Thursday, October 17, 2013

Five for Five

Ian wrote our first blog entry (read it here) about our move to Atlanta on April 11th 2009. We will use this date, April 11th 2014 to mark our 5th Anniversary in this work. We have a goal and maybe you would like to help us meet it! You can set-up monthly support or make a one time gift of $60 ($5x12) to help us get there!

I will keep you updated on our numbers here: Refugee Beads currently has 11 out of the 500.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” 
Mother Teresa

We hear questions about "sacrifice" on a regular basis. People want to know how painful it is to do what we do. They want to know about the dramatic "calling" that drove us from our comfortable lives into the turmoil of ministry.

As our neighbors join us in the work of nurturing community, welcome us into their homes, and weave their own lives, we're finding it more difficult to follow that narrative.

The artisans of Refugee Beads offer us their stories, share recipes, and open their homes to us. La La, a player who has been with our soccer team for two years, has now taken responsibility for leading his fellow players. Miguel, who attended the afterschool program as a student, is now leading the afterschool program together with us.

We spend one evening a week visiting with Nico in jail. Wearing his orange jumpsuit and sitting across the thick glass with a black handset, he does his best to orient us with his world. At the end of each visit, he asks us how he can pray for us. There are no prayers I value more than those Nico offers on our behalf from his jail cell.

We moved into this neighborhood and began this work in hope of giving and receiving with neighbors from around the world, and the realization of that dream means a deep kind of joy to us.

We prefer the term "escape" to "sacrifice." We slipped the hold of a life ill-fitted to our hearts and entered a richer landscape of love for our neighbor.

We were certainly called by Christ to live as good neighbors, feeding, helping with homework, and visiting in jail, but that calling continues throughout the work, as we are drawn deeper into the work of living God's love for this neighborhood.

You can escape too, and pursue the Kingdom's constant call with us. How would you begin loving your neighbors? Would you take our neighborhood into your heart as well, and join us in praying and giving so that our work here could deepen? 

We are currently looking to pay stipends to our post-high-school student leaders to acknowledge the value of the work they're doing here. This takes consistent support.  We also need a vehicle, as the Refugee Beads-mobile died on us recently, and fixing it seems to outweigh the value of the car by a wide margin.

Please keep Nico in your prayers, as he's been sitting in jail for over seven months, with no sign of progress toward a hearing. His heart, however, is showing signs of God’s transforming love. He has been reading the New Testament and drawing pictures of God rescuing him from the clutches of evil.

Thanks for reading. Please let us know if we can offer any more information about what we're doing here and how you can get involved.

Grace and peace,

Ruthie and Ian

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Letter to the Church

A few Sundays ago,  as I sang out loud with my brothers and sisters in Christ, I thought about our voices together and how powerful they can be.

As I drove home, I felt this heavy weight, a sinking feeling. I thought about the kids from our neighborhood who weren't there. I felt pressure and anxiety from all that needed to be done for Refugee Beads and the After school Program. There are so many kids, so many problems, so many needs. There seems to be endless amounts of work to be done.  

The teenagers we work with have loud voices in their lives trying to pull them the wrong direction.

Poverty tells them that they aren't worth anything. Their place in society tells them that they have no options. The educational system tells them that they aren't worth investing in. Guys tell the girls, if they can just look pretty and play the part there is hope for happiness. The cholos tell the guys if they sell drugs, and steal, then they can finally earn some respect and money, because they aren't going to get it any other way.

These kinds of voices only lead to dead ends and dark places. 

I do believe my God is powerful! He can use one small voice to impact the life of a teenager. BUT! I believe the Church, the body of Christ at work, each person singing their part, should be a chorus in the lives of these kids, showing them, telling them, that they are loved, that hey are worth dying for, that they are welcomed in God's family and that they have purpose. 

I have discovered after a long hard season of this work that I have been shouting and screaming out of desperation for these kids I love so dearly, trying to be the voice of a crowd instead of just my own. I want them to know how much God loves them. I want them to know there is a different way! But if you have ever tried shouting anything at a teenager before, you know that doesn't work, and your energy doesn't last very long!

To be honest, I have made myself sick trying. I look around and listen and I don't hear many positive voices other then my own and sometimes none at all. So I feel responsible, and carry a burden that should not be only mine to carry. 

 I am learning that God does not expect my voice to make up for the lack of other voices. I am just asked to sing my part, and Ian his, and you yours. 

God desires for our work to be filled with joy not with worry or guilt. So I have to trust Him, trust that he sees all the needs, and all the problems, and that he cares. I must have faith that God is working through his Church to make broken people and places new again.

We just came back from an amazing trip to New Orleans with four student leaders from our neighborhood. They got to hear the voices of God's people sharing about the work they do in neighborhoods like ours around the country. We were all inspired and encouraged by the gospel and how it is taking root and changing lives because of their willingness to share their hope, time and resources with those in need. 

While I have been sick these past couple weeks, Miguel and Guzman (two of the teenagers we brought to New Orleans, 18 and 19 years old) have been running the After School Program. They have encouraged me to trust God more. I see their care for this neighborhood and the kids grow. Mrs. Pam, who has been faithfully teaching Bible stories to the kids for 4 years now, is coming today to tell and show God's love to 30 children who will enter our 2 bedroom apartment. My heart is warmed when I open the door and see her face and my my burden feels lighter. 

This morning I read some verses from Colossians 1 and was reminded of some very important and solid truths by the apostle Paul in his letter to the church.

Our message of hope in Christ is as true today as it has always been. And as that hope grows in us it will also grow stronger and bear fruit around us! 

So today, like Paul, I pray for you, for me and for the Church that God would give us wise minds and a spirit attuned to God's will, so that we can understand how God works, can live well, make God proud, and work hard for him. 

I pray that we have the strength to stick it out! Not the kind of strength that comes from our own ability to grind our teeth and get it done but by a strength only God can give, the kind of strength that endures and spills over into joy and thankfulness. 

God has rescued us from dead ends and dark places. He can do the same for the kids and families in our neighborhood. Through his son Jesus, he has brought us up out of the pit that we were in because of our sin, that we were doomed to keep repeating. And he can do the same for those we love so much. 

We can look at Jesus and see God's original purpose in everything created. Absolutely everything  was started in him and finds purpose in him. We can now see God's purpose for Guzman, Miguel and many others beginning to shine. 

It might be a mystery to us, but God holds it all together. 

We can find rest in him.  

It's in Jesus we find peace even in the mist of chaos.