What a joy and ride it has been serving with so many people over the past 10 years. From director to sound man to media journalist it has been a great adventure. I can’t count the number of people that have changed my life because of this ministry. I can’t count (nor do I want to) count the number of lives that I have hoped to influence over the past 10 years. I am blessed to have served in a ministry that puts Christ first, that brings a cup of cold water to those in need, and to be a part of a ministry that shares Christ to others.
For 10 years, my mind has been writing and photographing and videoing the moments that change our lives. From the heartbreak of carrying everything you own on a bike to the jubilant hands raised to the heavens for releasing addicts from bondage. It is the moments that are rarely seen from the risers, but exist in my memories. Its the hands that are crippled from arthritis that can barely hold a cup. The food fight between siblings on a hot summer morning at a homeless shelter. The chasing after pigeons by little children just because they can.
These are just a few of the moments that separate my ministry opportunities from my pre-Agape days and my Agape days. . .and I value both experiences, but the impact of Agape is far more reaching then any of my other musical experiences. So. . . to the juniors and beyond, I say good luck and I wish you the best in the coming years and you might just see me out there. And to the graduating seniors – Godspeed and God Bless.
Thanks for a wonderful 10 years of ministry!
As we piled back on the bus and hit the road bound for ABF and our Homecoming Concert, it was difficult not to think of all the incredible works of grace, hope, love, and mercy God had poured out upon Agape during the past week.
Behind bars, in standard dress uniforms, those that were toughing it out for a better way of life – these were some of the stories that broke our hearts as we cruised down the 101 freeway bordering the cool Pacific Ocean.
So broken down from the abuse of alcohol and drugs that the only place to turn was to the Father in Heaven, to rescue them from themselves.
Healing from physical pain at such a young age seems so different, so far from our way of thinking, but is an everyday occurance for men and women to faithfully serve in those vocations.
This week, was a week, so blessed by God. When His people pray, when they serve, when they are willing to shed their own selfishness for a little bit, they can be used mightily by the Spirit. We had a nice bus, a great bus driver, families who loved us, sponsors who cared for us – but this trip was a way for us to see the hurting and show some of God’s love when people need it more now, then ever.
God’s love knows no boundaries. As we began the concert with video and testimonies of what God had done the power of the moment swept across the congregation. As students sang and poured out what God had done in them and thru them, there was a since within the room that God was showing just a glimpse of heaven.
One week, thirteen concerts, countless lives changed because of what Christ did in us and thru us. Until next year. . . may the God who grants peace and love and mercy be gracious to you each and every day.
This time last week, our bus was parked outside the north entrance of the San Luis Obispo Juvenile Hall. It was a warm, but not too warm sunny California day as the time ticked ever closer to the beginning of the concert. The juvee borders the highway adjacent to the animal control area and almost directly across from a men’s colony (prison) complete with razor wire and guard towers – just like you would find in the show Prison Break.
On this day, I find myself in the bus finishing the video for Homecoming concert which was only about six hours away. I have been to this juvee before, last year in fact. This year, the kids were inside. To get into the facility, we shlepped our gear into a holding room and then thru a series of buzzed doors to gain entrance into the facility. There in the little open office area is where the kids would set up.
Its nothing fancy to look at. Brown carpet, steps leading to the outdoors and to the rooms – cells I guess. Once inside, it was setup one way – oops. . .the juvee kids won’t fit. . . ok, move it to another location and begin singing. Sitting outside in the bus, we could hear the sounds of Agape echoing throughout the facility. Today. . . there was no mistaking the fact that church had come to these prison walls. For us, church on Sunday is a familiar action. We get dressed in our Sunday best, get in our nice car and head off to church; however, for these kids they are told when to get dressed, when to clean up and they don’t get to get in their cars.
After the concert, pizza and food was ordered and our kids got to co-mingle with their kids. Kids from similar backgrounds, on separate sides of the tracks per-say, but with hurts just as great as our own. What makes the difference in many of the kids we met between us looking in and them looking out? The single greatest influence or lack there of. . . a DAD. Most of the kids were absent a father. We bring a message of a heavenly Father who wants to be their abba, the daddy of these kids lives and it is so foreign to them – it is just hard for us (who have father’s present in our lives) to understand a life without them.
