One Year Update

In April, we put out a blog about the four pillars of our ministry, one being fellowship. We looked at fellowship as not just the talk-to-you-after-church, or meet-you-at-Starbucks type of fellowship, but the doing-life-with-others type of fellowship. The type of fellowship where you are ingrained in one another’s lives, both during the good and the bad. We know this kind of relationship takes time to develop. Time has to be spent, and consistency has to be built up, all for trust to be made to get to this type of fellowship.

This kind of fellowship has always been the goal for FLOW. That we would begin to carry the burdens of those at J. Martin Jacquet Middle School and in East Fort Worth. We knew to get to this point would take time. We would have to be uncomfortable, we would have to get rejected, yet still show up, we would have to show consistency, we would have to be known, we would have to ask hard questions, we would get looked at funny, we would have to be questioned, and then we might be able to be in this kind of fellowship with the people of East Fort Worth.

We serve a good and gracious God who has give us an ample amount of favor in this community. Remaining faithful to Him and this community has been about the only direction we have heard clearly from the Lord in the last year and a half. The Lord has not disappointed. This year, just our second year at this school, we have begun to get invited into this type of fellowship. We have heard the stories of the difficult home lives of the students, the lack of goals and hope from the kids, the fears of some of the faculty going through a tough time, the fear of asking for help, the anger that is pent up in these students, and on and on I could go.

We could paint a pretty picture that this ministry is sharing the gospel in such a way that people are dedicating their lives to Christ and being baptized left and right, but that’s not happening yet. What’s happening is Christ followers are being invited into the dark spaces of the lives of others through this ministry. We are beginning to get into the nitty-gritty aspects of ministry. And this happened in a year. There’s not a statistic that can cover this part of ministry, nothing to really show donors, but I can tell you that we have remained faithful to the call to be faithful to Christ and a people who need the hope that we have. If we can show this to those who have no hope by simply being there, showing up, providing physical and educational needs, then that’s a win in my book. This is step one of one hundred.

We are excited about all the Lord will do as we grow as a ministry and grow in trust and fellowship with the community of East Fort Worth as we break down racial barriers with the love of Christ. This is what FLOW is about. Not about being able to throw up numbers to impress people, but to invest the time that is needed to build these relationships with the many students who don’t know the hope of Jesus Christ. The need for our time is only increasing as we get more requests to be with students, to help families, and assist faculty at JMJ. Continue to pray for us as we strive to be faithful to this call and burden that we have for this community.

Four Pillars

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” -Acts 2:42-47

This section of scripture has really struck me recently. So much so, that we here at FLOW have decided to implement this into the core of our philosophy in ministry. Previous to this in scripture, Peter denied Jesus three times. When I think of denying knowing someone, the first picture that comes to my head is a teenager asking their parent to drop them off down the street so as to not be seen with them. Peter didn’t just deny an old friend or parent he was embarrassed by, but the Creator of the universe, the man that was to later die for Peter.

Then in the beginning of Acts we see Peter is the first one to rally the troops for Christ-the man he just said he didn’t know. Peter gave the first sermon in Acts and three thousand people were saved. By a man that just denied Jesus! What a powerful image: even us, broken sinners, can be used by God to share the gospel.

At the end of Acts 2 it says this group of new Christians devoted themselves to four things: the teachings of the apostles, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. This was their way of life. These four things are what we at FLOW want to instill into our ministry, our mentors, our students, and our own lives.

We want to be a ministry that devotes our lives to the teachings of the Scriptures. We believe the Word of God is living and active, cuts through bone and marrow, and because of that, changes lives. We want to teach the Word faithfully and diligently. We do not want to shy away from the truths in the Scriptures and how they have shaped our own lives. We are excited to see how the Word will come alive to others that hear it, maybe for the first time, or maybe for the first meaningful time.

Second, we want to be a people of fellowship. Not just the “meet you at Starbucks” fellowship, but the daily fellowship of living life with others. This plays into us moving into the neighborhood of East Fort Worth to be ingrained into the community there. We want to be good neighbors, serve our neighbors, love our neighbors, and be generous to our neighbors. We also want you to join us in this fellowship. Verse 45 says “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing all the proceeds to all, as any had need.” When one was in need, another part of the body stepped up and provided for their needs. They knew that all they owned already belonged to the Lord, so as part of their fellowship, they simply shared what the Lord had given them. John Piper would say this about Biblical fellowship:

“The radical fellowship of Acts 2:44–45 was antidote for the suicide of materialism committed by the man who built bigger and bigger barns and lost his soul.”

