October Update

It’s been a little over month since our last update and I’m sitting here in front of my computer with literally pages and pages of stories, testimonies, and lists of names of people we’ve talked to and prayed with trying to decide which ones to share with you all.  I could tell you the story of Sandra, where God gave me such an accurate prophetic word for her that I even knew the name of her son and what was going on between them and because of this event, she wept and wept with us as she repented and rededicated her life back to Jesus.  I could tell you the story of Rick who we found sleeping on a bench, who woke up to tell us how much he loved Jesus, how he was miraculously healed of knee pain, but when we asked him to surrender his quarter-full can of beer, refused and stormed off into the middle of on-coming traffic, nearly killing himself.  I could tell you of a young man named Jacob who was so drained of life, energy, and purpose, that we found him sitting draped across a restaurant doorway hopeless and given up.  But when we shared with him the gospel of Jesus Christ and the freedom he could obtain as a new-born child of God, he excitedly received it and that night, surrendered his life to Jesus and asked to be born again with the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit in him, and how people left and right immediately noticed a dramatic shift in the way Jacob looked and behaved right away.

I could tell you about the dozens of people who have been healed of hurting backs, knees, livers, necks, ankles, and broken hearts.  I could tell you about the story of a woman who I first met 2 years ago, who at first was greatly feared as a violent woman who no one could approach.  Who I gave my shoes to her when she had none, and over the course of 2 years, by showing her the love of Jesus consistently over time, she finally gave her life to Jesus last week and is now getting help for housing.

And I could tell you stories about persecution, how we’ve been yelled at, cursed at, even spit upon.  We were told we were crazy, got made fun of,  and some of us were even held in headlocks and physically pushed against walls.  I could tell you stories of the courage of some of our volunteers who persevered in the midst of rejection and threat of violence.  And the patience of so many volunteers who had to stand there and take the verbal accusations of so many hurting people who had terrible experiences with church in the past.  Some of us having to apologize for the actions of other pastors and Christian brothers and sisters who had harmed them in the past.

I just wanted to say a big huge THANK YOU to all those who have come out with us, even if it was just for one night out of your busy schedule.  Whether you guys came to love on some people who haven’t heard a friendly voice in weeks, or you came to take one on the chin for things you never did, you guys are the shining light of the city and I encourage you to keep pressing into the broken and the lost of downtown Bellingham.  I know it isn’t easy to ask you guys to keep coming on Friday nights when your friends and family are all out enjoying doing stuff together, but I would just challenge you to keep praying for those who are going out every week, for the hurting of our city, and of course, for God’s leadership in when you could come out to serve.

Especially be praying for Thanksgiving, as more details will soon follow.  But be in prayer for November 22, as we are holding our second annual Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless at Maritime Heritage Park.  Like I said, more details will follow in the coming days so be sure to check out our facebook page and any updates we will post on our website.  God bless, and thank you for those who have been joining us and praying for us as we labor for revival in Bellingham!

Winter is Coming

Hey everyone!

It’s Jon here, and I am back from my 2 month summer trip helping plant a church in Spokane, WA.  I’ve returned to Bellingham and I’ve jumped back in to leading street ministry this past Friday night.  I just want to keep this update brief, since I do have a couple important announcements and there are just too many stories to include from these past two months of God working in people’s lives downtown, including this past Friday night being my first night back.  There was a ton of opposition on the streets from people, and nearly the entire homeless population of downtown Bellingham has completely rotated to a new group of homeless whom I’ve never met before.  Most of the camps around town have been demolished, bridges are being fenced off, and many of them have resorted to living at Maritime Heritage Park.  The park is filled with make-shift tents and people sleeping under sleeping bags out in the open.  As winter approaches and temperatures drop, we are looking to collect and distribute winter clothes such as jackets, gloves, hats, scarves, hoodies, shoes, and socks again in the coming weeks.  We’re also planning our big Turkey Dinner at Maritime Park for Thanksgiving this year, so please be in prayer for us for this next season!

One testimony I will share about Friday night was our encounter with a man named Kenny.  He was an older gentleman with a slurred tongue and a beer in hand.  As we approached him and his friends, we began to listen to his story, which he was quick to share when we offered him a listening ear.  Years of destructive sin have left his body diseased and pain-filled, and though he has paid dearly for his mistakes, he believed all of it had been for a reason, and to this day gives glory to God for His mercy on Kenny’s life.  The times when he should have died but didn’t, and the times when he felt lonely but wasn’t, were the times he knew and felt God in the most real sense in his life.  Just as Robert and I were sitting down and hearing his story, we both felt like we had been learning more from him than he was from us.

We laid hands on this man who was shocked to find that though he was HIV-Positive with AIDS, we were not ashamed to hold his hand in prayer.  We asked for God to heal this man of his pain: in his back, pancreas, and liver, and when the prayer was over, he calmly told us that the pain was not there anymore.  Before he could say anymore, I stopped him to tell him this: “What is more important to me and to God than the healing of your physical body is the healing of your heart.  He knows your pain, your loneliness, and He wants to heal that more than He wants to heal your body.”  Almost in tears, he replied with an awe and a curiosity to know God as intimately as I said he could.  He continued to unload on us how he hurt internally, and we prayed again that Jesus would be Kenny’s everything.

So a couple more announcements:

1.)  We could definitely use some help either financially or with clothing/food donations to continue offering food and clothing to the homeless in Bellingham.

2.)  Pray about Thanksgiving this year, and also if you feel led to be involved putting it together.

3.)  For personal reasons (spiritual revitalization and personal growth), I am taking a month off of the internet entirely starting September 3.  If you’d like to get a hold of me, please email us and someone will forward your message to me.  This will be my last post until October 3.

4.)  The time will remain unchanged for the foreseeable future (if it does change, I will have someone announce it on our Facebook page), which is Fridays from 9:30pm-11:30pm @ the corner between Rocket Donuts and Woods Coffee.

