Count the cost . . .

 

Wow!  These past 6 months have been a whirlwind for us.  In January my hubby awakens in the morning looks over at me and pastors shoessays, “God told me to shut the café.”  So, we did.  We have invested 4 years of our life here.  We had many struggles throughout these last four years and I must say it’s been a real ride with twists, turns, ups, downs and 180s but through it all God’s been in control.  Do we know what He’s doing, nope, not all the time but obedience my friend that makes the ride a little more comfortable.  When you fully rely on and trust in the One sending you there’s nothing like it.

 

We are fairly transparent people; God has told us to live our life out loud.  However, there are still many things that we keep personal.  Is it because of pride; I don’t know.   The why is really unclear but it has been disobedient.  Today as I write this blog my hubby is at a church we have been serving for 9 months painting.   He has spent a lot of time there working most of it by himself.  Why he does this is only to Honor and Glorify God and no other reason.  Trust me, he wouldn’t be there for any other reason . . . not this amount of time.   He’s been trying to obtain painting jobs on the side to help us make ends meet.  For some strange reason when we closed the café down we lost all of our monthly support except for $200.  Each month, each day, each hour we have had no idea where our bill or food money is coming from.  When we had the café we had some tough times but after all we did work in a café and there was at least lunch there.

 

Hang in here with me for a moment, I know my thoughts are kind of scattered but I must be obedient.  So over the course of these last four years we’ve only had 2 churches that have given us monthly support – – we believe it is because God wanted us to fully rely on Him for our income and not a particular church.  I get that.  About a year and a half ago God impressed upon us to give away most of what we had.  De-Clutter I was calling it.  Nonetheless, we gave away so much.  Then one year ago God told us to move into Hamilton – – leave our comfy home in West Chester and move into the city that we have been called to serve.  We did that.  During this time we heard a lot of complimenting and atta boys but to us, it was all about hearing God say, “Well, Done”!

 

We have been serving and serving and so a few weeks ago my parents gave us a gift by sending us to Myrtle Beach for a week.  What a blessing and what an honor.  My parents have always stood beside me my entire life; they have been my biggest cheerleaders and most trusted supporters.  They have seen how we have served so many and not done anything for ourselves and I really enjoyed the beach, let me tell you.  Thank you mom and dad!

 

Now, we are at a crossroads.  I sometimes would joke and ask God so are we gonna be living like our “poor neighbors and homeless friends”.  I did not realize how true that statement would become.  I thought we had been through tough times before.  But now, here we are buying our clothes from the thrift store – when we can afford it.  There was a pair of Capri pants that I wanted from there and check this they were $19.  What in the world, what do you do when the thrift store is too expensive?  Next, came the food pantries.  Yup, we have.  I must say that has been the hardest one to do.  I am thankful for the pantries; however, I do not understand why a lot of the food is generic and outdated.  Would you want to eat outdated food?  Then what I noticed was we may get some meat like a steak or a few potatoes but no butter or sauce.  Interesting.  Feeding the hungry – yes we are.  Our leftovers and throwaways.  I’ve had people give me food and say, “Well, I cleaned out my cabinets and thought you would know someone who would want this.  Are you kidding me it expired 2 years ago.  Can I say, uh, no thank you.

 

I know as I am writing this I appear to be ungrateful.  I’m not. I truly appreciate each person that God has brought into our lives.  We’ve had many.  We’ve had several people we thought God brought to really dig in and get dirty but I do completely understand that sometimes it’s hard to trudge through the mud everyday and not see many results.  We have literally seen people die in the streets.  That’s tough – – no matter who you are.

 

So transparent I am.  I’m putting it all out.  Like me or not and like it or not.  But I’ve noticed in the last 4 years that if you want to know someone’s heart – look at their checkbook.  If you want to know who good leaders and pastors are – look at how they lead their church.  Are we making disciples or consumers?  Do we lead as Jesus did like servants or do we have the parking spot closest to the building.  Are we leading our congregations out into the streets for the “outreaches” or do we have a committee that goes for us?  Truth my friends.  Painful; you betcha.  Before I start getting hate mail, I am not talking about anyone in particular.  If this is tugging at your heart or raising your blood pressure – – go talk to my boss.  King Jesus.  You know the one who died for us!!  DIED for us!

