A few weeks ago we heard from a guy that we worked with years ago. He was one of the first people to stay in our Safe House, he graduated from a recovery program, and started work with our Jobs Program. However, it didn’t take long for him to run back to the people and places he was most familiar with and his relapse began.
We’d hear from him periodically and he always tried to convince us things were going ok. But they weren’t and we could tell. Last week he reached out to us and said he was desperate and needed help. We drove him to put in an application at a program out of town and he was told the waiting list was going to be 4-5 weeks. We asked some people to pray for him and the waiting list.
He got a call over the weekend and they told him he could come today. That’s 5 days on the waiting list and not 5 weeks. Amazing.
So, today we met him at our office and made the drive back to the recovery program and dropped him off to begin his 4 months of treatment. He was anxious. He was mad at himself for being back in this situation. He talked a lot on the drive about being done and never going back to using again. That’s pretty normal for folks in his situation.
He repeatedly said, “I hate it. I don’t know why I keep doing it. I hate it.”
And that’s something for us to remember about addiction and addicts. They usually do hate what they’re doing. It’s not something they enjoy or want for their lives. It’s not something they’re flippant about.
It’s something they hate. It’s something that brings guilt and shame into their lives. And that’s part of the reason they run back to it. Because it’s an escape. Escape from the pain. Escape from the misery. Escape from the shame. Escape from the depression and anxiety.
We talked a lot about those things on the way. We talked about mental healthcare and therapy when he graduates. We talked about surrounding himself with healthy people. We talked about having a plan in place.
And we let him know that we’d be right here waiting for him when he graduates again, ready to walk with him through that process.
Because second, third, and fourth chances are often what it takes.
During the first weekend of April we had the privilege of spending time and serving with some of the youth from Shades Mountain Baptist Church. Each year, Shades plans different spring break trips for their students to be a part of that are missions focused. Urban Purpose has been one of these opportunities for around five years now and we have enjoyed leading these young men and women in serving those in need.
The students were able to love and serve this community of people in many different ways this weekend. We served a meal at Brother Bryan Mission- a recovery program we partner with and trust- and spent time with some of the men in the program. We served two separate meals in downtown Birmingham to many homeless people in the area. They were eager and willing to sit and talk with these men and women to learn more about them. They were also able to serve the poor by doing their laundry at University Laundromat on Saturday morning. This was a new avenue of service for Urban Purpose, and we were thankful to have so many people there to help with this outreach!
A big part of our spring break trip is having the students understand more about what the men and women we work with go through on a daily basis. To do this, we invited one of the amazing counselors we partner with to talk about mental illness and how this affects their lives. We were also able to hear from one of the men that lead our Safe House by helping guys stay clean and sober as they reach towards recovery.
All of these experiences gave these high school students and their parents a great deal of insight into the daily workings of Urban Purpose. We are thankful for their involvement and desire to reach out to the poor and needy in Birmingham. Our prayer is that what they heard and saw will lead to more than just a weekend trip, but that it will lead to a lifestyle of loving the poor.
The devil can get a foothold in each of our lives in many different ways. It does not matter your age, your race, your living conditions, or your income: he will at some point, and in some way, attempt to become the king of your life.
Last week we met with a man named Daniel who has suffered from being an alcoholic for about 10 years. This man has lost his wife, his job, tens of thousands of dollars, and most importantly his dignity and self-respect. One of the main things that stuck out to us was what he said when asked why he began to drink in the first place:
“When I was younger, I never felt like I fit in and all I wanted to do was fit in. Alcohol seemed to help me do this.”
In Daniel’s life, Satan made him feel different, left out, and alone. By doing this, he separated Daniel from people that could love, care, and support him but also discipline him when he needed it.
With many people we work with, the devil has made a way to leave an empty spot in their life. They are then choosing to fill this emptiness with something else, something of this world. This creates a foothold that the devil gets on their life and refuses to let go. Whether this is drugs, alcohol, women, or money, nothing will fulfill what only Christ can fill. Our hope is that by surrounding Daniel with Christ-following community and support he can begin to feel God release the hold that the devil has had on him.
This past Thursday night we were able to host a dinner to thank many of the people who have been a part of Urban Purpose over the years. Although the words “thank you” seem to fall short of what we’d like to express, we were overjoyed to be able to honor them for one night.
