Psalm 139:23

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of the everlasting."

Monday, May 28, 2012

Watching on the sidelines

Four years ago this week I began an internship at Contact. While I was not new to Contact, I was new to being employed there. I can clearly remember my first day. I stood in the doorway of Ron Babbit's office & assured him that while I was interning for the summer I was not 'repenting' & would not be continuing at Contact further. By the end of the summer I wanted a permanent position. While I thought I knew what God had in mind for my ministry in the future, I had no idea of the changes he would make in my heart during just a few short months.

During that summer I was able to reconnect with a family that we had worked with when Contact first started back in 2002. Two of the boys had been in the very first Bible class I was able to teach at the ripe, old age of twelve. The boys were only four & five at the time. They are now fourteen & fifteen years old.  During my time at Contact that summer I was able to get to know this family again & was able to begin forming relationships with the younger siblings. 

As the years have continued on, my family has continued to be a heavy presence in the lives of this family. Unfortunately two years ago they moved into one of the worst apartment complexes in Tulsa. The apartment is referred to as "little Vietnam" because so many shootings take place there every week. In fact, any time I have mentioned that this is a complex I work in I've been told not to go there. Furthermore, this family has told me not to be there. One day we were taking home the kids and the six year old said, "Miss Kayla, this place is ghetto!! Why do you hang out here?" We pulled up to her apartment & I said, "Do you see that apartment number? I love eight people that live in that apartment & that's why I come here. I don't care where you live! I will continue to come see you because I love YOU always, & forever, & no matter what!"

So many times in this ministry I have been told to quit. This ministry is too hard! Little results come from years & years of work ... The critics of Contact are exactly right!... This ministry is HARD! It HURTS sometimes! BUT I am a christian who is tired of watching on the sidelines & pretending that is ministry. The worst apartment complexes in Tulsa are exactly where I should be hanging out. Jesus did not walk around in the good parts of town. He went to raise Lazarus from the dead when his disciples were warning that he would be killed also. He had no concern for himself, but rather for others. Real ministry is not about yourself... Contact isn't about me & how good I feel. Nor should it be! If my Lord & savior was given a crown of thorns, I cannot expect a bed of roses.

Currently I am walking through the hardest time I have faced in ministry thus far. A boy that I met 10 years ago has allowed gang activity to take over his heart & his life. His choices are destructive & have endangered others, his family, & himself. The news is devastating. I have fought for this young man over & over again & yet tonight I sit here at a loss. A loss for what to do next, a loss for what I should have done different & a loss of how to develop a more effective ministry? However, I also sit here knowing that I cannot change personal choice. I can only continue to love in spite of. I have always told the kids I will love them always, forever, & no matter what... Now I get to walk out the 'no matter what' part. 

Deciding whether to sit on the sidelines or continue on in this ministry all depends on how I decide to view this situation. I can either look back & realize that everyone was right. This family was doomed to fail & I should have quit a long time ago. Or I can look back & realize that fighting for them was the right thing to do. I can look back with no regrets & realize that God planted seeds. They may not be ready to receive them yet, but the seeds were planted. My God doesn't waste time! Not a second that I spent in the last ten years with this family was wasted. God has worked in me, through me, & in spite of me to bring about his purposes.

Therefore, I will continue to fight for souls every day of my life! I was asked a few months back what Curtis & I were gonna do when one of the kids we love grows up & makes the wrong choices? Today I have the answer to that question... We are going to continue to do what we have always done. We are going to continue to love even when it is not necessarily deserved, because we both realize that we do not deserve the love God has shown us. We realize that sitting on the sidelines does not win souls & we refuse to QUIT! 

While I do not have the answers as to why some kids Contact works with would choose the path of the Lord & others would choose a path of destruction, I know that the answer to ministry is always to love with the love of Christ. We don't need the answers... we simply need to remain in HIM. Tulsa is not unreachable! There is no such thing as a lost cause in the sight of God! Therefore, Curtis, myself, & my family choose to see opportunity in destruction & hope in darkness. Our hearts hurt, but our commitment is strong & our Lord's love is unfailing.

