Monday, August 11, 2008
(Courtesy of neworleansonline.com)
We're back, and to say the least, we're so pleased that God chose us to go and allowed us to join Him in His work!! I will be doing a separate post this week, telling you about our experiences on this trip, but I'll say this much, we need to and must obey the Matthew command in 28:19 and believe the promise of v.20. If you do it, God will be glorified, He will add more to the Kingdom, and you will experience His promises. As beautiful as the above pictures are, they don't reflect at all the nastiness and filthiness of the sin and spiritual darkness that permeates this city. Let me just say though, that having gone to New Orleans, I'm convinced still, that every city's sin is nasty and filthy, and EVERYBODY NEEDS JESUS and needs to be touched by someone that just loves souls...bottom line!! There is work to be done there but here also. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. That will link us to my "MOMMY MONDAY" post below, discussing my children's experience on this mission trip. I wish I had the pictures ready!
We took our three children, two girls and one of our sons, on our trip, as I may have already expressed in another post. God met with our children in this place! Thanks be to God that our children are saved by grace through faith and that they have a heart for all people. Thanks be to God that they had, at some point, started to grow a heart for missions. This trip grew a heart for missions all the more, and so far, my boy sees himself going on missions trip after missions trip. They all grew spiritually while here. Nothing that they loved about people and serving changed, it simply grew largely. Thank you Jesus!
We arrived in New Orleans late, the drive was long, and the children were hungry, but because of their excitement and the knowledge of the goal of the trip, they immediately hopped out of the vans we drove and unloaded all of the food, supplies, and other provisions we brought for ourselves and the disadvantaged of Vieux Carre' and the surrounding area. We had the vans loaded down too, so this was not a quick task. We're off to a good start.
We just prayed continuously while in NO (New Orleans) for the team, the city and it's people, and the power and protection of the children. God answered. Save for a couple of run-ins and images of what typically goes on among the people (satan worshipers on the street and homosexual activity), the children's eyes and character were protected from what was really actively going on outwardly and definitely behind the scenes all of the time. They could have run in to a lot worse, but God was in control, and we knew it. Now don't get me wrong, because of God's hand on my children's life, the training they've gotten, and lots of powerful prayer, we didn't intend on hiding them from the environment or the people of Vieux Carre at all (or they never would have accompanied us on the trip in the first place), but you must use wisdom and discernment (and keep praying and covering your children) on where they can go and how far they can go while there. Because of the power of the blood of Jesus, the children were not afraid or hindered. They weren't even outwardly shocked. We had made it a point to remind them of what they may see and hear the whole time, and I feel like they were well prepared. This was the actual outward proof of God's protection and covering, I believe. In the natural, it was unbelievable.
The children walked the streets with us and prayed, gave out tracts, goodie bags with toiletries and witness materials, booklets (to anyone from the tourist to the homeless), and just generally talked to people with cheer. This all happened in the Vieux Carre' area. At the church, which is right in the heart of the French Quarter (imagine that! perfect location though!), we had what's called a cafe. It's where we go upstairs to the church's kitchen to cook, and we bring the food back down to the sanctuary-now-converted-to-a-cafe-giveaway-area-for-whosoever-may-come. We place the food on one table and we have giveaways on another table next to it, with chairs facing the table like they would be for church. We open the doors to the people on the street (tourist, homosexuals, homeless, druggies, alcoholics, families, pagans, etc.--you name it, NO has it, but bigger and 'badder' or more concentrated in a smaller area). They come in and sit. We have a short talk about Christ and everyone's need for Him, hope, etc., and we end it with a genuine "we love you, and you are not forgotten." After this, we all ate together. Oh yeah, back to where the children fit in to all this. The children helped clean the sanctuary for preparation, prepare the food after it was cooked, set the tables with food and giveaways, my son literally waited on people hand and foot (he wasn't afraid to smile and shake hands, place food in the hands of, and help find shoes of all sorts for people who desperately needed them). At the end of the service, we had praise and worship time in music, and my son just clapped and sang. If you could have seen how genuine his smile was and his joy for what he had done for Jesus and others! I'm thanking God for the children's testimony!! As a mother, I am filled with joy!
