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.
Throughout the month of January, 2016, we were able to fulfill many needs for the men and women we work with. Here’s what you helped us provide:
497 plates of food
9 Counseling Appointments
37 nights of crisis housing
2 Dr. Appointments
4 Filled Prescriptions
70 hours of temporary work
Also, 72 volunteers joined us on Sundays and we had 2 people spend a total of 62 nights in recovery programs. All of these things were able to be done because of you that support our ministry on a regular basis. We could not do this without you!
January was an awesome month and we’re really excited about what’s going to happen this month. On top of normal work, we have two exciting events that are around the corner in February.
This Sunday, we are hosting a Super Bowl party at Shades Mountain Baptist Church, where we will bring some of our homeless friends from downtown to eat, watch the game, and laugh at the commercials.
At the end of the month, we’ll be participating in the Global Impact Celebration at Shades. This will be a chance for us to tell more people our story and to be encouraged and loved by this church family who greatly supports our ministry.
These events will serve as a way that we can build relationships with the people we work with and also our supporters and partners from a local church. All of this will be while we continue to daily walk with those struggling to get their lives back on track.
We are hopeful as we look forward to what the Lord has planned for this month and we’re excited to tell you about a great February!
When most of us ask a friend to share a meal, it’s usually because we value spending time with them. We might ask someone to dinner for multiple reasons: simply to get to know them better, because we need advice, to have quality time with a friend, or it could be a special occasion. Whatever the reason may be, whenever you are invited somewhere you can’t help but feel good because you know you are wanted!
This past Tuesday, we invited over 20 of our homeless or struggling friends to dinner. While many of these people attend most of the meal lines in Birmingham, we longed for this meal to be different. Rather than having them stand in a line to get a plate of food with 100 other people, we wanted them to sit down at a nice table to be served delicious food and surrounded by people that want to love them exactly where they are in life.
This meal was a beautiful picture of the Kingdom of God. All of these people have very different past and present lives, but can bring value and worth to the dinner table.
This dinner was made possible by Common Thread, Redemptive Cycles, D’Armond Catering and Urban Purpose.
We are so thankful for the investment that many of our volunteers have made with the people we see on a weekly basis. Emily Herring, a graduate from Auburn University, is one of those. Over the past year, we have seen Emily love people well and build deep relationships with those people that allow them to trust her a great deal! Urban Purpose has been extremely blessed by the role she now plays in this ministry. Read below to hear more about why she chooses to take time out of her week to love on the people we serve downtown!
Name: Emily Herring
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Occupation: Social Worker with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Birmingham
How did you find out about Urban Purpose: I found out about Urban Purpose through Rachel Coleman. Rachel and I had become close friends, and I was looking for a ministry to serve with soon after moving to Birmingham. Rachel told me all about Urban Purpose, and I started serving weekly at the downtown meal.
How long have you been serving with UP: I have been serving with Urban Purpose for just over a year.
Why do you continue to serve downtown: I love to see the way that the Lord uses the mealtime downtown each week. God has brought about some precious friendships with some of the people downtown over the past year, and I want to serve and love these friends just as Jesus has done for us. Serving downtown each week has become one of my very favorite parts of the week, and I love to bring along my family members, friends, small group, and other members of my church to be a part of serving through this ministry.
Tell us about your most memorable moment of the Sunday meals: My most memorable moments while serving downtown have been with a friend named Melissa. Melissa and I met a couple of months after I started serving downtown, and she began sharing with me the many difficult things in her life. As we were together nearly every Sunday, we grew closer and she began calling me her sister. I walked through many hard things with Melissa in the months that followed, and God brought about many opportunities to share about the hope we have through Christ in these times. Melissa had seen love that was twisted by addiction and domestic violence, so I was overjoyed that the Lord provided the opportunity to love her with His love!
What happens when you can’t make people choose the right thing? You can put multiple good options in front of them, right underneath their nose even, and they still might choose the wrong path. In most cases they loose sight of what is beneficial for them and begin to chase after what they desire.
We’ve experienced this time and time again. Our hearts ache because we so desire for people to make good, wise decisions but we are not ultimately the ones making decisions for them. Our job then becomes to love people through these poor decisions and to teach them what it looks like to turn their mistakes made into lessons learned.
“To love someone is to show to them their beauty, their worth, their importance.” Jean Vanier
Most people we see on Sunday’s have a very low opinion of themselves. Whether that’s from a lifetime of drug use, living on the streets, or being looked down upon by the world, these thoughts and feelings begin to develop over time and never really leave a person. By coming down on a Sunday we’re attempting to put more hope back into their lives by showing them that they are loved and are worthy of having a conversation with.
Who can you show their worth to today?
Today we helped one of our new friends finish the first steps in getting his birth certificate, social security card and ultimately his driver’s license. The reason this is such an important piece is because not much can happen in a person’s life without some form of identification. In most cases, one of the most pressing issues in a persons life is the need for a job. While for us this involves a good deal of driving around and waiting in lines, it’s good to be reminded that everyone has to start somewhere. There cannot be a race to complete without a starting point, and everyones starting point looks different!