July 24, 2008

No where else to go...

Sorry it has been so long since the last time that you heard from us. Things have been very busy around the Friendship House. Last week we had our friends Get Real (a mission organization from back home in Georgia) come down for a visit. We were able to meet some of their friends from previous visits to the city, who have trusted in God's promises and plans and have made their way from the streets into a nice home. It was truly a beautiful moment to sit with them in their living room (packed full with twenty five people) and here them praise the Lord for His goodness and faithfulness. It was strange to think of them once sleeping under a bridge on the cement to inviting us into their home and offering us coffee. They once had no hope and they had no where else to go so they turned to God and believed Him to be exactly who He said He was. On Saturday we were also able to do some neighborhood clean-up projects with the group followed by an amazing night of building relationships with the homeless down at The Wall. The Wall is the place where Get Real and the Friendship House used to go frequently to give out food and simply befriend the poor of the city. Post-Katrina there was no one there to talk to or share a meal with so they began going down under the bridge (where we have also been going weekly since we arrived). However last week the city "cleaned out" from under the bridge. All our friends from under the bridge were either picked up and taken to a hotel or to a shelter in order to improve the appearance of the city for important events and visitors that will be coming soon. I do not claim to know the motives behind this action but I am fully convinced that this temporary fix will have no permanent effects. Once the money is gone all those people will be right back where they were before...on the street with no where else to go. I do not claim to understand what it would be like to be a part of the government or to be in charge of creating laws for an entire city or nation all I know is that injustice abounds. Often the poorest of the poor are treated as though they are not human at all. Sometimes I think actions such as these are taken to protect ourselves from the discomfort and guilt that the faces of the poor may cause us. We think it's easier to oppress and ignore than to carry the burden of their pain and need. I myself find my first response is to look away and go on about my own business and yet we are called to a different response, we are called to a more compassionate way... Psalm 140:12 I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy. Psalm 113:7 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap Proverbs 14:31 He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. Proverbs 19:17 He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done. Proverbs 21:13 If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. Proverbs 28:27 He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses. Proverbs 29:7 The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. James 2:5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? We are called to be people who care for the poor. I do not know what this looks like for everyone nor do I think it will look the same in all of our lives but I know that without it we will be missing out on depth of life. Sure we may be alive, we may even have eternal life to come, but we will miss out on something mysterious and beautiful if we do not share our lives with the needy here and now. We will miss out on the chance to love and serve Jesus himself (Matthew 25). The Kingdom belongs to the least. It belongs to the most undeserving of us all because it comes through grace alone. It may seem that our friends on the street have nowhere and no one to turn to but God is calling them to Himself, He is calling them into His family. He has given us the responsibility of inviting them in to our homes and welcoming them to belong. We all need a place to call home. Peace. Sarah

July 11, 2008

Refreshing reminder...

We are truly grateful for all the people we are living with and are around here. It's been a growing experience for Sarah and I. The other night we went with one of the seminary interns to ride across town. Her name is Khemtida, she is from Thailand. As we drove across town I was reminded of the simplicity but complexity of our Faith. Khemtida came to the U.S 14 years ago to study abroad. She grew up Buddhist, and was very connected with her family. While in the U.S she began taking English as a Second Language(ESL)classes. She told us that she began to see Jesus in her teacher and ended up becoming a Christian through that experience. She began her journey following Jesus... "the One true God" she said. Within the hour that we spent with her I was encouraged so deeply. There was a simple and genuine sincerity that was seen deep within her heart. She began to attend New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and at that time... her family disowned her, they refused to talk with her, and for years they didn't talk. Now she is almost finished with her Masters of Divinity so they are impressed with almost 10 years of education so they have started communicating a little more. I am telling you this story to express how sometimes in the U.S we forget that people really do get disowned because of the Gospel. People really do suffer because of the name of Jesus and this suffering produces such an intimacy that nothing can break it. Khemtida is a deep well of spiritual intimacy with Jesus, and it's a breath of fresh air here in the U.S because not many people have truly experience persecution in the name of Jesus. Remember today that many people are killed every day because of the name of Jesus. Children, mothers, fathers... they give their very life because they know the Truth and the Truth has set them free. Take a few minutes and pray for those suffering for Jesus' sake, and also pray that we could find it somewhere in our heart to desire the privilege of suffering for the sake of Jesus Christ our King. I love you all! Eric

July 5, 2008

Our explorations of the city...

We have been trying to spend time around the center and build relationships with the families here. The little boy who stays here absolutely loves Eric. He calls him "Boy." So whenever I walk into a room he will point and say "Boy" because he knows that Eric is more than likely right behind me. Eric loves playing around with him (most of the time Aan'jay rides on his back or they fight like dinosaurs...it is very entertaining)In addition to hanging at the house we have been exploring the city. I thought some of you might like to hear about the fun things we have done. Two weeks ago Kay (who is the director of the center) took out us out for a New Orleans style night. We went to eat at Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro and then we took a walk through Jackson Square and went to listen to some amazing jazz musicians at a place called Preservation Hall. This venue still looks like it is set back when Jazz first began in the city and the musicians are incredible. It was fun to think about the history of this place and the beauty that comes from human creativity. Whenever I hear music, or see paintings, or watch one of the street performers posing on the street corner it becomes clear to me that we were made for worship; created to create beautiful expressions of what God has placed inside us. This city is truly the most diverse place I have ever been: no two people look alike and there is always something new and exciting to see. Another trip we took was to the swamp on the east bank. The day started out beautiful and sunny, but as usual the skies turned dark and the rain began as we were halfway down the trail. At first I was a little nervous but it felt great to be outside! I realize how much I love the mountains and rivers of North Georgia when we are here in the city. The trail leads you about a mile into the swamp along a small wooden walkway (no fences, no protection, just the walkway)where you can observe all sorts of creatures. There were giant spiderwebs in all the trees filled with creepy spiders and we even saw a snake crawling along the trail. We had hoped to see some alligators but once we saw what the trail was like many of us decided it would be ok if we didn't. However, I soon spotted the first alligator peering up through the water. It was a little scary but also really cool. Then we walked down to the end of the trail and there was a bridge where you could see for miles. It was truly beautiful. We were all soaking wet on the ride home but it was a great trip. Every day Eric and I try to get out into the neighborhood and meet people. It is fun to look at all the colorful houses and the interesting people. We have made friends with some kids down the street who we spend our afternoons with playing football, basketball, or frisbee and they are looking forward to recording some of their original rap songs with Eric. People here are not quite as friendly as they are back in Habersham but if you start with a smile it is not long before they are sharing their story. The people here love their city and they want to see it rebuilt and restored. Last night we went downtown and ate with another mission group that is here from Arkansas. Then all of us went up on the Riverwalk and watched fireworks across the river. We are enjoying our time here and we are trying to make the most of all our opportunities. Please continue to pray for us and for the people we meet. Peace. Sarah


This is Eric and his little buddy Aan'jay This is me trying to make friends... This is us on the little wooden boardwalk in the swamp He was pretty close...yikes! The swamp spiders were super creepy (I made Eric pose to show you)