Over good food and a beautiful venue, we were able to enjoy each other’s company. About halfway through the evening, we were able to give an official thank you and had some of the men and women who have been helped over the years say thank you as well. We were also able to share a little glimpse into where the ministry is heading in the future.
Of course not everyone who has been a part of this for the past six years was able to attend, but our hope is that everyone knows how much their support, time, energy, and finances mean to us and to the people we’re able to serve. We are grateful that the Lord has put a whole team of people around this ministry in order for his glory to shine forth in the lives of the poor and hurting in our city.
Here are some of the needs that Urban Purpose was able to provide for those that we serve throughout the month of February:
355 plates of food
54 nights in recovery
8 counseling sessions
11 nights in crisis housing
150 women’s hygiene kits
100 bags of warm items
Thank you to everyone who was a part of meeting these needs this month! We’re looking forward to what all Urban Purpose will be able to provide for the poor and hurting in March.
One event we have been looking forward to is our Appreciation Dinner. On Thursday, March 10th, we will be hosting everyone that has been a part of the ministry over the last six years. Whether you’ve volunteered, financially supported, prayed for, or helped us in any way, we want to thank YOU! You’re invited to come out and celebrate all the Lord has done over years in and through Urban Purpose. Check out the info below and we look forward to seeing you there!
Over the last week of February we were invited to spend time with the church body of Shades Mountain Baptist Church during their Global Impact Celebration. Each year around this time, Shades brings in the different missionaries from all around the world that they support and partner with for a time of encouragement, care, and fellowship. There were missionaries from India, the Middle East, New York City Africa, Eastern Europe, Miami, and Birmingham, Alabama.
Throughout this conference, there are multiple services that encourage church members to get involved in missions anywhere and any way you can. One of the most impactful nights is called “Stories and Songs.” On this night, each missionary is given 60 seconds to share a quick glimpse of what the Lord is doing in their part of the world.
Check out our video below of Urban Purpose’s 60-second story on what the Lord is doing through our ministry.
Urban Purpose has been blessed to work alongside the staff and members of Shades Mountain Baptist Church as we go out to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. While our ends of the earth look extremely different than some, we know that God has created these people in His image and they are crying out for love and affection from someone. We, as believers, are called to be those people.
Jeff and Judy Ishee are one of several couples that serve with us each Sunday. They are there rain or shine, freezing or burning up. They chat with people, pick up trash, and fulfill whatever needs they see around them. They always have an extra stash of trash bags, forks, napkins, etc. in their car in case we’re ever running low. Another thing we love about the Ishee’s is that they have gotten their church family involved in the Urban Purpose Sunday meals. It is amazing to see our volunteers share their passion for the poor and hurting with their family and friends.
We are grateful that Jeff and Judy came our way and chose to stick around for quite some time. Their investment and welcoming nature in the people we serve downtown cannot be replaced or replicated. Learn a little more about the Ishee’s!
Tell us a little bit about yourself: Jeff and I are from Gulfport, MS. We moved to Alabama almost 3 years ago. We have been married 33 years. We have 3 children and 6 beautiful grandchildren. Jeff works for Home Depot and I am a receptionist at Brookwood Primary Care. We are members of CROSSPOINT Baptist Church in Trussville AL. We are connected to several Small Groups( Bible Study Classes). We work with Young Adults that are college age. They have served with us at Urban Purpose also. We also enjoy our group Daybreakers. Mature adults that know how to show God’s love. They have also joined us serving Urban Purpose. I am connected with a group of single Moms. They amaze me at their faith and commitment to serve one another. The Lord has blessed us greatly with our church family.
How did you hear about Urban Purpose and why did you being to make the Sunday meals a part of your weekly routine? We found out about Urban Purpose from one of the young adults in our church. They were looking for an outreach to the community and had heard about Urban Purpose. After our 1st time helping, Jeff and I were hooked. We love the love each one is shown and the commitment Urban Purpose has made to those in need. No judgement, just godly guidance and love. We had an outreach for homeless when we lived in MS and were so blessed when we found Urban Purpose.
Tell us about your favorite memory from a Sunday meal: I have several memories from Urban Purpose, but my favorite would be the day I saw my husband kneeling with 3 men praying. Knowing that he was doing what brings pure joy to his heart. I enjoy all the laughs and joy from those we serve. Call me selfish but I enjoy the joy they give me. I really hate when we miss a Sunday of serving.