New chances. New life. New futures.

February 23, 2011

By Kevin Sinclair, Minister to Youth

I’ve seen two things recently on which–I think–God wants me to reflect. These two events represent, on one hand, the paradoxical spectrum of work that we ministers do from time to time.

First off, let me say, have you ever had one of those weeks where you had like three things you HAD to get done, and by Thursday you realize, due to other metaphorical fires that need extinguishing (Tom Ehlers, a firefighter, is one of my all-star youth leaders, so I feel as though I should specify the figurative, imaginary nature of MY fires), you have not done any of those tasks? Yep. That is what I am talking about.

Armed with a cup of coffee and the best intentions, I set out to complete my task: DiscipleNOW logistics, an exhaustive email to Host Homes and Leaders, and Curriculum, Curriculum, Curriculum! In the words of the great poet, Meatloaf…two outta three ain’t bad…right?

As the morning rolled along and I crafted my emails and work, like Michelangelo if he had an Apple Laptop and was writing emails, and I received a distressing email from my beloved former church colleague, now turned city-wide colleague, the always marvelous, Chelsea Wade, who is now doing extraordinary development work over at SEARCH Homeless Service. It was the day of their GED Graduation service, and Erin Conaway was commissioned to offer the invocation. The pianist for the service canceled at the last minute, and they needed not only a keyboardist, but a keyboard itself. Fortunately, the ever-resourceful Thomas Coker had an extra electronic keyboard in his office that he allowed me to take to Chelsea. After dropping off this relic from 1994 of an instrument (Hey, it played notes at least!), I left SEARCH. A hour later, poor, sweet Chelsea discovers that her now back-up keyboardist has canceled, and asks if I can bring my guitar and play a little. Erin and I rush to my house where my trusty guitar, affectionately named Hudson by my friend Chris August, the previous owner, and I see my new accordion. “Hmm, I wonder…” I pick up my accordion and play, without a blemish the first half of pomp and circumstance, and then fumble through a few notes. Surprising as it might seem, I am not so bold and brash to carry an instrument I can barely play (I am getting there, but not quite yet!), to a graduation service and blare out tunes on my accordion (Yet to be named, btw).

We arrive to the service, and in walk the graduates. Two young men enter from the back wearing green graduation robes and hats, followed by many others who are being promoted to the next level within the program. As the teachers and also Mike Feinberg who started KIPP and Yes Prep (If you don’t know what these are, google them) rose to spoke, a sense of affirmation and pride swelled in the room. I can’t speak for everyone else in the room, but the dining area at SEARCH, for that moment at least, became holy ground…a place of second, third, fourth, possibly even seventy times seven chances…a place of resurrection and salvation. One woman rose to tell her story, a story of abuse, addiction, failure, and ultimately victory and redemption. She ended by saying, as simply as I have ever heard, yet more profoundly than all my seminary classes combine, “When I was going through recovery, my sponsor always said, ‘I know it’s hard, but with God all things are possible.'”

New chances. New life. New futures. Who could ask for more for these young men?

So as I right this on a cold evening, I took my youth bowling at Palace Bowling Lanes. To match the standard Kid’s Night Out format, we were scheduled to be at Palace Lanes from 6:30 to 10:00 bowling. In case you have not done the math, that’s 3 1/2 hours of being in the same place with a gaggle of middle schoolers and high schoolers. Now, faithful blog reader, if I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’…our group two years ago would have after about 2 hours started fussing about how bored they were or just left…but not this group. Our youth group has gone through some major maturation and evolution in the past two and a half years I have been here. It takes time to knit community, and God is doing that with us on a day to day basis. Tonight, I was absolutely floored at the camaraderie, patience, love, enthusiasm, and joy that just permeated our five lanes. Everyone being cheered for when they knocked down even one pin, and then encouraged on every gutterball.

I told some of my leaders, “Look at this. They just love each other!” The drama, cliques, and junk all left at the door…high schoolers and middle schoolers playing together and just living life and loving every second of it. I struggle a great deal to think how I can make this group closer and better.