Thank you all again for your continued support during my absence, and thanks to Jared DeVries and Becca Kennedy for their leadership during the summer!

 

Jon

Reunion Night

20140620_234430At Rising Hope, we don’t have a lot of lingo and terminology, but one word that we consistently reinforce to make better sense of our ministering is “reunion.”  Reuniting long lost, estranged family.  In a sense, our ministry is going out to our brothers and sisters living on the streets and reuniting them with the church, the family of Christ.  Even in evangelism, this term applies for the unsaved, in that our goal is to reunite them with their Father in heaven, the adoption that Ephesians 1:5 talks about.

I know in my last post I stated that there weren’t going to be any more posts during the summer, but tonight was too amazing to keep back and not share with all of you.  Lately, the Lord has been convicting me of how we go about doing outreach downtown.  Typically, we’d split all the volunteers into large 5-7 person groups, one person carrying a bag of supplies and typically only one person at a time speaking to the homeless person while everyone else watches in the back.

For many months, I’ve heard the same consistent concern from many people saying that they don’t feel like they’re making a difference or really serving a purpose out there.  And for many months, I’ve been trying to brainstorm ideas for how to alleviate this issue, as initially I thought this was perhaps a personal spiritual issue that would eventually work itself out.  In addition, one of our traditions is that we go to a local restaurant after outreach to just refuel and hang out, however, it had suddenly occurred to me that not only are we eating and rewarding ourselves with meals of drastically higher quality food than the food we hand out, but we are also far more willing to pay upwards of $12 on ourselves a week but unwilling or unable to give that much a month to go towards the sandwiches we make.  Not to guilt anyone by any means, but I was finally starting to understand why people didn’t feel like they were making a difference, because there was hardly any opportunity to sacrificially give anything besides your time.  Finally, after a lot of prayer, the Lord had brought to me a solution.

So here’s the changes we made tonight to our outreach ministry, and though it’s not permanently the way we will do things from now on, we will have more nights like these cycled into our regular outreach routine.

1.)  Instead of groups of 5-7, we will have groups of 2-3.  This change is so that people will be allowed more freedom to step out in faith and interact with others, and allows each person to be able to remain involved and active in the group.

2.)  Each team will go out and search for one person to fully invest themselves in.

3.)  Instead of only one person (Jared and I) paying for and preparing sandwiches, we open this opportunity to allow anyone to play a part in actually feeding the homeless out of their own finances.  So each team that has found their one person to invest in will bring that person to Horseshoe Cafe for dinner, and split the bill for the one they invited.

4.)  When every team has arrived at Horseshoe Cafe, we will get a table for all of us to have dinner at, and together we will eat as a family.

As you can see, these changes solve a lot of problems all at once, and has little to no trade-offs in the process.  In fact, every part of our ministry enhances, everyone benefits, and we didn’t have to cut anything out to make this possible.  I am so thankful for the wise God that we serve!

Tonight was our first night implementing these changes, and though it was experimental, I learned much about how to go about this and better ways for us to do this in the future.  Long story short, the night was a huge success for everyone.  It really did feel like a family dinner, all of us sharing our stories, joking, laughing, and praising God while enjoying some (subjectively) good food.

IMG_20140621_005145(2)At the end of the night, one of our girl volunteers found a woman (Ricki) crying in the bathroom, so she brought her to me.  Ricki was homeless and needed a ride to her camp in the woods.  She had been trying to sell bouquets of flowers all night because she didn’t want to “hustle” people for money, nor did she want to lie to people or leech off of them.   She suffers from seizures and you could tell from her posture and her modulating voice that it has taken its toll on her body.  I offered to give her and her friend a ride as close as I could to her camp, and in exchange, she gave me one of the bouquets of flowers she had made (which I’m giving to my mother).

On the way to my car, we saw Rachel, a long-time friend of ours on the streets, and when Rachel and Ricki saw each other, they had a look of shock on each other’s faces and immediately hugged each other, then went around a corner to talk in private.  After a few minutes, I went to check on them, and they were both in tears, hugging one another.  I went up to them and asked if everything was okay.

“I’ve been looking for this woman for nearly 7 years.”  Rachel said.  “She and her father saved my life and my ex-boyfriend’s life one time.”

In a long story short, Rachel and her ex-boyfriend use to shoot heroin with Ricki and a few other people in a bunk house.  One day, Rachel and her ex overdosed and they began to convulse and foam at the mouth.  Ricki and her dad then jumped in to perform CPR and got them both to the hospital, but because they didn’t want to be involved in any police reports, Ricki and her dad fled and were never seen again until today.  Rachel sobbing on the street corner said, “I’ve been looking for this woman for nearly 7 years.  She saved my life.  She saved my ex-boyfriend’s life.  And I never got to thank her.”

All of us were simply praising the Lord.  This was no accident!  And to top it off, when Ricki told me she was in dire need of clothing as most of her things were stolen, I told her that I happened to be a director of a homeless ministry, with tons of clothing I could give away!

Reunion guys.

 

The Power of Prayer

IMG_0053So just a little disclaimer: This will probably be the last blog post that we do for a little while, at least until the Fall.  We’ll still be doing updates here and there on our Facebook page for any changes in our schedule and for any special events.  We also plan on going out to minister through the summer, and the official time we’re meeting is at 9:30 PM at the Rocket Donuts parking lot on Holly St. (across from Flatiron Woods).  See you all then!

On May 30…

It’s been a fantastic last few weeks at Rising Hope, I was out of commission for a week to help with some preliminary church-planting help in Spokane, and finally returned to lead last night.  I am so proud of the amazing group that we have who’ve been going out to do outreach downtown week after week!  About a couple weeks ago, as some of you may have heard, there was a drunk driver that plowed into 4 people downtown, killing one on a Monday night around 2 AM.  Our group last week however, had an incredible divine appointment when our crew, led by Jared DeVries, went to the site where the death had occurred, and had the incredible opportunity to minister to the grieving family that happened to be there.  They were very thankful for the counsel and comfort that his group was able to offer them, and even had the chance to pray with them in the midst of overwhelming grief.  I am truly proud of them for being the light in the darkness, salting the wounds of this broken world that night!

On June 6…

Last night, for as many awesome stories of friendships being built on the streets, miraculous healings, and love being exchanged between the church and the world, there were also many heartbreaking encounters with the collapsing darkness that we encountered last night.  My long-time street friend, who is a drug-dealer and potential prostitute (for her sake will not disclose her real name), limped on her bike towards me last night with black eyes and bruises all over her face.  With tears she said, “I’m single now” and hugged me.  For the first time in years, something shook me so hard to the core that I froze.  I knew all the right things to say, but I couldn’t say them.  She continued to make comments about feeling worthless, like “scum”, and that she somehow deserved this.  “No way,” I said.  “You are precious.  You are adored by God, and you are loved so very much.  You are not scum.”  “Then why am I treated like scum?”  I didn’t know what to say or do at that point.  “Because there are bad people out here who haven’t met Jesus yet.”  We continued this back and forth for a while, and then she finally said, “I gotta go make some money now.”  “How?”  She looked at me with a blank stare, saying nothing for a few moments.  She looked down.  “I gotta eat,” she finally said.  I could read between the lines what she meant.  “Wait here,” I said.  “I’ll get you dinner.  Don’t worry about tonight.”  So I went to buy her a meal at a local store and while I waited for the food, took a moment to catch my breath and just stopped to pray.  God, what on earth am I supposed to do?

I went back to her with a plate of food and a drink, and sat with her for a little while.  Though she’s not a believer, she was finally open to hearing some comforting words.  Then her ex-boyfriend showed up.

I stood between them.  My fists clenched as I said, “Are you the one who did this?” as I pointed to her face.  “Yes I am.  I did this too.”  He took off his hat and revealed several gashes on his forehead.  “I know I ****ed up.  I’m sorry.  I am a piece of crap and I know I’m going to hell for this.  I even took a lead pipe to myself because I know I ****ed up.”  My fists released as I caught myself swelling with anger.  That’s not me anymore.  In a very long story short, I listened to him as he opened up about his past, his broken childhood.  His own abuse that he had suffered and so much more.  I was able to pray with them and encourage them both to seek Jesus, to forgive one another and move on.  But the night was getting late and the rest of the team was waiting for me to close out the night with them.  So I left.

As we gathered in a circle across the street from a club, we began to share stories like we always do at the end of our nights.  However, we were interrupted as a fight began to break out across the street from us in front of one of the clubs.  It was two girls on one, and when one of the girls got slammed into a metal garbage can, Taylor, Robert, and I ran towards the scene.  We began to help break up the fights but as the chaos ensued, more fights continued to break out amongst the men, as each one accused the other of instigating the fight.  As many as 3-5 fights began to break out one after the other and though no fists were thrown, the three of us were getting overwhelmed trying to keep these men off of each other.

But then our team came in behind us, all of them huddled together in prayer as Taylor, Robert, and I struggled to hold back each of the men.  And suddenly, almost simultaneously, all the men calmed down and walked away, with the exception of Eddy, one of the men we were trying to hold back.  We had a chance to all three of us pray over him and remind him of the gospel and the grace that Jesus has shown us.  When we prayed, he felt remorse for his actions and immediately began to seek repentance.  Many of the on-lookers asked who we were, one person had even joined the prayer circle, and many decided that night it was time to go back to church.

Prayer is powerful, it’s our access to our spiritual “I win” button when we come against the darkness like we did last night.  I am SO proud of our group for jumping in and praying for us, and I am so proud of my friends Taylor and Robert, who both threw themselves courageously into the thick of the chaos.  Keep praying for our city and praying for us!

Hope is Rising

20140510_014501“As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”  – John 9:1-3

God is amazing!  For the second week in a row, we have seen God move through this ministry in some incredibly super-natural ways.  While our emphasis has been, and always will be, relationships and practical applications of love and service, every now and then God will cause us to confront people with not just the message of the gospel, but the power of the cross.  There were 5 stories of healings, 10 miracles in total.  I will attempt to touch on some of them, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll hold off on all the intricate details.  Enjoy 🙂

As our groups separated and headed downtown, the first person our team ran into was a man named Jeffery.  I have known Jeffery for a while now.  He lives on the streets, is fanatical about dogs, loves the Lord, and used to body-build professionally.  What I never knew about him was his deformed and damaged fingers on his right hand.  As we initiated conversation with him, I felt something in my spirit tell me there was a physical damage on his hand, and when I asked about it, he showed me his right hand, the pinky and ring finger stuck in curved positions.  Reluctantly, he allowed Matt and I to pray over him as I covered his hands with mine.  And as we prayed, I felt the fingers begin to straighten, joints untangling from the bones.  When I removed my hands, his fingers were straightened!

As Matt and I regrouped with everyone else, they had already started talking to Daniel and Tyler, who were on their way to a bar when my group: Becca, Robert, Shane, and David stopped to talk to them.  As we talked, I saw in the spirit pain in Tyler’s right side (URQ for you medical people) like his organs were on fire.  So I asked him if he had any pain on that side of his body, whether it was liver or kidney pain, or something to do with his gastrointestinal tract.  A moment of shock, confusion, and wonder came upon Tyler as he began to suspect me of googling him or looking him up on Facebook prior to our conversation.  I told him that I had no idea who he was but that it was God who revealed to me that he was hurting.  He broke down and began to weep, walking away several feet to collect himself as shock and disbelief overcame him.  He then confessed to having Hepatitis C and that he was in constant pain.  So we laid hands on him and he was healed.  Overjoyed he looked up and broke down in tears again as he couldn’t feel any pain at all anymore.  With such an incredible encounter, he accepted Jesus Christ!  He couldn’t contain himself and we asked if he’d like to share what just happened on video.  Here is his story:


During our prayers with Tyler and Daniel, an on-looking nurse scoffs at us, saying a number of unpleasant things about us Christians.  However, Shane and Becca had a chance to talk to her, and Shane was able to tell her the miracle of his medical condition, how he is able to still function and live a happy, fulfilling life despite his most recent medical tests (which happened to be that day!).  Being a nurse and understanding how amazingly lucky Shane is to be alive, she quickly changed her mind about Christianity.  “You’ve given me a lot to think about.  It’s a beautiful thing what you guys are doing out here.”

