The Sower – A Message at Project WARM

parable of the sowerHere is one of the messages that was given at Project WARM.

Who of you grew up on a farm?  Do you recall seeding season where you took large bags of seed and put them into the seeder?  Did you always get 100% of the seed into the seeder or did some drop on the ground?  I can just imagine a farmer carrying a large bag of seed on his shoulder towards the seeder and seed falling on the path along the way.  What happens to those seeds?  The birds and the squirrels get them and they never take root.
When the field is plowed rocks are taken from the field and placed at the edges.  When the farmer turns toward his field and crosses over those rocks on the edge of the field some of the seed drops into the rocks.  What happens to that seed?  It takes root, but the roots can’t go deep.  The plant shoots up quickly but dies off during the hot sun quickly.
Right next to the rocks there is a spot in the field where it is difficult to harvest but there are no rocks – it’s right off the edge of the field and it is full of weeds.  Seed falls there too.  What happens to that seed.  It takes root and grows but the weeds try to choke out the plant.
Finally the farmer plants the seed in the good soil and the harvest is plentiful.
This is what is happening each night at Project WARM.  Volunteers are spending the day cooking food, praying, and delivering messages much like this to you guests.  We are farmers trying to plant the seed of Jesus Christ in our message to you.  I can imagine that much like the seed I spoke of before we have a similar situation here.
Much like seed dropping on the path and not taking root some of you hear the messages each evening but you ignore it and it doesn’t soak in.
Much like the seed dropping in the rocks some of you love hearing the messages of the volunteers and it takes root, but by the next day it hasn’t changed your life, it just falls and withers away.
I can also imagine that there are men in here tonight that know the Word, know Jesus and His power and love is being choked out by the heroin, alcohol, unforgiveness of others like your father or mother, or thoughts of what you have done to your kids, wife, family and friends.  Sin tries to choke out the seeds that you are hearing every night.
Our goal at Project WARM is to plant our messages in good soil.  We know, because we have seen, that the power of Jesus Christ can RADICALLY change your life.  We have seen it last year and we have seen it this year.  If you believe and desire to be that good soil God can change your life forever.  A few weeks ago one of you asked me if God could really forgive the sins you have done.  Don’t believe me if I just say “Yes”, believe what the Bible says – “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning” Lamentations 3:22-23.  God did not send Jesus to judge you but to save you.
If you want to be that fertile ground, have questions about how to stop those weeds of sin from stealing the harvest or  just need prayer there are volunteers here that would love to pray for you and talk about this with you.

Despair Meets Love

images (13)Despair Meets Love

 

Climbing up an endless stair.
Drowning in a deep despair
They mock me with their ice cold stare.
I only need a friend.

I feel the rain upon my face
My heart; my soul, full of disgrace
To rest my head I have no place
Will someone hear me cry?

See my feet?, They’re black from frost
Can someone see that I am lost?
A pair of socks: what would that cost?
Am I worth your time?

My Children taken ‘way from me
With deep travail my heart does bleed.
Is there one to intercede?
Am I worth your care?

Oh that one would be my friend
And ask me, “How did this begin”?
But NO, they sit and judge my sin!
Have mercy on me please.

Oh that mercy I could feel
For my heart it turns to steel
I long for all my wounds to heal
But I am cast away

In despair I ease my pain
Heart is broken, soul is drained.
Wager now! It is your game!
How long will I yet breathe?

When no one would be my friend,
I looked to heaven again; again.
Nothing ever stirred within
My cold and dying heart.

I see the birds, the sparrows there
Flying, chirping without care
And I cry out in despair
Does Anybody care?

Into darkness then I drifted
Through painful memories I sifted
Then at once my spirit lifted
As if from the dead.
Then I saw her standing there
Was she the answer to my prayer?
Love from her eyes she did share
My spirit dared to hope.
She said to me, “I’ll be your friend.”
I’ll love you back to health again
Beauty will replace your sin
Your friend I’ll always be.

“Who are you?”, I had to say.
People don’t behave this way.
You surely have a game to play
And torment me again!

