December 31, 2011
In the middle of October we were invited by the organisers to participate in the annual “Festival of Lights” parade, the purpose of which was to showcase groups which are involved in efforts to change lives in a district known only for its dark side. So representatives of Northminster, along with Amy, marched in the parade through the destitute streets with their broken down houses and broken down people. Sharon Joseph, Amy and I carried a banner with our Bible study information on it, Frank interacted with the bystanders, passing out invitations, and, behind us, Phil Joseph drove the family mini-van with posters attached to the driver and passenger doors. One of our faithful Bible study participants joined Phil in the mini-van, surprising many of the other residents of the Bluff! It was a perfect day for a mile and a half walk, and we had a lot of fun waving and interacting with the onlookers.
In early November, Atlanta’s Channel 11 News ran a three-part series on the Bluff, which they referred to as Atlanta’s Forgotten Community. This helped a lot of people understand better the community we are trying to reach for Christ. As the reporter pointed out, this is an area from which “you can see the emerald skyline of the city from your windows”. This is true. As we tried to deliver bread to a needy family after dark we were stunned by the gorgeous, million-dollar view of the lights of Atlanta that they had. In fact the Bluff is within walking distance to Georgia Tech, the Georgia Dome, the Aquarium, and yuppie stores and bistros.
One frustrating thing about ministering to folk in the Bluff is that many of the residents frequently move from cheap rental to cheap rental, and even into and out of shelters, and it is difficult to keep up with them. Interestingly, most of them have cell phones, but they have a different phone number almost every week because they keep getting disconnected from their service. This means that there are times when it is impossible to reach them and we have no choice but to wait for them to contact us.
Over the year we have experienced a number of sad and difficult episodes and quite a few disappointments. One of the saddest episodes was listening to a 36 year old mother of two agonizing over the drug use which has led to her being not only almost completely blind but also dying of kidney failure. Her mother had died for the same reason at the age of 47. Through her tears she shared her sorrow at having abused her temple, explaining that her temple is her body, referencing the Scriptures. She bitterly regrets having taken the path that is leading to her destruction because she will not see her children graduate from high school or marry or have children of their own. The man with whom she is living is not the father of the children, although he readily admits to having fathered 33 other children. In her discussions with Frank she confesses that Christ is her Saviour and that he died for her sins. Sadly, however, she has to face the dreadful reality of the consequences of her lifestyle.
However, we have also been encouraged by lives that we have seen change. In addition to the blessing of bringing the truths of the Bible to these folk, we have been rewarded when, because of the gospel having been presented, and the concern that we have shown, some residents have made life-changing decisions such as looking for work, or going into a drug rehabilitation programme.
As described in the previous issue, the first Lord’s Day in December took us outside of our comfort zone as gunfire erupted in the intersection at which we are located. However, the Lord protected us from harm, and we pray that we might use this experience to increase our thankfulness for his protection and deepen our trust in him.
We would request prayer:
1. For continued protection.
2. That we will be able to touch more hearts and minds with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. That as a result of hearing the gospel more people will make the effort to enter drug rehabilitation programmes and make new lives for themselves and their children.
4. That we will be able to continue to meet outdoors during the winter months and that a place will open up for us to minister indoors when necessary.
5. That the Lord will send us volunteers who would be willing to live and minister in this area.
6. That, eventually, a permanent location could be purchased and a church started.