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Trial By Fire

February 5th, 2009 · No Comments

Originally posted at http://comm.iphc.org/blog6.php/2009/02/02/trial-by-fire

“Gary, I just received a call.  The mission is on fire.”

Immediately, my schedule was altered.  The new priority was to see what I could do for the ministry that provided 67,800 free meals last year.  “The Cross” is a place where homeless and broken people wait for someone to hire them for day labor.

As I turned the corner I could see police cars rerouting traffic so fire trucks could get through.  This was not our first fire.  Our mother church has been burned twice and the mission was burned once before by an arsonist.  But you’re never really prepared for the pain you feel when you see your ministry going up in flames.

The first person I spoke to was a leader among our ministry volunteers.  He is a large, muscular black man who has risen from the ashes of a burned life.  He got out of the mission van, and with tears streaming down his face, said, “Pastor, all I was doing was trying to help them get out of the cold.”  The forecast for the day was a high of 20 degrees with a chance of ice and snow.

I learned the fire was started by a man who was angry because our ministry was helping his wife.  After the birth of their child, he abandoned his wife and newborn baby.  Our ministry stepped in to offer assistance.  We offer to help him too, but he refused.  After going on a drinking binge, he became enraged. He started the fire by soaking a homeless man’s blankets and belongings in gasoline, the setting a match to it.  We were able to replace the homeless man’s blankets with a new sleeping bag.

At this point, some would ask, “Why continue to help them?”  We often hear statements like, “They don’t appreciate it.” But for every act of arson, for every vandalism, for every trial, there are a thousand more reasons to continue this mission.  Here are a few:

  • As Herb (our ministry leader) pulled into the mission one morning, he saw a man laying in the driveway. The man had had a seizure, then fell and had a brain concussion  He had been unconscious for about 36 hours when Herb found him.  We immediately dialed 911 and the man underwent brain surgery.
  • An African man ended up on the streets of Amarillo, TX.  He was given a drink laced with drugs that left him strung out.  Theives then stripped him of all his clothing.  Our minister found him naked and half-frozen in a dumpster.
  • Last year, the mission partnered with volunteer health care professionals to offer free medical care to 60 people who couldn’t afford it.
  • Last year, the mission provided food and assistance to 1,400 people.

These people are not so different from you and me.  They are sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, and wives. We can’t let one act of arson deter us from our Matthew 25 commission: “when you do it for the least of these, you do it unto me.”

Please pray for the M25 Team as we work to repair the damage to the mission.

If you would like to make a donation to “The Cross” mission or to M25, contact Pastor Gary Burd at gburd [at] arn [dot] net.

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