An Unlikely Visitor

It was New Years Day (night) and it was near zero degrees outside. The shelter was full and things were going on that usually go on. Men of all sizes, ages and shapes lined up for check in at 7:30. The mats were filling up. Guys were assessing where the most quiet place to sleep may be in a room of 30 other men. Some were taking off their frozen, wet shoes to dry and warm their feet.  Questions popped up like, “Will you be opening the donation room? I need some socks.” or “Will there be a devotion? I don’t want to miss it if there is.”  It was pretty calm and people were generally thankful after a cold day. While we look forward to helping with the usual things, our goal is that every little thing combine with or becomes some big thing that brings life change for each one who comes in.

A prayer we earnesstly prayed recently was for God to send people with personal, overcoming testimonies that would speak to the hearts of those who need to hear just the right words.

The new year began just that way. On New Year’s night, it was about 7:30 and we were doing the usual things: putting away donations that we’d received and organizing them, connecting with staff about issues, and getting men checked in. Next to the sleeping room, we have a lovely fellowship room the guys enjoy with carpeting, tables and chairs. I was setting out warm cornbread for the snack that night chatting with some of the guys about kids and school. It’s good to see the older guys sharing words of wisdom with some of the younger ones who really need it.

The chairs around the tables were filling up with men shaking off the cold. Some were eager to hear the devotion and to see what was available for a treat. As I cut the cornbread, a man approached me that I didn’t recognize.  I asked, “Is this your first time here?”

“Oh yes,” he replied, with wide eyes. He said he was thankful for the warm place but his look was more of  a “where am I-deer in the headlights” look.  I asked him a few questions to which he said, “Oh, I don’t need to sleep here. I have a HOME. I live on So-and-so street. I’m not homeless; I’m here because I got angry.”  “OH!” I remarked, curious. “Do you need a ride home?”

“I needed a place to get warm!” He said eagerly and thankfully. “I was walking down Michigan Street from Memorial Hospital and I was praying to God, ‘God, you have to help me, I’m going to freeze out here.’  I didn’t think I was going to make it and I was panicking.  Then I saw a group of people all going in one direction, so I just followed them. They went into Hope. I had heard of Hope, but had never been in there. I asked them all why they all came in here. They said, ‘We came for the meal.’ ‘What does it cost?’ I asked. ‘Nothing! It’s free, anyone is welcome who is hungry and needs a meal.’  So, I got to warm up and had a hot meal. When I finished I asked the front desk where I could get warm, as I had no car and my wife is at the hospital with my son. He said to follow all those people going next door, so here I am!”

This older man shared a bit of what he got angry about. He and his wife had just checked his son in the hospital. He was sad about his son, more than sad, heartbroken and had said some harsh words to his son then left the hospital and started walking in the frigid weather. His son was in the hospital for the same reason some people end up on the streets, he was stuck in addiction. As we talked I realized how hard it must be for him to face that his own son could end up homeless soon.

“I used to be a drinker,” he said, but I gave it all up. Now, I just pray my son will do the same. He took some cornbread and I invited him to sit down and wait while we finished, then we’d take him home. He chose a spot next to a man I’ll call Mark. Mark has lived on the street a long time, and though in past years we’ve had a good relationship, he hadn’t said much to us so far this year.

Our visitor and Mark politely introduced themselves to one another. Our old friend was a very friendly fellow, but he’d had a hard day and was not in the best condition that night. As I finished serving cornbread, the Visitor started talking freely, telling Mark his life story.  “I was once in bad shape but forty years ago I made a life change. I was on the hard stuff, down south, rode bikes with the Outlaws, long pony tail, earring…tatoo,” he lifted his sleeve to show his gang ID. You’d never know this sweet little man was once the mean, old drinking maniac he described.

I sat down to just listen… Behind me, a faithful older man recognized the importance of the moment too and said quietly to me, “God is speaking to him ;)….” “I know!” I whispered back excitedly.

New Guest sat down to tell his story of drinking and gang life and then his story of romance, when he gave it all up because of love. He met a girl who was worth it all to him. This was a longer, amazing story of sacrifice and change and he could never know how relevant this story was to Mark, who’s eyes were tearing up at the end.