Let us not be a people who gain the whole world only to forfeit our souls. Join us!

Third is the breaking of bread. Verse 46 says that “day by day” they broke bread together in their homes. The simple act of sharing a meal together generated glad and generous hearts. This bonded these Christians as they also grew in fellowship in this way. As mentors and as a way of ministering to the community of East Fort Worth, we want to be generous in the breaking of bread. To not fear inviting others into our home to share a meal and minister in this simple way. This brought a sense of unity to the early believers, the same unity we hope to bring in our ministry.

Last is prayer. We have been convicted here at FLOW to really be faithful in prayer and are asking you to join us in that as well. We believe that the Lord hears our prayers and answers our prayers and is able and willing to provide for what we need, as He is limitless in His resources. Moving forward in the next few months we will be praying for specific things for FLOW. If you would like to be included in this and are not already connected to our newsletter you can sign up here. Pray for favor, for hearts to be open to us and the gospel, for the students we have already been able to know and serve, for vision, for mentors, for continued opportunities for FLOW to reach others, for financial favor, for unity with other ministries and churches in the neighborhoods, and for faithfulness for us to continue to walk out the call to serve this community.

The closing verse of chapter 2 of Acts says “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” We believe that it is in the day by day grind of ministry, the faithfulness of the saints, the gospel centered relationships and, above all, the transforming work of the gospel that will add to the number of those being saved here in our city.

SNAP Challenge

Last week we ventured to live on an average (probably above average) budget of someone who receives food stamps. We chose the $1.57 a meal budget, which came to about $33 a week for all three meals, all seven days. The day before we started, we went to the Fiesta in East Fort Worth to shop where our families would shop.

As we set out for our first day I felt strong. I had some snacks throughout the day that I budgeted for and didn’t feel like I was missing a beat on my meals. Then the next day I had the exact same thing for two of my meals. And every other day I had the same two eggs, and turkey bacon with corn tortillas for breakfast. One day I got crazy and switched out the tortillas with a piece of toast. Now, I’m sort of a creature of habit, so eating in repetition is not a big deal for me as I typically eat the same few things anyways. However, I had no choice as that was all I had budgeted for breakfast for the week. While I didn’t mind it, I still felt stuck to only have that as an option to eat. What if I accidently dropped the egg carton and all the eggs broke? I’d be stuck.

Which leads us to the next obstacle: mistakes. I made a few of them throughout this week. Mistaking cumin for cinnamon was not fun. Thankfully that wasn’t a tragic mistake for several meals, but did clue us in on that if a mistake is done and food has to be thrown out, that it’s a big deal. If I burned something in the oven or dropped food all over the floor, I would just loose those meals. On a tight food budget, there is little room for mistakes.

Another obstacle was time. Neither of us participating in the SNAP Challenge have kids so it seems we got an easy way out, but we did notice the amount of time that it took to plan and prepare all the meals. There were days that I had to pack both lunch and dinner, which meant cooking all three meals for the day at breakfast. If I had kids this would be quite difficult and I would have to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to get meals prepared for everyone. We pay a lot for time. A quick drive through Wendy’s was not an option for us. I had to wake up a little earlier or eat a little later because of the time it took to cook all the food. Once I had some left overs built up it wasn’t too bad, but the time it took was something I know I hadn’t had to really think about before in cooking for one.

In discussing the challenges we had this last week, we did realize we didn’t get the full experience of what it’s like to be on a food stamp budget every day. One big thing was just having a car to get to the store. A lot of folks don’t have the transportation to get to the store, and will have to take it all on the bus and walk with arms full of groceries. We live in Texas and it gets more than hot here. Some food could spoil just on the way home if we had to walk or stand outside waiting for the bus.

