Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Pay Off!

Today God sent me a reminder of why He called me to inner-city ministry. There is a certain Hispanic man, Jorge, whom I met in 1995 while serving at City Mission of Schenectady. Back then he was a thirty year old, homeless crack addict. He was rather rude and obnoxious, and he was an angry, bitter man. Fast forward to the summer of 2008. I'm now living in Troy, N.Y., located 25miles east of Schenectady. It's been two years since we left Schenectady to come to Troy, and just as long since I last worked at City Mission. About a month ago I thought I saw Jorge walking the streets of Troy. I didn't think much of it. I drove passed him, several times, unnoticed. Then about two weeks ago Jorge happened to come walking into the Pod Coffee House, the happy little place I am now the proud owner of. He was looking for work and saw that we had just recently opened. He recognized me, as he exclaimed.."You're the guy that worked at the homeless shelter, who put me out on the street when I was not following the rules." I told him he was correct, that it was indeed me.

He gave me a big bear hug and thanked me for being straight with him all those years. He went on to explain that being out on the street, strung out on liquor and crack, having lost everything, caused him to think long and hard about his life and the direction he was headed in. He was sitting in the Renssalaer County Jail, nearly two years ago, when he realized he needed God in his life. So, he prayed and asked God to forgive him and help him to live right. He said he remembered the times when I and my co-workers at the shelter would share the gospel with him, and he would tell us we were nuts. He said, "Dave, you guys never gave up on me. Every time I came through the doors of the shelter, you always welcomed me and accepted me."

Today I saw Jorge again and he was excited because he's starting a new job and some great things are happening in his life. He went on to say that since he gave his life over to Christ he's been clean and sober and nothing but good things have been happening!

So, here's the pay off. Whenever I begin to wonder why I'm ministering and planting a church in the last place on earth a church planter would choose to come to, God sends me reminders like Jorge.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Reaching people I am most like.

Rick Warren, in His book "Purpose Driven Church," wrote that pastors and church planters are usually and most likely to reach those they are most like; that is, that segment of society that we have a lot in common with; race, social class, hobbies, personality, etc.

For example, Warren, as a middle class, white, male, baby boomer, found that he was more successful in reaching men like himself. He goes on to encourage his readers (mostly pastors, church planters and seminary students) to find the people whom they are most like and evangelize them. Of course, he goes on to state in the book, there are those who have the "missionary gift" who can be anywhere and relate to anyone, regardless of what people group they may belong to.

By following Warren's advice, then, I would be most likely to reach 40-something, slightly rotund, procrastinating, undisciplined, day dreamers. Me? I'm praying for that "missionary gift." But if, along the way, I happen to meet people like me, I just might reach out to them. Or I might put it off until tomorrow and just dream about it for awhile.

For the record, I agree with Rick Warren's line of thinking. I can identify with guys who are alot like me. I know how they think. If that isn't enough, God gave me one just like me; yah my oldest boy is an undisciplined, procrastinating, day dreamer. God really does have a sense of humor, doesn't He?

My mom used to say, "I hope you all (me and my four sisters) have one just like you." Well, Mom, your wish came true.

Writing our own Prayer

It was Tuesday evening and we had assembled once again for our weekly prayer and study group. We were planning on continuing our "Growing up Catholic" study and discussion. However, Ron (our group facilitator) had a different idea. He suggested that we, as a group write out a prayer together, using the Scriptures as our guide. His reasoning? He wants us to develop a framework by which we can learn to pray as a group. Is this a beautiful thing, or what?
So for the 90 minutes that followed we poured through the Scriptures, looking at some of the Psalms, as well as Jesus' teaching on prayer in Matthew 6, and then to the account of Jesus Himself praying, as recorded in John 17. I have to admit, when Ron first mentioned his idea this evening, I didn't know where he was going with it, but where the Spirit led us, as a group, was truly amazing; something that wasn't planned. One man had an idea that he was sure came from God, and he presented it. And God blessed our socks off! Man, I'm still feeling it!

Six months ago we barely knew each other, now we are praying together, in one accord (No we didn't all drive here together in a Honda...okay...bad joke). What is developing is truly a work of the Holy Spirit. One man had a vision from God and the rest of us joined him in that vision. The end result of our evening together? We wrote out a prayer together and then prayed it together.