 

This is not a game, this is not a dress rehearsal this is real life with real human beings dying and going to hell every single day.  There are missionaries out on the mission field that have been called to the front lines but our building projects have taken so much of our resources that we have to cut or withdraw support.  So why would a good God send two people into an inner city saturated with churches have them give away their possessions to serve people who just go right back to their vomit.  Why has God allowed our support to go away?  Why has God allowed us to go to food pantries?  Why has God allowed us to get our utilities’ shut off?

 

I can tell you for this missionary I finally understand poverty; the poverty in which I serve.  These people are not all addicts. These people are just like me.  Ordinary family people doing the best they can with  what they have.  God has given me a clear understanding of why poor people are overweight.  The food we give is not very nutritious and we can also buy more of the other food.  Ramon Noodles don’t cost very much.  Why do people with very little money have such large TVs.  Well, it’s cheap entertainment.  Movies, Kings Island, Creation Museum, YMCA passes.  We can’t afford to do that.

 

Lastly, I want to share one last personal bit of information.  The picture at the top is an actual picture I took this morning of my husband’s shoes.  This is the only pair of gym shoes he owns and are you ready for this, a homeless man gave them to him.  Yup – community.  I have learned about community from the people we’ve been serving.  At any given time, I would take food over to one house and they would call up their neighbors and prepare a big meal and all would eat.  It’s true.  If one of them has a need the others will come in to fill it.  We had one of our neighbors give us $2 one day.  We knew this was all they had but they gave.  We had another neighbor give us an old rusty tin that used to have popcorn in it as a gift.  I had one of our homeless friends give me a stuffed animal that he had fished out of the garbage for my birthday.  I have got to tell you tears are streaming down my face when I think of this.  I have some many stories of community I could share but I’m sure you are getting bored.

 

Ok. One more … I was notified that one of our homeless friends was found sleeping on the steps of Offerings.  Breaks my heart.  This same man calls my husband and says, I need help.   This person would come to the café almost everyday and we poured into him for years.  We are to be God’s hands and feet, and when people need help the “church” should be there to help them.  But I know how hard it has been for me and hubby to get into churches; there’s only been a few that have allowed us to come and share our mission.  After all, for most there is only one service a week and we can’t bore congregants.  Our buildings are closed up tight and getting past a pastors secretary is tough stuff.  Where is the church that is totally committed to God and one another?  Where is that community living on mission together?  Where is that community that has everything in common and no one wants for anything?  I am longing for that community.  The lost sinners have it — oh, yeah they have it minus a Savior.  Which, of course, is the most important part.  But they are not seeing the love that we should have for one another.  What do we have to offer them; what joy do they see?  They notice, believe me they are paying attention.  They know when you are there putting on an event and when you truly love and care for them.  And having a special seating section for them all to sit at in your Sunday service doesn’t count.  We’ve got to be living in community and doing life together in order to impact this world.  Total devotion to God and love for others before ourselves.  And, hey, if you are not called to the frontline at least support the ones that are.

 

I know most people have big hearts and love God deeply.  I’m just in a place where I long for the model of the Acts church.  Friends, we are still on the streets feeding, serving, loving and sharing the gospel and we could really use your help.  Here is what we need:  Personal Hygenie items; soap, shampoo, conditioner, femine products, diapers, laundry detergent, finger nail clippers, combs, brushes, tooth brush, toothpaste.  Food – we serve food each week.  Who is willing to ma ke side dishes, desserts, or provide some meat for us to grill.  I’m also looking for some donations of soil and veggies and herbs so that I can plant this year’s community garden. We had one at Offerings and it really helps us provide fresh tomatos, cucumbers, lettuce, etc to people.  Lastly, a vehicle – we are still after 4 years in need of a box type truck/bus to serve out of.  Then lastly, please consider financially supporting us and inviting us to your house, community group, church ,etc to come and share our mission.

