Build it and they will come! Softball Team Provides a Break From the Everyday for Denver Homeless: Riding his bike around his old neighborhood in Denver, Joe Carabello found himself alarmed at the number of homeless people, especially those living in parks right next to empty baseball fields. So Carabello, a successful real estate developer, came up with an idea one late-summer... I can't wait to come up with some FUN things to do in the Northside!
I have learned over the last 1 1/2 years that it is a lot more fun to be courageous than it is to be normal. Normal is the same old, same old. Courageous is stepping out and being led by God in areas I could have never imagined or even wanted to go. This past week was one of awe and wonder. I look forward to what lies ahead and can only imagine what God has planned for a Dream Center in Richmond.
Joshua 1:9 New International Version (NIV)
9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Yesterday I was inspired by what a friend of mine said. We were building a fence in my backyard. It was the first time I had built a fence of this type. I am not the handy man type. Ask my wife. My friend Cory was surprised when I told him that. We had just finished one section when he said. "We could rebuild the city!" He was very proud of what we had accomplished. I couldn't help but think of what God can do when you just give in and follow his lead. The possibilities are endless. Let's rebuild the city with a Dream Center.
This just speaks to the fact that the councilman who proposed this plan has a lot to learn about homelessness along with the rest of the city council. He also doesn't realize that he is only a couple of bad decisions away from being homeless himself. Why not apply what God intended all along and treat others the way we want to be treated!
This is a great video from Mark Horvath who is using social media to make a difference in the homeless community around the world.
Here are a few quotes about the video from Mark.
"Back years ago when I worked for Los Angeles Dream Center producing their weekly television show, I was asked to produce my own story."
"I do love seeing my father in this video, and seeing the Dream Center and Pastor Matthew as they were back in the day. In the upcoming feature film about my work I share how the Dream Center saved my life. Over the last 15 years, and after working in full time ministry for much of that time, my views on church have greatly changed, but I still believe the Dream Center model is still a huge step in the right direction." I am headed with Charles next month to the Dream Center and learn as much as I can to bring back to Richmond.
I started my morning off reading a great article about prayer from Rick Warren. In the article he mentions something about being specific in your prayer life. I thought to my self that I had gotten away from that for a bit. Let me back up to this past Sunday. I came into work after being gone for a week. I found in the closet a large garbage bag of cans. It put a smile on my face because I had asked Ras who works with me, if he could collect some cans from around the church for me. I wrote about the cans a while back. I took the bag of cans and placed them in my car. Monday morning it was a little colder then usual for August and it was raining quite a bit. A dreary day! I had prayed that morning that I would find a man collecting cans on the street. Chances were not very good seeing how it was raining and all. I had almost finished my drive around the neighborhood when all of a sudden there was a man on the side of the road huddled up under a store front out of the weather. He had a cart full of cans. I rolled down my window and asked if he was collecting cans. He said "Yes" emphatically! I open the trunk and pulled out the large bags of cans. He was smiling ear to ear. He said "Bless you, Bless you". He then introduced himself as Tom. I told him I would be on the look out for him in the future. Tom will make about $10 off that bag of cans. Not only did God answer my prayers, but I realized that I was not always the one who liked to recycle. As a matter of fact a friend from Church had suggested we recycle about a year ago. I was hesitant at first because I didn't want to create more work for the staff. It has turned out to be a great thing. Thanks Cindy for taking the lead! What's also interesting about it all is the fact that Tom will make a few bucks and the cans will still end up at the recycle plant. So about a year ago the cans would have been thrown in the trash and now they have been turned into a blessing to Tom on the streets and we're recycling in more ways than one.
The other day I had the privilege to sit down and draft a resume for a friend. It was the first time in years that I have written a resume. I found a great site that helped create a draft. We had a lot of fun working on it together. I was encouraged that my friend was being proactive to find a job. If you have interest in giving someone a second chance please consider my friend. His only mode of transportation is a bike. He lives in the Northside of Richmond.
Not too long ago in a conversation with an African American lady in the neighborhood, I was asked "What is the most segregated day of the year?" She answered her own question. Sunday!!!! At the time she had just told me how her church (mostly black) and another church in the West End (mostly white) get together a few times a year to worship. I thought that was awesome. It's true that on Sunday we see most churches have subconsciously become segregated on their own.
Some may have been intentional. I don't believe that is what God intended. So this past Sunday I went to a friends church (black congregation) uninvited. I asked my good friend Charles if he wanted to go with me. He said he couldn't. He then asked "Are you scared?" I said "yes" but that I was determined to go any way. I think he wanted to see me squirm. I knew that I was just looking for some comfort in having a black man go with me. He knew that about me too. Yes, I was uncomfortable and I was definitely out of my comfort zone. It turned out to be a great experience. I learned a little more about myself and got to hear a great sermon from a great pastor. I also got to see how far we have to go "Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done, On Earth As It Is In Heaven" I am encouraged and excited to see how God is going to bring healing and encouragement to the Northside and the city as a whole. It is going to take some time and individuals to push themselves to over come the voluntary segregation we have created on our own! But "Thy Will Be Done"!
