End of 2016 Update

Hi everyone!  I wanted to give all of you who are following Rising Hope an update to the ministry this year.  A lot of amazing things have happened so I will do my best to include them here in this post.  This year, we had the privilege of hosting North Cascades YWAM team for their missions portion of their DTS.  For the past few months, we have been meeting at The Majestic building in downtown Bellingham Tuesday nights to receive some training in evangelism, relationship building, apologetics, and how to approach and minister to the homeless.  We began with a goal in mind: through discipleship and relationship-building, slowly bring together a bible study fellowship on the streets with both homeless and non-homeless people.

We kicked off our initial weeks by talking about identity, and preparing for the breakdown of our characters as we step foot into the world of front-line ministry: seeing who we are when we engage in actual ministry where the stakes are high, both for those whom we minister to, and the actual danger that we expose ourselves to.  We hammered home humility as our primary weapon in homeless ministry, and how it helps us survive the bombardment of enemy attack and the seemingly lack of progress at times.  And once we got past that phase, began to investigate our own callings and giftings; where do we fit as individuals in the body of Christ?  Are we pastoral? Evangelistic?  Prophetic?

Lastly, we began to scratch the surface of apologetics and spiritual warfare.  How do we tackle the tough questions now that we’ve gained relational trust?  How do we identify when the lack of progress we’re making is simply due to natural obstacles, or something that can be moved out of the way with prayer?  Once we received this training, it was a race to the finish line as we spent the last few weeks putting together what we learned and bringing the friends we’ve made to a gathering downtown.

During this 3.5 month journey, we had a chance to make relationships downtown with some of the homeless, some that will continue even past this class as some of the DTS students have them added on Facebook!  A man named Chuck was led to Christ a couple weeks ago, when he realized what he needed was Jesus and how the times he heard His voice and followed His word were some of the best times of his life, and it was that night when we prayed with him that he committed his life to the Lord.  I am happy to let you all know that Chuck has been admitted to rehab and will finally get off the streets and into the help that he needs!  Praise God!

It has been such an incredible blessing getting to know these guys whom I’ve come to call family.  It was such a joy for me to have been given this small window in their lives to pass on my knowledge and help them grow in this very tender, vulnerable stage in life that will determine the remaining course of their lives.  Many of these students will very soon move on to other parts of the world to put their training into action, and I have great hopes that these students will effect tremendous Kingdom impact with their travels and obedience.  I pray that God will bless them with a heart that will break for what breaks His, a humility that conquers the arrogance of their enemies, and a love for the least of these and the last among us.  I pray that God will strengthen them in times of trial and give them supernatural faith to perform wonders that glorifies their Father in heaven.  Though many I will not see until the Kingdom comes to Earth, I have confidence that I will see each and every one of them again, and I will be even prouder of them then than I am now.

Some housekeeping as far as big picture and a summary of our end of 2016 review, I will just bulletpoint as this post has gone on far enough.

  • Rising Hope is now part of Envision Mission, and a part of Jesus Gathering.
  • Rising Hope has switched to a “class” model, which includes taking on classes several months at a time to help equip a group of individuals by giving them a full homeless training experience from start to finish.
  • We have seen at least a dozen salvations and life transformational testimonies in this year
  • We have successfully initiated a small gathering for the homeless downtown that we intend to disciple long-term alongside our other services.
  • Rising Hope is still committed to working towards a long-term housing solution.  Progress has been slow, but when we get there, we will get there.
  • Rising Hope crossed its 4th year!
  • As part of our last day of class, we handed out blankets as Christmas gifts to give away to anyone living outside.

Thank you so much to all our supporters who stay up-to-date with us, praying with us, giving to us, and joining us on the streets.  We love you all and we will resume Street Ministry very soon.  Please continue to follow us on our Facebook group for future activities and when our next class will start.  God bless and have a Merry Christmas!

Shark Tank!

Hi there, everyone!  It’s been a long time since I last posted on our website.  There have been lots of transition within the ministry, as well as personally being very busy over the past year or so has prevented me from updating this site with frequent updates on testimonies, needs, and other things.  However, Facebook will continue to be the best way to connect with us for the most recent up-to-date news with RHSM.  The delays in updates on this website will hopefully change in the coming weeks as we begin to wrap up our time with this year’s YWAM North Cascades team for this year.  There have been tons of amazing, powerful stories of personal development and city-wide impact I have yet to report, so I will hopefully in the coming weeks put together a post highlighting these testimonies soon.