 

We are also going to be going to be going out more days a week now so if you would like to be added to our food donation list, please let me know.  My email is Pastorkimrusso@gmail.com.

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Blessings in the Toilet

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This past week my hubby and I have been serving at InnKeeper Ministries while Bob & Jan are out of town.  Over the last 10 years we have stayed here many many times, we even renewed our vows for our 15 year wedding anniversary here.  We have been guests and we have been workers.  However, this time has been different.  As we were cleaning rooms after the last guests left I was cleaning in the bathroom and became so overcome with emotion.  I realized that after all of these years this time we are here serving other servants of God; God’s shepherds.  As I was cleaning the toilet of all places I prayed and thanked God for this blessing.  I have such an amazing feeling and such deep gratitude for the honor of being able to serve in this place and to be able to help two of the most selfless, wonderful people we know.  I can certainly say that over the last 10 years of knowing the Hartenstein’s that they are a family after God’s own heart.  They love God, their family and others with such a willingness to be and do anything that God calls them to.  I am thankful for the many years that this couple, Bob and Janet Hartenstein have poured into us.  Janet is certainly the entire package of what a godly woman is, she is my mentor and I know hubby feels the same about Bob.

Today my blessing came while cleaning the toilet!

Finally Friday – It’s Time To Come Undone!!!

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Compassion – suffering with someone with the desire to help them, this is what my husband told a youth group we pastored 16 years ago.  I thought I understood the meaning of compassion back then but I had not even begun to comprehend it’s depth of meaning.

Life for us has been crazy this last month with the closing of the café, my diagnosis of fibromyalgia and the experimental medications the insurance company has made me go through before I can take the one my doctor actually thinks will help me.   So for me, this week wraps up a four year long journey as we will lock the door to Offerings Holy Grounds Café for the last time this Saturday.  What a journey it has been.  Just penning these words springs up a well of tears filling my eyes.

We have met so many people.  We have seen the good, the bad and the truly ugly.  I have so many stories that it would take me all month to share.  One that comes to my mind to share is of a blonde haired woman that lives a life of prostitution and crack addiction.  I had only known “Misty” for about a week when I found her crouched out in the back parking lot trying to smoke crack out of some kind of make-shift pipe.  She was frayed from end to end, disheveled and rocking back and forth.  I remember walking up to her and standing there for minutes with her never even looking up to see what I was doing.  My heart was feeling physically heavy as I lowered myself to my knees in front of her.  All the while she never once looked at me; she continued to try to put crack in this so called pipe while she continued to rock back in forth.  I can still feel the pain deep inside of me this day as I recount this story. I sat there for a minute or two and just watched her not knowing what I should do.  With a deep breath I stretched my arms toward her and I cupped her weary face into my shaking hands.  As I cradled her face her eyes met mine and at that moment I had become totally undone, never to be the same again.

Have you ever had an encounter with such suffering that it totally rocked your world?  I did that day.  That day I felt so much suffering and pain that I began to understand the meaning of compassion.  Right there that day it hit me; compassion feels bad.  It hurts, it’s dirty, it’s messy, it’s . . . awful.  Compassion is walking away from an encounter that you know has changed your life forever and you realize that life as you knew it would never be the same.

Friends, we live in a world full of pain; do you feel it?  Or have we become so desensitized by all the news stories and so self-centered that we will walk right past a person begging on the streets.  Or as we pass the poor we drop our eyes so that we don’t have to look at them.

By now, most have put in at least a 40 hour week already work.  So now we can have this weekend to enjoy and kick it up as we please.  I understand this; I lived it for most of my life.  I worked long hard hours at a job that was okay just so I could pay a mortgage on a house that I no longer live in and travel to a tropical state for a two week vacation once every year.  I was living the dream; right?  No, I had bought into a lie.

