“Fly It Together”

When Rachel first met Bob and Charlotte, she was walking the neighborhood praying and handing out water to people gutting their homes. Bob and Charlotte were no strangers to tragedy. Only a few years earlier, a house fire had almost destroyed their home.  She found them sitting on their front porch, exhausted and overwhelmed by the task of rebuilding their flooded home and lives. They were ready to give up.  After Rachel spent time praying with them, they were encouraged and found some strength to continue. Rachel and her team continued to visit them daily helping them gut and rebuild their home.  Her heart was knit together with this precious couple, and they have become good friends.

In early November of 2006, about a year after hurricane Katrina, many people didn’t have  utilities or stoves. God gave us a way to celebrate our culture with a Thanksgiving feast that would feature food that New Orleanians love.  The Cajun Thanksgiving was born.

As is the norm with anything God asks us to do, the job was to big for us.  We really had no idea how to the food we wanted to serve.  After all, gumbo and fried turkeys for hundreds of people seemed a big undertaking. So we asked some people in the neighborhood for their help. The first two that eagerly signed up to help were Bob and Charlotte.

Bob and Charlotte are anchors to the community; they are generous people who love the Lord.  They were more than willing to help us cook and host the first annual Cajun Thanksgiving.  Bob also seemed a bit overwhelmed with the thought of cooking food for the entire neighborhood.  It seemed apparent  that if God called us to the task he would enable us to accomplish it.  I said to Bob, “don’t worry, it will fly together.”  Well, I am grateful to Bob and Charlotte and to the Lord, because it did “fly together,”  and since that time they have continued to help us every year.  This is the eleventh year of the Cajun Thanksgiving.

Next week, Bob will oversee the cooking of 20 fried turkeys, while Charlotte tends to the huge pot of gumbo for the hundreds of people who come to the Cajun Thanksgiving feast. These beautiful people, now in their 80’s will be on the lot at 6:00am on Saturday, November 19th cooking for hundreds of neighbors.  They have not only taught us how to cook fried turkeys and gumbo, but more importantly they teach us again and again of how the storms in our lives often bring us some of the most important treasures and friendships.

Bob gave me the nickname “fly it together” that day in November, which he still calls me. Maybe you have met Bob and Charlotte, maybe you have had the opportunity to work on their home, or sit at their table to have a cup of coffee, or red beans.  If not, I hope that you will be able to meet them on November 19th or in the near future. They are such lovely and gracious people and an important part of reaching our community.  We are grateful that they are in our neighborhood and in our lives.

 

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Charlotte (L), Bob (C) and  Jonnie (R) have cooked and served at our Cajun Thanksgiving Outreach for 11 years.

 

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Choices

Crossroad in lavender meadow and with tree alone

Choices. Each day we make them, starting with whether or not to get out of bed. On average a person makes around 3,500 choices a day, now that’s a lot of choices. When I think about how I make thousands of choices a day I know more than half of them serve no lasting purpose. Some choices in life I have made have greatly impacted my future while others have little effects to them. I am terrible at making decisions, but each day I wake up and make them. During this past season of my life choices, well really the lack of making a choice, greatly affected my relationship with Christ.

Months ago I was struggling with loving Jesus. I know that might sound strange but in all honesty that was where I was. Countless times I would find myself frustrated, upset, and angry at God for not “giving” me a love for him that I have known before and so desperately wanted. I found myself in a rut. I would tell the people closest to me that I “didn’t feel like I loved Jesus very much”. I would get discouraged because it seemed like everyone around me was in the complete opposite situation I was in. The friends I was surrounded with were in seriously awesome places with The Lord. I was envious. Jealousy engulfed me as I saw hearts changed, the manifestation of gifts, and the continuous joy in the people around me that I knew only came from Jesus. None of that seemed attainable for me because I did not feel like I loved my Savior.

