Urban Hope – Taking it Home

In closing—
The Urban Hope team arrived home safely yesterday (except Amy who is remaining there for another two weeks) from a wonderful and impactful week. A huge “Thank You!” to all of you who have supported us through this journey, both financially and through prayer.

God taught me so much from Streetwise. The conference gave us the opportunity to learn about reaching various groups of people for Christ, and then actually going out and putting what we learned into practice each day. Going into Streetwise, I was not quite sure what to expect.  Mostly, I was hopeful that it would make me better at, and more comfortable with, sharing my faith. It did, but in a way that I did not anticipate.

Mark 16:15 tells us to, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” We as believers have been commanded to spread the Gospel- to share our faith with the world. Christ is able to work through us to bring others to Him, and that is an amazing thing. But it also something that used to cause me guilt. I felt guilty about the fact that evangelism is not one of my strengths.  I felt guilty that I was not serving Christ the way I thought I was supposed to. Streetwise changed that; it changed how I see myself, and how I share my faith.

Personally, I enjoy talking to people- but when it comes to bringing God into a conversation and sharing my faith, I have never been comfortable with it. I am not one who has ever been good at evangelism, or put it into practice often. But on this trip I realized that that was part of the problem. I thought that I had to be good at it to do it. I thought that what I said to a person could actually change their heart and life. This is so utterly far from the truth. The salvation of the world is not dependent on us- the salvation of the world is God’s work and God’s work alone. Nothing we say to an unbeliever will ever save them. Yes, it is our responsibility as believers to point people to Christ, and to show God’s love to, and passionately share the gospel with, the world. But it is not about having the perfect spiel of evangelism rehearsed and ready to go, or presenting the most touching and convicting speech that has the power to change lives. Because God is the only one who changes hearts and lives.  And what I learned was that I when I make it about my own comfort and insecurities- or my effectiveness, I am taking away from the power of Christ, and I am making it about me.

One of the things they taught us at Urban Hope was to greet everyone we passed by on the street. That way, we did not have to think about how intimidating a person might be to us, or what response we might receive from them. We were not to pause and decide if in being kind to others would cause ourselves some sort of harm or discomfort. Stop stereotyping and just say hi.

This really hit me hard. I do a good job of blending into society and living among a culture that so desperately needs Jesus, without even caring about, or considering, the work God is able to do in them. Sure, I know God can do amazing things and work in miraculous ways, but I am I actually living like I truly believe that?

I am so guilty of judging and deciding things about people without even talking or interacting with them. Everyone needs God! It is not up to me who God saves and who He does not. And yet I pass by and overlook people every day without showing them any sort of kindness or love. Who are we to decide who deserves God’s love? When we put people into boxes based on race, wealth, poverty, sexual-identity, age, religion, and appearance, we are also putting God into His own box. If we overlook people of any kind, if we decide that we do not want to show God’s love to them, or that we should not share our faith with them- it’s like we are saying that God is not powerful enough to save that person. If God is powerful and loving enough to save me, He is powerful and loving enough to save ANYONE!

Evangelism is not about saying the right thing to the right person. It is about showing God’s love to everyone because God truly does love everyone. It is about listening to people’s stories and learning about their lives, and being willing to share how God has changed your own. It is about sharing the Gospel through love, in love. Dwight L Moody said, “The world does not understand theology or dogma, but it understands love and sympathy.”

This is what I learned this past week, thank you for letting me share it with you!

Thank You to Urban Hope and Streetwise for having us, teaching us, and allowing us to serve God alongside you.

//Abby G

P.S. A few photos from our last day there! Urban Hope hosted church in the street on Sunday in order to help encourage neighbors to come and join. The photo of the board was for our entire Streetwise team, and anyone met someone they wanted to continue praying for, their name went on the board. Hundreds of names by the end of the week!

 

 

 

 

 

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Urban Hope Day 5

Hi, this is Joe.  Today was a restful and fun day with goodbyes and reflection.   I’ll start with my favorite lesson from the week. Urban hope encourages evangelism through being FISHers of men. FISH means using FRIENDLY interaction to INITIATE conversations, listening to people’s STORY and finally sharing the HOPE of the Gospel. I now love forcing myself to be friendly to everyone on the street and all the new friends from Urban Hope and Operation Barnabas.  At the end of the day we said goodbye to the 25 Operation Barnabas friends that I had gotten close to by doing ministry with.

