As I come to know these fine people, they share with me more of their personal and sensitive stories. Their collective story is what I am trying to share with you as my way of breaking the stereotypical beliefs that exist. "Blog names" have occasionally been given to me by the person whose story I am telling. Names are never their actual names and wherever I can do so, I might use the opposite pronoun (his/her, etc.) just to help increase their privacy.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
I have just returned from Urban Hope where I experienced their annual Youth Sunday. While it was all wonderful, there were three ingredients in this slice of bread that you need to know about.
There was a pantamimed skit written by Kevin, a 20 year old man who shared in this mimed skit of about 5 minutes, the story of physical, spiritual and emotional abuse that he experienced at the hands and mouths of his father and classmates. By the end of the abuse part of the skit, Kevin's white shirt was black with punch and slap marks from the youth who were involved in the skit. Each youth had a large word on their individual white shirts that represented who they were in Kevin's life. Among them, one wore "Dad" and demonstrated his abuse of Kevin. Kevin's responses were so genuine. Anyone could see that the emotions were real. Two other youth wore the word "Bully" and did their part in being sure Kevin knew his place in their world. One girl wore the word "sister." At one point, in pent up rage, Kevin slapped "sister" so hard that she went almost sailing across the front of the church (in a moment of incredible acting portraying an actual event years before).
In the remorse of slapping his sister, as Kevin cowered at the foot of the cross in the front of the church, the assaults began again and were interrupted by a youth wearing "Jesus" on his shirt. The punches and slaps continued worse than before on "Jesus" whose shirt was quickly covered in black punch marks. "Jesus" stopped the abuses of "Father" and "Bullies." and helped Kevin to his feet. Kevin's shirt, previously covered in the wounds of black, was as white as snow.
To see portions of what I have just described, watch this video, produced by Matt, Urban Hope's "in house" professional videographer. (Look carefully, you'll see me in it as well.)
To listen to the entire youth message, click here.
The third main ingredient was added to this lower slice of bread as I sat with Annie and her family at lunch. Annie is an outgoing four year old who gives me a big hug every week and wants me to know everything she's been thinking about. Annie's family of four has been living in one room of her uncle's house since their own house was boarded up a few weeks ago. Annie's Mom told me today that God has been with them through this and they are pulling together the funds for a down payment on a rental home right around the corner from Urban Hope. Annie's Mom explained further some of the many challenges they've been facing in recent months - too much and too confidential to share here. It was after she shared with me all of the challenges they've faced that the third ingredient in this slice of bread was added....
She said "There is a pinhead sized light at the end of the tunnel and this light is a blessing from God."
"Oh how cliche can you get?" you might be saying to yourself.
That wasn't the ingredient that Annie's Mom added... Here it is:
Annie's Mom looked at me and continued with "And it is out of that blessing that I will now be a blessing to others."
My suburban upbringing in our great Christian Faith would never allow me to be a blessing to another person if the measurable blessings to me in life were just the size of a pinhead!!! Suburban Faith and action calls on us suburbanites to bless others out of our abundance, not out of our as-of-yet unmet need!
Mark 12:41-44 (NIV)
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Are you ready?
OK... Here's what I did....
The host of the evening offered to me and I accepted...
I accepted a cup of coffee. Yup... I DID! I admit it... I accepted and consumed a cup of coffee at night!!! What was I thinking as I sat there in Kensington after dark in an apartment at East Tioga and A Street sitting with a major (former) drug supplier drinking a cup of REAL coffee AT NIGHT!
How stupid!! I've put my whole night of sleep at risk!!! Now that I'm home after walking alone from that apartment in Kensington at night one block to my regular parking place, what am I going to do until dawn when my body will finally decide it's time to sleep?!??!?!?
I think I'll sit back, watch the following videos highlighted in blue and celebrate God's deliverance of Rocky from his former life as drug supplier to his life of true Man of God. While I'm at it, I'll equally celebrate Rick and David and Omar and Katina.
I won't ask you to put your sleep at risk with a cup of coffee in Kensington at night as you sit next to a former drug supplier's supplier in a Bible study but I do take this opportunity to invite you to join me next Sunday for a cup of coffee in the morning at Urban Hope, a ministry that sees over a thousand children come through its doors in a year and is changing the lives of men, women and children and drug users, dealers, and suppliers and suburbanites like me.
