Our days always begin with a time of devotions amongst those of us on the immersion while still at Wesley UMC. Today was my day to share my devotional thoughts. I had been thinking of my reasoning for being on this trip and I thought of Jeremiah 29:11.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
This sparked my mind to think of God’s will for us during these next two weeks. We never know what God’s plan for our lives is, but he has one and it surely is a future of hope. It is something that we should look forward to.
I did this devotion this morning without even thinking about the people we are learning about this week. As we began to prepare for our prayer service today I reflected on God’s plan for all of the people in this community. This Bible verse says that God has a plan for all of us. He has plans that are for a future with hope. I think that is an awesome gospel to preach to a community with this much pain and sorrow. To tell them that there is a light in times of darkness. God is right there with them and he is there helping and reaching out to them.
After devotions we got ready and went to prayer service. As today’s prayer service occurred I wondered if all the prayer services were this moving. I feel like each day we unravel new emotions to try and connect more with the community. We yearn to provide them with an experience that will change their lives. However, I feel that we are getting a situation where it is our lives that are being changed. I have been blessed to be able to lead music for these prayer services everyday so far and to be able to look out at their faces has changed me. I work off of their energy and what they bring to the table in terms of worship.
After lunch we went up to the sanctuary and watch a movie about the poverty line in America and were lead in a discussion by the Pastor at Rising Hope. The movie was called “The Line” and was made by Sojourners which is an organization reaching out to poor people across the country. If you want to see the movie here is a link (http://thelinemovie.com). The movie talks about four different situations of poverty. If you watch the movie each of the people begin to work through their poverty line, but the whole thing is that there are still more. It is making what is known as the poverty line known to those who are above. How real of a worry it should be for some of us.
The conversation was so spirit filled and answered so many questions about the community and Rising Hope in general. The church started out of the back of a Pastors car. He went around looking for the homeless people. Finding them, talking to them, and just generally getting to know them. From there he got funding from the Virginia COnference to plant a mission church whose sole purpose it was to reach out to these people. It is a church made up of the poor. Listening to how Rising Hope as truly evolved into its name “Mission Church.” It’s entire existence is based on a mission to this disassociated and disenfranchised people. The people who are forgotten by society were given a home. There are so many ministries running out of this small church yet there is so much vitality and life that this place produces in this community. When you are sitting in lunch or dinner at the church all faces are smiling because they know the environment created by being in the church and they are so thankful for it.
The last thing I did was what is known as the Hypothermia Shelter. New Hope Housing uses the space at Rising Hope to house 25 people during the winter months to keep them out of the cold and to dwindle the numbers of homeless people who die from hypothermia. This is such a great ministry because a mat and a sleeping bag for these people mean more for these people than most other things right now. People were excited for a hot meal and a warm place to sleep. We had a few people who had said they had been sleeping outside the past couple nights. The woman in charge said it had been warm the past few nights and as I thought I knew it hadn’t made it far out of the 40’s. However, to the people out there it is a warm night. I cannot even imagine that kind of environment to live, but these people do it everyday. My mind feels angry at myself for living lavishly in my mind when there are hurting people.
This community has truly changed me (as I keep saying), but it is true. Seeing the faces really puts the pain right in your heart. I am reminded of the movie “Amazing Grace” when William Wilberforce goes to visit his old pastor John Newton. Newton used to own a slave ship and he says that he remembers all the faces of the slaves he carried on the ship. They haunt him. I feel the reason some people are content to give money sometimes is because they haven’t seen these faces. I can already tell that I will have the faces of the people I meet engrained in my mind for a long time. However, it’s not a bad thing. It reminds me of the hurt and pain and the room for help that there is in this community.
My journey on this immersion is far from over, but it has already been so beneficial. Follow me for the rest of this journey and share it with your friends. For confidentiality sake I do not want to share faces. So I encourage to go out and seek those faces and volunteer and encourage your friends to get involved in your community.