Archive for October, 2011

October 24, 2011

Heart Check


This heart felt article comes from our intern, Jessi. God bless her for her love of Jesus and of street youth. If you want to be an intern, we have openings this Spring, Summer and Fall! Read more at internship.StreetYouthMinistry.org.

This past week I walked up on a conversation I did not expect to walk up on. A couple of youth, whom I believed have their minds made up about Christianity and to be anti-God, were talking about the God-man himself. They were discussing their past experiences with religion- particularly in relation to their parents- and how they came to believe what they currently do.I sat down quietly, only half-heartedly listening and not expecting to contribute anything to the conversation. Soon enough, however, one of the youth asked me, “So why do YOU believe in God?”

I found myself shocked. I was not only ill-prepared in the moment to answer the question, but what convicted my heart even more was that even after I composed myself and spent a little time thinking about how to answer the question, I simply did not know the answer. The conversation continued along the lines of me responding, “Without God I have no purpose… blah blah… I am nothing without God…. because he is fully worthy…. Blah blah…. Because I refuse to believe that the hell on earth is the end-all.” There is truth to every word I said, however my heart told me it was not enough.

The youth replied, shrugging her shoulders, “Yep. That is what every ‘Christian’ says.” My argument was that God shows himself genuine and true in all Christians having the same response, because God is the same to everyone. I added that it is not a script Christians babble off when asked that question, rather it is truth from the heart. The youth did not believe it, and–to be honest–I am not sure I believed it either.

The street youth pressed on with “I know why Christians believe in God, but why do YOU?” I quickly pulled out my personal “raised from death to life” story that includes struggle with sickness, change, loss, and relational hurts. Even so, I felt unhappy with my lack of ability to provide examples of God’s goodness in my life and still, almost a week later, my heart is unsettled. I have an image of God, in response to my answer, cupping my chin, looking me in the eyes with sorrow saying, “Really, beloved? Have you still yet to understand?”

Tears well in my eyes as I realize how selfish and how blind I am even now after walking nine years with Jesus. Still, I am humbled yet again to remember that my belief in God has no relation to a purpose or identity I have gained, to a hope for more, or to the circumstances of my life. My belief in God has to do with GOD. Yes, I understand God by the way he relates to me, but this is not the bare end or even the core brunt of my belief. The reason I believe in God is because of who He has proven Himself to be inside my heart and not on what He has done on the outside.

I do not have words to explain, examples to prove, and enough scripture for apologetics because God exceeds all these things. As cliché as it sounds, I truly feel like the only way I can answer this question is with action and not words.

I am still struggling with knowing how to convey who God is to people whom the Holy Spirit has not settled in. I am still burdened to know what words I can use to convince non-believers that God is worthy, God is righteous, God is real, and God is good! But until I stumble upon such wisdom, here is my new answer to the question of why I believe in God:  “I believe in God because of God. Watch and learn…”  😉

"To know, love and serve street dependent youth."
Who We Serve   What We Do   Get Involved  Support Us   News  Publications  Ministry Needs   Speaking   Service Projects   Sign-up


Become a fan on Facebook!
Mobile? No problem: m.StreetYouthMinistry.org.
I'm a notary for benefit of clients and supporters. Ph: (512) 553-3796
Volunteer or donate (tax deductible) online
Arrange a meeting with me: tungle.me/terrycole

Follow SYM: Facebook LinkedIn Blog RSS Twitter Plaxo Etsy Etsy Blogger Google Buzz Tungle.me YouTube Google Plus

Latest blog: God Can Change People
Twitter Latest tweet: God loves you and has you! Just remember to do your part! http://t.co/9jGFRFTF

  Get this email app!  

October 18, 2011

God Can Change People


Street youth are considered by many to be homeless by choice—and some street youth will even agree with this. Almost all are, in point of fact, homeless because of profound loss of family. Perhaps they never had family. Perhaps their family was unable to care for them. Perhaps their family disintegrated. Perhaps it was better for the youth to leave than to stay in their family environment. And one of the first things street many youth find on the street is a new family.