Lots of new ministry partnerships have blossomed since last year, as since a few months ago, Rising Hope is now part of Envision Mission, a church movement for discipling the homeless.  Rising Hope is also continuing to be further connected and supported by Life Church Bayside which we have been a part of for over a year.  They are a fantastic local church that has helped support us with supplies to hand out and spiritual support.  In addition to new partnerships, Rising Hope will also be holding a booth at the first annual Shark Tank Charity Event hosted by Thrivent Financial where we will be able to talk about and share what we do for the homeless in Downtown Bellingham, and why we need your help.  This event is open to the public, and you can click on that link to the Facebook event page where there will be more details on the event.

That’s it for now, please continue to check up on us over at Facebook and pray for us as the spiritual climate of our city and country continues to provide us challenges.

Jon Ng’s Guest Appearance On 100 Huntley Street

It all began nearly three years ago when God challenged me to enter a bridge at night to reach the homeless.  I was terrified, I was nervous, and I even tried to refuse.  But God had a plan, and this step of faith turned into what Rising Hope is today.  Fast forward to today, and Rising Hope is now being featured on one of Canada’s longest running and most viewed Christian talk shows, 100 Huntley Street.  Check out my guest appearance below and let us know what you thought of the interview!

The World of Homelessness (Day 2 Overview)

theworldofhomelessnessI pedaled my bike as fast as I could.  I could feel my flannel coat barely able to keep me dry for much longer as the rain continued to beat against me.  The Hope House was getting close, I could see it from afar.  It had been such a long journey from the campsite I was staying at and I desperately needed hygiene items and a change of clothes.  We parked our bikes as Bob and I walked into the small house that’s been transformed into a little warehouse for clothing and hygiene items.  We stepped in and were greeted with a warm smile from the receptionist.  “Welcome to Hope House!” she said.  We filled out some minor paperwork and sat in the waiting room that was filled with people.  Women, men, and children of all ages sat on folding chairs adjacent from a table that sat several coffee dispensers and a plate of cookies.  As I look across the room, the gaze of a familiar man catches my eye.  “TJ?” I said.  “Jon!” he replied.  He leaped into my arms as we embraced.  He pulled back and looked me with intensity in his eyes.

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“I’m 44 days sober, Jon.  I did it for you.  I did it for all you guys, but I did it for you.”  He burst into tears and embraced me again as he continued repeating this over and over again.

“Praise God!!!  TJ I’m so proud of you man.  I’ve been praying for you for so long.”  I said.  I had not seen this man for nearly a year.  He was someone whom I led to Christ with the help of a few other friends the year before.  He destroyed his needle and accepted Christ at Christ the King Church one Sunday morning the week before Easter.  It was almost exactly one year to that day that I had reunited with him again.  He looked so tired, so worn out.  That his battles were more than just against the elements, or the fact that he had been living in a dumpster for the past month.  No, he wanted to be sober, and added to himself this challenge on top of everything else he was struggling with.  But I could see it in his eyes.  It was worth it to him because he remembered us, he remembered that day when he accepted Christ.  He remembered the moments when he broke down and surrendered his life to Jesus, and asked for the one thing he tried all his life to achieve on his own merits: forgiveness.

As I sat with TJ drinking a cup of coffee, I eavesdropped on a conversation two homeless people were having.

“Everyone needs hope.” The large African American man said.

“Oh yes, of course,” said the older looking woman.

“Can’t give up.  Can’t lose hope,” he said.

“No you can’t,” she said.  “You lose hope, you lose everything.”

“We should always be ready to lay down our lives like Jesus,” said the man.

She replied, “There are always evil people everywhere.  All they want to do is evil.”

“Without hope, fear overtakes them, they give up.  You give into the fear, you let it overtake you; I saw a young man give up, he just overdosed and laid under a tree, and that was it.  He was gone.  Couldn’t take it out here,” he said.  It was so interesting listen to their perspectives.  These two, who have seen humanity at its worst, but hope at its finest.  The struggle for survival was real and I was beginning to see why that was.

Afterwards, I began walking to the local Mission.  My legs had been burning and hurting so badly that I couldn’t ride any longer.  After only a couple of days, I had put in about 45 miles of bike riding, something I was definitely not used to before this experiment.  I got to the mission and wolfed down my meal, only to still feel the hunger in my stomach.  Had I been this exhausted, or was the food of this little nutritional value?  I was still starving, and by the time I went for seconds, the cafeteria was already closed and people were asked to leave.