When my life comes to an end, and I'm standing before Jesus, what will be the marks of my success? At what will Jesus look and say, "Well done, good and faithful servant...?" It won't be the ministry I built or the money I raised or the amount of good deeds I did. It will be the people I have managed, by the will and the grace of God, to reach with His good news. It will be the people who connected with God as a result of my obedience and faithfulness to Him to "Go therefore and make disciples..."

What gave my heart joy this evening is not merely the fact that a handful of people took the time to come to Bible study, but that they are being discipled and nurtured by the word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Something powerful and miraculous happens when God's people learn to live and pray together as a family, and that is what we are becoming, a family wrought and knitted together by the Holy Spirit; a bond that cannot be broken.

That's Powerful!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Success in Serving

When I came back to this neighborhood nearly three years ago I knew I had my work cut out for me. But I also knew that God had sent me, and because of that I have been able to endure without giving up. There have been times when I have questioned God as to why I am here, but every Sunday, and at various times through out the week, when I see the kids playing in the neighborhood I am reminded of my purpose and mission. If we only managed to reach a handful of these kids then we will have accomplished much. Reaching the parents and guardians of these wonderful kids is also a priority in this ministry endeavor.

Only three days into this feed a kid ministry and we are already seeing success. I don't count success in the number of people who show up, although there were many who have come these past three days. Our purpose is not just to feed hungry children. As noble of an effort as that may be, our real mission is to teach these kids and their families that God loves them and so do we. We want to be their friends. We want to help them with whatever problems they may be dealing with. This is what a community does as each of us takes the time to look out for those who live nearby us. I truly believe that this community will change for the better as we invest our time and our resources into the lives of the young people who live here, and do what we can to make their neighborhood safe and free from fear and violence, including the removal of hand guns and other weapons from the streets, but also to instill in them some lasting values that will follow them throughout their lives. But above all of this, to make Christ known to them as we lift Him up. It is through Jesus Christ that the lives of people will truly change

The seeds that we have been planting for nearly three years are beginning to break through this once fallow ground. We are thankful to God for calling us to this great commission work and for His provision as He has supplied our every need and has squashed the efforts of anyone who would want to prevent us from serving our community and letting these people know that God loves them and that He has a plan and purpose for their lives.

I am so very thankful that God has formed this new partnership in the gospel as Pastor Willie D. Bacote and I have come together. It is my prayer that through this partnership the hand of God will move through our community and bring some much needed healing and restoration.

Please continue to pray for our ongoing efforts in reaching our community for Christ and His kingdom

Continuing to serve in the midst of conflict and negativity

Over the past couple of weeks I have been posting updates about our new Feed a Kid minstry, which Missing Link Street Ministries and the CORE Church of Troy are co-sponsoring.

This past Monday we began serving evening meals to neighborhood children from the CORE Church ministry lot. Many people from the community have volunteered to serve with us and have told us what a great service this is. However, we have met with some conflict amongst certain community leaders who want us to "bring it indoors." What we have demonstrated to the community is the need for such a ministry, as many children have been fed. Many of these same community leaders have been scratching their heads for months, even years, as they have tried to come up with ways to address the unmet needs within this community. What we have heard, over and over, is the need for something for the kids to do with all of their spare time, instead of hanging out on the streets and creating mischief.

Wednesday's attendance was quite a bit more than Monday's. There are some people within this community who just don't believe there are children going to bed each night without having supper, or at least a very inadequate supper. One family, with five young children, shared with me that if it had not been for Feed a Kid they would have had to feed their children cold cereal and milk for dinner because they were a little short on finances, and the food they had gotten from the food pantry had been used. They don't receive food stamps or public assistance because the dad works a full time job and makes too much money to qualify. By providing meals like this for the kids in our community we are helping families stretch their food budget. With the cost of everything from gas, to produce, meat and groceries going up, how will struggling families make ends meet? That is the purpose of this ministry; to serve children and families and provide for the physical needs, while building bridges for the gospel.

