Plentiful

 

harvest field

 

Matthew 9: 36-38  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

Eastside Mission had it’s kick-off community block party outreach yesterday.  I must say it was absolutely amazing to be back on the streets after 8 months of “being still” and waiting on God.  During the 8 months God was growing, stretching and preparing us as He was about to expand our borders.  After 4 years of inner city street ministry on Main Street in Hamilton we thought God had really given us a HUGE mission field.  Now, reflecting back we realize that was our time of preparation.  

Back to yesterday, we had all kinds of fun activities for our introduction into the neighborhood. Pastor Felix and I spent the time by getting to know our neighbors, meeting their families and talking about their needs and the community needs.  At one point, I remember standing a midst all the busyness of serving and lovin’ on people I had a count of 175 people that we were blessed to serve this day.  We have approximately 1700 people within immediate radius, we passed out 560 total flyers and served 175 men, women and children.   As I’m standing there and process all of the conversations I was having, watching the kids playing I am feeling overwhelmed with all the needs.  Trust me, the needs in this area are many!  As we suspected there is a lot of heroin and addicted mommies and daddies.  Many generations living together in small houses and not being able to make the ends meet.  

For some time leading up to the kick-off and even more today we have been posting pictures, sharing needs, asking for volunteers and I’m starting to feel myself getting stressed about how in the world are we going to accomplish this.  This is 4x what we did and served over on Main Street.  God what in the world are you thinking?  So as I’m starting into that familiar tailspin I pick up my bible and I start reading about Jesus going into a city and Him telling the disciples that the harvest is plenty but the laborers are few.  Man God is so awesome 2,000 years ago He knew that there would be a great need for workers in the harvest field.  God knows we are facing many needs financial, volunteers, supplies, etc. but God ALSO knows that the laborers are few; therefore, as He is guiding me in His word to ask Him to send out workers into His harvest field.  Because bottom line – He has given Pastor Felix and I the charge of stewardship over this mission and building His church among these un-reached people and whether He sends us 2 or 20 we are going to praise Him, serve others and glorify our God as we pray for God to send the laborers.  Won’t you take a minute and join us in praying for this harvest field and the workers to serve in it!!  God might also be calling you to take a step out, he may be calling you to step outside of the church you are comfortable in with the friends and family you love and do some water walking!

Praise Him!!

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.

pastors shoes2

Blessings in the Toilet

toilet

 

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!!!

needle

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!!

Come on we have work to do

 

warrior woman

 

Last night we were blessed to receive free tickets to see Son of God.  My favorite part of the movie was immediately after Jesus ascended Peter stood up and said to the others, “come on, we have work to do”.  I have had that image in my mind of what those 1st days without Jesus must have looked and felt like to the disciples.

 

As I drifted off to sleep last night I was praying to have God instill even more urgency into me to reach the lost in this world.   Being street preachers, I have these names and faces of addicts, homeless, prostitutes … our friends in my mind.  I see and feel the lost hope, despair and total utter darkness that these precious friends of ours live in daily.  Actually, just a couple of days ago one of these women who had lost all hope was contemplating suicide. 

 

I realize that a lot of my blogs sound like war cries but until the warriors for Christ come to the battlefield I feel like I am supposed to.  We have so many warriors that have not put their armor on in years and stroll into church on most Sundays and listen to a sermon to get up and leave it there.  Where have the warriors gone, where is their urgency.  Last year, I literally saw 2 people die in the streets.  There is no time for us to wait around.

 

We are living in a society that is self absorbed and independent when we come from a Kingdom that is unified and relational.  Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive – – we have lost our give and we have become hoarders.  Followers of Jesus Christ we need a revival a coming back to Him and I’m not talking about big meetings and religious excitement coming from a pulpit.  Revival is God revealing himself to us.  God revealing His glory, His love, His power to us that we run from the church buildings and abandon our programs and run straight into the darkness and grab people by the arm, lift them out of the gutter, drag them from the street and bring them

Jesus!  Now, that’s revival.  Not some emotional stirring with lots of religious excitement that goes on for days.

 

Friends, Jesus came to seek and to save those that are lost.  When we have a true life changing experience with Jesus we want what the Father wants and we do as Jesus does and we go into the world.  Where has He placed you, who are you seeking to bring Jesus to?

 

Praise Him!

Strongholds – The devil never wins unless you don’t fight!

 

I grew up in an independent Baptist church, I learned all the Sunday School Characters, the children’s choir songs and shame.  Yes, I said shame.  Although, I was in church from the time I was 5 years old throughout my life I was testing the waters of the world.  I felt the rules and regulations that were being expected of me were way too much for me to ever obtain so I thought, why bother.

 

I remember sitting in the hallway at my childhood home and fighting with my dad insistently saying I don’t want to go to church tonight.  It’s too cold to put on a dress; I’ve got homework, etc. etc.  The excuses were numerous.

