Monday, August 4, 2014

Week 9-FBC Midlothian, Calvary, & Marathon

There is nothing about Street Reach that is quite as bitter or as sweet as the final week of Bible Club. Knowing that this will be the last time I see this kids for at least a year (if not forever) adds a weight to my heart and mind which cannot be expressed adequately enough. However, the completion of the summer 2014’s story–seeing the resolution and the outcome of this painting of God’s–illuminates the work that God has been doing all summer long so that we may see it and rejoice. The finality of Rosamond’s story includes too many kids to properly say good bye to, as we had 100 kids again on this past Thursday–a testimony to the love that was continually poured out by churches throughout the summer, because otherwise these kids would not have continued to come back. It includes 263 that have attended Rosamond Bible Club at least once in the summer and the salvation of 7 of those children. It includes the church group from Marathon who helped to finish week 9 at Street Reach strong pulling so many kids with only 7 people. It includes a neighborhood that is broken but is being made new piece by piece, person by person, year by year, and summer by summer. As we turn this final page in this small portion of God’s great epic, we remember the children that we have come to love so much, but were so much more loved by God long before we ever saw their faces. We pray that God will continue HIS ministry to them throughout the school year, opening eyes and changing hearts toward the righteousness made manifest in Christ Jesus for all who believe. We pray for the teams that will be hand-picked by God to come in and continue His harvest work next summer. And we pray for the Kingdom of God, that it would enter the strongholds of Satan still hiding within Memphis. That it would bind up the forces of evil and plunder the goods that are rightfully God’s. Above all, may God’s will be done here just as it is in heaven. Signing off for the summer, it has been great, it has been real, it has been blessed. Good bye.

The love poured out and into National this week was deep and wide. I am reminded of the words of John in his first letter. He says God is love and if we abide in love we abide in God. We know love because of Jesus Christ being sent into this world being made manifest among us. The love Christ had for us was so deep that he laid down his life for us on the cross. Not only when we believe this, but when we tell others, God’s love abides in us and his love is perfected within us. (1 John 4:7-13). 
First Baptist Church Midlothian from Midlothian, Texas had endless love flowing from them which could only be the love of God truly being perfected in them. From day one of Bible Club this week the team had kids all over them, whether they were giving piggy back rides, shoulder rides, sitting in laps, or simply just walking and holding hands with the kids. At one point I heard some of the team say “I wonder how many kids I can fit on my lap” as the kids continued to just come and sit. Just as Jesus was always welcoming the little children to him, Midlothian was doing the very same thing. It is one thing to talk about every week how to be the hands and feet of Jesus and another thing to actually be the hands and feet of Jesus. Midlothian was the hands and feet of Jesus in an ever real way this week. I have never seen a team pour out so much love each and every day throughout the week until on Friday when they were finished and all their love had been left with the kids. There were so many gospel-centered conversations that took place as I got to chat this week with many of the Bible Club kids about their favorite parts of the summer. They all would tell me, “Miss Gaby, my favorite part was Bible story” and as we would continue to talk as I asked why, they each would take time to share a different part of the gospel with me. This happened in multiple conversations with the kids. One thing I am confident of about leaving National at the end of this summer is the kids know the gospel and are firm in the faith. They are already disciples who are fully equipped to go and make disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples… There is no greater joy than knowing the kids that have been poured into by countless missionaries this summer are becoming missionaries in their very own community reclaiming their neighborhood for Jesus Christ. The Lord manifested himself in more ways than I can even begin to describe, nonetheless wrap my mind around, and all the glory belongs to our Father seated in heaven. The words the prophet Isaiah writes, “And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets to dwell in” is not only Street Reach’s theme, but the cry of National this summer. There are missionaries rising up at National, becoming the restorer of the streets and offering the good news of Jesus Christ to their family and friends. One of the 12-year-old boys at Bible Club said the other day, I told so and so and so (giving me names of the kids) he shared the gospel with that afternoon. To God be unending glory now and forevermore!
I couldn't imagine a better way to end the summer than with the loving hearts of FBC Midlothian in the house to serve at G-street. This team, who had come a few months ago in the Spring, came back with even more passion to fight for our kids. They were immediately asking about beloved children and telling me about the plans they had for Bible Club, and it was such a blessing to see them prove their love through actions throughout the week. Every station could easily be described with one simple word: "love." The team was constantly loving on kids and finding new ways to please them. I rarely saw a single person from Midlothian without a kid hanging off of them in some way or another. The team was proud to identify with the kids of Guernsey, and this pride formed bonds and relationships that will never be broken and overcame any tiredness or stress. Though the kids were sad to hear that Bible Club was ending, there was so much joy at Guernsey. I could see the fruit of the entire summer as kids were so in tune with the Bible stories and the scripturally-based words of the team, myself, Sarah, and Kaylin. The love poured out from these kids is a vast multiplication of the love that was poured into them all sumer long, and it made the last week so sweet, as well as reminding me that any hardships we faced this summer were worth it. On our last day, we had more kids than we have had since the first week of the summer, with 72 smiling faces at Bible Club. It was a bittersweet day as so much fun was had along with farewell hugs. But we are leaving this summer with immense hope rather than distress! This week, we rejoiced as missionaries to Guernsey Avenue as we witnessed Quinshon, Quintasia, and Jermaine enrolled in Brinkley Heights Urban Academy, and many of their family members are still filling out applications. So many of our kids came to the school last year and it is only continuing this year! It is wonderful that we have missionaries coming in for weeks or summers at a time, but it is even better when we can love on these kids all year long. This victory has been won through the dedication of all our mission teams and for that, we thank you. FBC Midlothian: your love, passion, energy, and hard work made this last week everything we could have wanted and more. Thank you for giving us one last week with the kids, and thank you for loving them with the love of Jesus Christ.
We could NOT have imagined a better final week for our kids at Whittier! The Lord provided the small, yet powerful and energetic, team from Calvary (Connections) to love on and minister to our kids before they headed back to school. Each day in Bible story, our kids loved singing songs about God’s gifts to us, while learning and memorizing Scripture to go along with each lesson. It was incredible to see our kids be able to repeat each day’s song and verse, as it began to sink in to each of their hearts. We are confident that the Lord will remind them of these verses when they are in need of these gifts, and that they will be able to share these truths with their families and friends as well. Each team member displayed God’s love passionately, as they walked each route and lead each station with confidence and enthusiasm. Over fifty precious children attended Bible Club for our final day, as final hugs were given and last goodbyes were said. However, on Sunday, Teal and I had the privilege to return to the Whittier Bible Club site and walk through it one last time, reflecting and meditating on all that the Lord had done in and through us. After praying for our kids, their families, and their futures, we planted a wooden cross on the lot with our final prayer for our kids written on it, as well as each child’s name who attended Bible Club this summer. We are confident that the work that the Lord did this summer through each team member, each child, each staff member, and each community member will continue. The seeds that were planted will continue to grow, the plants that were watered will continue to bloom, and there will be many more harvests to come, if only we are faithful to Him and His work. We have no doubt that missionaries will be raised up from these streets, and the Lord will continue to use these kids at witnesses for Him. Thank you to each and every team member who boldly stepped foot on Whittier Road in the Name of Jesus Christ for the past nine weeks. Thank you for each Bible story that was taught, each song that was sang, each hug that was given, and each heart that was transformed due to team members being willing to answer the call and bravely go into the darkest places, battling on the front lines for these children. We are so grateful for your willingness to come and serve in Memphis, giving of yourselves for the sake of His Great Name. However, we know that the Lord is the one who orchestrated each divine appointment and gave each of us the strength to fight in His Name. Therefore, ALL praise and glory be ONLY “to Him that is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine, according to HIS power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). We are amazed at His work this summer, and cannot wait to see the plans that He has for Whittier next summer!