Humbly Confessed by,
I hereby promise not to drink coffee again at night when I go to Kensington after dark next Tuesday night and sit next to Rocky, my redeemed and delivered brother in Christ.
Friday, December 9, 2016
Urban Hope, I chose an angel from the "Angel Tree" that is set up in the church. Angel Tree provides presents for children who have a parent incarcerated for an offense that is inconsequential to their child nor to me. I chose that Angel Tree tag and asked what James might like. "He's really into soccer." I was told.
Not being a sports guy, I wasn't sure where to start. Heck, I recognise a basketball two out of three times. That's my sports knowledge. Anyway, I'm digressing....
James is about 10 years old and that's a tender age not to have Dad around. I found a soccer ball on Amazon, bought it, wrapped it, put it's Angel Tree tag on it and put it in my car for delivery to Urban Hope tomorrow.
It's amazing to think that one soccer ball that I found on sale for about $10.00 will represent a child's father's love for his son and the eternal love of God.
Sunday, December 4, 2016
The first portion of the lesson was brought to me by Annie (not her real name). As you may remember, she's a four year old girl who I met when I went to Urban Hope's Block Party. She's a hugger and she ran across the fellowship hall this morning to give me my almost weekly hug. She smiled brightly and yet, without warning, her chin started quivering and she looked at me with tearing eyes that beamed their life into my soul as she explained that she'd had a dream just last night that she was in a dark room and a man with a knife was behind her about to kill her. I assured her as best as I could that she was safe and that dreams can be scary. She gave me another hug and ran off to chase her sister and some other little girl who was having issues with her socks.
The fact that a little girl is having such a dream should not go unnoticed but that's not the point of this short message. I'll deal with that later.
The sermon today, among other verses included the first 11 verses of the Gospel of John:
The Word Became Flesh
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Saturday, November 26, 2016
"The Ministry of The Urban Hope Training Center"
which explains Urban Hope far better than I could ever do. If you can spare eight minutes, you'll see what I've come to see when I journey to Kensington every Sunday morning to attend my "second church."
Many thanks to the pastors and people of my "first church" for encouraging me to follow my heart as I make this journey.
If you're feeling inspired by this, set your browser to continuous play and continue the inspiration with a stream of high quality Urban Hope videos showing this ministry and the people within it.
If you're looking for even more than that, I invite you to join me there some Sunday or call them to learn more.
Sunday, November 20, 2016
The old becomes new as modeled by a building and a man (Originally published 11/20/16 - Updated 12/07/16)
If ever I needed a concrete example of this concept of the old becoming new, I found it in this building.
Now, let's get back to the original context of a person becoming new in Christ...
During the prayer and praise time today in church at Urban Hope, I shared in very general terms a sadness in my life and asked for prayer. After church, a man came up to me and told me that he related to what I shared having experienced a similar situation years ago. He explained that God intervened and healed his entire situation over a five year period.
He asked if he could pray for me and my situation. I said "Yes, please." He proceeded to provide a powerful prayer beseeching our LORD for intervention and healing if it is in our LORD's will. I was shaken to the core by the depth of his prayer.
Big deal you say? Any long time church guy can say a good prayer... Maybe...
He wasn't a long time church guy. He shared with me that he had been a broken man for years. He shared some of the details and that he had been an inmate of our local prison here in Glen Mills, Pa. This man who prayed for me earlier today in the fellowship hall is a living example of the new creation having come: The old is now gone from within him, the new (Christ) is within him!
Are you thinking that you can't be a new creation in Christ? Are you thinking it's too late to fix your life situation? Guess again. In Christ, ALL people and life situations can be made new!
Follow Up Added December 7, 2016:
As I have been getting to know Urban Hope more completely, I've come to know the people of the community and their impressive array of very professional videos on YouTube. As a follow-up to what I wrote above, please take a moment to watch these two videos to better understand this concept of the "old becoming new."
In this second video, you see testimony of a man delivered from participating in the drug and prostitution life of that exact building, being directly involved in the deliverance of the building and the impact that process had on him.
In summary, I continue to be blown away by what I am experiencing at Urban Hope.
God used two separate story lines in my life to get me to this point. I can not begin to express my gratefulness to our LORD and to the people God brought into my life during this process.
You know who you are...
Sunday, November 13, 2016