Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Power of a Birthday

Most of us remember waiting anxiously for our birthdays to come around - we would spend time thinking and planning on what kind of themed birthday we'd have, what kind of gifts we'd request, what meal mom would make, etc. Regardless the traditions, most of us would agree, a birthday is a special time in ones life. Of course the older you get, the less meaningful these birthday parties become (facing the reality of what age you're becoming can bee intimidating), but even so, there is something special about celebrating ones life with close friends and family.

Oftentimes, it is easy to take a birthday party for granted. I mean, doesn't everyone have a birthday? Wouldn't everyone have a birthday party?

Barberry reality hits. Not everyone has reliable family and friends to spend a birthday with. Not everyone has the luxury of getting their wish granted on their birthday. Not everyone has a happy birthday.

This October, two of our friends at Barberry had birthdays coming up.

One was a man who, through his broken past of drug-addict parents and unreliable friends, never had a happy birthday. At a game night, he came up to one of the guys and mentioned that. What does one do when an adult man in his late twenties mentions that he has never had a birthday party - and in his voice you can hear his longing for being recognized on his day of birth? It became very clear that night what needed to be done.

Through strategic planning - the party came and it was beautiful! One of the gifts he received was The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis - which was a book (and what are the chances) he almost read while he was in jail. We have been praying for him and know that God is working in his heart - please join us in praying for him and his family. I have no doubt that God has great plans to use him for His kingdom.

The second birthday that happened this year was for a woman who has grown dear to our hearts this past year. Linda is a woman who regardless of her disabilities, has God's love in her heart. Everywhere she goes, whoever she meets, she tells them not only how beautiful and precious they are, but also that she loves them and that God loves them. She lives with her mother at Barberry, and mentioned to us a few months ago that her birthday was October 18th.

Through collaboration with her mother, her family and the group here joined for a joyous birthday for Linda, daughter of the King of Kings. We made it a point to focus on the fact that she in indeed a princess - daughter of the Greatest King. She was all smiles and happily devoured the cake, which Jenn made from scratch.

But the joy of all of this, is not that these individuals receive the joy of having a birthday celebration in and of itself. The love of God was shining brightly for everyone - from the birthday guest, to their families, and to all of us Christians. The love and joy that fill a room when a person is intentionally loved in a way that we all often take for granted - through the simplest thing - a birthday party.

I hope these reflections speak to you as strongly as they spoke to me. Everyone was created with the strong desire to be known, to be recognized, and to be celebrated. Those of us who have families (immediate, extended, friends, church family) are blessed to live with this need met. Let us strive to love others the way they were created to be loved. Let us love others so that they may know that Christ loves them. It is no wonder why the Bible mentions time and again that the greatest is love. Praise God!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Community of Love and Care

Community of love and care
The shell speaks don't you dare
But underneath the intimidation
Is a beautiful creation.

Underneath the hurt and struggle
There is a small bubble
Of hope that's been plagued with rejection
Even filled with infection
Is there someone who can heal?
Who can peel
The layer of destruction
And fill it with God's love and grace?

It is an enormous challenge that man cannot face alone
When the human heart, when the bubble is turned into stone
The power and love of the Holy Spirit comes in the form of hug
And then begins to melt away the pain
Holy Spirit comes as rain
The tears are flowing
The light is showing

Love comes in many colors, love shines.
It is divine.
Christ love is what changes stones into love.
Christ love is what changes infection into perfection.
Christ love comes
And builds
A community of love and care.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Somoan Neighbors

One of our favorite things about Barberry is enjoying the diversity of culture, specifically when it involves food. A Pineapple Pie from some Somoans in the community was delicious! They have such beautiful families that we all have bonded with in one way or another - be it discussions with the adults or hanging out with their kids. Even though they are going through some economic hardships, they always have a story to tell and something to laugh about.

I love coming home and chatting with our Somoan neighbors. It always brings a smile to my face

Sunday, August 23, 2009

God comes through!

When we are in are most trying times, it almost always seems as if God comes through. This should come as no surprise, but for some reason it usually does, at least to me. When"we are week, He is strong."
The last few months have been trying, as others have shared, we are discovering that being here for the long haul takes more commitment then we "expected." We always talk about having no expectations of what will happen, but they slip in some how. It seems the more I try to make something as simple as playing disc golf with a neighbor happen the more I fail. If the key point of being here is to develop relationships then why is it so hard I have often asked myself.....Well this last week God allowed for some awesome relationship building. After months of trying to get together with one of our neighbors it happened. The guy actually took the initiative and planned it out for us almost! And we were able to play Disc golf and talk about Christ(thanks to one of the dudes here with the gift of evangelism). We are looking forward to doing this again this coming week. Praise God!
Also, God has really been opening doors with the neighbors who live below us. Friday night I was able to play catch with the dads that live there and that opened doors for lots of relationships and conversations to take place over the rest of the weekend. It is amazing how God comes in at just that right time and reminds us that HE alone is in control!
Thans for you prayers! May God richly bless you in his grace and mercy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Backyard Bible Blast!

