Thursday, November 20, 2008
Hi, all! Long time no post. Here's a quick update on the success story of Church Army Gulf Coast graduate Van. When Van came to us he was broke, homeless, living under the Gulfport pier, and addicted to crack cocaine.
But now he is doing wonderfully in his role as chief cook for the rebuilding efforts of the Free Church of the Annunciaton in New Orleans. He has been welcomed enthusiastically by the community and is relishing the role of being one of a beloved member of the extended church family, while he cooks for dozens—and even hundreds—of volunteers who come to help New Orleans rebuild from the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina. Fr. Jerry Kramer posted his photo in their latest newsletter, which I'm sharing with you here.
You can keep up with my own latest doings in my personal web log, where I expect to post a new entry within the week.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Last November I posted a report of my hiking and camping trip to Feather Falls in California. At 640 feet high, this is the fifth tallest waterfall in the United States. There's no way to capture the entire falls in one shot without a fisheye lens, so I took multiple shots and sent them to my brother Roger. He stitched them together and here are the fruits of his visual composition. Roger normally spends his time producing digital music: his musical compositions can be found over here.
Friday, March 7, 2008
Hello dear family,
Mary and I are living in our travel trailer in a large mobile home park in Desloge, MO., sixty miles South of St. Louis. This area is what is known as the Leadbelt, scattered amongst old abandoned lead mines and a few small ones still in operation. This whole region is also known as the methamphetamine capital of our country.
I know this is going to sound crazy but I can’t begin to express how blessed we are to be here at Church Army of the Leadbelt. Yes there are and will continue to be many challenges ahead and the Mississippi Gulf Coast has been our pre-school concerning this culture of substance abuse Mary and I now live and call home for a season. Only a supernatural God could open our hearts so quickly to these dear yet broken and hurting people. As Mary would share, “every drop of love I give them they return to me double”.
But all does not always turn out well:
Becca was found by her sister yesterday, dead of a drug overdose. The news spread through the Church Army Leadbelt community like a California wild fire. Base planter, Mark Hedrick preaches continually, ”substance abuse is a life or death issue”. This first Monday of March his mantra has wrung persistently in my ears as I reflected upon the short friendship I had with Becca and helped pastor those left behind to weep over this tragic but harsh reality of the ministry God has called Mary and me.
Like the rest of the community, I find myself in turmoil over Becca’s death. I’m not unfamiliar with death and I’ve been close to several friends who have taken their own lives which left me second guessing whether I could have intervened in some way. But Becca’s death is different. Relapse equals eviction from our program as the consequences administered in tough love. Becca had relapsed on several occasions in her working towards sobriety. This last time refusing to go back to a treatment center she opted to go live with her sister to fight her disease alone, against all advice.
I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul advising the Church of Corinth to drive one of their own out, to “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” I Cor. 5. I can’t imagine Satan being any more present than in substance addiction. Speaking for our community, we all grieve this tragedy and I personally wonder how Paul must have felt with his advice to the Corinthians.
For some this is especially trying as one woman shared how this is the first death she has had to struggle with sober. I reminded her of the story of Lazarus’ death. How our Lord Jesus wept even though he knew first hand of Heaven and maybe even that He would raise Lazarus from the dead. These are our feeling and we have a God that not only understands them but validates them in us.
This tragedy does end in victory. Two weeks ago Becca had come forward in our evening service declaring Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. She prayed the sinners prayer with Mark and several others. She is now in glory where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sickness and no more tears. Hallelujah!
Personally, though I grieve, my only regret is that I did not take the opportunity to hug her and tell her she was loved as many of those around me did before she left. Thank you for your prayers and support.
James & Mary
PS. Mary’s stopped praying for snow. She’s had to survive being snowed in and iced in with me three different times over the last month. (James)
To make a donation to the ongoing ministry of James and Mary Giles, you may send a check or money order to: Church Army USA, PO Box 178, Leetsdale, PA 15056. ON THE MEMO LINE PLEASE WRITE: JG058
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
You can find my current musings and latest news on my reflections blog.
God is good.
Monday, January 21, 2008
I got the email below from one of our main Leaders, Andrew. Another man named Alan, one of the leaders of the [People’s] movement has been killed. I know some of the English and Islamic terms will be a bit hard to follow in Andrew’s writing but I think you will get the "feel" for it....
As I was planning to go to the north for the leader training I have received a call from one leader he said “Alan the leader of koleo not showing from last night is he came to you?” I said no. they said “when ever he came to you we knew and he told us that he is going to visit you. But know he is missing from this morning pleas pray that he will be fine and get beck to home his wife and his mother are wetting for him.”
I said yes brother I will pray for him and I will ask other friends to pray for him and pleas let me know when he will come back.
Alan was leader among Koleo People.
