Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A History of Anawim, part 2

13. Meeting in Gresham Vineyard
After SA had us leave, Gresham Vineyard allowed us to use their facility. Because of the extra setup for our service and for theirs, it required more work, but the congregation helped us do the clean up. We were not required to pay any rent. After a year and a half, the Vineyard church was forced to move and we had to find a new place.

14. Spiritual warfare
During this period I began leading some of our congregation through warfare prayer. This was to free them from demonic attacks that came as a result of addiction or mental illness. This warfare prayer was in the context of counseling sessions and was very effective. People were getting freed from the things that were attacking them, although it rarely freed people from the drive toward addictions. We learned that spiritual warfare is often the missing component in freeing people from addiction and mental illness.

15. Tracts
In every meeting I began to develop a tract for the Scripture reading and a tract for the sermon. Some people would take them, others would leave them. But they could be collected and then given to others in other contexts. After a period of years, after most people stopped taking the tracts, I didn’t make so many of the ones for the sermons, only about ten or so for those who wanted to study it more. I learned that in a semi-literate culture, the written word isn’t very significant, except in an oral context.

16. Meeting in Park
After leaving the Gresham Vineyard building at the beginning of winter we met outside in the park. By the time we got the food to the park, it was sometimes cold. And it was cold enough that few people wanted to stay for a service. During the meal we would have a few songs sung, and then we prayed for people’s requests. We learned that to do our ministry fully, we really needed a building.

17. “Solid State” meeting
Through a contact of one of our church members, we found a building right near downtown Portland, about twenty miles away from where we were currently meeting. On the one hand, we were able to meet there both Saturdays and Sundays (our meetings were only on Saturdays up to this point), but the majority of those who participated in the meal only were in Gresham and it was too difficult for them to come on their own. I would drive our large van out to Gresham on Saturdays and pick up 8 to 10 people and then bring them to Portland for the afternoon. The new facilities allowed us to really expand the people we were ministering to, as we were so much closer to many more homeless folks and more housing for the mentally ill. We would have thirty people a day participate in our services, and more than that come for our meals. The facility itself was problematic, having very little lighting and the sewer would back up. But we were able to be there for two years before the owners closed us down. We learned that we needed more than one meeting place.

18. Picking up people from State hospital
Early on, we had one person coming from the State mental health hospital. He invited a friend to come and soon many people were calling to come to church from the State hospital. The hospital chaplains didn’t want us doing this, for they felt that we were undermining their ministry (which we had no intention of doing). As long as people called, we picked them up. This continued for five years until the word of mouth gave out. Most of those we picked up were either moved out of the area, or we still have contact with them.

19. Prayer and fasting for the Holy Spirit
While in the Solid State building, I took a season of Lent and encouraged the congregation to pray and to fast for the Holy Spirit. I knew that we needed a powerful move of the Holy Spirit to help us be healed from our mental health issues and from addiction. However, only a couple of people took this step with me, and we didn’t experience a strong move of the Holy Spirit. Yet.

20. Community House
While at the Solid State building, my family was losing our housing. We had an apartment in Gresham that many of the homeless there visited. The new owner of the building, who was trying to revitalize the apartments, gave us a 30 day notice. Without any deposit or hope of finding another apartment large enough for us all for the same rent, I sent out an urgent prayer request over email to two people. In two days, we received a phone call from an individual who wanted to purchase us a house. Within two months we were in a house near downtown Portland with six bedrooms, fully paid for.

21. Addiction help
Years before, we had already taken in one individual to live with us who was struggling with addiction. If we sent him out on the street, he would certainly have returned to drugs, so we took him in and dealt with numerous issues (too many to list here). When our house opened, we took in a few other people who were also in recovery from drug addiction. While we had some success in helping people deal with their addictions, the toll on myself and my wife was very high as far as stress and trying to teach people how to live in community.

22. Mentally ill in house
We also took in some folks who had serious mental health issues, but were trying to be believers. Again, we felt it was a discipleship necessity to bring them in. But everyone who lived with us longer than a week we would have them serve the church and the house for a total of ten hours a week, in lieu of rent. The Lord also allowed us to provide food for all of these folks. Again, dealing with the variety of issues was positive for the people living with us, but difficult on Diane and I. On the other hand, the community house became the basis for Anawim being a church run by the homeless and mentally ill

23. Four meetings at once
We were having to move every year or so to different buildings. And we were having problems keeping 30 or so mentally ill folks calm and focused for an hour. So I decided that we would have four meetings a week in different places around Portland, thus becoming a cell church, and so naturally keeping the meetings down to about 15 to 20 people per meeting. This cell group structure proved to be very beneficial for our community, causing it to grow to twice or three times the size I imagined. We meet in North Portland (at our new home), downtown Portland, SE Portland and again in Gresham.

24. Church in basement/garage
One of the meetings was in our home. This meeting was made up of mostly the people we would pick up from the State hospital. At first we met in our basement and then we met in our renovated garage. One of the difficulties was that the State hospital wouldn’t allow some of the men to come to our house if they were labeled as sexual preditors because we had children in our house. After the folks from the hospital stopped calling after a couple years, others also stopped coming for different reasons, one of which is that the garage was too compact. So we held the Sunday meeting on hiatus for a while until we could find another meeting place.

25. Meeting in day shelter
Another opportunity arose when I was asked at this same time to have a Bible study at a day shelter in downtown Portland. This facility is right across the street from a mental health housing complex. We give a hot meal for a half hour, had the Bible study for an hour and then offer more food for another half hour. The meeting had many new people and grew from 10 to 50 people. However, this meeting never really became a community, as the others had. People would come and go over time. However, because of our initial ministry in this place, two other ministers have come to the day shelter, providing Christian community. Our meeting in this place will cease in another month so we may begin a new ministry.

26. Retreat
In connection with this day shelter, I began offering leadership at their annual spiritual retreat for the homeless in downtown Portland. This provides some homeless with an opportunity to get out of the city and to focus on the Lord in a way they can’t in a stressful urban setting. This has proved a good time for some of our folks to get baptized as well.

27. Gresham meeting
The second meeting we began at this time was a regrouping of our Gresham meeting that we had begun with. I went back to Peace Mennonite who agreed to have us return to them after many years gone. Because they saw that our ministry really was successful, they decided to have us come back. So we meet in Peace Mennonite every Saturday afternoon, offering a meal, showers and clothes to those in need, as well as counsel, basic health care and a worship service. We have up to 50 people a week.

28. Barbeque
Peace Mennonite had a BBQ every year, which they graciously invited Anawim to participate in. While considered an outreach event, it was really an event to allow people in Anawim and those in Peace to interact and to fellowship. It has been an excellent experience for the two churches to connect.

29. Sunnyside meeting
I was invited by another meal to hold a Bible study at their meal. I would open the meal with a short Bible teaching and prayer and then we would have a longer Bible study during the meal in an adjoining room. The Bible study has minimal attendance—perhaps 5 to 10 people a week—but up to a hundred participate in the “mini service” we have at the opening of the meal. For many people, it is the only experience of God they will have all week. We also have a lot of opportunity to pray for people’s needs and see healings and deliverances happen there.

This part covers Anawim history from 2000-2004

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