Am I one good curriculum or night of worship away from becoming exactly who God has created us to be? I think not. I think we are, in fact, already exactly who God created us to be, but the beauty with how God sees workmanship is that the work is never complete. We are all at once whole and perfectly formed, and broken, longing for repair.

What do these stories have to do with each other. Maybe nothing at all. Maybe everything. What seems to amaze me the most about how God does whatever it is that God does is that so often the most beautiful, holy, sacred moments in life are the ones that we don’t orchestrate…we just show up with our guitar to make some music or we buy a couple of pizzas and God takes those meager offerings and before we know it, we stand in the presence of the Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.


Grace around the table…by Cleavy McKnight

November 5, 2010

By Cleavy McKnight, South Main Member

On the evening of December 23rd, 2009, South Main hosted a dinner in the church gym for some of our less-fortunate midtown neighbors. Church members prepared delicious barbecue, and many South Main members spent the afternoon and evening preparing plates of meats, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and dessert. The line of guests snaked its way out the door of the Activity Center and down the sidewalk to the street. We served over 100 visitors.

While the warm meal was doubtless appreciated, there was another aspect of the event that, I believe, was even more significant to our guests. Members of the South Main family sat at the tables with our guests during dinner. We listened to their stories and shared some of our own. We talked and laughed and shed a few tears. For that evening, we made our guests a part of our family.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the evening was the broad range of South Main members who participated, from children in elementary school all the way up to senior adults. Our visitors learned that South Main is a place of people who care. Our members were reminded of the grace we have received, and the joy of sharing that grace in the simplest of ways. We recalled Christ’s words that “whenever you have done these things for one of the least of these, you have done these things for me.”

As the meal ended, we gave our guests small backpacks, packed leftovers for them to take away and share, and gave them warm sleeping bags to combat the night chill. With gratitude, they shook our hands. With hugs, and a few more tears, we accompanied them back out onto the streets.

I thought about the many blessings I have received – blessings unearned, blessings given me through grace. I thought about what my children might have learned from joining in the evening’s meal and fellowship. I prayed that our visitors had felt, and would continue to feel, “our love, our care, our kinship, and our hopes.” I gave thanks for grace received, and for the joy of grace shared.

I look forward to new opportunities for this mission-minded church to give grace.

Give Grace.


Give Grace…by Hart Brupbacher

November 2, 2010

By Hart Brupbacher, South Main Member

On Sunday mornings I am a part of South Main extending God’s grace to the homeless community through the Manna Ministry. We provide a warm welcome, a friendly and caring ear to prayerfully listen, a little food and coffee, a bag of essentials (like soap, razors, sewing kits and other miscellaneous essential items), and a brief devotional that includes reading a Bible passage and providing a brief commentary on the passage. Every week we touch the lives of between 20 and 50 homeless people.

We give the gift of true caring and in return we often receive a gift grace. An example: a conversation that has become permanently engraved in my memory. One of the men told me that at one time he had a much better life than he has now. Things turned bad, and he found himself homeless and on the street. Then he shared this insight: “Everything that has happened to me is a result of my own choices. I know that I’ve done wrong, and I know what I need to do to change. I pray to God for the strength to make the change”. His honesty, insight and faith seemed to provide a lesson many of us need to hear: a wonderful perspective and a gift of grace to me.

Our pastor, Steve Wells, sometimes says that “the ground is level at the base of the cross”. My experiences in the Manna ministry are proving that to be true – as we share grace (each of us both giving and receiving grace).

Give Grace.

 


Sharing Our Stories….. Hart Brupbacher

April 21, 2010

By Hart Brupbacher, South Main Member

Hart and Linda Brupbacher are both members of the Discipleship Committe.  Hart sings in the Sanctuary Choir and Linda teaches Sunday School to our Young and Median Adults.

