Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Small Groups Do Big Things 

This spring I have been meeting with a small group of High School and Middle School girls. We have committed to studying the Beatitudes and have focused on a different Beatitude each week. We really try to have fun with it! One tradition we have started is to cook dinner together at the home of a member at Impact. This has been such a blessing for the girls to work together to prepare the food and also to be welcomed into the home of one in our Impact  community.  After dinner is served, we have a time for open discussion of God’s word and prayer.
 The purpose of this small group was to allow a safe environment that the girls could begin to trust one another and encourage growth in their relationship with God. Another main goal was to begin to truly understand what it means to be a Living Sacrifice. I am so proud of my girls! After researching several non-profit organizations, they have decided to raise $1,000 dollars for Operation Smile! They have dreams to continue raising money in hopes to fund several other organizations as well. They have big hearts and desire so much to help others; it is truly inspiring.
Please be in prayer for these wonderful girls as they live out God’s will.
           -Tyler Gentry

Helping Others Help in Times of Need

 “I teach 5th grade at an inner city school about 10 minutes from Impact. Last week our school counselor sent out an e-mail saying that a student’s house burned down and the family lost everything they owned.  
I e-mailed her back and told her that I was sure my church would be able and willing to help. The counselor escorted the family to my classroom earlier this week so I could give them the necessary information and I felt so proud of what God does through Impact. They came to the Distribution Center this week and were able to walk away with food and clothing to help them during this difficult time. Thank God that He uses Impact to meet people’s physical needs so that hopefully bridges will be built to meet their much more important spiritual needs. What an awesome God we serve!”
-Laura Hamilton

Break Fix

During March, Impact hosted six college groups and one high school youth group for two weeks of Spring Break service.  Oklahoma State University, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Murray State University from Kentucky, Abilene Christian University, and Lubbock Christian University sent students to serve 125 children for a week of Vacation Bible School, help clean out the warehouses after our Annual Garage Sale, serve our homeless brothers and sisters, and encourage the staff, elders, and ministers at Impact.  
During the second week of Spring Break, the University of Arkansas from Fort Smith campus ministry and the Pleasant Valley Church of Christ youth group from Van Buren, Arkansas scraped and painted one of our members' home.  They planted a flower and vegetable garden, painted the kitchen, and also painted the bathroom.  Most of us take a nice place to come home to for granted, but after this experience, this group will not take their homes for granted.  Our member is so incredibly grateful and bubbling over with excitement for her sweet family to have a newly painted home in which to live.  

It is one of the greatest experiences to be around college students more interested in making a difference during their week off from school, than skiing in Colorado or tanning in South Padre.  May we all have the perspective of serving the Lord through serving others during our vacation.  Thank you to all of the youth ministers, campus ministers, elders, congregations, and especially parents for raising people that love people!
Bob’s Story:  An Impact Story
 -by Laura Hamilton

One of the greatest blessings of being a member at Impact is getting a clearer picture of the heart of God by listening to the stories of those around you.  Bob’s story makes me love my Heavenly Father even more than I did before. 
By all appearances, Bob was a lost cause.  Sixty-one years old and homeless, with an addiction to alcohol and crack cocaine that spanned more than four decades.  But thankfully, “The LORD does not look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Bob grew up not far from Houston with a promising future ahead of him.  But in 1968, two weeks before his high school graduation, his younger brother was killed by a drunk driver while he was covering Bob’s paper route.  Bob’s descent into the pit began a week later with his first beer.  His descent deepened three years later upon entering the Vietnam War where he was introduced to illicit drugs.  Over the following years, Bob admits that he regularly turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with his pain rather than to turn to God.  And there was a lot of pain: being treated like a criminal upon his return from Vietnam, two divorces, unemployment, multiple stints in prison, the death of his beloved mother and more.  Eventually Bob was no longer able to hold a regular job and became homeless, living under bridges and in tents in downtown Houston.
But the battle was not finished because Bob’s Heavenly Father was still pursuing him.   In the summer of 2005, Bob started coming to Impact regularly, not for fellowship, but for food and basic necessities.  When asked why he kept returning to Impact he said, “People at Impact love the needy and the hungry and no one looked down on me.”  Four years later, he started attending church services and last summer joined Impact’s Recovery House. Bob graduated from the Recovery House program on February 1, 2011 with 184 days clean and sober. 
Listening to Bob’s story left me humbled and in awe of a loving Father who pursues his children.  As we studied the Bible together, I noticed that Bob was flipping through highlighted, well worn pages- evidence of where his strength comes from.  Frequently in conversation, he quotes scriptures that have become the rock on which he stands and there is an unmistakable peace where once loomed only addiction.
Bob has moved to Lufkin to be with his family, but he wouldn’t leave until after the Impact “Outdoorsmen” Super Bowl party.  He has attended every Super Bowl party since 2005, but this time he wanted to come as a servant, clean and sober.  God is good!

