Monthly Archives: July 2012

Sunday Rewind: Pete Thomason

Pete (left) and Mark after Sunday’s meal.

This Sunday at Urban Purpose, Mr. Jim asked me when we got downtown if I would stand next to the food table and watch the line and make sure it went smoothly and that everyone was behaving. This job was new to me even though I’ve been going downtown on Sundays for a year and a half. Usually I try to engage in a conversation as soon as we get there, so just standing and watching was a little different for me. It was awesome to just stand and watch as everyone went through the line and to greet them and welcome them. We see such a diverse group of people every week. Today there was a young family there with some little kids, some elderly people, black people and white people, happy people and sad people, loud people and quite people, people that come every week and first timers. What a blessing and a privilege it is for us to be able to spend time with all these people and serve them and hopefully show them God’s love for an hour or so.

When everyone had been through the line, I went and talked with a man that I had met previously. We chatted about jobs, the summer, sports, the weather, and me going to college. It was really good to get to catch up with him. As we were finishing up, another man who I know from downtown walked past. He is a pretty quiet guy and I believe he has a slight mental disability, but I know him and he knows me so we talk sometimes. Anyways, as he was walking past, we exchanged a, “See ya!” and a, “Have a good week!” As he kept walking down the sidewalk, some other guys from our group also told him, “see ya” and to have a good week. I know it may not seem like much to most of us, but it occurred to me that for this man, those may be some of the friendliest words he hears all week. So many of the people downtown are alone and struggling in addiction and sin, but God in His goodness can use us to speak kind words to the lonely, help the hurting, and befriend the friendless. Going downtown and spending time with the poor and hurting of our city is such a reminder of how God loves us, and that when we were alone and stuck in sin and hurting, He gave us His only Son so that we could have a relationship with Him. We, just like the people downtown, are completely lost and hopeless without Jesus Christ. But because of Jesus, we have a message of hope for each other, for the people of Birmingham, and for the whole world.

As mentioned earlier, I’ve been going downtown with UP for a year and a half, and I’ll be leaving for college in a few weeks. God has used UP to push me and stretch me in my walk with Him through meeting new people and providing me with chances to share the Gospel. Spending time with my brothers and sisters in Christ and the needy of Birmingham is truly a blessing to me every week, and I plan on coming back as often as I can.

In Christ,

Pete Thomason

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Check Out The New Site!

We’re excited to let y’all know that the new and improved www.urbanpurpose.org is live!

Chris Elliott (www.chriselliottdesign.com) did an amazing job giving it a brand new look and making it more intuitive and easy to use. We believe it does an excellent job conveying who we are and what we do and also gives you easy access to the information you need.

Here’s a couple of things of note about the site:

1. In the collage on the landing page you’ll notice the phrase, “For The Gospel, For Birmingham.” That strikes at the heart of who we are and what we’re about. We’re passionate about this city because we’re passionate about seeing people’s lives changed by Jesus.

2. There’s easier access to the blog. This blog is where we keep up to date information about things going on with Urban Purpose. We love to share about what’s going with us, those we work with, and our awesome volunteers. Keep coming back!

3. There are some quick links at the top right of the page that give you instant access to things such as signing up for meals, donating, or getting on our email update list. Now there’s no need to navigate the site to find these things, they’re right there on the home page!

4. Our redesigned Stories page gives you some insight into how God has used Urban Purpose to impact the lives of our volunteers and those we work with.

5. There’s some really cool videos sprinkled throughout the site. One that wasn’t highlighted on our previous site is now on the “Get Involved” tab. Ethan Milner (@ethan_milner) did an incredible job showing the close proximity we’re all in to those in need here in our city. Be sure to check it out!

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What’s Your Biggest Obstacle?

As believers we know that we’re called to serve others and make disciples. If we’re going to do these things well it takes time, energy, consistency, and a certain level of toughness.  It took me a while to come to grips with this. I wanted things that were neat, clean, and scheduled. I didn’t want my schedule blown to pieces and I didn’t want a lot of messy, loose ends. I wanted to serve, but I wanted to do it on my terms.

The problem is that disciple-making doesn’t ever work that way. You don’t build relationships over night. Trust isn’t built in two hour blocks every month or so. I was truly ignorant of what it would take to really invest in someone. I wasn’t ready to walk through the struggles in order to see the victories.

God worked on my heart for a long time and allowed me to experience struggles and frustrations along the way. It took a while before it finally set in that victory wasn’t coming without some time-consuming frustrations along the way.

