This week's "Story from the Street" comes from Bethany Harris who has has been serving with us for the last 7 months at Unity Park. We hope that through these stories, you get a glimpse of what God is doing with the homeless in Fort Worth, as well as be inspired to pray and seek how God might use you and your family to love "the least of these."
The truth is I never intended to be impacted the way I have been with volleyball tournaments with the homeless. I’m so blessed to be a part of the City on a Hill Missions ministry on Saturday mornings. The first time I went was when there was a fall festival being held. I went with my friend Katie. Me and Katie prayed with a lady whose mother had just died and we also, prayed with another lady whose stuff had just been stolen the night before (they even took her glasses). We also helped out a table of arts and crafts with face painting and making necklaces. My favorite part was helping this little girl make a bracelet.
After 7 months of serving with this organization, I now understand the meaning of love and all of its forms. It definitely goes beyond you and me. I feel so connected to these folks and their families. It’s truly remarkable to see it unfold every Saturday morning between prayers, stories, and smiles and yes volleyball with the most amazing people.
They are humble even in their circumstances and trials and they all seem to be joyful despite their circumstance. Now, I can honestly say I cannot imagine not being a part of this beautiful ministry. Sharing God’s love with these folks makes my whole week. I feel led by God to be a part of this great ministry.
We welcome you all to come and be a part of something different, something that gets to the core of your heart. I really believe in these three things: Jesus+unity+community! Please join us and be a part of this beautiful ministry on Saturday mornings at Unity Park in Fort Worth at 9:30am. Get connected today with a ministry that has made such a difference in my life. I pray it can make a difference in your life as well.
City On A Hill Missions exists to equip and give opportunities for you and your family to live on mission. We have several opportunities including hanging out with the homeless at Unity Park on Saturday mornings. For more info, follow us on Facebook, or if you would like to give financially to the Unity Park outreach, click the "Give" tab above.
Each week a group of us hang out with the homeless in Fort Worth, and we try to share a story so you can get a glimpse of what God is up too. We encourage you to pray about how God might use you or your family to love on "the least of these" around you, or come out and join us one week at Unity Park This week's Story from the Street comes from Katie Money, who for the last several months has helped coordinate our volleyball tournament and love on our homeless friends.
I started going to Unity Park several months ago. I was invited to come help with the weekly volleyball tournament for the homeless that visit the park. At first, I was hesitant about going. I wasn’t sure how this was making a difference for these people. I thought we should be providing food or some necessity to make an impact in their lives. Despite this initial feeling, I decided to go see what it was all about.
Very quickly, I saw that this was a ministry that was desperately needed. It provided an opportunity to get to know these people. An opportunity to learn their stories. And yes, the opportunity to have a good time playing volleyball.
As the weeks went by, I began to develop friendships. I was given the chance to chat with them as I signed them up for the tournament. I learned new bits and pieces of their stories each time such as how they became homeless and what struggles they might have right now.
This tournament presented the opportunity to shower the homeless with God’s love. I was able to pray for them. Prayers for protection, healing, and provision. I was there to listen to their needs and try to meet them if possible. I was there to be a friend if they needed one. I was able to show them that someone cared about them. Most importantly, I was able to show them God’s love each week.
These opportunities make a significant impact in their lives. I discovered the reason behind hosting the volleyball tournament. It wasn’t about having fun and competing. It was about sharing God’s love with the people of Unity Park.
For more info about being part of what God is up too with the homeless in Fort Worth, and how you and your family can help out, go "Like" our facebook page, or email Adam Clay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also make a donation to help provide gift cards, toiletries, etc. by visiting our "Give" page and selecting Unity Park.
This week's story of the street comes from Diana Clay who coordinates our outreach at Unity Park in Fort Worth. Each week "Stories from the Street" shares a story about what God is doing with our homeless friends in Fort Worth.
My family has been going to Unity Park for almost a year now, and it’s been quite the experience. I have learned so much about our homeless friends since we started hosting volleyball tournaments and I wanted to give you a glimpse of what God is showing me each week.
I remember the first time we went out to Unity Park I was encountered by an elderly man that looked like he hadn’t brushed his hair or teeth in a long time. He reached into his pocket, and he handed me some candy and told me to give it to my kids.
Feeling guilty to take anything away from a homeless man, I said “no thank you” as politely as I could. But he insisted that I take it – repeatedly. So I eventually caved, I took the candy and said thank you. It gave him so much joy giving candy to my children.
