Posts from 2014-10-16

Meeting Jesus in Lisa “The Hammer”

by: Kerri Gailey

image1

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  

John 13:5

 

Confession time: I almost didn’t go to the LOT Project tonight.  I had a pretty busy day, my youngest daughter had homework, and I really needed to work on writing...for this blog.  But as He often does, God laughed at my plans.

 

One of my coworkers had cleaned out his closet and had clothes for me to donate, so I decided to just drop the clothes off, make my apologies, go home and write.  Then a former neighbor, whom I dearly miss, sent me a text wanting to know if I was going to be at the LOT.  She and her adorable children were going to volunteer for the very first time, and she wanted to know if I’d be there.  Well, of course I was going to be there!  Again, He changed my plans.  I’m certain it was God’s subtle way of reminding me that His ways are better than mine, and that what I’d planned on writing wasn’t what needed to be written.  

 

When I got to the LOT, it appeared that Jean was having a little difficulty in assigning the jobs.  Every time she decided where to put a volunteer to work, God told her differently.  I wasn’t the only one God was laughing at.

 

It seemed that God was thinking I should serve food with Lisa “The Hammer” Peer from New Jersey.  

 

“The Hammer” might sound like a strange nickname for this woman with a smile and heart as big as her accent, until you find out what she does for a living.  She’s a parole officer.  At work, she’s known to be tough but fair.  That, along with the Jersey in her voice, earned her the title.  

 

Her husband is a corrections officer in a maximum security prison.  He tells her that she better do a good job or her charges will end up with him.  It may be a joke at home, but at work, it’s a life’s calling for Lisa.  She’s got a high success rate with her guys, and she’s quick to give God the glory for them not returning to jail.

I was intrigued by her choice of profession.  I just can’t imagine many kids saying, “you know what?  I want to be a parole officer when I grow up.”  So I had to ask her if it was her line of work that brought her to volunteer at the LOT Project.  Her answer was quite the opposite of what I expected.  It was years of volunteering in homeless ministries that led to her to make a difference in the lives of parolees.

 When Lisa was younger, being a parole officer wasn’t what she envisioned for herself at all.  She actually started out as a teacher, and then became a Children’s Advocate for DSS.  It was during this time that she got involved volunteering with a homeless ministry in New York that gave out clothing.  

 One night while volunteering there, she was helping a lady find a pair of shoes.  She searched the back, and apologetically came back with a pair of shoes that were a half size too big.  The lady was thrilled to have them anyway.  It was this moment that Lisa looked down and realized the woman had come in wearing only socks. She had no shoes at all.

 Lisa described her next move as a “God thing”.  Instead of just handing her the pair of shoes, as she would’ve ordinarily done, she felt led to kneel down and put the shoes on the woman’s feet.  Sound reminiscent of anyone?

 After that the woman hugged and kissed her. It was so overwhelming to Lisa that she had to walk out.  God had used her in that moment to emulate His Son kneeling to wash His disciple’s feet.  He led her to “be Jesus” to the shoeless woman.  From that moment on, she knew that for her life to mean something, it had to be about service to others.  

That is the reason she serves parolees, and shows them the hope of Jesus and how he can change their lives.  Over the years, no matter where she’s lived, Lisa has found a homeless ministry in which to serve. That is the reason she sought out the LOT Project when her own church’s homeless ministry closed.  There was a hole left in her heart that only service to those forgotten and avoided could fill.

 After talking with Lisa while we served, I was reminded of something Andy likes to tell the volunteers before guests arrive.  The LOT Project is a place to meet Jesus.  I realized that by changing my plans, God had introduced me to my next blog post.  I saw Jesus tonight in Lisa “The Hammer”.  

Jesus may not always look how we thought He would.  He may not have any teeth, he may not be very clean, or he may be a short lady with an infectious smile and a Jersey accent.  No matter how He looks, I promise you, you’ll find Him at the LOT.

