What image do you see when you picture the ‘least of these’?

When we think about brokenness in the word, one of the quickest images that comes to our mind is the face of a homeless person.  Hungry, huddled against the cold, needing help and wanting it, but not wanting to draw too much attention because of the risk of being arrested for trespassing, or the risk of violence that often comes with being among the most vulnerable.  When we picture of the “least of these” that Jesus was talking about, most of us probably have a homeless person in our mind’s eye.

Homelessness is a problem that most of us are used to seeing. Maybe so much so that we have become numb to what causes it and whether we can do anything about it.  Let’s see if we can go above and beyond the good work we do feeding hungry and homeless people, to getting to know our homeless neighbors as people and finding concrete solutions.

For the next two months that’s what we’re being invited to do.  Let’s take God’s love to a new level.  Let’s show some of the neediest people in our community what love does!

“Let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.” 1 John 3:18

 

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www.becauselovedoes.org

#KOG2ILM  #becauselovedoes

When was the last time you had your heart melted?

When I began to learn some of the stories of the Karen people who are now attending our church, I knew God wanted me join Him to help these precious adults and their children adjust to a new home.  What I did not yet realize was how much God was going to use them to bless MY life.

The Karen families have reminded me that:

  • True joy is not defined by status or possessions,
  • Biblically defined community can still exist,
  • Simplicity is better,
  • Faith trumps circumstances, and
  • Abundant living is found through loving and serving God and people.

When I witnessed a Karen father wipe tears from his eyes as he met his own daughter’s teacher at the school’s Open House, I was reminded how blessed I am that my children could get an education.   Meanwhile, I am continuing to relive the joy I experienced watching my boys play on sports teams as I watch the Karen children excel in soccer, form relationships with coaches and players, and chatter excitedly about their experiences.    My hearts continues to melt as I am given hugs around the neck, waist, and legs.

I am so glad God “asked” my heart, “These are My children.  Will they be your children too?”

By: Connie Vigus

 

“Let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.” 1 John 3:18

 Do you want to make a difference in the lives of refugees coming to our area?

Visit http://www.becauselovedoes.org to find out out how. 

 

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Entertaining Angels

Have you ever entertained an angel? I’m not talking about singing them a song or telling them a joke.  No, Hebrews 13:1 says “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  Most of us have never met some light-filled being with wings but almost all of us have had a moment when God showed up unexpectedly in the form of someone we didn’t know.

The Bible talks about that a lot actually.  In Leviticus, the Israelite’s are given a non-negotiable command. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” In the gospel of Matthew Jesus talks about a moment in heaven that will happen down the road. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me in.  “Wait a second Lord,” the confused people will ask.  “When did we welcome you in?”  And Jesus will say “whatever you did for the least of these you did for me.”

We all know we’re supposed to love our neighbors, but the Bible has a habit of defining “neighbor” very broadly.

Since the year 2000, nearly a million refugees have come to the United States to escape political or religious persecution.  Last year, the largest percentage of them came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, Burma, Iraq, and Somalia but there are refugees from 79 different nations currently living in the U.S.

In addition to these refugees who have come to the U.S. due to persecution, there are approximately thirty-two million document immigrants currently living in the United States.  A handful of them are wealthy, educated, or both, but many of them are here because the circumstances in their own country are so bad that they are desperate to find a place of safety and hope and that’s exactly how they see us and our country.

But what about us…how do we see them?  Do we see them as God’s children?  Do we see an opportunity to make a friend and share God’s love?  Are we taking the clue that Jesus provided us, and seeing our opportunity to bless them as an opportunity to bless Jesus himself.  Let’s not rob them or ourselves of that opportunity.

This January let’s see what we can do to make a friend, to entertain an angel, and to welcome Jesus himself into our midst.

Matt Cook

Pastor, First Baptist Church-Wilmington NC

MATT COOK

KOG2ILM- http://www.becauselovedoes.org

 

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HOLD ON

For some of you, the end of 2016 was an exciting time and there is great joy and anticipation for what lies ahead in 2017. For others, we are not sure where 2016 went.  Life is beyond hectic and overwhelming staring into 2017. It is almost as if we are barely holding on.