During the year we spent looking for a church home, Linda and I went to many different churches. We visited South Main for the first time in August. The mountain of shoes that greeted us as we entered the Welcome Center told us that South Main is a church focused on missions and helping people in need. We proceeded to the church service where the special offering taken to help provide water for Houston’s homeless further reinforced South Main’s mission emphasis.  The missions emphasis was appealing to us.

Equally appealing was the warmth and friendliness we encountered as well as the theology we heard expressed and saw lived out. We visited Sunday School, and one of the first Sundays we were invited to go to lunch after church. We found the worship service to be very meaningful and Steve’s sermons to be thoughtful, challenging, and inspirational. Steve spent time with us discussing our beliefs and helping us figure out that South Main would be a good fit for us. After only a few weeks, we joined–and our lives have really changed in a positive way because of that decision.

We are constantly amazed by the way the family of South Main has embraced us. The Christian fellowship and friendships that we have encountered in our Sunday School Community, South Main at Home groups and choir have been a wonderful experience. Through some potential health problems we found out that we do not have to travel the road alone – we have a family at South Main who will be with us and support us in the journey. We also have friend to celebrate with us.

At South Main we’ve found friendship, service opportunities, meaningful growth and worship opportunities and much needed support—all of which make us really glad we are a part of this family of faith and totally comfortable recommending South Main to others.

We are never more like Jesus than when we SHARE…. As we learn to share our stories, we learn to share our faith…

Share Campaign 2010


Sharing Our Stories

April 10, 2010

Joseph Kelsay, Soutth Main Baptist Church Member

By Josephy Kelsay, South Main Baptist Church Member

When I was on my way to Houston, there was no direction for this hopeless addict, only pain and misery. I came on a whim, after speaking to a counselor at a homeless shelter; this poor soul hopped a bus to Houston, TX. Sure there was a relationship with God. I talked to Him daily, but possessed no strength nor had I acquired deliverance from spirits that oppressed me. Faith was the only thing that kept me going. Christ said, “I go before you to prepare a place.”

In Houston, under orders from my counselor, I had to join a church. A friend invited me to South Main Baptist Church. I had no idea what was in store for me. God’s servants were strategically placed right behind me in church; there to show the love that God so wants humanity to have for each other. In my mind, I’m hoping that they see the markings in my Bible. I’m proud of what I know even though it wouldn’t fill a thimble. These angels, to this day I can’t remember who they are, they saw alright, yet they saw more than some underlined verses. They saw a child of God visiting this congregation. I’ve never seen two ladies so happy to love on me. That precious moment is engraved in my mind for eternity and when the roll is called again, I will meet these two messengers of grace and love and I will stand there with them in the presence of our Lord and Savior.

There is so much about South main that I love I could fill a book with experiences I’ve had in just this last year. South Main is my home, my church, my family, and I wouldn’t change one thing in my past that caused me to be right here, right now.

We are never more like Jesus than when we SHARE….   As we learn to share our stories, we learn to share our faith…

Share Campaign 2010 – Learn more at smbc.org/share


Manna…it’s good Church

March 5, 2010

By Erin Conaway, Associate Pastor

I went to a luncheon for SEARCH this week—that’s an organization here in midtown that was started by several congregations (South Main was one of them) many years ago to help the homeless in a variety of ways.  It’s a great organization and you can read more about them on their website.  At the luncheon we watched a video and one of the clients was sharing his story and he talked about being married and having a home and all the things you would think comprise a “normal” life and then his marriage fell apart and he got a divorce and he said, “After my divorce…I just sank into myself.”  It brought tears to my eyes to hear him articulate his depression so poetically and vividly.  He found at SEARCH a welcoming place and it changed his life.

Every Sunday morning, we gather in the North Parking lot, out by our tower on Main Street and we engage in a ministry we call “Manna.”  Basically, we meet with our homeless sisters and brothers to share a cup of coffee and our stories.  We talk about our prayer requests and we pray together.  We share a reading from Scripture and we sing “Amazing Grace.”  We also pass out “manna bags” that have things to eat now or later—crackers and peanut butter, granola bars and a bottle of water and sometimes a new pair of socks—when you’re homeless, new socks feel incredible!