Always... Forever... And No matter What....

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me & I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
-John 15:5

Monday, March 12, 2012

That's my brother!

Recently I have become aware of just how widespread my family is. Many of you who know me might find this strange considering I only have one brother. One sibling is certainly not widespread compared to the many families around us. However, I do not only have one sibling. I have others... They do not have the same skin color, or same parents, but they are every bit as much my siblings as Brent is. 

Eleven years ago I met a three year old little boy. I immediately fell head over heels for this little fire ball. He was crazy! He was constantly in trouble with one teacher or another and could not sit still for anything. However, he had a heart of gold & a smile that lit up the room! He quickly stole the hearts of my family & we have never been the same since. I had the privilege of teaching this little boy when I was twelve. Every week I would take him into the hallway & tell him "You are a leader. Now you can choose to be a good leader or a bad leader." 

Now that little boy is fourteen years old & he still refers to us as his siblings. In fact, we went to one of his tournaments this weekend & he introduced me to his entire basketball team as his sister. Each of his friends clearly had the expression of "But she's white!" on their face. However, that didn't bother Elijah. We both know that the color of our skin means nothing! He is my brother. I love him just as much as I love Brent & I would do anything to ensure that this child is successful & that he has a place in heaven someday. 

Furthermore, it is not just myself that feels that way about him. Brent also claims him as our little brother. My Mom claims him as her son, and my fiance claims him as his brother also. We do not claim him for the reasons that some believe. We are not interested in his ability in basketball. While we love to watch him play we are much more concerned with the eternal. We love Elijah's ability to honor God in spite of the things he has been through. We love the leadership role that he takes in leading his younger siblings. We love watching him at Contact with other kids. It's not about a basketball game! It is about this child having & knowing the love of HIS Lord & the love of a family. 

Ministry would be easy if we believed that teaching scripture on Sunday mornings sufficed, but that is not the only thing we are about. Teaching scripture is the most important thing I could ever do. However, my life should be a sermon! If I do not live it out every day, it means nothing! Elijah needs to be loved every single day... NOT just on sundays. He needs to see Christ love through his family... not just hear about it. 

As I have stated many times, I do not take my commitment to the Lord's work lightly. Ron has often said that he loves that God shook up my plan. I had every intention of doing mission work in Honduras following college & Curtis was willing to follow that call with me as well. Yet God had a plan for me to stay here. He used foreign mission to teach me tools & then HE brought me home. HE brought me to a place where my entire family could be a part of HIS mission together. We will NOT quit! No one in my family is walking away! When God places a call on your life you must follow it. Even when it's scary, even when it's painful, & even when others oppose you & slander you. It is about the LORD & HIS children & their need to know HIM.. Nothing else matters.

I am so very blessed with a family that taught me early that the color of my skin didn't matter & that Elijah is & always will be my brother. I am also blessed that I have friends that have followed the same calling. Two of my very best friends got engaged last weekend. Dillan included one of our seven year old boys in his proposal. This little boy refers to Dillan as his big brother. On Sunday morning I asked the kids to tell me something cool  God had done in their lives that week. This young man said, "I got to see Dillan & Ariel last weekend. Dillan gave her a ring & she cried. " I said, "Why is that something special? Did God make marriage?" He replied, "Yep. God did it!" If you have not been around Contact you have no idea what a monumental moment that was in the life of this child. Our kids do not see marriage. They do not see family. Therefore, to have the opportunity to be involved in a proposal was a huge ministry tool! I am so grateful for the hearts of Dillan & Ariel & that they got engaged in the middle of the hood. What a lesson!

Our lives are such a beautiful story of who the creator is. He has made a beautiful masterpiece out of our tiny efforts that seem of little value. I am so thankful for the way HE is weaving together Curtis & I's lives, as well as Dillan & Ariel's so that as a team we can honor HIM & we can continue fighting for HIS children. This call is not easy... It is difficult & it's gonna take everything we have, BUT in HIM we can accomplish what HE put us here for. We can show these children FAMILY. We can show them the love of their FATHER & through that love HE will transform lives!

