For those of you who aren't all that familiar with our new home town, there are large areas of abandoned housing, especially on the East side of the city. This is the area of Buffalo that is the most run-down, the poorest, and has problems with both drugs and violence. The West side also has some of these same problems, however, the West side doesn't have anywhere near as many abandoned houses, or empty lots left over from demolition.
We have been having a crazy time here these past months. As many of you now know, Sam and Dre have returned to Redding. We miss them still, but are glad that they are back with family and familiar settings. We also look forward to seeing you all in less than a month; we will be in Redding the end of August and the beginning of September!
We have been diving headlong into the relationships that we have established here and it has been a tremendous blessing. God has gathered a wonderful group of people. There are small business owners, college students, and street people; people of different ethnic groups, sexual orientations, and spiritual backgrounds; it makes for great conversation!
We continue to serve the local retirement home every Sunday morning. We show up and help serve coffee and snacks, spend time talking and listening, sometimes praying, with the residents, and then sing songs with the group. We have been serving in the kitchen at the City Mission monthly. At this point there have been a few people who have come and served along side us at these venues, but it seems that the church at large has yet to take ownership of this. Pray that God would spark people to serve the community and that we would be sensitive to that spark in people's hearts!
We have had some great Wednesday evening church 'services' in our living room. Most recently we tackled the topic of 'sexuality' which has been a hot topic as of late. We have a group that runs the gamit of sexual expression here and sex seems to be one of those topics of which our culture has little tolerance for what God has to say. We seem to have a group of people who are going to keep coming back no matter how many times they are told they must 'die to themselves;' this is very exiting! However, I believe that there is yet much that God wants to do in our community. Please pray that God would be speaking to people, calling them to drop everything and give their lives to Him!
We also have both a men's and a women's group that meet weekly to discuss a book. Both groups are seeing lively conversation, and this last week one of my co-workers showed up to the men's group. I was really encouraged by his response! We are looking into putting together a men's retreat with the Vineyard Church in Niagara Falls (about 20 minutes away), and I would appreciate your prayers toward this end.
I would love to entertain any of the questions you might have about what is going on here, feel free to post them or to email them to me...
...I will leave you with one last comment:
We have a young man who is struggling with what he believes about Jesus. He grew up in a very conservative Christian home but in the past few years has discovered homosexual desires within himself. He now is unsure of what he wants to live for. We have loved him for months now, and he is at our house several times a week (he is regularly at our Sunday morning outreach), but we have also had some very pointed heart-to-heart talks about what God says about healthy sexuality. The other night he told me that he thought we were doing church 'the right way' and that 'even though you don't agree with everything about me, you love me and accept me, you don't try and force me to be like you.' I was encouraged by what he had to say, and thought that you too would be encouraged to know that you have played a part in this young man's life.
I pray that you would have the privilege of helping those around you navigate this world, and that you would discover Jesus helping you as you do...