That is where I find myself; holding on. This past summer my wife and I went to the doctor to discover the gender of our third child. What was supposed to be a joyful moment quickly turned to helplessness and fear. We learned of a severe abnormality inside our son’s brain that left the doctors with little hope that he would make it full term or have much quality of life if he did survive. In the uncertainty of that moment, I heard a still small voice from God that everything would be ok, just hold on.

Have you ever found yourself in these life moments where there are no answers? There is no other choice but to hold on. During these times, you try to pray for the best possible outcome, but hold on…is the better prayer for strength to accept the outcome of the roller coaster, also known as God’s will.

cj-tuttleAs I write this today, my son is two months old. He was diagnosed with a rare
developmental brain disorder, underwent brain surgery at 5 weeks old, but you would never know if you got to meet this cute boy.  He is thriving and defying the odds daily. The road ahead will be long, but we continue to hold on to God’s love and grace each day and cling to that still small voice from God that everything would be ok, just hold on.

I realize that not everything turns out the way we like. God’s will might not feel “ok”, or even right in the moment, but God’s plan is perfect and learning to accept that in times of trial is one of the hardest parts. My eyes and heart were opened to new layers of God’s love and grace during our time in hospital facilities as I watched other families hold on in their own unique circumstances.

I will never forget walking into Pod B at the NICU one morning and learning that a mother across from us was holding her daughter behind the curtain for what would be her last breaths in the next hour. I wanted to do something or say something to her, but what?

I could not stop thinking about this mother. I went to the hospital lobby the next day to meet a friend who was coming to visit. I saw the mother there waiting tensely in a wheel chair about to be discharged. I took that as a sign from God to speak. The conversation was brief, but what was most meaningful was being able to hold her hand and pray for God to hold on to her.

My prayer for you this new year is that you will hold on. Or perhaps that you would let God hold on to you. Hold on to the promise of Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

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God knows what you are trudging through…difficult family relationships, rocky marriage, financial issues, job loss, struggles at work, daunting health diagnoses, aging parents, watching your children make poor decisions…HOLD ON. Trust that you are right where you are this year and that God earnestly wants to use you to bring hope and light to others in your life.

Ask God to put someone in your path this year that will hold your hand as a reminder of God’s love and presence in your life, and do not miss the opportunities to hold someone else’s hand, even if it is one of a stranger.

Hold your head high and hold on for what God has in store for you in 2017. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we all ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Be Encouraged,

Nathan Tuttle

Minister to Students, First Baptist Church,Wilmington, NC

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There is Power in a Home Delivered Meal

We’ve all been there. A to do list longer than that 23 mile long CVS receipt shoved in between the seats of your car. I hear you. I do. As a new mom –I recently returned back to the full-time work force  all to soon – so I hear you. But let me paint you a picture.

Fast forward 30, 40, maybe even 50 years. Where do you picture yourself? How do you picture yourself?

Imagine that you are, by God’s graces, still living at home. Perhaps with your spouse, perhaps alone. Your babies have grown and now have teenage babies of their own. Everyone is busy. Everyone has those 23 mile long to do lists that you used to have. But your list isn’t quite so long anymore…

You wake up, maybe have a bowl of cereal. You check the weather and the news. And then check them again. You might even speak to one of those really busy family members on the phone for a few minutes. You know they are doing the best they can, you do. But you still can’t shake the tiny sting at wishing you could have just a bit more of them.

You look at the clock. Your stomach starts to growl. You should probably go ahead and eat some lunch. Your aid comes a couple days a week to help you take a bath and they can make you a sandwich sometimes. But today is a Tuesday – your aid isn’t coming today. And you ran out of bread yesterday. You know you can’t drive yourself to the store because your middle daughter took your keys away a good 3 years ago.

You think about trying to heat up one of those meals your son put in your freezer. But the last time you did that, you forgot to turn the oven off… Then when your oldest daughter stopped by to check on you on her way home from work, she discovered your mistake and told you that you really shouldn’t be using the oven anymore.

You frown. You can’t help but roll your eyes and mumble about the time that she herself left the sink in the bathroom running when she was 12. For a second, you’re irritated. How dare she tell you what you shouldn’t do. But then you remember that the sink didn’t overflow after you told her she couldn’t use the stopper anymore. You sigh and decide that she’s right.

So what do you do? You really are getting hungry now.