But that’s not all. In the last year, I’ve been given something from a homeless person almost every time we go out there – food, socks, toys, books, clothes, just random things like that. And maybe sometimes it’s because they don’t want the item anymore, but more often than not, they just want to bless my kids and me and that’s all they have to offer.
I have seen many times where they share what little they have with each other without hesitation. And I just think that’s so beautiful and so convicting to my heart. And it challenges me to be more like them, to hold onto what I own loosely, because ultimately it’s not mine, but the Lord’s.
My other realization is that I’m starting to believe all of those verses in the Bible about the poor are not just words. These words are actually true!
Jesus continually challenged others to care for the poor and He himself constantly met their needs throughout his short time here on Earth. The more I hear the stories from the people we meet at Unity Park, the more I’m convinced that the Lord really does care and comes through for those in need.
I’ll never forget talking to a woman over the summer who had just gotten out of rehab. It was so hot and she had nothing but the clothes on her back...no hope of finding food or water. When she had finally given up hope, she cried out to God, and then lay on the dirt because she believed that at any moment she would die of a heat stroke.
Then out of nowhere two construction workers appear. They let her sit in their truck to get out of the sun, and gave her water until she was ready to go on her way. She believed these were angels sent from God because if they hadn’t been there right at that moment, she would’ve died.
I’ve heard other stories from our homeless friends where the Lord has shown up in a big way. God truly cares for those who are the poorest of the poor. He hears the cry of their hearts, and I want to care about what Jesus cares about too.
Each week several people part of COAH Missions goes down to Unity Park in Fort Worth to put on volleyball tournaments for our homeless friends. Here is how you can be a part of what God is up to with the homeless in Fort Worth.
1) Join us one Saturday morning at Unity Park...you can play volleyball, pass out drinks, or just hang out and talk or pray with our homeless friends.
2) Consider helping out by making a donation to the homeless through COAH Missions. We give out $60 per week in gift cards. Any donation made goes directly to buying gift cards and supplies for use in Unity Park...or better yet, buy a $10 Wal-Mart gift card and come join us one Saturday morning. Visit our "GIVE" tab above to make a donation.
Each week, we will be sharing the story of someone who is loving on our homeless friends with us in Fort Worth. Each has a unique perspective about what God is up to.
We pray that through these blogs, you are encouraged to pray and see how God can use you and your family in your community and city.
Our first entry is by Kenan Clay who has been serving the homeless weekly for almost a year as a volleyball referee, friend and prayer warrior.
I believe God never quits teaching us new things and changing our perspective to be less of the world and more of Him. This has never been more evident in my life than in being able to go down to Unity Park in Fort Worth (for more info see the bottom) and hang out.
Wait so you go down to a homeless park to hangout? It didn’t start off that way, at least for myself. I looked at it as a way to honor God via serving the homeless. Yet God had a better plan, a plan to change my mindset and my heart. Little did I know it but God has been using this opportunity to change my outlook on how I perceive others.
It’s so simple to hear the label ‘homeless’ and just associate the proper stigmas to those labeled that way. I was easily someone who ascribed to that practice. Yet in the last year that we have been hanging out God has shown me that not only is that way of thinking incorrect, it is very much against what Christ did. I am no Biblical expert but in my Bible I do not see where Jesus ascribed to labels and social norms walking away from those people or shunning them. In fact he did quite the opposite. Samaritan adulteress woman, no self respecting Jew is going talk to her. Tax collector, those guys are the worst of all. Lepers, send them out for fear of catching their disease. Yet instead of embracing the way of thinking Jesus hung out with these people, it was these He spoke to the most. He didn’t look at their label, their sin, their situation, He looked at them as just a person. He didn’t care if you they had a crazy disease, was a known swindler, or was a foreign adulteress. He only saw someone who was hurting and needed to be loved.
So what does this all mean? Through setting up a weekly volleyball tournament at Unity Park we get an opportunity not only to provide something (an activity) but also to interact with people that are ‘homeless’. Playing volleyball with these people gives us a unique opportunity to hang out with them, to get to know them, to hear their stories and share ours. When you drop the label, and attempt to look at the people around you see many different stories. A 70 year old man, who has been on the streets for awhile, who never complains about what he doesn’t have but instead is grateful for everything he does have. (How convicting to be around someone who praises God for what he has, and I who has a roof over my head am sometimes not satisfied with what I have). A husband and wife, who live on the street because the husband hurt his back and lost his job. There are so many similar stories that I haven’t even begun to learn. It’s not about helping out the ‘homeless’, its about making friends, giving people someone to talk to, showing the love of Christ by listening instead of shunning.