As I continued walking through this season of life I found myself He showed me where I was completely and utterly wrong. I desired the feeling of Jesus, not Jesus himself. I was choosing all of the characteristics, all of the benefits, all of the good things that come from loving Jesus, but I wasn’t choosing to love Jesus. The feelings I desired were motivated by the selfishness in my heart. And that’s when it hit me; love is a choice. I have heard that saying my whole life but I have never thought about it until that moment. The Lord was never withholding the “feelings” of love I wanted, He just wanted me to love Him because of who He is. This simple truth has radically changed my relationship with Jesus. I wake up and choose to love Jesus each day because of how desperately I need him.

I choose to love Jesus because He loves me infinitely more than I can imagine.

I choose to love Jesus because He has never stopped choosing me.

I choose to love Jesus because of who He is and because of what He has done.

I choose to love Jesus because if I didn’t, my heart would never be satisfied.

It is so easy to get caught up in chasing a feeling instead of chasing Jesus. But Jesus wants to be chosen, He is a person, He has a personality. He longs to spend time with you, to walk through life with you. I urge you friends, do not miss out on making this simple choice with eternal purpose.

-Kristina Locke

So, The Mission Trip is Over

Ever been on a mission trip and experienced God in a new and exciting way? As the week, month or year came to a close, did you sense the thrill wearing off?

When you lay in your own sheets, did you start missing the camaraderie of single-minded, selfless purposes? Did you dream about the testimonies of God’s power and presence that day?

For most of us, the end of mission trips also means the end of constant Christian influence, expectation of miracles, and fire-filled boldness. Returning home often feels like being shoved off the heavenly hope clouds and into discouragement.

Well, I’m not sure about you, but certainly I saw Jesus Christ move in my life during my time in Hollygrove. I saw people get healed; I saw hope restored. I saw lives saved and deep, hidden burdens lifted. I heard prophecies and encouragement, received wise counsel and instruction. Simultaneously I walked the streets of Hollygrove and God’s kingdom.

And you know what? I’m addicted to it now. I’m addicted to bringing God’s kingdom to Earth. I’m hooked on the thrill of walking with Jesus and seeing Him move on every corner, every street.

I refuse to let my mission trip experience end just because I’m back home. I hope you will too!

You stepped foot in Hollygrove by no accident. Psalm 27:23 says, “the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord.” That means God had every intention of you experiencing Him in Hollygrove. God had every intention of using you for His good and perfect purposes in New Orleans. And believe it or not, God has every intention of using you today, right where you live, eat, do homework, work, and exercise.

In His abundant grace, He permitted you to go on a mission trip, to be challenged by Him and others, to mature spiritually, to grow in expectation, faith and grace. He lavished His love upon you, strengthened you, and used you to cast light into hurting and broken hearts.

Now, He’s permitting us to spend every day on the mission field. Truthfully, if we want to bring Heaven down to Earth, me must stay connected to Heaven by getting alone with God daily. We must covet our time with Him and allow Holy Spirit to flow through us at all times. We must allow Him to teach us, exhort us, and convict us. We must choose to respond in obedience, despite the itchy discomfort.

Ask Holy Spirit to make known to you the reality of who you are in Christ and who He has called you to be. The truth is that despite how you feel or how you’ve failed or how you’ve overcome, the call on your life remains: to be a minister of reconciliation.

I challenge you to pray and declare 2 Corinthians 5: 18-21 over yourself: “…God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

I implore you to meditate on Isaiah 61: 1 -3 and believe that “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me (you), because the Lord has anointed me (you) to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me (you) to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

Take heart my friend because the mission trip isn’t over, it’s only just begun!

– Alexis

(Intern)ally Indebted

The following is a letter of gratitude to the amazing leaders of Jesus Project Ministries:

Dear Debra, Rachel and Sarah,

The impact you’ve made on us this summer is eternal. So, we write this letter to you because we are internally indebted.