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I went to another ministry called Church on the Streets for dinner.  As I walked in, the initial access to bus passes, socks, and coffee were a delight to a hungry, tired, and cold me.  But as I approached the pastor of the establishment, I began to feel a bit uncomfortable.  The ministry was about to serve us a meal, however, the pastor began to approach his large, wooden pulpit that stood at the front of the room between us and the food.  I took a seat and began to listen.  Before any food was served, a mandatory 30 minute message was required in order to receive a meal.  I looked around the room that was filled with tired, agitated people.  After 30 minutes of the pastor bashing the other churches in town and telling us to “repent or burn,” we finally were given the feast he was promising: two (and only two) hot dogs and a piece of cake (to celebrate Jesus’ birthday aka Easter).  The moment people finished eating, the room quickly cleared out as they began closing up shop.  It was a shame honestly, to see the gospel used as a restriction, rather than access, to love and meeting human needs; as punishment rather than reward for our patience.  And it was even worse that the people who were there to be a part of a community were really only there to serve as one man’s audience.  I walked out of there with a smile, shaking the pastor’s hand and thanking him for his work, but inwardly I was beyond disappointed or even angry.  I was saddened.  And hungry.

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It was Friday night on Day 2.  Rising Hope was going to be the next ministry I evaluated, so as part of a challenge that I issued last week, I disguised myself as a homeless man and wandered the streets and under bridges, waiting for any of the street teams to find me.  And sure enough, they did!  I was met with tons of love and support as they opened their backpacks and began showering me with food, socks, water, and prayer.  Not to sound biased at all, but it was everything I could ever want.  I was hungry, and they fed me.  I was thirsty and they gave me water.  I needed new socks, and sure enough, I was given a couple pairs of socks.  I was in desperate need of prayer as the week was draining me, and I felt so encouraged by their prayers.  And conversationally, it was a breath of fresh air to be speaking with friends I hadn’t seen for a couple of days.  I was met with genuine concern and they wanted to know everything that had been going on so far with me.  It was nice to be cared for after a couple of days fending for myself.  I was so proud of our team, and I can see now why what we do can make such a significant impact on the people we meet on the streets.

“What’s the biggest thing God has been teaching you so far?” One person asked.

“Man, the biggest thing is this: I can’t go any lower!  I can’t go any lower than where I am now.  I feel like the lowest human being in Bellingham right now.  And then God turns it around and I feel like the king of the world!” I said.  But the next day, I was about to realize there was still so much lower I could go.  And nothing could prepare me for what I was going to experience next.

Stay tuned for Day 3!

 

The World of Homelessness (Day 1 Overview)

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It’s been a pretty crazy past month and a half, so I apologize for those of you who have been patiently waiting for the monthly blog post to come out.  As many of you know, I am preparing to write a book on my experiences with poverty, and for the last few years of researching this topic and working in the field, it seemed as if there were still missing pieces to how poverty worked, why it was there in the first place, and what are the real solutions that can scale from the macro-to-micro levels that anyone can participate in.  But it wasn’t until I became incarnational, or “one of them” that suddenly the pieces that seemed to float around in my head began to piece together to form a more complete picture of poverty.  I’m still working on a lot of the theory, making it more accessible and more interconnected with Scripture, so please bear with me.  But let me just say that from speaking to several homeless outreach directors, speaking at various churches, and giving a presentation of the current content I have so far, the unanimous response as been this: mind-blowing.  There are so many facets that we as observers and outsiders could have never possibly considered unless we ourselves had to endure the hardships and difficulties that many of our friends do on the streets on a regular basis.

If you haven’t been paying attention lately, I went on a one-week experiment being homeless to assess our community’s efforts and understand the circumstances of being materially impoverished.  Here were some of the guidelines of my experiment:

Items I brought with me besides the clothes on my back:

–  Empty backpack (no supplies)
–  Old smartphone (cracked iPhone 4)
–  Flashlight
–  Sleeping bag/Tent

Objectives:
1.)  Find and live within a homeless community, either on the streets or in a camp.
2.)  Progress from living in a homeless camp to sleeping on the streets, to finally sleeping in a shelter (Lighthouse Mission).
3.)  No phone calls/texts/emails/etc. from friends/family and no help from those who are aware of my experiment unless they were planning on serving the homeless of their own accord anyways.
4.)  Experience the urgent need for food, toiletries, clothes, warmth, and shelter.
5.)  Visit as many local ministries/government programs/outreaches surrounding the downtown region of Bellingham, and assess them in the spheres of poverty they are attempting to alleviate (community, circumstance, spirit).
6.)  Experience and document changes in how businesses, and the general public change their behavior around me.
7.)  Hold up a sign asking for help on a street corner.  Stripping down my personal identity in Christ and becoming vulnerable, allow the world to tell me who I am during this time for two hours.

