Open Doors

  
You often hear it said when one door closes, another one opens. You’d think we’d be eager to seize unexpected opportunity, but we are a people that hold our plans and desires with a tight fist. If we’re honest, most of us spend too much time staring at the closed door in yearning and regret to notice the one that has opened for us.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” 

See Isaiah 43:18-19 & Proverbs 3:5

How much time have you wasted on the stoop?

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Never Go Hungry

  
I picked up a bad habit while in college. When life got hard and the income was low, the first thing I’d cut from my budget was food. It was an unhealthy attempt to take control of my situation; a sacrifice for the sake of satisfaction in my successes. But success is subjective and limited. It satisfies for but a minute, and we are left hungry again. My life is no longer mine now, and I sacrifice it for the sake of something a little more… eternal.  

“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you… I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”  See John 6:22-59

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“Here I Am. Send Me!” with Child-like Faith

Friends,
I’d like to introduce you to the El Salvador missions team!

EL SAL Mission Team

Last Saturday, we served as a team along side Radiant Christian Community Church in Homestead during their monthly block party. We decided it would be a great idea to not only bond a little before our big trip, but that this experience would be good practice for the missional work we will be doing in the communities of El Salvador.

Radiant is located in Waterside and Sea Pines, two low-income town-home communities near Homestead, FL. Its gathering place was a former crack house; an eye sore in the community, the place parents told their children to stay away from.

Now, the place is known as a lighthouse. It is the gathering place for Sunday worship service, for guidance, for prayer and rescue.

During Radiant’s monthly block parties, locals from the community come out to receive free health and dental check-ups through the Caring For Miami mobile unit, fresh produce from the Farm Share stand, food on the grill, a prayer station and activities for the kids. We even got to see a man be baptized after sharing his testimony and how Jesus had transformed his life.
Caring For Miami

As I played with the children and asked them questions about God, it as amazing to hear their thoughtful questions and sincere answers of who they believed God was and what He is capable of. Sometimes in the small groups I’ve been in, some adults tend to shy away when the group leader asks if anyone would like to pray. We’re more concerned about how we sound to the rest of the group than the words we’re speaking to our Creator. But when it was asked of these kids, everyone wanted to pray. Many little hands shot up in the air. The kids took turns speaking to our Heavenly Father, thanking Him for the block party, for their church, for the food they ate, and then asked God to bless their friends and family members, naming them all one by one. It got me thinking this was a beautiful example of what child-like faith looks like. Not being afraid to talk to God, saying what was sincerely on our hearts without fear or pretense, thanking Him for our lives, depending on Him and asking for the same blessing for those around us.

It is with this child-like dependence and faith that I want to go into El Salvador with. I want to depend on Jesus for the strength to serve after hours on my feet and little sleep. I want to depend on Him for patience when tempers are running high. I want to depend on Him when things don’t go according to the itinerary. I want to trust Him to give me the words to speak when someone asks for prayer or wants to know more of who Jesus is. I want to trust that He will be there, working within me and around me, and it is not of my own doing or strength than anything gets accomplished.

Radiant children
Matthew 18: 2-4
“And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

To learn more about my mission trip to El Salvador and join the prayer or financial support team, visit my GoFund Me page.

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“Here I am. Send me!” to El Salvador

Friends,

This spring, I will be going on my first short-term mission trip to El Salvador with my local missions team at Christ Fellowship.

Two years ago, God showed me the power of story through our testimonies. As a writer and storyteller, I have had the privilege to serve alongside churches and nonprofits such as the Austin Stone Community Church and the For The City Network to use my Storyteam Story Sundaygift of writing to promote healing, encouragement, and share the stories of how God is using ordinary people in extraordinary ways all around us. I was recently led back to my hometown of Miami, FL with a longing to serve my city and my people, and began working as the Local Missions Director for Christ Fellowship Miami Springs. My heart has grown as I have watched the generosity of my church community and God’s peace fill the souls of the broken and needy in my own backyard. Sharing God’s love and Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross, whether through story or service, has been a hard journey but a sincere joy.

That said, I believe it’s time to take a step further out of my comfort zone to continue growing in my walk of faith. That means doing something I’ve never done before: take the mission and vision overseas.

During the mission trip to El Salvador, our church is partnering with Iglesia Bautista Zacamil in San Salvador. Our team is going to be administering basic health care with patients of medical clinics, visiting schools and working with children and youth from March 21 – 28. Through these activities, we hope to build relationships that will allow us to share the hope that we have found through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I want nothing more than to share my gifts and abilities with the people of El Salvador with the hope to impact their lives.

But I can’t do it without you.

Giving gifts to the children of low income families as "Santa's daughter" on Christmas day.

Giving gifts to the children of low income families as “Santa’s daughter” on Christmas day.