Today. . . hug your dad or tell him you love him, because some kids don’t have one, and pray for the kids at San Luis Obispo Juvenile Hall today.
This entire tour, we have been blessed with outstanding concerts. The Lord continues to shed His matchless grace upon each place that we enter. The Holy Spirit truly has gone before us and prepared the hearts of the people.
As you enter this facility, you see the cars in the parking lot that look like they have been driven right off the junkyard floor; bikes that contain every piece of clothing that a person owns, and green grass that invites them for a mid-afternoon nap.
Turning to the right, you enter the dining hall where the sounds of young voices echo in your ears. Stockpiled food serves as the backdrop of our concert with picnic style seating that folds and unfolds with the changing environment.
It is at this facility that men, women and families have an opportunity to shower, change their clothes, do their laundry, receive a meal or two, and search for work via some donated computers.
As your eyes scan the landscape of the green grass, the stereotypical image of the homeless are visible – tattered clothes, shoes with holes in them, unshaven faces – lying prone on the green grass catching a nap & soaking in some rays. However, underneath the surface lie the true aches of people who are without work and without hope.
The great thing about music is that you can hear it from long distances. People floated in and out of the facility while checking their laundry or grabbing something from their vehicle. Our ministry is not only to those who are living the pain day-by-day, but also to encourage the staff who work tirelessly to support the needs of so many people in pain. You could see how appreciative the staff was as they would work, come listen, more work, more listen.
After the concert, the kids dispersed and talked with several of the residents – listening to their stories of pain and praying for them. The Lord has prepared in advance those that needed to be there that day. The God who comforts is the God who lights the way.
Please pray for the Prado Day Center as they continue to minister to so many people who are without a roof over their head or wonder where the next meal is coming from or as simple as a shower – for these are God’s children.
Can you keep up? On the obstacle course that is. We return to the infamous correction camp in Madera that sits adjacent to the Madera Juvenile Hall and a Level 2 prison.
Each time we come to this place, it is always a surreal feeling. The camp is known for being the last stop before Juvenile Hall. This time we heard of stories of kids that were repeaters multiple times. They thrive on the structure that they don’t get in their own homes when they return to them.
Here is one story that is sure to break your hearts:
One kid who had been a repeat offender was released from the juvenile camp and started getting back into the same lifestyle as before except he started getting tattoos, hanging out with gang members, and was involved in an altercation that led to an attempted murder charge. The kid begged the court to send him to the correction camp; however, this time the court sent him to prison for 15 years.
Most of the young men we encountered come from broken homes with no father figure in them. God wants to fill that void in their lives, if they will just let him in.
Please lift these young men & women up in your devotions today – God wants to heal their broken hearts & create in them a clean heart.
The Madera Children’s Hospital sits a top a hill overlooking the Madera Valley in the middle of open space. Driving in to the facility, you are met with an overwhelming feeling that this is a place where broken people can come and be restored. Stories of hope and healing abound from this place.
Black tires, white rims, red wagons with wooden plank gates are the common place in the halls that encircle the hospital wings. Nurses towing sick kids. Parents pulling kids that want a ride. Wheel chairs equipped with IV bags and who knows what else to keep kids hydrated and regulated.
In a place where the sounds of voices echo down the hallways, the sounds of the Agape Singers could be heard resounding through the hallways. Parents to nurses to volunteers to hospital administrators to Catholic Priests stopped by to hear the sweet sounds.
A young family came by to hear the music and it was apparent that both the mother and daughter had been in a car accident.
Another mother came down the hall to head out for a smoke break and heard the choir and said she would be back with her daughter, because it would be good for her and to be encouraged.
As I stood in the back of the room to shoot pictures I saw nurses and volunteers standing & listening to the music. New moms & dads with their precious new cargo would come by as they made their way to the exit to start a new journey of life.
Christ wants to take those broken limbs, those broken hearts, those broken souls, and put some love on them and restore them back to their original beauty. The touch of the Master’s hands can heal not only physical bodies, but wounded and broken souls.
Today, remember the power of Christ’s healing and what He did for us on the cross with His outstretched arms. Please lift up all the doctors, nurses, administrators, parents, patients and family members who need to receive an extra dose of the Savior’s healing.