What I was not out there to do:

1.)  Evangelize
2.)  Be preaching or acting like a spiritual figure or counselor
3.)  Show off to the homeless how their lifestyle is easier than what I or others may assume it to be.
4.)  Be on vacation.

Alright, with all the guidelines set in place, let’s go day by day, overviewing what the experience was like for me.

Day 1:

I arrived downtown the night before around 10 pm and rendezvoused with Bob, one of our long-time homeless friends.  He had been staying in a fairly distant homeless camp inhabited by 5 or 6 other homeless people about 5 miles away from downtown.  That night, I was introduced to the crew when we got to the camp.  It was mesmerizing how big, organized, and family-oriented the group was.  They immediately took me in as one of their own, and fed me some baked beans and pork chops that were cooked over a barbecue that they had found dumpster diving.  We stayed up that night sitting around a campfire looking up at the stars, talking about Jesus and what their life has been like.  After a couple hours, I set up my tent next to Bob’s and went in for the night.

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The next morning, I woke up incredibly hungry.  The sky was darkening and it looked like it would rain later that night.  My clothes were already starting to feel a little gross after wearing them for a day.  I needed to get toiletries, food, and some sort of tarp to weather proof my tent.  Breakfast at the Mission was at 6 in the morning, so I definitely skipped it.  So I began biking into town with the bicycle that Bob lent me to use, and I began heading down to Lighthouse Mission.  I ate my first meal there.  To be honest, it felt really embarrassing.  Lining up, getting a meal ticket, and then going to the dining hall in single-file lines felt like elementary school all over again.  So while I waited in line, I decided to go talk to one of the supervisors working at Lighthouse Mission who actually knew me and knew what I was doing for this experiment.  He gave me some incredible insight into the mentality of the homeless.  “You are at an advantage because there’s places you can go to that most homeless people wouldn’t think to go to.  You could go to Viking Commons at WWU, or the public library, but what I noticed is that the marginalized go to marginalized places.  They would never feel comfortable going to those places I just mentioned, so they stay away from them.”

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I can’t remember exactly what I ate, but it wasn’t exactly the highest quality.  Either way, I was thankful for the food as I scarfed down an entire meal.  I took an apple to go with me before leaving.  I then went to meet up with Bob at the park to figure out what we were going to do for resources.  We had to choose between the Opportunity Council or the Hope House, as they were quite a distance away from each other and the rain was going to come in any minute.  So we decided to go to Opportunity Council first since it was closer.  There was no intake or conversation, just a quick “where can we get ___________” and the receptionist would point to us the pamphlets sitting on the counter.  I picked up a couple all-day bus passes and a couple shower passes to use at the YMCA between 8:30-9:30pm, and a complete pamphlet for all the resources and hot meals being offered in town.  This pamphlet was key for me in visiting and assessing each ministry.

Hope House was a good hour’s bike ride from where we were, so we couldn’t go there.  Hope House is the Catholic Church’s clothing and resource ministry for the homeless.  I really needed a new shirt, socks, and undergarments.  Deodorant would be nice too.  At this point, I had ridden about 7-10 miles, and there was no way we’d return in time for dinner.  So to kill time until dinner at the Mission, I sat at the park talking to different people.  As I got to hang out not just with the homeless but as one of them, I began to notice all kinds of peculiarities within the culture, namely the factions among the homeless.  Some of the larger divisions of the homeless are these:

Givers vs. Takers:
In retrospect, this is actually one of the most common factions among the homeless that has always been right in front of my eyes, but never noticed until now.  The Givers are those who share, who see everything and anything precious and salvageable.  They put anything they find to use, and they never throw anything away.  They constantly share what they have, even to their own detriment.  Takers are those who find nothing precious.  Everything is disposable.  They’re the kind of homeless that complain about the kind of food you give them, and they don’t share.  It’s a system of constant taking from one another, and in more ways than just material possessions.  Givers are less in the public eye, as they don’t want attention drawn to them.  Takers want attention.  They desire to be feared, respected, but deep down, they want to be known.  They’re also more typically seen in public, and therefore shed a negative light on the homeless population that isn’t accurately indicative of the actual mentality of the homeless community in its entirety.

