Monday, April 26, 2010

Impact Loses a Beloved Family Member:  
Winston Bridges (1939-2010)

The following letter expresses the sentiments of so many here at Impact.  

"My Friend Winston"  -by Jenny Winter

There are people in our lives who make a difference and then there are people who change us forever.  Winston changed me forever.  Not in a grand and adventurous way but  in the simple ways that I watched Jesus working in Winston’s life.
When I first saw Winston he was eating with the outdoorsmen and listening to one of Les’s sermons.  He looked about the age of my Grandfather and I supposed he was one of the ministers at Impact  just helping out.  I was shocked to discover that Winston was an outdoorsman himself.  I couldn’t believe at his age he could survive without a roof over his head at night.  I was even more shocked to find out that he was without family.  He looked for them, but never found them.  No family…no home…How has he survived?  When I introduced myself to Winston he pulled on the corner of his baseball cap and shuffled his feet and told me how he was feeling and what was going on in the kitchen at Impact.  And so it was for ten years.  Almost every day I worked at Impact he would find me and say hi and pull on the corner of his baseball hat and shuffle his feet and tell me how he was feeling and what was going on in the kitchen at Impact.  Every once in a while I could get some stories out of him about his days working with horses in the circus and pranks he played as a child, but mostly our relationship consisted of our simple hellos and me watching and learning.
I watched him when we started working with Doug Williams in the kitchen at Impact.  He took ownership of his job and worked hard.  He was proud of himself and the people he worked with.  I went to visit him when he and Felton moved into their new home close to the church.  He was comfortable there.  He seemed content to share his new home with friends.  I listened to his stories of the holidays he spent at the Williams house or at Impact.  Of what Bethul cooked for him and what he did and what his roommates did.  He was happy over the holidays.  I watched him pass out Christmas, birthday, and thank-you cards to many people at Impact over the years.  They all contained just his simple signature and for all of us that was enough.  When babies were born he would buy them gifts.  He always gave the gifts secretively, but we knew who gave them to us.  For years I watched Winston be generous with his time, his money, and his love.  He had this unique ability to make everyone feel loved and important even when he was tired and sick.
When Winston started getting sick fairly regularly I would visit him in the hospital.  Sometimes I would ride with him in the ambulance and always the first question the staff would ask is, “Does this man have family?”  My answer was always, “No, he does not have any family that we know of.”  But something always bothered me about this answer.  Over the years I had watched Winston go from no family to a whole church that considers him his own, from no job to working regularly, from homeless to a house of his own.  So when Winston got really sick and went to the hospital for the last time the nurse looked at me and asked the same question, “Does this man have a family?”  And for the first time I answered that question truthfully, “Yes Ma’am.  This man has more family than most of us ever will.”  Impact is Winston’s family.  Winston is our family.  Winston is my family.
Winston taught me a lot of things in this life, but the most valuable lesson I learned from him is that when you fill your life with Jesus Christ it does not matter how much you have or don’t have.  God will give abundantly from His riches to provide for all of your needs.  Winston found family and home at Impact and the love Jesus put in his heart was shared with all of us.  I already can’t wait for the  day when Winston will pull on the corner of his baseball cap and shuffle his feet and tell me hi and how he is feeling and what is going on in the kitchen in Heaven.  I miss you already my friend…my family.”


The variety of people who came to Winston Bridges’ funeral is a testimony to how one humble life can have an impact on so many people.  Young, old, rich, poor, black, white, or brown; all were precious to him.

What a Symphony!
 A conductor guides musicians in the orchestra to follow his lead.  Some strings are setting a harmonic mood, the percussion is providing beats and a rhythm, the brass provide the accents, and the woodwinds herald a  melodic tune.  They each have a part made for them, and individually they are practiced and played, but only as they follow the maestro’s cues and listen to each other do they transform the pages of notes to a living, breathing, unified creation.  The music produced is very similar to how God guides His church.  Each member has its unique purpose.  Some are louder, some blend in more, and some stand out as totally unique.  Others are almost overlooked completely though, without them, the work of the body is incomplete.  When God guides them all, the outcome is a work of art that amazes the senses and the soul.

What happens at Impact never ceases to surprise and amaze.  The month of March has its own kind of “March Madness” with the Annual Garage Sale and our two weeks of Spring Break activity that follows, yet God allows everything to flow smoothly making the experiences incredible for everyone.  We cannot thank West Houston enough for the time, energy, and resources they pour into the annual Impact Garage Sale at Trader’s Village.  The ladies who coordinate the pricing and placement of all the products basically camp out at the trading pavilion all week as truck loads of items continue to be brought in.   Impact’s Felton Benton takes the brunt of responsibility as he coordinates truck drivers to empty the warehouses and to pick up donations from individuals.    

