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.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Something Beautiful I saw today...
by Dennis Jaeger and Gaylee Garroutte
Being a part of Impact never ceases to amaze me.  Impact is a place where God uses any and everyone to be a blessing to others. A place where anyone can find a way to serve, and where God’s love is alive and well.  When you walk in on a Sunday morning, there is such a broad spectrum of people you might cross paths with; people who you can encourage and people who will encourage you.  Below are the words of Gaylee Garroutte after a Sunday morning at Impact.  Lord, teach me to be more like the little girl she describes!
“This morning when I was in church I saw the most beautiful thing.  There was the sweetest little blonde haired baby, she was cute as a button, and if I had to guess her age...  maybe 1 ½ or 2 years old.  This little girl amazed me.  She was sitting in the back row with her mother and behind them was a row of elderly people in wheel chairs.  This little girl left her mom and walked right over to one of the ladies in the wheelchairs and just smiled at her.  The smile that came over the older woman's face was priceless.  The little girl proceeded to put her hands on the woman’s legs and kind of mini hugged her.  The older woman was gleaming!  She lingered around and then looked over at the elderly woman in the wheelchair next to her and then went to her and just smiled so cute at this woman.  The older woman bent over, picked her up and sat her in her lap for a little bit.  The girl was completely happy, smiling and laughing, and the joy that it gave to this woman was amazing.  The little girl continued to go from wheelchair to wheelchair, smiling, laughing, and just loving on all these people I doubt she knew.  I was so impressed with how generous this little baby girl was with her love and the difference it made to the people who she was loving on.
She was such a lesson to me. She reminded me how powerful it can be to love another - just the simple gift of love and the impact that it can make on someone else. She wasn't selfish at all, she loved them all. Her tiny little arms had so much power when she hugged another. She was tiny, but her message was huge. Today, I choose to try and love others more like her. She was wonderful :)”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

     Impact has seen the loss of some special members and has had some seen volunteers come and go.  Although the makeup of our demographic is often very transient, there are many who have decided to make Impact their home, whether they must drive and hour to be with us, or have moved to our area just to be closer to the action and the family.  Impact attracts Christ-followers who are looking for more than a place to worship.  They are working for a way to serve in the body, as a body...as a servant-disciple. 
     I like how John Carson puts it in a letter he is generating to raise support to work as permanent Impact staff.  Here is an excerpt:

“Over the past month or so while fundraising, I've been asked this question in various forms.  I honestly don't believe I can describe in words what Impact is like.  To really know you would have to come see for yourself, but I'll attempt anyway.

     Impact is a place where the hungry are fed and the naked are clothed.  Our distribution center at Impact serves as a place where thousands of people can come and receive food and clothes.  David, who takes care of everything there, is a man who seeks to live out what Jesus said in Matthew 25, and push me to be the same way.

Impact is a place where the homeless can feel at home.  Everyday of the week, Impact's kitchen is open and many of our homeless, or outdoorsmen, as we call them, come and fed.  Along with food, they have the opportunity to shower and wash clothes.  They can also receive their mail at the church, and can get help in finding a job and a way off of the streets.

Impact is a place where people of all races and languages come to worship.  Any given Sunday you can people from all walks of life at Impact.  From doctors and lawyers to abused and neglected children, all come to worship the same God, and to share a meal together afterwards.

Impact is a place where the unloved are loved.  Whether it be a neglected child from a horrible situation, or a wheelchair bound elderly individual stuck in a nursing home, both are cared for and loved at Impact.  Many of our ministers go to assisted living and nursing homes every week, to seek out the forgotten children of God in these places.  Just as we as a youth team, seek to love our kids and help them grow as people, and equip them to love others as Jesus loved them.
Impact is a place that I have been called.  I've been called to work with the youth, specifically the high school, and to show them more about the reality and way of Christ.  Honestly, no matter how many cool trips, lessons, and small groups I do they probably will not grow and learn from what I do, nearly as much as I will grow and learn from being in their presence. “ -from http://followinghiscalltohouston.blogspot.com/

Both John Carson (above) and Tyler Gentry (right)   have worked with and are loved by the Impact family.  They are doing what they can to be able to live in the heart of Houston with us.  To learn more about either or both see John’s blog,  or Tyler’s video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9znRMORg3w.