We continued on and Morgan’s boss and friend Evan was seen downtown.  Boldly, Morgan approached his boss not knowing if he was also a believer, and asked if he’d like to be prayed over.  Surprisingly, he did!  And laying hands and praying on him, again, I saw in my mind his heart like an x-ray, and it was red like it was on fire.  When we finished praying, I asked Evan about his heart, if he had a heart condition or something wrong with his blood.  He smiled and said his family is genetically predisposed to heart disease and that he currently had family members battling it.  I then asked if we could pray again this time for his heart to be healed, and he agreed.

Half our group was getting hungry, so they decided to take a breather and get some food while the rest of us continued forward.  Running into Courtney at Pita Pit, we had a chance to catch up and again I sensed her having abdominal pain.  When I asked if she was alright, she said she had been throwing up all day and was not feeling well.  I offered to pray with her but she declined and went on her way.

In Jared’s group, they had a wonderful time blessing and feeding the poor on Holly Street.  And prior to outreach, he had a sense that he needed to bring his raincoat with him on the streets tonight.  And sure enough, one of the homeless men he and his team were ministering to declined to receive anything from them, unless they had an extra raincoat which he needed.  Jared gladly gave away his coat to him, the very thing he needed and the only thing that homeless man was willing to receive!

When we found Jared’s team, we joined with them, which was right on time as they were just about to pray with a man named Rick.  We prayed in a big circle and during prayer, once again I saw Rick’s neck in pain, so I asked him about it and was given an opportunity to pray over his neck.  And sure enough, he said it was feeling great!  He twisted and turned his neck in all kinds of directions without pain or hindrance to God’s glory!  An onlooker named Chris happened to be watching us from a short distance and wanted to tell us that he thought this was the coolest thing he’s ever seen.  And again, the Lord highlighted this man’s upper back being in pain and in need of healing.  Initially, he denied there being any pain when I asked him, but I kept insisting that I knew God was telling me that there was. He began to laugh saying, “Okay you win.  How did you know?  That’s so crazy.”  We laid hands on him and prayed, and as soon as he opened his eyes, he exclaimed, “Guys, I don’t feel a thing!”

In everyone’s awe and wonder, Rick decides we should have a celebratory prayer thanking the Lord for all He had done.  So we held hands and got on our knees in the middle of Downtown Bellingham praising God and thanking Him for being so good!  Meanwhile, Becca, while waiting for her food, had a chance to talk to the waiter at the restaurant they were at.  She was able to discern in her spirit the names of not one, but TWO waiters without ever knowing them or ever meeting them.  In a crazy twist, one of the waiters was able to guess Becca’s name as well on their second try!

We’re not sure why God is starting to move this way, except that as our faith increases, we believe God more and more for what is possible.  And we certainly can’t complain!  The more we serve willingly, humbly, and courageously, the more God will use us and blow our minds with how powerful, wise, and faithful He is.  One thing is for sure:  the power of God is not up for debate.

 

Rising Hope Goes Mobile

IMG_20140502_224612IMG_20140503_184202IMG_0043

 

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

 

Jesus said these words as He was about to ascend into Heaven after His resurrection.  Interesting that Jesus urged them a few verses back not to leave Jerusalem just yet.  But the time to scatter and spread out from their originating city into the neighboring cities, and eventually the rest of the world would begin when we have received the power that comes from the Holy Spirit to become His witnesses.

On Friday, May 2nd, 2014, four friends of mine from out-of-town would arrive in Bellingham to join us in reaching our city and go on an experimental journey to reach the cities beyond Bellingham.  Wayne Hsu, an old friend of mine from Colorado, Jason Lynch, a long-time partner in ministry from Oak Harbor with his son Cody, and Cal from Rice Bowl Ministries in Anacortes, all gathered with us that night in Bellingham to reach the lost and the homeless of Bellingham, WA.

The experiment was to take a team of hand-picked servants who have been faithfully serving in Rising Hope and for an entire 24-hour period, set out to reach not only Bellingham’s darkest corners, but every city, park, and homeless camp from here to Anacortes.  The eight of us set out on a journey not knowing the impact we would leave behind, nor the stories of healing and spiritual victory that we would return with.

Let’s begin with Bellingham.

Jason and his team from Anacortes parked their relief vehicle on Railroad and Holly, at the very heart of Downtown Bellingham.  The vehicle was packed with clothing, shoes, and blankets of every size and kind, ready to distribute needs to the people as they began to line up at our corner of the street.  Dozens upon dozens of people began to pour in around us, and we used the opportunity to pray and develop friendships with those who were waiting in line for needs.  A foot-washing station was set up next to the relief bus, and teams from Rising Hope set out throughout the alleyways and streets to find and invite the homeless back to the relief vehicle to be blessed both physically and spiritually.