Manna comes from the story in the Bible when the Israelites were wandering around in the dessert all grumpy about missing watermelon back in Egypt where they were slaves and God told them that God would take care of them and when they woke up in the mornings there would be this stuff on the ground that they called manna which basically means “what is it?” and they could gather up enough for the day and cook it and eat it.  God told them not to save any of it except on the day before the Sabboth, because they needed to learn to trust that God would provide.  So each day, they would wake up and there’s all this manna around to make flatbread for the journey.  God threw in some quail too, but that’s another story.  So they found what they needed in this serendipitous blessing of the morning.

That’s what we find at Manna on Sunday mornings.  We don’t call it that because we’re giving people enough stuff to get them through a day—although that is true.  We call it manna because we, both the people here at the church who participate and our homeless neighbors find enough in our fellowship to get us through another day.  It is truly beautiful and surprising and a wonderful way to start a Sunday—with the serendipitous blessing of meeting our neighbors and sharing life together…it’s good Church.

www.innerloopchurch.com


God’s Hand Revealed – By Carol Shattuck

October 30, 2009

5 Shattuck I0004230In July 2008, my husband, Dave, and I taught a Sunday School class lesson, titled, Jesus Christ – Master Communicator. The lesson was about the incredible skills Jesus displayed when communicating with “outcasts” of his day, as well as the Pharisees and his disciples. When Jesus talked with the outcasts – people with leprosy, people with mental disorders, the sick and the poor — his goal was to accept them and love them, heal them and to give them “sight.” He did something that was profound to the recipient: he looked at them, listened to them, and touched them. He met them where they were, did not judge them and created an opportunity for them to change their lives.

At a point in the lesson when participants were asked to share with the group an experience of personally reaching out to someone in need or of observing such a situation, Jaclanel McFarland shared with the group what was happening on Sunday morning at Peggy’s Point Park in Houston. She and Keith had been stopping at the park on their way to church and talking with the people that appeared to be sleeping at the park. Over time, what had been coffee and a conversation with a few people had expanded to sharing breakfast with 20-30 people followed by a short worship service including singing, scripture and prayer.

A few weeks later, I stopped Jaclanel and Keith and asked about what they were doing at Peggy’s Point and whether they needed any more volunteers. They invited Dave and me to join them on Sunday morning at the park. We began assisting them the next Sunday, helping with serving breakfast, talking with the people and participating in the worship. The numbers grew and by the spring, we were meeting, serving and worshiping with over 120 people on Sunday mornings.

In February 2009, we began distributing cards and pencils for people to write down a prayer request while they were waiting in line for breakfast. Those who chose to do this turned their cards in when they got to the head of the line. Their prayer requests spoke of their daily challenges with joblessness, drug addiction, problems with relationships, fears for their unborn child and illness. Even in their dire circumstances, some focused on the needs of others – family members, friends, the poor, our country’s leaders. Some offered up praise for their first steps toward sobriety and for the food that morning.

What I found most Sunday mornings, is that my faith was strengthened by the utter dependence many of the homeless had for God to provide their next meal, shelter from the elements, protection from harm. Many knew and understood how their choices had contributed to their circumstances, others saw themselves as victims. I often wondered aloud to God, if I had had the same challenges in my life with respect to family instability, poor education, negative community surroundings, what my life would be like today. Without a doubt, most of our Peggy’s Point friends appreciated an opportunity on Sunday mornings to be a part of a community where people would look you in eye, shake your hand, welcome you and pray for your recovery.

While we are in the midst of reinventing the homeless ministry at South Main, I trust that its new iteration will give more South Mainers an opportunity to see God hand revealed to us through the simple offer of a listening ear, a hand outstretched in welcome and a willingness to offer prayer for a new beginning.