I am putting together a support team who will be willing to pray for our group, provide financial support for this project, or both. We need prayer for wisdom as we seek to meet the needs of people of another culture, and safety as we travel. Financially, I need to raise $900 to cover my expenses by March 7, as well as the cost for the ministry program in El Salvador. I am looking for nine partners who will join me in this journey by pledging $100, or 18 partners at $50. Of course, any amount given is greatly appreciated and will go towards spreading hope in an area that needs it greatly. You can pledge your support by visiting my GoFundMe page here.

I sincerely thank you for considering being part of my support team. I look forward in partnering together and sharing God’s beautiful story to those all around the world. Please let me know if I can answer any of your questions.

Blessings,
Jeannie Rodriguez

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Artist Spotlight: Caleb Price

CalebPrice Desert&SeaFor singer/songwriter Caleb Price, life is more than the ability to play music or sell albums; it’s about Jesus. The worship leader from Austin, TX released his debut EP, Desert & Sea, last Wednesday featuring four heartfelt songs of praise, redemption and grace. From start to finish, Price’s passion and reverence for the Lord is demonstrated in his vulnerable, declarative lyrics. The EP opens with “We Sing Holy,” which features a catchy group chant praising the Lord’s holiness that gets the listener into the worship experience right away. “We Are Yours” reminds listeners of the greatest sacrifice made and the redemption found in Jesus, while “Great High Priest” praises the Lord for all He is. The EP closes strong with “Nothing,” a prayer-like song surrounded by the aesthetic sound of the keys, guitar and drums, echoing the grandness of the God Price sings to.

“My hope is that when people hear these songs, they will be stirred to worship Jesus for what he has done and to share this great news with the world,” said Price. “We have brought nothing to God and we can offer nothing that he needs, yet he still draws near to us and adopted us as sons and daughters. We can sing and worship because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.”

Price was drawn to music ministry in 2006 as a sophomore at Palm Beach Atlantic University when he began to play the acoustic guitar and piano for his local church’s Spanish worship band. He didn’t take the calling seriously until leading worship for the Student Ministry at the Austin Stone Community Church four years ago. That led to his three year internship/residency with Austin Stone Worship, where he met his EP producer Wes Ardis and engineer Brady Pettit. The title Desert & Sea was inspired by Matthew 4, when Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to fast and be tempted.

“We are always coming out of, or going into, a desert at all times in our lives,” Price said. “It’s in the deserts of life that we come into a posture of dependence and cling to Jesus as our only hope.”

Price hopes to record a 6-8 track record of hymns in the near future, but for right now is focusing on being a more faithful follower of Jesus.

“Not only do I have the privilege of pointing people to Jesus by reminding those around me of Gospel truths,” said Price, “but also the opportunity to remind my forgetful heart of who God is and who I am in Christ.”

Desert & Sea is available for download on iTunes and Amazon. Visit CalebPriceMusic.com for more information on Price and his ministry. Photos by Alexis Hail

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Thoughts on Mercy

The For The City Network staff has been going through the book Ministries of Mercy by Tim Keller lately, learning how we can better extend mercy to those living in poverty. A lot of what we’ve been learning and dialoguing through I believe is quite insightful, and I wanted to share some of it with you all.

Mercy, by Keller’s definition, is the impulse that makes us sensitive to hurts and lacks in others and makes us desire to alleviate them. These “hurts” or “lacks” are what we call needs. Needs are dependencies. Keller says all human beings were created dependent beings. We are not self-sufficient; we are only adequate in God. If we had stayed in perfect relationship with God, we would never have any needs. But because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience and letting sin into the world, the result are four different “alienations” that we experience. Keller defines alienation as “disintegration which arises from using an object for a purpose other than that for which it was designed.” If that is the case, man was originally designed to know and serve his Creator God. But when man determined to be his own master, the immediate result was “a multidimensional condition of alienation.”

After the fall, we suffered 1) spiritual alienation, our separation from God, 2) emotional alienation, separation from our true selves, 3) social alienation, the inability to live with one another, and finally 4) physical alienation, our conflict with the disorder and decay of nature.

When we look at the poor, we often only see the obvious, physical and social needs: they are homeless, they have no money, they have no food, they don’t have family or friends, etc. And while meeting these needs are important, I am learning that they don’t help the person all that much. When we asked people who were classified as “living in poverty” what their needs were, there answers reflected more on their hopelessness and loneliness, than on anything else. So what I, and the rest of the For The City team are trying to learn to do, is build relationships with the people we want to help.

I like what our director Justin Lopez said, “It’s not about feeding lines, unless the feeding lines allow us to build relationships.”

What they need most is a friend that will “bare one another’s burdens.” What I think helps me empathize and be a good friend is reminding myself that I am also living in poverty, it just looks different. Maybe my poverty isn’t as obvious as panhandling, but I’m still just as broken. And that’s important for them to know; they are not alone.

