Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Let go.

I lived in Eugene, OR working as a Social Service worker for a homeless shelter.  Four years I spent doing this.

Initially, my heart was full.  I was wanting to give everything I had to help the people I came into contact with.  Show love to the ones who hadn't felt it in years.  but what I didn't expect was how much it would have changed my heart.

Within the first month,  I had heard and tried to live by a rule of "every human being is equal."  Trying to change my viewpoint of looking at every single person as no better or worse than I am.  It was an eye opening experience, but it was also an experience that damaged my soul.

Every day something would happen, something I thought only happened in comedies.  People completely drunk, high, mentally ill, or mentally fried from previous drug experiences, taking a slam on the porch, floor, street, wall... basically anything you can imagine, someone has pooped (and worse) all over it.

After catching someone doing it, they would either be defensive acting like they weren't doing anything wrong, or aggressive wanting to slit your throat.  

I had met some beautiful souls that had been forgotten and also souls that were pure evil.  

The good:
Getting people into programs that helped with housing and financial help (monitored) to get people back into society.

I had placed over 50 U.S. veterans into housing.

A gentleman by the name of Harry had lost his wife over twenty years ago.  In his grief he had mentally snapped and didn't know how to live anymore.  He moved into the Mission twenty years prior to us meeting.   There was not a bad or mean bone in this mans body.  He was humble, gentle, sweet, complimentary.  Nothing manipulative (more on that later).

I had learned he was a vet that never took advantage of his rightful services.   We got him on his Social Security and through the VA we got him a housing voucher that helped out with getting an apartment.   The heart-breaking thing about Harry was how his humility was more of a worthlessness than true humility.  Being able to tell him how much he's worth, not only for the sweet man he was but also his service, was so emotionally wonderful.  I had to do some manipulation myself... plant the idea, make him think on it for a day... then make him make the decision himself the following day.

He is still happily living in a 55+ community, still walks the streets to go to the market, still smiling and being an amazing soul.

Ron was a special case.  A grumpy old man, no teeth, very dirty minded, but man I loved him.  He would bring laughter to the days that were dreadful.  He had stayed since '99 from being addicted to heroin and alcohol.  He brought an evenness to the community that lived there, always correcting peoples "better than" or "worse than" attitudes by bluntly saying "you're staying at a homeless shelter, we're all the same bro".  He was so lovable that no one would question or argue and just go sit down.

He, again, had self destructive "humility", finding his only worth in what the shelter had let him do at the front desk.  I told him after a few months of knowing him "I am going to get you disability, I am going to get you teeth, I am getting you your own apartment.  You deserve more than this."

For months, we got his disability paperwork, doctors appointments to show his health, and other situations set.  After fighting the initial denial,  Ron was given a lump sum that was pretty hefty.  He received his disability, we got him dentures through another service, and I found a new program that would offer a free single apartment for the rest of his life.  

Every time I would take him to an appointment he would say "Man this isn't going to happen, they're turning me down I can feel it."  I would always reply "We're getting you a key to your place, I've got you furnishings, you're going to be out soon and the first night by yourself is going to be so peaceful."   It happened.

I followed up with him for months, but I hit kind of a wall where I needed to shut down work from life for a while.  He tried to contact me a month before he passed away from drinking himself to death.

Someone so joyful, thankful, emotional... now dead because he didn't know what to do with himself once he had a "real" life.

Daily connections:

Every day I would hear terrible stories, death threats, lies, and manipulation.  What has happened to me?  Why have I become so callous?  I watch my back every day from the day I started there.

One man who was high on meth and refused a drug test (which I was in charge of giving/watching the guests take) saw me on the street, walked directly behind me like a ninja and said "I'm going to f***ng kill you faggot."  There were multiple occasions like that and I can only thank Christ for my safety.

The place was a second prison stay for most, it was the literal filth of the earth.  Child molesters, murderers, rapists, people you never want to meet, all jammed in to one place.

I'm going to continue on with a few stories in the next few weeks...  I am trying to just clear my head and write what I experienced and try to heal.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

One giant leap for Jeff-kind.

TL;DR: I'm moving to be close to my beautiful Lauren, I accepted an offer to be a worship pastor at Westminster Presbyterian in Lubbock, TX.

At the first of this year, I was at the end of my rope. Tragedy upon tragedy kept happening.  There was something drastic, dramatic, and emotionally crippling that happened the first seven days of 2016.  I cried, I freaked out, panicked, pretty much all the stages of grief smacking me in the face each day.

During my prayer I felt I needed to come home, something I didn't want to do and often said I never would unless God screamed at me that I had to go.  I reluctantly followed with the help and guidance of my best friend, Quinton, to come back.  Immediately there was a sense of relief and rest.  In that I was offered to help a new plant in Huntsville, Essential Church. Getting to know Tim, Lee, and Chase has been an experience I will be grateful for the rest of my life.

They were welcoming, comforting, and it was exciting to be with a group of people hungry to help the people of Huntsville.  The church body at essential was healthy and so active in helping in everything.  It was quite an amazing sight to see.

From March to June things were quiet in my life.  I felt rested and at peace, but still a bit shaky from coming back.  My prayer was that God would keep an adventure in my life burning and not to get complacent in this place.  At the end of the first week of June, I received a message from a woman that I've admired for many years, but hadn't spoken with for a time.  We spoke for two days and it felt like we'd never stopped.

Lauren Dunn had opened the door to my heart and drive for adventure.  While we spoke, I'd never felt such a peace to speak with someone before, it felt good to hear her honesty and for me, being able to tell her the things I've wanted to say for all these years.  She lit me up (and still continues to every day we speak).  Her desire for the Lord, the deep conversations, the freedom of expressing ourselves about life and faith, the fact that she laughed at my horrible jokes.  All of it made me fall into the deepest love I've felt in this time on earth.

Well... she lives in New Mexico.  The place that I've always wanted to live since the time we met as counselors/worship leaders at Lone Tree Ranch.  How on earth would it be possible to get there?

We discussed a bunch of different scenarios for about a month and I began applying to churches and other places near her.

I got a call back from two different churches in Lubbock, TX (three hours from where she is).  This was insane.  I had applied so many times to churches and never had a single response besides your generic “Thanks for contacting us” email.  I had a tremendous peace with the interview at Westminster Presbyterian, something I never get with interviews (yay anxiety!).

Cut to a month and half later, I was offered the job.

Never in my life have I seen or felt Christ outline a path for me and everything align so beautifully. I've always tried to follow Him, but reached out to whatever would grab back (which has been an amazing journey in itself). I am overwhelmed in this and cannot sing a higher praise and thank you to God and all my friends who've been praying for me.

Leaving Alabama, my friends, family, Essential, is definitely going to be bitter-sweet, every single one of you guys on the praise band we've got going, you guys are amazing and have blessed me so much and I am a better person to have met you.  But to all of you, know I love you and am so thankful I've gotten to be with you for this season in my life.

So on November 20th, I'm moving out as soon as we finish up the last service I'll be leading at with Essential to go onward to the west to be with the one I love.

God is good, even in the hurt, confusion, and loneliness. He knows what's best for you and will help you understand (which I still don't fully) in time of why things are going the way they are.  It's something that I always fight and question when I'm going through it, but He always holds on to me no matter how ridiculous I get. Keep your faith and trust in Him and run towards him as hard as you can.