Thursday, August 28, 2008

What God is saying to me today!

A few short months ago I was introduced to a man named Willie Bacote. We had both attended a monthly neighborhood association meeting and afterward were intoduced to one another. Willie had expressed his desire to start a new community based ministry in this distressed inner-city community and certain community leaders suggested that we meet and perhaps work together. Willie and I seemed to be on the same page when it comes to reaching out to the people who live here.

I have to admit, I did not know this man very well prior to our meeting. I knew of him due to his former staff position at our local boys and girls club, which my two sons regularly attend. When Willie suggested the idea of doing a community feeding program he immediately piqued my interest, because we had already been doing a Sunday after church community meal and were praying about expanding that to include weekday meals. he already had a plan and some resources to get such a program up and running, all he needed was a venue. It was a no brainer for me to offer our ministry lot and church kitchen for this purpose.

We began at the beginning of the summer school break, serving evening meals every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We immediately saw the need as many children and their families started coming to the meals. A few families told us that this meal helps them stretch their already tight food budget. Others stated that their families might not otherwise have an adequate dinner.

One would think that the community that had been begging for relief would respond with thanks and appreciation, however, we began to experience just the oppostite. Complaints of noisy, uncontrolled kids, loud music, etc. started to come our way. Willie and I were getting phone calls and e-mails from concerned neighbors who suggested we "take it indoors" on those hot summer days. Here we were, feeding as many as 150 people per day, on our corner church lot, on a street corner that has been known to be a hot spot for drug activity and prostitution and the community leaders want us to take it indoors.

Well, we tried to tweek the meal program, organizing games and things for the kids to do during the meals. One volunteer donated a portable basketball hoop for the kids to use during meal times, which began to cause a stir due to "late night basketball games." Apparently kids were coming to the lot and setting up the hoop themselves and playing late night hoops, in the pitch dark, unsupervised, using foul language, etc. The neighbors complained to city officials who came and removed the hoop and took it to the city garage. That turned into a huge political issue as city officials and community officials began to attack us (mostly Rev. Willie Bacote) accusing us of causing more problems than we were solving. Crews from every local TV news channel showed up, as well as newspaper reporters and by the next morning a media circus had been stirred up over a portable basketball hoop. There was anger and hostility, racial slurs, finger pointing, shouting matches, etc. Trying to embrace this negativity and make sense of it, Rev. Bacote, at one point, broke down in tears, wondering why all of this was happening.

Later on, when the news crews and community leaders had disbanded, Willie went on to say to me and a few who had remained, "This is what we signed on for when we said yes to Jesus' command to serve the needy." Immediately he announced to us the need for revival. So he invited some preachers to come to the CORE Church and join us for a week of revival. That is what we are doing this week. Last night (Wednesday) was a powerful evening of music, as the men's choir from Bethel Baptist Church led us in song and Rev. Constance Knight of Oak Grove Baptist Church delivered the word, compelling us to "spend time at the feet of Jesus, and then get up and serve Him."

Throughout the past few months people have been calling me and sending me e-mails, people I don't even know, telling me, "That man (Willie Bacote) is crazy, a mad man, nuts, don't trust him," etc. Well, more than a few times I began to bite into these rumors and accusations. Then I began to remember my own past and the places God has delivered me from. The Holy Spirit convicted me. I found myself asking, "How can I sit in judgement when I have enough baggage of my own that God has set me free from?" I often ask God why he chooses to use me inspite of my past and my still flawed character. All I can come up with is the fact that God uses ordinary people, as flawed and sinful as they are, to do His extraordinary will.

So I say to my new friend, Rev. Willie Bacote, let us walk this road together, for indeed this is what we signed on for. Let us rejoice as God leads the way!