Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lombard St. Building

Wow, I've been trying to write this update for almost two weeks now and every time I get started I get distracted or I get writers block or there are 500 other things that need to be done. This building breaks my heart, it looks like any other warehouse sitting in Southwest Baltimore during the day time, but at nighttime this place turns into a place of despair, it's unmarked and no one would ever know what takes place here if they didn't come out at night. But after all the clubs close this building begins hopping, the drugs and alcohol run freely and if you walk by this building on any given Saturday and Sunday you'll find a variety of novelties from condoms to needles and sometimes a shotgun shell or two!

This place makes me so sad because it's another place that can tempting to people who already struggle all day long, people are getting hurt outside of this place. I guess I get so frustrated because so many people know what takes place here but it's still happening every weekend. My prayer is that God will do a mighty work on this block and this building will go out of commission for the purpose it's currently being used for. I drive by this place sometimes and I just want to go inside, I just want to hang out there and pray for the people there...crazy I know, but I can't even begin to tell you how burdened this building makes my heart. I worry about a few of my girls, what an easy place for them to get all caught up in the things they don't need too, for my boys it's an easy place for them to "get lost", I know there are other places that they can do this, but this one is just so easy.

So I hope that you'll join me in prayer, that this place can be condemned and reopened for the good of our neighborhood, that my friends and especially my kids will be protected from the evil that happens here.

Thanks friends.

Monday, April 14, 2008

It really is a warzone out here...

Four teenagers killed in two weeks, a few months ago my girls told me that if felt like a warzone in their neighborhood, I'm beginning to understand exactly what they mean. Gang are beginning to flood our neighborhood and with that comes the rise of gang violence. I really feel like everyday I come into the city I see new tags on buildings, and I see rival gangs tagging over each others work. Yesterday morning Pastor Mike told us about the fourth kid that was killed shot 9 times and left to die on the streets.

My heart continues to break for these families who are losing kids, my kids who are losing friends, for these kids who are killing other kids and for these kids whose lives are getting cut short. I've been warned that it only gets worse as the weather gets warmer and as people start spending more time outside. My prayer is that something amazing is going to happen in this neighborhood and the love of Jesus will fill the streets instead of the love of gangs!

Today I took the pictures above, they are located on W. Pratt St. where Tyrone was killed a week ago this past weekend. It's so sad that he'll be just another murder statistic in Baltimore City.

Please join us in prayer as we pray for the war in our neighborhood to end and as we pray for the families of these kids who are involved in such violent acts, please pray for us as we ask God to continue making miracles happen in our kids lives.

Thank you friends!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Southwest Baltimore: Afterhours

Last night I had this urge to play in the city, when I set out my intentions were to go straight to Fell's Point find Myra (our homeless friend), go to Wal-Mart and come home at a decent hour. But I just couldn't, I kept feeling tugged in the direction of our neighborhood, I needed to see what was going on there, I needed to see if any of my kids were out playing and if they were I wanted to spend time with them, I wanted to see Ms. Val and pray for her, I wanted to hug Mr. George, I wanted to see what kind of "shady business" was taking place in this building I pray about everyday. I want to be in the midst of my neighborhood all the time, in fact sometimes when I'm not there my heart is aching and longing to be there.

So as I turned on too Eagle St. I saw two familiar faces standing against a building and my heart broke that at 11:41 at night these boys were going to have to ride a bus 1.5 hours to get home, so of course after much convincing that I REALLY didn't mind driving them the 20 minute ride home and them screaming I was forcing them to get into my car (in a joking manner of course) I drove them to there house. These boys were so extremely grateful and it was so rewarding because we got to talk about school, how they're going to be Seniors next year, college and their futures in general. We got to laugh and be silly together. And the best part of the evening was when I dropped them off at their front door and the words..."I love you Miss Colleen..." came out of both of their mouths. My heart always gets that warm and fuzzy feeling and I feel like God is really truly using me to work in the lives of these kids when they say those five words.

A side funny story, as we are sitting on the corner talking to the boys all I could think about what was if a cop came around the corner how they'd probably think I was buying drugs, pull me out o my car, search everything and laugh when I really told them what I was doing there. This thought actually runs through my head quite often.

Finally, after dropping the boys off we made our way to our original destination Fell's Point, where we found Myra in horrible shape, in fact last night, she pretty much made my night by screaming and yelling and cussing me out. She was having a total withdraw for her alcohol addiction, she kept yelling and telling us it was her medicine and we didn't care about her because we wouldn't take her to buy Vodka. These people are truly the people of my heart, I love them, I love being cussed out by them, I love the tears they cry to me, I love the beautifulness that I can find in them that others can't...I love that even when Myra looks and acts disgusting towards me I can still find her beauty.