While we went out among the people, seeking to plant seeds or water somewhere out in the city everyday that we were there, in the middle of one of the days, I needed to stay back and minister to my girls and my husband and cook dinner for the team, so my son and the rest of the team went to what's called The Wall. It is where the chronically homeless hang out, literally up against a big concrete wall, not far off from all of the activity of the city. Big things and lots of eating were going on all around these people, but in a way, they could not participate or take advantage of all of this. Yes, they could walk among the people and the shops, but they had no money to buy anything, and they certainly couldn't eat of the fare of the fine restaurants that NO has to offer. And there are MANY, folks. As you may already know, this place is reknowned for food, uniqueness, history, and it's unique residents. My son came back from The Wall with great praise reports. The team even told me of his boldness to walk up to people, pray with them individually, talk to them like they were human beings (duh!), give out nice shirts to some and flip-flops, feed, and just generally hang out with. My son is only 15 years old, but from all reports he became a leader. Thank you Wonderful Savior!! Jesus did it all!! All Glory and honor to God!
The last day, we had regular (although the service in Vieux Carre can be anything but normal--it's so unique) Sunday service. The attendees or the congregation make up--missionaries, students, homeless, alcoholics...pretty much everything I named above. We all worshipped together. Wow! What a concept (I'm being a little sarcastic)! Which one of us would do that on a regular basis or feel comfortable with the local prostitute (and definitely looking like one) sitting next to them in church, looking for comfort, acceptance, something to fill the void and hole in her heart? My children did, and I didn't notice any recoiling. Our children were taught to be cautious and careful walking around the building and outside with homeless men and very possibly pedophiles milling about, but as long as they took our cautions and safety measures seriously, and because the Lord was surely in control, all was well. We painted, beforehand, the worst case scenario for our children and reminded them of things to remember daily, and still, they were undeterred. Thank You Jesus for Your awesome testimony in our children! I can't stop thanking You enough. You caused your agenda to go forward unhindered by the enemy. You are in control because...YOU ARE GOD!! Glory to your name!
I want to end this post encouraging you as parents and mentors to just give all opportunities for your children and/or charges to do the work of Christ. Encourage them in missions and to be missions-minded, locally and foreign. Direct them to opportunities in giving. Show them the plight of other people, but that literally EVERYBODY needs Jesus, no matter who they are and where they live. Share the knowledge with them that (if they're saved) at one time, someone shared Christ with them, gave them a hope, and helped snatch their souls from the grips of eternal hell; they should grow a love and concern to do the same. Tell them that but for the grace of God, anybody we serve who is disadvantaged could be us and can be if we stray away from Christ, or if for whatever reason, He decides to withhold something from us or allow something to happen, ultimately for His glory and our good. Remember, His thoughts and intentions are higher than ours. Continue, in general, to admonish them toward righteousness and love the things and people that God does. Remind them to think on the things that they've learned during their experiences and to not forget them when they come home and get back to their own corners of the world.
Pray for us, as we teach our children as they rise, and go about their day, and lie down. Pray that God keeps His mighty merciful hands on them and that He increases their hearts and affections toward Him and things that He is concerned about. Pray for their strength to keep pressing on in the face of the world and the enemy. Pray for us as parents that we keep our eyes on Him also and stay in His Word, doing what is right and pleasing to Him with ourselves and His children that He has given us charge of and as gifts.
We're grateful for the awesome opportunity that God presented in going to NO. Pray for us as we decide if God wants us to go back in the fall for a Thanksgiving celebration in the Quarter for anybody that will come. Ours, of course, will be a true Thanksgiving and God-focused theme while offering good food,...while all around us will be parties celebrating in a whole other way, I'm sure. We want to offer the better alternative.
Ask God for an opportunity to be a blessing to somebody. Post a comment here and tell us about it, if He has already extended an opportunity for you to do that today or some time this week. I'm anxious to hear what God has done in your life. May you and yours be blessed today.