The goal of today was to host a SplashFest block party for kids and to teach the gospel from songs and games.  We learned that it is important to not assume that kids following the rules and memorizing verses have saving faith.  After lunch at an authentic Dominican restaurant, we took a bus to the neighborhood to gather kids and their families to come to the water party. God provided by letting us dodge two thunderstorms and everything was set for the party to begin. Over 200 people from the neighborhood attended! The water party had great OB skits, games, and a Gospel presentation followed by small group discussion with kids.  In my group all three kids claimed to believe in Jesus so I tried to talk with them about what they believed and reinforce assurance in their salvation. After a final soaking the party was over.

There were no problems from the nearby protest that was in the news except for noisy police cars and helicopters.

Thank you for your prayers so far and please pray for safe travels tomorrow.

– Joe

 

P.S. Due to the lack of WATER at the SplashFest, most of us did not have our phones on us and we don’t have any pictures yet, but will be posting some soon hopefully!

Urban Hope Day 4

Hello, from the city of brotherly love! We started off today worshiping the Lord, then sat through a pretty detailed lesson on eastern religions. We covered various sects of Buddhism, Taoism, Animism, Hinduism and Confucius. As the days prior we went over various ideological differences and the best ways to tackle them to share the gospel. There were some neat things we learned to be careful of, for instance, saying born again to someone of eastern belief might mean the same thing to them as saying reincarnation. So it’s important to emphasize the meaning behind what you say.

Armed with our new knowledge we set out for Little Saigon. I had the chance to speak with the waitress and store owner of a Vietnamese restaurant. The owner was Buddhist. Afterwards, we met up with Operation Barnabas in Mifflin park.

They put together a fantastic performance with songs, dancing and puppets for the local kids. I was able to help share the gospel with a couple of 5th and 6th grade boys named Mike and Mark. We met a man cleaning the sidewalk in-front of his home and he was incredibly grateful that someone noticed his efforts. He had been cleaning that sidewalk every day for many years. He said he wanted to get together and buy us coffee next time we we’re in the neighborhood. James Holt took his information and is going to follow up with him. What a great lead!

We ended the day setting up for a block party for all of the local kids and their families. There were raffles and games and a rap concert! Awesome testimonies (Urban Hope has THE BEST testimonies) we’re shared and the people we’re called to love and give their lives to Jesus.

Join us in praying for our brothers and sisters of eastern beliefs in coming to know the love and hope found only in Jesus!

 

-Sam

Urban Hope Day 3

Jonathan here! I’m writing to you on July 8th.  It seems as though an eternity has past, but also no time at all.  Every day we talk to just about everyone we see.  For those of us that consider ourselves introverts this presents both an interesting challenge and an opportunity to trust in God.

The first day we were split into two groups for outreach.  Today we switched places with the other team, doing what they did yesterday, and had the opportunity to be educated on the basics of the Muslim religion and how to talk with them.  After the morning session we travelled to South Street, which is a hub of food, partying, and shopping.  This is not a particularly Muslim area so we went without the expectation of applying the mornings training, but I guess God thought we should.

We entered an apparel store full of snap-backs, graphic tees, and fancy kicks.  We sought out an attendant to ask for help because one of our team members was looking for a certain kind of hat that was dear to her heart, and that is how God brought us Mohammed.   Probably took me about half an hour to actually learn his name.  He was a young man likely around my age and a semi-committed Muslim.  He told us that visiting the mosque was infrequent, but as we spoke to him his knowledge of Islam became evident.  It was a neat conversation that went on a while but I’ll just give you a low and then a high.  The low was when he spoke of four Christian friends he had in high school.  By the time that they graduated all four of them had converted to Islam.  It is a sobering reminder to us that Islam is not passive in evangelism and how devoted we must be to pursuing those in the church and grounding them in truth.  The high was at the end of the conversation, Mohammed said that because we talked with him and asked him to, he would take some time to read the Bible.

Please pray for Mohammed and his friends who walked away from the faith.  And please pray that God will give us energy to love and serve those around us.