Just over a week ago we had a big group from Clear Creak Community Church put on a Backyard Bible Blast at Barberry village (that's some nice alliterations!). It was a great spin on the typical VBS. Instead of bringing neighbors to their building (they don't even have a building anyhow, they meet in a gym of a local school), they brought games, music, crafts, food, fun, relationship, and the Gospel TO the community.

We all felt like it was a huge success. The kids were comfortable, and many adults wandered over during the story/worship time. For those of us that live there, it was a perfect context to go deeper and more intentional in the relationships with families. Many of the Clear Creekers have (and plan to continue) contributing to the regular community meals at Barberry as well.

Enjoy some pictures:

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Trying Time

It is hard to believe, but the Barberrian Villagers are nearing their one year anniversary of serving and living at Barberry Village. The year has been full of challenges, excitement, and all the complicated yet wonderful things living in an intentional community could bring.

Like most relationships and things in life, the first six months were full of wonder and exploration, everything seemed new and fulfilling. Challenges were faced head on and energy was strong. The second six months, the energy slowly declined, especially when clear obstacles appeared.

So now, we are near the one year point, the point where we must ask ourselves - what are we doing, why are we doing it, and where are we hoping to go from here?

As we ponder this, and many of us wrestle with burnout and whether or not this is a worthwhile endeavor - whether or not this is where Christ can best use us - we must refocus.

What is the point of this? As a romantic relationship initiates, it is often sweet and full of suprises, give it time and it becomes the norm, becomes comfortable and can sometimes lose its excitement factor. I believe this happens in ministry too.

We are at a point where Barberry is no longer a new ministry. We've been doing it for a while, we have seen the good and the bad. Are we willing to continue living how we have and continue building relationships with our neighbors? Chances are nothing new will happen, no big breakthoughs for a while, perhaps some more dissapointments. Maybe we wont see fruit in areas we really want to see it in - will we continue?

As Paul traveled from church to church, and saw many things not where they should be, he didn't give up. He carried on. We may not see fruit immediately, we may not see fruit for months, years. Maybe not for a lifetime. How discouraging, it would seem. But are we living to see the fruit or are we living for the sake of the gospel? Are we willing to carry on and trust that God is working beyond what we can see?

As every happily married couple of many years says, sticking through the stale and difficult parts only leads to deeper and more meaningful relationship. It may be frustrating to push through the normal part of it, the part that becomes regular and mundane, but perhaps sticking through these times leads to something more beautiful than what can be seen instantly.

These are challenging questions and feelings. As we wrestle with the direction our lives are taking, what our goals are, we need all the prayer we can get. Please pray for the Barberrian Villagers and what we are all wrestling with as we prepare to enter the second year of living here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Quinceanera Preparations Under Way in the Community

Elena and I arrived home after my night class to see a crew of 15-20 youth dancing in unison under the strict guidance of an anxious mother and father. One of my past students from Davis Elementary wandered by with her friends and I asked them what it was for. "Getting ready for a Quinceanera!" she exclaimed!

We had the joy of sitting out side on this beautiful Portland summer evening; watching in awe and mingling with a crowd of our neighbors.

The one in the pink blouse is the excited girl of honor:

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Joy and Beauty of Community

I have come to relish in the joy and treasure the beauty of the community that has grown here at Barberry.

I can go outside at just about any hour of any day and run into someone I know. All I have to do is go outside with a football and I can almost guarantee that there is someone i can toss a ball around with.

I went outside yesterday even after I got home from work and started doing just this. Within 5 minutes there were 6 other kids and a handful of adults tossing around a football and just having a great time together. Over the course of the hour that ensued 3 other adults walked by with whom I would step away from the game and just chat and catch up.

I am amazed at how all of this has grown within 6 months with the infusion of God's love compelling us to live in love and compassion.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Used PC Wanted:

We are trying to track down a used PC for a resident here at Barberry. Anyone looking to unload an XP/100Gig HD/1Gig RAM/2+Ghz/128+ Graphics Card/DVD/CD-RW?

His budget is a couple hundred. We're keeping a keen eye on Craigslist as well. Contact if you have any leads.

It just occurred to me that we could post these kind of want ads more often. What do ya'll think?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Anticipation for Summer and Excited by Involvement

It's been far to long.
  • Last Sunday we had our first outside community meal since last summer! Playing "500" with a bunch of middle schoolers until dark, face painting with little kids, chatting with my neighbors, loving, laughing, and living life to the fullest! It was a blast. I envision this summer being the most amazing summer of my life (Alright, getting married in June plays a large part in that one :P)
  • Community involvement with the local churches has been phenomenal! I am blown away by every group of brothers and sisters in Christ that host meals. They are so full of love and compassion. Every week I will step back and almost tear up at the site of my neighbors being drenched in God's love.
  • We had the opportunity to host 2 mission trips in the last couple months. It is so exhilarating to share an in depth explanation of our mission philosophy and involve them tangible in the patchwork of ministry that occurs here. But the awesome part is seeing young people be excited by and inspired by such a real and tangible example of living out Jesus calling on our life.
Easter tomorrow! It is my prayer the deep significance of the day will be magnified to our community by our actions and they would know the power of God's love!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Brief Update

As previously noted, the past two months of 2009 have been full of wonder and amazement as God continues to reveal His work, glory, and guidance for Barberry. Because of the open hearts, two Bible studies have been started - a group Bible study and a one-on-one. These Bible studies have yielded to much interesting discussion with both believers and non. We've also been able to go to Clear Creek Community church with Mandie, our dear sister who will be baptized this upcoming Sunday (pictures are definitely to come)! Mandie also inspired a Women's Scrapbooking group to start - although we've only met twice (because we meet once a month), the times have been blessed and the group is growing.