You try to remember if today is one of the days that your middle daughter stops by mid afternoon and brings you supper. You are really starting go get frustrated with yourself that you can’t seem to keep your days quite as straight as you used to.

But then your doorbell rings. Who could be visiting today?? Then you remember. Your oldest daughter signed you up for Meals on Wheels last week. Your meals begin today!

As you wheel yourself over to the door, you start to think… You were reluctant when she first brought it up. Does this mean you are admitting you are losing independence? No! It just means you are getting that little bit of help you need to continue living at home and keep your independence.

As you open the door, a little girl with pig tails throws her hands in the air and shouts ‘Meals on Wheels!’, flinging the little roll around by the baggie it’s packed in. Her little brother toddles off to the side and drops your carton of milk. His mother scolds him and picks it up, brushing it off and placing it on top of a neat little package.

“Good afternoon, Mrs Sanders, how are you today??”.

You are so amused by the whole scene that all you can do is laugh. My, how exasperated that poor mother looks. You want to tell her to slow down –  that these are some of the best days she will ever have.

She smiles at you and says “It looks like it’s a Chicken Pot Pie day. With stewed apples and fried okra.”

My! That sure does sound better than the pepperoni hot pocket you were going to try to heat up in the microwave…

She asks if they can set the meal down on the table for you. The little girl compliments you on your really big, bright dress. You smile and say “Well, thank you sweet heart.” as her mother corrects her that “It’s called a mu-mu, honey”. Meanwhile, the little boy has helped himself to a basket of pine cones on your stoop and is lobbing them at a (luckily) very quick squirrel. The mother lunges at the little boy and the little girl starts to skip off after them to the car. They all wave and tell you to have a nice day and that they’ll “See you next week!”.

You smile to yourself as they pile into their car like a small traveling circus. You remember those days. Lord, that was decades ago, but you can still feel your chest tighten a bit at the thought of all you thought you had to do back then. Always go go go.

The entire episode couldn’t have lasted more than 3 minutes. But you find your self chuckling – about the mischievous look in that little boy’s eyes and the comical enthusiasm of the little girl and her bread cheer – for the rest of the afternoon.

Tomorrow, an older gentleman – probably retired? – delivers your meal. Not quite as entertaining as the previous day’s delivery, but he stayed a few minutes to chat. And you really appreciated that. It’s amazing how lonely you feel sometimes, and you treasure these moments with these new kind people who have become a part of your life. You wonder if they know how much you look forward to their visits.

The day after that, it was another woman. She was on her lunch break and couldn’t stay long, but you could tell she was really genuine. And she brought you a crossword puzzle! 

Now think about where you are in your life right now. Back to that 23 mile long to do list. It doesn’t seem quite so daunting anymore, does it?

Love on God’s Kingdom however you can. On your lunch break. On your summers off. Whenever you’ve got just a few days to carve out an hour once a week.

Seriously. That’s all it takes. An hour or so. Once a week. (Or even every other week if you split a route with someone). You swing by, pick up your food, deliver your route, drop your bags back off and you’re done.

It really doesn’t take a whole lot out of your own week, but I will tell you this:

To that lady in the mu-mu? To the veteran rocking on his front porch – all morning – waiting for his Tuesday friend to pull up? To them, it means the absolute world.

Sure they get their bellies fed, but you also feed their hearts. Hearts of a generation that – as much as we hate to admit it –  have gotten lost in the rat race our lives have become.

I know we’re all busy, I do. But on the days I have a ‘no-show’ and have to run out to deliver a route myself – as I frantically jog out to my car – I’m thinking “I don’t have time for this right now!”.  But then – as I walk back to my car from that very first stop – I think to myself “Man. There is literally nothing more important than what I’m doing right this very second.”

 

So use it. Use this season. You may have been here for a while, and you may be here for quite a bit longer. But you may as well love on God’s Kingdom while you’re here.

 

Blog by:  Ashley Sanders

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About Home Delivered Meals : HDM of New Hanover County feeds over 300 home-bound senior citizens Monday through Friday every week of the year. (Due to funding needs, our booming local senior population, and need for more volunteers, etc, our waiting list is currently hovering at 200.)

