Lindsey (right) serving food at our Sunday meal.
Urban Purpose is definitely a God send. I have experienced many different ministries within the southeast, but nothing like Urban Purpose. My first experience with Urban Purpose was Sunday June 24, in downtown Birmingham. I was truly inspired by the amount of volunteers that were so willing to participate on this scorching hot/humid summer day. Believers came together of all ages, and from all walks of life to do exactly what God wants us to do, share the word of God not only verbally, but with our actions as well. I was very encouraged working with this group.
It amazed me to see the amount of individuals that were in such great need and knowing that they live minutes away from my home is very disheartening. There is work to do and I really had no idea there is a great need right here in Birmingham, Alabama. Each individual had their own special need and Urban Purpose was able to cater to those individual needs. Some requested prayer, others required clothing, or hygiene kits, and some just wanted to talk. I really enjoyed my experience; the gratitude that those individuals showed made everything even more rewarding for me. I look forward to continuing with Urban Purpose on Sunday’s and to grow and share God’s word while living His purpose.
Otis trying on his new shoes.
As most of you know, we do a lot of work with the homeless in downtown Birmingham. While we meet people of ages and races, 40-50 something year old men make up the bulk of the population we interact with downtown.
However, as people have learned more about us in recent months we’re getting more and more phone calls from people in their 20s that are suffering the consequences of consistent drug abuse. They’re black and white, male and female, and from all over the city, from Bessemer to Vestavia Hills. As the info-graphic above shows (taken from the National Institute on Drug Abuse website), many young people are starting with marijuana and prescription drugs. Over time this usage can lead to serious addictions issues and harder drugs.
One of the young people we are working with was at the doctor recently and the nurse asked, “What are you running from?” This question strikes at the core of what these folks are dealing with. Pain, suffering, broken relationships, and depression aren’t limited to certain ages, races, genders, or socio-economic classes. So many people are trying to fix these problems with drug use, which leads to so many more issues and problems.
Without people willing to step in and invest in their lives, they have small chance at overcoming these issues. It’s not an easy process and is one that takes time, energy, patience, and toughness. As we’re introduced to more and more people dealing with these struggles, we need more and more people like you willing to jump in, invest, and model that Jesus is the only thing that can fill the void they’re running from.
Urban Purpose is called to meet physical needs, sponsor people into recovery programs, help with employment, housing opportunities, and disciple people through the rebuilding process.
One step in this process of loving others is raising the necessary funds. The financial support of 150 monthly monthly donors is our goal and we are currently 1/3 of the way there.
Take a moment and hear Scott Heath talk about why he financially supports Urban Purpose.
Will you prayerfully consider being 1 of the 150 and being a part of meeting these crucial needs?
Signing up is quick and easy and can be done online in minutes: Be A Monthly Supporter!
The last few weeks I’ve been a little frustrated with myself during our time downtown. I’m not exactly sure why, but I haven’t been very engaging the last few weeks. So, this week I made it point to reach out to someone I had never met before. I noticed a young guy hanging out by himself under a tree and decided to strike up a conversation. As I started to talk to Vince, the first thing I noticed was the overwhelming fear he lived with every day. I’ve never met someone so paranoid and scared in all my life. He had some bad experiences in various shelters around town and wherever he goes, he’s terrified that people are going to attack and rob him. I began to think about how miserable it would be to live in such a constant state of fear. I wanted to talk to him about the peace and security of Christ and as I was trying to steer the conversation that way, two guys came up and interrupted our conversation. This immediately spooked Vince and he jumped on his bike and was gone before I could say much more to him.
The two guys that jumped in the conversation are guys we’ve known for years. One of them, Will, is someone we sponsored through recovery and helped get settled in an apartment and find a job. Maintaining a relationship with him has been extremely difficult. He eventually lost the job and has never been responsive to us reaching out to him after he got done with recovery. He showed up yesterday and alluded to needing help with a sewage bill and also wanted a ride back to his apartment.
I’m not going to lie, it was so frustrating to have him show up after months of being off the radar and start asking for money. We didn’t jump at helping with the bill and, as a general rule, we don’t give rides after our Sunday meal because it would become a never-ending cycle of people asking for rides to various places. I could tell Will left feeling shut down and discouraged. My first response was to brush it off and blame it on him for showing up out of the blue asking for money.
However, I had to stop and think about the Christ-like way to handle the situation. Should we pay his bill? No, I don’t think we should. Should we feel bad for not giving him a ride? Not really. But in my heart I know we can’t just leave it there. It would be much easier to forget about him, but we need to pursue him. We need to reach back out and explain to him that even though we aren’t an ATM machine, we still love him and care for him. It would be so easy to just say, “Will only shows up when he needs something” and leave it at that. How easy would it be for Christ to say the same about me? So, the only option in my mind is to reach back out, show Christ’s love, explain where we stand, and leave it up to him to decide how he wants to move forward.
Please pray for that conversation to go well and for Will to understand our hearts. Also, pray for Vince, that he would come back next Sunday, and that the door would be open to share with him about Christ’s great love for him.
Our Sunday downtown meal is the open door for us to get know people on the streets of Birmingham. It leads to the things we get to do Monday-Saturday to help people get back on their feet. One of the things we love about our Sunday meals is the opportunity it gives for parents and children to live out the gospel together. Above is a video of Josh Beam talking about how cool it’s been to serve with his son and how it’s helped start conversations at home. Take a second and listen to him talk about how it’s already starting to impact Anthony.
Last week Andy Blanks (@andyblanks) had a great post on his blog about how serving alongside your children is key in the discipleship process. A lot of what he talked about stemmed from bringing two of his daughters (Abby is pictured below) downtown with us on a Sunday.
Abby Blanks passing out water downtown.
Last night Maggie Gaston helped her dad, Matt Gaston (@mattgaston1171), stuff envelopes for a fundraiser we’re doing. Allowing kids to jump in and help with things like this that might seem small opens the doors for conversations about what it means to serve the broken and needy around us.
Maggie Gaston stamping envelopes for an Urban Purpose fundraiser.
We understand that everyone is busy. You never meet anyone that says they have tons of time on their hands. However, this can’t be a reason to not engage in the lives of the poor and needy around us. Make an effort to serve, invest in, and share the gospel with the broken world all around you. And while you’re doing it, look for ways to include your children.
We meet every week at the Shades Mountain Baptist Student Building at 2:30pm and are usually back around 4:15pm. We’d love for you and your family to join us!