“Searching my heart for how to discuss the summer of 2014 in Hollygrove, I am resigned to the fact that it cannot be described in a paragraph or two. The impact on not only the children, but the people of this community will be felt for years to come. God has used Debra and Rachel to profoundly change how the community views itself. The culture of violence and crime is rapidly being replaced by one of faith and hope. Compared to years ago, we are thankful and amazed at the conspicuous absence of Hollygrove in the crime section of the newspapers. Children are feeling loved. Adults are opening up and trusting God. And the elderly are feeling optimistic of a bright future. God is staking his claim at the center of this historic neighborhood. When I reflect on the summer and all its unique moments and challenges, the word that comes to me is hope. Hope for a future in God and a life that will see dreams fulfilled and lives truly changed.”

-Nick

“I learned what true servanthood looked like in the physical and supernatural world as I observed Rachel, Sarah and Debra’s lives. In every aspect, detail, or choice to be made, Rachel and Debra are Jesus centered and Spirit led. I saw the sacrifices they make every day, and my eyes changed. I heard the words of deep affection, and my ears were changed. I felt the heavy burden of wanting lives to be transformed, and my heart was changed. I experienced what it is like to be poured into, prayed with and about, and taken care of by mentors who truly see you as the disciple God intended you to be. God used these women and their passionate love for Him, to help ignite an all- consuming fire that He has placed within me. My walk with the Lord was refined, and my walk with His people has been altered through this internship. It is difficult to put into words the miracles and blessings that I have received through Jesus Project Ministries, and I am so grateful to God that he allowed me to be a part of His work in Hollygrove!”

-Renee

“This summer was one of the craziest life experiences I have ever had. I came into the internship not really wanting to learn from it, but I knew God wanted me there; and I’m so thankful I got over myself and followed Him. The internship taught me so much more than how to work with kids. Debra and Rachel strive to help develop the interns as leaders and as Christ followers. Sarah relentlessly offered herself and the blessings she has to further the kingdom. I’ve learned so much about God over the past 10 weeks. During my time at Jesus Project, Christ revealed his love and power to me. The presence of God is in Hollygrove. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Jesus Project family.”

-Ashley

“It was truly an honor to watch them walk in submission to the Holy Spirit. The Summer of Believing consisted of all of us interns trying to imitate Debra and Rachel as they imitated Christ. They taught me how to push through the natural and opened my eyes to the supernatural realm Christ operates in. They loved me with all they had. Still do. I could go on for days, but for now I’ll just say: please refer to The Enchanted Broccoli Forest inside cover (inside joke). Debra, Rachel, Sarah thank you for everything.”

-Kristen

“During this internship, I’ve learned so much about giving up my time to help spread the Word for God’s Kingdom. Debra and Rachel are selflessly committed to this ministry. Their faith is strong in The Lord and their trust is unshaken. This summer I have learned what it looks like to trust in God. My relationship with God is now at a better place than when I first came to New Orleans. I am so thankful for this ministry and for Debra, Rachel and their team. God is doing so many great things through them.”

-Mayra

“I had a blast this summer! God used Debra, Rachel and Sarah as mentors to help teach me that ‘if you’re going to be somewhere, be all there’ (Jim Elliot). The Lord has put them in Hollygrove and they’ve been all there since day one, six years ago. It was a pleasure to be a part of their team. I am so thankful for these ladies and Jesus Project Ministries.”

– Laura

“Where Can I start about Deb and Rachel? They are two of the most selfless women I know with some of the biggest hearts. I cannot describe how thankful I am for my summer with them and how they took the time to pour into me, challenge me, and love me. They taught me to rely on the Spirit, and in every situation pray, pray, pray. Sarah, Rachel and Deb open their houses to strangers; they feed the hungry; they spread the gospel; and most importantly, they spread the love of Christ to everyone, and they do this all behind the scenes. Thank you forever.”