The same folks who said, "Do something for the youth" are now saying, "bring it indoors." Why are they saying this? Could it be that they don't want to admit that the problems in our community are bigger than they realized? or perhaps it is because they are too busy with their own lives and don't have time to join in this effort?

The real reason is because this is a Christ-centered effort. Our goal and our purpose in all of this is to lift up Jesus Christ and to make His name known in the lives of the people who are struggling and hurting. There are spiritual forces at work that we cannot see with the naked eye, yet the Holy Spirit reveals to us; they are both heavenly and demonic. Satan would like nothing better than to get his foot in the door of this ministry effort and destroy it. However, heaven's armies are watching over us. God's will shall prevail, and as long as we continue to keep our eyes and our minds fixed on Him, nothing will keep us from succeeding in our mission.

Feeding hungry children is the beginning of a community in transition. Are the community leaders who are busy criticizing and pointing fingers prepared for what God will do in this community? If Jesus Himself came down from heaven, would they fall to their knees in worship, or would they find fault with that too? Rest assured, He is coming back, and very soon. The Bible says, "Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God in heaven." (Phil.2:10-11)

In the mean time, we will continue to press on in this mission of making Christ known in the heart of our community.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The CORE Church of Troy and The Missing Link Street Ministry Join Forces

This past Monday the CORE Church of Troy joined forces with the Missing Link Street Ministry to begin a new Feed a Kid ministry. CORE Church pastor Dave Lewis and Missing Link pastor Willie D. Bacote are working together to reach out to the kids and families in our community and to make the streets of Troy a safer place to live and raise a family. Also working with us is Troy Look Inc., led by Kevin Pryor, which is also a ministry reaching out to the youth of Troy.

Planting an inner-city church has brought unique challenges our way, along with great opportunities to network and partner with other ministries who are serving in the same neighborhood. We are all realizing that we are not alone in this field of harvest. We have all prayed for more laborers to join us, and we have since discovered one another and are enjoying this new found relationship as we seek a common goal of reaching out to these great kids and bearing fruit for the kingdom of God.

Feed-a-kid, a free community hot meal for neighborhood children, 5-15, will continue every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:00pm at the CORE Church ministry lot. Would you like to join us? Stop on by and help us serve. If you would like to donate food or give towards the cost of preparing these free community meals you may contact Pastor WillieD. Bacote at (518) 421-5222 or Pastor Dave Lewis at (518) 526-6079

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Church planter, missionary, pastor...What am I?

I have been asked this question by more than a few people. I have to admit, I get a bit lost in the semantics my self sometimes. Lately, though, I have been thinking more like a missionary than a pastor (in the traditional sense that is). There are plenty of shepherd/pastors, living within close proximity to where I live. They are serving the Lord, tending their flocks, etc. However, they are all doing primarily the same thing, which is managing what they have instead of searching for the ones they don't have; the ones who might never step foot inside of their church buildings. Don't get me wrong, I love these pastors, most of whom are bi-vocational. They are dedicated men of God who would do anything for the members of their congregations. For most of my ministry I have thought like them, and still do to a large extent. However, I am learning, with the help of men like Ed Stetzer and Alan Hirsch, to think like a missionary.

I want to be in the places where unchurched people gather. I want to bring Christ into those places. Living in post-modern, mostly unchurched America means shifting my thoughts so that they line up with Jesus' thoughts. Did Jesus have a strategy for reaching the lost? If simply going to where lost people are (which is anywhere and everywhere) then I guess He had a strategy. For me it simply means living, loving and serving the way Christ did and will do through me.

My picture of missional/incarnational

My picture of missional and incarnational is living in and engaging the culture, by being who I am in the place God has called me to. This means putting my kids in (God forbid) public school. Enrolling my kids in community activities such as little league baseball, scouting, 4H, etc. and then participating with them on a volunteer basis and meeting other families who live in the same community, send their kids to public school, and sign them up for these same community activities. This isn't an agenda or a program or any attempt to be something I'm not, so that I can hone in on them with the gospel. It is a process, by which I am living in this world, but not of this world; living amongst my neighbors in such a way that they are drawn to what I have, which is peace and joy. It's about developing relationships and friendships and loving my neighbor as myself, so that as Christ lives in me, transforming my life, He also lives and works through me, drawing lost people to Himself and transforming their lives.