After four years of street ministry I have got to admit it’s dirty, it’s hard and it’s painful.  But my friends, I could not go back to the comfortable life that I once knew.  I have been called to follow Jesus, the one who gave up the comfort of heaven and had compassion on me.  As I was holding Misty in my arms Jesus was holding me in His.  Jesus was whispering into my ear, He was saying, “Kimberleigh lay down your net and follow me.”  Suffer with her, have compassion “with” her, feel it.  He showed me in that very moment that I would shed many tears for the little children that I would see running around in the alleys barefoot, dirty and hungry.  He showed me that I would feel the deep heart wrenching pain of holding a drug addicted prostitute in my arms.  He showed me that the road that I had stepped onto was narrow and the path that I was about to take is dirty, full of busted beer bottles, heroine needles, crack pipes and cigarette butts.  Sitting in a little church, pastoring teens I would never have imagined that I would be here today serving the poor and broken in my community I would have avoided it at all costs.

Before you approach your weekend and all the activities you have planned I ask you to spend some time alone with God.  Listen for His whisper.  It’s there.  Your path and purpose have all been laid out before you were even created.  Turn the world down for just a little while and turn off its lies of if we work hard enough, make enough money, and buy all the latest and greatest gadgets that we will be happy.  What is He calling you to do, where is He calling you to go?  We live in a world full of pain and suffering but few have actually engaged it.  Most of us, walk past the beggar and the drunkard and lower our eyes.

Four years ago, I had an encounter with my Savior that caused me to become radically undone and since that time I have held many women while they cry.  I have seen pain and hopelessness in their eyes.  For me, I know that my life will never be the same.  There is no way to put those pieces all back together, the dirt has been under my nails for so many years that OPI can’t cover it.

Just for this weekend, before you go out to eat buy someone else a meal first.  Before you buy that new outfit you’ve been waiting for buy one for someone else.  And when you walk down the street smile at the person you are passing.  I encourage you to become UNDONE!!

Praise Him!!

Moment by Moment

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I am sitting in my sewing room listening to KLove on the radio and trying to install a zipper on a cosmetic bag that I am making.  I have only sewed one zipper before and after ripping the seams out 4 times and starting over I can say that  I am really getting frustrated.  A commercial played on the radio from the movie Son of God where Jesus was talking to Peter and Peter asked Jesus, “What are we going to do?”  Jesus replied, “Change the world.”

I know you must be thinking what does all of this have to do with sewing zippers.  Well, at that very moment, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “take a breath, say a prayer and then tackle this zipper with gladness and an opportunity to learn.”  Really?  I did just that.

Renewing our minds is not only a daily activity it can be a moment by moment task.  Therefore, I encourage you, if you are working on something at your job that has you frustrated, if you are waiting on patients or customers that are pushing your last nerve, stop for a moment, take a breath, say a prayer and then approach the situation with a willingness to learn and grow.  With each day and each obstacle there is an opportunity to glorify God.

With the remaining twelve and a half hours left in this day step outside of yourself and strive to serve others, actively go out of your way to make someone smile, speak kind words to everyone you encounter, approach your task with gladness and embrace this gifted day as an opportunity to reflect Jesus.

Praise Him!

Monday Morning Motivation

monday morning

What a Magnificent Monday Morning.  Glory be to God!  As you reach over to silence the ringing of your alarm clock sticking your arm out from the warmth and comfort of your cozy bed your thoughts go to, “I hate Mondays”.  I’ve had such a great weekend, why does the weekend go by so fast?  You slowly and begrudgingly place your feet on the floor and start making your way to the coffee machine.

This morning, I want to encourage you as you inhale the warm aroma of your freshly brewed hot coffee to exhale and purpose in your mind that this is going to be a magnificent Monday. You can change the course of your day just by renewing the way you approach your day in your mind.

As your taste buds come alive with the anticipation of the hot, creamy, smooth first sip of coffee allow God to energize your mind.  Some of you don’t like your job, some are okay with their job but spend the week wishing it was Friday.  Perhaps you are not employed.  Whatever your circumstance may be, allow God to direct your steps today in a positive manner.  Stop your stinking thinking and your complaining and embrace this day as the gift that it is.

Serve your customers, patients and employers as you are serving Jesus himself.  Each person you encounter may be Jesus in disguise treat them as such.  Take your disappointments and renew your mind by embracing them as an opportunity to grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Savior.