-Kelleigh

“My experience at JPM has been completely life changing as cheesy as that may sound. I went into this program two years ago not knowing what to expect, and I couldn’t have asked for better results. The people I have met through JPM have been some of the most influential people in my life. The moment I walked into the room on Apple Street, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. Sarah, Debra and Rachel are three of the most amazing women a person will ever meet. What they do every day is remarkable. I admire them so much and I can’t thank them enough for everything they have done for me. They are the definition of lead by example, and I am so grateful I get to experience some of the wonderful things they do. They have taught me what true selflessness and dedication is, and I am constantly amazed by their kindness, strength and generosity.”

-Bond

“Debra, Rachel and Sarah, with the help of every intern, guest speaker, and resident of Hollygrove, taught me how to cross lines. My self-imposed chicken lines (as we call them) kept me from experiencing the deeper things of Christ; and my thickest line was drawn at the entrance of the inner-city. I was accustomed to putting one toe out on the cold, unknown depths of God and shrinking back into my warm, comfortable boat, far from spiritual risks and challenges. But, Debra and Rachel taught me how to walk on water. In that boat, behind the line, I was denying a God-given command: “be bold.” But, no longer. The fire-fueled boldness of JPM is to blame for the transformation in Hollygrove; and I know that fire is spreading. Boldness is to blame for the handful of teenage girls who received salvation this summer. Boldness turned the corner of Apple and Cambronne into a place of worship, no longer stigmatized by crime. Boldness places itself in the middle of the scary, painful, downcast things of this world and offers hope. I don’t claim to be the chicken line- crossing Queen, not even the jester of the court. But, I’ve experienced the power of Christ’s Spirit when walking right on over that line, and it’s an exhilaration that has forever changed my walk with Him.”

-Alexis

 

So, here’s to “The Summer of Believing” 2014, and to a living a life compelled by love, unafraid of the unknown, fervently spreading the hope of Christ.

Sincerely,
Jesus Project Interns 2014

Letting Go of What Isn’t Ours

“If we hold tightly to anything given to us unwilling to allow it to be used as the Giver means it to be used we stunt the growth of the soul. What God gives us is not necessarily “ours” but only ours to offer back to him, ours to relinquish, ours to lose, ours to let go of, if we want to be our true selves. Many deaths must go into reaching our maturity in Christ, many letting go’s.” -Elisabeth Elliot

Three weeks ago, we decided to make a separate group for the teenage girls in the neighborhood. Alina, Nee, Ray, Elia, Shantel and Tamara— these are the girls. The girls who until yesterday I would’ve called “my girls.” But, kindly and unexpectedly The Holy Spirit said they aren’t mine.

Their spiritual achievements and challenges aren’t mine. Their hearts aren’t mine. Their troubles and questions aren’t mine. Their being in my life doesn’t make them mine. Me being their mentor or leader, doesn’t make them mine. They are and have always been strictly, solely His. And oh how freeing that is.

Given to me as a result of a divine appointment, yes, but given so that I may give back, never so that I may keep.

Christ is ever mindful of what He gives, and perpetually desires that we give right back to Him; that we give Him the authority to do with His gifts what He wishes.

These girls are a gift. They are an unforeseen challenge and blessing. They were given to me, so that I may bring them before their Father, so that He may give them more of Him.

His ways are so liberating.

Lord, I give these girls right back to you. I give their hearts right back to you. Lord, their lives, their progress is all given to you.

I want to present these girls before your throne with my own conscience clear, knowing that I took care of what you were careful to give; knowing that I did everything I could, with all my strength to infuse their hearts with truth; knowing that I was responsible and grateful for the ones you’ve chosen to give me.

You give so generously and “Because of this I try with all my strength to always maintain a clear conscience before God and man,” Acts 24:16, but not that I should hold tightly to them, your treasures, not that I should squeeze our time together; but rather, that I should freely release every moment with them to you; that in every conversation and every hug, every bible verse we read, my grip loosens, so as not to be confused or troubled or burdened by my failure or my inability, but rather to be lifted and freed, to stride with my chin up and eyes fixed on things above.