The last and final week of Leahy’s was run by a team very close to my heart, my home church, Calvary. This team has a passion for Street Reach and specifically Leahy’s. The youth pastor from this particular campus, Kyle Howard, has been coming to Street Reach for over a decade. This team has invested a lot in the children at the trailer park. At the beginning of the week we discussed that this was no time to shrink back, but to stand boldly, and plainly proclaim His name. They did just that. Though we recently got the news that the trailer park is being shut down, these kids still got one last sweet week of Bible Club. As I’ve been thinking about what’s next for these kids and their families, the Lord revealed something to me. Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Yes, the kids have to leave their homes. But that’s okay because Jesus has commanded them to go! Many of these children have personal relationships with Jesus Christthey love Him. And now He is sending them out. These kids are disciples, who will make disciples, who will make disciple. It was one of those moments when I realized I was a part of something bigger than myself. I realized, woah, the world just got really big and I just got really small. I know how much I love those children, how much I desire to protect them. But here’s the beautiful thing–Jesus loves them so much more than I could ever imagine and He works for the good of those who love Him. He is always with them, to the end of the age. 

"And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in." Isaiah 58:12

Scripture speaks to us so plainly in regard to mission work. God commands us to take care of widows and orphans, to give to the poor, to love our neighbor. He also shows us that as we make disciples, THEY will rise up to take our place and advance His kingdom even further than we could ever imagine. Our Bible Club kids are those whom Isaiah speaks of, and they are being trained to want and know God more and to speak the truth in love in their community. They are being called not to conform but to be transformed.

The work is not over. Our kids are still living in the middle of a war zone that exists upon drugs, gangs, violence, prostitution, addiction, and all kinds of sin and darkness. But we can rejoice knowing that Jesus Christ is alive and living in the streets of Memphis. God has a plan for the children and families of Memphis. He is bringing them to Himself in a great multitude, making them disciples of Christ and missionaries for the Kingdom. The work done this summer has made an eternal impact on the souls of so many in our community. We wait expectantly to see how God will continue to work in this place.

This summer, 2,038 kids came to Bible Clubs. This is an amazing number that can only be explained by the power of God. Even more beautifully, He brought 52 children into a personal, saving relationship with Himself. Many of these children were discipled in our discipleship program, and we know they are already taking the Word back home and to the streets. Finally, many of our Bible Club kids from this past summer have enrolled or are enrolling in our school, Brinkley Heights Urban Academy. Here, they will be in an environment infused with the love of Christ every day.

God makes all of this possible, but we would not be able to act as the hands and feet of Jesus to the capacity that we do without the teams who have come to serve this summer, as well as those who have been steadfast prayer warriors and financial supporters. We thank each and every one of you from the bottom of our hearts. The work you have put in and the love you have poured out is priceless.

To all those who have come alongside Street Reach to serve this summer, thank you for answering the call.