The story opened a door to talk again, to pray again with hope. Mark saw what was possible and what it would require. “Where there is no vision, the people run unrestrained (or perish)” the Bible says. But there was a vision tonight. Hope was cast and Mark reached out his hands for prayer, sharing the hard conversation he had in his own relationship, that was not going the way it could. We prayed for even more love to fill his heart, enough to bring this situation to fruitfulness. We prayed for overcoming love, like our new friend had, like Jesus had for people who others might think are hopeless. It’s never too late to start a new day.

We drove our Visitor home. He was eager for us to come in and meet his family, and especially his autistic grandson whom he had raised. (That is another moving part of his story.) He beamed as he showed us his family pictures and we prayed for his broken father’s heart, that God would bring a bridge of communication and restoration between him and his son. He did get something he wanted that night. He got a chance to be a Father to someone who needed to hear him, and who would listen. His story made a difference to someone that night, even while he felt the pain of his own son’s lifestyle. God is a God of redemption and encouragement.

Keep praying please. We can feel and see the effect of your prayers this week!  This week has been full of God stories at Project Warm, but there are also stories waiting to happen all around you. Share what God can do and did do through your own story. You never know who may need to hear it or where he may take you to do it.

Happy New Year from Project Warm

What a Difference A Day Can Make

The best prayer ever prayed for us was what Jesus prayed in John 17. He prayed that we, who believe, would realize that just as Jesus was sent into the world, so we are sent. He sanctified himself so we could be sanctified through him. Because of that, we are like him in this world, able to represent his image in our own unique way. I sat in a room full of unique men and saw many unique gifts rise up after talking about this message. God gave us each a unique identity that is waiting to come out, to be honored. When we feel honored, we feel empowered and valued. Honor is lifting up what God sees as good and empowering people to be their best at it.

Judgment is the opposite of honor. Judgement creates walls. We can have judgements about God and judgements about people.

Once we feel our judgements are reinforced through our experiences, we fall into mindsets of belief that limit us. What we end up with is a view of God that limits our perspective and our ability to operate in the fullness of Christ. Our coordinators and staff at Project Warm are believing for miraculous clarity this year over old judgements and opinions that hold people in the “stuck” places of life, clarity for each man to see the unique creation of God that they are so they can let go of the old, and walk free into something new.  We cannot truly know who we are apart from knowing our Creator.

Jesus prayed and declared, “I have given them the glory that you have given me, that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me…”

That means that that same intimacy Jesus has with the Father is available to us. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:16…

“for ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.

Last night I saw some men who understood that they had value. They thought out of their identity in Christ, the mind of Christ. I saw others who held onto baggage that they felt familiar and safe with, afraid to let go and try a new way.  The phrase “Practice what you preach” came to me before I arrived. I wrote it down and said, “This may apply to someone here.” The guy who held up his hand and said, “That’s me!” was definitely stuck, always talking about what he’s trying to do, but not stepping over the line of being what he talks about.  The word was a line in the sand for him. A change was occurring, a realization, something different from what I saw happening last year in him. He realized he had responsibility himself to take a next step. One of the other guests encouraged him, and challenged him, that he doesn’t go forward alone. He can trust God.

This is our confidence, that when we are “in Christ” we are one with him in our mind and we can hear the Father speak to us through the relationship of the purifying blood of his son. What a tremendous freedom to know we can be led by God like this. He invites us all into the conversation, no matter where were are or what condition we are in when he finds us.

This week, I have been soaking on 1 John 4 and thinking about what confidence Jesus had in his relationship with His Father. He could stand before accusers who taunted him and waited to trap him in any word he would say. This is every day life for these guys. How did Jesus stay so calm? He said, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given to you by my Father.” He knew his Father would never leave him in any circumstance. They were as one.

Jesus, had friends but his confidence came from His tightest relationship, his Father. 1 John 4:17 says, “...We are like Jesus in the world.” This is the confidence we have. What a peaceful assurance I felt in that. This is the theme of identity that we want to share with the men this year.