As you know I asked you all to pray for him and we all start praying for him next morning again they called me and said pleas came as soon as you can because we have found his dead body bring other leaders those who know him they can come for barrying Mr Alan.
They said He have been killed last night and they found his dead body near the water channel of Makate Lake I think he Killed before we start to pray for home and also they have Found a letter the killers left this letter to Alan's right hand in the letter it have been written
we know that Alan is teaching essayeath to the people and he is muratad Kafar (blasphemy) he left Islam and he need to be killed. If any other will do this kind of activity we will kill him too.
(This is translation from our tongue)
I'm sorry for him and for his family I don't know what to do know we start arranging to get there we have to be there for his Janaza.
We reached there we where 5 leaders from other area of the Koleo when we got there his brother Mr Mateo came and hug us and start crying and said with big voce that Alan is not dead he is shaeed for Jesus my brother give his life Like Jesus give for us.
I was feeling very havey and I asked Lord what is going on Lord please protect our your workers and help us to continue the Kingdom work. I was just asking Lord they took me to his family his mother and wife saw me they start crying they make me cry. I did not know what to say to them. I just sit with them and I was praying for the family in my heart .
They show me the letter but the all family decide to not show this letter to any one only they gave it to me and said he is not dead he is with Lord this first shaeed (sacrificed in Koleo Nation ) [deleted: nation, tribe, and subtribe explained] I feel very encourage because his family in thinking that our Son is with Jesus.
His mother was saying Alan my son is not dead he is with Essa and you are here to tack care of us tack care me and Alan’s family he left wife and four children I said to her don't wory mother we are together our Lord will tack care of us I will help you. I'm with you guys. Our Lord Is With Us.
there were many people I couldn't spent more time with his family because the other men asked me to I need to go and do the service of the funeral we prayed a lot before to coming here for the funereal this is the first Christian funeral in the Koleo people.
We the leaders of the tribe and the spiritual leaders we there I asked the tribe leader to give us permission to start the funeral rusm and pray.
they look with a suspicion eyes but they said yes we start the rusm as we do with other Christian friends this rusm is little different the normal K people we put the dead body frient of all as they do the Janaza Namaz the Imam's place one by one his friend those know him they come and share about the dyad's life and his all good stories what they know and after that we do the Janaza Namaz and tack the body for the barying after barying we all gather and give thanks that He idea with you with faith with spirit we are happy that know he is with Lord..
After these rusms and all we came back to home very late and next day we start preparing to live to the North with other leaders.
Servant of Jesus
Thursday, January 17, 2008
"But David," I asked my former employer,
"why do you want to give me your car?"
"Because," he answered in his clipped Taiwan accent,
"you're working for God."
He had me there. I had originally figured that my bicycle would get me around Orange County, CA just fine: Work, School, Church, Post Office, etc. (boy, was I ever wrong). So I reluctantly gave in and accepted the gift. But now I had two cars! The first one had just been given to me the previous month, by my niece's husband at my B.A. graduation. He came to the graduation, and told me, "God told me to give you my car." It was a small Toyota sedan, and ran great.
So now I had an argument with God: "God, why do you want me to have a six-passenger van with cargo capacity? Are you planning for me to haul people and stuff around? And what do I do with the other one? David says I should just sell my Toyota."
And God said, "What do you mean, your Toyota?"
Oops. I couldn't sell the Toyota because it wasn't mine. It was God's.
I ended up giving it as a high school graduation present to a young African-American lady who went on to be the first person in her entire extended family (since slavery!) to graduate from college.
So. Mazda MPV. Needed a new radiator. But then, after I finished my M.A. it was ready to take me through the United States starting in California, crossing over Native American Territory (foto above) and on to Church Army Pittsburgh; with all my kitchen, all my office, and half my library packed inside. And after that it was on to Church Army Branson (where I modified the front end—foto at right) and on to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, where God confirmed my call to serve as a missionary for a season.
But first I made a run all the way to California and back to pick up the rest of my library. I did indeed haul stuff around—around the whole country. And in Mississippi, I repeatedly used it to haul people around to distant church services and meetings, etc.
So finally, last month, it was time to move up north to Pennsylvania. But how to get there? Would the Mazda make it? To haul all my stuff I had to add a trailer hitch (not recommended) and tow a U-haul (not recommended) up and down the Appalachians (not recommended). It made it. Thank you, Lord.
But Alas, yesterday was the last of the MPV. I had been driving around hill and dale in PA, and just arrived back in Ambridge when the motor quit. Call AAA. Talk to the mechanic. The timing belt had stripped and the valves and pistons were damaged. Total mileage on the car: 207,000. Today I watched the tow truck haul it off to oblivion.
