Saturday, December 29, 2007

Caroling in the City

Yes, Christmas is over, but there is so much to report! So much happened at Impact during December to warm hearts and encourage people. Of course, the Christmas party brought joy to many children, but the collaboration of volunteers from various churches not only encourages us and those served, but plants seeds of ministry in the young and old alike. The effects of these efforts may never be fully tallied. Let me list a few more highlights from December.

The TOY DRIVES!!! Churches from all over Houston contributed to making the holidays happier by making it possible for families to provide gifts for their little ones and each other. Several churches, like Kingwood for example, committed to go Christmas shopping for over 100 families, then had those gifts sent to Impact to be distributed family by family. Bags of presents were labeled by family. Each family member that applied to receive something gave their name, gender, age, and sometimes a specific wish or need. Many wishes were granted and gift cards were often provided to help in other areas. Other churches and individuals help hundreds more families by sending in new toys to the Impact distribution center.

Christmas parties were held here and there. Various members got together in big groups and small. The Impact staff even had a gift exchange at the office, following their monthly birthday celebration.

I, personally, love to go caroling, but not alone. I was blessed to have the Miller family be willing to hit a few homes with me, so off we went to sing to friends and strangers in Fifth Ward. Apparently, judging by the reaction of the folks who witnessed this group of troubadors, caroling is not that common in their neighborhoods. We got a lot of strange looks, curious onlookers, but mostly appreciation for stopping by to sing. Several families were Hispanic, and although not everyone understood the lyrics, the sentiment was obvious, and thus reciprocated. I have to include my personal gratitude to the Miller family, who not only showed up to carol and croon, but who chose a repetoire of choruses, but arranged and practice each choice to make the presentation an extra special treat for their audiences. We visited a family who recently lost a house to a fire, a young teen who has been in and out of the hospital for months now, a family of 8 who are fitting into a tiny house, and several other members who we thought could use an extra dose of cheer. One apartment complex was especially touched by the tiny concert. Although we were unsure how we would be recieved by all, we knew the person we were there to see would be thrilled. Our friend Darrell not only came out all smiles, but he joined in and commenced to direct us, making us an even greater spectacle. Sure, many came out wondering what in the world was going on. Little by little a crowd gathered. Curiosity turned into joy as more and more joined in and some shouted out requests. It was an evening of blessing, at least for me.

Outside of toy drives, parties, caroling, and shopping for others, Impact was also able to continue serving as usual, and was even able to arrange a special Christmas meal or two for the homeless, in addition to the normal routine. These activites make momentary differences, but as I mentioned earlier, we never know the extent of a single action. By continuing to do the things that serve others whenever we can, we develop habits, character, friendships, opportunites, and gifts that God can continue to use in whatever way He desires. We celebrate all such activities, because they celebrate our Lord. A belayed "Merry Christmas," and a "Happy New Year" to you!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Impact Christmas Party '07

Although our amazing Christmas party is an annual event, it continues to develop, it continues to involve a variety of local church groups, and it continues to enchant and bless so many children in the downtown Houston neighborhoods. Sure there are sweets, toys, games, songs, and a time with Santa, but the greatest thing they receive is special attention and love. Thanks to all the volunteers and supporters who made this possible, and thank God that events like these continue to reach families and touch the hearts of so many. People are moved, and Christ is the reason.

2007 in Review
As people could say about other times, 2007 was a year full of joy and things to celebrate, but also a time of desperation and loss. We would like to mention some of the things that help define and paint the picture of what these last twelve months were like for Impact Houston.
Many of you joined us last year to pray for Maria Mendez, a young girl who needed and later received a quadruple transplant surgery. We celebrated with her as the operation was a success. She could now eat solid food for the first time in her 16th year. Complications arose more than once, but the family and our congregation were faithful in their prayers. Recently her sister, Clara Escobar gave me the picture above showing her on her own without machines or equipment, and growing into a beautiful young lady

For Paul Woodward and many others, a highlight of the year was "the baptism of Flora and Linda Garcia. Beside the obvious reason, this was an especially exciting highlight because I believe that Flora and Linda falling in love with Jesus was directly related to theirthe body of Christ lovingly serve their terminally illfamily memberBarbara Garcia. Over and over and over again God's people at Impact quietly, lovingly, creatively, andserved Barbara in her last years, months, weeks, days, and even herhours. When the church behaves like the body of Christ great things happen."

At the beginning of November, four families were displaced by a devastating fire on Summer Street. No one was injured and many individuals and organizations were on-hand to help, but almost everything they had was lost. Keep praying for Sandra Perez and her family, and Imelda Saldana’s family. These houses had a history with Impact mission groups. (Many churches and organizations have blessed these families with so much help, thanks to newspaper articles, tv interviews, and efforts from Impact. Thanks to all who lent a hand.)