Faith and Fear in the Big City

One of the greatest missions at Impact is the care and protection of our older members.  There is a constant action in the surrounding blocks away from the building where several of our aged members and distribution cetner clients live.  Others or our number are wheelchair bound, live miles away in assisted living projects and are at the mercy of transport vans and caretakers.  Perhaps there are those of who have heard their stories of pain, discomfort and fear for so long that we have become immune to the problems these loved face on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, it took at occurrence of tragic magnitude to bring us back to reality as one of our longtime members, Debbie Boudreaux, died in her room at a project in mid-September.  Other reports in this monthly newsletter have referred to Independence hall where several have taught weekly classes for years and where we have partnered with other churches in serving Thanksgiving meals for the entire complex and where several of our members live.  Debbie now has good health, a pain free body, and has peace at last living with the Father in Heaven.  Debbie's friends and loved ones at Impact hosted the memorial service at Independence Hall and lives were blessed in the process.

Impact has been able to respond spiritually and physically to these friends for some twenty years because of the previous financial support of other congregations and individuals.  For that we are thankful, but now, even more than ever, the plea for additional and continued support is of utmost importance.  May we ask that you consider this part of Impact's mission outreach as your own?  You will be blessed!
      -Jim Deloney

Celebrating a Sister: a Story of Lating Impact

Join me in congratulating Ashley Cooks for her graduation from Texas Southern University. Ashley has achieved a tremendous accomplishment being the first one in her family to go to and graduate from college, with help from the Brooks Scholarship Program. She has worked very hard and long hours in the Juvenile Justice Department while completing her degree in Marriage and Family.
It has been a great blessing watching Ashley grow up at Impact over the last twelve years. Ashley has served in many capacities, mostly helping with the youth program and working several summers as an intern.
Ashley is a great example of hard work and perseverance. She has brought joy and happiness to all who become acquainted.
Well done, Ashley!"

     We have recieved and installed our long-awaited freezer!  The freezer is 1760 square feet and is located beside the Distribution Center.  This allows us to eliminate 5 refrigerator/freezers from inside the building, freeing up some much-needed space in what is usually a very crowded building.  More importantly,  it will give us the opportunity to store food longer and serve more people in need.  Praise God as He continues to provide for us.


   Put October 23rd
on your calendars! 
We will be having our Fall Block Party - food, clothes, and hot dogs for all.  We will have the Food Stamps and Medicaid people there too.  Remember that 55,000 people go hungry in Harris County every day.             
             -David Beegle

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Will You Stand?

Standing.  Those of us who are able do it hundreds of times a day.  When we were infants, it was new and exciting.  We would practice again and again.  Now it’s become a habit.  We sit and we stand without thinking - it’s no big deal.  For a while, it’s exciting again as we watch with bated breath our children and grandchildren explore with wonder what their bodies are able to do as they learn how to sit, stand, and walk.
There are children, however, who do not have parents to partake in the joy of learning these things with them.  There are children who grow up without any encouragement to explore the world around them, no congratulations when they learn something new, and who are viewed as more of a hassle than a gift.  When we encounter these children, once again we need to learn how to stand.
God stands on behalf of children who have been wronged by people who are supposed to love them no matter what.  We at Impact are thankful that one of the ways he does so is by allowing us to cross their paths.  The story of four brothers who showed up at Impact this last June are a perfect example.
With their father in jail, these four boys (ages 5-9) were already missing out on an important person in their life.  In the beginning of June, their mother brought them to Houston, dropped them off at grandma’s, and left without a word of when she would return for them.  The boys found themselves in a new city, with people they didn’t know, and not knowing whether they would ever see their mother again.
Their grandmother, an Impact member, signed them up for VBS.  They came to Impact scared of the unknown, rejected by their mother, but embraced by family desperate to show them love.  Over the next six weeks of VBS, they were smiled at, laughed with, hugged on, and loved more than they ever had been in their short lives.  They began the summer lonely, with big behavior problems, big eyes, and blank stares.  They ended the summer earning awards for exceptional behavior and service, with huge smiles, lots of giggles, and more friends than they’d ever had.  Above all, they learned through all those people that there is a God who will never leave them, never forsake them, who loves them so much that he gave up his only son so they could be with him, and will always stand on their behalf.  He will be there to rejoice with them when they learn something new, to cry with them when the world is unkind, and to encourage them towards a great and amazing life lived for him.
The mother of these four sweet boys has not returned.  No one knows where she is or if they will ever see her again.  The boys have found a new home, with people who love them and who are joyfully learning how to stand on their behalf.  Thank you for allowing God to use you to enable Impact to stand in the gap for those who are unable to stand alone!       
       -Dennis Jaeger
Impacting Our Health

Healthy Treasure, a Christian-Based bilingual health and wellness program. We will meet every Fridays beginning September 3, 2010 from 6pm-8pm. We just decided to make some changes due to concerns from current participants. We will have Bible Class for the first half hour, discuss nutrition and menu planning the second half hour and then we will focus on mental health dealing specifically with self-esteem (building) and motivation. We will add exercise at the beginning of the new year once we have helped the women understand the importance and benefits of exercise.        -Maria Arzu