What does love look like?


A couple of weeks ago Carol and I visited with the good folks at the Hemley Road Church of Christ. We are always so encouraged and built up in our faith to just be with them and observe 1st century Christianity up close. One of my experiences was on Thursday morning at the food give away.

I arrived at the Civic Center in Bayou La Batre to find the parking lot full of cars. I drove to the side of the building, found a place and entered through the service entrance. When I entered I saw a long line of people who were waiting to have their ID’s checked and then receive a large box of Hungry Man dinners. The Mobile County Bar Association was present offering pro bono legal work for the citizens. Medical personnel were there checking blood pressure, trying to get a snapshot of the health of those who wanted the service.

Each week a semi trailer of food is distributed. This week about 400 family units received about 1700 meals. They also received tooth brushes, tooth paste, and other essentials most of us take for granted. Perhaps 30 volunteers helped in the effort. The local jail’s trustees, dressed in their horizontal striped black and whites carried cases of food out for people, ladies at a long table checked the necessary paper work so food and other supplies would go to those who most need it.

I studied the faces of those people in line to get food. Most of them entered the line showing no emotion. Their faces were those hardened by days in the sun on shrimp boats, working in ship yards, and a history of fighting for survival in a place where drug abuse and alcoholism is as common as the sun. Their faces did not reflect hope, just a determination to survive. Most would force a faint smile as they said “Thank you” when they received their allotment of food.

A series of storms topped off by Katrina, the Gulf Oil Spill, and stupid government policy has forced this once thriving fishing community to its knees. Will they ever recover seems to be the question of most people I spoke to. It is difficult to be optimistic when you and most of your friends are unemployed and only a fraction are eligible for any benefits.

When the local network affiliates come from Mobile or Pensacola, or CNN, and PBR come calling to find how and why all this is going on in south Mobile County they find that the Hemley Rd Church of Christ is responsible. It is an amazing story of God’s faithfulness to a hand full of people who believe He can do anything.

Only 4 1/2 years ago they were less than a half-dozen common folks who together decided that they would make a difference in hurting people’s lives. They were distributing what ever they could find that the people needed. They started to repair storm damaged houses and people began to come and help. Soon, they decided they would worship together and they met at Hardees, the Odd Fellows Hall, on the beach, and finally in their own building. They have gone from nothing to being the leading church in the area, touching lives both for time and eternity.

Not only have they fed thousands, repaired almost 500 homes, given tons of bedding, furniture, and large appliances, they have also baptized people regularly who have decided to follow Jesus.  In God’s providence, funds, goods, and volunteers have come to help from all across the U.S. Not only church of Christ people but perhaps a dozen or more other groups continue to be staunch supporters both with funds and people on the ground.

Recently a church gave a 28 passenger people mover, another church purchased a 2010 van, and a local denominational church opened its heart and check book to help them help the community they serve well into the next year. The stories are too numerous for this format. Again and again, when the funds are almost completely gone and bills are due God supplies every need and more. I had not seen this kind of faith first hand in a long time. I’ve read about it, but when you see it up close and personal there is no denying that God is faithful to those who are depending only upon Him.

Carol and I spent a week working, worshiping, laughing, watching, and being amazed at these simple and unlikely hero’s of the faith as they feed the hungry, heal the broken-hearted, love the unlovable, and give out of their poverty in Jesus name.

Want to see some first century Christianity at work in 2010? Drive down to south Mobile County, Alabama and ask someone where the Christians are. They are easy to find.

Agape’

Royce

 

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The Little Church that Could…


If you see your sister church with more kids than the Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe, temporary BP workers that need transportation to their jobs on the coast, and many, many who need a ride to church on Sunday and Wednesday, and you say to her, “Fill it up! and Happy Motoring!” and your spare van sits idle and doing no good, what have you accomplished?

The Hemley Road Church of Christ in Bayou La Batre, Alabama desperately needs another good van. They have a good one and two that are pretty much used up. In addition to their regular and ongoing need for transportation they are now trying to help members and neighbors get to their temporary jobs. Many of the citizens in Bayou La Batre either don’t have a vehicle or can’t afford to keep it on the road.