 

At the age of 16 I decided that I knew what was best for my life and I ran away from home and got married.  Oh yeah, wow, there is freedom in that statement for me.  You see, I lived so many years of my life chasing the pleasures of this world only to be left with guilt and shame.  So over the course of my young life I learned how to hide many things in secret places so that no one would know about my sins.  No one would know about all of the partying; drinking and drugging and must I add the many men.

 

Later in years when I married a good man and came to Christ and I learned to hide and pretend that I had this wonderful perfect life so I hid this secret shameful life that no one must know about.  After all, my new husband was a preacher and if people really knew what kind of life his wife had years before who knew what kind of damage that could do to him and damage it did do.  To make a long painful story short, my amazing God lovin’ husband was told that because of my past that He could never be in ministry other than driving the church Sunday school bus.  Wow!  I did that to him.  I ruined his life, or so I thought.

 

Many many years down the road I was growing closer to my Jesus and falling deeply in love with His heart and learning what He is really all about.   Here’s one lesson I have learned from this time in my life.  In Matthew 12:43-45 we read about satan seeking a stronghold.  I was allowing the enemy to come into my Jesus cleaned life by keeping my past a secret because of all of the guilt and shame that I felt and I allowed the enemy to gain a foothold into my life.  I learned that whatever you hide in the dark Satan will use it to harm you; however, you must expose it to the light to allow God to heal it and remove it.

 

I learned the impactful meaning of John 8:36 – If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.  Listen friends what strongholds does the enemy have hanging over your head?  I encourage you to take some alone time with our wonderful merciful creator and sustainer and take him into those secret places that have become a stronghold that if left alone the enemy will destroy us with.

 

Two and a half years ago, I stood in our café with a packed house and with God’s voice saying in my ear; it’s time my child.  I have come to set you free.  I grabbed that microphone and gave my testimony.  And one link at a time the chains that had held me for over 20 years came clanging to the ground.  That day I learned that Jesus’ blood is enough!  His precious blood that He shed for me is enough to cover absolutely anything I have ever done.  There is power in the blood, there is freedom in the blood, and there is salvation in HIS blood!

 

Sisters, let me encourage you today that if you have anything holding you back from becoming the woman God created you to be, I encourage you at this time to take it to the cross and allow those chains to be broken.  It’s time to deal with the things that are in our lives that keeps the river of living waters from flowing in and out of our life!  Be encouraged.

 

Praise Him!

fervent-prayer

A Woman Transformed – Rahab

Scripture:  Joshua 2:1-24, 6:17-25; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25

Rahab

Rahab lived about 1406 B.C. in Jericho.  Rahab was strong, brave, decisive and a prostitute.  This was a common profession back in this time but still not looked good upon.  She lived in a house that was at the city wall which made her highly accessible to travelers. Rahab is known in scripture as being Rahab the Harlot.  Harlot meaning a woman that yields herself to any man who approaches her.  During this time she had learned about the Exodus of Israel and the miracles of the Red Sea.

So here we are after 40 years of struggle the Israelites were ready to enter the promised land.  The Israelites were now under the leadership of

Joshua who trained under Moses.  Joshua needed to get the Israelites to the Promised Land so he sent two spies to secretly scout out the area.  Upon their arrival these men were spotted.  So the king of Jericho sent a message to Rahab to bring the men out.  Instead under the threat of treason and the penalty of death she hid the men and told the king’s soldiers that they had left town.

So Rahab asked a favor of the two spies.  She asked them to spare her family from death.  They agreed.  Rahab told them to run to the hills so she lowered them by rope through a window to safety outside the city wall.  For seven days she waited and while she heard the Israelities marching around Jericho; but she had faith.  This act and her faith in God earned her the title as a woman of Faith.

As  women, wives and mothers we all have day to day struggles and we make mistakes along the way.  We can learn faith, courage, commitment and o

bedience from Rahab.  As Rahab’s example, no matter what your path in life has been a simple step of faith in Jesus Christ can turn your life around. Hebrews 11:31

Listen she went from prostitute to being in the lineage of motherhood of Jesus Christ.  Wow!  A prosititute in the lineage of Jesus Christ.  What Rahab found was deliverance through the mercy of God.  Friends Rahab experienced a transformed life.  If a prostitute can become a saint of faith and become a mother in the line of Jesus then nothing is impossible.

Rahab had no religious background but she had a courageous choice to make.  First, she chose to have faith. Second, she chose to help. Rahab risked her own life by an act of treason.  Just as God transformed Rahab he is able to transform any life that is brought to Him no matter how wicked, broken or wretched it may be.  God showed her mercy.   Remember that you have not fallen so far that God can’t reach you.  No matter what you’ve done, where you are right now take a risk, put your faith in God and allow Him to transform you.  You are His creation.  You are His precious daughter, allow Him the opportunity to transform you into the woman He created you to be.

 

Praise Him!