 

It is our privilege to walk with about 80 to 100 street youth every week. We are not experts in how to fix or solve their problems. We are not experts in repairing their lives. We believe the youth are the experts in those respects.

 

We are, however, experts in the change process, which includes the roles that faith and God and Jesus can play in change.

 

Dsc06743

Youth identify problems in their lives, be it drug addiction, out-of-control rage, sexual and relationship confusion, a propensity to run away rather than face difficulty, an inability to be alone, an inability to trust anyone. We listen and help them find the strength to access and assess options. There are always options. It's a difficult process for them and for us, but it works over time.

 

Many youth struggle with rage problems and often work with us to learn and practice self-control. The rage may stem from some identified family crises that the youth were unable to navigate well. The youth often face some of those past issues through counseling, peer work, and just plain talking about it. Many youth work hard to develop more self-control—though not without mishap. After falling back into rage (in a very difficult situation), we hear things like these, marking much progress and growth:

  • It hurt me more than the person I did it to. I can't believe it. I'm not that person anymore. …
  • I never want to be that person again. So, I had to stop myself even if it wasn't soon enough. I had to run away. …
  • I was so sorry and miserable for days. I laid it before God and asked for forgiveness and strength. And then I had to come back and apologize. I won't be that person anymore.

Youth who choose to investigate faith as a resource access a powerful thing. God can change people. He does it every day.

"To know, love and serve street dependent youth."
Who We Serve   What We Do   Get Involved  Support Us   News  Publications  Ministry Needs   Speaking   Service Projects   Sign-up


Become a fan on Facebook!
Mobile? No problem: m.StreetYouthMinistry.org.
I'm a notary for benefit of clients and supporters. Ph: (512) 553-3796
Volunteer or donate (tax deductible) online
Arrange a meeting with me: tungle.me/terrycole

Follow SYM: Facebook LinkedIn Blog RSS Twitter Plaxo Etsy Etsy Blogger Google Buzz Tungle.me YouTube Google Plus

October 13, 2011

Street Youth and Death


Street youth have a closer relationship with death than most people their age. Death is only occasional, but certainly much more common than any mortality table would suggest. Last year, for example, we held memorial services for five clients who died in Austin. This year, so far, it has been four. We hear of many more deaths around the country of people we know, and many more of friends of friends. In addition, our clients’ photo albums on Facebook and Myspace clearly show they have lost a significant number of loved ones over the years.

100_1341

We are frequently contacted by clients upon the loss of a close friend, boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse with questions, or accusations concerning the role of religion in their loved-one’s death. The following are a few of the more common questions asked by believers and non-believers alike. These questions are usually generated by the realization that the faith world is somehow more real and more substantial than previously thought.  We address these questions with grief counseling and a listening ear.

"Is my friend asleep now or in heaven?" The Bible does use the word “sleeping” when talking about the dead, especially in the Old Testament and occasionally in the New Testament. However, I like to seek out the red letter words and see what Jesus says. For example, Jesus promised the repentant thief who died on the cross next to him that "this very day you will be in heaven.” Therefore, Jesus knew the man would not die or “sleep,” but go directly to heaven. The Bible also talks of two resurrections – an immediate spiritual resurrection in heaven, and then later, a bodily resurrection in connection with the end of time. This latter resurrection would consist of rebuilding  a new heaven and earth, and restoring God with his people.  With that said, I believe that someone who has a personal relationship with Jesus is immediately taken to heaven upon death, and that it's more magnificent than our imaginations could ever comprehend.

"How can you be a Christian and believe my friend went to hell? I hate you!" First, I don't know what happened to your friend. However, I do believe what the Bible says in terms of judgment. Although there are several views, I believe the one most compatible with your question is the one which describes Jesus as judge, and that all people come before Him for judgment. If that person's name is in the book of life (because they have a personal relationship with Jesus), then the process is over. That is, they are "in" no matter what they have done. However, if their name is not in the book, the person's life is judged by Jesus.  Although the Bible doesn't say specifically how that judgment is carried out, we can assume that it incorporates what we understand to be real and true from the Bible. It considers what is in your heart, and the intentions behind your actions and deeds. If Jesus finds you lacking, the consequences are dire – you are cast into hell. At the end of the day, all judging is done by Jesus – not me, or any other Christian, and a Christian who tells you that your friend is in hell is overstepping anything that he, or she can know to be true.