One positive aspect of this challenge was seeing our friends and community rally with us. When we told our friends and family what we were doing, they offered to give us extra food they had or take us out to dinner or just give us extra snacks they had. The community aspect of this was really encouraging for us to experience. However, while it was encouraging for us the same thing is less likely to happen for someone else who is on food stamps regularly. The negative stigma will be with them much more than it was for us, voluntarily doing this challenge. The eyes at the store closely examining what you’re purchasing on food stamps, potentially feeling shame when handing the check-out clerk your food stamp card, having to walk to your home with arms full of groceries, not being able to grab dinner out with your friends, not being able to attend events because they cost too much; we did not have to experience any of these situations.

This experience gave us a greater appreciation for not having to rely solely on food stamps to purchase our food. The fact that we can go grab Chick-Fil-A every now and then, or Torchy’s when we want a good taco, made us much for thankful for what we do have, and much more aware of what others don’t have. We were able to eat pretty healthy on this budget, avoiding the filler foods or snacks like chips and candy and getting a fruit or vegetable in almost every meal.

We are very excited to bring what we have learned to the community of East Fort Worth this summer when we will be teaching a four-week course on weight management and how to eat healthy on a strict budget, easy ways to exercise without going to the gym, and what it really means to be strong men and woman. We would like to provide different resources for these families and continue serving them, however this doesn’t happen without your help! If you would like to join us in this project by donating and praying for us you can do so here.

The Value of a “Like"

“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a

Last week I got to get in front of the girls basketball team at J. Martin Jacquet Middle School before one of their home games and discuss with them something I think is very serious and seriously misinterpreted: their worth and value. One of the things I’ve pressed upon the girls during these short devotionals are some new vocabulary words. This week it was Latin. The Imago Dei. I shared from Genius 1:27, “So God created man in his own image…” and that when God created man, it was not just good like the rest of creation, but very good. I pressed that we are different because we are created in the image of God, the Imago Dei.

I asked the girls who had any form of social media and almost all of the girls raised their hands with pride. I asked how many of them felt good when someone “liked” or commented on something they posted. Again, hands flew up with chatter. I asked who has ever taken down a post because it didn’t get “enough” likes. Hands went up with a little more hesitancy and less chatter this time. The age we are in of screens and social media, we have so lowered the standard for ourselves. We forget that we are the Imago Dei! We are created in the image of God!

“But worth, value, and beauty is not determined by some innate quality. But by the length for which the owner would go to possess them”  Propaganda, Lofty

So why do we put so much value on “likes”? I asked the girls sitting around me what it costs them to “like” someone’s post. “Nothing” and “a click” were some of the answers shouted. Yet we find our value in “likes”, we think higher of ourselves if we have more followers than our friends, or if we got more “likes” than our classmates or coworkers on a post. If we measure our worth by something as cheap as a “like” then are we not saying that we ourselves are only worth that? Cheap. Small. Lame. Worthless.

Yet as Propaganda and 1 Corinthians tell us, we are worth more. We were bought with a price. The cost for us was death on a cross. Jesus died for me and for you. THAT is how much we are worth and where our value comes from. The price is much higher than a simple “like” on a page where the person keeps scrolling, not looking back. Yet Jesus doesn’t just keep scrolling. He loves us. He died for us.

We have been trained to treat ourselves cheaply, so we treat others cheaply. Yet all through Scripture, we see we are worth much more. Created in the image of God, paid for by death, death defeated when He rose again. That is how much we are worth and how we should treat ourselves and others.

Pray with us that these students would see their worth in Christ, not in how many followers they have or likes they get. Pray with us that these students would see each other with the same worth. That they would treat each other like they have value, and not cheaply. Pray that you would see yourself not better than these students, but as someone who is also created in the image of God, who was bought with His blood.

2015 Wrap Up

There’s a running list on my computer for the different things the Lord has already done through FLOW. I’m sure I’ve missed some, but in just a few months the Lord has been very gracious to us at FLOW. If you haven’t been following along via social media, let me fill you in.

The Lord has provided an attorney to file our 501c3, and quick filing at that. He has provided an extra way for us to begin forming relationships with students from J. Martin Jacquet Middle School through their after school program. We were able to attend football games and help record them for game film. The football coach was even able to create a highlight reel for one of the players using that footage.

One of the biggest doors that the Lord has opened is through the girls basketball team at J. Martin. We’ve been able to attend games, help at practice, and most significantly, share the gospel with the 7th and 8th grade teams multiple times. We’ve been able to provide pregame meals for the girls thanks to a gracious donor and made spirit signs for the gym and locker room. The girls loved their individual signs and played great that night during their game!