It’s funny how when I initially began going down to Unity Park I thought I would make a difference on the people, take them for Christ. Instead I have been changed and am changing. Now, maybe now, I can begin to look at those around me not as a ‘homeless’ or ‘adulterer’ or ‘sinner’ but as a person just like me.
If you'd like more info on being part of reaching out to the homeless in Fort Worth, send us a message at email@example.com.
For more info on Unity Park and what it is, check out Feed By Grace http://www.feedbygrace.org/unity-park/
This is the last part in the 5 part series about Being a Family on Mission through B.L.E.S.S. If you missed the earlier parts, check them out
B. Begin With Prayer
E. Eating with Others
S. Serving Others
The last S. stands for Sharing Your Story...your Jesus story. If we are to be on mission to make disciples, there will be a time when we have to share the Story of Jesus. If we never get to this part, disciples can not be made. You've heard people say things like, "I share my faith by the way I live.", "My goal is for people to see Christ in me." I totally agree with these statements, but if we never get to the point of presenting the gospel of the Kingdom in words, there is no way they will ever become followers of Jesus.
That, however, is many times the hardest part. Many find it easy to hang with others, share meals with them, love on them, but when you ask them to share their reason for doing these things, finding the words seems like an obstacle we can't overcome...but that is where the first four parts of BLESS come in to set the stage.
By Beginning with prayer, we are making sure we are going where Jesus is leading us. This coupled with making sure we are Listening to God and others allows us to be sensitive to what the Lord is doing, and what really matters in peoples lives. When we Eat and share meals with others, we begin to see the hurts, wounds, needs of people. When we serve them, as Christ would serve them, they see that there is a kingdom where there needs are cared about, and they begin to see something different in you...the Love of God.
I will just point out, that this is not normal...most people today would not take the time to do these things with people they don't know, and after awhile, they will begin to ask "What makes you different?"..."Why are you doing this?" As we have continued to reach out to the homeless at Unity Park by hosting Volleyball tournaments and giving out gift cards, people take notice. They see a "crazy" family who comes down to spend time with them. They see organizations and churches come all the time, but it's when individuals and families come down to give of their time and money, that people are a little perplexed. Each week, people ask us "Why is your family doing this?" "Why are you serving us in this way?"
This is an amazing opportunity. We aren't going around forcing people to hear the gospel...people are coming to us and asking...it is so easy to share your story...the Jesus story when people are asking you? When we tell them we do it because we are followers of Jesus and we love them, they are surprised in a good way. This had led to us being able to share the gospel, pray for people, and invite people into the Kingdom.
Are you living your life in such a way that people are looking at you saying..."What is up?" Live in such a way that you B.L.E.S.S. people...live a life on mission and see what God can do with you and your family.
For more resources on B.LE.S.S. check out Discover Your Mission Now by Dave Ferguson, a really short booklet that can get you started to being a family on mission.
This is a continuation of the blog series..."being a family on mission." We use the acronym B.L.E.S.S as a tool to equip others to live out their calling to be on mission. If you missed the first couple entries, check them out.
B. Begin with Prayer
The first "S" stands for "Serving." We begin with prayer to know where God is sending us, go to where he sends us and listen to the hearts of the people. We share meals with the people, where true relationships can be formed, and barriers break down.
By this point, as you develop relationships with those around you, you should start becoming familiar with the true needs and cries of people's heart. If you want to find out how to truly "love your neighbor as yourself", you must first find out how you can serve them...and once you hear it...do it.
An example from our family's life is our opportunity to serve the homeless in Unity Park in Fort Worth. The first thoughts people have when feeding the homeless is providing food, clothing, toiletries, etc. What we discovered after spending time down there, getting to know the people, is that this was not what they really needed. Ministries in Fort Worth do a great job in taking care of the necessities...what is lacking for them is to give something to do, activities that they don't normally get the chance to do. After praying, we knew the best way we could help them was to provide a volleyball tournament...not the first thing that comes to mind, but exactly what they needed.
On almost a weekly basis, we bring down a volleyball net, a couple of volleyballs, some water, and some gift cards and host a volleyball tournament. Men, women, children, senior citizens all playing together, having fun. Playing in the hot sun, we know water is needed, so Logan and Julian take it upon themselves to "serve" by making sure water cups are filled between game.