Our job as Christians is not to keep people from hitting bottom, our job is to love them.

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SWITCH ’13

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This week the For The City Network kicked off their week long program called SWITCH.

For The City believes God wants youth to worship Him and seek the restoration of their city, their neighborhood, their school – all the time, wherever they are.

SWITCH was designed to help students SWITCH perspective of God’s mission from simply being a couple dates on a calendar to a lifelong purpose for His glory. In a unique approach, we’re part mission trip, part conference, part camp:

A LITTLE BIT MISSION TRIP

As part of the For the City Network’s vision and strategy, we help youth understand what it means to be for the city wherever they live by declaring and demonstrating the gospel to the city of Austin. We partner with dozens of nonprofit organizations across the city year-round, and during SWITCH, youth serve alongside these organizations, from helping clean up a school to serving a meal at a homeless shelter to teaching Bible stories at a neighborhood event.

A LITTLE BIT CONFERENCE

It’s so important to understand what the Bible says about mercy and mission because of the gospel. Through large and small group sessions, youth will be equipped to return home and care for the people in their city, their neighborhood, their school – wherever God has them. He cares about these people and places, and He teaches us how to care through His Word.

A LITTLE BIT CAMP

We have games, skits, worship, and a whole lot of laughs. And maybe some silly string. We know fun.

As the storyteller, my job is to hang out with the young this week and watch how God works in their hearts this week. I will be sharing testimonies from youth, youth leaders and nonprofits alike. So hold on tight– God is about to wreck shop. 

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The Vision– Will You Join Me?

There is so much that God is doing at the For The City Network, and there’s no doubt that lives are being changed because of the overwhelming want to serve that the men and woman of this nonprofit have.

For example, take our building in the St. John neighborhood – The For the City Center. This previously-abandoned nursing home facility is now a nonprofit center where partnering organizations reside, share meeting space, and join hands in the effort to maximize each other’s work toward city renewal.

Or consider Total City Sports. After FTCN volunteers spent time mentoring and tutoring at an area high school, they recognized that many students had minimal opportunities for positive activities and programming during the summer. Thus, Total City Sports was created. What started as a two-month sports camp now connects Austin-area youth to year-round premiere athletic programming and healthy adult relationships.

And most recently we addressed the lack of employment opportunities, job training, and affordable housing in the Austin-area by creating Unison Development, a nonprofit construction company that hires employees from its job-training program to remodel and construct affordable housing.

I’m just trying to serve God in my role as the storyteller. There are people going through life lost and broken, and I’d like to think that God would use my articles to reach out to those people to tell them they’re not alone, there’s hope. I would really, really love if you joined me on this journey. I’m the first and only storyteller The For The City Network has every had exclusively for themselves, but I can’t begin telling their stories until I reach at least 80% of my support goal. Please consider supporting me, so that God can use me in my time here.

Support is not purely about money. It is about relationships, people with needs, and needs we can help meet.

I want you to rest assured that your money isn’t going to a girl out of college that’s too lazy to get a paying job. It’s going to a girl who cares about people and wants to see them restored by God. Help me share what God is doing in the lives of His people.

I am looking for 10 supporters who can give $100 a month for three months, or 20 supporters who can give $50 a month for three months. It’s a commitment that can lead to large impact. Will you join me?

Romans 15:24-27 „…whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey and to be helped on my way there by you…”

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FTC: My First Day

After my first day at For The City, I’ve learned I’m the first and only storyteller that has worked exclusively with the nonprofit. So many stories to tell to encourage others and share God’s love for us! But I can’t do it without your help!
I can’t begin working until I’ve reached at least 80% of my support goal. Please consider partnering with me so that we can tell God’s stories together.

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More Than A Road Trip

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For the past two weeks I’ve been driving down the East Coast and through the South with Chris Sawey, a 3,000 mile road trip across 12 states from Boston, Massachusetts to Austin, Texas. The trip is my middle ground as I transition into this new chapter of my life. It may look like a vacation where two goofs decided to drive across country and sleep in tents, but it’s more than just a road trip. It’s been a time to step away from the busy city life, to step away from the confusion I once held about my purpose, and to step into the mindset of a servant.

During these two weeks on the road, I’ve meet new people, new places and new cultures. Our time together, although brief, changes me in a small way. I walk away enlightened and encouraged. It shows me that we’re not all so different and the world is a much smaller place than we imagine. In fact, everything from Massachusetts to Texas– the Appalachian mountains, the river gorges, the swamp lands, the deserts, and the night-time stars– screamed “God.” Besides the world being small, it reminded me of how small we are in such a large universe, and how much God loves us. He’s given us so much to enjoy and be in awe about.

As I prepare to tell the stories of how God is working in the hearts of the people of Austin, I wanted to make sure my heart and my mind were right. So I went where I know I can connect with Him best.

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