I say all of this because we want to hear from you. Have you experienced something similar? What were/are your obstacles to really diving in and pouring your life into making disciples? For some it might be a time issue. For some it could be a host of other issues like prejudices, apathy, pride, etc.

This isn’t somewhere you’re going to get beat up for your answer. We’ve all struggled in this area. I think it’s helpful and healthy to talk about the issues. So, let’s hear it….what’s your biggest obstacle in this area? What do you think you need to do to make a change?

Mark Jenkins

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Sunday Rewind: Blake Kersey

Blake (far left) and a group from FBC Trussville came and served with us yesterday.

One of the greatest joys of ministry is seeing people get excited about serving others.  As a children’s minister, I have tried to instill the importance of giving and serving in all the kids of my children’s ministry.  As exciting as it is to see kids understand the importance of missions, it is even more exciting to see families serve together. I had the privilege of bringing 4 families from FBC Trussville with me to serve with Urban Purpose today.  It was incredible to watch mom and dad meet the needs of the men and women today as their children either watched them or even participated in their conversations.  These families did not just tell their children that it is important to give back to the least of these, their actions spoke volumes to their kids.  Each family told me separately that they will be back to serve. There is just something contagious about serving.  It’s almost as if we are doing what we were created to do.  Oh, wait, that IS what we were created to do….serving Him by serving others.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Brian Johnson

Brian (right) & Jim after last Sunday’s meal downtown.

Name: Brian Johnson

Family: Married to Ashley for 5 years and have 10 month old little girl, Emily Ann.

Occupation: Engineer at Alabama Power Company

Favorite Restaurant: At the moment, Chuy’s

Favorite Book: Not sure, but the most recent book I’ve read is “I Know My Opposites” by Richard Scarry.

How long have you been involved in Urban Purpose?

Since September of 2010.

What has being involved in Urban Purpose taught you about what it means/takes to invest in others?

I’ve learned it takes consistency. People want to see that the care you show for them is genuine and not a one-time check-off just to make yourself feel good. When time is taken to get to know someone they see that you really care and have a desire for them to succeed in life. Once trust is established relationships begin to develop.

How do you think Urban Purpose can impact our city?

The biggest impact that Urban Purpose can have on our city is giving hope through sharing Jesus Christ. That is ultimately what the poor and broken in Birmingham need. By building relationships and helping men and women get plugged in to rehab or get back on their feet and into a stable job, we are able to walk beside them while pointing them to Christ. Our ultimate goal is to see those lives changed through Urban Pupose go on to impact others for Christ.

What encouragement would you give to someone looking to find a place to plug in and serve the broken and needy of Birmingham?

Just come downtown one Sunday. And when you come, take the sometimes-uncomfortable step to engage someone in conversation. You will be amazed at how often someone will open up to you. These men and women are many times so broken that they don’t have anything to lose; they open up so easily. It is often very humbling as you listen to someone share circumstances that we are all just one or two bad decisions from experiencing ourselves.

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Did You Know?

Here are two statistics from a study entitled “A Needs Assessment of the Homeless of Birmingham and Jefferson County”:

Only 20 %  [of Birmingham’s homeless] have close friends among the homeless. Nearly 30% say that service providers are close friends and confidants. 

Thirty-six percent of respondents report considering suicide, 31% actually tried to commit suicide, and 45% of those individuals had made an attempt since being homeless.

Take a second an think about those stats. Think about how they relate to one another.

So, based on these stats, what is a huge need for our homeless population? What do you think this means for believers here in our city? What does it mean for you?

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Sunday Rewind: Jim Foyt

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to participate in the afternoon meal Urban Purpose provides downtown to folks in need.  When we arrived at the parking lot there were already a group of about 50 homeless people waiting on us in the 100-degree heat.  I helped serve the food and I could see that these individuals had many needs besides the meal at hand.  Needs of love, compassion, health care, clothing and most of all changed lives that can only come from Jesus Christ our Lord.

If I am honest, I did wonder what decisions take a person to a point where they are waiting in this line.  I also thought how easily I could be in the same situation or worse.  God has shown amazing grace to me that I didn’t deserve. Wouldn’t it be selfish of me to withhold grace from others?  I also observed there were meaningful conversations that were taking place after the meal was served.  Many of these conversations were based on relationships forged during prior visits and on non-Sunday trips downtown to meet specific needs.  There were workers that had earned their way into a conversation of sharing Christ and the power that He can bring to overcome addiction or other problems.  Finally, I thought of Matthew 25.  Read it and see where your thoughts go.  Or live it by serving with Urban Purpose.

 

Jim Foyt

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