"Does this life matter on earth or is heaven the only life that matters?" What a great question. Certainly heavenly life matters, and we can find that easily in several places in the Bible. Jesus tells us that our earthly treasures don't matter at all – only heavenly treasures (which I believe to be relationships with people). God showed that the end of life isn't as tragic as we consider it to be. We recoil from the slaying of Job's good and upright family, but somehow God sees their life as full and complete and ends their lives early. We can call it callous and cruel, but I think it’s all a matter of perspective. However, if heavenly life were all that were important, why would God have created anything good on earth? Why would He have given us enjoyment and pleasure? Why would He have given us relationships, spouses, children, friends to enjoy? I think life on this earth matters a great deal to God. I think He is revealed through the beauty of nature, the good relationships we have on earth, the pleasures in life, and more. The Bible says that great things are coming in a new heaven and a new earth. Some believe that nothing good will come until then. However, when I read the bible, I don't see that as being the only truth. “Goodness” is not just for the future, but it is happening right now! When people form personal relationships with Jesus, they begin the process of restoring a new heaven and new earth today. When people respond to God's love and follow the good rules He has given us by which to live our lives (Love God with all your heart, mind and soul. Love your neighbor as I have loved you.), the future kingdom becomes more and more about the present as well as the future. Yes, there will be a cataclysmic time as described by the Bible when the Kingdom is dramatically completed, but times can be good now, but only if we follow Jesus and act accordingly.

"To know, love and serve street dependent youth."
Who We Serve   What We Do   Get Involved  Support Us   News  Publications  Ministry Needs   Speaking   Service Projects   Sign-up


Become a fan on Facebook!
Mobile? No problem: m.StreetYouthMinistry.org.
I'm a notary for benefit of clients and supporters. Ph: (512) 553-3796
Volunteer or donate (tax deductible) online
Arrange a meeting with me: tungle.me/terrycole

Follow SYM:

October 8, 2011

Ministry as Guide


This is an update from our fall intern, Jessi. She is making wonderful progress in learning how an urban, poverty-informed ministry operates. She is become secure in her role. She is learning how to know, love and serve street-dependent young people so they may come to know Christ! We have openings for the spring and summer!

In the last four and a half weeks of internship with Street Youth Ministry (SYM), I have moved from a “deer-in-the-headlights” phase, to an "trying hard" phase, and to the phase where I am in now: performing a consistent and purposeful role at SYM. Upon coming to the ministry, I found myself as an “ adviser.” When people spoke of their circumstances and problems, I always had something to say. Four weeks later, I am learning to use the great tool of listening and questioning–learning to guide street youth to find their own answers. I no longer feel as if I have to rack my brain for the perfect wisdom, but rather the words that come are more natural, life giving and long lasting.  

 

I have found strength and confidence in the role of being a guide. It has become such a joy to go to ministry every day knowing I have what it takes to minister to the street youth. The first weeks were “oh so questionable” for me because I felt like I had no experience and no tools to minister with. SYM intern training has been very helpful, and God has shown me that what I need most is the Holy Spirit. God has placed within YOU and me the abilities we need for every circumstance he calls us to. It is He who grows us in the abilities we yet do not yet know we possess. I know two things are true: “The will of God will not take you where the grace of God will not follow”; and “God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called.”

 

Ministry, careers, relationships, and all the opportunities that life presents to us are not limited by our abilities. Praise God for that! It is true for the street youth, too. However, they often feel limited because they lose touch with their God-given abilities. They feel limited and trapped by their feelings of uselessness, worthlessness, inability and weakness. We could also say that they are limited by LIES. For, they are absolutely made in the same image of God that you and I are and to say that they have no worth and no abilities is to say that our God is worthless, our God is unable, and our God is limited. We know this is not true. Our God HAS worth, He IS able, and He HAS NO limits. And because of this truth, Street youth also have no limits.

