All posts by finishingtouchbysteve

10/10 for Eden

City of Refuge is raising money to refurbish 30 rooms that house single moms and their kids. Our goal is $30,000 raised through donations of $10 or more from any who would like to give.  We’re in the middle of a 10 day campaign where we’re asking people to give as little as $10 to contribute toward refurbishing a room for a homeless woman and her children.  Go to my fundraising page to see what you can do to help.  Tell your friends and acquaintances and together we will invest in more lives.

Our goal is to outfit 30 rooms with all the essentials – a bed frame, mattress and box spring, linens, pillows and comforters, dressers and desks, and a welcome basket full of hygiene items, towels and other basic items, along with a fresh coat of paint on the walls and clean carpet on the floor.

 

But this is more than just a campaign to raise funds for furniture. This is a campaign to restore dignity. Women and children come to us beaten down by the circumstances of life, most often circumstances completely beyond their control. They come not only with physical needs, but spiritual and emotional needs – needs that must be met with a compassionate community of care. The first expression of that compassion, the one that sets the mood for their entire experience in Eden Village, is a room that says, “We care!”

We are looking for many willing givers! We are at 44% of our goal of $30,000 to renovate 30 rooms for our women and children with 2 days to go. That means there is a wonderful opportunity for you! Seriously, this is something that makes a big difference. I spent today working in both of our housing units, and while there are many things to be done, this to me is the most exciting. Our homes are where we go for our comfort, rest, and peace. We wish to do the same for those who stay here. Please pass this link to everyone you know. $10 is not much to sacrifice, and we need many to give to do what we believe is needed here. Thanks to all who have already shared financially. I simply ask that if you feel you can spare a small donation, consider doing that!

Go to my fundraising page to view videos about the history of City of Refuge, and contribute to the cause.

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Blessings of Community and Friends

The longer we live in Atlanta, the more I am appreciating what friendships and a sense of belonging meant to me living in the communities that I have been a part of throughout my life. Every where I have been I have been blessed to have others invest in my life. Sure, I had plenty of struggles being a Mennonite as I grew up, but I always knew I belonged and was a part of a community. We are now a part of a totally different culture and community here, and although we are a involved in a ministry that we are excited about and see God at work in, I am seeing things that are missing. Things that I assumed were what everyone wanted, or at least knew about. So, as I have been thinking about this, I wanted to mention several specific things that people have done for us to recognize that what many of us consider as normal is in fact ways that we have been building friendships and community.

Strong family. Although this is seemingly basic and foundational, it is abnormal in many ways here. There is something secure about being a member of a family. We have a place to fill, a role to play. Our family was not perfect, but I grew up knowing I was wanted. I was taught of a greater calling than myself, God’s Kingdom. Our families have continued to invest in us here through acceptance, connection, and support in various ways. There is something reassuring knowing that even though we make mistakes, we are still a part of our families.

Friends. We have had quite a few people stop in to see us or to stay for a bit in the last several months. People taking the time to spend time with us and see our world does so much for us. I keep realizing that we are part of a much larger community than just the ones we have lived in. Connecting with friends from all over and with varied backgrounds keeps us in touch and allows us to be involved in more than just Atlanta. We also feel love through others being a part of our lives.

Giving. I keep being overwhelmed by what people have given us. What is amazing is that giving comes from all types of people and in all kinds of ways. There are way too many things that people have done for us to list, but I will mention some as a general overview.
Tires being paid for on several occasions
People sending notes/letters/church bulletins
Money appearing in our mailbox
Money being sent when someone found out about a specific need
The Abbeville community taking us in when I substituted at CSMS in March by providing a place to stay, money for groceries, meals in various homes, babysitting for us so that Christy and I could have some time together, and other things
Groups bringing groceries, baked goods, and more when they came to visit
A GPS unit showing up right before a trip (this has been a lifesaver in the city!)
This really is just a sample of friends generosity. I wonder at times how so many people with such busy lives and so many good projects/interests themselves can bless us so much. What makes it hard sometimes to fathom is that it doesn’t feel justified to me. I have a problem of living with a reward mentality, so when I look at what we are doing here and what I have done for all those who have so generously given, it feels as if it is very undeserved. We have been given far more than what we have given. I don’t always do well at understanding this, but I do like what one person told me. He said, “Be faithful to what God has called you. Life isn’t about what we perceive to be success or failure, but obedience to what God desires.” I don’t believe we deserve what we have been given, but I am deeply grateful.

I think what helped me realize more than anything the blessings of our strong communities are the work groups that have come down to help on various projects. The last several weeks have been tremendous. There was a group of around 20 men who came down Tuesday a week ago to frame up, sheetrock, and trim walls in Eden III, a women’s shelter and volunteer group room. Several also painted another room used by volunteers. Wednesday there were 11 of us, made up of several who were willing to stay two days and some who came on short notice. Then yesterday Marcus Overholt, Ernest Hochstetler, and Micah Helmuth came down to put up a block retaining wall in front of the garden area. The staff have been extremely impressed by what they have seen. I love the perspective of community this has given both them and the community at large. While I recognize that it is easy to simply appreciate the work ethic of the Mennonite culture, it said a lot more to me and to many of them. We saw a group of men who knew how to work together, had a common goal, and were willing to put in dedicated effort. But more than anything, we saw a reflection of God through the people who chose to come and serve Him.

There are so many other things that I am grateful for in our background. I can easily get frustrated with the lack of strong community here, but as I was talking to Pastor Tony last Wednesday about this we both mentioned that the christian backgrounds we are a part of did not happen overnight. There were years of struggle and trials, lots of mistakes, and dedicated work. I am excited about currently being a part of a new community, as difficult and weak as it may seem, while being immensely grateful for where I come from and what I have been given. Here is a thank-you to all who have played a part in our journey, and a welcome to those who will join in ahead.

New vision

Several Sundays ago I overheard Tony telling Fred and Al about a pastor who had caught a vision.  It was so good, I wanted to pass it along to everyone else.  By the way, this Tony is called Grits Tony because he brings grits to the street every Sunday morning.  Fred is one of the coordinators for the street feedings, and Al is a regular volunteer.  Just so you know.

About a month ago, a pastor at a well-to-do church in Marietta brought about 15 men with him to visit a ministry called 7 Bridges.  This ministry houses women and their children in one building and men in another.  They coordinate feedings at certain areas throughout Atlanta where the homeless congregate, as well.  The pastor at this ministry (everyone knows him as Pastor 7) invited them to go along on a feeding.  A bit hesitantly they agreed to go.  

He took them into some of the toughest sections of town.  Remember, these are men who are mostly upper middle class.  As they helped feed they saw drug dealers, pimps, prostitutes, addicts, homeless, and basic poverty.  I thought it was interesting that for once, rather than being godly in their safe environment, they showed the world God by being where they were truly needed.  I wish I was more like that.  Anyhow, they came back, and, in Tony’s words, the pastor was “messed up.”

Apparently this experience was revolutionary for him.  The following day when he stood up to preach, he told his congregation that he really didn’t know what to tell them.  He then told about his and the other men’s involvement on the street.  He talked about what they had seen.  Then he said, “I left there thinking of all that we have.  We have a large gym that is unused a large percentage of the time.  We have material blessings. I don’t know if any of you are interested in helping, but I have chosen to do something about what I saw.  If anyone is willing to help, come meet me after the service.”

Everyone came.  Every last one.

I’m not normally excitable, but I’ll be honest, I was jumping when I heard that.  That spoke further into my heart than anything I can think of recently.  

According to Tony, they cleaned up the gym and put beds in it.  He said all the Targets in the area were out of blankets, sheets, etc., because these people bought them all.  They then went out and brought in the homeless.  The first night they had 36.  The next night they had 64.  The following night they had over 100.  It has been over 100 since.

I love how this speaks of true community.  Those who have work together to give to those who don’t have.  This seems to me to be what God had in mind for us, His people.  I wonder if this is closer to the early church than how I have lived my Christianity for most of my life.

One last thing.  At the end of the story, Fred said, “They (referring to the church) were just waiting for someone to lead them.”  Isn’t that true?  If we would be willing to act when God calls, I wonder who all would join us.

Most of Us Don’t Know Each Other’s Name


Last weekend we thoroughly enjoyed having the Whispering Pines youth down here for a mission trip.  We took them sightseeing downtown, they had a chance to pass out tracts and sing a little, and went along Sunday morning to help feed the homeless and pass out bundles they had brought along.

One of the highlights was watching the Children’s Christmas Parade Saturday morning.  While we were there, a homeless man struck up a conversation with Randy and Jolene.  They introduced me to him later, and he invited me to come downtown so that he could give me an inside look at his world, the world of the homeless.

So, this morning I dropped Christy and the boys off at the zoo and headed downtown.  I knew that he slept at the Catholic church, but all I knew to do if he wasn’t there was to ask others who might know him.  He had assured me that some of the others would know where he was.  In his words, “They know who I am.  Just tell them my name.”

I parked and set out to find him.  I went to the church, the park where we met, and a good bit of the area close by.  No go.  The people I asked seemed to have no idea who I was talking about.  In the end,  I did not find him, but I had a lot to think about.

