I Prayed For My Neighbors, Look What Happened

Many of my neighbors have moved in and moved out over these past 30 years and, while I’ve prayed for them, most relationships remained superficial.  I really understand – at the end of the day, everyone wants privacy and rest after bustling through the city.  But at the same time, I believe that “the times and places for man to live are ordained by God” and don’t want to neglect any opportunity to show God’s love.

Showing some kindness isn’t hard – helping carry bundles (we have no elevator), being a listening ear when someone needs to unburden, or even an occasional hospital visit.  But I kept praying, was there more?

THEN I happened to see a flyer posted, announcing a plan by Columbia University to build a ‘public plaza’ on our small residential street, eliminating two blocks and much needed residential parking.  They already demolished housing for a conference center – the flyer urged residents to get involved.

(After the city itself, Columbia University is the largest land owner in the City of New York.  They have displaced more residents and dismantled more neighborhoods than anyone else.)

I really felt a stirring but feelings can deceive….does the Lord really care about our street per se? Are these concerns worldly?  Temporal? Of no consequence in view of eternity?

But the stirring continued.  I attended this open meeting where C.U. presented their illustrious “plaza plan”.  But something was wrong, I sensed something devious and underhanded in their overture, “This is a plaza for you to enjoy!”

Their plan must be approved by the Community Board and that meeting would be held on November 5th.  My husband and I felt compelled to notify our neighbors over a two block radius.  We distributed flyers to many, especially to weary drivers, urging them to attend this meeting and stand up for their neighborhood.   I continued to pray, hoping that my zeal is from God and not my own unction.

On November 5th, during my morning prayer and devotion,  Deuteronomy 20:1-8 was the scripture topic twice!  One inspirational blog I read,  A Mountain of Faith, posted “Is Your Tank Full?”  (https://amountainoffaith.com/2017/11/05/is-your-faith-tank-full/)  I truly felt covered by God for this meeting, that no ‘chariots’ ‘horses’ or ‘armies’…even big businesses…can come against the purposes of God.

For the LORD your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!’  Deuteronomy 20:4

There were many empty places as the meeting was about to begin.  However, shortly thereafter my husband and I turned around and saw behind us dozens of people who came from work and from their homes.  Standing room only!

C.U. presented a slide show of their ‘plaza plans’.  Their P.R. reps tried to present how this will ‘benefit’ the neighborhood,  a fancy but hollow attempt to patronize while ruining and taking our street.

My inward ‘stirring’ turned into a ‘churning’.  I stood and challenged C.U. with unexpected fervor…which passed the torch to others.  They thought their plan was a slam dunk in this Spanish speaking, working class neighborhood.  And why not?  They have never lost an endeavor, especially when displacing families, the elderly and small businesses…those with no clout.   They did not get approved on this night though, the board ended up divided and could not vote.

Digging into rumors uncovered the truth.  C.U. really needs this plaza in order to change the zoning law on our small residential street and proceed with building plans.  The plaza is their platform to build upon and expand their campus, architectural plans are are already established, waiting in the wings! 

I privately prayed more though for God’s guidance, “Lord, should I take this farther?  Should I see an Assemblyman or Councilman?”  Shortly afterwards my husband came and suggested, “Maybe you try and see our Congressman or Councilman…”

So I met with the City Councilman’s intermediary, who happens to be a pastor. He aligned with the neighborhood concern and added, “God bless you!”  He strongly urged me to contact the Chief of Staff…whose name is Jose Espiritusanto!  (which from Spanish translates Holy Spirit!)

This week my husband and I had opportunity to address a larger general meeting and present the truths behind the ‘plan’.  The next Community Board meeting is Dec 4th.

So far I testify:

  • God is “training my hands to battle” (Psalm 144:1) strengthening us toward a spiritual calling.  I never addressed a public gathering before, but the Lord is breaking new ground within me, teaching me that through Him I am able to do this.
  • After praying for my neighbors, we’re getting to know them, perhaps they’ll see we care.  Already some have shared personal struggles and know, “We’re praying for you!”  Might we remember each other when this battle is over, when hardships or calamities strike?
  • I believe that the Lord is revealing Himself, teaching us greater dependence upon Him and His unmatched sovereignty….strengths we will need for future spiritual battles.  

“No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”  II Timothy 2:4

This is scripture to live by.  But somehow God has put us in the middle of a neighborhood issue and has stirred us within. Sometimes our prayers for people don’t supernaturally create home Bible studies and prayer meetings.  Sometimes God positions His Body alongside the lost and hopefully upon that road, fulfills divine appointments.

Would you pray for us?

 

 

 

God in the Midst of a Package

for you package

In my recent post, “God in the Midst of Parole”, 8/18/17, I shared the testimony of Ms. G.  This testimony is an ‘addendum’ to that.  After Ms. G entered the residential program,  I prepared a ‘package’ for her with encouraging tapes and a cassette player.  Before reaching her program, I had to make eight home visits. While I never carried anything while making visits (typically I walked through the neighborhood and needed to have hands free) I made an exception this day and carried this package to the eight home visits.

This testimony was submitted to the tape ministry who provided the sermon tapes.

The Lord really used this package!  Parolees whom I visited all asked, “Is that for me?”  When I said “no” they responded, “Oh…I thought you were bringing me tapes.”  The Lord really lifted my heart, seeing these rough and often troubled ex-felons actually disappointed that a package of Christian tapes is not for them.  But I always carry tapes in my safari vest to give out…

This ‘package’ became an object of testimony.  One visit that morning was a ‘pre-release’ visit, to meet with family members before the inmate is released.   This inmate’s mother, ‘Ms. B’  was very receptive to me and we discussed her son’s release and the home in general.  Unexpectedly, this mother opened up and began to speak of her troubles, hardships, and fears.