Young (newcomers) vs. Older “Veterans” of Homelessness
The generational divide is also a massive point of division between the communities.  The young versus the old; they see each other as threats.  The young long for parental figures to help them “master” the streets as a form of self-empowerment, while the older generation sees the young as reckless, spoiled children who are ruining the fragile respect the general public may have towards them by their often destructive behavior.  They see the younger generation as dead weight and a drain on their energy, constantly cleaning up after their irresponsible messes.  So the older generation distance themselves from the younger, and as a result the younger generation has developed a resentment towards the older generation; an unhealthy sense of betrayal and competition for who really mastered the streets.

I realized a few things: the comments some people make that “homelessness is a disease” no longer rings true to me.  Seeing the divides (and there are far more that I haven’t mentioned in this post) among the homeless, not all homelessness is the same.  In fact, it was then that I no longer believed that statement anymore, because homelessness wasn’t the real problem, the real disease was sin, and homelessness is a symptom of it.  People will still sin and live self-destructive lives whether they live in a doorway outside or in a luxury condo.

A couple of the homeless friends I was camping with invited me to come back to their camp for a barbecue, so I decided to skip dinner.  But as the hours waned on into the night, I began to wonder if we were ever going to eat.  I dug a trench around the tent I stayed in and set up tarps over my tent to cover the rain as I waited patiently for someone to tell me when we were going to eat.  I had ridden a total of 30 miles that day on my bike, dug a trench, and only had a single meal.  Exhausted and not wanting to be rude, I decided to fall asleep hungry.  I could feel anger and impatience rising the longer I waited, so I decided it would be best to just sleep and hopefully eat something in the morning.

That’s it for my Day 1 summary.  There’s still 6 more days to write about and as you can see, each day had a massive amount of activity and learning.  I’ll do my best to finish out this 7 day blogging series of my experiment, but I hope this post was informational and helpful.  Please feel free to email me any of your questions at risinghopestreetministry@gmail.com.  There’s still so much more to share, so stay tuned and thanks for reading!

 

Jon

Where’s Jon?

IMG_1031By the time you read this, I will be homeless.  You read that right, I am going to be homeless for a week!  I’ve announced this previous last week on our Facebook page, however I want to get into a little more detail as to why (this is not an April Fool’s joke by the way).  For one week, I am going to immerse myself into the culture of the homeless on the streets of Bellingham.  What is it like to be homeless?  What are the challenges?  How will I be seen and be treated differently?  To be honest, this wasn’t my idea at first.  Originally, it was a challenge issued by one of our friends on the streets.  Johnny has told me that they have been asking these “Christian groups” to come out for a week and see what it’s like living in their shoes before trying to preach at them.  So I took the challenge to their surprise and joy.  I have spent the night under the bridge three times before in the past, however I have never immersed myself for a week living, walking, and being challenged as a homeless man.

So a couple of things:  I will not be leading street ministry Friday night.  Becca however will be leading and will be meeting Friday night at 9:30pm by Rocket Donuts’ parking lot.  So I issue a challenge to you:  Come find me.  How far are you willing to go to find a fellow brother in Christ?  How will I be treated?  At what lengths will you go to find me and minister to me?  The answer is up to you.

This experiment is kind of like putting my finger to the pulse of our community.  I will be visiting several services, churches, and ministries to see how someone like myself could be supported and struggle homeless, and what kind of assistance both spiritually and materially I can receive.  It’s probably the most ambitious, dangerous, and honestly, scary methods of assessments I have ever made on our community.  I want to see what the church is doing.  I want to see how the church sees me when I’m not a leader, director, or spiritual figure.  So I’ll be live-blogging the entire journey on facebook.  Hopefully if we’re facebook friends, you can follow along, otherwise, I’ll be posting a summary of the things I’ve learned next week when I return.

So I’m starting off with a tent, sleeping bag, bible, backpack, an extra pair of socks, and a bike.  No food.  No money.  Let the games begin.