The University Church in Shreveport gave them a nice van not many months ago but it is essential to their ministry that they have one more good, solid van that needs no work to make it serviceable. If you know of any possibilities please comment and I’ll get the message to the folks in Bayou La Batre.

The town is getting lots of attention. Daphne German was on CNN last night and will be on the Today Show on Thursday a.m.  The networks are swarming the coastal area looking for a scoop. We are glad for the publicity for the work there.

Many naysayers wrote this little church off long ago, others hinted there was no way they could make it, but they have trusted God and He has provided. And, He will provide this time too.

Thanks for your consideration and prayers.

For Jesus,
Royce

Royce

On Mission with God


The humble saints who worship at the Hemley Road church of Christ will probably never set foot in a foreign country. The economy in Bayou La Batre, Alabama is awful with unemployment at many times the rest of the nation. They are truly living by faith, trusting God day by day to provide the means to run church vans to gather children and those without transportation, pay utilities, and feed the hungry, etc. How then can this little flock carry out the great commission given to all believers?

They have been faithful with what they have been given and without realizing it have become a model of church ministry. They are salt and light in their community, loving the down and out folks, rebuilding homes and lives, feeding the hungry, and loving those who need love most. And, they are touching the world.

I noticed with admiration that soon after they became a local church they started to give to World Radio, helping to get the good news about Jesus to a needy world. Recently, their ministry became international. No, they have not been on a mission trip across the sea, God brought Bolivia to them.

When Carol and I visited Hemley Rd Easter weekend three men from Bolivia attended services. They had recently moved to Bayou La Batry to work in a sea food packing plant. None of the three men spoke English. So, they communicated with the universal language of love. Smiles and hugs, shared meals, and rides to Wal-Mart were some of the ways they loved these foreigners. At once they started to imagine ways to reach them with the good news about Jesus and they have.

One of the men, Roberto, was recently baptised. This past Sunday when I spoke at the church a young hispanic man stood with me and interpreted my message to those in the audience who only understand Spanish. This young man is the son of the Summerdale church’s hispanic minister. They have song books with both English and Spanish, side by side.

One expression of Roberto’s gratitude and affection for his new family is this beautiful mural he painted behind the baptistery where he reenacted the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

bapt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
This is a wonderful example of Christians seeing what God is doing and joining him in his mission. God’s agenda most often cannot be accomplished by plans and programs. By being faithful with what they have been given the church in Bayou La Batre has been able to touch Bolivia. Who knows what God will do in the lives of Roberto’s family and friends in Bolivia?

What is the lesson here? Become aware of what God is doing and join him in that mission. No program, no planning, is better than what God is already doing. When will you or your church have an opportunity to join God in his redemptive work. Your “Roberto” is waiting…

for Jesus,
Royce

Come over and help us!


This encouraging report and plea for help comes from the Hemley Road church of Christ in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. This very poor congregation was birthed after the devistaton of hurricane Katrina. They began as the Bayou Relief Project and now against all odds they are making steady progress rebuilding lives in their community. Below is the email report as I received it. My wife Carol and I gladly recommend this congregation to you.

Subject: Hemley Road C of C Summer/Fall Report

Greetings from Bayou La Batre, Alabama and the Hemley Road C of C Family!As God has blessed this community here in BLB, we just wanted to share this with you! Here is some of what has been occurring with our every so rapidly growing congregation.
1. 15 kids from the BLB church went to church camp with kids from the El Campo, (TX) church in south Texas. Two of the older teenage boys were baptized.
2. A group of the middle school kids along with their leaders from the White?s Ferry Rd. Church in Monroe, (LA) did a 3 day VBS for the BLB kids and children in their neighborhood in mid-July. With virtually no advertising, more than 75 kids came each day. Since that time, two new families have been attending.
3. Several groups from around the country have been at BLB this summer, working on community relief projects and on the church facilities. The upstairs area of the main building has been re-furbished and showers have been installed downstairs. We are now able to provide beds for 2 dozen volunteers.
4. The church in Ada (OK) sent a youth intern to work with the BLB church for the summer. Tyler is a student at Oklahoma Christian University. He plans to come back for a week in October and again at Christmas.
5. Tragedy struck the BLB church family in early August when the husband of one of the members was swept overboard from a shrimp boat during a storm. The young man was the father of 3 children. Since that time, 13 of his family members have started attending services and are studying the Bible with us on Sunday evenings. Royce and Carol Ogle will be starting our grief support groups facilitation, and plan to meet with the families in September and help us begin an ongoing Grief Share Group. They are now able to meet in the main auditorium ? although there is no air conditioning. We’ve even had a wedding in there this summer.