See that building on the right? 
It’s nothing fancy really.  It’s just an old refurbished warehouse with a simple sign outside.  Yet, many people in need seem to find their way to our doors for help.  The homeless have literally worn a path to our location.  Young children from impoverished areas are transported in for classes.  Families know where to find food and clothes.  However, some of the greatest news is what happens inside.  Inside our building, the Good News of Christ is shared.  Inside hearts, miracles occur as that message hits home.  Inside this community, people learn from each other how to love and serve one another.  Outside, things may not appear the most appealing, but inside, something beautiful is occurring.

Hope Springs:
Eternal Benefits of Spring Break and Interns
 March saw various groups and potential interns descend upon the Impact campus to serve and love the people of downtown Houston.  Many visiting youngsters will come back to work during the Summers.  Some will apply to be summer interns, and among those, it is likely that some will eventually come to work with us full-time, like recent staff members, Tyler Gentry and John Carson.  Tyler has blessed our young women with special outings, cooking at members’ houses and just being in their lives.  John is Impacting the young men in the same way.  Both are refreshing ministers who bring hope into the lives of many.

Although John is a great servant, he is humble enough to be a learning disciple.  He shares what he learns from those around him in the following words. 

   “Sunday, I found myself sitting next to three or four children of ours who often misbehave. I sat with them on the second row, and I watched them play tic-tac-toe and attempted to keep them quiet, while I tried to listen to Les preach about the Beatitudes. I remember thinking, “I wonder if they’re getting anything out of this sermon.”
Of course, I’m more than happy with them sitting quietly and playing tic-tac-toe, but I also think God wanted to show me something that morning. As I listened to Les, I glanced down at the seventh grade girl next to me. She had “Blessed are the pure in heart” written on her hand. I thought of Jesus and the little children coming to him. God wanted to remind me that he is good and likes to surprise me all the time.”
When we listen and share what we learn we are like a spring that refreshes.  We are life-givers, whether we see instant results or not.  So, we continue to share and trust God to cause seeds to grow.  Consider sponsoring Impact interns who are ready to serve and learn.  See what God will grow for His kingdom!

When  Charlie Middlebrook went into the hospital early this year due to a severe stroke, fear and concern swept over his family, friends, and everyone at Impact. Prayer soon took over as passionate pleas went up to the Father.  As the photo to the  left documents, Impact ministers and members went to visit and pray with Charlie’s family in the hospital waiting room.  Other families were hurting, so the group invited all around to pray for the different families and their situations. Thousands prayed for Charlie’s healing and as of this writing he is walking and having some success communicating as he continues with therapy.   But what an amazing reminder of the need and power of sharing  concerns and faith in community!  A family was comforted, families were blessed, and throngs were able to participate in what God wanted to bring about.  We at Impact have learned this, and know that life in Christ is life is to be shared.  We cry when others are crying.  We celebrate when others celebrate.  We admonish one another in love and in the Word.  We spur one another along.  We love one another with a love so special we are compelled to share it with others.  We seek those who are hurting and needy and give that love away so that what we have will be planted in their souls as well.  Just as several friends cheered Impact Children's Minister, Laurie Templeton in the Houston Marathon (LEFT), we are here to encourage one another along ..for another 24 years, if the Lord wills.   -Steven Wells

