An Update on Third Chance Ministries

The end of year tax-deductible donation letters went out in the mail last week. If you donated to Third Chance Ministries in 2013 and you’ve not yet received you letter, then be on the lookout for it soon. We could not have done all that we did in 2013 without your support–your support of us with your prayers, your support of us with your generous donations, and your support of us with your voice when you shared our newsletter with others and invited us to come and speak to congregations and groups with which you are affiliated. The past year was an amazing success and an incredible adventure to take with you and we not only give thanks for what has passed, but also we wait with eager anticipation for what is yet to come in 2014.

In 2013, the staff of Third Chance Ministries expanded to include three new staff members. In January of 2013, we added Bruce Hopson to our staff as a Missionary to the Northside of Danville. In July of 2013, we added Ben Wright at our Missionary to Downtown Danville. In August of 2013, we added Tracy Gwynn as our Administrative Assistant. These new staff members are changing the neighborhoods in which they live and serve by developing new, indigenous leaders, advocating for justice in their midst, providing pastoral care and active listening, feeding and clothing those most in need, and providing hospitality out of their own homes and spaces. With your support, we are having strong, positive impacts and seeing results from our deep engagement and investment in these areas of profound need. Around our missionaries, we’re seeing communities spring up and neighborhoods that are contributing from their own limited supplies in order to be a part of the ministry that is going on in their midst.

In short, because of the movement of God’s Spirit, because of your support and generosity, because of the willingness of missionaries (both paid and unpaid), and because of the support of Grace and Main Fellowship and its ministry, the Kingdom of God is moving in unexpected and lovely places.

Slightly over 85% of donations made to Third Chance Ministries were made by individuals and families–many of whom are committed to being “sustaining partners.” It is because of our sustaining partners, that we were able to bring on additional staff this year to focus in the areas where have focused. Becoming a sustaining partner is simple: call, email, or write Joshua (3CM’s Executive Director) and give him an estimate of what you’d like to donate over the next year and how often you plan on writing a check (or having your bank automatically write one). By doing this, you allow us to budget based on your generosity and to make some predictions about the next few years. Most of our supporters do this already with some writing monthly checks and others writing one check a year.

A little over 14% of donations made to Third Chance Ministries in 2013 were made by congregations, organizations, and businesses who have seen the work we’re doing and want to be a part of it. Some of the congregations connected with us have seen growth among their leaders by being involved in our hands-on and deeply personal way of doing things. By being involved with Grace and Main Fellowship and Third Chance Ministries, these organizations are entertaining brave discussions of what it means to be a missional organization in the 21st century and we are glad to have them as partners with us. We’re also glad to partner with your congregation or organization. Just call, email, or write us and let us know that you’d like for one of us to come and speak to your organization or to sit down and discuss ways we can partner together.

Here’s a few of the things that we did in 2013 that you were able to join us in doing by your generosity:

  • Organized and developed a “tool library” to provide lawnmowers, weed whackers, hand tools, personal protective equipment, and a workshop to those who would use the tools to find work and to earn a living. It’s used nearly every day of the year.
  • Grace and Main’s Roving Feast, with the assistance of Third Chance Ministries staff members, provided over 6,000 meals downtown and on the Northside on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons
  • Grace and Main’s Wednesday morning Northside breakfast provided over 2,200 meals on Wednesday mornings under the direct leadership of Third Chance Ministries staff. We’re hoping to start a downtown Wednesday morning breakfast in 2014.
  • Our Northside community coffee pot provided over 750 gallons of coffee in the cold times of 2013, while we passed out even more water, kool-aid, and lemonade on the hot days. We’re hoping to start a downtown community coffee pot in 2014.
  • Our Community Artisan Fair organized local artisans and craftpersons to provide local, alternative gifts for those who were buying Christmas presents.
  • Develop dozens of new relationships, while maintaining the ones we already had, with the homeless, near-homeless, poor, addicted, and hungry
Thank  you so much for all of your support. Next month, you can expect to see another story from our work.

In the Midst of the Devil’s Work

In the Midst of the Devil’s Work

As Kyle and Shaun made their way down the street back toward the ramshackle house they called home after that day’s Roving Feast, one of Grace and Main’s leaders (Ed) caught up with them to ask after Jonathan who was missing from the meal. Ed fell into step with Kyle and Shaun as they told him how he was sick and had stayed home. A medical professional by profession and a missionary by calling, Ed asked if they minded if he checked in on Jonathan. The guys looked at each other for a moment before Kyle responded, “Ed, we’re going to do the devil’s work right now. You don’t wanna come.”

With a puzzled look, Ed asked, “The devil’s work?”

“We’re going to pay the devil his due,” Shaun explained with a hand gesture indicating the particular addiction they were going to satisfy. “It’s not the kind of thing you want to be around, Ed,” Shaun continued, “we appreciated the lunch and hanging out, but this isn’t your kind of thing.”

Ed considered, but replied soon after, “It’s okay. I’m a sinner too, brother.” After a short walk, they arrived at the barely-there-front-door of their home and Ed paused, asking, “Is it okay with yall for me to come in to check on Jonathan?”

Kyle shook his head and said, “We’re gonna do the devil’s work, Ed. But if you want to come in, Jonathan’s in there.” With those words, Kyle and Shaun made their way to the back of the house. In another room off to the side, Ed found Jonathan half-sleeping on a thin mattress on the floor, surrounded by trash and dirty clothes. But before he even spoke with Jonathan, Ed knew he was sick. The smell of pus and infection was an overbearing presence in the drafty room. The mattress upon which Jonathan slept fitfully was soaked with urine. You see, it was apparent that Jonathan has an abscessed tooth due in part to his own consuming addictions and in part to his lack of medical care. Jonathan’s mouth had become so infected, in fact, that his infection had eaten a hole through his cheek.

After some very basic first aid and wound care, kneeling on that urine soaked mattress, Ed told Jonathan that he really needed to go to the emergency room and offered to call an ambulance. But, as Ed was leaving he felt the Spirit speaking to his heart, reminding him of a line he had prayed that morning at morning prayer, “Stop. Don’t leave. It is Christ.” So, Ed turned around and knelt back down beside Jonathan and asked what he wanted him to do. In the midst of filth and infection, a place where “the devil’s work” was done on the regular, Jonathan asked Ed to read to him from the book of the prophet Isaiah. So, sitting on the floor with the smell of pus blanketing the air, Ed read the particular passage Jonathan wanted to hear: Isaiah 6.

Consider how it must have sounded in that room as Ed read aloud, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Even in this place, Lord? Even this place is full of your glory? Consider how it must have felt to hear, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Where God? Where can we find you in the midst of this suffering? After quite a while spent reading about Isaiah’s calling in that dark place, Jonathan asked Ed to pray with him. Jonathan led them and he prayed, “Lord, you know how much we suffer…” before being unable to continue. Ed repeated the line and Jonathan repeated it back to him again. Ed closed with an amen.

Ed promised to check in on Jonathan that evening when he came by to get Shaun and Kyle for our Thursday night dinner and to take him to the hospital if Jonathan didn’t call an ambulance in the meantime like he should. Ed said goodbye to Kyle, Shaun, and Jonathan and headed back up the street to what was left of the Roving Feast, still considering the odd arrangement of Isaiah’s words with Jonathan’s present suffering. He’d gone down into the place where he was told they were going to do “the devil’s work.” Yet, it was in this place of darkness and suffering that he had once again found the Spirit speaking not only to his heart but to the heart of our enslaved and suffering brother, Jonathan. It seems that even in the midst of the place where the “devil’s work” was overwhelming, the Spirit was still calling, leading them to join with Isaiah in saying, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

After visiting the emergency room, Jonathan got the antibiotics he needed and recovered from the abscess. He is still struggling with a particularly crippling combination of challenges and addictions. But, change and recovery doesn’t happen overnight and we’ve learned the power of consistent and determined love. We see him regularly on the Roving Feast, at our meals, and in our homes. After a recent Thursday night meal, he was one of the last folks we dropped off at the same home where Ed found him on the mattress. As we pulled down the road, he was singing along loudly with the radio. He’s got a nice voice under the ravages of addiction and it didn’t escape our notice that the lyric he was belting through closed eyes was, “Don’t let me go, don’t let me go.” As he stepped out of the van, the chorus came back around and he called out to the van, the houses, and the streetlights, “Don’t let me go, don’t let me go.” As he climbed the steps to his home, we pulled away to take the borrowed van back to First Baptist, but his song echoed again through our minds. Jesus told us that the gates of hell itself would not withstand the Kingdom of God. It seems that even in the places where “the devil’s work” is done, the Kingdom of God is still taking root. God is still calling people–people who will say, “Here I am, Lord. Send me”–to find those places where the Kingdom is secretly flourishing and to stand alongside those who keep saying, “Don’t let me go, don’t let me go.”

MERRY CHRISTMAS

 

We at Third Chance Ministries want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

This is our prayer for you in this season and in the new year:

images4

May the Father prepare a feast for you in an unexpected place that somebody else calls home.

May our Lord unite you to unexpected people and bind your life to theirs so that their good is your good and their suffering is your suffering.

May the Spirit lead you to open your own life and heart to a world in desperate need of love and hospitality.

May the Father guide you into all righteousness and show you the power of justice rightly administered.