 

P.S. on another note, we desperately need help in raising funds for a bicycle we want to donate to Bob, our homeless friend who accepted Christ almost two years ago and have been discipling him ever since.  We started a YouCaring donation page to raise the funds, please support our friend so he can continue moving forward in getting out of homelessness!  http://www.youcaring.com/emergency-fundraiser/help-our-homeless-friend-bob-with-a-bike/331308

“You Are Free”

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Light illuminated the dark corridors of the unexplored bridge.  With bated breath, the team inched their way through the narrow walkway as we looked for any signs of the living.  This was not a bridge we’ve ever explored in the past, yet despite warnings of danger from our other homeless friends, like a group of pioneers, we set out on an adventure to go to this uncharted area searching for an unknown community.  Shocked, we find several tents fortified with broken down plywood, cardboard boxes, and tarps.  Clothes hanging on walls drying, bicycles parked outside their tents, and bags of supplies littering the entryway, these people have been living here for who knows how long unnoticed; unseen by the world and invisible to their unsuspecting neighbors.  With apprehension and fear, some responded to our presence, and with reluctance received the food, water, and clothing we gave them.  For some of us who have been serving on the streets for a while, this night brought back memories of Year One of Rising Hope, the early days when we would explore and search for hidden people in camps and bridges, slowly wearing them down with the love of Christ until we were called friends; sometimes even family.  We emerged from the bridges to return to the more familiar streets of downtown Bellingham, but something tugged on my heart take a different, unexplored route.

“This way,” I called, and at once the team turned around and followed.  The path became less and less familiar until we arrived at a dead end.  A shadowy figure looked towards us on the park bench.  With a light piercing through the darkness, our flashlights shined upon the man.  “Hey man, how are you?”  and one by one, we introduced ourselves.  “My name is Dave,” the man replied.  He was quiet and his voice gave away his tension.  In a moment, I felt as though God had given me a word for the man.  So without hesitation I asked him, “Can I ask you a question?  This is going to sound weird, and you may not believe me, but you are here because a girlfriend of yours broke up with you right?”  The man stared at me blankly for about 10 seconds in what felt like an eternity.  “Yes,” the man replied with a slow nod.  “She hates me.  How did you know?”  “You may not believe me, but it was God who told me.  And you might not also believe that we’ve never been here before, this is our first time taking this road and we felt like we were being sent here.  And I believe it was so that we could meet, Dave.  This is not an accidental meeting, we were sent here to find you and to tell you that God loves you, that you don’t have to be alone anymore, and you don’t have to be afraid.  Jesus can set you free if you would give your life to Him and receive His Holy Spirit, it’s the only way to be born again, to have a new life, a brand new start in Him.  Is that something that you want?”  We continued talking a bit more, going through Scripture and exploring what it meant to be ‘born again’ until he said, “Yes, I want this.”  So after I prayed for Dave, I prompted him to speak in his own words to God, and that I wasn’t going to give him a script for what to say.  To paraphrase, Dave began to speak in his own words with closed eyes, “Lord, I need you.  I need you Jesus to forgive me of my sin, to give me a new life.  I’ve made so many mistakes in life, I don’t know if I can forgive myself.  But I know you can and so please help me, give me a new life and I ask to be born again and to have the Holy Spirit living in me.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Daniel and I looked at each other in shock, as if we were both thinking the same thing, Did he just say all of that in his own words?  For a person’s first-time praying, it couldn’t have been more perfect of an expression of surrender and trust in God in that moment.  But it wasn’t the first time we had seen a radical transformation happen before our eyes.  In fact, a similar story happened the week before.  In an alleyway, while our group spoke to some long-time homeless friends, we were introduced to a new face.  His name was Miles.  We spoke briefly getting to know each other until again, God had given me a word of knowledge for the man.  I looked in his eyes and past the surface-level chatter, I saw something I hadn’t seen in a long time.  I saw the same desperate, hurting, and soul-searching 17 year-old version of myself pre-Christ.  My tone switched and began to speak with authority.  “You’re sick of living like this, aren’t you?  You’re starting to realize that you’ve been searching for happiness in all the wrong ways and you’re trying to find out if there’s any ‘true’ happiness out there, right?  Because it feels like you’ve been on a treadmill, not actually moving forward, but chasing a carrot on a stick, never fully acquiring, never really having the one thing your heart truly wants.  I know this because when I was 17 years old, I thought I had it all too.  I had this tough front, and made all kinds of mistakes in my life to try and appear ‘tough’ so I could win respect and power over others.  And it got exhausting and empty, because I knew I was lying to myself.  Inside I was just a scared little boy, and you’re feeling like this too, aren’t you?  You’ve been feeling this for a while, like you’re at a crossroads, not sure which way to go.”

