Monday, May 23, 2016

I was afraid to go

I'm not going to lie.
I, was afraid to go. I was afraid to do it.
I had a ton of bad thoughts running through my head like, "What if my husband got shot and I witnessed it? What if my husband died somehow at the hands of someone else? What would I do if I saw someone else physically hurt someone? What if I saw things I couldn't handle? Would I lose it and start crying in front of everyone? Would I have a panic attack and everyone would witness it? Would everyone think I was crazy then?" 

Wait......they probably already think that, I'm good. 

All stupid thoughts and not from God, that's for sure...but we all know by now, this is how my mind works. I'm not happy about it and I sometimes I just have to "sit in it" if that makes sense? "Sit in it" and work through through it with Christ. It takes me a bit to process, I don't process on the fly like my husband mind doesn't work that way and I'm ok with it.

Just driving down to the Union Gospel mission was scary enough for me because I haven't been down there in a long time. There are a lot of homeless people in Seattle. A lot of people living in tents on the streets and under the freeways and we were passing by all of this getting to our parking spot. We found our spot and we had Tom and Kerri with us, thankfully, their presence helps to calm me.  Tom prayed for us all before leaving the car, and it calmed me. I felt like, "O.K., let's do this." We got to the Union Gospel Mission and there was a little bit of chaos going on, the police showed up in regards to something but not sure what that was all about. I actually liked their presence, they had guns. I felt safe when they were around as well.

So we had to go inside and watch a video, then fill out some release/liability and confidentiality forms. The guys working there were all really kind and seemed knowledgeable, which helped ease my mind as well. 
Jason gets me, he could see I was nervous and was putting my mind at ease just holding my hand.

This is the part of my anxiety I loathe. I am no longer on anti-anxiety medication, so I just have to learn to deal with this. I'm learning and I know I need to just be kind to myself. I won't be able to learn it though, unless I put myself in these situations.

So we get in the van and I ask Steve if we can just listen to Christian music because it calms me down, too. Thankfully, we heard "You're a good, good Father." I needed that, thank you Jesus!
My mind shifted. 
Just from that song and in an instant.
"God you always do this for me, thank you, thank you, thank you!"

I started thinking about the people in the van with us. I started thinking "We all have the same Father, it's like we are sisters and brothers" just doing Dad's work together.  Then my mind turned to the people on the streets and I thought, "They too are my sister and brothers and some of them may not even have any idea about how much Dad loves us. They need to know!"

I was ready now, let's GO!!

Our first stop was a motel in a not-so-good neighborhood. Our van pulls up and people just start coming toward the van.  Not too many people, maybe only 6....but the smaller the better, this eases me into it.  A few men, dressed as women - which looked to be prostitutes maybe? A married couple, a single man, and a single woman. Something I noticed about all of them? Their clothes, their smell, their hair?  No, their eyes. 

The sadness in their eyes. It took my breathe away.  I could feel their sadness. Why? I've been there.  I've been at the bottom. Maybe not like they are but still at the bottom of myself. They were NOT happy.  I had so many things inside me that I wanted to tell every single one of them but I just didn't know if there was an etiquette, per se, somethings I should or shouldn't do?  I didn't know....I do know now and next time it will be different. Next time I won't be afraid. I won't hold back and I will say anything and everything I want to say because it will be straight from God.
Do you even realize how much God loves you?
Do you even realize there is a way out of this?
He is the ONLY answer. He can take all of this away from you!
He loves you so very much. If He saved me and my husband, He will save you too!!
Those will be some of the things I say next time.  Next time, I will love on them, I will hug them and smile at them and talk to them.

  • "This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles." Psalm 34:6

Our next stop was a park. 
Not too many people at this one, so we didn't stay too long.

Then you read a couple weeks ago about Jason meeting Matthew, that was another stop. I saw Jason talking and loving on Matthew and I thought, "I want to be like Jason when I grow up."

We went to a park downtime by the water. We saw a 12 year old young girl out there, a bunch of young boys and many people coming to the van for hot chocolate, blankets, socks, snacks, water and sandwiches. So many people wanted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, seemed like they were all asking for them.

Yum......I put myself in their shoes, I love them too and would prefer that sandwich over any other kind.
(Next time, Kerri and I decided, we are making the sandwiches and we are going to make 500 of them, and they are all going to be peanut butter and jelly!)

When we saw the 12 year old girl, I put myself in her shoes and remembered back to being 12 years old. How would I have felt out there by myself, no Mom and Dad, sisters and brothers around? That made me too sad and I had to stop thinking about that.

Then, on to the Apocalypse...or what felt like it anyway. The area we were in by day, is a shopping center and by night....young kids, high on drugs, drunk, causing fights, yelling at each other, walking around stoned out of their minds, to the point of not even knowing their own name.  This is the place that got me the worst but yet the best too, this is the place I want to go back to many times again, this is the place with the most children and I've always connected with kids, better than adults. It felt like the children were zombies, there was so much trash everywhere, I was shocked......I just stood back and took it all in. I kept thinking to myself, "These are someone's daughters and sons, nieces or nephews, siblings or friends" was so overwhelming to the point of being frozen, I really couldn't do anything.....I was so overwhelmed by it all. I talked to God and said, "Why are you allowing this to happen? You could come back right now and help all these kids....please, please come back NOW!"