My heart belongs to God my friend
He gave His life to pay for sin
Now He longs to live within
His love is why I care.

You must know my love is real
I once was broken and could feel
The pain that makes your spirit reel
But I was saved by love
I will hug and hold you close
In my love you’ll find repose
For deep inside my spirit knows
The pain you feel within
The terror of a frightened heart
Rips your tears your soul apart
You push along your shopping cart
To live through just one day.

So know, my friend my love is true
I have come to nourish you
And love you into something new;
A beauty; splendid, fair.

Though your body broken, bruised
Your flesh disfigured and abused
With your heart His love infused
With life and love you’ll glow!

A beauty deep and grander still
His greatest plan you will fulfill.
Like a fountain you will spill
His love upon the poor.
And you will know I’m nothing grand
All I have is from His hand
We all are part of His great plan
We all must learn to love.

And friend when you are strong again
Another soul you will befriend
Another cycle will begin
The broken learn to love!

For in our deepest, darkest pain
We learn to love; that is our gain
To thirsty souls become His rain
And show the face of God.

This poem was given to us by a community member who heard us speak at a community event. It is an amazing poem that fits Project WARM perfectly. Thank you for sharing your gift with us.

I’m a food volunteer – What do I do?!?!

images (12)Keep it simple. If you don’t know what to make, ask God for an idea. He knows how many will come and what they like!  You will bring a meal ready to serve and completely cooked. There is a large commercial stove ready to use in the kitchen if you want to keep something warm. Wash what you use.

We open at 8:00 p.m., which is a little late for dinner, so making a big extravagant meal is not recommended. Some of the guests will eat at Hope Ministries before coming and may not be hungry. There will be some who are really hungry and some who choose not to eat. You may end up taking home food to freeze, so plan meals that allow for that. Some leftover food can be put in the refrigerator for those who come in very late.  They are blessed to know that there is food if they need it and they enjoy the variety of food our volunteers make.

Bring disposable dinnerware including napkins and take the extra home with you. There is a plug in the kitchen window if you want to keep a crockpot or roaster on until food service starts.

We have coffee, hot chocolate and juice available thanks to a generous donation from Feed the Hungry. As the guests arrive, volunteers can ask the guests if they would like coffee, hot cocoa or a bottle of cider. (Cocoa and cider are in boxes in the store room. You can heat up water for cocoa in the microwave or a pot in the kitchen. Two cups of water and two packets of cocoa make 3 foam cups of cocoa. A glass measuring pitcher is on the top of the stove that you can microwave water in. Heat for 3 minutes. )

It is not necessary to bring bottled water with dinner, since we provide foam cups and a cooler for water is out. (Look for the blue cooler, fill it and put it out on the table with the meal.) If you do bring bottles, send them out with the guests in the morning.

You will arrive around 7:45 and set out your food on the tables in the big room. Volunteers serve the food to the guests. They do not serve themselves. By 7:50, the staff and volunteers should gather for prayer for the evening ahead. Ask for protection, guidance, words to speak, peace and the presence of the Holy Spirit to come to this place.

All volunteers should plan to leave around 9:00. You may leave out what food you want to leave.

Thank you for helping Project WARM be a place of love, personal attention and hospitality!

Volunteer question – I’m supposed to pray and share a message?! What do I do?

images (11)Every night at Project WARM we ask that the volunteers pray BEFORE the guests come in, pray before dinner and then read scripture and share a message before they leave.  We thought we would share some thoughts about these three things as some volunteers have asked some great questions prayer and the message:

 

(There are no microphones – Don’t Worry)

 

 

Praying before the guests come in

We believe in the incredible power of prayer.  Prayer allows us to connect with God in a meaningful way and he hears what is on our heart, our concerns, our gives us a quiet chance to hear from God about the evening.  Before the guests come in at 8pm, gather the Project WARM staff and all of the volunteers in prayer.  Here are some suggestions to pray before the guests come in:

·      Pray for safety  for the staff, volunteers and guests – some of these men come in spiritually bankrupt and some are inebriated.