The entire time I spoke, his jaw fell open.  He was feeling exactly what I was describing, and it felt like I was reading his life like a script in my hand.  Morgan spoke up and said, “Dude, I’m getting a sense that you struggle with fear, is that right?”  And Miles literally jumped the moment he heard those words.  “Oh my gosh, yes!”  He begins to pull out a self-help book on dealing with fear out of his backpack.  “I’ve been reading this book for a while, and fear has been a huge issue for me lately.”  With every sentence from that point forward, Miles broke out in awe and wonder as we talked about who Jesus is, and how He is the answer to everything.  And in a moment, Miles cried out, “What must I do to be saved?”  He didn’t know it, but everything he was asking us that night was taken straight out of the pages of Scripture.  “What must I do to be born again?” he asked.  We walked through the process and explained from Scripture what happens and how one can receive God.  “Tonight is your night Miles, you don’t have to spend another second living in your old life.  Are you ready?  Because you will never be the same again.”  “Yes, I am ready.”  Miles said.  “I’m not going to tell you what to say, but given everything I just told you, I’m going to first pray for you.  When I’m done praying, I want you to pray in your own words.  Say whatever you want to Him, ask Him for whatever you want to ask for.  This is YOUR moment, Miles.”  So he began to pray.  But I’m going to let Miles tell his story from here, as you’ll see in the video below.

“You are free,” I said.  Never before have I ever witnessed such a profound and immediate transformation in one’s life.  I’m happy to report that Miles is still walking with the Lord 3 weeks after this event, and that he is currently in treatment right now to overcome his addiction and finalize his recovery.

With David, the man we spoke to on the park bench, I had also received another word from the Lord.  “You were here to commit suicide, weren’t you?”  And he replied quickly, “No, I wasn’t.”  However, a few hours later, as we sat down at a restaurant eating, he looked at me and said, “Jon, you guys saved my life tonight.  I was going to kill myself, and I couldn’t admit it but you guys stopped me from jumping over that bridge.  Thank you.”

These were two of the most powerful stories of the last two months, but we have literally dozens more just like this.  Jacob who was given a prophetic word that his foot was in pain and was immediately healed, same with Isaac and Bob with their knees, Jordy of his pneumonia who after praying with took his first deep breath without pain and without coughing in weeks, Joe and his stomach, Eric and his hurting liver no longer hurting, David and his hip, Amber and her father’s heart issue, Sandra and April who we led to Christ last month and is now living a new life free from addiction and homelessness, Deborah who accepted Christ a few weeks after meeting her back in November and no longer in need of using a walker to get around, and all the hungry people we spoke to, loved on, fed, and hung out with: Timothy, John, Bob, Alex, Julee, Johnny, Jeff, Amber, Ice Box, Cory, Derek, Dennis, David, Michael, Rick, Juno, Cathy, Shawn, Ray, Jamie, Anitas, Donnie, Sparkles, the three Japanese exchange students who accepted Christ, Gunner, David, Matt, Mark, and all the others who’s names I didn’t mention.  God is moving, alive, and incredibly active in our city.  Please keep praying for us, and pray about joining us to take this city for the Kingdom!

We’re on Faithlife!

Recently, I’ve been given the opportunity to write for Faithlife, the company behind the world-renown Bible software program Logos on their blog.  It was a tremendous honor and privilege to be able to share my heart for the homeless of our city, as well as sharing the story of how Rising Hope began over 2 years ago.  Please take a minute to read it and feel free to comment and share it to friends and family.  I hope this testimony blesses you and empowers you to love on the poor of your city!

http://blog.faithlife.com/blog/2015/02/rising-hope-reaching-the-homeless/

A New Year!

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Greetings everyone, and Happy New Year!  I hope you had a fantastic last month celebrating with family and friends over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.  I’d like to give a quick update on how our ministry is doing and some of the fruit that we’ve seen over the past month and a half.  First off, our Thanksgiving Dinner (otherwise known as “Thanksgiveaway”) on November 22 was a HUGE success!  With the partnership of 4 other ministries, we fed over 300 people and gave away about 7 tubs of varied clothing with the help of a combined total of nearly 200 volunteers.  We had food donations from all over the county, and even with six turkeys and a wide variety of side dishes, we ran out of food TWICE in the same evening, the first time within an hour and a half!  We continued the evening by ordering 10 pizzas only to run through them again in an hour, prompting us to order another five pizzas.  Overall, from what I’ve seen and heard, there was an over-flowing response by our visitors who were met with tangible experiences with the love of Christ as hundreds of you poured into the park and into the streets to fellowship with those who many did not have a family or place to go for Thanksgiving.  Dozens of stories have risen out of that day where people from both the church and the unchurched were blessed by the event, and we are so excited already for next year!  Props to Garret Shelsta and Julie Burleson, ministry leaders of Ekklesia who did the majority of the volunteer recruiting, food preparation, and event coordination, and a huge thanks as well to all the other ministries and volunteers who were involved in making this event possible.  From the bottom of my heart, I would like to say THANK YOU for helping expand the Kingdom of God here on earth!