Mid August our church kids started school. We were blessed to receive school supplies from El Campo C of C in El Campo, TX and a check for uniforms from South 11th and Willis C of C in Abilene, TX. Even with school occurring, we are averaging 50 or so children, with a high of 80 people at church on Wednesday nights. With this growth we have of course been picking up all of these people. We were blessed with a van from Central Church C of C in Ada, OK. With the increased number of trips and vehicles that we have been blessed with, as well as the wretched increase in gas prices, we are really suffering in keeping the vehicles running. If anyone would want to donate money for gas, that would be a blessing. Any money could be sent through the El Campo C of C elders earmarked toward our funding.

With Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, although we were not directly impacted by the storms, we might as well have been. We experienced constant flooding and wind damage to our community. Much of the damage however, has impacted the livelihood of the people down here in BLB. As you know, the fishing industry is what holds BLB and the surrounding areas together. However, the flooding and other damage here has not allowed the industry to get back for several weeks now. People are not able to work, therefore, their day to day pay is null, and they are not able to survive and afford food or anything else. There is still a need for food and personal care and baby items for our NEWLY FINISHED FOOD and PERSONAL CARE PANTRY. Thank you to the churches and friends of HR C of C that have donated thus far for this emergency situation. South 11th and Willis C of C, Hope Christian Church’s Genesis Community, and a friend from Louisiana have all donated food or money for our pantry. If anyone would like to make donations to that, please please please, let someone in your church family know so that we can continue to supply food and personal items to the people of BLB. As a result of our food pantry, PRAISE GOD, that we have 4 new families coming to church. We have created a very welcoming and inviting church family here where we encourage people to come as they are.

The needs of the infant Hemley Rd Church of Christ are many. The entire area is very impoverished and we believe it will be several years before our church is completely self sustaining. We are so very grateful for our many friends and supporters from across the country. And as we say, nearly everyone who spends any time down here falls in love with the BLB people and the mighty work God is doing down here ? both in growing our new church and being a source of the Lord?s light in our community.

Of course, there is an ongoing need for people who can come and preach and teach on the weekends. We pray that at some time God will send a couple who can come here and work in this ripe mission field and be supported by a home church or other independent means. God has blessed us thus far with preachers and teachers and we would like to name them and pray for more like them. They are Martin Fu, Fred Franke, Omar Smith and his wife Sandra, John Ash and his wife Donna, and of course this summer, many of you from Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, N. Carolina, and many others from all over have helped with the preaching and teaching. Last night the teenagers had a special treat from Boston, MA. Our very own Manny Carneiro taught our young and impressionable teenagers.

Among the most urgent needs are:

1. The installation of a baptistery ? estimated cost $7000
2. Air conditioning for the main building ? around $12,000
3. Funds for the parking area gravel or asphalt – $5000
4. Air conditioning for house of church property – $4000

If anyone would like to support us for 2009, please contact the elders at the El Campo C of C. Their information is as follows:
El Campo Church of Christ
311 E. Calhoun
El Campo, TX 77437
Phone: 979-543-4279
Email: eccocsec@sbcglobal.net

Please ask your church to pray for the sweet people of Bayou La Batre. Our needs at this time are great. We just replaced the radiator and the water pump on our new van and we have to pay for the insurance on the vehicles and building this upcoming week. Please keep us in your prayers as we try to raise the money to keep up these functioning parts of our rapidly growing church.

I apologize for the length of this message. I will try to do an up to date report from our church on a more frequent basis.
God Bless. Daphne German
Secretary for the HR C of C
251-609-0448

and

Billy Spaulding
Board of Trustee Chairman
251-776-0468