Blessings,

Jonathan

Urban Hope Day 2

Hello from Abby Ayulo in Philadelphia! Yesterday we read the passage Acts 8:16-40 which describes the interactions between the Holy Spirit, Philip, and the Ethiopian eunuch. We were given the challenge to, like Philip, listen to the commands of the Holy Spirit and to willingly go and proclaim the Gospel of Christ, even to people who intimidate us. In the morning our team learned about how to interact and show God’s love to the LGBTQ community and applied what we had learned in inner city Philadelphia by meeting and praying with people in the community. A team of about 30 of us ventured out to go share and pray with anyone we encountered.13603309_10154324402289579_8752394359838162348_oOn the train, I had the opportunity to pray for a woman named Lola. Although our time was short, my prayer is that I was able to share the hope of Jesus with her. She seemed encouraged by our talk and I will continue to pray for her to experience the love and hope Jesus provides to a community that experience such hardship. I thank God for the things I am learning and the ways in which I have been able to reach out to people in an urban setting that I would normally not approach. Absolutely God is teaching me and growing my faith and making me look more like Jesus.

Blessings,
Abby Ayulo

Urban Hope Day 1

Hello everyone! The team here at Urban Hope is so grateful and excited to be able to share with you all what God is doing. Just a little intro, the team consists of Amy Lucas, Holly Murillo, Abby Gnewuch, Abby Ayulo, Sam Johnson, Joe Hamann, and Jonathan Reissmueller, and we are attending a weeklong mission conference in Philadelphia called Streetwise. Urban Hope is a powerful ministry located in north Philadelphia, in a neighborhood called Kensington, intentionally placed to reach out to the needs in the very community that it is surrounded by. The purpose of this conference is really to get us out there with some practical training in how to better reach people with the hope of Jesus. Each team member will share a little bit of what happens on each day as a personal perspective on what God is doing in their life and in the city. We can’t wait to share all that we are learning with our friends, family and church! Here’s a little post about Day 1 of the conference, July 5th, by Holly Murillo.

 

It’s another beautifully sticky day at Urban Hope. After our morning session we were able to travel by the city train to an area called the City Center. This had a lot of the hustle and bustle and shops similar to LA. We broke into little groups of two or three, mixed with the Operation Barnabas team and set out to find lunch and people to talk with. Reading Terminal was my group’s destination. It can be best described as an old train station turned into an indoor hipster-feeling marketplace. As we got our food (Mac and cheese in a grilled cheese hehe) we searched for a place to sit in the crowded area. We (myself, Abby G, and Sam) ended up snagging a spot next to a young Italian man and made good conversation over lunch. I had the blessing of being able to share my testimony with him since we had similar life experiences. It was so joyful to be able to share Christ’s work in me with this man. My group later grabbed a dozen famous Beiler’s donuts and walked through Chinatown speaking with people and passing these out.
In the evening, all of us with Streetwise piled into busses and drove out to a neighborhood in the Kensington area that is considered the place of the highest amount of drug activity in all of Philly. This is no doubt a dangerous neighborhood where drugs and deaths are a norm. We went out in small groups again armed with the strength of God and boxes of pizza to talk with the people. As we spoke with people, their common reaction was shock that we would be coming to such a place as this. This opened a great door to share our hope and trust in Christ. This night revealed to us not only the brokenness of this particular neighborhood but also the brokenness that we all share as humans. This was such a humbling and necessary realization that had to be made if we were going to accurately share Christ. As we were in the bus and driving back to Urban Hope I took a while to sit and watch the streets, people, and homes that were flying by. My heart was breaking for the people who have no hope and still rejoicing over the victories in Jesus Christ.
Thank you for all your prayers!
Holly

Perspective(s)

Thank you for following along and graciously encouraging us is our mission to serve, encourage, and bless the people of South Africa. You’ve already had a chance to hear about the trip from Matthew and John’s perspectives, but there are 8 other people that you sent out who have experienced this trip in their own unique way. Here is a chance for you to hear about our trip from some different angles. Enjoy!

(But first, confession time. I broke John’s screen)

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I (Matthew) threw it on the ground. Whoops.

Now for the serious part:

From the Licatas: It has been an amazing trip.  I have to admit that I did a lot more manual labor than I expected, but in the end we had a dedication for the building we were working on and it reminded me how it was all for God’s glory.  It also reminded me the reason we came here.  I held a lot more babies than I had in a long time – not just for the baby home but for events that freed up some people to attend the activities that the church was putting on.  We even went on the campus of the University of Pretoria to witness to the students, which I found got easier the more I did  it.  However, the thing that will probably stay with me the most is the people I got to know, which is very easy here because everyone was so friendly.  The Living Hope Church is a model of what being one in Christ is all about, as there were people from different races, different countries, and different economic classes and yet you would never know it by the way they easily fellowshipped with one another.  It was a blessing to be able to go on this trip.

