Monday, November 7, 2011

Soup Kitchen: An Ongoing Outreach

As a missionary in Chicago, I was involved in a variety of outreaches.  One of my favorite outreaches was working with the homeless and serving at a soup kitchen.  When God called me back home, one of the things I missed was serving at the soup kitchen.  I began looking for opportunities around my hometown to serve.  I searched the newspapers for ministries or churches that were already helping the poor.  During my search, I found a group of Methodist churches that fed the hungry on a regular basis.  So I called around and asked if I could volunteer.  One of the churches agreed to let me help, and eventually agreed to let my church coordinate  and serve at the soup kitchen regularly.

There are so many reasons why I absolutely LOVE serving at the soup kitchen.  One reason is because it's a simple way to meet a practical need.  But the real reason is because it gives me the opportunity to get to know some pretty amazing people!!  It's taken a while, but real relationships are being built between the folks who serve and those who eat at the soup kitchen.  In the past couple of months, I've gotten to know two sisters - Jane & Edna.*  These two women have hard lives, but they have incredible, humbling faith.  Despite the heartache that Edna is facing in her marriage & with her youngest son, she holds onto Jesus with a child-like faith.  She trusts that He answers prayer.  And He does answer her prayers.

This past month was my husband's first time serving at the soup kitchen.  Together, we had a chance to get to know Shawn.*  Shawn shared with my husband & I that he is homeless.  He lives, most days, behind a grocery store downtown.  On cold nights, he drinks to stay warm.  Sometimes, like this past Halloween, he gets drunk enough to get arrested so he has a roof over his head at night.  Shawn believes in God, and even calls himself "apostle."  He's friendly with many pastors around town.  Whether or not Shawn knows God, I have no idea.  But I know that God knows Shawn.

Sometimes I like to think that I'm making a difference in the lives of the folks that come to the soup kitchen.  The truth is, they're changing me.  Jane, Edna, and Shawn remind me of God's love and faithfulness.  They remind me to hold on to Jesus during my tough times, because He loves me and will hold my hand through it all.

Have you ever helped out at a soup kitchen?  What was your experience like as you interacted with the folks who attended?

*names changed to protect identity

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Save Me From Myself: A Book Review

Save Me From Myself is the engaging true story of Brian "Head" Welch, the former lead guitarist of Korn.  At the peak of the band's career, Brian leaves with little explanation to his bandmates, family, friends, and fans.  Many are stunned to hear of his leaving, and many more are astounded when they learn the truth of his leaving - Brian had found God. 

This book begins with Brian telling us about his youth, and the drug-induced journey he takes through life, love, and music.  It's a story you'd expect to hear from a rock n roll god - especially the sex and drugs.  But his journey is uniquely different, as he captures the beauty of redemption.  Brian's life is changed as he is pursued by a relentless God, setting him free from addiction, and giving his life new meaning.  All told in a personable, relatable way, Brian hopes his story "save a lot of people from going down the same roads of destruction" that he traveled.

While I was never a big fan of Korn, their music was frequently played on one of my favorite radio stations during the 90s.  I knew their songs, liked their style, and felt they related to my generation.  Even though Brian's story is a far cry from mine, pieces of his story resonate with my own.  I can easily relate to his youth - the longing to fit in and to have real friendships.  While my youth didn't leave me addicted to drugs and traveling the world as part of a rock band, it did shape who I am now.  My life story wouldn't be the same without the pain and joys I experienced then.  And, in the end, both our stories capture the beauty of redemption as we encountered the living God.

This book might not be for everyone, but I would highly recommend it to anyone who might be a fan of Korn.  Or anyone who's looking to read an incredible story of life-change.  Save Me From Myself is, simply put, a beautiful redemption story.