As Jared and I directed people where to go, where to serve, and delegated tasks, I was interrupted by a fellow servant crying out for me to come talk to someone he had been talking to.  His name was Anthony.  Large in stature, black, and very friendly, he greeted me with thanks as he stood and watched the line of people being served in front of our vehicle.  “I believe in Jesus.  Probably not the same one as you guys though.  I am a practicing witch,” he said, “I have seen some amazing things in witchcraft.  Things you wouldn’t believe.  People have crossed me and have paid dearly for it.  One woman I cursed, and in the following week she had a miscarriage.  I regret doing that, but I have seen the proof that witchcraft is real, more real than your Jesus.”

“Is that so?  How would you like to see something right now that would make witchcraft look like child’s play?” I said, restraining my excitement.   “What do you mean?  Sure, I would love to.”  He accepted my challenge.  I closed my eyes and asked for help from the Lord, and in my mind’s eye I saw his right leg in the knee area pulsating red like it was in pain or on fire.  I opened my eyes.

“You have pain in your right leg, don’t you?”

A collection of responses followed in mere moments as he went from confusion, to realization, to shock and wonder.  He begins to chuckle as he said,

“Haha, okay okay.  You have my attention now.  That is so strange.  How did you know that?  My right knee has been hurting for years.  I got in a fight a few years back and I kicked someone in the head.  I feel bad about it, but ever since then my knee has never been the same.”

I responded, “Are you ready then?  Jesus forgives sins.  He holds nothing against you if you believe in Him.  Are you ready to see the power of God?”  “Yes, yes I am.” He said.  I placed my hands on his right knee as I crouched down and began to pray for Jesus to heal his leg.  And immediately, I felt a slight pop in his knee cap.  I stood back up after the prayer and asked, “How is it now?”

He takes a moment to move his leg up and down, bending his knee and taking a few steps around.  He chuckles again, “I don’t believe this.  Yeah, there’s no pain anymore.” I and a couple others who stood and watched the whole thing happen began to cheer in the middle of the streets as we celebrated the power of Jesus touching this man’s life.  “Have you ever seen anything like this in witchcraft?”  I asked.  “No,” he said, “I have never seen power like this in my life.”  After explaining the gospel and explaining the love of Christ, Anthony still had his doubts, and needed some space and time to evaluate what just happened.  He walked away but Jason stopped me and said, “We’re not done with him yet.  We’re going to see him again tonight.”

As my team continued down Holly looking for people to bring back to the relief vehicle, we ran into Anthony again who excitedly reminded us that his knee was feeling great.  As our group talked with him, Taylor whispered in my ear, “God’s going to do it again.  Ask Him where else he’s hurting.”  So I closed my eyes and again, saw the man’s body like I had x-ray vision and this time his liver was as clear as day on fire in my mind’s eye.  So I opened my eyes and asked Anthony, “What’s going on here?” as I pointed beneath his rib cage.  This time he just begins to chuckle in disbelief.  “Um, yes.  That’s my liver.  I have sclerosis in my liver and it is not pleasant.  BUT, I do not want you to pray for me because I know if you do, it’ll get healed again,” and once again he respectfully walks away.  Jason continually reassures me that we would see him again, and that God was showing me where he was hurting because God wanted to heal it, it was not a revelation to be wasted.  So we continued forward in faith, believing we would see him again later and not force ourselves upon him.

As our team continued walking, Taylor looks to me and says, “Jon, what is going on tonight?  I want what you have, can you please pray for me?”  It took me a second for me to realize what he had been asking of me, and I realized that the gift that God was apparently giving me wasn’t just for me only.  It was to be multiplied and given out.  So we stopped and took the moment to lay hands on Taylor, asking the Lord to multiply the work being done through me to Taylor, and that whatever was given to me would be given also to him.  It was not my power anyways, it belongs to Jesus so there was no reason for me to cling onto it.  Immediately, Taylor states that he can see in his mind someone’s knee hurting, and that he could even feel it in his own.  So we walked up to the next group of people that we saw, who were standing outside of a bar and Taylor just starts asking this crowd of people, “Does anyone have right knee pain?  Anyone?”  Immediately a man raises his hand and states that he did.

“I’m Ben, and I’m a scientologist.”  He said.  “My knee has been hurting for years.”

Taylor begins to engage in conversation with Ben, getting to know him and sharing with him the gospel message and the love of Christ.  With Ben’s permission, Taylor was allowed to lay hands and pray on the man’s knee.  Immediately the man bends his knee back and forth, taking a few steps and cries out in excitement, “Oh my god.  My knee feels great!  There is no pain!  If it stays like this for a week, then I’ll know this was for real and I will have to rethink some things in my life.”

We continued on and for the sake of brevity, what happened later on in the night was that we did end up finding Anthony again, and we did get the chance to lay hands on his side where his liver was hurting, and he was overjoyed and nearly in tears that he was relieved of his pain.  We also had the chance to wash a prostitute’s feet, which when it was done hugged me while fighting back tears.  Many more stories of someone being totally touched by the love of Jesus, or a prophetic word spoken over someone’s life, and so much more happened that night.  God beautifully used each one with their unique wirings and giftings that night that spun a beautiful night of loving others in unity.  And this was just Friday.

Saturday, we began our journey from Bellingham and its park and downtown areas blessing others with clothes, food, and much more.  Like pioneers, like modern day apostles we went from city to city, spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and getting the chance to pray with those on the streets who were hopeless.  I can’t begin to describe what this felt like, as no other mission trip I had ever taken felt this empowering and bold.  By the end of the day, we were drained and exhausted, but definitely got more out of the trip for ourselves than what we put in.  On the way to Burlington, we had stopped for a man walking with a jerry can on the highway.  He was a Russian man named Demetri from Canada who was here on a day trip with his family when he ran out of gas.  He was at least a good 2 hour walk from the nearest gas station.  When we picked him up, Jason and his son Cody had a chance to share with him what we were doing and why; all for God’s glory and the immeasurable love Christ showed us when He died to save us.  When we dropped him off with his family at their car, Demetri kept saying over and over again, “I will remember this day.  I will tell all my friends back home what you Christians did for me this day.”  We even had a chance to circle up and pray with Demetri and his family before we parted ways.