 

What they need are able vessels of God to guide them to the truth of who they are, to guide them to become knowledgeable of their strengths and abilities. Those vessels are you and I! The street youth, as well as others in our lives who see themselves as worthless and unable, are nothing less than beautiful and beloved. If we have the opportunity to place a mirror in front of them so that they can see their beauty with their own eyes, let us not delay any longer!

 

Not only do street youth have inherent beauty, worth, and abilities, but they also receive knowledge and resources to overcome the darkness, addictions, consequences of bad choices, and unfortunate circumstances of their lives. They do not need ministers of the Gospel to prescribe for them a list of resources or helpful hints; by the grace of God the resources and knowledge they need is already within them. What they do need, however, are ministers of the Gospel, good neighbors in our community, to act as magnets to point out and encourage such inherent abilities and to place that mirror in front of street youth so that they can see their beauty.  Those ministers are you and I!

 

Through it all, we pray, that then they will finally “taste and see that the Lord is good” [Psalm 24:8].

"To know, love and serve street dependent youth."
Who We Serve   What We Do   Get Involved  Support Us   News  Publications  Ministry Needs   Speaking   Service Projects   Sign-up


Become a fan on Facebook!
Mobile? No problem: m.StreetYouthMinistry.org.
I'm a notary for benefit of clients and supporters. Ph: (512) 553-3796
Volunteer or donate (tax deductible) online
Arrange a meeting with me: tungle.me/terrycole

Follow SYM: Facebook LinkedIn Blog RSS Twitter Plaxo Etsy Etsy Blogger Google Buzz Tungle.me YouTube Google Plus

October 5, 2011

Dramatic Relief of the Empty Tomb


Each week we hold an event for street-dependent young people in Austin called Chillin'. It includes a fellowship meal, Bible study, and prayer time. We have now taught each of the synoptic Gospels in two years of Bible study. Each week, we search for new and engaging ways to bring the Gospel to people who have long ago shut tightly the doors to church in their life. Street youth as a general rule are very disappointed in their experience of church. We always create a safe place where anyone can encounter the Word for themselves. We offer help in understanding but don't insist on any particular interpretation in our study. This has allowed all sorts of people to come to our event and feel welcome. We often use humour, games, discussion, and videos.

Empty_tomb_ragged

This past week, we asked our participants to act out in modern day some application of the Gospel found in Luke 24 1-12, the empty tomb scene. They made their own story lines. Here is what our two fantastic groups gave us:

Women's Group:

Two street youth are on their way to a camp of a homeless friend. They are taking beer and pot. They arrive and find the squat empty. "Where is our friend. She is always here. She is homeless and we can always count on her to be here! What has happened? How can this be?" Suddenly an angel appears, "Your friend is not here! She is no longer homeless. She is doing great. And you can find a home and do great, too!" The two friends abandoned their booze and pot and began to search for their friend!

Men's Group:

A drug dealer of the future is roaming the street of Austin looking for a buyer. He is selling some new-fangled type of crack, and it's the size of a bar of soap! A buyer come near, looking to score. They negotiate the price… 10,000 new something or anothers — some type of new dollars used on the street. Suddenly an angel appears and asks: "Why do you look in this low place for a high? It isn't here! You can get high on something that's free and never want this stuff again! You don't have to stay in this low place anymore!" The street youth threw away his drugs and began to seek this new substance.

"To know, love and serve street dependent youth."
Who We Serve   What We Do   Get Involved  Support Us   News  Publications  Ministry Needs   Speaking   Service Projects   Sign-up


Become a fan on Facebook!
Mobile? No problem: m.StreetYouthMinistry.org.
I'm a notary for benefit of clients and supporters. Ph: (512) 553-3796
Volunteer or donate (tax deductible) online
Arrange a meeting with me: tungle.me/terrycole

Follow SYM: