Care Packages

One of our community projects this year was to pass out care packages. After having one of our old house community members be homeless for three months, he shared our experience with us and what items a person might need in his previous situation.

In our care packages, we put in soap, socks, toothbrush with case, shampoo, mouth wash, detergent, notebook and pen, comb, wash cloth, antibacterial, granola bars, band aids and few other items.

The idea was to pass them around year round but also to have people in our own networks join us–this could be family members, coworkers, friends and have them have their friends join in. Haven would just continue to sponsor these packages. They have no notes in them, no literature. The idea is to give with no strings attached-a pure and genuine act of love and kindness.

One of our house community members shared this with a close friend who doesn’t usually have an opportunity to participate in a project like this took a few packages and shared with us his amazing experience in San Francisco as he handed out packages along his work route:

“I went to San Francisco today. I always knew there were a lot of homeless there, but I never really truly paid attention to how many there were until today since I was actually looking for them. I drove all over SF, and the streets were just riddled with homeless men. In my short time there, I saw well over a hundred of them. Some had shopping carts, others had backpacks. Many had nothing but a donation cup. My first stop was SOMA near ATT park. There were quite a bit of them roaming near the embarcadero, but I decided to give the first care package to a guy trying to write a HELP me sign on a cardboard box. I simply went up to him and said, “Sir, this is for you.” He looked at it, and said “Thank you thank you thank you.” As I walked away, I looked over my shoulder, and it was like watching a kid in a candy store looking through the bag to see what was in it.

My next stop was Union Square. A guy was walking up/down the red light asking for money. I simply opened my window at the red light and instead of giving him money, I gave him the second care package. He said, “God bless you, sir”. Some onlookers were watching and wondered what I had given him. The light turned green, and I drove away.

Through Chinatown I drove, I gave the 3rd care package to a guy sitting on the sidewalk picking at his barefoot while his torn-up tennis shoes were sitting by his side. It was a nasty nasty thing to see. haha, but I handed him the package and said, “There’s a pair of socks.” He just looked at me dumbfounded. Completely speechless. Not one word. I smiled and walked away.

My last stop was the other corner of SF. The she-she area of Fillmore district where all the fancy mom/pop stores are. I walked up to a guy with a loaded shopping cart. I stopped him when he was about to cross the street. Kinda made me feel bad since he struggled a little to get his heavy shopping cart back onto the sidewalk. He too gave me a wonderful God bless u.

I felt very good at the end of the day knowing I made 4 people’s days. My biggest regret was not taking more of the care packages. I could have given away all four at once as many people were in groups, but I didn’t have enough for everyone in that group, so I moved on. “

Here is one of the groups packing them during Christmas. Even the little ones enjoyed helping.

Generosity Project – Youth Soccer

Dave, Alan and John have worked with the South Valley YMCA youth basketball league by sponsoring a team and coaching. This inspired another member of Haven to sponsor and volunteer for the YMCA soccer program. See how God can change lives through a simple “Yes”.

A couple years ago I read a book from Donalad Miller (one of my fave authors) called “To Own a Dragon: Reflections On Growing Up Without A Father”. Here are some summaries (thanks Amazon!) so you have some context:

With honest humor and raw self-revelation, bestselling author Donald Miller tells the story of growing up without a father and openly talks about the issues that befall the fatherless generation. Raw and candid, Miller moves from self-pity and brokenness to hope and strength, highlighting a path for millions who are floundering in an age without positive male role models.

Through Millers personal narrative and MacMurrays wisdom, children of absent fathers will discover how to pick up the broken pieces of a fatherless childhood…and put them back together. Even though I grew up in a home that was no more dysfunctional than the average one, the book really stuck with me for some reason. The book talks about how young mens lives are so strongly affected by the presence (and absence) or strong male presence in their life. Ever since then I’ve really felt a calling to just spend some time with young men in my community… I’m not even sure I’m that great of a role model but I’d like to think that I’m slightly better than average =)

So this led me to last year where I had the chance to mentor a high school youth. It was an interesting journey that is still ongoing but through that I knew that I had to do continue to mentor more but I had to do it through something I loved, something like footy. Luckily Haven was already involved in working with young kids through sport at our local Y sponsoring a basketball team… and now I’m coaching a small soccer team through the Y too.

Those are some of the kids up top, some are crazy a few are quiet some are whiny and most don’t pay attention… but I do have to say that in a few short weeks I’ve become totally attached. Like most of these kinds of things, its probably been more of a blessing to me than its been to them. I don’t know where this thing is headed, I don’t even know if we’ll even be coaching the kids beyond this season. But I do know that this is where God has called me to be right now, luckily all I had to do was say yes.

Stay tuned for more updates from Billy!

A Missional Church-What it Can Look Like

Our last few gatherings, we have been discussing what it means to make disciples and grow as a church and how we get there. It’s a journey we as a church are taking together. We recently watched these videos of missional churches from the Verge Network to help us understand what it kind of looks like. Sometimes we get tunnel vision and need to gain perspective. I think watching these videos helped us do that and evaluate ourselves as a church. We were encouraged and motivated again and it was a great time of discussion. The beauty of the body of Christ is the edification we are able to offer each other through Him.

Jeff Vanderstelt and his Missional Community at Soma Communities share their heart for wanting to see Jesus glorified in his neighborhood and all of Tacoma.

Leonce Crump and his Missional Community at Renovation Church talk about the joys and challenges of planting a church in a diverse neighborhood in Atlanta.

The Austin Stone: Lawson and Paul talk about how God is using their Missional Community to make disciples in their current context with international students at The University of Texas at Austin.

Holiday Projects at Haven!

Our house communities have been involved in a few Love projects this holiday season. Here’s an update on what we’ve been up to!

SJSU CARE PACKAGES
This past December, we teamed up again with SJSU’s AACF (Asian American Christian Fellowship) to anonymously pass out care packages on the school campus. From past experiences, they were widely well received and people liked that there no strings attached–that we were simply there to show an act of love and kindness without a speech or “recruiting” them to go to church. We also were able to have the other Christian fellowships involved this time around as well. We were encouraged from the students at AACF that took time out of their studying schedule to help us pack 1000 care packages! We hope that this will spark a flame to pass on for others to show unconditional love.


Shopping at Costco for the snacks!

Packing in the SJSU engineering building with the AACF students


Students who received the care packages in the library and tweeted about it

CARE PACKAGES & CLOTHES DRIVE FOR THE VICTORIANS
Every 3rd Sunday, we meet for a all-church worship gathering at Le Petit Trianon Theater in downtown San Jose. Next to do is a housing program called the Victorians. A few of them join us for Sunday worship and sometimes we go over there to hang out. This past Christmas, we celebrated with them with a pizza party because they LOVE their pizza. We also put together hygeine packs for them that consisted of shampoo, socks, toothbrushes and other toiletry necessities. Additionally, one of our church members organized a clothing drive for them so they could go “shopping” and get some clothing. Everyone pitched in and had a great time.

Putting together the hygiene packs

Pizza time!

CHRISTMAS COOKIE PARTY
Every year for the past 3 years, a couple in our community hosts a cookie exchange. Not only do we have a fantastic cookie contest but we also bake extras to pack up and donate to Unity Care, a transitional foster care program. We also sewed together some funky sock monkeys for the kids!

We hope everyone had a great holiday season in remembering the birth of our Savior.

Here is a special Christmas song that Warren recorded!

Generosity Challenge – Care Packages for Local College students at SJSU

John 13:34-35 (New American Standard Bible)

“A new commandment I give to you,that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This holiday, one of the  house community groups wanted to show love to the local college students by handing out care packages of snacks sealed in a bag with a sticker that said “Good Luck! Study Hard”. No traces of where the group was from or any affiliations were marked on the bag because they did not want any recognition–just for the students to know that they were being loved and thought of. Many who received the snacks initially thought they had to sit through some long imposing speech about who the group was  and what they did but were surprised to find that it wasn’t. One student as we explained what were doing thanked us and said “One love and respect is what it’s about.”

While the house community group recognized when opportunities arose to chat about deeper things, they were ready but all in all it was purely intended to be an act of love.

A summary from Ken who helped head up this project:

“The damp weather as we emerged from the car to unload bags of snacks reminded me how dreadful and unappealing finals could be. It was almost 18 months since my last final at SJSU, but seeing the students scurry around with loaded backpacks brought back, if only just for a second, all the feelings of impending doom.

Our small group wanted to bless our community in a way that fit in with the holiday season, and nothing says, “Merry Christmas,” like studying frantically all night for a two-hour test you have no hope of passing. The SJSU campus is about one block away from Le Petit Trianon where our church meets on Sundays, so they were a natural choice. Our group created an ambitious goal to hand out 200 bags full of snacks to students studying in the MLK Library, and soon realized that we needed some help. With a few phone calls and emails, Alan enlisted the services of the SJSU chapter of AACF.

Working with AACF turned out to be much more of a blessing than we realized. Most of our small group members are 5+ years removed from college, so the younger folks had a bit of a Antarean effect on us. They had a great time blessing their peers with semi-nutritious goodies found in small brown paper bags.

Initially, the reactions from the students studying in the library were mixed. We tried to spread out to all of the floors, and the reception at most floors was luke-warm at best–until the students realized that there really were no strings attached, and the snack packs were truly a gift. Then, we couldn’t give them away fast enough. Clearly, 200 bags were not nearly enough, and we easily could have tripled the number. During the two-hour evening, it only took us 15 minutes to distribute all the treats.

Overall, the reactions were genuine gratitude: thankful for some nourishment, thankful for a small break during a potentially long night, and thankful that we didn’t stick around to bore them with a long monologue about why we were there. The reactions from AACF and our small group were also positive, and there might be potential for us to partner up again in the future. After all, it never hurts to encourage other people with a heart to serve.

The rain finally stopped when it was time for everybody to part ways. I had spent a lot of time at SJSU in the past, but returning there allowed me to see it in a different light. This time, when I left the campus that evening, it was nice not having to worry about final grades ruining my Christmas break.”

What is the Generosity Challenge?

Mini Generosity Challenge -Jackets

From one of our house community members:

The Mini Project: For one of our generosity projects, we bought about 25 really nice and warm jackets for each house community member to hand out but not to donate to an organization. The point is to address a need when we see one.  There are no restrictions to whom the jacket may be given to. It could be someone who lives on the streets or even a person waiting at the bus stop in the rain.

What is the Generosity Challenge?

“Earlier this week I was praying that God would give me the opportunity to give out a jacket and so I purposefully grabbed the stack in my trunk to put in my backseat so I can reach for it if I needed to. I REALLY wanted to start handing them out especially since the weather is starting to get cold and also because the last time I felt God telling me to give a jacket out, I chickened out. I wanted to follow through the next opportunity He presented.

Yesterday, I was waiting at this  taqueria in Sunnyvale that a lot of working people go to to meet a friend for lunch. A lady who looked a little tattered (named Jessie Girl) was sitting outside on the curb. Generally I won’t offer anything unless they ask or have a sign. I just don’t want people to be offended if I assumed they were homeless/begging for something and they weren’t :) Anyway, I walked outside of the taqueria to flag down my friend and the lady who was outside asked me for some money. I asked her if she’d like lunch instead and what she’d like. She said she wanted a philly cheesesteak and fries and I said, awesome…where can i get that nearby here? She said, “In there!” (points at taqueria). For a split second, i thought she was out of it but then she said there’s a special in the taqueria but it’s $5. I said not to worry about it and said I would get it for her.

I then thought this would be a good opportunity to give her a jacket and asked her if she was cold and if she’d like a jacket. She said oh no it’s okay I don’t want to take it from you. I said, no no I have some brand new ones and would give her one. I said why don’t you come to my trunk and to see what size fits. She seemed surprised but followed me anyway.

All I really had was XL and XXL (she was kind of bigger) but i think we both assumed she wouldn’t be any more than a Large. I dug up a Medium but it seemed to small and then she asked to try the XXL and it fit perfectly! I felt like i was back in retail telling her it looked good and fit well and told her that it was a very good jacket that would keep her warm throughout the winter.

Right then, my friend pulled in and was like, are you selling jackets from your trunk?? :) I explained to her what I was doing. I told Jessie Girl I’d be right back with her philly cheese steak special for $5 (which was a real special!) I then gave it to her and she was grateful.

It seems like a small and easy gesture but sometimes whether it was out of laziness, fear, people thinking I was weird, thinking someone else will do it, we don’t follow through with God asking us to do the simple things. I ask God to see the big things but if I myself can’t even obey on a simple task, then it will be harder to see even the big things.

Hopefully I will continue to have more opportunities to obey and show love through this project.”

The delicious taqueria:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/tres-potrillos-taqueria-sunnyvale

loving on the neighborhood

In response to our Generosity Challenge, one of our house communities prayed and asked God what to do. And He began showing Mayra images of kids in the neighborhood that she used to live in. And how many of these kids have few positive influences and basically nothing to do the entire summer.

So the group began doing free bi-weekly BBQ’s in June – food, crafts and games for the kids and just hanging out with whomever wants to come out. It has been an incredible experience and we’re looking forward to how God will continue to lead us. A few highlights:

  • Indian, Asian, Latino kids all playing cricket together.
  • Meeting an African refugee family in the neighborhood.
  • Praying for people who need prayer.
  • Magic shows for the kids.
  • Over 200 hotdogs BBQ’d.
  • Hearing about the struggles of the neighborhood.
  • Listening to people’s stories and meeting people from over 8 different countries.

We’ve been doing every other Thursday and will be transitioning to weekends. We’ll be going again this Thursday [8/5], but contact us at info@ihaven.org for what day we’ll transition to. Come on out and share a dog, play some cricket and just be Jesus to a neighborhood.

This week:

August 5th – THURSDAY – 6:00-8:30p [come anytime]
Meeting in front of 2299 Pasetta Drive, Santa Clara

Some more photos HERE and HERE courtesy of Luis.

what he’s saying…

A question for you… when was the last time you heard God’s voice? Maybe it was just moments ago, maybe it’s been a while. But stop for a moment, quiet your soul, clear your mind and ask:

“Jesus, what do you want to say to me right now?”

And wait.

Repeat at lunch.
Right before your presentation.
During your coffee break.
Right before you talk to your boss.
What is he saying?

If you’re willing to share, put it in a comment below. Thanks folks.

Poems

This week in our Tuesday house group, we reflected on Isaiah 49 and 50 by contemplating on it, and then proceeding to write a poem. Writing poetry helps us think, articulate, and conjure our reflections in a way that is free, creative, and expressive.

What you see here is our thoughts, put on paper, expressed through words, deeply personal and uninhibited. For that reason, we chose to make each one anonymous. They are, in essence, meditations of the heart.

Sometimes, I wake up with regret to start my day
sometimes, I start and pray for a hopeful day
asking God to help me go through the motions.

I think alone
about what is to come
or analyze what went wrong.
Could I have said something more
so they could’ve known how I felt?
I bottle it up inside and
it lingers.
I know how I feel, but do they?
If you could only understand
how I want to be reached out to.

Saved, loved, accepted.
The Lord has forsaken me.
I’ll not forget you!

In pain and torment I cried out
and in the silence, came the dreadful doubt
to my dismay, I saw myself waste away
the consequence of a payment I couldn’t pay

And yet like a mother you came to me
broke the chains and set me free
to run and conquer and bring the light
the love of God that sets everything right.

There are happy times.
Times of being loved, of comfort
of being secure and being protected.
Times of belonging.

I can do anything, be anybody
I have infinite amounts of enthusiasm and
optimism.
Times of promise.