Our Hispanic ministers carved huge chunks of time out of their week to shuttle groups of workers from the Impact building out to the sale and back to help set up merchandise.  Many volunteers and ministers from West Houston, Impact, and other congregations worked literally countless hours setting things up and selling at the event.  The other vendors around our sale are astounded at the amount of goods and workers.  It really is mind-boggling how so many workers are coordinated to handle such a crazy task of sorting through boxes of trinkets to get them ready to sale, selling furniture at a marked price and knowing when to stay firm or make a deal, AND present Christ to business owners and customers alike as they talk about what the Lord is doing in downtown Houston through Impact.  Many worked hard to make a successful sale, but still others added support through their donations of pieces to sell, through their prayer, and through their extra efforts to make things happen that no one could see or know about.

This Spring Break, groups gave up their vacation time to visit and work at Impact (with an emphasis on “WORK.”)  During the first week, while a handful was painting a neighbor’s house, others were painting walls and replacing a floor in the Teen House.  A majority spent the week putting on a Spring Break VBS for the kids out of school.  Whether performing skits, leading classes, manning activity stations, or being on-call for special attention, ALL gave 100% love and energy.  A revival of the Urban Plunge took a group of university students on a tour of Downtown Houston as a homeless person might experience it, going from the library to a soup kitchen to a hospital, and walking it in flip flops with a pack on their backs.  While faces were being painted on one side of the campus, walls were being painted on the other; while Bible stories were being presented in one area, lessons were being learned in others;  while hearts were being touched by service, eyes were being opened by experience!  The balance of buzz and activity came together in a perfect chorus of blessing and community that only our Celestial Maestro could orchestrate.  Thank God and all who came for a wonderful Spring Break 2010!   -Steven Wells

Go to our Facebook page!  Become Impact Houston's Friend and see TONS more pictures, especially by the awesome Spring Break groups that came to serve.

What is Urban Plunge?

Imagine spending a day walking the streets of Houston in flip-flops, a day pack, receiving strange looks from passersby, learning the rules of loitering, and looking for where to get a meal, help, and a place to rest.  That is just a taste of what Urban Plunge is for Impact visitors who want to experience life as a homeless  person.  What they see is only a glimpse of what the homeless live with, but it is enough to open their eyes and their hearts forever.

Impact Report                          
April 2010

1.       We finished our short series on Christ’s words from the Cross having presented our final lesson on Easter Sunday.  This has allowed the body opportunities to digest the significance of each of Christ’s saying during Impact groups and bible studies, and keep a great focus on Christ’s sacrifice and completed work on the cross for an extended amount of time.  Next series will focus on the Monsters in our lives:  things that scare and seem to overpower us.  We want to reveal what these monsters truly are and affirm how they are powerless in the light of God’s truth and love.
2.       The Garage Sale, though it brought in less than last year, still was a great success.  Needed funding was provided for the many ministries and activities at Impact.  Producing the Garage Sale, to me, is the most striking aspect of our annual Garage Sale.  SO many people put in SO many hours using SO many resources and working SO hard.
3.       Though our small groups share the same purposes and values, their makeup are very different.  Our college-age group is one of the fastest-growing, and has great potential for setting the bar higher for our other groups.  In order to prepare enough leaders, several extra prep meetings are arranged, but they are worth the extra effort.  Put simply, it is active leader training, and it works.
4.       Spring Break was crazy incredible!  The first week, we hosted a Spring Break version of an Impact VBS.  The groups from Oklahoma and ACU taught classes and loved on kids, fixed houses, helped oraganize the warehouse and Distribution Center, and helped get our newsletters ready to be mailed.
5.       This year, we reinstituted the Urban Plunge!  This downtown tour of life on Houston streets was a shocking education for the brave souls who volunteered to submit to the homeless experience.  They only spend a few hours out (6 hrs., actually), but that is a mere drop in the bucket compared to what our outdoorsmen truly experience even in just one day.  Our guides were ex-homeless men who had a wealth of information for our college students.  This is a tradition that must continue because the education is invaluable.
6.       Be getting ready now for our Annual Night of Celebration at ImpactThis has come to replace the fundraising dinner.  It is set to be May 6th, 7:00pm at the Impact main building.
7.       The Distribution Center is beginning to open their doors extra hours to serve working single mothers.  Thursday evenings will be dedicated to this service which may be a good filter to more Bible studies and exposure to the church.  The expected demographic is 80% Hispanic.
8.       The Bridge Program, an “alternative-school” alternative which houses its students in the Impact Teen House during school hours continues to do well.  After a year and a half of hosting students and permitting them to involve themselves in service in on-campus ministries, The Bridge Program has caught positive attention from the HISD Superintendant.  Seems they are making an impact on the lives of these students, and may be seen as a way to do so more and more.
9.       April is starting off active, with Passover Meals, Easter activities, Quincenera preparations, unexpected changes , and life in general, but we have great hopes of having a less active month.  Our  youth plans to have various retreats (editor's note:   Fire at Camp of the Hills changed many plans.), and youth ministers are making final preparations for the summer, which basically “kicks off” mid-May when our interns arrive, but overall Impact is expecting a more even-keel month.  Sometimes normal means being able to catch our breath.  Sometimes not.