As I walked the streets in the 40 degree cold and my hands started to tingle from cold (yes, I am a southerner!), I wondered what it would be like to depend on others for my clothing.  Walking past a gated open basement with a welcome heat blast emanating from it all I wanted to do was huddle down as close as I could get.  What would it be like to not be able to adjust the thermostat at will?  One man, loaded with his bundles, stopped for a quick rest.  When I asked if he could help me, all I saw in his eyes was panic.  Although it seemed that he was suffering from either a mental illness or some other cause, I realized that  he had no idea what I was up to or what I intended, and his distrust was obvious.  This was reinforced when the next man I asked said, “We (referring to the homeless) stick together, but we really don’t know most of each other’s names.  I doubt half of them know my name.  There are too many of us.”  A life of constant wariness, of uncertainty, is a stress that I find hard to fathom.  Seeing all the people that spend most of the day surviving for that day is so different than what I know.  I realize that a very high percentage are in their situation because of an addiction of some kind, whether it is drugs, alcohol, or another substance.  That did not change what I felt as I watched.  Knowing that many of them spend a large portion of their day going from one person to another, all while clearly being seen as inferior by the majority of those they meet, is saddening.  Their choice impacts them, but our response wounds them.  Watching so many of them interact with each other, mostly male-to-male, makes me ache for them, wishing they could have the family connections I am blessed with.  I can only imagine the depression I would struggle with if I were in their shoes.

I came away amazed at how positive so many of the people are I am blessed to feed.  I’ll never forget the time soon after I started when one of them looked at me and said, “You need to be smiling!”  This man was smiling then, and has every time I have seen him.

I also can only imagine the loneliness, the dependency, the inferiority that many of them feel.  I wonder how far a smile of recognition, a “hello,” an offer of help go.  I left wishing I knew more about Jesus’ heart for the needy.  But mostly, I keep thinking of the man who said, “Most of us don’t know each other’s names.”

Housing II

Christy and I went to Atlanta yesterday for round two of our house-hunting.  We left thinking we had narrowed our choices to three places.  By mid-morning we weren’t sure if we had any choices left because of some things we were uncomfortable with .  We ended up looking at three other places as well.  One we became really excited about, and the other two have some possibilities.  Christy wrote a list for each of the houses, listing the positives and negatives of each.  Here’s the list.

House 1  Olympian Way  3 BR   2 Bath

6 month available  10-15 min. to mission

Positives:

size and number of rooms

cute

has back yard

nice front porch

reasonable amount of closet space

includes all appliances

Negatives:

neighbors/under-fed, fierce, constantly barking dogs

reportedly (by a neighbor)  “slimey” owner

no light fixtures

closets are cramped, not really finished

some fencing needed

Porch needs to be fixed

OVERALL:

very concerned about neighborhood and homeowner

price is high for what it offers

(no pictures)

House 2 Parsons Place (next to school)  3 BR  1 Bath

6 month availability  5 min. to mission

Positives:

seemingly quiet neighborhood

low rent

nice front porch

okay back yard

3 bedrooms

[rickety] outdoor storage

basement w/ concrete for storage

Negatives:

SMOKE :(

very tight size-wise

Extra BR is up front

Filthy inside, Trashy outside

Kitchen sink sagging, obvious water damage under sink

no washer and dryer hook-up

OVERALL:

Negative feelings because of smoke, no washer/dryer hook-up, and small size

(no pictures)

House 3: Stokes Avenue  3 BR  2 Bath

might require 12 mo. lease  12 min. to mission

Positives:

Best neighborhood (people cut their grass!!!!)

Nice front porch

Spacious

LR, DR, 3 spacious bedrooms, 2 Baths, great kitchen, large laundry room with room for growing things

Nice layout

Back yard

lots of windows and natural light

Nice amount of closet space

attic

Negatives:

price is high

no outdoor storage

probably not as energy efficient because of older windows

possibly no option for 6 months

OVERALL:

“Dear God, please say, ‘yes.’”

House 4: Dosoto  2 BR  1 Bath

6 mo. lease available  10 min. to mission

Positives:

DR and LR, nice kitchen

some storage

concrete floor in basement

private, fenced in back yard

overall appearance is nice

decent neighborhood (we think/hope)

1 min. from a nice park

good place for storing a trailer if needed

Negatives:

price per size

only 2 BR

not very energy efficient

OVERALL Impression:

Feasible

not our first pick, but a good option

Some pretty charming features. :)  -c

House 5: Sciple  3 BR  2 Bath

6 month available  2 min. to mission

Positives:

Nice size

Best remodel/energy efficient of any we saw

Nice kitchen and appliances

Best closets–space and Closet Made shelving

Spacious back yard

Proximity to mission

Negatives:

Safety pretty questionable

Loud, busy, trashy neighborhood

a lot of foot traffic through the abandoned, adjacent property

OVERALL impression:

Really like the house, but huge concerns about neighborhood

House 6: Spencer  3 BR, 1 Bath

6 mo  5 min. to mission

Positives:

okay/nice as far as size, layout and remodel

Quiet neighborhood

Negatives:

SMOKE :(

Basically no yard

Overall impression:

nice house, but not willing to live w/ the smoke smell.

Summary:

3 is our first pick.  Our only concern is the price.  4 and 5 are a toss up.

We left with the three houses listed above as our likely choices.  We are now trying to balance what we would like, what we can afford, and what is reasonably safe for our family.  Please pray with us that we would make a decision based on what is important to God, and that we would have the discernment to know.