I feel this year is a year of launching, a year of new mindsets and of understanding that we ARE new creations in Christ.

How important is a safe place to spend the night? We all need a place to rest where we feel safe. We are thankful for the city, Hope Ministries, giving partners like Memorial Hospital, churches and volunteers who come together to not just shelter, but to provide a place where time can be spent with those who need an ear to listen, prayer and direction.

The money that you and your churches have given has been received not just with thanks, but with a sense of great responsibility to us who regularly serve at Warm. For you to bless the calling God has given us all is humbling. It is a trust to receive that sort of investment and we have always strived to have integrity as we steward your gifts, even in our personal walks with Christ. Your investment reaches deeply in so many ways, into those who serve and then into those who receive. I pray that in this partial testimony of one evening, you can feel the joy and expectancy I feel as I write this. As we begin the season of Advent, of expecting, the King of Glory is coming into the hearts of men. May he receive his reward.

With much appreciation,
Anne Huffman

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Thirsty for Change

“God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6 NLT)

Jesus went around everywhere revealing what the justice of God looks like. He healed the sick. He cleansed lepers no one would touch. He made a way where none seemed possible. That, my friends, is the inheritance we have picked up when we laid down our lives to follow Christ.10830707_587807737986351_8069300916476972256_o

For those who would like to volunteer this year at Project Warm, we would like you to pray through Luke 6:27-42.

“Love your enemies! Do good to them without expecting to be repaid.” Why? because this looks so strange to those who have never known love. “… for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”  Lord, fill us with thanks and keep us from being the wicked who pass judgement when we have received mercy, who steal and refuse to give back what you have given us.

Jesus came to bring justice to the world. He left and put his Holy Spirit inside of us so that we would be empowered to bring that same justice to those who have been imprisoned by fear, lies, and their past. Today is the day of salvation. As Jesus loved the leper in Luke 6:12-15, we love. He touched. He forgave. He healed.

There is no fear in perfect love. Jesus pronounced forgiveness as people came to him. Why? Because they came to him. That showed faith. We pray those who come to Project Warm will receive God’s forgiveness and healing, complete healing, body, mind and soul.  We offer them the divine exchange – to let go of the old so that they can receive new. They don’t come with much in the way of physical belongings, but they come with mindsets that keep them in captivity to defeat. Like chipping away at an old wall, we invite the Holy Spirit to lead and work through volunteers and donations, and the warm, safe sleeping environment, to open hearts to let go.

Jesus didn’t come to get justice against man. He came to get justice against the devil, who had been stealing, killing and destroying from his children since the Fall of Man. He came to take back the keys of authority and hand it once again to man. I pray we will love without judgement this year, so that we will not be judged. I pray we will not speak or think thoughts of condemnation, because those will come back at us. God is on a rescue mission, not just for the guests at Project Warm, but for us. He wants to see the Body of Christ lifted up out of religious mindsets, self-righteous thoughts and fear.  Who are we to judge who is worthy?

Isaiah 64:6 “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

Over the years, we’ve shared the gospel with many men at Project Warm. One of the hardest mindsets to move past is, “I’m not worthy, you don’t know what I’ve done.” Jesus offered forgiveness because they came. It wasn’t what we’ve done that made us worthy. It is what HE did. It’s true that men die in their sin when they don’t receive what Christ offered. It hurts to see old lies of rejection keep people from freedom. It hurts to see them die suddenly, as we have, after years of prayer and conversations. Do you know how DEEP the rejection of a father reaches into the heart of men? May their ears be open to hearing what you’re really like God!

As the guests come this year, what will we offer?
What would change your mind?

Have you seen the mercy of Jesus? What did it feel like. Come, share that. Give time to listen. Respond without judgement. Yes, it can be hard. But it’s not an option if we want people to want what we have. Choose the way of Christ. He said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” That is who he chose to spend time with.

So, what are you doing with your time? Can you spare some?