The key to freedom is giving— even giving up my definition of success; giving up my habit to measure success by the world’s standards.

Jesus, take these girls. Right now, Lord I am bringing them before you with my hands open, and my ears alert, ready to act on what you tell me. These are your daughters, your precious ones, and I’ve been given something quite undeservedly. Not mine to keep, but only mine to give back to you Lord. I let go of my failures, of my inabilities, of my ideas of success. I let go of myself, of my thoughts, my ideas and offer them up to you. Make them new. Make me new. Create in me a pure heart, so that I can speak into these girls purity, so I can speak into them with the evidence of your Holy Spirit. Lord, I offer myself up to you in my limited understanding. I offer up everything you’ve ever taught me, shown me, or spoken to me, so that you may do with those things, those gifts, what you see fit.

-Alexis

Summer Camp

“He will never let me stumble, slip or fall. For He is always watching, never sleeping” Psalm 121:3-4

From 1-4 p.m. we advance the kingdom by playing basketball, jump roping, worshipping, memorizing the Word, splitting into groups, asking questions and seeking answers.

God shows us the hearts of these kids; we show them the heart of God by the power of His Spirit.

With the last paint brush cleaned and the final lollipop  licked, we send them home with a bag lunch and milk.

That’s the hardest part for me.

For four hours, I rest in knowledge. Knowledge that they’re getting fed. They’re hearing truth. They’re paid attention to. They’re safe.

At 4 o’clock, as their hands clench the brown paper bags, my mind grasps for Truth.

Like a childhood blankie, I grip Psalm 121 tightly, resting in the security it offers me.

For 21 hours,  I’m away from them.  I don’t know what they’re experiencing, what lies they’re being told, what images they’ll never forget. I don’t know what it is they’re believing.  So, I must throw myself on this Word. I have to trust that our group prayers and late night pleas make God move.

My sanity depends on my belief that God will guard the innocence of 5-year-old Royal; cover DeJuanne with gentleness and encourage Kewan as he walks in kindness and uprightness. I trust He hears us and delights in honoring the prayers of His righteous ones.

I trust that when I shut my eyes in my safe suburban neighborhood, and when they shut theirs in a neighborhood infamous for death and crime, God’s gaze remains fixed on His precious ones. I trust He knows more intricately than I ever could, every detail of these kids’ lives.

And that when Jesus said “Let the little children come to me,” He included the Holly Grove kids.

I’m thankful for a God that never sleeps, a God  who is ever watching over this world, who honors our prayers, a God who will continue to answer our requests for an eternity, in the most detailed of ways.

As the moon hangs over Holly Grove tonight, I ask God for the hearts of His children, for joy-filled dreams  reassuring them of God’s kindness, of a Savior who never stops loving and refuses to give up.

I pray that as the sun gently slips into their rooms, they will hear The Spirit whispering, “Give me your hand and we’ll beat all the odds–this life will be something most extraordinary.”

-Alexis

A Day in the Grove

With the turn of a key and a twist of a knob, sunlight thrusts open the door.

Another day in Holly Grove.

Seven years ago, God recruited two to touch hundreds: Debra and Rachel.

He instructed: “Go and make disciples, on the corner of Apple and Cambronne.

Each day starts and ends with clasped hands and open hearts as we stand side by side, fixated on His presence.

In these moments He asks what we need out there and we wait on our Provider.

As our supply increases, so do our capabilities, so do the number of kids who come to summer camp at Jesus Project Mission.

Thank you, God.

As the lives we touch multiply, so do our requests.

Father, give us favor with these kids.  Holy Spirit, form a fortress of protection over this community.

We present each child, by name, before Your throne, asking You to mark them and set them apart as great warriors for the Cause.