Place a smile on your face by picturing Jesus lovingly looking into your eyes and guiding you as you type each letter, take someone’s temperature, assist your boss, load trucks, deliver food, fill teeth, whatever it is that you do.  He is saying to you as you do to these you are doing to me.  Love them as you love me.  Embrace your day as an opportunity to live it as fully as you possibly can.  Make each moment count, take every thought captive and bring it into line with God’s plan for us to have joy and peace.

You have a choice on how you will live today.  Embrace it with love, joy, peace, excitement and an opportunity to love and serve God and others.  What a glorious day the Lord has given us.  Let’s make this Monday Magnificent.

Praise Him!

Broken and Naked Before God

 

 
He Without Sin 017    John 8:1-11

My text is from the story of the woman taken in adultery.  It was the time of year during the Feast of Tabernacles, where every Jewish man and woman went to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast that commemorates their ancestors living in tents as they wandered thru the wilderness.  Now this story takes place early in the morning.  Jesus is outside the temple teaching a group of people when all of a sudden the scribes and the Pharisees show up dragging behind them a naked woman.  This woman has been caught in the act of adultery.  According to the Law of Moses she is to be stoned to death.  (Lev. 20:10 The man who commits adultery with another’s wife even his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.)

Let’s take a look at the brokenness – as we journey throughout our life we encounter many situations that cause us to become broken people.  Perhaps, we were introduced to drugs and/or alcohol and became addicts.  Or we were physically or sexually abused as children.  We become extremely far in debt, we cheat on college exams or taxes.  How about we catch our spouse, the love of our life, having an affair or a porn addiction.  Just take a look back over your life or your current situation and I’m sure you can name a few things along the way that has caused you to become broken.  I know I have.  At some point in our life we have failed somewhere or someone; we have blown it, we’ve made a wrong choice or two.

So  here we go back to John 8: 2-5 But early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them.  As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery.  They put her in front of the crowd.  “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone here. What do you say?”

These Jewish leaders were trying to trap Jesus.  These men were happy because they figure they’ve got Jesus where they want him.  They know she’s guilty.  She knows she’s guilty.  And Jesus knows she’s guilty.  Everybody knows she’s guilty.  Never mind, that these scribes and Pharisees have already just broken the law themselves because they did not bring the man to Jesus . . . nope, just the woman.

So check it in verses 6-11.  They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.  They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” The he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

This is so good.  Picture this it’s early, Jesus is teaching a group outside the Temple and here the leaders come rocks in their hands dragging this naked broken woman caught in adultery.  Friends, these men are armed and ready.  (Vs. 9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with this woman.)  I LOVE this! Jesus turns it all around on them.  As the Jewish leaders were ready to prosecute this woman with rocks in hand Jesus turns it around on them by asking them to let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone and when they are confronted with facing their sin they leave one by one dropping their rocks to the ground.  Halleluiah! Praise God!

Then here is where grace comes in.  When they have all dropped their rocks and left and Jesus stands up and looks this woman in the eye he says (vs. 10-11) Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”  “No, Lord,” she replied.  And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”  WOW!!  Now that’s what I’m talking about Jesus and His love for sinners; grace, grace marvelous grace.

That is grace my friend.  Was this woman guilty?  Absolutely.  Was Jesus the only sinless person there qualified to throw the rock at her?  Oh yes.  But He doesn’t He says to her Go and sin no more.  So why is this important; there are several reasons.

  1.  Why doesn’t Jesus condemn her?  She’s guilty right.  So as this woman stands before Jesus broken and naked it’s not going to be very long before Jesus goes to the cross, the only sinless perfect man was about to die for this woman who was not.  This is too good friends.  This is my Jesus!!!
  2. I want you to notice He also wants our commitment.  He says Go and sin NO MORE.  He gives grace my friends but He does NOT excuse our sin.  He doesn’t say go and do whatever you want you are covered by my grace.  He says, SIN NO MORE.  Listen, Jesus gives us grace and forgiveness but He hates sin.  Have you ever heard the saying, Hate the sin but love the sinner?  It’s like this Jesus says, Woman, I don’t condemn you but I do not like what you did so go and don’t do it anymore.  Get it?