For me, that's what it's all about--knowing Christ and making Him known.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Post Script to last post

Feed a Kid (or any ministry effort for that matter) could not happen through solo endeavors. Indeed it takes many laborers to make it truly successful. To that end I would like to thank Pastor Willie Bacote for the vision and passion to drive such an effort to minister to these great kids. Thanks also to the many folks who came out to help, from setting up to cooking and serving and breaking down and cleaning up afterwards. God knows who you are and rest assured that your service to Him will not go unrewarded. The happy faces of children is a great reward in itself, but there are greater rewards awaiting us in eternity, when we see God in all of His glory.

Feed a Kid off to a great start

Our first installment of "Feed a Kid" kicked off on Monday evening. We had a great turn out from the community. Lots of volunteers from various churches. We served meals to many neighborhood children and truly connected with them. I believe this will be a great ministry and that God will bless our efforts. Our interest is in feeding these kids both physically and spiritually. Please continue to pray for this vital, frontline ministry. We'll do it all again tomorrow evening at 6pm and again on Friday and for as long as God would have us to do this.

Feed a Kid is a joint effort of The Missing Link Street Ministry, The CORE Church of Troy, Troy Look,Inc. and Holy Serenity COGIC. Our interest is in serving Christ our Lord and Savior and making Him known in the heart of the city. Through strategic ministries like Feed a Kid we can address physical needs within the community that will become avenues for the gospel, as we build relationships and show the grace and love of God through our deeds and our words.

To God be the glory!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Living...Loving...Serving thereby making Christ known.

For several years now I have been wrestling with the question of what my purpose and mission in life is. I have been trying to wrap my heart and mind around the Great Commission and what that looks like for me as a follower of Christ. In the midst of all of this God has been revealing some amazing things to me; about Himself, about myself and about the people He, in His sovereignty, has sent me to make Him known to. A brother in the Lord recently pointed something out to me, which I knew, but really wasn't thinking too much about. He said, "God has called you to a different kind of church planting, not better or worse than what other church planters are doing, but different." He went on to explain how it will take many different kinds of church planters to reach different people within their own communities and within their own culture and that we (The CORE Church of Troy) need to focus on the people within the community God has sent us to.

For the past two and a half, almost three years, I have been praying for the people who live in the inner-city of Troy and what my part will be in reaching them for the kingdom of God. What can I do to have a maximum impact in this community for Christ and His kingdom? As I have prayed and continued in God's word and have remained faithful and obedient to His call, He has revealed how we (not I) will reach this community for His glory. It is not about me, but about Him. It is not just me that He has called. There are others (co-laborers in the field of harvest) that He has sent me to find and join up with, and others He has sent me to disciple and raise up. God is already at work here, we are merely joining Him. It is not a new work He has called me to start, but His eternal work that He started long before I came along. So, here I am in God's appointed field of harvest, rolling up my sleeves and joining in on what God is doing.

Our agenda is to love as Christ loved, live as He lived, and serve as He served, thereby making Him known in the heart of this community. Anyone who feels led by the Holy Spirit to join us, I say, "Welcome."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

What a great community to Iive in.

For the past two and a half years, whenever I was asked to describe my mission field, I would rattle off a host of negative arrtibutes; steady presence of drug dealers, street gangs, juvenile delinquents, run down/boarded up buildings, etc.

However, I need to repent of that mindset, cast out the negative, and re-focus on the positive. You see, I have learned that there are many wonderful people in this community, including lots of great kids who live here, and many older folks who can't afford to sell their homes and move. Then there are the caring folks who make up the neighborhood association, and the other pastors and clergy I have met since I returned to Troy.

I remember what this neighborhood was like 30 years ago when I lived here as a boy. The streets were safe. Neighbors watched over neighborhood kids (myself included) and let us know when they saw us doing not so good things. While North Central Troy has many unique challenges, it will see brighter days. There are many people who care and are praying and seeking the face of God to shine upon this city and this neighborhood. What a glorious day to be alive and to be serving the Living God.



I wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phone?

What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?

What if we flipped through it several times a day?

What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?