There are sad times.
Times of trouble, of despair,
of being hurt and being
abandoned.
Times of confusion.

I fail miserably, shout out loud!
I despise my circumstance and
lose faith, mostly in myself.
Times of darkness.

After every dusk, there is dawn.
It happens every time
without fail.
Flowers spring from the ground
at the first sign of winter’s deadlock easing.
It is for sure.
Happy and sad, time moves forward
and I am heading into morning.

I wonder how a mother or father cannot love
the child they bear?
I wonder why a child feels like he
does not have a purpose?

Do they not realize he is a miracle?
Does he not realize purpose was given
to him before he was born?

Though a mother and father may forget,
God will not forget those hebrought
into this world.

To you who are hopeless,
put your hope in the Lord and He
will not disappoint.
Do not wallow in your darkness and
wonder where God is. God is light.
And while you cannot control where the light
comes from, you can control how
much light comes in.

Let it in, then you
will find purpose.

Ravaged, ruined, rejected
Damaged, distraught, dejected
Battered, bruised, bereft of comfort

A pillow, a blanket, a warm embrace
Here, there is none in the dark, this lonely one
Pain, He becomes; His frame, overrun; His life to be unspun

No pillow, no blanket, no warm embrace in this empty, lonesome space
To look death in the face, and overcome
In quiet strength and grace
Deep within a trace

Of flint
Ready
To make sparks

I work hard and gain nothing from the earth,
The Lord is my reward, He shows me what is of worth,
Being a blessing to other Christians is noble indeed,
But God calls us to bless non-believers and plant the seed,
Has your mother forgotten you? Have you forgotten her?
God will never forget you for his love always endures,
If anyone messes with you they mess with the Lord,
And no one wants to mess with the Lord,
Do not think God is too weak for He will show you his strength,
Walk in the dark and do not fear,
Trust in God, He is always near.

The Victorians

Next door to the place we rent for our monthly worship are these boarding homes for many formerly homeless and persons with mental illness. And we’ve sporadically gone over and tried to find ways to connect and love them. We’ve done different things: clothes drives, small Bible studies, simple worship services, etc. What we’ve learned is that many live lonely existences, suffer from all of sorts of struggles [some self-imposed and others just by consequence] and experience a great degree of rejection.

So what we’ve been doing [until God tells us otherwise] is that we go over, bring lunch for all of us and just hang out. We’ve been doing this off and on over the course of the last year. We ask them how they are doing, what their story is, where they are from, etc. And we ask them if they need any prayer and we pray. And that’s about it – there’s nothing fancy, we don’t stay terribly long. We just share a meal and be friends.

And what it’s done is remind us no matter what sort of background or struggle, that we are all created in the image of God and thus loved by Him. And we’ve discovered that they are people just like us – who have experienced some hard moments, who are working through their struggles and are just needing a reminder that they matter in this world. The truth is that we’re all the same.

We went yesterday and had a great time in the sun, eating take out Chinese food and talking life. We’ve been doing it for a while, but I think we are just beginning to get why we need to be there [for both our good] and we’re slowly understanding Jesus’ heart to love the least [us included]. I got a hug from James Taylor yesterday… he said, “You guys are good people… you’re our buddies.” This is after 4+ years of knowing each other. Things don’t happen overnight. And God has used our time there to birth something in them and in us.

We got this letter today from Michelle who is a resident there:

Dear Elton and family,their friends,and their church community;

THANK-YOU!!!,very much for the fun get-together and lunch that was put on by you guys yesterday here at the Victorians Independant living community.Everybody that I talked to said that they had a good time,and to tell you “Thank-you!!!We feel very honored to have you and the prescence of GOD here every time you come and fellowship with us.Through the love of Christ,you show consideration and compassion for us-we really do appreciate this.May god bless you always,in the great work you guys(and gals) do for us and everyone your hearts “Touch”.We are truly blessed.

With love,through God, The residents of the Victorians.
ps- Great food!!!        :-))))))))