The entire time we were in Fell's Point I couldn't stop thinking about that building on Lombard St. and what was happening there. I wanted so badly to be there, I wanted to pray over it, I wanted to see for myself what happens there after hours, so finally at 2 a.m. we made our way back over the neighborhood and not to my surprise there was a TON of police activity outside the church, a car that appeared to be shot up, was pretty much blocking the road and the police were searching it, the "building" was hopping and I finally was able to report to the police the things I was witnessing with my own eyes, and on a street a few blocks away there was another car in the same condition as the one sitting directly in front of the church.

My heart broke instantly for my kids who have to live in this neighborhood, who are tempted and lured by the people like ones who open this building after hours. This building sits lifeless until late at night, then it becomes an alcohol, gun, and drug flowing house. If you walk by it the next morning you'll find lots of interesting things (needles, bullet shells, and beer cans/bottles). As I drove by the car that appeared to have been shot, my heart broke because this is not uncommon, one Sunday morning we found 16 gun casings on our front porch, another Sunday morning there was a girl who was shot on our steps. these things happen almost everynight. From the shady building to the fake Jazz Club to the dealers and gang members standing on the street. Last night I realized exactly what happens here after midnight, which makes me want so much more to become a 24 hour place of hope, I want those gang members, drug dealers and drunks to be able to wonder in the church anytime they want so they can be restored, put back together and loved with the Love of Christ.

So of course after all of this, I have a few prayer requests and one of them is very serious:

*We've lost the contract on our building and we need God to send a miracle, so that we can continue to work out of our building, so we can continue to see miracles happening, so we can continue to love kids, we can continue to give away food, clothes and share God's love with the broken and the lost. Please join us as we pray about the future of Metro Ministries and Charm City Church.

*Please pray for the people of this neighborhood as they walk around in a place of brokeness, a place of despair, a place where hope seems lost.

*Pray for our kids, that they can continue to walk proudly to Metro Kidz, they can continue to seek God's plan for their lives and they can continue to feel how much we love them and want them to succeed.

*Please pray for all of my volunteers as they are serving in this broken place. That they'll continue to feel the effects of their influence in this place, that they'll continue to be encouraged by the miracles that are happening daily.

*For Pastor Mike that he'll just be encouraged from all aspects and he'll continue to let God guide him.

thanks friends!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Retreat: Tough Beginnings make for Rewarding Endings

It's been an exciting week at Metro Kidz, I took two of our kids on the Light Company (Grace's Middle School Ministry) Spring Retreat, it was quite an experience one that started out rather vicious but ended in such a way that I would not have changed anything about the weekend. We met at Grace and followed the buses to North Bay, I took two girls who were doing well in school, who I thought would experience life change that weekend and who I needed to get closer with. These girls both have hard core inner city life attitudes and I really think God broke them if not much at least a little bit last weekend!

The three of us were in a cabin with a group of 8th grade girls from Grace and it was such a learning experience for both sets of girls, but a true eye opener for me. It was such a scary experience for everyone involved, the girls I brought have a hard time tearing down walls and it wasn't easy for them to do that in 48 hours and the girls who roomed with us, a lot of them have never been exposed to people that aren't like them. The first 24 hours were vicious my girls refused to lose the attitude and the other girls refused to have open minds. The three of us ate dinner, breakfast and lunch alone the first day, it was sad to me. As the weekend went on it was still tough, but got better...the shaving cream battle which I think aside from the speaker was probably the highlight of the weekend for the girls.

Saturday night was the "serious" night, where the guest speaker got down to business and gave the serious talk of the weekend. I thought the theme for the weekend was perfect for the girls, it was "transforming your life." There were a lot of tears that night, but not from my girls, however they did make it clear that just because they weren't crying that didn't mean God wasn't tearing them up.

Both girls told me that they need to make changes in their lives, one of them expressed that she needed to change her attitude and proceeded to tell the other girls in our cabin that she was sorry because they had met the K that was mean and had a bad attitude and she knew she needed to be nicer. My prayer is that she REALLY means that and we'll see amazing changes in her life.

S told me that she was scared about the things going on in her life and she wanted to learn how to run towards God instead of away from Him. She told me that her heart was ready to change. I was so proud of them for finally opening their hearts and mind to what God was going to teach them that weekend.

That evening was tough because there was a screaming match between some of the girls and I had to sit them down and tell them how disappointed I was in all of them. My girls for having an attitude towards people who were willing to share their weekend with them, and the other girls for not being open minded. It was such a sad thing for me to experience watching both sides struggle to accept people different than them. But K/S we're willing to share what their life is like in the city, about how people get shot on a regular basis, about how they are harassed to join gangs, about how drugs run freely and they have to have an attitude to survive, the other girls were quick to respond and even prayed with and for my girls.