1 Thessalonians 2:8 "Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well. Because you had become so dear to us."

Friday, January 27, 2012

I want to be a hero for GOD

Well, today several amazing things happened with one of the boys I have been working with. About a month ago I started visiting his school every Friday. He was giving his teacher a run for her money & in order to improve his behavior we decided it would be best if I dropped in to check on him once a week. Since beginning this whole process of partnering in education so many changes have taken place within this child & I want to use this post to share what God is doing. 

While I love this child with all of my heart, I also know him way to well. Therefore I was not at all surprised by the problems he was having with his teacher. Long story short, in the last month he has only gotten in trouble one time. Before God opened the door for me to be involved at the school he was getting in trouble every single day. So this is a HUGE step in the right direction! Not only is he making huge steps in his educational process he is making huge steps in his spiritual relationship with the Lord. Today while at his school I said, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" He replied, "I want to be hero for GOD." He ABSOLUTELY floored me! This was not what I was expecting at all. He went on to say, "And I want to be a hero for Tulsa.. I want to be a fireman." I am still absolutely amazed at this young man! Last semester I taught about becoming heroes of faith. I used people from the Old Testament to demonstrate to the kids how they have the same power to be a hero for God. That being said it is amazing to know that this child is holding onto that truth. He hears the word of God & it is changing his heart. 

As if this conversation wasn't enough to bring me to my knees, I had the opportunity to visit with his reading teacher as well. She began sharing the progress he has made. She said, "In staff meeting I told everyone, that little girl must pray a lot & her prayers must work. Because only God could make this big of a change." What an honor!... That is exactly what I want people to see in this ministry. I want them to see the work that God does. I can't do it without HIM & I am so grateful that there is a school that realizes that with God all things are possible. 

Later on in the day one of the other boy's in his class started to pester him & we began to talk about people that pick on us. He said, "Miss Kayla he's always picking on me!" I said, "Well Bub, you need to forgive him." His exact reply was, "I ain't forgiving that fool! He don't treat me right!" I replied, "Was Jesus treated right?" He said, "No... they beat the dog out of Jesus & then they killed him & he still forgave him. That means I gotta forgive him, huh?"... I love conversations like this! It is a true joy to hear children process the story of our Lord & savior & then discover what we have been called to be through HIM.

Lastly, before leaving the school today I was joking with him about how I'm getting old & can't keep up with his quick legs. He said, "Miss Kayla, someday you really will get old & you know what I'm gonna do then? I replied, "What buddy?" He said, "I'm gonna take care of you & make sure you gotta a house & some food 'cause you always take care of me." This conversation absolutely broke my heart!  You see? I don't have a choice anymore. GOD placed me in this ministry with children who desperately need HIM. I don't get the option of quitting! If I do what happens to this child? He is just one child in a ministry of many... one child that goes without food, love, & affection... one child that desperately needs to feel loved & know that he's good! Where does he end up in fifteen years if I quit on the calling God placed on my life? 

These questions literally haunt me! Because I know the answer to them... he ends up in a gang so that he can somehow belong. And then he ends up in a jail, along with two of his older brothers who went before him. I refuse to allow that to be the case. I will continue to fight for this child every single day because my LORD fought for me! Not only did HE fight for me, but he placed a call on my life... a call to FIGHT for HIS children & I will do so every day until HE calls me HOME!!

I have been ruined for the kingdom of heaven. I no longer have a choice...

Lord- Thank you for the opportunity to be involved in the lives of your children! I cannot put into words what it means to be involved in your kingdom. I am amazed by the work you are doing. Please continue to work through me in spite of my weaknesses. I pray that these children will continue to see you & will want to commit their lives to you forever. You are so good! Please continue to fight for your children. 

Ephesians 3:7-"This is my life-work: helping people understand and respond to the gospel of God's grace"