What’s In a Name?

by Kerri Gailey

Kerri Gailey March 2014

My name is Kerri, and I volunteer at the LOT Project. It sounds really nice that I volunteer with the poor doesn’t it?   Before you begin to think I’m some sort of saint, let me be very honest about how I came to be here.   I was invited to volunteer during the Christmas holidays.  Many of the volunteers are college students who go home for winter break, leaving HOPE nights a little understaffed.  I agreed, because, hey, it’s Christmas.  I could pat myself on the back for having my holiday good deed done. (Check that one off for the year!)  I wasn’t ready for the heart change God had in store for me.

I had no clue what to expect, and I was a tad bit nervous.  All I knew was that my GPS was taking me to a not so great part of town, and I was supposed to enter through the big green door.  When I arrived, I was greeted by this tall, surfer-looking dude named Andy.  He checked in my 7 year-old daughter and me as volunteers, giving us both nametags.  Only my daughter’s nametag didn’t include her last name, for safety reasons, Andy explained.  Okaaay…I’m already out of my comfort zone, and now the mama bear is coming out in me.  What did I get my child into?   

Andy explained how we would be given a job for the night, and that Meredith, my daughter, could just stick with me if she wanted.  While waiting for the volunteer meeting to begin, he explained that everyone would be given a bag to fill with clothes.  And if they needed, there were toiletries, blankets, and sleeping bags available as well.  However, the sleeping bags were reserved for those sleeping outside. 

Wow, just wow.  Talk about an eye opener.  It was going to be really cold that night.  I’d never taken the time to think about people sleeping out in that weather, in major cities, sure, but in Anderson?  It was getting close to Christmas, and here I was wishing for colder weather so it would seem to me like “holiday weather.” 

During the volunteer meeting, Jean explained how “guests” would arrive, be given a bag for their clothing items, a nametag, then a meal.  The nametag thing made since to me.  I’ve been in leadership classes, business meetings, and volunteer functions where nametags served to make everyone feel welcome, and to create a since of community.  So I got why they would give guests nametags.  I didn’t stop to think that most of the guests we would be serving had probably never been in any of those situations, and probably didn’t know why we wanted to know their names. 

“Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours.”  Have you ever prayed that prayer?  I have, several times in fact.  God decided to answer me that first night serving meals at the L.O.T. Project.

Here’s the moment that changed my heart, and kept me coming back.  It was the reaction of one man in particular who came through the line with his head down.  (As I’m writing this I really wish I could remember his name.)  But on that night, I smiled, called him by name (thanks to the aforementioned nametags), and handed him a meal.  He looked up at me in total surprise.  Did you hear that?  It was the sound of a heart breaking and a prayer being answered.  My heart, my prayer.  I realized in that moment how often that man must have felt overlooked, ignored, forgotten, and alone in a world that works hard at avoiding him. I saw in his eyes what it meant to him to be recognized by name.

Who would’ve guessed the power of simply calling someone by name?  I should have.  Paul wrote about the power of a name in Philippians 2:9. “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names.”  Not “a” name, “the” name.  He was talking about Jesus, the only name by which we can be saved.  Andy told me that night there was no better place than the L.O.T. Project to see the love of Jesus at work. He was so right.

That heartbreak moment was what I couldn’t wait to get home and share with my husband, Steve.  I sat in our bedroom in tears, recounting the look on that one man’s face, and how I’d never before given much thought to people, not just adults, but children sleeping out in the cold.  I felt ashamed for wishing for colder weather just because to me it made it “feel” more like Christmas.  God had taken me from feeling uncomfortable, out of place, and unsure to a place of compassion. 

After that night I knew specific names and faces.  And it wasn’t a comfortable thing for me to think about them.  Why?  Because once I had my eyes and my heart opened to these guests, I felt a responsibility to try to make a difference somehow.  Those names and faces flashed in my mind while watching the doomsday weather reports about the dreaded polar vortex.   I began praying for warmer temperatures, and all those I’d met to have a warm place to stay. I was hooked.  I told Steve I had to keep going back.

My first night stepping inside the big green door, I learned the power of a name.  It made a difference to one man that I recognized him by name.  It made a difference that I prayed for people by name.  It made all the difference in me; that’s why I keep coming back.