As God continues working in our hearts and in the people around us, we are constantly reminded that prayer is very important and that all of our strength comes from Him. Please pray for Barberry - for us. Specifically so the Lord will continue guiding and giving His wisdom and revelation. As we continue on in these Bible studies, very interesting and difficult questions will continue to rise - many of which we are learning about ourselves in our walks. It is refreshing to hear the questions and thoughts of people who have not lived in the culture of the church all their lives. Please pray so the Lord will give us wisdom and boldness when answering the difficult questions we may have become numb to.

Also for the residents, please pray so hearts will continue to be softened. There is a woman I've met who has encountered a lot of death in the past two months. Two of her close friends died, one of which was a suicide. She came to a meal once and was eager to get involved, but since the deaths of her friends, her and her husband have stayed in their apartment. My prayer is that they will be comforted and their hearts will be softened to receive Christ's love.

Thanks so much for everyone who has been supporting Barberry in both prayer and time.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A little catching up!

As the World around us becomes more and more a place of fear and no hope, I thought I would share some of the ways we are still seeing HOPE in Barberry. I am continually reminded of the words of Jesus " the harvest is ready, but the workers are few." It seems this is still true today! Over the last month we have watched as God has opened doors to show is love and also to teach of His grace and Mercy.....the reason we are here. We have been able to go to the next step in our desire for reaching our neighbors and that is having them into our homes and being real with them so Lord willing they will trust us and more so TRUST in our savior. Praise God with one lady this has happened. Not of anything we have done, but by the Grace of God. Praise God that he allowed ladies to meet with her, prayer with her, have Bible studies with her and as a result of workers being faithful we now have a sister in Christ!
How does this relate to the verse of "few workers"? There is an opportunity for believers everywhere of all ages to make an impact in their neighborhood all you have to do is reach out...actually be the worker. It is easy for us to stay at home and forget about our neighbor who is hurting, in need of hope. As our world continues to nose dive into a depression or whatever may happen Christians must become workers who are ready to go! Ask God were you need to go? Be willing to do what he says, and remember the words spoken to Joshua in chapter 1 BE STRONG AND VERY COURAGEOUS!
Blessings my friends!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Lot of Firsts!

As mentioned by Josh in the previous post, we had our first homicide - double homicide in fact (Article 1 & 2). It was a stark reminder of the brokenness of the world around us, and an evern deeper reminder of the need for God's love and redemption in each of our lives. This event also caused quite a commotion for all of us, and provide some very healthy dialog during our weekly community meal; which brings us to some more positive firsts.

We had our first community meal that was prepared by one of the residents. But this is not just any resident - this resident is an authentic Cuban chef. He prepared a pork and vegetable soup. Everyone unanimously loved the meal! Yes everyone, which leads me to our next first.

The community meal was the first to have such a diverse sampling of residents. Mexicans, Americans, Cubans, African Americans, Russians, and beyond I'm sure. But it was not only diverse in culture, but equally diverse in age. Everything age group was accounted for from infant to grandparents.

Also, props to my (Metropolitan Family Services) supervisor at Davis Elementary who baked up 40+ bags of cookies to hand out to residents when we went door to door with invitations to the community meal. The arctic blast delayed bags from being handed out until after Christmas, but after the homicide it was a much needed warm gesture of love.

Our final first was the Womans Scrapbooking Club that Elena is leading up. There are many residents that are interested and is an awesome opportunity for connecting, sharing life, loving each other, and building community! The plan is for it to be the first Sunday afternoon of each month.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A reality check!

As the year starting winding down and the anticipations for a new year and new adventure began to build an event took place that caused for a serious reality check in my life. As you may have seen on the news at around 8:00pm 12-31-08 a man was shot and killed at Barberry Village apt. This is the place we have chosen to make our home. A place were we ask others to come and serve the Lord, and his children on a weekly basis. Why do we do this? Well, it is so that some day lord willing we will no longer hear of Rockwood being the ghetto, the place were it is common place for a man to be shot! Last night as I stood at the police tape unable to drive my car out of our complex because it would cross the crime scene I was reminded, I am not here to sleep, eat and be merry. I am at Barberry because people need Jesus and they need to learn his love for life. I do not know what the next month may hold or what the dynamics of our meal this Sunday will be in lew of this murder but, I do know that Christ died for that man regardless of what his life style was! I pray that we can show an example of Christ to our neighbors and be a witness in this un-certain time.