If you are sitting here saying well, I know this is wrong and I shouldn’t steal this candy bar but I will just do it and then ask for forgiveness; then you don’t get it.  Forgiveness is not a get out of jail free card.  I will do this today and then confess it later.  Nope.  Check it once you come to God with your brokenness He will put you back together and you will not want to go against anything other than to strive to be Christ like.

Today where do you stand . . . are you like one of the Pharisees that are holding the rocks ready to throw them at other people while you stand there in your own sin.  Or perhaps you are like this woman; broken, guilty and have never quite gotten over it.  As you stand there naked and in front of Jesus with your life broken and shattered lying all over the ground are you ready to come to Jesus and give Him ALL of these broken pieces.  Listen friends, with confession and repentance Jesus still stands today ready to forgive us and not condemn us.   The next step is up to you.

Reflections

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Sitting in the  rocking chair at the café this morning the sun is streaming through the front windows.  I am reflecting on 3 years of service here in Hamilt

on, Ohio.  It has been an incredible journey and I might add a bumpy one.  3 years ago Felix and I stepped out of our very comfortable jobs to follow the call of our God.  He sent us to Vincennes Indiana to show us what He wanted us to do in this city.

While at a reunion, one that we had not attended in 17 years we were led to a quaint little café called, Offerings Holy Grounds Café.   When we walked into the doors the sweet ladies were busily closing for the day.  Our presence was still welcomed and we were invited to take a look around and told there was a prayer room upstairs.  As we landed on the top of the stairs and entered into the prayer room there was this amazing mural, breathtaking actually.  At that very moment we knew our lives were about to change.

Long story short within 10 days of that day we had a fully furnished and functioning café ministry that was started with no money and no furnishings.  God supplied it all!!  Incredible.  3 years ago we had no idea what lay ahead for us.  This café was not a lifelong dream of ours, far from it.  Friends, we were happy, content and financially stable loving our family, our lives and our jobs.  Then God . . .

We have seen people come and go, addicts restored, people die, extreme poverty and pure evil.  We daily rise out of bed and thank God for the opportunity to serve Him and the people living in a very dark place.  In the last three years we have lost our home, been unable to pay bills, gone hungry and through it all we’ve been incredibly blessed.  We have seen God’s hand move so undeniably that if we had time together to share some of our God stories you would agree.

We shepherd a street church on Sundays and we have received more heart blessings than heartaches.  Last week was my 43rd birthday and I received a cake, my girls from the neighborhood sang to me and hugged me, told me they loved me – wow!  We are struggling to keep this ministry afloat and last night we had a neighbor come in after hearing the word on the street that we are going to close.  This man that has NOTHING besides huge life issues handed Felix $4 to help keep us going.  When Felix told him no He insisted.  This little inner city mission is making an impact in this city.  I was brought to tears just thinking about what all he had to give up just giving us this $4.  I am absolutely blown away by emotion and feeling so loved and encouraged.

We are a federally recognized non-profit ministry.  We serve food, coffee and Jesus on a daily basis.  We love our homeless, addicted, sin sick neighbors and we are investing the LOVE OF CHRIST into each of these people one day at a time, one meal at a time, one soul at a time.   Friends, if you believe in us, in this little mission please consider financially supporting us and dining with us at the café.  We are a café with a cause – we are not for profit and as a matter of fact we have moved into the neighborhood so that we can be closer to our mission field.  We need encouragement, prayer and financial support.   Please pass this blog on to your friends, family, pastors and church members.  We are looking to speak to community groups, women’s and men’s groups, and churches to raise support to help us to continue bringing Jesus Christ to the streets for a kingdom impact!

Praise Him!

If you feel led to send us a donation please mail to Offerings Holy Grounds Café 215 Main Street Hamilton, OH 45013.   www.offeringsministries.com  Like us on facebook https://www.facebook.com/OfferingsHolyGroundsCafe