Saturday, August 13, 2011

7 Bridges to Recovery and 4 stops that changed my life

EDITED: my sweet friend Dawn took pictures of our trip and has allowed me to post them here. Thanks, Dawn!

Let me start by saying that I have kicked myself all day long for forgetting my camera at home. I would have loved to document this day and have it saved forever, but then again, if I had the camera in front of my face all day long, I know I would not have experienced what I did today. So for that, I am thankful that God orchestrates all things -- including having me forget my camera. So needless to say, I have no pictures to show.

The organization that runs the ministry is called 7 Bridges to Recovery. Each weekend, they take 2 routes: some take the "Bridges" route, and some take the "Bluffs" route. If you go to the Bridges, you travel to underpasses where people make their homes, you go to tent cities, and to a women and children's shelter. If you go to the Bluffs, you travel to a couple stops, and the people pretty much come to you. We had made up our minds that we were going to the Bridges. God had different plans.

We arrived at the meetup spot and saw 2 charter buses full of eager volunteers. We learned that they were travelling to the Bridges today, and with that many people flooding the area, we knew that if we followed, we would not be very useful. So the Bluffs it was.

If you're like me and have never heard of the Bluffs before tonight, let me show you what Wikipedia has to say about it (please don't tell any of my former students that I used Wikipedia in my research persuits -- they'd never let me live that down):

The Bluff, also The Bluffs, AAVE Da Bluff, is an approximately 1.5-mile-square area just west of Downtown Atlanta infamous throughout metro Atlanta for availability of drugs on the street, heroin in particular. The area has some of the highest poverty and crime rates in the city.
(Wikipedia left out "rampant prostitution" in their blurb, but it's there)

We came loaded down with 146 hygiene kits to distrubute as well as 2 giant trash bags of sheets, blankets, and pillow cases donated by a local hotel. We were ready to do God's work.

When we arrived at our first stop, we didn't even stop the cars -- no one was there. Not one person to minister to. So we drove on to stop #2. We got out of the cars and waited. And waited.

The community was having a block party, and it was not a good enviornment for us to be in. The leader announced, "It is on my heart that we don't go in there." So we left. At this point, I was getting frustrated. I mean, we're all here to minister to others, but we can't find anyone to minister to. We drove to stop #3.

Stop #3 was what you would call "the projects". The kind of place you try not to drive past, and when you do, you lock your doors and speed past. At least that's what I do.

After a touchy beginning of learning the ropes, we had a prayer time with the people of the community as well as a presentation of the Gospel. 4 people came forward to accept Jesus as their Savior. Praise the Lord. Then we were allowed to distribute our supplies and bagged lunches and were encouraged to pray with each person we gave something to.

If you know me personally, you know that I am socially awkward. I will rarely initiate a conversation with someone, and in the event that you do get me talking, it's hard for me to keep a conversation going. I have prayed for boldness for the past few weeks. God provided. I was able to speak with 5 people at this stop: listening to their stories and praying for them right there on the street.

As I was waiting for the rest of my group to finish up, some other volunteers approached me and shared how our hygiene bags were such a blessing. The members of my church are incredible people and give generously. When we asked for hygiene products to distribute, they gave in abundance. Each gallon-sized bag contained shampoo, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, razors, deodorant, a washcloth, and socks. We even had feminine products for the ladies. And best of all, each bag held a New Testament and an explanation of how to be saved. Today, they were a blessing to everyone who received one.

Stop #4 was a men's shelter. Men come and go throughout the day to get a shower, and some are allowed to sleep there at night. We huddled up in the parking lot, and the men started coming out. We had a prayer time again (Travis was asked to pray!) and then the Gospel was presented. Again 4 men came forward to receive Christ. I am not even going to try to describe those moments in the parking lot. They were powerful, and I felt the Lord with us the entire time.
We gave out more lunches and hygiene kits. I became bolder and bolder by the minute. I spoke with several men. I listened to their stories. I cried with them. I prayed for them. As I looked around, everyone else was doing the same thing. That time in front of the men's shelter was life-changing.

When we approached our final stop, I actually began praying to God that He not let that be the place we were going to. I can't explain it any more than this: it was a scary place, and I got really bad feelings there. It made the first "projects" we visted look luxerious. What I noticed as I stepped out of the car were all the children. Black-skinned, dirty faced, barefoot, and wearing very worn clothing. Dozens of them, ranging in ages from 1 year to 10 years old. And where were their mothers?
We made another circle, and we sang "Jesus loves the little children" and another kid's praise song. Then Nick, one of our own, stepped forward to present the Gospel to the children. When he was finished he invited anyone who wanted to pray with him to move inside the circle. One little boy stepped forward. Then another. And another. They came until they surrounded Nick, crowding around him with their heads bowed and eyes clinched shut.

We passed out the remainder of our supplies. We gave the children chocolate granola bars and chewing gum. Adults began to come out of their door-less homes, and we gave and prayed. We gave until we had nothing left to give. And get this: the last person who came out to us received our last hygiene kit. God was there.

I don't quite know how to end this. I am changed. I have been blessed and renewed. But I also feel a burden now: the people I met today are on my heart. Please join me in praying for them. Many asked that I pray for their families, their health, and for jobs. On top of that, I pray for safety, comfort, and salvation.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

1 comment:

  1. So sad I didn't make it but I know God had a plan! Blessed to be a part of this group!! Just as you couldn't go last time because of a little bitty baby I had to stay back this time!! I prayed for you guys all day!! Glad for those saved and proud of you guys!! The Lord is working and I'm loving it!! Love you guys!!


Comments? Yes, please!