It was in that moment that a bond was formed, one that I don't think can be broken, they laughed together, cried together, played together and finally accepted that even though each group of girls were "different" they were really all the same.

The next morning they all worked together to clean our cabin, they laughed the whole way through, we went to breakfast and girls actually sat at the table with us and actually acted happy to be sitting with us, they went to program and the girls didn't sit entirely alone, and there were hugs and when will we see you agains, when we left to come home.

This weekend was such a learning experience for our entire cabin including myself, each group of girls learned how to be more accepting, they learned that not everyone in the world is exactly like they are and that even though we're different we can still unite. I learned that I can't have such high expectations of people and that my girls are not going to break down walls in the first 20 minutes of being somewhere. God also broke my heart even more for the kids I work with and made me realize what a treat is was for my girls to come out of their environment even for just two days.

I truly believe that God worked miracles throughout the weekend. I prayed all weekend for patience because at one point I was ready to pack my girls up and bring them home, God reminded me why we were there and some encouraging text messages reminded me how I was working with and convinced me I shouldn't give up and go home. Now, I am SO glad I didn't.

So there are some highlights from the weekend:

-Driving to North Bay talking with my girls about life, love and friendships
-Arriving there to find our cabin was the closest one to the bay and seeing the girls get so excited!
-S telling me this trip was the best birthday gift she'd ever received.
-Watching the girls get excited about the opening program, participating in the silly games and worship
-Listening to them laugh and giggle about the silly things
-Hearing them talk about the big "battle"
-Watching them get excited about going on the zip line and then hearing them talk about it afterwards
-The shaving cream battle (before, during and after)
-Bonding in the bathroom after the battle
-Saturday night program
-Driving home and listening to them talk about their experience

Now, some things you can pray about:
-That they'll continue to let God transform their lives
-That they'll look back and remember this weekend for a long time
-That our relationship will continue to strengthen

thanks friends!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Praying for Hope...

I found myself with a lot of free time this evening which never happens, and I've been trying to spend what little free time I have lately in prayer for Charm City and Metro Kidz, tonight I found myself literally in tears, my heart broke for my kids. Last night as a couple of the kids were leaving we were chatting and one of them said, "Miss Colleen something don't feel right," I kind of laughed it off, and was like what you're silly what are you talking about...then he said to me, "No Ms. Colleen I'm for real something just don't feel right." It dawned on me in that moment that this is a normal way of thinking for my kids. That most of the time, things don't feel right, things aren't right, but they don't really know any different.

Tonight as I found myself before God, I just begged for protection for their lives, their hearts and their minds. I begged for them to find hope...I begged for them to find reason to keep going to keep pushing on, to deliver themselves from the chaos most of them call home. I prayed for "A" one of our teen girls whose currently locked up, I prayed for Fatman, one of my favorite kids who lost a family member so street violence this past weekend, I prayed for "AN" a boy who used to be a regular who's now pushing pills on the street, I prayed for the teen boys who are hustling drugs right outside the church. I just feel so burdened for these kids tonight.

I hope you'll join me in my prayers for them.

Thanks friends!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Tragedy in our neighborhood

I realized several months ago which corners in this neighborhood are the worst one of them I know, I see it everyday, the other is beginning to become a reality. The corner of W. Pratt St. and Fulton is becoming the next war zone for our neighborhood, in less than a week, in that general area which is literally three block or less from the church has been the site of two murders. There was a third murder that took place in the neighborhood, but at this time I am unclear as to where exactly it happened. One of these murders really touches my heart, because it's the cousin of one of the kids, I've become extremely close with. It's one of the first nights he has not been here since I've known him.

Tonight has been the least attended Metro Kidz night since I've been here, there are four teen girls, five teen boys and maybe 20 kids downstairs. Most of the teenagers are attending memorial services or vigils for these two boys. It's sad that they know nothing more than the violence and poverty that is taking over their neighborhood.

It became a reality tonight that the gangs really are moving into our territory, the only thing we can do is educate ourselves, our kids and pray. Next week we are having a gang talk with our kids, not something we want to do, but something we MUST do. A few weeks ago one of our officers said to me, "Make sure that you are your staff are wearing the right colors, if you're not it could be bad." The sad part, it's true.

I ask for you to join me in prayer for my kids, that they'd stand apart, that they'd be called out to share Jesus with the people around them, for protection from the world and the horrible ways of it, from Satans attacks, from drugs, gangs, poverty etc. I love each and everyone of them and as I begin to think about the summer and how violence becomes more of an issue as the weather gets warmer, my heart breaks for them, I pray that they'll be hedges of angels around each and everyone of them.

Thank you friends.