In addition, we have been seeing many first time salvations, particularly in the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving as we saw five weeks in a row one person a week making a decision to follow Christ and to be born again!  As a 2014 total count of all salvations witnessed through Rising Hope, we have seen over 100 salvations in 2014 alone.  This is a staggering number for such a small, grass-roots ministry that’s being led by a handful of people!  So we praise God for the work He’s doing and the privilege to be a part of such an amazing movement.

We’ve asked that on Friday, December 26 for all our volunteers to take a rest, as you all have been laboring incredibly hard despite the holiday season.  And for your sacrifices, we asked that you would take that week off to enjoy it with friends, family, and of course Jesus.  But the other reason why I ask you to rest is because starting tonight we are resuming street ministry and starting off the year with a BANG!  We are praying that God would continue His amazing work in downtown Bellingham, and that He would even double the salvations and the lives being touched in 2015.  We at Rising Hope firmly believe that God wants to start a movement here in Bellingham that would have lasting impact throughout not only our county, but also throughout the world.  We believe that scripturally, Jesus has set in motion a plan to use the “least of these” in the most unexpected ways to glorify Him most and in the most public ways.  We believe that there is significant spiritual implications for our presence as the Church of Jesus Christ to be in the dark places of our city, and we believe that as more believers come to join us in this mission to reach the lost in the darkest places of our city, that the effects will echo throughout all spheres of influence in our culture.  So please, do everything you can to prioritize your life around knowing and following your Savior Jesus, having a definitive time of prayer and sabbath, and cultivating a heart that would break for the lost, hurting, unbelieving, and the oppressed of our city.  God bless, and let’s make 2015 a year of God’s Son being most lifted high in our city!

Photography credit: Zachary Woodyard and Jaydon Ahue

2nd Annual Rising Hope Thanksgiving Dinner!

Hey everyone!  Thanksgiving is approaching and we are holding our second annual Thanksgiving Dinner this year on Saturday November 22 from 3pm – 7pm at Maritime Park.  Last year, we held a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless and low-income families of Downtown Bellingham, and it was incredibly successful.  Many people came up to us during and after the event to share how touched they were by the love that we showed them that day when they had nowhere to go, no family to visit, and no friends to share this time with.  People came up to us with stories of lost loved ones through death, divorce, and unforgiveness that left them finding themselves alone during Thanksgiving, but were welcomed and loved on by the collective efforts of several churches, families, and community groups.  We served over 80 individuals in the span of an hour and a half.

And this year, we’re doing it again!  We want to throw an even BIGGER event than last year, extending our serving time to 4 hours as well as holding the event on the Saturday before Thanksgiving Day so we can serve as many people as we can.  We’re serving a full Turkey dinner, giving away clothing, serving coffee, hot cocoa, and building relationships with those attending our event.  To pull of this event, we are coordinating with a number of ministries in town to pull this thing together including:

Ekklesia
Christ the King Community Church
North Bay Christ the King Church
The King’s Storehouse
Light of the World Prayer Center

If you’d like to sign up to serve, please e-mail us at risinghopestreetministry@gmail.com (If you are a part of an Ekklesia community group, you are already signed up!) and let us know which rotation and which team you would like to serve, as well as your full name, phone number, and e-mail address.  Rotation 1 is from 2pm – 5pm and Rotation 2 is from 5pm – 8pm.  We have 5 teams that you can serve on:

Food Service Team  (helping serve food/drinks)
Security  (overseeing security, reporting suspicious behavior)
Prayer Team  (eating and fellowshipping with people)
Street Team  (teams will go throughout downtown Bellingham to bring people to the event)
Clothing Team  (organizing and handing out clothes)

Our biggest needs right now are more winter clothes and positions to be filled for the Prayer, Street, and Security Teams.  When you are signed up, we will call or e-mail you to confirm further details of where to meet and what your role will be.  This event is only one week away so please sign up as soon as you can.  Let’s bring the Kingdom of Heaven to those who haven’t experienced it yet!