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From Bryan Bush: We had a fantastic trip!  We spent the week in worship with new and old friends in South Africa, we had fellowship that was a foretaste of heaven, and we worked hard and worked together with members of Living Hope Church.  The families of Living Hope Church have become very dear to me as this has now been the third time I have been blessed with the privilege of going to South Africa. I throughly enjoyed having Sarah accompany us on this trip, and I was thrilled to be with good friends as we served our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but for me, the highlight of the trip was observing how the rest of the team interacted with the team in South Africa. We quickly became one team serving and worshipping our one Lord Jesus. I have been privileged and filled with joy to serve alone side this team from Grace Church. Thank you all for your support for us, as we were able to represent the fellowship at Grace Church of Orange  to our brothers and sisters at Living Hope Church in South Africa.

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From Sarah Bush: Looking back over this trip, I can’t help but notice how God has changed my heart. The first time I traveled to South Africa on a missions trip in 2013, I did not want to go at all! Since then, I have been a part of 2 more teams that have had the opportunity to minister to the team in South Africa. At the start of this trip, I was not sure what role I would play. Most of the trip consisted of manual labor, baby holding, and sports playing, none of which I particularly enjoy. God does not call us to do what we enjoy and are comfortable with, but what brings HIM glory.  Although I was called upon to do some things I did not enjoy, I did love forming and continuing to build relationships with the ladies of Living Hope Church. One of the highlights of the trip for me was, spending time with the Clark’s and seeing how they live out the gospel in their everyday lives!

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From Rachel Weber: This trip was very different and yet very similar to the last trip that I made with the team going to South Africa two years ago. When I came last time, our team was quite large (17 people to be exact). This, although not a bad thing, made it difficult to be in the same places at the same time and made it difficult to find time to talk with the people of South Africa one-on-one. This time we had a smaller team which I felt helped in connecting us all with the people here. Having a smaller group also helped us in working closer as a team. When I met people last time, the relationships felt surface rather than deep due to limited one-on-one time. This time however, felt like visiting close relatives/family.This is what impacted me the most. The bond we share as believers was evident on this trip. From outreaches at the University, holding babies, performing manual labor, or making house calls to pray with people, everything was cohesive—a oneness about it. Their likemindedness and passion for the gospel was truly an encouragement to me as I am sure it was for the rest of the SA team.  I can only hope our SA family feels the same! Just as a family would do, the team as well as our SA family worked through schedule changes, weather delays, and other frustrations, knowing that all these “trials” would work together for God’s purposes. It truly was an amazing trip and the perfect team to go. Thank you all for your prayers and your support!

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From Rick Weber:
The trip to South Africa was awesome on so many levels.  Our team, although small accomplished much.  We cleaned and painted the Muphamuzi Baby Home, helped build a car port, cleaned out yard debris, laid brick, poured cement, put up drywall, planted flowers and shrubs, and resod a lawn.  This was hard menial work, but was very fulfilling and helped unify our team. We all felt good about this because it not only helped our Christian brothers and sisters, but we truly did all for the glory of God.  I was blessed to get to know our team on a more personal level. It was also a blessing to get to know more personally the Clarks, Macks and de Wits.  One of my highlights of the trip was traveling to Solvekop and meeting the people of that neighborhood.  They were all so hospitable!  They invited us into their homes and we shared testimonies, sang worship songs and prayed—what a blessing!  What was interesting to me was how similar their lives were to us.  Their testimonies of how they accepted Christ into their hearts were very similar to testimonies you might hear at home.  Their day-to-day life struggles (finding a job, supporting their families, etc.) were very similar to what we deal with at home.   We could encourage each other to lay all our burdens at Jesus feet.  What I found to be such an awesome is that we can travel halfway across the world and find like minded Bible believing Christians who love the Lord so much, that we can worship and sing and although we are in a completely different  cultural setting we are all one in Christ!

