and they were both happy and content. In the end, maybe it’s not about shared experiences, memories or words, but just simple, loving gestures.

freshly prepared beds at Elder Care

Hard work at the Glory House

Fence repair at the Glory House

Mowing down weeds at the Glory House

basking in a hard day's work

Kitchen repair at the Glory House

weeding and bed preparation at Armadillo RV Park

Abby does crafts with some of the kids who live in the park (many of them have started attending our church, too)

A puppet show!

A task for any ability level. Hannah took such pride in cleaning the picnic tables at the park.

Fr. Parker comes to lend his gardening expertise, too.

Fellowship and celebrating a great day's work with Sno Cones!

This one says it all - so much fruit!

Refugee Services of Texas – Austin
Refugee Services re-settles legal refugees to the U.S. who are fleeing persecution in their home countries. Refugee Services is the entry point for most refugee families, who generally do not know anyone where they are relocating.

Faith In Action Caregivers Northwest
Faith In Action is an organization of volunteers that provide rides for elderly folks living independently in their homes, but who cannot drive anymore. Faith In Action also helps clients with general cleaning and landscaping projects they are not able to do themselves.

Wednesday – Austin Groups for the Elderly/ElderHaven
They have a diverse clientele; some Spanish-speaking participants, and about half of the clients have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. Elderhaven is an adult daycare center for folks who cannot stay home alone while their caregivers are at work.

Luke 4:18 Ministries/House of Glory
House of Glory is a half-way or sober house for women after drug/alcohol rehabilitation or coming off the streets/homeless living. House of Glory provides a safe place for them to live while working on daily living and job skills.

Friday – La Palabra/Armadillo RV Park
Armadillo RV Park is a community of working poor families, mainly Spanish-speaking. We work together to help improve their community and make connections.

Are you interested in doing something like this at your church? You are welcome to contact our team leader, Barbara (barbarafrances@sbcglobal.net) to ask her questions on how to get this started in your area.

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.

Some problems are so big that it seems like there is no way to fix them.  Ever.  So why try?  Sex trafficking is one of those issues for me.  For one thing, I’d rather not ruin my day with the sordid details.  The facts literally turn my stomach, and send me somewhere dark that I really don’t want to go.  But the truth is that Jesus has called us to be the light in dark places, and the number of dark places in this case are drastically on the increase. And not only in far off and forgotten places, but right here in the United States.

Recently I wrote about a girl who had been abducted and taken to a neighborhood near mine where she was handcuffed to a bed for three years.  The problem is no longer one that can be easily ignored.  But how does one person make a difference?

Today I am writing about one such person.  Chantelle Thompson is a young woman with a world wide view.  An Australian living in the Chicago area, she found a way to not only change her world, but to allow others to change it with her.  As a member of Family Harvest Church, she was asked to come up with a project for Bella, the ministry for women at the church.  She immediately thought of the Kwagala Project, which she had heard of at an earlier women’s event.

The Kwagala Project founded by Kristen Hendricks, is a small Chicago based ministry working both here and abroad to inform the public about human trafficking and to rescue its victims.  Kristen started by donating the proceeds from a small custom purse business she had founded. The charity has grown beyond her business and now provides Northern Uganda’s first rehabilitative residence for sexually exploited girls, as well as vocational training and school scholarships.

What was Chantelle’s idea?  A church cookbook.  I know what you’re thinking.  You’re imagining one of those comb bound cookbooks with endless pages of jello molds and 27 slight variations on chicken with rice.  Instead, Bella’s Favorites is a beautiful hard cover book with over 225 family recipes and full color photos.  The genius of this idea is that everyone was able to contribute in part toward helping girls break free, from recipe donations to photo shoots and food artists, to the proud new owners of Bella’s Favorites. Chantelle planned tasting parties not only for the benefit of the contributors, but also so that pictures could be taken of the dishes to be featured in the book.

The cookbook premiered and sold out at the Bella Making Life Beautiful Conference, and Chantelle and the ministry are already planning a second edition. have printed a second edition!

Please visit the Kwagala website to see how you can contribute to their very worthy cause.  THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX…There ARE ways YOU can make a difference.  Chantelle did, and she was kind enough to bring me along with her.

 

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