What if we used it to receive messages from the text?

What if we treated it like we couldn't live without it?

What if we gave it to Kids as gifts?

What if we used it when we traveled?

What if we used it in case of emergency

This is something to make you go....hmm...where is my Bible?

Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cell phone, we don't have to worry about our Bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill.

Makes you stop and think 'where are my priorities?'

And no dropped calls!

Results from Feed a Kid planning meeting

There was a great turn out from the community in support of this effort to reach out to the children in Troy's North Central/South Lansingburgh community. Pastor Willie Bacote of Missing Link Street Ministry led the meeting. Rev. Cornelius Clark, pastor of Holy Serenity church was also present, along with several representatives from the neighborhood association.

We will be starting Monday, July 14th, at 6pm from the CORE Church ministry lot,located at 5th Ave & 101st. to serve the "Feed a Kid" meals. This will take place every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6pm. Food will be prepared in the CORE church kitchen, located across the street from the lot. Meals will be served inside of the church if it is raining. To start things off a simple menu of hot dogs, salads, watermelon and koolaid drinks was decided upon. Future menues are still being planned. Food and beverage donations are always welcome. Ideas for field trips and outings were also discussed.

Anyone is welcome to come and help anytime, as you are available.

I've been in contact with Pastor Charlie Muller, pastor of Victory Church of Albany, and he has pledged to do what he can to help us in this effort. I would like to have a regular place where kids can come and feel safe from the streets, get a meal, help with homework, etc. There is a commercial building located a block south of our church, at 3280 6th Ave, near Glen Ave. (directly across the street from Stewart's) that the city is getting ready to auction off on August 5th. This building has two floors and is about 2700 Sq. ft and would be ideal for a Troy version of Victory's JC Club. If you feel led by the Spirit to pray for anything, perhaps that God would make that property available to us, along with necessary resources to renovate it and convert it into a youth outreach center. This is my vision and it even has a name to go with it, TKO (Troy Kids Outreach) Center. TKO, as you know, is a boxing term which means Technical Knock Out. What we want to do is reach out to these great kids and knock the drug dealers, gang bangers, and other negative influences (we know that Satan is really behind all of this) out of there lives. We want to feed them, clothe them if they need it, and do whatever we can to let them know that God loves them and that they have choices in life that may not be obvious to them.

A fun evening with the kids in our neighborhood

Thursday, July 10, 2008

profiting from trials and spiritual warfare

In a previous post I made mention of an intense period of trials I have been going through, perhaps the most powerful bout with spiritual warfare I have experienced in the three years that have passed since we said yes to the opportunity to return to Troy.

As Jesus told Peter, "Satan has asked for you, that He may sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail." (Luke 22:31-32).

The battle I have been enduring was more from the inside than from the outside, although Satan has been using outside sources; people, conflict, situations, etc. to try and cause me to become unraveled. Feelings of failure and doubt had nearly caused me to walk away from the ministry God has called me to in Troy's inner-city. All the while I have continued to meditate upon the word of God and to pray for widom, patience and strength to stand firm.

I have been clinging to the words of James,

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind (James 1:2-6)

After several months of praying through and enduring this battle, I am beginning to see the brighter side of it all. There are some incredible doors opening that I did not see several months back and I am seeing that God has been using this intense spiritual battle to prepare me for what lies ahead. God has also been showing me that I'm not here on my own to fight this battle of faith. He is with me every step of the way; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not only to stand with me, but to fight the battle with me and for me. Through all of this He has tested and strenghened my faith so that I will be equipped to walk with those who are experiencing their own battles with the "principalities and spiritual powers of darkness" (aka Satan and his army of demons).

