THOUGHTS FROM THE REARVIEW

It is difficult to summarize, in a few words, what we gained in wisdom and experience over the course of our journey. However, this was a week of service that I will always treasure in my heart. We did meet some incredibly valiant and remarkable people. Even though there was a sea of relief workers and volunteers laboring in the field, one thing really struck me, above all else. These survivors of Hurricane Sandy really responded to compassion. In the name of Jesus, we fed the hungry, aided in clean up and supplied manifold needs; but what was best received was a warm smile, a kind word and friendly conversation. People need to know true love. That truth is universal. Spending time going from home to home talking, sharing and listening (over a cup of coffee ) meant more to people than all the material aid we could offer. We made some really good friends and made some memories. I assure you that I was more blessed by going these 1000 miles, to a disaster area, than those who may have even slightly been blessed by anything that I could have done for them.

Another wonderful thing I witnessed that spoke with a thundering voice to me was witnessed at the Church that hosted us, Christian Pentecostal Church of Staten Island. This group of Saints lead by their Pastor, preached the Gospel Message to me, and I never entered their Auditorium. Each day a kitchen was staffed with Senior ladies who volunteered from dawn until long after dark. Their mission was to feed the volunteers who flooded the campus, offering their time and resources to the collection and distribution of clothes, food, and other supplies. The Pastor spent 12 + hours in the weather coordinating the logistical distribution concerns of the city. The Church never stopped serving those in need. They even suspended their regular services to make their facility available for use in the service of their neighbors. There hall ways were lined with donations, their class rooms occupied with guest missionaries, like us, who need a warm place to bathe and sleep. Their parking lot was crowded with masses of people and supplies. These people were truly radical in their concept of what true discipleship is. If ever I could take a little of NY back to the South with me, it would be the Heart of Christ I witnessed in this Church on Mission for Jesus Christ.

Christ Commanded us to Love GOD and to Love our Neighbor. To me this was a mission trip of love. We met many material needs while we were there; but, the greatest of these is LOVE. We loved like Christ taught us. It wasn’t forced. It was genuine love, which has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We also received Love. Love that came from those who we went to love. I’m glad to be back in Leary, but I will miss my Staten Island Family. I hope each of those who heard the message of the Gospel preached as I did, will keep ever near the cross. And I pray that their living conditions will soon return to some semblance of normalcy. But most of all I pray that the spirit that prevailed in the hearts of volunteer and victim alike will abound in their hearts for the remainder of our days on this earth. I sincerely love each of you that have been following this blog and I pray you will know the joy & peace of Christ that comes only from infusing your life (the life of Christ) into the life of others.

Ps. to my Staten Island family, ” I will never forget you. I love ya’ll.  May GOD Bless You All.”

MARANATHA,
Pastor Craig

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WEEK OF GLORY

The last three days of this trip are almost beyond explanation. We watched and bore witness to GOD bringing things together, as only He could do. Sadly, our Israeli family fell victim to the NY Building inspector’s Red Tag. (Which means their house is unsafe and only fit for demolition). Yet, through the reality of their home being marked for the dozier  the dear mother was able to say, “Jehovah Jireh!” She knew the secret of trusting on the Everlasting one. Plus, her entire family learned of their True Messiah, Yashua. Maybe the love demonstrated by a few Christian witnesses will make all of the difference.

We met many great families who were blossoming through tragedy. The Bouno Family was one great example. Anna, Brittany , her father and brother, all weathered the storm in their home, They sat on the second floor land as they watched their entire first floor become flooded by the storm surge. (Below is a picture of their Home as the first wave of the surge came crashing in)

 This family still has the sweetest disposition, despite all that they have been through. It was a kindness of God to me, that he allowed me to visit in their home each day this week. Every time I was met at the door with a smile and a hug. Through a Cup of coffee and a warm meal, witnessing to them of the unconditional love of God was made really easy. They knew God loved them and cared for them because a living breathing “Child of GOD” was seeking them out to love on them each day. They told me how much they blessed by us and the kindness we showed,; yet, the greatest gift received was the blessing given to my by coming to know this wonderful family.

Next, there was Anthony Gatti and His family. His Mother, His Brother & Father. They lost it all as well. We sat up our serving station, on the first day in the reckage of their family home. But Oh, what a faith they had. Mom had been in the towers when they fell in 2001 and invited several of the survivors back to her Staten Island home to stay in Anthony’s room, while he was gone to the Army. Although, Mom was truly shaken by the total loss of her home of 30+ years; she had an unshakable faith in Jesus Christ and a solid resolve to rebuild from the ruins.

The Gatti’s were kind enough to allow us to use their yard for our mobile feeding station. From there we met 100’s of memorable people, all of which endured the terrible disaster.

(Below are Gatti’s word to us.)