And on and on the exhaustive list of awesome testimonies go.  Visiting the abandoned homeless neighborhood in Burlington, the Friendship House in Mt. Vernon, and so much more.  It was just so humbling, encouraging, empowering, and relieving to serve in this way; going from city to city and reaching people not just beyond our comfort zones and walled-off buildings, but to people even outside our own city.  I definitely sense that Rising Hope’s next steps are to serve beyond Bellingham, reaching the other counties of Washington, and eventually my dream is to see us go global; reaching lost people in foreign countries.  Our vision from the very beginning was to go to the darkest places in our city and praying for the light of Christ to shine there.  I believe the vision can extend a little further now to say: our vision is to go the darkest places in our city, praying for the light of Christ to shine there, and then keep moving on to the next city, the next darkest place, until Christ returns.

As the summer approaches, we have some plans to reach Snohomish County, Skagit County, Spokane, and even Vancouver, Canada.  We could use all the support you readers can send our way, beit prayers, financial support, or your partnership in service.  Thank you for reading such a long post, and I hope it has encouraged you to believe that God is doing great things in our city, but greater things are yet to come, and greater things are still to be done.

Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, O Lord!

The Frontlines

 

Bob and TomasinaWednesday NightBob

 

 

 

 

Hope is contagious.  It breaks out like a wildfire, spreading out and consuming everything in its path.  Hope breaks all rules, makes possible what many others would say is impossible.  When a person, community, church, a city, is filled with hope, they become dangerous.  They become a nightmare to evil, a shining light in the darkness, an unstoppable force, an unrivaled victor in every battle.  It is not “wishful thinking,” nor is it only for optimists/dreamers/fools, nor a crutch to cope with life.  It is not a sign of weakness and naivety, neither is it optional for a fulfilling life.  As 1 Corinthians 13 makes it abundantly clear, hope is up there and in the same league as faith and love.  Hope is just as necessary for the human soul to flourish as is love and faith are.

“It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres… and now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:7,13)

It’s hard to argue about the great love of Christ when it manifests itself before your very eyes.  When the pain in your body is gently relieved by a prayer, when you have struggled to walk for years and are suddenly able to casually walk unhindered after a random stranger comes up to you to put their hands on you.  You don’t know how to react, because that injury/deformation/disability was your life-long source of doubt of God’s goodness as well as the source for your bitterness against a God who you had believed was angry and disappointed with you.  And then one night, all of that changes.  A group of young adults walk up to you with total eagerness to know you, to feed and clothe you.  They call themselves the Church.  “Which one?” you ask.  The group looks at each other with a smile and one of them says this to you, “There’s only one church.  We all go to different buildings but we belong to one church.”  Confusion and comfort wash over your mind as you are intrigued; who are these people?  Why do they come to me when I am high/drunk, why are they here in the middle of a Friday night?  Why aren’t they in the clubs and bars like everyone else?  Why do they waste their time on me?  Why are they praying for me?  Why am I being healed, and what is this feeling I am experiencing?  Is this what it’s like to hope again?  Is this what it’s like to be loved?  Imagine yourself being someone like this on a dark Friday night.  On a night when you have every evil thing imaginable planned out, and a group of strangers calling themselves the Church interrupts your ill-designed plans to tell you about a hope and love beyond your wildest imagination.  Imagine yourself a gang member, a homeless man, a college student, a prostitute, a drug dealer.  Imagine yourself on the darkest and lowest time of your week, and a shining light just invaded your world.

There are hundreds of stories like this one that I could tell you of someone on the streets whom we’ve developed relationship with who have come to Christ.  Times when we have gone out to restaurants and a group of us would pay for everyone’s check in the building so that we could go from table to table telling them their bill was paid for just as Christ has paid our debts.  Other times when health care and doctor visits simply aren’t an option for many of the sick on the streets, and the only option we have left is laying our hands on their wounds to pray for a supernatural healing.  Or times where we go out to build relationships with people hiding in plain sight on a lonely Friday night hoping if anyone would notice them.  There was even a time long ago when we found two girls who were abducted by someone on the streets who, by the grace of God, we were able to take back home.  All this to say, Downtown Bellingham on a Friday night is, and has always been, a warzone.  We go out on Friday nights because it’s the front lines of spiritual attack, and we don’t always come back victorious.  Many nights our servants and leaders return battle-wounded and demonically oppressed for weeks.  Many nights we have been threatened or inflicted with physical harm, verbal assault, loss of possessions either stolen or freely given away.  All this to say,

They are worth it.

In the past month, I had the privilege of baptizing Bob and Tomasina at Lake Whatcom with Jared.  My friend Ian, who I had not seen on the streets for over a year, returned from jail and looked for me everywhere on the streets.  He told me he accepted Christ while in prison and he never forgot a single word Corey and I spoke to him since we last saw each other.  Even a couple weeks ago, we had a chance to pray with Dave, Rachel, and Jeremy, three homeless people sitting on the street corner who were not the most inviting group of people when we first tried to speak with them.  But as we gave them our time and attention, they allowed us to pray holding hands in a circle with them, and from hardness in their hearts to weeping for joy, they cried out saying over and over, “I needed this.  You guys have no idea.”  And the other day on a Wednesday night, we took our van and brought 1/3rd of all our supplies to hand out as people crowded around our vehicle.  At least 70 people came to our van thanking us over and over again, pleading their case for why our help was an answer to prayer.  Some had all their possessions stolen from them, others couldn’t wash their current set of clothes, so they needed new ones.  Jackets, sleeping bags, socks, pants, shoes, flashlights, personal hygiene stuff, they took it all.  One person even said, “You just clothed all of Bellingham ICP.”  “The whole gang?” I asked.  “The WHOLE gang.”