May our Lord teach you the value of listening silence in the face of brokenness and the power of mercy wildly distributed.

May the Spirit give you not only words to say, but also silences to keep and may you know the difference between justice and mercy.

May the Father continually call you one step further than you’re comfortable and continually surprise you with the depths of God’s love.

May our Lord simplify your life and frustrate your best laid plans if they don’t bring you closer to him.

May the Spirit mend the broken parts of you and soothe you when you’re worn and sore from God’s holy formation.

Merry Christmas from the staff of Third Chance Ministries (Josh, Bruce, Ben, and Tracy) and thank you for your continued support of Third Chance Ministries and its effort to develop and support missionaries and leaders among the homeless, near-homeless, poor, addicted, and hungry.

Full Plates, Full Hearts

It seems that something changed when we finally got our first good cold snap here in Danville. All of our own peculiar markers of the season changing have become unmistakable. As the temperatures dipped to frosty, even our last hanger-on (Bruce) began to admit that it might be too cold for a milkshake. Our weekly meals began to see more chili, cornbread, and hot, buttery potatoes. Grace and Main’s budget began to show a little more stress to accommodate the dozens of folks who had not yet found warm shelter. The hospitality rooms in our home finished filling up for those who would be taking shelter in our homes through the winter. Some of our faithful congregational partners began refilling our coffers with “Urban Survival Bags” for those for whom we cannot find sufficient shelter. Finally, I began to receive one of the seasonal questions I’ve come to expect: “So, any plans for Thanksgiving?”

It doesn’t seem like it should be that hard of a question to answer. After all, it’s an innocuous question at best; but it gives me pause and an opportunity to consider what we’re doing in Danville as our intentional, Christian community of hospitality, service, and discipleship struggles to live in the Kingdom of God and by the Sermon on the Mount. Usually, I give a short description of the big Thanksgiving meal that Grace and Main hosts every November and say that I’ll be having Thanksgiving with a hundred or so folks.

It’s one of the quiet traditions we have in our little community—having an outlandish meal as we near the anniversary of our start and as our budget grows thinner under the stress of need and cold weather. Since 2009, the plan has always started with the commitment that we’ll be having a big meal even though we’re not entirely sure how we’ll pull it off. Invariably, our congregational and organizational partners step forward and offer us space, food, and more. In 2011, we ate the meal in our home and didn’t have a turkey (or somebody who had experience cooking turkeys!) until the day before. That year, it was the biggest meal we’d ever hosted not in a park, but we were breaking that record every week only two months later. In 2012, we ate at God’s Storehouse (our lovely, local food pantry) and were overwhelmed by the number of partners who were eager to participate.

This year, we were hosted by our beloved partners at Ascension Lutheran Church, who have cooked a big meal for us every month for a while and stepped it up even further for Thanksgiving. I could spend many paragraphs just telling you how much of a blessing they have been to us this year and at this most recent meal, but there’s so much else to tell! Seven turkeys and twenty-five pies and cakes were just part of the feast we held with a mixture of folks from regional congregations, our neighborhoods, local recovery groups, and all of our many regulars with whom we have, and continue to develop, mutually beneficial relationships. There were a few faces missing from our meal this year—Miss Betty, Linda, Mr. Oliver—and they were recalled with fond thoughts and grateful hearts. There were many new faces at our meal this year, as well. It seems that God continues to call folks to join us in building new families in unfamiliar places—we’re thankful to have them. Members of one our partners, Clarksville Baptist in Clarksville, Virginia, even made the hour drive to eat with all of us—with a blessed youth bringing us bags of coats and blankets she had collected for cold folks in Danville. For these (both people and also coats and blankets) we give thanks, as well.

We start this big meal off like we start all of our meals: with the Body and Blood of Jesus. As we pass the loaf and the cup, we proclaim to the world and to ourselves that what binds us and connects us is so much bigger and more powerful than all those things that try to separate us. When we gather around all those tables, we’re one big family getting to know each other better.

When I answer the question of Thanksgiving by talking about this dinner that I’ve grown to love so dearly, usually folks will respond kindly and ask, “Yes, but will you be travelling home?”

Sometimes the answer is, “Yes, we’re going to be headed for a quick trip home.” Other times the answer is, “No, not this year. We’re not going to get a chance.” But the answer always ends with the truest words I can utter around such a question: “But we’re having at least one really big, really wonderful family meal this year. Do you want to come and meet all your brothers and sisters?”

A Truck Full of Bread

Honestly, we weren’t prepared for that much bread. It had all started when he called me out of the blue and told me that he worked for a bread company and they wanted to know if we could use some of their “day olds” in our Roving Feasts around downtown and the Northside. Mike had heard one of us speak at his congregation’s Wednesday night service and had taken with him some of the written information about what we were up to. When Mike called me a few days later to ask if he could bring his truck by to donate some bread, I thought he meant maybe a dozen loaves in the back of his pickup truck.

