The devil Doesn’t Want Us In New Orleans

On Saturday I’ll be traveling with our student ministry to New Orleans for a week of mission work.  We’ll be working with a small urban church to conduct day-long Bible clubs for kids in one of the most impoverished areas of the city. This church and the neighborhood around it was completely submerged during Hurricane Katrina – they lost everything! It is one of the few churches still functioning in the area and they work really hard to reach people for Christ on a shoestring budget. It is a honor to be partnering with them for the cause of Christ, but it’s an honor that apparently is a threat to satan.

Up until 3 weeks ago we were going to be working with a different mission organization in a different area of New Orleans.  Unfortunately that organization is pretty disorganized and we were informed that they had overbooked their sleeping quarters.  They told us that we would not be able to bring our entire team.  Since our teens had worked hard doing local labor jobs (they removed and laid sod for a housing company) in order to afford the mission trip, leaving some at home was not an option. In the end we cancelled with that mission organization with them promising to refund the initial $750 deposit we sent them.  To date we have not received that money and our communication to them is going unanswered.

A week ago we found out that the 12-passenger van we had rented couldn’t be taken out of the state.  It is nowhere on the company’s website and they don’t tell you that until they send you the contract a few days before departure.  Calls to other van companies either put the price of rental WAY out of our budget or had so many restrictions that we could not use them for ministry.  Calls to area churches were met with a resounding “no” we could not use their vans because of “liability issues” – even though our insurance company would underwrite everything.

Over the weekend both of Impact! Church’s debit cards were hacked and thus suspended by the bank.  Luckily the online thieves did not get much money out of the account before the bank discovered the breach. The biggest headache is trying to work through the recovery process and have new cards issued before the trip.  In the 21 Century you cannot do anything travel-wise without a debit/credit card to use.

Finally we were going to stop Saturday night at a hotel in Pensacola to break up the trip.  The hotel called this morning to tell us that they overbooked because of a company retreat at their hotel and that the corporation would need every room.  We have been bumped.

So here is what we are doing…

1. We are praying almost hourly that the Lord will bless the trip, people will come to Christ, satan will get a black eye and God will get the glory.

2. We have given up on seeing the $750 deposit from the other mission organization and now consider it a gift from some hard working Florida teens to be used to reach people in New Orleans for Christ. We have learned over the years that if it’s God’s will it’s God’s bill.  We are trusting God to send us the finances we need.

3. Two families in our church will be without vehicles next week so we can take them to New Orleans.  We will look like some kind of traveling caravan going down the road, but we will get all 15 of us safely to New Orleans and back. We may be packed in like sardines, but “whatever it takes for as long as it takes” is one of the culture at Impact! Church. We are thankful for the generosity of these families.

4. We went with a new mission organization called Camp Restore that has been AMAZING to work with.  They have bent over backwards to work with us on such short notice in providing a place for us to stay and meals at a reasonable cost. It will involve sleeping bags and cramped quarters, but we are grateful for a place to stay.

5. It took literally all day day yesterday to get everything worked out, but MidFlorida Credit Union went above and beyond to get new cards to us and the hackers shut down. It will be a while before we see the reimbursement for what the hackers stole, but I’ll refer you back to the last sentence of #2 above.

6. There is a Motel 6 in Pensacola managed by a very nice Christian couple.  They are working hard to provide us with last minute rooms so we can still break up the trip to New Orleans.  It will involve rollaways and cramped quarters, but – again – we are thankful for their hospitality.

7. We are going to New Orleans despite satan’s best efforts.  We are going to be serving a small impoverished church and 20-30 inner-city children whose families lost everything in a hurricane. We will feed them breakfast, a hot lunch and snack everyday for a week.  We will play games with them, color pictures with them and share stories from the Bible with them.  We’ll sing songs, play hard, make crafts, talk about Jesus, laugh a bunch and build lasting relationships.   We will see God move in mighty ways and He will get the glory!

Keep praying for us because the devil doesn’t want us in New Orleans – but God does!

The devil Doesn’t Want Us In New Orleans

Hey Stupid Church, Stop Filming The Homeless

Last weekend we had another set of “weekend warrior” churches down in the Parker Street community handing out food to the homeless (more of my thoughts on this in a later post). Among the regular churches doing drive-by feedings was a new church. They had van full of fast food and water.  They had a van full of video cameras. They also had a van full of boneheads! In order for the homeless to get food from this “church” our neighbors had to agree to be filmed receiving the “hand out”.  Several folks were made to comment – on camera – how “blessed they were” because the church brought them food. Hey stupid church, stop filming the homeless!  The Parker Street neighborhood isn’t some “Homeless Country Safari” where you drive around shooting pictures of the “wild homeless species” in their natural habitat.  They are human freakin’ beings – show some respect!  You ask before you take a picture – and you certainly don’t demand it to get a bag of chips. Many homeless have checkered pasts, outstanding warrants and estranged families – they don’t want their picture all over the Internet or on a screen at your church this Sunday. Some are embarrassed by what their life has become and others are hurt that they are nothing more than a spectacle in your “help our church feel good about buying a box full of Big Macs” video. Hey stupid church, if you are going to help people then help people without strings – or film – attached. In the end all you did was cause more mistrust of the Church by people in need of Jesus!

Hey Stupid Church, Stop Filming The Homeless

5.13.15 – Crazy Busy Day

Today started off with chest pains at 3:30am – which is normal for someone with a aneurysm on their ascending aorta. Not getting back to sleep I prayed, worked on updating the design of my speaking website and then grabbed a shower.  No breakfast as I had to fast for the meds tests at 7am. From there is was off to breakfast in Tampa with my good friend Paul Wirth, who pastors Relevant Church.  I cannot stress enough how important it is for pastors to have pastor friends! Paul has been a great friend for many years now and I always look forward to hanging out with him.  Hit Ikea to buy some picture frames and then headed back to Lakeland for a meeting about our video production team for HomelessChurch.tv. Before the day was out I had meetings with our student ministry leaders, our mission trip host organization (via Skype) and a local artist about painting our entire building in a mural.  I also spent an hour in the hood just hanging out with some of my homeless friends and threw the football with some our teens after their Bible study.

The highlight of the day for me though, was spending time mentoring Mark.  Mark is a guy that used to be homeless – was sleeping in the field by our building the very first night we moved in. He has since developed into a good Bible study leader and is on his way to becoming one of our pastors. He is no longer homeless, oversees our facilities and recently asked the woman of his dreams to marry him.  It’s been a blast watching God work in Mark’s life. Basically wherever I go Mark goes – walking together, discipling, iron sharpening iron. I enjoy our talks and yesterday was no exception.  We discussed accountability and how easy it is for a pastor to lose their integrity.

It’s around 9:30pm and I’m just getting home.  Not a typical day for me – and not one my doctor would approve of.  But it was a very fulfilling day and I got to spend much quality time with people.  Also got to push our vision ahead a little.  Heading to bed whipped, but knowing that God moved today. That is a great feeling!

5.13.15 – Crazy Busy Day