Afterwards, we hang around, listen to their stories, and pray for those around. Every week, our family shows up again...as we walk in, we are known as "the volleyball people."...the crazy family who shows up to put on a volleyball tournament, pray with people and give out gift cards.
That's the goal with all of this...serving others to the point where they see you as a little crazy...or as I like to call it, an overflowing of God's love. Our prayer is that we can love and serve those Christ calls us too, just as He would love and serve them. We pray they see Christ in us.
How can you "serve"? Remember, it starts with defeating the assumption that you know what they need. Do not assume that...take time, get to know them, hear the cries of their hearts, and then do what you can to be Christ's love to these people. Serve them in such a way they can't help but wonder what makes you different...why you would do this. From your kids' schools, to your neighborhood, to the homeless downtown, to wherever God leads, serve in such a way that they see you are different. Show Christ's love in such a way that people can't help but questions "Why?"...which leads to our final S in B.L.E.S.S...Your opportunity to story with them...stay tuned...
Living to serve in His Kingdom,
In the last two blogs, I wrote about how we are learning that as a family, God calls us to be on mission together. We are exploring this through reaching out and loving on the homeless in Fort Worth. We follow a simple pattern called B.L.E.S.S as we learn to engage and love those around us. If you missed the first parts, click our links below.
B. Begin with prayer
It seems funny that a component of missional living has to do with eating...but perhaps this is part of God's perfect plan to give us time to be missional. No matter how busy we get, we have to find time to eat. While we get busy at times, and can even skip meals, we know that we ultimately need to come back and eat.
Jesus taught us this missional principal Himself, so much so that people called him "a glutton and a drunkard" (Matthew 11:19). Was Jesus really addicted to food, or perhaps was he teaching us that mission can happen through sharing a meal. When Jesus trained the 72 followers in Luke 10, as they went out to proclaim the kingdom, he told them to "Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you."
Not only was Jesus teaching his disciples through example the missional aspect of eating, but He commanded them to do so as they went out to proclaim the gospel...this was part of their missional training.
Why eating? Perhaps it is where relationships are made...where trust is built, where life is shared. We know that the early church gathered together around meals, we are told to remember Christ through a meal, and that it all ends with the wedding feast of the Lamb. Even in other parts of our lives...families get together for dinner or cook-outs, many first dates have dinner as part of it, co-workers get together for lunches.
As families, this is one of the easiest ways to be on mission. If you want to develop relationships with people, share a meal with them. Invite the neighbor family over for dinner. Invite the co-worker over that you've been praying for. If you are a student, sit with someone else at lunch. You have to eat anyways...why not use it as an opportunity to be on mission.
As a high school teacher, I leave my door open during lunch everyday for students to come in and eat...and I make it a point to be in there to eat with them. I usually have 5 to 10 regular students who eat in my room each day, where we can talk...where I hear about struggles, and relationships are built.
As a family, as we serve the homeless at Unity Park, we started off by visiting during Saturday lunch, where we could share meals with the homeless...not provide a meal necessarily, but sit down with them and talk with them while eating. Even after the volleyball tournaments, we try to bring popsicles or pastries so we can sit around and eat with them after we play. These are sweet times where we can hear about their lives, pray with them, and build relationships.
As an individual, and as a family, how can you find time to use eating as a missional piece of your life? I encourage you to find a way to share a meal with someone this week that you might not normally eat with. Pray and see who God leads you to. Then eat with them, and see what God does....
This is Part 2 in our "Being a Family on Mission"
Part 1..."You can Be a Family on Mission: Begin with Prayer"
Quick Link: Come serve with us in Peru in November...check out my pesonal blog for more info... Calling all Missional People.
In my last blog on being a missional family, I talked about how we as a family took up the call to "make disciples" and engage the place God has planted us. Let's make no mistake, this call to engage lostness and make disciples is a core piece of the DNA of a follower of Christ. When we talk about what a follower of Christ is, we believe there are really 3 core pieces to that DNA.
D - Divine Truth...a commitment to God's divine truth..."Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength"(Matt 22:37)
N - Nurturing Relationships - a commitment to loving others..."Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt 22:39)
A - Apostolic Mission - a call to engage lostness and make disciples..."Make disciples of all nations..." (Matt 28:19)
Alan Hirsch says it best when he says "Every Christian is a sent one. There is no such thing as an unsent Christian." As follower of Jesus...we are by nature "sent ones"...sent individuals, sent families, sent communities.