We have a unique opportunity, a warm, comfortable place to get to know people and a chance to show them what healthy community looks like. Even thought they don’t have much, it’s hard to let go of what we know for something we can’t understand. Every volunteer who shares their time, bringing love and direction helps break down those walls of rejection. We ask them to lay down the life they were never meant to live for the one God has dreamed of for them. It can seem impossible for them, but we can pray for the step they need to take right now. Ask them to take the next step and encourage them to pray, to turn from their old life and to receive from God.

Then, tell them about Hope. Hope Ministries is right next door to us. They offer a program for life change and teach a way that most have never known. They spend every day reclaiming what the devil has stolen from those who have been born into poverty, abuse or who have no place to go. It is a place of true Hope and life change founded on Christ’s love. They help change minds every day so hearts can receive.

God, let your justice come, one step at a time, one volunteer at a time, one prayer at a time. Fill your people with generosity and love, with kindness and a sense of justice, so that we don’t tolerate what God would not tolerate.

The volunteer calendar is open. The link is at the top of this page. If you are a believer in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit and able to show the love of Christ without condemnation or judgement, we’d love to have you volunteer. We do require that you are an active member of a Christ centered church who believes Jesus Christ is the son of God, who came in the flesh as the Messiah, the savior of the world. He still heals and works miracles through his brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thank you God for the miracles you have planned to work through your kids this year and for your kids. We love you!  Amen. 

Mercy Triumphs Over Judgement

mercy_triumphs_over_judgementJames 2:13 “For Judgement is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgement.”

It has been two weeks since weather amnesty has opened. I often find my mouth open but with no words adequate to describe what experiences we’ve had. God has shown mercy. He is always ready to show mercy. Whether we receive it into our hearts well or not, God has his hand out for us, waiting for us to grab it. As a volunteer at Project WARM, sometimes we are put between God’s hand and the hand of someone who feels that they could never be worthy of grabbing that hand, who believes it’s not really there for them.

Being that hand is love and love isn’t always easy, but it’s always rewarding. It can hurt as you feel the pain of others. It can mean taking on the despair someone else feels for a time and releasing it to God in prayer daily. If you are available, God wants to use you. He needs someone who cares enough to pray, like you would your own children – because you really don’t know if anyone’s every done that for them. It makes a difference. Love could mean that when you see your dad, you think of someone else’s dad, who’s kids went off the track and got messed up with temptation – and who now can’t fight the depression and voices of failure that ring so loudly that self-punishment seems the only option. Messages of failure abound, but where the enemy screams “Unworthy!” and our minds shout “Failure!”, God says, “Look! Take that person’s hand and let them show you what my mercy feels like.” If you have received mercy, you may remember what it feels like. It feels good. It lifts your head. It lifts your soul.

These first two weeks of Project WARM have been full of helping others to see through different eyes. Frequently, a guest will get impatient with another guest. It’s hard to have no where to go but Project WARM. In these first two weeks, we’ve not only had to extend mercy, but teach mercy, helping one see the other person through the eyes of Jesus, taking them into the hurt that he sees coming out as anger or insensitivity. Hearts have softened. It’s ok to step in and help with the wisdom God has taught us. “Iron sharpens iron.” Sometime we sharpen and sometimes we are sharpened. The body of Christ needs the parts to work together, no matter what our position in life, we have things to learn from those who’ve learned hard lessons. Hope needs to be shared.

What causes us to be homeless? Sometimes Project WARM is a place of refuge when a relationship problem occurs or where one waits to get unemployment cleared. For several we know, WARM is where a lonely man grieves for a spouse who died and meant everything, sometimes for a week, sometimes for years. Already this year, some of our guests know that WARM a place where someone believes you can be “fixed,” as one guest said, so you fight through the distractions the enemy sends to you every day to get in the door so hope can get a hold of you. They aren’t always ready to scream yes right away, just as we aren’t, but they come to get warm and hear words that fight the lies they believe about themselves.

Jesus is hope and that there is not one person who is not worthy of the same mercy we have received. A volunteer has an important role because when we are trapped in lies of unworthiness, we sometimes need to hear over and over, night after night, that God has not given up on us, before we will extend out our hand to receive prayer. When we finally find strength to receive the hand of God in our lives, God is faithful and his displays of help and mercy leave me speechless and in awe. The stories we’ve heard in the first two weeks of answered prayer, emotional freedom and thanks humble us. Often what we share with guests is that God has a purpose for them right now. No matter where they are, jobless or thriving, drunk, high or just bored, God has a use for them today.