Some of my fellow church planters may be reading this and identifying with what I have shared. Perhaps you're in the midst of such a battle. Be in His word. Be in prayer. Trust that He will walk through the fire with you, and if you need someone to pray with you nd for you, give me a call or shoot me an e-mail.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The beauty of a community coming together

My family and I just returned home after an evening at a neighborhood community center. More than one hundred people; men, women, children, community leaders, etc, packed the Fallon Rainbow Community Room as we discussed issues of concern that are plaguing the streets of Troy; issues such as violent crime, drug dealers, gang activity, etc. This first in a series of community gatherings was led by Pastor Willie Bacote of Missing Link Street Ministry. Pastor Willie had invited the CORE Church to be a co-sponsor of this initiative to restore peace and hope in Troy's inner-city. Throughout the course of this evenings gathering I felt a strong sense of community spirit. There were many people present who have had enough of the negativity and want to make a difference. I was impressed with Pastor Willie as he began the meeting in prayer and all throughout the evening stressed the importance of turning our lives over to God. Many great ideas were discussed and I believe we will see some great things happening in the North Central neighborhood as the community comes together. We will soon begin feeding hungry children in the neighborhood every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening at 6:00pm. Some logistics and details are being worked out but this will happen. Other ideas were discussed as well as citizens stepped up to the plate and said, "I will do my part to make a difference."

Please continue to pray for our on going efforts to make Christ known in the heart of this city.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Connecting with Brenda Kenneally

While walking the streets of Troy this evening with Rev. Willie Bacote, I had the blessed privilege of meeting Brenda Kenneally. Brenda is an award winning photojournalist who was born and raised in the city of Albany and now resides in Brooklyn, NY. I've been a big fan of her work for a couple of years now. The best way I can describe her work is "Reality through the lens of a camera."

Check out these links to some of her work.

As I had an opportunity to finally meet Brenda face to face we got to talking about reaching out to kids in Troy's inner-city. Her thoughts? You won't reach them from the church building with another new ministry. She talked about reaching kids through their own, twenty-first century language--media technology. She wants to connect with places like the Sanctuary for Indendent Media and teach kids how to develop websites and create podcasts and video webcasts, etc.

It was great to connect with Brenda Kenneally and I am looking for to hearing more of her insights.

Blessed are the Peacemakers Part II

A few posts back I mentionted the opportunity to connect with Rev. Willie Bacote. Pastor Willie oversees Missing Link Street Ministry. He and I share a common burden for the same community that has been plagued by crime and violence for too long. For the past several months Pastor Willie has been leading a series of walks to bring awareness to the rise in these and other serious issues that are negatively effecting the safety and quality of life in Troy's inner-city community. At Pastor Willie's invitation I joined him this evening as he and a group of concerned citizens walked about 15 blocks, from 112th St. to Douw St. and back to Powers Park.

Tomorrow evening (Wednesday), at 7:00pm, at the Fallon Rainbow Community Room, Pastor Willie and others will come together to discuss how to restore peace and hope in this community and make the streets of Troy a safe place to live and raise a family, where children can run and play without the fear of being hit by a stray bullet, or being confronted by drug dealers and gang leaders.

My personal conviction is that true, lasting peace, comes only through Jesus Christ, and that He calls His followers to be peacemakers.

Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God (Matt. 5:9)

As we lift up the name of Jesus and make Him known in the hearts of these wonderful people living in this community, reconciling God and men, His peace, which surpasses all understanding will come in like a flood. The peace and hope of a risen Savior will shine brightly in the midst of this dark neighborhood and healing and restoration will come.
Please join me in praying for Pastor Willie Bacote and his efforts to bring peace and restoration to the streets of Troy

Monday, July 7, 2008

Feeding hungry children

While I was having my wife's car worked on at Latham Ford I took a ride over to downtown Albany with Donna, our worship leader, to visit the JC Club, an inner-city children's feeding center. Charlie Muller, pastor of Albany's Victory Church saw a need in 1994 to provide inner-city children with nutritious meals, while at the same time feeding them spiritually. I had connected with Pastor Charlie and had told him of my burden and vision for a similar ministry just across the river in Troy. Pastor Charlie invited me to come and have a tour of their feeding center in operation. So I called Donna to invite her to come along. What we saw were dozens of staff and volunteers preparing hundreds of bag lunches. Pastor Charlie explained that they will distribute more than 900 lunches to children at various drop off points located in the parks throughout the city of Albany. The JC Club also serves a hot meal for children every Saturday and Sunday from 3-5 pm.

