Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Great idea ...

From The Oklahoman on Wednesday, Oct. 26.

City seeks change in aid for homeless
By John Sutter
The Oklahoman

A program that encourages giving homeless people and panhandlers bus tickets to city shelters instead of cash kicked off today in downtown Oklahoma City.
The "Real Change, Not Spare Change" program is designed to prevent panhandlers from pocketing money they don't need or spending it on drugs and alcohol. Recipients can redeem specially printed vouchers only for a bus ride to one of three city shelters -- City Rescue Mission, Grace Rescue Mission or the Salvation Army.

There, they can get a free meal, a place to stay and other help, said Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance, a local advocate group for the homeless and one of the program sponsors.

"Oklahoma Citians are people who want to help; they're givers by nature," Straughan said. "We think the Real Change vouchers are just a healthier, smarter way to give that help."

Books of five $1 tickets are on sale at the alliance's Web site -- Dave Lopez, president of Downtown OKC Inc., said some downtown executives will sell tickets in office buildings. Additional downtown sales points are coming soon, he said.

Jerry Kraus, 45, sleeps in a field just south of Interstate 40 near downtown. He's homeless, wears three coats to keep warm and says he never has to ask for money. He supports the Real Change concept.

"Most people on the streets are into drugs and alcohol," he said. "You can get all the food you want at these places (shelters)."

If tickets aren't used on the city's bus system, then the money spent on the tickets will essentially become a donation to the Homeless Alliance, which is working to end homelessness in the city.

Lopez said panhandling and homelessness are not as large of a problem in Oklahoma City as in some other places. This program's trying to jump out "ahead of the curve" to help those in need, he said.

Straughan said there are about 1,500 homeless people on Oklahoma City streets and in shelters on any given night.

Black market possible
Kraus said many panhandlers and homeless people resell food stamps, so a black market for bus vouchers may develop.

"People are very creative in getting what they want," he said.

"If they want drugs and alcohol, they will get it. It's worth a try. At least it puts a certain obstacle between drugs and alcohol and the user."

Straughan agrees. But if Real Change catches on, the vouchers will be less valuable if resold, he said.

"There will be a black market for these things. Today in Oklahoma City, five bus tickets will get you a joint (marijuana cigarette), or so I'm told. If we put 50,000 of these (vouchers) out on the street, though, that's going to really depress that market," Straughan said.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Marvelous Light

As 6:00 pm approached and the cold wind got colder, they started coming from every direction. Men. A few women. Walking from who knows where - a camp by the interstate or some nearby woods. Maybe a shelter. Maybe a house or a warm place ... maybe, hopefully. At least they had coats or thick sweatshirts to repel the first chills of an Oklahoma winter. They had a destination - not the corner bar, or a drug house for a fix. They were coming to get warm and find sanctuary. They were drawn to Cross & Crown where God would use a group of teenagers to minister to them.

Music was the thread tonight that brought these groups together. The youth group from Quail Springs Church of Christ came to lead the worship service (while their parents prepared the meal to be served afterward). The teens did not sit along the back wall or sit together in a pack keeping a distance between themselves and their Sunday night service project. They sat among the crowd. They worshipped together.

Our God is a God who gives context to the stark contrasts our sinful humanity draws between suburban teens and homeless men. What could they have in common? On the surface - not a lot. But put them all in a room together singing the song, I Can Only Imagine, and you get the context and it warms your heart. Voices from the street blended with young harmony to sing a chorus about what they'll all do the day they meet Jesus. Will we dance for you Jesus? Or in awe of you be still?

The worship time was led by a three guys - Logan Rosenbalm and Joel Paris who are in college, and Kelcy White, a senior in high school. Another song they did is a fairly new one. It's from the PASSION cd and is written by Charlie Hall. It's a powerful song - with a tune that grabs you and a chorus that's easy to sing. But to give us one more lesson in context, read ALL of the words to this song. A message that God gave Logan to share with a room full of men and women ...

Marvelous Light
Lyrics by Charlie Hall

Played at Cross & Crown by Logan Rosenbalm, Kelcy White and Joel Paris.

Verse 1
I once was fatherless,
a stranger with no hope;
Your kindness wakened me,
Awakened me, from my sleep

Verse 2
Your love it beckons deeply,
a call to come and die.
By grace now I will come
And take this life, take your life.

Sin has lost it's power,
death has lost it's sting.
From the grave you've risen

Into marvelous light I'm running,
Out of darkness, out of shame.
By the cross you are the truth,
You are the life, you are the way

Verse 3
My dead heart now is beating,
My deepest stains now clean.
Your breath fills up my lungs.
Now I'm free. now I'm free!

Lift my hands and spin around,
See the light that i have found.
Oh the marvelous light
Marvelous light

Lift my hands and spin
See the light within...

Monday, October 03, 2005

Raising the Roof

The stealth crew arrived, shingled, nailed and left - all about that fast. Rock Island has a roof as of a week or so ago. Work is progressing. This building continues to be a miracle from God each step of the way as he continues to rise up his servants to provide the labor and the money for the materials. This place will make a difference and will help rebuild the walls for the young people of this neighborhood. Hallelujah!

Isaiah 61
3 And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord,
to glorify Him.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins;
they will restore the former devastations;
they will renew the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.

Refresher ... here's the crack house that used to occupy the same spot.