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From Doris Weber:
As our team is returning from our trip to South Africa, I can tell you we have felt your prayers. Thank you for all your support in sending us.  As I reflect on the many things learned, and there were MANY, I would like to focus on just one: food. As we have traveled it has been a great opportunity to “taste” the culture of South Africa. Our hosts treated us to many varieties of their foods, but as I observed, the food they were most satisfied with was the food of God’s Word.  They were seriously hungry for God’s truth.  Pastor Josh Mack challenged them to KNOW the word of God so they would not follow false teaching. This got me to thinking about “spiritual nutrition”. It has become “the thing” to read labels to make sure what we place in our bodies are “healthy” for us; glutton free, lactose free, free range, organic. How many of us think about the spiritual food we feed ourselves? It is so easy to be “fed” spiritually, but what type of “food” are you putting in your spiritual body? Are you just getting the “milk” of the word or are you developing to receive the “meat” of the word, or maybe you are just starving from lack of food. I think many of us believers have a true eating disorder when it comes to spiritual food.  When it comes to digging into God’s word or even reading daily from the Bible we are too busy or just plain forget.  Do we settle for “empty calorie” foods that appear in positive thinking? I may forget one meal, but be sure I will not forget two in a day let alone skip a whole day without eating, and yet how many times will a day or two go by without feeding my spirit with the Word of God.  I observed my South African brother’s and sister’s put a priority on their spiritual food.  They were willing to do the hard work of studying God’s word, prioritizing it in their daily lives, encouraging each other to live what they learned, and they were excited to share the good news of Jesus Christ. When I have eaten something amazingly tasty I love to share it with someone so they can enjoy the flavor as well.  Shouldn’t we be doing that with the gospel? How marvelous and amazing is our salvation, do I share this with anyone? The first Saturday we were in SA we were able to help with a conference in sharing the gospel.  We were also privileged to learn alongside.  We were given an amazing tool, a book Josh Mack had written, “The Best Story Ever”. This little booklet put the gospel into very easy to understand terms and it was a short read as well. We were given the opportunity to put into practice what we learned by going to the University in Pretoria. We went out in groups and shared the gospel and gave people the book. The two people my group talked to were surprisingly open. It made me realize there are probably more people open to hearing but I need to use opportunities that come. I need to be more intentional with sharing the gospel (the delectable food) God has allowed me to taste. What a blessing this mission trip has been.

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From Alyssa Celano:
First of all, thank you so much for all of your support and prayers throughout this time we had in South Africa. What an amazing place to have the opportunity to minister to. From evangelism at a local university, to working more than I ever knew I could (pick axes are heavy!), there were so many ways we were stretched and used as a team. However, more importantly, I was surprised at how much God works through our relationships with others, even 10,000 miles away. There were so many different sorts of people I met: ones with crazy testimonies, and others similar to a lot of us in that we grew up in the church. Yet, all these people loved the Lord in a visible, tangible way. A lot of South Africa is pretty well developed, and quite frankly looks like California. But there are parts that are exactly like we hear: “poor.” But we fail to hear the details about the joy that even the mother and her 4 children who are living in a single bedroom have because of Christ. Their church is so joyful. The Clarks, Macks, and De Wits are so joyful. Everyone in Christ there, seem to always have joyful hearts. In the same topic of joy, I learned a pretty valuable lesson from the little ones. I spent quite a lot of time with the babies of the Muphamuzi baby home, and each child seemed to smile and get excited about me as if I was their mother. While I was holding a boy I grew very fond of, I realized that he looks at me the way he would look at his mama if she was around. The way babies look at their parents is something so special to see. And the babies at the baby home don’t have that safe parent to look to and feel that way with, so they see people that give them the love and attention they need and look at them in that very same way. So I’m holding this little boy who can’t speak, crawl, or even sit up on his own, however I see the joy he has when he sees me and the other caregivers. This is the joy we should feel when we look to our Father in heaven, a joy that is incomprehensible, because we have a Father who loves and cares for us more than we could ever know. There are so many little ways that God revealed himself to me there, and so many ways He showed the beauty of all the nations. But what I most desire as we depart is to find complete and unconditional joy in Jesus, all. the. time. (Would you please pray for me as I am feeling led to intern at the baby home, as well as serve in South Africa indefinitely? Thank you!)

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Our flight back to LAX is boarding at this very moment. Thank you for coming along with us on this incredible journey. See you soon, family.

Love,
-SA2016

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