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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Living in Atlanta

A friend pointed out to me me that, so far, it appears as though we are concerned only for those outside of our borders and are ignoring the Lazaruses at our doorstep. Good point. There are a lot of ways to get involved locally and you don't necessarily need an organization supporting it to get involved.

Here's one idea.. Since we don't do Santa Claus (*gasp*) we have a variety of options available to us on Christmas in addition to opening gifts from each other. This year, inspired by a friend that takes his grill downtown each Sunday after church to cook out for the homeless, we decided to spend our Christmas morning a little different from years past. We stopped by Starbucks and picked up a traveler of coffee and had the back of the car loaded up with fruit, donuts and blankets. We had this idea that we would show up downtown and hand all this out to the homeless population that had otherwise been forgotten, but reality set us straight.

Turns out, this is not a unique idea to us. In fact, it took us nearly an hour of driving around to find anywhere that was not already overrun with church groups, community groups and individuals with far better fare than what we had carted out. So we decided to take our show on the road and just drive around until we found someone that looked like a cup of coffee and some other goodies would make their day. At first, the children were pointing at every individual that happened to be taking their dog for a Christmas morning walk. Eventually we encountered a few men that, to this day, our kids still pray for by name. Vincent, Tony and Hubert are common prayer requests in the evening.

I was a little surprised at how grateful each of them were. It wasn't a Christmas feast - it was coffee, donut and some fruit.

Recently on a Saturday morning we went back for more. We picked up more coffee (please call ahead before walking into Starbucks demanding all their coffee on a busy morning) and fruit and the rest of our blankets and headed back to the park. It was a beautiful day and after word got out that we had 'good coffee', everything was gone in 15 minutes. We spent some good time talking with a few gentlemen that didn't appear to be in dire need of food so much as a conversation with someone. Giving, to us, new meaning to the words of Christ - Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).  Oh, and not a single person asked for money, which I had assumed would be a common request. Shows how much I know. 

Isaiah 58:10
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

Another local group we are working with, thanks to some good friends, is S.A.Y Yes and New Life Covenant Church in Atlanta. One thing we love about S.A.Y Yes is that we can bring our kids and have them serve along side us. As a family, we regularly serve meals to this group of inner-city children and their parents.

There is something very precious and powerful about your entire family serving together and serving the specific community the Lord has placed you in. On the nights we serve at S.A.Y. Yes, we're amazed at how the Lord is even able to use our 3 month old baby for His work -- a smiley, cooing baby can bring a little joy to even the hardest of hearts or to someone who has just had a really, really rotten day. Thanks be to God for leading us to S.A.Y Yes -- if you live in the Atlanta area we highly recommend you look them up and get involved, they're doing awesome work.

Finally, we have several elderly neighbors that we check in on from time to time. Some have grandchildren and family in town or nearby and some do not. We have especially enjoyed getting to know one couple in particular - actually a brother and sister who have lived in the neighborhood for just under 50 years. They love it when the children come over to visit and we usually exchange small gifts for holidays or will find a card in the mailbox for Valentine's Day.

It has been fascinating and remarkable to watch my children in each of these situations. They have zero amount of prejudice, preconceived ideas or judgement for any of the people we have tried to serve. They walk behind me in the park as I pour cups of coffee - one with a bag of fruit, the other with cream and sugar - offering what they have to those around us. We are still learning and finding new places and people to serve and are interested to hear your ideas or experiences. Feel free to post them in the comments section below.


DaddyDan said...

One reader sent this to me separately but gave me permission to repost here. I think everyone knows at least one single mom and chances are they could use some help whether they are asking for it or not.

"We support alot of people and organizations but the group that is often overlooked and is closest to my heart are the single mothers. God continues to bring them into our life. Their needs are overwhelming usually and never ending. $, food, $, a listening ear, child care, etc.
Our community group helped paint this one mother's house and get it fixed up so that she can sell the house."

Joshua Goodling said...

Great post! Reminds me of what I did for several years in a row when I lived in Knoxville. Every Christmas, I would buy a large amount of toys and candy and wrap each of them up. I would go to the local trailer park where many poor people lived, and knock on each door and ask them how many kids they had and give them that number of presents. That was always a FUN time for me - seeing the reaction of the people. Of course, I put one of those Chick Gospel tracts in each present as I wrapped it.

Holly said...

I am in awe and inspired by the two of you. The thing Tom and I try to remember is that people “in need”, need “things” (food, clothing, kitchen items, household items, etc.) all year, not just at holidays. While your cash donations are a wonderful thing and certainly always welcome, don’t forget many people need very basic items. When you clean out a kitchen utensil drawer or purchase new items for your house (sheets, towels, pots, pans, etc.) there are many people without even the basics. Those donations are always welcome and greatly appreciated at battered women’s shelters (many have to leave home with only the clothes on their and their children’s backs), crisis control and many other charities. Our favorite charity, as you know, is the Exchange/SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) and Exchange/CAP (Child Abuse Prevention) centers that are located all over the country (there are 3 in Georgia, but unfortunately none in the Atlanta area). Goodwill is a wonderful place to donate clothes, but Tom and I like to give our clothes, household items, etc. to charities that can give them to families that truly need them at no cost. We do however, go to Goodwill as often as we can and purchase “like new” children’s clothing, coats and shoes to donate to SCAN.

I love reading your blog and all the wonderful things you and your family are doing. Enjoy all the volunteer work all of you are doing, they say you will receive more than you will ever give…and it is true. You are teaching your children wonderful life lessons that will become some of their favorite childhood memories.