The question is how do you do that as a family? In my first post, we talked about the acronym B.L.E.S.S. that we use as we participate with Christ...the first step to Begin with prayer...a logical step...but it can't stop there.
B....Begin with Prayer.
I think the best description of what we are called to do(thanks Mike Frost) is "to alert others to the universal reign of God through Christ." It's to let people know that there is a King...there is a Kingdom...and through Christ they can be part of that.
Easier said then done...right? How do we do that?
The first step is realizing that we might not know what that looks like, without first going down and listening. As we went to serve the homeless in Unity Park, we could have saved up, brought food, and handed that out...feeding the hungry...right? The thing is that the homeless around Unity Park in Fort Worth are well fed...they have meals provided for them through other local ministries. The questions is, what did they need...what could we do to be a tangible expression of the kingdom of God to them?
There is no one answer. Each place God is calling you is different...there are different people, different circumstances, different hurts, different needs. You won't know what those are until you first "GO"...and then "LISTEN". Listen to the people...what are you hearing...what are their hurts...what are the cries of their hearts.
For the homeless at Unity Park...it wasn't food, or clothes...they had those things. The cry that we kept hearing was a desire for love, community and activities...something to do.
In the Kingdom of God, everyone is loved..."Love your neighbor as yourself."...there is no loneliness and we are part of a community. As we prayed about how we could be that tangible expression of God's kingdom, we decided to start offering a volleyball tournament...a time where homeless and non-homeless could come together, play together, love each other, and be the same while on the court. In God's kingdom, there are no "poor" or "rich"...no "homeless" or "non-homeless"...in God's kingdom we are all the same...one community.
As you go to where God sends you...the 2nd step is to "Listen". Don't assume you know what it looks like to be a tangible expression of God's kingdom before you even get there. Go...listen...pray. God will make it clear how you are to serve Him...serve others...and make disciples.
It doesn't however end there...stay tuned for part 3.
If you have a 5 minutes...watch Mike Frost talk about Adopting a Posture of Listening below...
Welcome to the first COAH Missions blog. Instead of being a blog about what we are doing, we are hoping that this blog can be about what God has called you to do, and to share some lessons that we have learned about following Christ and living as families in missional communities with other Christ followers. We'll also want to provide some opportunities to connect with others who are on mission, and learn what it means to hear God and obey Him.
It's easy to recognize that we are all called to be on mission, and even have the desire to step out and teach our kids about being on mission. The hard part is actually putting that into play. Where do I go? What do I do? How do I find time in my schedule? I have young children, can God really use us as a family on mission? I'm single...just one person, can God really use me?
The answer to the last two questions, is a resounding yes...you were created to be His kingdom agents, and He has a place for you.
The answer to the first three questions, is only found in Christ. No one can tell you what to do, or where to go except for the Master himself. We use a simple pattern called B.L.E.S.S to remind us how to hear.
Over the next few entries, I will describe how we've seen each step work...covering one letter at a time.
The first letter stands for "Begin with prayer". Ask God where he is sending you and your family...and expect an answer. As you pray, begin looking around your neighborhood, your work, your school...ask God to speak to you and show you where he is leading you. He will answer you...he will show you where to go. If God truly has a mission for you, then hearing him is the first step.
As we prayed that prayer, God began to show our family his heart for the poor. It happened as we read His word, spent time in prayer, and walked with other believers, but God showed us clearly that was where he was sending us. Ultimately this led us to visit a place called Unity Park in Fort Worth. We weren't sure what we would do there, or who we would meet, but it was the first step in obedience.
Where is God calling you...what is His mission for you. I challenge you to spend some time with Him...and when you hear, move...
If you are wanting to explore some opportunities, and learn what it means to be a family on mission or be part of a missional community...and you live in the DFW area, we have some opportunities.
1) Connect with us at our house on Sunday afternoons where we come together for worship, prayer and encouragement where we push each other to hear and step into God's leading.
2) Join us at Unity Park in Fort Worth as we reach out and minister to the homeless...loving them and building relationships with them.
3) Join us at Mission Arlington once a month to serve the poor.
4) If you are interested in exploring what it means to be a family on mission internationally, come with us to Cusco, Peru on what we call our "family Mission trips." Our next trip is Nov. 19th - 27th, we'd love to have you join us.
Feel free to share in the comments where God has led your family to serve Him...
We pray that you would learn what it means hear God, and step out as families on mission,