I’ve said this before and I will say it again, there is no such thing as radical Christianity.  There is only Christianity.  There is no such thing as a Christian extremist.  There’s only Christians.  Jesus got his hands dirty, touched the untouchable and unclean, hung out with the outcasts, and fed the 5,000 (whether or not they could fend for themselves).  Lets get our hands dirty.  Lets go to them.  Reaching the people of the streets is not an exclusive club for eccentric believers, nor is there a specific “gifting” that makes one more effective than the other.  It is love at its most basic and fundamental form.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18)

I am calling you: my friends, my brothers and sisters, to earnestly and fervently pray for us.  As the number of “wounded” continue to rise amongst our ranks, the harvest is whiter than ever and the Kingdom is in need of a greater push forward more than ever.  Please pray for our continued safety, increase in laborers, and support as we extend the love of Christ to our city.  I love all of you, I desperately love this city, and I hope to see you on the streets with us soon!

Family Reunion

 

IMG_0353“It’s like a family reunion out here!” – Nick

This week’s update will be a little different than usual.  I’ve got some amazing testimonies to share about this last week, but first I wanted to clarify some things about Rising Hope and why we’re here, if that hasn’t been made clear to anyone yet.  I remember back in August when Walter and I were sitting at Bakerview Woods seeking the Lord for direction for Rising Hope.  At some point during the night, the word “reunion” popped into my head, and I realized that the direction of the ministry would need to shift towards being more like a family than a military unit.  Though we’ve been reaching those on the front lines of darkness, addiction, and violence, I realized that we as a ministry needed to move toward adoption, that we weren’t recruiting people (homeless or Christian) to join our army, but rather we were a family of brothers and sisters who sought out and included others into our family.

Historically, the early church first gained its voice and its momentum in the first century for being known for their love for the unlovable: touching the lepers and the sick, sheltering the homeless, and being with the widows and orphans; those whom society had deemed unworthy to be associated with were the people whom the church loved the most.  The actions of the early church marveled the world and as a result, showed that the love of Christ was more than just another emerging religion or ideology, but rather it was a super-natural and real love that tangibly revealed itself in the actions of those who claim to have Christ in their lives.

This trend continued throughout history, the church leading the forefront of sanitation, public education, health care and reform, social justice, ending poverty, and so much more that I couldn’t possibly list all here in this post.  At some point in the last few hundred years, the church had withdrawn so drastically from social justice, that history records it as “The Great Reversal.”  It was then that the church experienced its first real threat of extinction; losing its credibility, and it was losing it at an alarming rate.  It wasn’t the countless emperors and dictators throughout history who tried to wipe out believers, nor the massacring and martyring of thousands of unrelenting Christians, it was when the church had suddenly withdrawn from caring for the broken that we nearly lost our voice.  Christianity had nearly been silenced once and for all.  After all, “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:14-26)

But by the grace of God the church endured, and now we are seeing a resurgence of believers in our age who are being called one-by-one to step up and be the hands and feet of Jesus.  In the midst of a growing post-Christian cultural shift in America, the Spirit is once again calling believers from every city to rise up and show the world once again that the love of Christ is tangible and real.  This calling is so much bigger and greater than Rising Hope could ever be.  What we do on the streets could never completely fulfill this monumental calling that Christ is calling us to enter into.  That is why we shifted away from becoming an organization to becoming a launching pad for a movement.  We are a training ground to launch believers into their callings to touch the world with the love of Jesus Christ, so that the world can see once again that we are not above the lowly and outcast.  But rather, we reach beneath each broken individual in hopes to lift them to Christ, and as a Christian family, adopting as many as we can to the family we belong to.

We want believers to experience risky love, dangerous love, maybe even costly love.  We want you to experience this because it is instrumental in your development as a missional follower of Christ.  This however isn’t limited to people who simply want some experience before going into missions, professional ministry, or whatever.  This ministry; our Wednesday and Friday nights are for anyone who wants to experience living like Christ did on earth when he went to the outcasts, to develop a better sense of where your giftings, strengths, and weaknesses are, and for you to hopefully to build enough faith and courage to go beyond Rising Hope for reaching the lost wherever you are being called to.  Whatever impact that’s made by us stepping out in faith into the waters of our city is because God is at work and He receives all the credit.  As for us, we are simply out there to learn and grow in our faith and trust in God as we serve Him in the unknown and dangerous.

Our homeless friend Nick, when he was surrounded on the corner of Holly and Champion by fellow believers, both rich and poor, were laughing, conversing, and eating together said this:  “It’s like a family reunion out here!”

I nearly shed a tear when he said that.  Because it means that its working.

When we had learned that our friend Vaan, who is the leader of a gang here in Bellingham had been released from prison, we searched the alleyways and streets of downtown Bellingham to find him this last Friday night.  When we found him, to our surprise, he exclaimed with a new-found exuberance in his countenance that he was now a follower of Jesus and that he has experienced new life in Him.  Our friend TJ, formerly homeless, who also came to Christ (he was the one who had given me his needle) not too long ago, and who we adopted into our family, was with us when we saw Vaan, and when they saw each other they literally jumped for joy.

“You look so different TJ!” said Vaan.

“You too dude!  I follow Christ too now!” said TJ.

“No way!”  They hugged, and it was in that moment that we knew this thing was all God’s work.  Though we had been praying for months for Vaan, spending time with him and loving on him, it was the work of Christ.  The result was our faith was rewarded, and I know now to be bolder in who I think can be reached.  In the same week, I had spent time with Ronalda who had lost her step-dad the night before.  She had lost control and went back to drugs, and got into a fight right before I picked her up off the streets.  As she wept on my shoulder and soaked my shirt with blood and tears, I was reminded of adoption, the fatherless, and those who have no family.  We’re not done yet, there are still others out there who still need a family.  Let’s go to them.

re·union
noun \(ˌ)rē-ˈyün-yən\

: an act of getting people together again after they have been apart : an act of reuniting

: an organized gathering of people who have not been together for a long time

source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reunion

TL;DR: Rising Hope is a training ground to help you find the faith, courage, and strength to fulfill the calling God has for you beyond Rising Hope.  We do this by stepping out in faith Wednesday and Friday nights serving others and making disciples.