“Darkness Cannot Drive Out Darkness”
 - Josef Bilnoski

My last three days of 2010 were spent camping in Bastrop State Park with12 middle school boys. The kids were concerned about bears and snakes as we headed into the “deep woods”. It was interesting watching the kids pitch their tents, and with a little assistance, they finally had the campsite set up. After playing some football and grilling hotdogs for dinner, the kids got to experience real nighttime. Living in the city, they are always surrounded by light. But in the woods when the sun goes down, “dark” takes on a whole new meaning. The middle school boys that were so tough a few hours ago were now scared to walk to the restroom alone. It is really interesting when you think about it: These kids live in parts of the city that we won’t drive through without locking the doors. They walk to school and to the store alone amongst gangs, bullies, and predators, but in the woods where they’re actually safe, they become afraid. Eventually, nighttime became their favorite time because it allowed them to play hide-and-seek in the dark with flashlights. We used this as an opportunity to teach them about the light of Jesus. At night, when we are in darkness, a flashlight is very bright. It attracts your attention to it. We explained to the boys how the flashlights were like the things in this world that attract our attention when we are living in spiritual darkness: popularity, money, drugs and alcohol, etc… And just like when the sun comes up in the morning and the flashlights lose their attraction, when we are in the light of Jesus the things of the world lose their attraction also.
No one was ready to leave on our final day. Though worn out by the previous day’s 8 mile hike, boys begged us to stay longer and asked when we were going to come back. The night before they all ventured out of their tents and slept under the stars - the darkness no longer scared them. Some of them talked about living in the forest when they grew older. It was so great to get them away from the city for a few days and out of their comfort zones. This trip and others like it bring these kids closer to God and closer to each other. The unity in the group is strengthened and it is something that we can build on for the future. Before we headed back to Houston we circled up, held hands, and thanked God for our trip, His beautiful creation, and to take us home safely.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Steven Gaunt of Garland Street Church of Christ posted this in his church’s bulletin this week:
Walking the Pipes

“The pipes hung high above the grassy watershed underneath the Houston street. Normally I wouldn’t cross from one side to the other by walking on pipes, but this wasn’t a normal day. It was a day that would alter the way I looked at life. 
We were on a mission trip to work with the Impact Church of Christ in inner-city Houston. Each day our group of forty something college kids split up into groups and went out into the city – talking to college students at the University of Houston, helping in the Impact warehouse, door-knocking to invite people to a gospel meeting, and making sandwiches to deliver to the homeless. The groups that made the sandwich runs got to walk the pipes as we learned about the homeless who lived under the bridges in downtown Houston. 
I was one of the first ones to walk the pipes. As soon as I got off the pipes I turned around a took a picture of the guys walking the pipes behind me. Then I turned back to scene underneath the bridge. In front of us was an area where homeless people spent the night. They were usually all gone by the morning. But on this day there was still a homeless man lying there underneath a sleeping bag. I took a picture. Not wanting to startle this man with a bunch of strangers standing around, some in the group walked over and attempted to wake him up. It was too late. 
I was one of the ones who ran across the bridge to find a business where we could use a phone to call 911. We huddled in the grass beside the bridge as firemen and police and newspaper reporters scampered onto the scene. We stayed an extra day to attend a funeral for a man that we had never known, I believe his name was Dennis and Houston was just the latest city where he lived under a bridge. We had learned a song on that trip entitled “One More Day.” Some of the lyrics are, “If my time on earth is long and I am young, and I see God’s people dying I want to help them… For if Jesus comes tomorrow, we’ll have just one more day.” Singing the song beside the bridge that day brought new meaning as we felt the impact of those words.
The picture of the green sleeping bag with the worn shoes sticking out from under it still causes my stomach to turn. My stomach doesn’t turn because of the death that we witnessed that day, but because of the many more who are like Dennis that we don’t see for whatever reason. May our eyes be opened.

The preceding article is my bulletin article for this week. In my mind it was Charlie who was leading the group I was in that day walking the pipes. I don't know if that is true or not - many years have filtered out some of the details. But I do know that if it weren't for those men and women who had a faith like Charlie, there would be a lot of people who wouldn't know how to love like we should.
I have been and will continue to pray for Charlie, his family, and the work of Impact. May God bless you richly today and may He be glorified in all things.  -sg

Sunday, January 09, 2011

from Ron Sellers:
“Today is the 24th anniversary of Impact's first Sunday worship service in inner city Houston. It was a time of deep prayer and our Father guided amazingly. He still does as we continue to seek His will in this city . . . and as we seek His divine intervention for Charlie. Thanks to all who have joined this journey along the way

For the past few days, Charlie Middlebrook has been in the hospital after having suffered a stroke.  Some of the most dangerous moments seem to have past, but we are anxiously praying for a full recovery.  See the link below to Facebook posts that give the latest updates, and a history of what has been happening.