We have begun to collect a group of students who are anxiously awaiting mentors! One student has asked several times if we have found him a mentor yet. Please be praying for mentors to come so we can begin pairing students with mentors.

In about two solid months of fundraising we are almost one third of our way to our monthly goal for the first year! This has been such a blessing to see. The support and encouragement that has come from support meetings has already exceeded my expectations. Whether it’s monetary support, prayer support, or someone to just make pregame meals for the basketball team, it has been a very uplifting experience. We’ve also been able to add a great support with a new partner, Sarah Gifford! She has a heart for children and Jesus and brings unique experience to FLOW.

As much as we have seen the Lord do so far through FLOW, we still need your help! We ask that you would consider FLOW for your year-end gifts, or to partner with us monthly. If either is outside your means, we would love your prayer support. If you would like to be a mentor to one of the many children in East Fort Worth who are longing to be partnered with a mentor you can fill out this form. We are excited to see how the Lord continues to move in East Fort Worth and how the gospel changes the lives of the children and their families. Won't you join us?

Home

As the holiday season approaches, a lot of us will be heading home to celebrate. Home can mean a lot of things to different people. It can bring feelings of warmth, safety, and nostalgia. Or it can bring feelings of fear, resentment or sadness. Home could be the house we grew up in, the town we grew up in, being surrounded by a group of people we love, or it could be a new place we have created for our families and ourselves.

In the Scriptures, we often see home as a place of return and security. Nehemiah would tell us it’s something worth fighting for in chapter 4 verse 14. What is home to you? More than likely, when you think of home it brings back good memories and a feeling of security. However, this is not the case for everyone. For a lot of people in East Fort Worth, home can be a place kids want to avoid, or a place they want to hurry and move on from. It can bring feelings of fear and long sleepless nights. I’ve been in some of these homes and have seen the hurt. The hurt that some might not even now is there.

So a home is what I seek to create. A home that brings feelings of safety, warmth, joy, friendliness, and a place where kids can just be kids. So many of the kids I’ve meet operate in a way that is well above their age. It is as though they simply do not know how to be a kid. In the after school program I help at weekly, there is a day where the girls participate in “Glam Squad”. This is set up for the girls to just be girls. To play with make up and practice doing hair on a dummy. Things that middle school girls should do, yet they struggle with doing.

This is what I’m asking of you, reader: to help us make a home for these kids. FLOW is seeking to purchase a home in East Fort Worth that would not just serve as the offices of FLOW, but that would serve as a safe place for kids and adults to come, hang out, get help with homework, play, get healthy snacks, learn basic life skills, laugh, and simply be a kid.

Homes in this area are fairly cheap, but most require some repairs. We are seeking to raise $100,000 to purchase a home in this area. This should be enough for the price of a home and any repairs it may need. Compared to many homes in the DFW area, this is quite cheap. In the grand scheme of the Lord’s resources, this is nothing. This home is already His, and the money is already His. This home will burn up one day when Jesus comes back, but we hope and pray that lives will be changed, which will last for eternity.

Will you join us and help us be fully entrenched into the community of East Fort Worth? Be prayerful that the Lord will provide the right home in the right area, for favor with the community already settled there, that we would be good neighbors, and that people would feel the Holy Spirit as they enter this home. Also, we ask that you give. You can give specifically to the purchase of a home by noting so on your donation via PayPal on the bottom left of this screen. If you wish to donate with check, please contact me directly at Amanda@flowfortworth.org and we will set that up. FLOW has already been so blessed and we seek to continue to reach the community of East Fort Worth!

Go

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” Matt 28:19

These are the last words Matthew recorded of Jesus. The command to go and make disciples, with the reassurance that He will be with us as we do this. I know a lot of people who have done just this in many nations. Kenya, China, Egypt, Cambodia, and Russia are just a few of the places I personally know someone who is living there or has lived in one of those countries to serve as missionaries. I love the work they are doing in those countries and know that there are a ton of folks who are discovering the love of Christ because of that work.