KOG2ILM is a year long mission trip into our community. Currently we are focusing on the area of hunger. If you would like to volunteer to deliver a meal to someone in need or if you would like more information please visit www.becauselovedoes.org

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You’re Invited To Make A Difference

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We have two weeks left for you to sign up to make a commitment to fight HUNGER in our area through our year long mission trip into our community called KOG2ILM.  There are many opportunities available for you to say yes to making an impact to alleviate hunger insecurity  for adults, families, kids and  the elderly in our community.

This Sunday Is Food Sunday food-sunday

Help us meet the goal to collect 10,000 lbs of food to be distributed to Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard and Nourish NC, a backpack program for kids in school to have food over the weekend.  Bring your food items THIS SUNDAY (11-13-16) to the connector building.  FOOD LIST HERE

Lasting Impressions

  • Serve lunch once a week at the Good Shepherd House SIGN UP HERE
  • Deliver a meal once a week through Meals On Wheels SIGN UP HERE
  • Commit to sharing a meal around the table with our guests EVERY week during the Tuesday Night Feeding Ministry. Around the table you will have the opportunity to build relationships and show the unconditional love of Christ by learning the names and stories of homeless men and women each week. SIGN UP HERE

Would you consider making a high involvement lasting impression in the area of Hunger? This “all in” commitment will allow you to build relationships through a deeper time investment while helping to feed those who are hungry in our community.

 

Did You Know…

Food Insecurity is the state of being without reliable access to a hunger-stampsufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
Food Deserts are geographic areas with a high concentration of poverty where residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) is restricted or nonexistent. (Food Empowerment Project). There are 7 food deserts in our area. In Wilmington alone, 16,000 people in our area live in food deserts.
  • 16% of the population of New Hanover County are food insecure (32,350 people)
  • 23.7% of Children live in “Food Insecure” homes (almost 1 in 4)
  • 12,697 is the number of children eligible for free and reduced price school meals

 

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We Are In This Together

Expanding my Bubble…. I’ve lived in Wilmington for 4 years, and until recently, I had never been to certain areas of town. I’ve simply had no reason to be there.  For convenience and efficiency, I’ve operated within my own “bubble” — darting out here or there as needed for some specific reason.  For me (and probably many of my friends and neighbors) my bubble doesn’t include the Creekwood Community near 30th & Emory or the Hillcrest community near Dawson and 14th… areas of Wilmington that, statistically speaking, are struggling.  

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Through #KOG2ILM and Rev. James Jamison’s Boots on the Ground initiative (more on that below), our Vineyard Sunday School class has pushed out of our respective geographic and social bubbles to meet, feed, and develop relationships with people in Creekwood, Hillcrest and other faith communities that don’t necessarily look like the folks sitting in the pews with us on Sunday morning. 

And while we’d like to think our actions with Boots on the Ground are beneficial for the people we’re serving, I think it’s important to note we’re not on a one-way “giving” train. Everyone in our class would agree that we’ve gained something, too.  Our lives are richer, our perspectives have expanded, and our families & faith have been strengthened. 

While we’ve only participated with BOTG for a couple of months now, I think the message we hope to convey is simple…It’s  “We see you. We care enough to come where you are. We are in it together.” And most importantly, “There is hope in God. 

My bubble now includes Creekwood. My hope during the remainder of #becauselovedoes, is that every person at FBC will bravely and eagerly search out opportunities to expand their own bubble in whatever way God leads. 

More about Boots on the Ground 

A few months ago, FBC members participated in a prayer walk around our church to focus on specific areas of brokenness in our city.  Our Sunday School class, the “Vineyard,” felt called to action, specifically to help with children facing hunger.  Scott Burrell took the initiative, and Pastor Jim Everette put him in touch with Rev. James Jamison.  Reverend Jamison is a chaplain with the Wilmington Police Department, pastor of Hope Baptist Church and primary founder and organizer of “Boots on the Ground,” an interdenominational group who goes into areas of the city that need it most to provide a meal and caring presence, typically once a month. 

The Vineyard class has teamed up with Jamison’s group for 4 events now, including an Interdenominational Back-2-School bash where we, along with numerous others, served up over 3000 hot dogs at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center one very hot Saturday in August.   

By: Peyton Earey

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#becauselovedoes   #KOG2ILM

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LEARN MORE AT : www.becauselovedoes.org