·      Pray for openness to hear the Word and for it to touch the guests in meaningful ways

·      Give thanks for the opportunity to be there

·      Ask for God to show you specific people to connect with

·      Ask for God’s will to be done

 

Praying before the meal

Most of us do this already by giving thanks to God for the meal that he provides.  Most of us are already comfortable giving a prayer before the meal and that is what we ask at Project WARM.  Give thanks for the meal, for the men being able to come to the safety of Project WARM, and for the discussions of the evening.

 

Giving a message before you leave

This is the most rewarding time for the volunteers and guests to share God’s Word.  We also get a lot of questions about this from the volunteers – What should I say, Why do we do this, I’m not comfortable doing this, What shouldn’t I say, What should I read, etc etc.

The reason we ask one of the volunteers to do this is because life is fragile. If a man dies on the street today and didn’t receive the Gospel and see it in action before he left our doors last night, we’ve have not served him well, nor loved him well.  In 2012 we lost three men to their addictions – the life and death nature of this ministry is real.

Here are some suggestions in giving this message:

·      You can do it – I am not a good speaker and didn’t think I could stand up in front of 20-30 guys with a message either.  My voice cracks a little, I may be a bit nervous, but I did it and so can you.  The guests actually enjoy hearing the messages and connecting with you.  The great thing is I’ve never heard them judge a message and I’ve heard nothing but Thank You’s.   YOU CAN DO IT IF I CAN!

·      Pray before you go to be open to what God wants you to say – This is incredibly important as the message should come from God’s desires.  Sometimes I have wanted to share my experience and my wisdom and found that those messages sometimes don’t connect.  Our most meaningful messages have clearly been a “God Moment” where a verse sticks out and a thoughtful explanation given in complete love.

·      Prepare a message, but be open to change as God directs.  I remember I wanted to give a message on the Prodigal Son and had everything prepared and even a picture.  I was going to read the message from a type written page I had created – it was going to be AWESOME.  When I arrived I realized that the men really enjoyed the Bible study of John the previous morning and I felt that John 1:5 was really drawing me.  I didn’t talk about the prodigal son, and instead just read John 1:5 and what it meant to me.  It was infinitely better received that evening.

·      Speak and share out of Love and not Judgment.  Most of these men know about Jesus and have heard some scripture.  Many of them have heard the condemnation and problems that they cause.  We believe that God has called us to share Love through the messages that we give.  Our God is a loving God and while he is disappointed with the choices we all make, he still loves us.

·      You don’t have to talk for long – Someone asked if they had to give a long message.  No, of course not.  Some share a verse and what it means to them, some share a few verses and what those verses mean, some share testimonies of how God’s love transformed their lives.  It doesn’t need to be long, it just needs to be long enough to show how much God loves these men.

·      You don’t have to be eloquent.  Some of the best messages I’ve heard at WARM were not from great speakers.  Heartfelt messages from people who care are many times more empowering than prepared speeches.

·      Make an invitation to the men to accept Christ.  At the end of your message, either during your prayer or in an invitation after your message invite those men who would like to accept Christ in their lives to do just that.  Ask them to repent of their sins, to accept that Jesus is their Lord, the Holy Spirit to fill them up, and to live a life pleasing to God.  We have had a few men already this year accept Christ.  We have seen lives change through this!

It doesn’t have to be long, eloquent, wordy or pretty – The guests will love it and so will God.

Praise God – Reach Out And Ask!

imagesThis is a guest post from a Project WARM volunteer and a wonderful testimony to the ways in which God’s love is shared at Project WARM.

Met a man tonight at Project WARM that reminded me once again that God loves us unconditionally right where we are in our lives. 

I come away from there each time thanking God for grabbing onto my hand when I called out for help when I was at the end of my rope of addiction. The man placed into my path tonight is at the end of that same rope, Tim is addicted to crack cocaine and alcohol and is sick and tired of living this sort of sick life.

Only because I’ve been an addict can I relate to the pain on the inside of his heart that the smile and light hearted comments from his mouth try to cover up. He wants to get into recovery as soon as possible and was listening to some options that Dana and I were telling him about.

