(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