The revitalization of area surrounding our facilities has been going on for a few years, but 2007 has seen some drastic changes. Old houses are being torn down and town homes are going up, right up to our doorsteps it seems. Businesses like Target, Chilis, Starbucks, and a few banks have magically appeared only seconds from the campus! New growth brings new prospects. Pray that our plans are ever mindful of ALL our surroundings and neighbors.
Jack Weems has been busy himself at helping where our buildings need attention. New lighting and some landscaping has made our entrances safer and more appealing. If you can stop Jack long enough, thank him for his constant efforts.
With every new year, life is evidenced by new visitors, new brothers and sisters in Christ, babies being born and all the excitement brought by each. However, with life comes death, and Impact has experienced some losses. Among those who have left us are Robert Taylor, Michael Broussard (pictured on the left), Barbara Garcia, and the firstborn of Juana Monjarres.
I’m sure if I asked around, there would be so many notable moments that we could fill a book. Annual Events like the Garage Sale, Seasonal Parties for children, the Celebration Dinner, VBS, and supply/gift roundups continue to see success and bring blessings to so many. The groups that come and give their time to Impact leave lasting impressions and we continue to see fruits of those efforts. For example, Jenaro Thibideaux shared his conversion story at thecelebration dinner. "JT" made a moving speech about his first encounter with Impact and then talked about his journey toward Jesus, which culminated in his dedicating his life to being a Jesus follower. Joy upon joy "JT" will graduate on December 15 from San Angelo State University, which is an amazing accomplishment, considering some of the obstacles he's had to overcome.
Making a difference in each others’ lives is the focus of all our parties, programs, celebrations, and projects, and we only hope to do more and more. Discipleship programs, meeting in house churches and small groups, and making plans for training more and more leaders are other efforts that Impact has seen grow this year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Kitchen Staff Stands the Heat

When our building was being renovated, it was important that space be allowed for a sizable kitchen because of the importance of food in our ministries. We did so well that the City of Houston deemed our kitchen as "Commercial," meaning that we have to adhere to applicable City and State codes dealing with the handling and storage of food. We have also hoped that we might someday have a full-time staff person in the kitchen. A combination of part-time and volunteer staff mean that we do, indeed, have full-time coverage of our kitchen. Felton Benton and Daryl Washington are Certified Food Managers by the City of Houston. Winston Bridges and Patrick Lavelle handle cleaning, preparation, and serving responsibilities. Thousands of meals are prepared in our kitchen each year. As we approach the Holiday Season, we are preparing for large Thanksgiving and Christmas meals to be served to the homeless and residents of facilities that house disabled clients, many of whom attend Impact.
-Doug Williams

"A generous man will find himself blessed, for he shares his food with the poor." Proverbs 22:9 NIV

top: Taking charge of the kitchen are faithful volunteers Felton Benton, Patrick Lavelle, Daryl Washington, and Winston Bridges.

middle: Taking care of the Outdoorsmen every Monday and Wednesday, Winston Bridges (a veteran circus worker) juggles foord prep, fielding requests, and keeping the peace. His heart for serving Christ shines through.

Right: Showing appreciation for the services the receive, many of the regulars, like Ricky and Fred here, love to volunteer for daily chores as they wait for the afternoon Bible study.

Dear Friends –
Impact is into its 21st wonderful year. And now, as always, we are indebted to you. Your gifts of all kinds – time, energy, money – make real what was once a dream. You make it possible for the Impact family to thrive and grow.
I think it’s a good idea to do as little record-keeping as possible in measuring the success of our work in the kingdom of God. We should celebrate at all times, even the discouraging ones, knowing that God is in all things, recognizing that sometimes what we judge to be success may in fact be failure and what we think has failed God uses to do his will.
But maybe we can be forgiven if we especially rejoice in the fact that 18 Impact young adults are attending universities. EIGHTEEN!! Each of them has worked to get the opportunity that we believe will transform in positive ways both them and Impact. To know them, to know the neighborhoods from which they come, to realize what they’ve already accomplished is to be optimistic about the future. To put them and the fact that they’re going to college into a word is to say "Wonderful!" Sometimes I want to shout "Wonderful!" for the world to hear. Other times I want to whisper it quietly to myself.
Adding to the wonder is the realization that their accomplishments are theirs, but that they are under girded by others, including you. In most cases I’m not at all sure they’d have gotten to where they are without Impact. And I certainly don’t believe Impact would be what it is without you.
We write a letter like this annually, asking you to help with the year end contribution which is so important to us. Please know that our gratitude is real and deeply felt. Do what you can.
Through Christ,
Charlie Middlebrook