This is his first time of ever being homeless and it is because of drugs, this is his rock bottom and he’s very aware that he cannot rehab on his own and wants to get into Hope Ministries for a second chance at a good, clean life. I assured him that life on the other side of addiction is not only possible, but is a very wonderful, peaceful way to live!

It comes down to reaching out and asking God to help you live!

There was another homeless man at the table and he also had been addicted, but is 7 months clean and is willing to show Tim exactly where to go in the morning to get into a meeting at 6am! I thought this was amazing! The two men bonded within 30 minutes and one was willing to help the other one, no questions, just willing to help and show Tim where to start the process of getting clean! God is amazing at putting us where we need to be!I asked Tim if I could use his name and add him to a prayer list and he said “Yes, Please! I can use all the help I can get right now!” Please add Tim to your prayer list and all of the other men sleeping on the mats at Project WARM and in the streets at night.

Pray that God will keep them safe and warm and unharmed and that they will all know that He loves them unconditionally right where they are!

Thankful to be on this side of addiction and relating to others needing a smile, a kind word, a prayer, a handshake or a hug to get through another day. God has blessed me in ways words cannot explain!

M.B

I’ve Volunteered – Now What Do I Talk To Them About?!?

homelessOne of the questions that volunteers rarely ask, but often recall after serving a few times at Project WARM is the feeling of “What am I supposed to talk about when I get down there?”.  It is such a great question we thought we would share some suggestions to help get the conversation started.

Each one of these guys has a life story, just like you.  I’ve met an engineer, a number of veterans with great stories of bravery, an auto mechanic, a computer technician, a father of some pretty interesting kids and a whole host of great men.

Each of them is a creation of God that He loves.

Unfortunately many times on the streets these men are treated like untouchables.  Talking to them as a human and treating them as someone who is just as good as you is the start to a great conversation.

Here is how I generally start with a guest I don’t know.  I sit beside them, or crouch down to look them STRAIGHT in the eyes.  Try not to look down at them on their cots – sit down and spend some time.

Me:      “Hi, my name is Steve” (stretch your hand out to shake theirs – they enjoy that)

Guest:  “Hi, I’m Edward” (100% of the time I’ve gotten their name – it’s a good ice breaker)

Me:      “Thanks for coming in tonight, have you been here before or do you have any questions?”  (They are always appreciative and rarely have questions – sometimes they ask about dinner, or if they can have some water or where the bathroom is – all very easy questions.  If they ask a “hard” question you can always ask one of the Project WARM employees).

Me:      “Did you grow up around the South Bend region”?  (This is a good question to learn a little about their history and is a good conversation starter – it doesn’t focus on their problems and gets them to think about potentially better times in their lives).

Me:      “I volunteer here every now and again so we’ll probably get to know one another – tell me something interesting about your life – kids, pets, hobbies, military service – you name it.  Something I can remember you by when I’m praying for you”. (This is a great lead in question to LONG conversations – make sure it’s a two way conversation – tell them something interesting about you.  By the time you get to this point in the conversation you are good to go)

Me:      “Can I pray with you for anything now?” (This is a good way to close the conversation and also a great way to start bringing God into the conversation.  You would be surprised how many guests let you pray for them.  It doesn’t have to be a fancy prayer or a long prayer – just think of God sitting right beside you and you having a conversation with the guest and God.  If something comes up during prayer that you are concerned about you can reach out to one of the Project WARM employees to help as well).

Questions I try to refrain from asking and why:

So how did you end up homeless?” – Inevitably this will come up in your conversation but I try not to lead with it.  They have been asked this A LOT by now.

Have you been drinking / taking drugs?” – This is irrelevant usually unless there is a problem that you need to address.

Do you have family locally?” – If they do then the only reason they would be at Project WARM was due to a fall out with the family.  If they don’t  this could stir up emotions or depression because they don’t have family close.

How long have you been homeless?” – Another question to avoid, but it will come up.  Try not to remind them of the problems they are facing by recalling the past and how long they have struggled.

Are you married?” – Again if they were married they probably don’t have a positive reason why they are at Project WARM.  Try to focus on the positive.