Helping the homeless this winter

“Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than this.” Mark 12:31

This is my buddy Darrell.

15492404_618696227434_8033870148020166669_nHe has been homeless for years. I met him a few years ago and we struck up a friendship. I’ve come to learn that this is not where he thought his life would end up.  Today, as we shared a Wendy’s meal sitting on a bench outside of Bass Pro in East Ridge he talked of his childhood and growing up in the Highland Park area. He talked about his mom and dad and all the fun times they had together. He talked about how he made some bad decisions and lost touch with reality. We talked about how his mother died in his arms and what that did to him. He said “I just shut off. I shut off for so long I found myself with literally nothing” Darrell is a great guy, who loves to laugh. I think our friendship went to another level today as he invited me to his “home,” a patch of woods near a popular shopping center. It’s a ways back there, but you know when you are at “his place” by the plastic bags hanging in the trees. His “bed,” as he says, is a 6 foot long piece of plastic he puts his sleeping bag on… I tried to get him to go to a hotel for a couple nights because the temp is suppose to be in the 20’s, but he wouldn’t. So, got him a tent, portable propane heater and a big bag of Cheetos! As we were sitting there talking our guitar player from church Dakota and his girlfriend Bailea came walking up, they joined us in the woods to get the tent set up. As I was leaving he opened up the Cheetos and said “Wanna have my birthday meal with me today” His 50th birthday was Saturday. So we sat there on the ground and celebrated his 50th birthday together and took a birthday selfie… He said “Man I’m looking rough” ha ha!fullsizerender

It literally hurts my heart that I can’t do more for him and the hundreds of others who were scattered throughout those woods. Maybe you are like me and you are asking “How can I help?” Here are a few things that you can do that can help our neighbors.

You can help immediately by giving to our Blanket Drive at Rock Bridge Ringgold. The months of December, January and February we are collecting new and gently used blankets to give to those who need an extra layer of warmth this winter.  You can drop them off at the church any time by putting them in the specified container in between the front doors or at any one of our services (Thursday 6:30 Sunday 9:00, 10:30 or 11:59) 

As the temperatures keep getting colder, North GA and the TN Valley homelessness problem becomes a more strikingly apparent situation than at any other time of the year.

Here are a few things I’ve learned that you can do to help out our Homeless neighbors.  

1) Acknowledge them

It sounds like an obvious thing to do, but it can make a world of difference to somebody’s day. It’s been days, months, maybe even years since the last time one of them had a actual conversation with someone. Everytime they open their mouth we tend to think they are just going to ask for money that they will use to “buy booze or drugs”.

Darrell said “A smile and a hello can make a world of difference,”  “That can actually set someone up for the day, especially when they’ve had no one to talk to for a long time.”

2) Buy them something WARM. A coffee, meal, tent etc…

Stopping by Starbucks? Why not buy an extra hot drink, even if it’s just a small one? Not only will this keep a homeless person hydrated but it will give them a chance to warm their hands up.

A tent or sleeping bag might actually save their life!

These are only $30 at BassPro http://www.basspro.com/Bass-Pro-Shops-Eclipse-Hiker/Biker-1Person-Tent/product/9992256648/

3) Donate.

Find a charity, church or individual that is legit and donate! Money, Blankets, Gloves, Coats etc..

4) Serve.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”

Find an opportunity to serve them.

4) Buy them a gift. 

Buy them a good book, or pre loaded old ipod you got laying around that you never use.

We don’t think about it, but homeless people do like to read to pass the time, it gives them something to take their mind away for a bit.

5) Help them keep warm

When it’s in the 30’s and below, keeping warm at night is impossible if you’re living without shelter.

Again…offering a homeless person a thick sleeping bag, tent or blanket might save their life!!!

*Note: Don’t donate summer sleeping bags. Get a thick winter cold weather rated sleeping bag* 

Winter sleeping bags are thicker and they’re waterproof so they’re more useful at this time of the year.

Other warm clothes can also be donated, like gloves, hats and thermal undergarment. etc.

Let me beg you here. PLEASE DO NOT give a homeless person a gospel track by itself. That is shameful and not christ like at all! I’m all for you giving them a track if that’s what you want, but that track had better be with a tent, coat, meal(s). 

Darrell is a stronger christian than most of the people that would hand him a track and think they are doing a good thing because he is “that way” 

6) Do the Backpack Challenge

Fill up a old backpack with anything that might be useful really – blankets, thermals, snacks or a paperback…

If you see a homeless person I don’t advise giving them money directly, because they may have addiction issues or other problems. If they are really in need they will NEVER turn away a warm meal, blanket, etc…

We can’t solve the homeless problem overnight. We can’t help every homeless person but we CAN help one at a time. 

Be the good and see the need around you! It will shock you how much you can do right here in our community for people who need it the most!

If you would like to donate anything that could help keep my friends warm please email me at JC@rockbridge.cc or text/call me at 423-280-9101

Thanks and God bless

JC

When You Want to Quit Student Ministry (Leneita Fix)

when you want to quit youth ministry

One of the most frustrating conversations I have with friends is the “You should quit ministry” conversation. Sure, there are days when I want to quit, more than I care to admit.