So, when I showed up in the parking lot of a downtown church to receive his donation, I was surprised to see Mike leaning against a big box truck with a hydraulic lift on the back. When he rolled up the back of the truck, there were nearly 20 pallets full of loaves of bread that he wanted to donate. We live and serve among lots of hungry people for whom bread becomes something dear in the last week or so of each month. So, we thanked him for his generosity and began taking bread into some of our neighborhoods.

Mike started coming to our meals and worship services shortly after he started flooding our ministries and homes with bread. Since we already had a “Mike” who had been around from the beginning of Grace and Main, we jokingly started calling our new friend “Bread Mike.” The nickname stuck and Bread Mike did, too. Nowadays, you’ll see him just about anywhere Grace and Main gathers whether it’s in a home for worship and prayers or on a street corner for the “roving feast.” Bread Mike has become one of the pillars around which our Wednesday morning breakfast has grown and thrived, becoming not only its bread supplier but also one of its most loyal and dependable leaders.

Several months ago, Bread Mike opened his home to a young man who had been kicked out of his house and had nowhere to take shelter. Unable to watch the young man become homeless, Mike offered the extra bedroom in his home and insisted that the man stay with him. In doing so, Mike’s home became the seventh home connected with Grace and Main to begin offering a kind of radical hospitality. That young man is enrolled at the local community college now and is getting his feet underneath him again. If you asked Mike why, he’d tell you that he does it because Jesus would want him to do it and because he’s learning how to follow Jesus by uniting himself with a community of folks on a similar journey.

A couple of months ago, Mike was helping a couple move to their first secure shelter in quite a long time. He had loaded up his truck with their meager possessions and was eager to get them moved in to their new place. However, when they got there, there had been a change in the lease agreement and the couple could not move in. Once again facing homelessness, the couple didn’t know what to do. Mike barely even hesitated before offering the master bedroom in his own home to the couple “for as long as it takes you to get on your feet.” Shocked by his hospitality, the couple was hesitant at first to accept, but they eventually moved in and began to contribute to the house’s needs.

By the world’s standards, Mike doesn’t have much to offer. He can’t write big checks or move mountains with his influence and power. No senators, princes, or CEOs call him to ask for his input. He is, after all, just one man living on a meager salary in a depressed neighborhood and city. But, Mike isn’t content to let the world tell him how generous he can be—he has been called by our Lord Jesus to give of himself and to spread the fragrance of Christ about him wherever he goes. He’s not gaining the esteem of the world, but he is changing it—one person at a time.

Mike will try tell you that he’s learning how to follow Jesus by spending time with our little community, but the truth is: he’s as much a teacher as he is a student. It’s our privilege to live and serve alongside Mike and to be challenged by the way he lives to give more, sacrifice more, and live even more hospitably in a world that is being changed by love like his.

Worship on the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost– October 20, 2013

Worship on the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost– October 20, 2013

Preparing and Setting the Altar

As day slips to evening, we light a candle, to welcome you here, Lord Jesus.

Lighting of the Christ Candle

God who is Love, who created us in your image so that your love might spill out of us into a hurting and desperate world, we pray that we might feel your gentle and gracious presence in our midst this evening as we lift our voices in prayer and praise to you.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

As we listen for God’s voice in the scripture and in the words of our neighbor, let us sing together.

Singing

 

 

…we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…

A Time of Confession, Forgiveness, and Peacemaking
Hear the teaching of the Spirit recorded in 1 John: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Our sins are more than our own personal failures—indeed, our sins impact the world around us and the people whom we love. In just a moment, we will keep silence for a moment to consider our own sins and ask forgiveness for the ways in which we have fallen short of God’s Glory and, in doing so, have drunk deeply from the cup of death.

Silence

Hear the good news, brothers and sisters, no matter how, and in what ways, you have sinned, you now stand forgiven if you truly and humbly repent from sin and the way of this world. Share this forgiveness with your brothers and sisters by passing to them a sign of peace and forgiveness.

 

…we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…
Isaiah 53:1-9
…we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…
1 John 2:1-11
…we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…

Group Reflection on the Scripture

Our brother, Thomas Merton, was a 20th  century Roman Catholic writer and Trappist monk, who spent much of his life at Gethsemani Abbey in Trappist, Kentucky. In his No Man is an Island, he wrote, “The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”


Prayers for Others

The Lord’s Prayer

 

Singing

As we go, receive the blessing recorded in the book of Philippians: “May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you.
May he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm.
May he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you.
May he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.
Amen.