If God has changed your heart, if he has shown you mercy and grace, if you know that tomorrow may never come for one of these who are lost in despair, it may be time for you to share the words of Jesus with some of our friends, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Merry Christmas season to you all. May the reality of his mercy overflow in your hearts and the power of the truth bring the freedom to your hearts as you serve Him daily.

Why Volunteer?

Volunteering-Job-HuntThis post is written by our donations coordinator Dana Bunch.  She has a heart for this ministry and does more than anyone realizes to ensure the guests get what they need during the season.

I get asked all the time why I volunteer at Project WARM and have a heart for the homeless. I am not a writer, but I am going to try to explain why. One of the main reasons is I can see how it can happen.

Have you ever lost a job but were fortunate to have someone let you borrow money. Better yet had money in the savings to get by on until you got umeployment? I have. What if you didn’t have someone to help you? How long would it take you to become homeless?

Have you ever had an illness that caused you not to be able to work? Or a family member that has so many medical bills it makes it difficult financially? What if they were so much and so overwhelming it made you lose everything?

Have you ever fought for our country and came back and someone had taken all of your money and you had no one? Have you ever been so depressed you can’t function and lose everyone or had no one who cared? Have you ever had an addiction that caused you to make bad decisions? Have you ever had a couple too many to drink and caused an accident? Or were you just fortunate to make it home without causing an accident or getting caught? There are alot of events that can happen to lead to homelessness. Does that mean that these people don’t matter to us or God?

Maybe you can identify with these events. If so, you should consider volunteering, donating, and/or praying for these men. Maybe you cannot identify. If so, you should consider volunteering, donating, and/or praying for these men because you are really blessed if you have not or do not know anyone who has been through these events.

The most important reason to volunteer, donate, or pray for the homeless? Jesus was the ultimate example of how to treat the homeless. He prayed for, talked to, healed, and helped them.

Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Giving Tuesday – Project WARM

Slide1Giving Tuesday (#givingtuesday) is a nation wide effort started in 2012 to show support for a heart of generosity during the beginning of a holiday season.  The majority of support for Giving Tuesday is financial around the country, and while Project WARM always accepts financial donations through it’s partner organization Hope Ministries, we want you to think about giving in a few different areas:

1.  Give your time – A few hours given back can make a radical difference in someone’s life, including yours.  It’s easy to sign up (Click on the “Volunteer” tab above) and volunteering can be very fulfilling (and easy!).  Check out the “What Does A Volunteer Do” to find out what to do when you volunteer.
2.  Donate needed items for our guests –  To find out the latest needs at Project WARM check out the “Donations” tab above.
3.  Make a financial contribution –  A financial contribution can be made through out partner organization, Hope Ministries and that information can be found under the “Donations” tab above as well.
Thank you for giving to Project WARM this season!

Giving a message – Here are some tips!

images (14)In the evening message or devotion, we want to show the inviting nature of Jesus and his mercy and kindness that leads us to repentance. Much of what you will find at Project WARM is hopelessness, hurt, guilt, and shame. Where there is no hope, there is  nothing to have faith for.  “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” When preparing a devotion, it is important to recognize that many of our listeners have not yet taken the first step in their walk in faith, or they are at the beginning. Most of us who will offer a devotion have traveled much further in our faith walk; therefore, devotions should share the love and grace of God and invite listeners to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ. Sometimes we forget this important first step and dive right into repentance and transformation, which is important to talk about, but not always right at the beginning.  
There are a few ways to approach this. Messages should be 5-10 minutes or so, not including discussion or prayer which may follow.  It’s very basic: a presentation of a scripture and then a brief interpretation identifying how grace is offered in the story followed by an invitation or an example of how grace is offered in our world. Drawing people to Christ and to the Gospel should be the focus. Reveal his grace, reveal who he is, reveal who he made us to be. Plant seeds of purpose and hope.