Her (soon to be released) son had been in and out of prison, never did well, then got syphilis which spread to his brain.   Her grown daughter is also in and out of prison and was recently released and has AIDS.  Ms. B is raising her daughter’s children whom I met in the home.  Ms. B is gainfully employed downtown near Ground Zero and expressed the recurring turmoil and fear she has since the terrorist attacks.

Finally she said, “I never share my troubles like this!  I’m sorry to take your time and bother you”.  (Actually, I cherish this trust and opportunity).  I gently suggested that she might come to church.  That invite opened the door to minister the Gospel.  I asked her where her daughter was living.  She said, “Such and such shelter program.”  (Which is adjacent to the residential program where I am taking the package!)

I said, “Ms. B, see this package?  I’m taking it to the residential program next to your daughter’s shelter. ”  The door opened to share Ms. G’s testimony,  how the Lord moved in her life, bringing about change and giving her real hope.  Ms. B was so encouraged.  I gave her some tapes from my pocket and she asked what our church believes.  Her countenance lifted, “Please, make sure you write down the address!”

 

Yes, God was in the midst of that package but only because He abided in my heart.  I believe it is the Lord’s presence and our zeal to share Him that can make anything special in our hand…especially when it’s gifted to others.

Unlike our culture, the Lord never needs or seeks the wealth, resources, the natural talents of people or fancy technology to reveal Himself.  Sovereign God of the universe seems to choose ordinary things like a shepherd staff, rounded stones, a basket with fish and bread, even dirt mixed with spit….His spit.

I want an expectant and zealous heart, knowing that the Holy Spirit moves through what seems ordinary, small and humble.

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  (Romans 12:11)

“Lord, I pray for a renewed zeal for You and for the lost.  Help us to see that wherever You place us and whatever You give us has potential for eternal value.  Incline our hearts toward Your will and weigh our hearts with desire to fulfill it.  Amen.”

 

God in the Midst of the Ashes

Security Ministries in large urban churches address everything from intentional service disturbances and criminal activities to the behavior of broken and lost sheep.  I have served in this ministry for 20 years now.  In many venues of security, ‘nothing usually happens’.  However, for the expectant heart, something might surely happen.  As a Parole Officer, I had an expectant heart so when in 2013 the church produced The Cross and the Switchblade from Pastor David Wilkerson’s book, I invited many parolees and their families.  Several parolees did attend and were encouraged but I might add that many more were encouraged just to be invited somewhere!

Here is a testimony that I shared with one of the pastors on the last night of the production:

Although we had to shut the doors by 7 pm, turning away about 100 people, at 7:30 there were still determined folks in the foyer of the rotunda trying to get in any way possible.  We tried to squeeze people in every area of the church, the annex, the lower rotunda and the fourth floor but we reached the limit.

One young woman approached me with a passionate plea.  “Please, there must be one more space for us.  This young man, (she motioned behind her) must hear from the Lord!  This play was meant for him!”

I looked at the young man behind her, leaning against the wall, slightly swaying with anxiety and chewing gum ferociously.  He looked rough and  nervous and I thought, ‘he’s been in jail.’  I had to reply though, “I believe you!  But I am SO sorry, there is not one seat left…there are fire codes…blah, blah”  However, when I turned to address other folks, I felt drawn back to her.  It was as if the Lord had a spotlight on these two.

“Please”, she pleaded, “He must see this play!  He was meant to be here!”

I really felt the Lord moving.  “Look.  If the Lord really wants him here, there will be a spot for you both.  Come with me.”

As we entered the rotunda, heading toward the sanctuary, the young man went ahead of the woman.  She quietly shared with me, “He just did 13 years in prison for setting a fire.”

I asked, “Is he on parole?”  She said yes.  I shared that I am a parole officer and was so glad that they had come.  Then I asked, “Are you a relative of his?”

With a slightly pained look she said, “Ah, no….It was my father that was burned in the fire he set.”

I planted them in the back of the sanctuary, she was so grateful.  He did not say a word. 

I really sensed the Lord’s burden to pray for this young man.  When I resumed my lobby post, everything was quiet and peaceful.  I was able to quietly cry out to God while on duty.  Occasionally I peered into the sanctuary (parole officer that I am) to see how things were.  This young man seemed more relaxed, totally riveted by the play.

At the end of the play, when the actor comes out for the final narration, the whole church was silent and attentive.  I watched through the glass door.  While not a soul stirred, this young man slowly started walking down the aisle.  As the actor cried out to the audience with passion, this young man continued a lone walk to the stage, no one stopped him  It was as if chains were falling from him and he was surrendering.

The play ended with an altar call and both the young woman and man came up to me full of joy.  The woman hugged and kissed me.  Pastor, this young man was truly changed.  There was a peace over him and he had real joy.  He hugged and kissed me also.  I asked his name and told him mine and said, “Please come back!  Please make this church your home!”

I do not know what happened to these folks after this night but I do know that the Lord had them on a journey toward Him.  I am so grateful that He allowed me to peek in at the work of His hand, touching the lives of broken people.

My ‘joie de vivre’ was parole, where God put a love and burden in my heart, an assurance that He assigned my cases, and an expectation of His presence in the midst.

I am no longer at Parole but a place in life which seems to me more like barren Patmos.  For more on that click here:   (Ever Find Yourself in Patmos?) But even Patmos has divine purpose.

And the Lord is here as well….I anticipate a post, ‘Testimonies From Patmos’.  🙂

“Lord, thank you for Your faithfulness through all the seasons of our lives.  You remain the same even if the season painfully changes.  Help us Heavenly Father to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.  Incline our hearts toward You. I sincerely pray that You renew our passion and grant us that burdening love that compels us to share Your Gospel with great expectation.”

Amen.