And then there was George and Shirley, A great couple who invited me into their home and into their life. George was a teller of tales and a real humorous character. Shirley was a strong quiet lady who worked for the court system of New York. We shared time around the kerosene heater talking about life and the differences between city and country living. Of coarse, there is no comparison, our lives are lived in what could be considered in, two different worlds. George and I made fast friends. Their home was washed out but the spirit of this family was high. They had been spend his retirement restoring this home on Staten Island, buying new appliances and electronics. All of which was destroyed. They are living, now in a home with nothing but wall studs, a kitchen table, some canned goods and plenty of cleaning supplies. George even broke his ankle on the first day back in the house. But I tell you the spirit of life, in him was undeniable. He showed me what it was to advance through adversity and maintain the heart that makes life worth living.

George and Shirley are Pictured Below

Day 1 on Stanton Island

We have seen the hand of God moving all across this Island all day. When we arrived last night, we were confronted with the knews that UNSHELTERED was having to shut down their operations at the location where they had been, per Mayor Bloomberg’s office. The word is that the President is coming to visit Thursday and all operations needed to be centrally located around FEMA’s headquarters. As a matter of fact they were packing it in when we pulled in last night.
It had rained all last night and today the ground where the Mayor wanted UNSHELTERED to stage, was nothing but a giant mud hole. DR. Sharpe and I scouted the area for an alternate place to stage (on private property). All the while, 15 volunteers sat in vehicles, waiting for something to develop.
Around 12:30pm a man and his son walked up to our area to ask if we had any trash bags. They were needing them to clear out trash and wet sheetrock from their home, which had been submerged in 7 feet of storm surge. As a response to our prayer meeting, which we had the night before, the LORD spoke to Travis. Then Travis asked me if I would lead the team down into the neighborhood and offer homeowners our help with their huge task of cleaning up their homes. He also asked me to canvas the neighbors to survey the diversity of needs. We found a multitude of people in a prism of various needs. Needs ranging from food, blankets, clean up, to interpreting the NY Building Codes. So after lunch I led the team back down in the neighborhood to help clean our 4 different homes.
The man, who had come with his son to ask for trash bags, turned out to be the father of two with a wife. They had only lived in the county for a couple of years. They were originally from Israel. They were Jews from Jerusalem. I spent the day with them talking and ministering as I cleaned & tore out wet sheetrock . They all were so grateful for our help. The mother kept coming by to pat my shoulder and tell that I was a good boy. We hugged and cried for joy  as the day drew to and end. As we all prepared to part ways at the end of the day all the homeowners who we helped and the volunteers, held hands in the middle of the street and prayed and committed each other into the care of Jesus Christ.
While we worked Travis found a New place set up the UNSHELTERED operation. We are now on the property of a Pentecostal Church, where he can stay, without disruption. The Leary team is even staying here in the Church, where there is, heat, showers and cots.
Tomorrow, Travis’ wife April has us already set up with coffee, soup and sandwiches to take with us into the same neighborhood to feed the homeowners who are afraid to leave their homes unguarded.
God, has really shaped the work of this trip to where we are doing the most good. The greatest part is that we get to be living testaments to the love of Jesus Christ. Please be in prayer for these community members, with whom we will be getting really close to over the next few days. Some are Jewish, some Muslim, some Catholic and others are just discouraged. But most don’t know Jesus Christ. Pray that we make Jesus so real to them that all will confess Him as the only Lord and Savior.
I love and miss you all and Rob and Skyler send their love as well. MAY YOU ALL BE RICHLY BLESSED.

In Christ Alone,
Pastor Craig

Halfway the Journey

It’s 5:52am , Monday morning, November 12th. Just over 500 miles into our trip to Staten Island NY, our LORD has been our Ebenezer. His presence has been abundant towards us as we travel. We’ve met with our brother in the faith from Bartow Ga who showed us great kindness and generosity buy supplying for our needs. We are truly blessed to be so provided for by our God. Rob, Skyler and I have continually rejoiced in our common faith and brotherhood. along the way we have been blessed to have such giants of the faith as Manley Beasley, Percy Ray and Leonard Ravenhill speak into our lives from recorded messages. From the grave they still speak!
The Sun is breaking over the horizon on this Veteran’s Day and we pause to thank God for the great sacrifice of so many who have made this country great. We are blessed to be considered worthy to serve our Lord and our fellow countrymen on this mission of relief. My brother in the faith, Pat Dye, has sent word that the need of the victims of Sandy is still great & that thousands are passing through the feeding area with broken hearts and hungry bellies. The need for real ministry is growing as the reality of this devastation sinks deeper into hearts of the people. Saints we ask for your prayers as we endeavour to present the message of Jesus Christ ” the only true healing there is to be had”. God bless you all.

In Christ Alone,
Pastor Craig

Preparing to Go North

Leary Baptist Church is sending a mission team to New York City to aid Unsheltered International in it’s efforts to feed those effected By Hurricane Sandy.The Missions Team will be leaving Leary Georgia, Sunday 11/11/2012 at 5:00pm traveling over 1000 miles to Staten Island to join Dr. Travis Sharp, CEO of Unsheltered International, of Cullman AL. The Team should arrive Monday afternoon to relieve the first cooking team, who has been there since last Monday. Pastor Craig will keep you all up to date on the mission from this blog. Please pray for those effected by Hurricane Sandy and for us as we travel.

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