Monday, November 24, 2008

Like Sheep Without A Shepherd

On Saturday several of us from The Mission passed out free groceries and hosted a bounce house for the families and residents of the California Studio Inn in Santa Ana.

It was a great day. We had a chance to pray with a lot of people, some of them even hung around and talked with some of us, others shared their pain and their struggles with us and we did our best to give them assistance, advice, phone numbers to call and organizations to seek out for help.

One person really impacted me. His name was Vic. He told me with tears in his eyes about how he had just gotten off of drugs after many years of struggling with addiction. He was about 17 months sober. He and his wife had an adorable little baby girl who was only about 6 months old with them. After losing his job about a month ago, and then losing their apartment soon after, Vic had been in a motorcycle accident a few weeks ago and was needing surgery on his knee. Then he told me about his father who had just passed away from a massive heart attack a week and a half ago.

Could it get any worse, I thought? This guy has been through more pain and more disappointment than almost anyone I've ever met. Still, he talked about his faith in God, and about how he knew that God would see them through this time. I had a chance to encourage him a little and, of course, we prayed for him and his family. I even gave them a phone number to see if they could get set up at the Village of Hope in Tustin, but still I felt that there was still so much to do.

As we stood around talking I caught a flash of something in my mind. Maybe it was a vision, or maybe just a stray thought, but I saw these residents sitting in folding chairs and worshiping Jesus. I saw myself teaching them from the Bible. I saw others from the Mission praying with them in small groups. I saw us laughing with them and eating with them and playing with their kids. I saw us being in community with them.

Then I heard a verse of scripture, just part of one actually, that said, "They are like sheep without a shepherd".

The next day at house church I opened my Bible and found this verse. Here's the entire passage in context:

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'" - Matthew 9:35-38

These dear people at the motel need more than free groceries once a month. They need more than a free breakfast and a sermon every other week, what they need is to be part of a loving community of mature believers who will help them and stand by them and pray for them and invite them into the fellowship of the Family of God.

What does this mean? I'm not exactly sure. But I do know that I believe that our house church needs to pray about investing more than we have so far in the lives of these people. I can see now that they are like sheep without a shepherd and since one of my primary giftings is to shepherd I can't help but feel compelled to pastor them. I would prefer not to do this alone. I pray that others from our house church would also decide to join us in "being the Church" to these dear people a bit more...whatever that might mean.

This is something for our house church to pray about together and to hear from God about. Does it mean a monthly church service at the motel? Does it mean something more often? Does it mean changing the way we minister there? Right now I don't know exactly.

Please God, show us what you would have us to do in this place as ambassadors of your Gospel and carriers of your Kingdom.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This Saturday - Motel Ministry

This Saturday (11/22/08) our house church will serve the people living in the California Studio Inn in Santa Ana by passing out free groceries, praying for them as they have need, hosting a bounce house and game time for the children, and spending time listening to them as friends.

My wife and our 2 boys have been serving at this same motel now for over 7 years. It's become a monthly habit for us to go and serve there. We've seen some of the same faces over the years. Some have died. Some have moved to better places. Others have moved to worse situations or simply relocated to other motels.

We've made new friends and we're in the process of learning to love everyone we come into contact with here.

Even though we've been doing this a long time, I pray it will never become a habit for us. I never want to just go through the motions. Instead, I pray that God would always keep this ministry about Jesus and about serving and loving the people who live here.

Our ministry isn't flashy. It's not "big". It's nothing to marvel at. It is simple and humble and very straight-forward. Hopefully the people we serve here know that we love them, and that Jesus loves them, more than anything else.

If nothing else, we have the opportunity to see Jesus in the eyes of these people in real need as we give them something to eat and pray for their families, their relationships, their finances, and their dreams and hopes.

I always feel that we could do more...that it's never enough, really. But our only job is to serve and to be obedient to God as He leads us, and mainly to practice loving others as Christ loved us.