That was never for me. I never felt a draw to Africa or China. At 18 I felt a call to at risk teenagers while I was a teen myself. I had no idea what God was doing. Much like Moses, I doubted that God called the right person to this. The most interaction I had with an underprivileged community at that time was when my high school team played the at risk schools in basketball. Little did I know what God would have in store.

After working at a camp in New York called Shiloh, this passion began to grow. I always say that I’m pretty average at a lot of things. Average basketball player, average writer, below average singer, average student with average intelligence. The gifting the Lord gave me was building relationships, particularly those who hadn’t been dealt the middle-class-white-folk life. I had no idea why this just came naturally for me, but it did. My first time at Shiloh as a volunteer, I was the one in the back of the van crying because I didn’t care about going into New York City to sight see, I wanted to stay with those kids. I was forever changed in that moment and didn’t realize it.

Years later, I was working for Child Protective Services in Tarrant County, Texas. I was an investigator and found myself knocking on doors in the roughest areas of Fort Worth, not knowing what would be on the other side of those doors. I was called every name in the book, had things thrown at me, had countless threats of being sued or injured and got told to go to hell quite frequently. After not loving all of that, I changed to working with families who had lost their kids to foster care. Some of the parents didn’t try and continued to choose drugs over their child. However, some parents did try and worked hard to get their child back in their care. Those were always the clients I enjoyed working with the most. The drug user who hated they were a drug user or the mom who had a rough past and didn’t know any other way to cope besides drugs, sex and alcohol. They wanted to change, but never had a push to change or someone to help them get clean. I loved being able to help them. I loved when they were honest with me about how they wanted to use, or even if they did use again. I didn’t think they were less than or a total failure, I saw potential.

As much as I loved those clients I worked with, I was also burdened for them. I had what was missing and what could really change their lives, but couldn’t tell them. I had the key to the lock on their life, but couldn’t use it. I couldn’t tell them about Jesus. I couldn’t tell them that the hole in their life they were trying to fill with drugs, alcohol and sex could be filled and filled to the fullest with the love that Christ has for them. The successful stories would get me thinking, “Wow, this is great they are overcoming their drug addiction! But, what now? Will they just go to hell sober?”

I thought about the kids of these parents who were in foster care and where this would put them. They had made so much progress with therapy, with building relationships and with learning what being healthy looked like. But, they also didn’t know that someone loved them unconditionally, that someone had died for them, that someone was with them during their abuse, that someone has a plan for them, and that someone wants more for them than a life of anguish. I couldn’t tell those kids whom I adored that the someone was Jesus.

So I quit. I quit to go. But not go to Africa or China or even somewhere else in America. I quit to go down the street. I told the Lord I want to serve Him in the most effective way I can. I told the Lord I wanted to use the gift he has given me in hopes to bring people who are struggling to Him. I asked the Lord to provide for me a way to do this. So I quit my job, got a part time job, a free place to live by a generous mentor, and began working on creating a ministry that would do just this. Reach the lost people, who I’ve already worked with, who live down the street and who don’t know Jesus. Per Acts 1:8, I wanted to start in my Jerusalem.

I want FLOW to radiate the Great Commission and Acts 1:8. I pray FLOW creates disciples because of the confidence and reassurance we have in Christ, that He really is with us wherever we go. I want FLOW to be a place broken people from all walks of life can come to get healthy, to get plugged into community and to a church and feel safe doing so. People told me I was foolish and making steps backwards in my career path. While yes, I’m no longer rolling in the little dough I had at CPS, I can take to the bank that God is with me wherever I go, that He will not forsake me and that I can find hope in Him. The Lord has changed my life, showed me grace and has loved me despite all my failures. I can’t wait to tell many others about Him and that He can do the same for them.

So I’m asking you to join me in this mission. Not to a foreign land, but like a foreign land in that many of you will never go to the streets of Stop Six, Polytechnic or Meadowbrook. Today, I’m asking that you do join me though, to reach these areas of East Fort Worth, full of people who, like you and me so desperately need Jesus. I’m asking that you join me in prayer for FLOW and that you might partner with FLOW so that these people, broken like us, can know the love that Christ has for them. I would love to meet with you to discuss FLOW, answer questions, and pray with you. Please don't hesitate to contact me at amanda@flowftworth.org

 

There will be future posts on this blog as we journey together with FLOW to reach the community of East Fort Worth.