As I walk down this path God has me on, I see how much more he wants to do than what I can imagine. Almost every week I see confirmation of where he has me. Moving to the hood was not a coincidence. The other day I got to know my neighbor who is 94 years old. Now let me give you some historical background. Early on in this process I learned that my grandfather may have played a role in what has turned out to be the cause of some of the racial tensions in this city. The now current path of interstate 95 was proposed to the city residents as a referendum back in the early 50's. At the time there was an alternate route called Bacon's Quarter, which was absent of large neighborhoods. Not once but twice the referendum was put before the city. Both times the residents voted that they did not want the interstate to come through the city. All I know based on what I have read is that my grandfather was the mayor of Richmond at the time and that he was for it. Despite the fact that the residents overwhelmingly voiced their objections to I95 coming through the heart of downtown Richmond, it was built. The authority was given to The Richmond Petersburg Turnpike Authority by way of the Virginia General Assembly. This was done to expedite the process and then city government officials could wash their hands of it, seeing how they didn't want to listen to the voice of the people. That decision destroyed much of Jackson Ward and the neighborhood of Navy Hill. Approximately 18 city blocks and 1000 homes were destroyed. It was perceived as a white man's vote at the detriment of the black community and rightfully so. I have come to see it first hand. I have met people who used to live in those areas. Back to my neighbor. As I was speaking with my neighbor getting to know her, I asked where she used to live. She mentioned the downtown area before that interstate came through. It struck a personal chord with me! I knew then that this was going to be quite the ride. I hope to be able to ask forgiveness from those I come into contact with that have been impacted by that one decision that destroyed a thriving community. God offers us the opportunity to heal the wounds of the past and to bring about reconciliation. Reconciliation and an Interstate -- who would have thought it would have become so personal!
Yesterday while taking a nap on my front porch, I was awoken to a voice calling out my name. To my surprise it was George and Patience! I have known them for a while. George used to work for a party rental business I owned. I haven't seen them in years. It turns out they live two blocks away! They moved into the neighborhood back in April. Life in the hood is full of surprises! I have neighbors I know that I didn't know are here!
For a long time I have been praying the Lord's prayer on my prayer walk through the neighborhood.
King James Version (KJV)
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. Yesterday God gave me some insight as to why. Verse 10 jumped out at me "Thy kingdom come, as it is in heaven" Then I asked myself why am I picking up trash. It's about opening doors to have a conversation with people and building relationships. I am NOT just picking up trash! Then came my next question to myself and God. "Is there any trash in heaven?" Of course not. I continued down the road and saw a man sitting on his porch. I said hello and he responded kindly. His next question caught me off guard. "Is the street sweeper coming by this morning?" He assumed I worked for the city picking up trash. I don't blame him because I was a little over dressed for the job at the time. I was headed to a conference. I responded no and that I enjoyed doing this while I prayer walked. I then stopped and decided to try something new. I asked. "Do you think there is any trash in heaven?" He responded right away no, not at all, no way. I then replied "Thy Kingdom come as it is in heaven." He replied "Hey I need to talk with you more" I said "You will" and continued on as I had to go to the conference. I look forward to our conversation we will have on his front porch. So that's what's up with picking up trash in the neighborhood!
One way to overcome poverty, the racial divide and homelessness is the exchange of information. I was talking to Charles the other day and he gave me some great words of wisdom. Money is not the only way to solve some of these problems. There needs to be an exchange of information between each other. Charles has gained a lot of knowledge over the years by listening to others outside his normal circle of friends. He has ventured outside of his comfort zone and sought out information. Over the last year or more I have been to places I would have never gone to before seeking information. The next step in the process is to share what you have learned with others. Some people have very little resources and some have been given great opportunities. How can we bring people together to share in everyone's knowledge. Charles and I have a very LARGE gap in our history and up bringing, but we can learn from one another. When we exchange information with one another we can not only help each other, but we can help others. This is how we can best serve others. An example of mine would be the fact that this past week a friend of mine was kicked out of a local shelter. He had no where to go. He tried the Salvation Army Shelter, but they were full. He had run out of options. I knew of the Good Samaritan Ministries. I told him about GSM and he is there now enjoying a new place where he can start his life over. If we will cross the racial divide and share information we can do so much more. I see it in Charles' and my relationship. Step out of your comfort zone and share what you know with others. The exchange of ideas will go a lot farther to solving problems and be more sustainable than the exchange of money. When you exchange ideas there must be a relationship. There must be a level of trust. It's not about what you can learn as much as it is what you can share with others to make a difference in someone else's life. So thanks to Charles, I'm all about the exchange of information to make the world a better place.
The other day I wrote about a celebration. Here is the first update. Spoke with my friend last night at Good Samaritan Ministries. He is loving it. He seemed to be in great spirits. He appreciated the chance to be a part of that program. I am encouraged by what God is doing!
A sidewalk is a pedestrian path along a roadway. In my old neighborhood where I spent the last 20 years of my life there were none. In the city the sidewalk runs right through your front yard. In the county people will take a walk in the middle of the road a good distance from your front door. In the city if someone walks down the sidewalk there will at least be some kinda greeting, if not then a full blown conversation will take place instead. The sidewalks offer a path along side many different homes with many different lifestyles and backgrounds in my neighborhood. The diversity is quite the sight to see. It's what I would consider a community made up of all walks of life. A true representation of what the Church should look like. The sidewalk does not discriminate. Every week I meet someone for the first time. Sidewalks are bringing people together. I Love my sidewalks!
Today is one of those days that you hope a year from now, you will be celebrating someone's graduation. Not from school, but a discipleship program for the homeless. Today I took a man, who has been in and out of the shelter system for the last two years and placed him in Good Samaritan Ministries. This is a conservative Christian discipleship program to introduce men to a personal relationship with God and then teach them to be disciples. Most men would not like it. I have spoken to quite a few. It's not for everyone, but he sure was excited about the potential. I am thrilled that for the next year he won't have to worry about where he will sleep, eat or shower. He was thrilled for the opportunity. We had lunch together there and then I left with a BIG smile on my face. I have met on numerous occasions the executive director of the program and we have enjoyed stories of how God has moved in our lives. I am looking forward to the story that will unfold a year from now. Please pray that this man will stick with it for the next twelve months and start a new life!