Saturday, May 12, 2007

May '07 Update

Branson Trip; Housing Project; and Announcing: The NoAH PROJECT.

Hello again, my Dear Friends.We’re still here faithfully following God’s call to serve the Least, the Last, and the Lost along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. This is my first update for you since March; I will try to be more regular.

BRANSON TRIP:At the end of April the leadership team for Church Army Gulf Coast drove 11 hours north to visit Church Army Branson's base of evangelism; to observe, to learn, and to attend a special event. The team consisted of James and Mary Giles, Steve and Lezlie Anderson, and myself; and we were accompanied by "Mr. Bill," the first graduate from our on-campus housing program at God’s Katrina Kitchen. Mr. Bill had completed 60 days of residency and training with Church Army Gulf Coast before being accepted into the staff of God’s Katrina Kitchen as a much-needed chief cook.

In Branson I arrived a couple days early to move into one of their “Peer Houses,” which are fueling an explosive growth in Branson’s 12-Step discipleship program. Branson now houses over 100 men and women in a self-supporting program in which they pay rent while recovering from addictions in a supportive family environment. The enthusiasm, excitement and hope is palpable, and overflows in joy at the church service of Peace in the Storm, where the shouts of joy from the 200-plus congregation almost drowns out the 8-piece band.

At the church service, James and Mary and myself along with Stephen Baughan, director of Church Army Branson, were commissioned as Evangelists in Church Army USA, and given the title of Captain. (I don’t know what to do with this new title: “The Reverend Deacon Captain” is way too cumbersome for my taste.) Each of us pledged to do the work of an evangelist in Church Army Here is the Branson website:

HOUSING PROJECT:Two homeowners near the Kitchen have expressed an interest in leasing to us for a Sober Living project, while another is interested in buying a house and leasing it to us. These modest homes were severely damage by the storm and remain in disrepair. In the interior photo you can see the 5-foot-high waterline on the wall from Katrina’s storm surge.

We hope to bring houses such as these on line with volunteer help in exchange for an affordable lease rate. Although volunteer relief workers have been in short supply since Spring Break, we are looking forward to capacity crowds arriving at the Kitchen through the summer.

(Narcotic or Alcoholic/Homeless):To help populate these houses, we have launched the NoAH project, on-campus at the Kitchen. While Branson has detox and 28-day recovery facilities nearby which feed people into their program, Mississippi has few such services. NoAH will take hurting people directly into an intensive 40-day recovery period after which they can apply for entry into a Sober Living Home. (Remember that Noah didn’t open the window of the ark until 40 days had passed?) We already have admitted the first person into NoAH: I ask your prayers for Ed, who has 180 days of sobriety and desperately wants to keep his life going in a positive direction.

We are especially encouraged by our meeting this week with the chaplain for the local county prison. He operates a vibrant Christian program with segregated housing within the prison walls, and has been concerned for some time about after-care for those who are released. He was especially pleased that we offered to pick up at the prison gate those men that he would recommend to the NoAH Project.

STRUGGLE: Not all our news was cheery last month. Samuel and “Choo-Choo” relapsed into their addictions and ran afoul of the legal system: I ask your continuing prayers for them. Though it seems as if “sometimes the dragon wins,” yet we are not discouraged, for it has been promised to us that God’s Word that has been implanted into them shall not return void.

Thank you again for all your prayers and your generous gifts to the Gulf Coast, and may the God of All Mercies, the God of the Peace that Passes All Understanding, the God of Promises that will not fail, continue to bless each one of you abundantly beyond your expectations.

...In Love and Peace, Rolin