As Pastor Charlie walked me and Donna through the center, explaining various details of this vital ministry, a sense of purpose and passion overwhelmed me. The city of Troy has its own share of inner-city children who often go hungry. There is a need for such a ministry here. Dare I believe that God would use the CORE Church of Troy to begin such a ministry to feed Troy's inner-city children; not just physically, but spiritually as well. Pastor Charlie went on to explain that they are just as passionate in telling the children about Jesus Christ as they are with with providing meals for them.

The CORE Church of Troy is situated in the heart of Troy's most economically depressed neighborhood, where many single mothers and children live. God has given me a burden and vision for reaching them by providing for their most basic needs.

Please continue to pray for the CORE Church of Troy as we seek to obey the Lord and to accomplish His will and to make Him known in the heart of the city.Pray that God will provide the resources to make this happen.

New Sermon Series: what's a family to do in trying times like these?

Gas prices are skyrocketing, the stock market is plummeting, the economy is falling apart. Taxes are going up, violent crime is on an upswing, the government is running out of answers.

What is a person and/or a family to do in such trying times?

How will we get by; pay the bills, raise our families, keep gas in our cars?

As all of these real life issues swarm around us, how can we keep from getting caught up in the grip of fear and anxiety?

Who will come to our aid? Is there any true, lasting relief?

Join us as we tackle these issues and together we will discover the answers that only God can provide.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Getting away from it all

My family and I escaped the inner-city of Troy for a few days as we headed for Minerva Lake, located in New York's Adirondack Mountains. It was 4th of July weekend and what better way to spend it than with family, in the mountains, camping out. My parents are regulars at Minerva Lake, where I spent many, many happy days as a kid. Here they have no eletricity on the campsites, which TV, no computers, no e-mail, facebook or twitter cell phone coverage. Brenda and the boys and I roughed it out in a tent for two nights. Daniel and Jacob brought their bikes with them and enjoyed having the run of the campground on them. They also enjoyed fishing, swimming in the lake, making new friends and toasting marshmallows over the campfire. What a great time we all had getting away from our day to day routine.
The weekend ended with us visiting another campground, Shadow Brook, a Christian camp located in Cooperstown, NY (home of baseball hall of fame). Our worship leader, Donna, and her band 4ever1, participated in an all day "Sing to Jesus" festival with five other Christian bands and six guest preachers, including yours truly. Altogether we covered nearly 400 miles of driving and the weather couldn't have been better. This will definitely go down as 4th of July to remember.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sure of Our Calling

I was on my friend Jay Hardwick's blog catching up on what he's doing in Columbia, S.C. As I was reading through his most recent post, I felt like he was telling my story, yet in a different setting. Here is an excerpt from that post.

"I sort of wondered why God would call us back to our hometown when Jesus didn't do so well when He passed through His hometown (Matthew 13:57-58). :-)
Not long after we started the journey, the unique opportunity that God was giving us became clear. Because we grew up here, there was a bit of street credibility that we could leverage. We've paid our dues here. We know the culture. We know the people. We know the lay of the land. We have an inside track."

Have you ever watched one of those TV police dramas, where a narrator comes on and announces, "This is based on a true story, but the names and places have been changed to protect the innocent." That's what was going through my mind as I read through Jay's blog post.

Why would God send me back to the streets of Troy? I had to pray long and hard about coming back to this impoverished, inner-city neighborhood when the inviation came. In the fall of 2005 my friend and mentor, Rev. Perry Jones, told me about the closing the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church and the opportunity to come here and have a gospel presence and to make Christ known. The burden to return to my old stomping ground came several years prior to this opportunity, but I fought it and tried to do other things, ministry things even, that did not work out. Now that we are here in Troy, I know in the core of my being that this is where God wants us to be. Two and a half years into this and we are seeing some amazing thinga unfold before our eyes.

I have come to see that my youth and upbringing and inner-city experiences and eleven years of rescue mission service were all a part of God's plan; even the years I spent going to culinary arts school and cooking professionally are now being used by God in this church planting/inner-city ministry endeavor.

I am just beginning to read Mark Batterson's "In the Pit With A Lion on a Snowy Day." I'm beginning to think that Mark is telling my story too. God is using what I thought were bad choices, mistakes and wasted efforts for His glory. I can't wait to see what else God will use from my past to bring glory to His name.