You know those days. They are filled with church politics, angry parents, mess-ups, complacent students, bad youth nights, and heartache. These are the moments in which tragedy occurs or the moments when a student we have discipled for six years decides following the Lord is just too hard. They are the moments you need someone to say, “What you do matters.” The last thing you need to hear is, “You know you can serve God anywhere, have you thought about being a barista at Starbucks?” Yes, you have thought about that too, but every time you almost press “send” on the internet application the Holy Spirit whispers you should stay. So what I do not need to hear on my wretched days is that I could walk away. I suspect those statements are not helpful to you either.

When your own “I QUIT” moments occur, consider these five things:

Is this where God placed you?

I think it is healthy to assess on a regular basis if you are where God wants you. This can apply to the church you are at, the job you hold, or if you should even stay in youth ministry at all. However, whenever someone says to me, “Have you considered another vocation?” I feel like I hear the Lord ringing in my ears, “NO!” As long as I know this is exactly where God wants me, then I need to stay put. If I doubt, then it’s good to get flat on my face before Jesus.

You are allowed to have a bad day (Or 15).

It’s alright to have a crummy day. Feel all the feelings that go with that. It is certainly more healthy to share it all with the Lord. We have great Biblical examples in Elijah, Jonah, Job, Jeremiah, David, and even Paul of those who didn’t handle every day perfectly. The God who created everything (even our emotions) can handle those same feelings. There are seasons when one bad day melds into the next. When frustrations begin to mount, it is really easy to put all of our energy into what is going wrong. This is the place where trouble occurs. Have your bad day, scream it out, then refocus and put your energy on Christ.

Write down some God moments.

I have heard stories about a folder we should all keep filled with thank you notes from students and parents. Well, fact is the “thank you’s” haven’t been huge for me over the years. YET, that doesn’t mean God hasn’t shown up and worked in the lives of the families I serve. On those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days, cry yourself to sleep. Then wake up the next day and take some time to intentionally reminisce on ways you have seen God move in the lives you interact with. Write down a few. Start a journal, or maybe even a jar of papers with memories on them. Then the next time this happens, read a few and write down a few more.

What fills you up?

It can be easy to get worn down because we are stuck on the hamster wheel of doing. When is the last time you stopped and did something that you just like to do? Play a game, go for a run, read a book, binge watch something on the internet, crochet booties for your dog, have coffee with a friend. Spend some time with the Lord, just because you like Him, not because you have to prepare for the next program. On the bad days, sometimes we realize they hit us extra hard because we are empty.

Find “safe” people.

If I know there are people who will always tell me to quit. They are probably not the people I should turn to when I am raw. Instead, there are safe people who pray with me, love me, encourage me that I am not a failure, and point me back to Christ. One close friend encourages me most when she says, “I don’t know what to say, but I can support you.” The people who get you, and get why you don’t quit, these are the people we call who remind us that God lead us to this ministry and will get us through it.

Sometimes the Lord calls us out, and there may come a time when I do leave this place or this ministry. However, it won’t be because I am giving up on a bad day when I want to quit. My hope is that when I move to the next step, it will be because this is where God has called me to next. I know there will be days I want to quit in the next phase of life, too.

 

 

Where is God when Tragedy Strikes?

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I came across this blog post a few weeks ago at newspring.cc it’s very fitting I feel for the present. 

When tragedy, sickness, hardship or death strike it is to easy wonder, where is God? Perhaps you have asked that question when faced with a heartbreaking loss. How could God let this happen to me?

The truth: God is always in control, and He loves you (John 16:27). This remains true despite what the circumstances may be.

The Bible does not make circumstantial promises; God’s word is always true. He knew everything that could or would happen to you before time began.

God has assured us that He will work all things to our good (Romans 8:28), and nothing can change that truth. Every opportunity, joy, and success we experience as well as painful losses and failures are a part of His plan. God’s work is in progress in our daily lives.

In Psalm 23 David praises God and extols His nurturing care in the midst of trials:  “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4 )

Even when we are in deep shadows, God is there, not as an observer, but as a protective Shepherd, close at hand! His care extends to every part of our lives at this very moment (Ephesians 1:4-6). When we cry out He knows our pain, when we sing He knows our joy and when we lean hard He is always there for us. God is your refuge and His everlasting arms are always there to support and hold you (Deuteronomy 33:27).

4 Things to Keep in Mind During Crisis

1. God is in control.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” (Acts 17:24-26).

2. God knows our problems and pain.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

3. No matter what happens, God will help us through.

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9)

4. God dwells within His people, therefore we are never abandoned or alone.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).

“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ ” (Galatians 4:6).

Our position as children of God does not grant immunity from the pain, problems and the difficulties of life. Jesus told His disciples that they would experience troubles but through Him they could also have peace (John 16:33). We can be assured that nothing can happen to us apart from the permissive will of our gracious Father (Romans 9:39). These promises give us peace in the midst of turmoil, hope instead of despair, confidence rather than doubt, assurance in the place of fear.