So here I sit at my window, looking out at the snow and my bicycle (yes, I still have it) with its flat tire. Am I sad? Well yes, a little. But am I joyful? My joy is in the Lord!
Thank you, Lord, for loaning me this car. Thank you for knowing what kind of car I needed when I had no clue. Thank you for 65,000 miles of reliable transportation. Thank you for safety and your protection on the highways of America. Thank you, Lord. You are Faithful.
And I thank you Lord, for your plans for me now. I do not know what those plans are, but I do know that they are for my good, and not for my harm. Thank you, Lord, for whatever Your plans are for me and for my transportation. You know my needs, Lord, and you love me. Thank you, Lord.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Last month I celebrated the seventeenth month of my commitment to serve the least, the last and the lepers along the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast, following three months of preparatory training with Church Army USA. Now God is calling me into a new training period, while He prepares me for the future in His service.
I have been reflecting upon all that God has blessed me with over the last twenty months through Church Army Gulf Coast, its partner God’s Katrina Kitchen, and the newly formed missionary diocese of Saint Aidan Lindisfarne.
In Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, I learned that every person who walked through the door of Church Army’s coffee shop was a ministry opportunity. In Branson, Missouri, I learned that the Twelve Step Program properly applied was a doorway to a relationship with God, and observed how that door led to the next door, a relationship with Christ. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, I learned how a Native American can open doorways to Christ for his brothers while they recover their ancient heritage.
In the Mississippi Gulf Coast cities of Pass Christian, Gulfport, and Long Beach I worked alongside God’s Katrina Kitchen as they housed thousands of short term volunteers, coordinated relief work for thousands more, served hundreds of thousands of meals, cleaned up innumerable cubic yards of debris, and mucked out and helped to rehabilitate hundreds of homes. I was blessed to serve under Fr. James Giles, who, backed up by his wife Mary, coordinated volunteer efforts, served as assistant director, and became Pastor to the two dozen or so long term staff, all serving without pay.
In its first two cities the Kitchen was open to the public for three meals a day, seven (later six) days per week. Through the red-and-white dining tent walked every manner of people, from displaced homeowners to struggling construction workers to homeless drifters with devastated lives. Each person had a story, and each felt loved by the simple act of someone who would take the time to listen to their stories.
For some of the men, along with homelessness and desperation there came alcohol and drugs, before and after, one reinforcing the other in a slow death spiral. These are the men I invited into the bunkhouse to live alongside me, teaching them sober living, spiritual disciplines, the message of the Bible, and the doorway to Christ. Statistics and numbers cannot tell their stories, only their names and their remembered faces: Dale, Doug, and Mike; Barry, Jeff, and Nate; Bill, Sam, and Larry; Ron, Ed, and Terry; Fred and Van; and the one who would not come in out of the cold, Tom. Each one touched my life as I touched theirs. Each one saw Jesus: some a little, some a lot. Each one grew, some a little, some a lot.
In Pennsylvania I met Alan Morris, a true man of God dedicated to Making Disciples Who Make Disciples. I was welcomed into a fellowship of Anglicans similarly dedicated, meeting in their homes, at house churches, and even in campgrounds. I participated or was present at the ordinations of Kirk, Andrew, and Colin; the consecration of Alan as bishop of our missionary diocese; and of course my own ordination as a Missionary Deacon.
I assisted our archbishop, Russ McClanahan when he consecrated Henry Roberts as a bishop for a cluster of black pentecostal churches in Mobile, Alabama, challenging our church to expand its boundaries.
God's Kitchen continues to operate in Long Beach, Mississippi. They are currently accepting volunteers who want to help rebuild the Gulf Coast, housing them at the Long Beach church, feeding them, and coordinating work sites. My prayers are with them, and I invite you to pray for them also.
My friends, each of you has played a part in this season`of growing God’s kingdom, by your prayers, by your financial support and even just by my knowing that someone cared enough to read my stories in my newsletters or read through this web log. Thank you. Knowing you were out there and that you care has been a blessing beyond words.
Now we find ourselves in a time of transition and waiting upon the Lord for direction as to what comes next. James and Mary are looking toward St Louis, Missouri as Church Army’s ministry there continues to expand to addicts and their families through the leadership of Mark Hedrick. I have moved to Ambridge, Pennsylvania to work with Alan Morris on developing ways to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. I am looking forward to learning much more working alongside my bishop.
James and Mary recently sent out a letter (which I unashamedly have imitated here) to their supporters, recommitting themselves to be Disciples of Christ. I am also recommitting myself in ministry to:
>Serve those who struggle with homelessness and addictions,
>Seek opportunities for others to be transformed by the calling of Christ,
>Encourage religious community among all manners of peoples,
>Provide practical spiritual discipling of the followers of Christ, and
>Love the least, the last, and the lepers of our society.
In God’s Love,