Seeing is Believing

Posted: September 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

When you teach, preach, speak at most places of worship the speaker expects there is an unspoken rule that he/she will not have unplanned interaction with the crowd. It’s a known thing in church circles that this type of setting isn’t set up for Q&A. Those rules don’t apply when you take that setting to our address. A very small number of the churched come to this space.

I was preaching a message about how God doesn’t want us happy when it’s based on things that aren’t life-giving. While in the midst of breaking down this reasoning I had a verbal interruption. “Pastor” was yelled from the back of the room, “can I ask something”. It was a man who regularly attended our Friday gathering. He proceeded to ask, “Would God be ok if someone stole something to be happy?” Although many folks would stifle this threat to reach the destination of their sharing truth in love, I decided to navigate the unknown.  I have entered into a place where there is no guarantee how things will end.

The man told a story about how he and someone else were just at the store and while in the store that other person stole a can of sardines. He said the store owner was irate and contacting the police plus banning this person from the store for life. He proceeded to tell me that the person was in the church right now. I have never seen 40 something heads turn and look around so quickly. He then asked for the person to get up and go make things right. I intervened and suggested maybe we stop to pray through the decision they made and place themselves in the storekeeper’s shoes.

I then got back to my train of thought and finished the message. As sometimes it happens, a few people will come up after we conclude for prayer, requests or questions. A man who I knew hadn’t been homeless long looked at me and said: “It was me who stole the sardines.  I was hungry, had no money and didn’t know any place that had food today.” I enquired, ” Don’t you think if you had asked we would have found something?” He agreed he was wrong and should have asked. I asked him how much the sardines were, at that moment the man who had called him out interrupted us, “They were $1.59 and she called the cops”. I reached into my pocket and handed the man $1.75 and told him to go pay the store keeper and ask for forgiveness. He immediately headed for the store. The man who called out the offender said, “Pastor Tom you are one of the most beautiful, caring humans I know” as he wrapped my head in his arms. As I left his embrace I said with all honesty, “That isn’t my reaction, that’s only happened since I met Jesus.” He said, “But I don’t believe in Jesus”. I replied, “You should reconsider because you just saw him.”

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We meet many different folks here at theVieux.com. Every person is a story and we have heard some amazing and heartbreaking ones. Some are even true. We met Lefty about six weeks ago. He came in on a train car,  hair ragged,  unshaven and dirty. He looked at the ground most of the time. He was traveling with a girl he met in Texas which he didn’t like. We are getting him therapy for that, I’m from Texas.  We now know his name is Matt. If you think that hope is lost because  things have happened in your life listen to Matt”s story.
Matt grew up without a mom. His dad was full Colonel in the military and was raised in a home with much structure but never many words of “I love you”. Matt wanted to be like his dad, his hero. He joined the marines and did three tours in the Iraqi war. He saw death and spent time on the front line raiding enemy cities. He also lost part of his left hand,  hence the name Lefty.
Matt was married and had two young girls at home. He was in shock when he returned to find his wife had divorced him and married his best friend.  Evidently they can’t tell you while you are out in battle for obvious reasons.
That in itself should have been enough to cause a spiral into deep depression. After returning home and only seeing his daughters on weekends,  his ex-wife overdosed on heroin and died. Matt got custody of his two girls and for the next couple years he spent his days being a full-time dad. Two years ago on Thanksgiving he let his daughters go and visit their aunt . On the way to her house a semi crossed the road hitting the aunt’s car.  Matt’s girls, their cousins and aunt we are all pronounced dead on the scene. It seemed things could not get any worse in life but they did. Matt’s dad had retired as a full Colonel but had no purpose now that the military was over because it was his life. His dad took his own life and now Matt had lost all the family he knew.

Matt couldn’t stay in his paid for house any longer so he packed a backpack and walked away. He drifted from Milwaukee through the country by train until he reached New Orleans. Matt came to our shower day and we invited him to worship with us. He came to church and we did the only thing we knew to do. We loved him as we have been loved by Jesus. We prayed over him,  fed him and started to build a relationship with him. Matt fell into the New Orleans norm. We would find him drunk and out of his mind in the street. We continued to love him and encourage him. Matt had started a relationship with Christ in middle school and we had talked about that. He still believed in God and trusted Christ was his friend. He had lost all hope things would or could get better.
Matt began to show up more and more at the Vieux. He composed himself and sobered up realizing there was no hope there either. We shared that holding on and trusting in this world is the toughest thing you will ever do. A couple of days later Matt was sitting on the river, a man passing by began talking with him. Their talk led from thing to another. He told Matt he owned a blueprint and design firm in the CBD. Matt mentioned he had a degree in CAD drawing and just then the man asked Matt to come and apply at the firm. Matt came to the church to share about the strange meeting. We took Matt for a full high and tight haircut and a shave. We went shopping and found him some dockers and button up shirts, dress shoes and belt. You wouldn’t even recognize this guy if you had met him before. Matt went to the interview and got the job. He finished his first project,  a redesign on the Court of Two sisters on Bourbon. Matt now has his own office. His boss still hadn’t figured out Matt was homeless and lived in a squat. We have helped Matt find secured living space at a rehabilitation ministry we know in the city. The last night in his squat a young man overdosed there on heroine and died. We stowed him away here until we could find a reasonable place. Matt has been with us every time we meet to fellowship since he first came. He is going with us to a block party outreach in the Desire projects this weekend along with a few other homeless believers we know and love. Gods love is phenomenal and when we hang onto His hope there is nothing that can’t be overcome. He gets all the credit. Sorry for the long post but the stories are piling up in my head and even now I’m behind to chase students to mission sites and grocery shop. Pray for us that we will be His reflection of hope to those who have lost it.

Wisdom is priceless

Posted: April 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

We never know when the door bell rings at 711 Dauphine who or what situation may be standing outside. Many times I am reminded what God has given me as we listen to stories. Brittany was much like many people we meet who have made decisions that put them in a desparate situation.

 She had ,like many people, decided New Orleans sounded like a fun place that had many opportunities. So why was this twenty something from the Woodlands now broke, on the street with a two year old, with no  identification. She had lasted a whole three weeks and of course her boyfriend was busy doing something else while she knocked on doors and begged for help. Thankfully she had family on their way to rescue her but not before she had to start dancing on Bourbon St to get food money. We try and handle every situation as best we can full of grace and wisdom. We got Brittany and Tyrin (in the midst of terrible two’s) a place to stay since mom was on her way to pick them up the next day.

 Everytime I listen to a story here I am reminded I have been saved from not only some terrible consequences but from myself thanks to trusting in Gods grace . I am glad Gods love is practical and He provides us with wisdom to know what is truly good when we ask and trust Him.

James 1:5 If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it.

God has planned good works for us to walk in not self inflicted painful ones so ask Him for wisdom and walk in it.

tom

The View from the Vieux

Posted: April 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

I always told myself I would never get involved with blogs or blogging then my whole world was turned upside down. I have spent the majority of my life in a small north Texas town. In October of 2011 my family and I moved 711 Dauphine St. New Olreans, LA one block from Bourbon St in the French Quarters. I pastor a church here after much debating with God about it.

These stories or entries are what daily life here looks like a block from one of the most notorious streets in America living in a church all that comes with that.  After telling a few people what we encountered they told me I should document our expereiences. Hence Christians are strange.