God just kept whispering to me, "that's my baby girl right there, see her and there is my son" just little reminders to me, no judgement Delinda, only love for them.  I wanted to hug every single one of them, and ask them their story and why they were out time for that, no possibilities for that, I'm still frozen, but now I'm standing in awe of our friend Tom, Jason's mentor.  He's witnessing to a young man who is so stoned on heroin it's amazing he's still standing. Tom wasn't scared like I was earlier. Tom was putting his arm on the kid's shoulder and loving on him with words from our Dad. I thought, and said to Kerri, "I want to be like Tom when I grow up."

When I say, "I want to be like so and so when I grow up" this makes me think of what my Mom used to always tell me, of course she meant it in a different context but still applies here, too.  "Watch what the people around you are doing, what they are doing, you will be doing - so make sure they are doing good things." So pick good people to be with and share your life with, they will teach you so many things!

So it's taken me this long to calm down, and collect my thoughts to write about it. That is how overwhelming it was to me.

So, what did we take away from this experience?
Well, we want to do it again, soon & if you want to come along, just let me know. You won't be disappointed and I'm sure God will teach you or show you something.
We are making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!
We are all one big family and we need to just love one another, right where we are, whether we are in our sin or not - just love each other and love each other truthfully....just how Jesus did. 
These are my people, the people in the van and the people on the streets & they are your people too, whether you want to believe it or not.
I won't be afraid again, Dad is with us and He protects us at all times....I'm good with Him alone.
Doing Dad's work really is amazing, He was so right.

"If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother." Deuteronomy 15:7

Monday, May 9, 2016

Meet Matthew.....

Written by my husband, Jason Sowder 5-9-2016

Thank you Babe for showing us your heart and sharing!

I went on the journey of a lifetime! Did I travel to a far off place or pack up and head to a beautiful Caribbean resort? Nope. - I participated in the Union Gospel Mission's Search and Rescue program. And I have to say the experience was BETTER than any get-away I have ever had. What I learned in one night surpasses all book knowledge I've been able to retain in my limited brain. ;-P

Here is the abbreviated story…

Traveling in the Search and Rescue van we were trying to merge onto the highway but backed up by traffic. We waited a few minutes, anxious as we were not able to continue our mission.  The anxiety quickly diminished as I look to my right to see a man on a bike, out of breath and barely able to talk due to trying to catch up with our van. Immediately this just struck a chord in my heart.

Once we were able to pull over, I had the pleasure to speak with him. I say pleasure as it was a pleasure and honor to know he was willing to talk with me and tell me his story.  That God put me in front of him for a reason.  I honestly still tear up thinking about this experience, it truly touched the deepest part of my soul.

Meet Matthew.

He’s in his mid to late 40's, hasn't showered in a while and could not see well due to medical problems. I quickly learned Mathew doesn't have the comforts of a "home”. His possessions consisted of a bike and satchel stuffed full of his necessities - that's it lock, stock and barrel.  And, I later learned he used to have glasses but they were stolen a while back.  He now travels the streets nearsighted in one eye and blurry vision in the other - no matter the distance.

Matthew was raised in a farming community. As he explained, from a young age he felt like he never “fit in”. He was made fun of and the butt of horrible jokes. Didn't have any close friends. And as I read between the lines to understand, the love of his father was only achieved through working hard on the farm. Working hard for his family was never enough to numb the pain of peer ridicule.

At some point Mathew's family moved closer to Seattle to start in the logging industry. Matthew explained again he felt he didn't fit in, never close to anyone. He tells me "people didn't know how to take a guy with a beard who drove a logging truck to school".

At some point through the years and some not-so-good choices Matthew found his way to Seattle roaming the streets still carrying his childhood baggage. Still looking into people's eyes feeling he doesn't fit in…

Matthew and I spent more time talking about God and how Matthew sees how God has saved him from many terrible situations and knows He has a plan for him. Looking in his eyes I can see a lost soul, a soul that the evil-one has captured using drugs and negative self talk firmly pressing his thumb over the top of Matthew's well being.

There are a few reasons I wanted to write this quick note.  First, we all have baggage we are trying to overcome, all at varying degrees and varying effects on our lives. Next, when you walk by the person living on the street, remember they have a story. Pray for them. Pray that today they will finally allow God to lift them out of the mud and mire setting their feet on solid ground.  Lastly, consider jumping in the Search and Rescue van on a night and helping - by listening, praying and providing a warm blanket and food to someone who is still stuck - stuck like we all get stuck, except their stuck has lasted a lot longer and had a much more profound affect on their life.

God is bigger than all of this and it takes people like you, with stories to tell all the "Mathew’s" stories of what God has done for us and that it’s not too late. To simply provide H-O-P-E......

Dear gracious merciful God, please guard Mathew, please direct the right people in his life to get the help he needs, I ask that you continue to show Matthew he needs to make the commitment to get clean and look to you for direction in all aspects of his life. Amen