Finals Week

Hello brothers and sisters in Christ!

I have some important announcements to make but first, as you may have noticed, there has not been a recent post from us in a while.  For the first time ever, there has been more stories of God doing amazing things on the streets than I am able to keep up with.  People are being healed on the streets, finding Jesus and accepting Him as their Lord and Savior, breakthroughs in building relationships, and persecution and resistance for others.  We are averaging between 25-30+ volunteers each Friday night, and week by week we see the city grow more and more accustomed to seeing the church in the midst of dark and broken Friday nights.

I am totally blown away by all of you who have been helping out and donating clothes, making sandwiches, and taking the time to be out there to share the gospel and love people with the love of Christ.  Some of you have been coming out consistently and the impact is evident when we encounter people on the streets asking for you by name.  Others of you have very little time in your schedule and I just want to say THANK YOU that you are still somehow making time to come out, even if it is once a month or more.  I know it is not easy balancing a job, going to college, and serving in various ministries.  But thank you for all the time and effort you put in to love on people and I just want you to know that your labor is not in vain.

So announcements,

I realize this is finals week and the majority of you that serve with Rising Hope attend WWU.  I made an announcement last Friday that we would resume Wednesday night ministry and also have a ministry-wide fast this next Friday night.  However, because of finals and all your hard work so far in helping Friday nights being amazing, I will postpone Wednesday night ministry until April 2.  As well, the ministry-wide fast will be postponed until April 4.  This change will hopefully give some of you guys space to focus on school work and also relax during Spring Break, but also this will be during not only Ekklesia’s worship night, but also during the Light of the World Prayer Center’s monthly 24/7 prayer and worship night called the Burn, all in the same night!  We will fast from midnight of April 4 to around midnight of April 5 (24 hours) and break our fast with communion under the bridge.

So guys, please feel free to take the next week or two off.  For those of us not in school, if you need to take a break, by all means take one!  As for the rest of us, we will keep laboring for the love of Christ to be experienced for all people in Bellingham.  We’re looking forward to Wednesday night resuming, as we will be driving around downtown and to various homeless camps to deliver clothing, coffee, washing feet, and reading the Bible together.  Here’s a video I put together of our adventure on Feb 26, when we hiked into the woods to find a SNOW FORTRESS (apologies for the vertical video).  If you have the time, go check out this video!  God bless guys and have a great and restful week!

Jon

Valentine’s Day

2-14-14

Over 30 people came out this past Valentine’s Day to reach the poor and destitute in downtown Bellingham!  Our groups flooded Holly St., State St., Maritime Park, Railroad Ave., and Cornwall Ave.  Group after group of atheists, non-believers, agnostics, and even Christians walked by or stopped and watched to their amazement and confusion you guys loving people on the streets instead of partying or going out on dates (no offense to those who had dates!).

“That’s beautiful.  You are beautiful people.”

“I don’t know why you guys are out here but I love what you are doing.”

“Keep it up guys.”

We received comments like these and many more as people walked by, totally shocked by the display of love you guys showed.  I am so proud of you all for coming out and being the hands and feet of Jesus.  In the words of Jesus Christ Himself,

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35

Two people accepted Jesus that night!!!  Thank you Jesus for the new life in Diane and Trevor!  The previous night, Diane was intoxicated and extremely hostile to us, refused to be prayed with and even physically pushed me away.  However, on Valentine’s Day she stated her need for Jesus in her life, never really knowing Him before, and prayed with Morgan to have Jesus as Lord in her life.  Trevor, in addition spoke with our friend James who gave him an overview of the story of Jesus Christ and the power of His forgiveness and love.  And when James finished, Trevor spoke that he had been waiting all his life to hear this message, waiting for someone to show him the truth.  He began to cry as they prayed, and he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and savior!

There were so many more miraculous stories, but I will end on this one: as my group and I began our night, we walked up to a group of middle schoolers at a dance party who were just hanging out outside a rented out dance floor.  We walked up to them and began introducing ourselves, asking questions, getting to know them, but they were not initially welcome to our approach.  They were hesitant to introduce themselves, and appeared nervous talking to strangers.  So we explained who we were and what we were doing out that night, but they were still reluctant to share their names.  Instead, they joked around and gave us fake names as they giggled and laughed.  I asked one of the girls what her name was and the other girl spoke up for her, “Her name is Julianna.”  “No its not!” she said.  “No no, seriously!  Her name is Julianna!” This went back and forth a couple times until I felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit and said, “No, your name is Julie.”  They both stopped and looked at me in shock.  “Wait, that is my real name.  How did you know that…?”  “God speaks to me!  He loves you, can we pray for you guys?” And suddenly they trusted us enough to give us their names as we prayed in a circle, asking Jesus to watch over them and protect them.  I don’t know what they were thinking after we left, but I know God was definitely trying to speak to them that night!

There are countless more stories to tell; relationships being built and being strengthened as our presence continues to permeate our city, and people finding hope and love as we offer them love and family.  I’m so excited for what’s to come: I’m excited for our Seattle group who went out this last Tuesday their first time and found a community of 20 homeless living under a bridge.  I’m excited for Denver, and the friends I’ve known in the past who are yearning for what’s happening here to happen in their location.  I’m excited for Bellingham, that God is stirring in hearts and the church rising up to follow Jesus into the darkest corners of our city.  Many of you are being attacked spiritually, and I pray for your protection, your endurance, and for strength to keep laboring for the gospel!  Keep going my friends, don’t give up.  Keep loving the lonely and the broken!

Jon Ng
Director of Rising Hope