He executes justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, he lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves those who live justly. The LORD watches over the immigrant and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. -Psalm 146:7-9

Monday, November 12, 2007

Common Ground Update

I am speechless and In AWE of the LORD's work!!

Greetings from Common Ground Montgomery!

I know it has been a WHILE, but we now hope to be back on track with our ‘weekly’ email updates.

This is email is longer than the others, but I promise you it will bless you to read what God has been doing in our midst!!!!!

A lot of very encouraging and life changing things have been happening, so I will try to spread some of them out over the next few email updates. Here are a few big things that God is and has been doing:

We are in our house!!! (The Kelly’s)
We have been in our new house for just over a week now on Westcott Street in west Montgomery. We love our new neighborhood, though it doesn’t feel new at all since we have spent the last year getting to know many people here. What is new is having as many as 15-20 kids from our street over at the house any chance we will allow it! It is wonderful. We love our house (it has been completely renovated and added on to)… and we love our neighborhood.

New followers of Jesus!!!
We now have two new brothers in Christ from our street. We have been getting to know two teenagers over the last 8 or 9 months. Both of these guys helped us do the demolition on my home while we were remodeling it. Both have grown up on our street. Kevin and I began sharing our faith with them months ago, and they also began to attend Church with us. Curiously, they both had no question about where they stood in relationship to God. They both freely admitted they didn’t know the Lord and weren’t ‘saved’. But, they said they like us, and all the people we kept bringing around. We tried to provide a non-threatening environment for them to learn about and ‘see’ Jesus through our lives. We have included them in on many aspects of our lives. They eat with us, play with and hold our children, go the Church with us, have spent the night in our home, help us in some of our work, etc. They have become part of our lives. God has blessed it! Three nights ago, one of them came over and we sat on the porch.

He said he had been thinking more and more about being ‘saved’. Kevin had spent an hour on the phone with him the night before talking about Jesus. He told me that he was so glad that he wasn’t running the streets any more, and that he wasn’t doing many of the things he had been doing just months earlier. I told him that reminded me of something so I grabbed my bible and we began to look at verses together. We saw in the bible where it said of Christians… “therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come”. I went on to explain that there is a major difference between just changing our behavior for a little while and actually surrendering our lives to follow Jesus. He was very curious, and wanted to know what that meant. We read where Paul tells us that we all had sinned and fallen short of God’s glory… and that the wages of our sin is death, but that the gift of God is eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ. We talked about what it meant to submit to Christ as Lord, and trust Him only as a Savior, and the true freedom that is available to us. Long story short (though trust me, you really wan to hear the long version!) He prayed to receive Christ right there on the porch with me. During all this, we heard a gun shot off in the distance, we had three heavily intoxicated/high people walk by mumbling at us, and we witnessed a slight altercation in the street about 5 houses down. God was so good to us in the middle of all that to change his heart. After he prayed, he kept saying things like “I feel so good… has he really forgiven me for all things!... man, I have to tell ___ about this!.... He needs to know the Lord too!” It was a wonderful, holy night!

Well, the next day, he took the piece of paper that I had written down the verses on that we looked at and that I had drawn a ‘bridge’ illustration on to help him understand what Jesus had done for him. He came over my house with four other teenagers. The house was full of kids from the neighbor playing in the front area. My new brother, took the teenagers to the back of the house and proceeded to explain what had happened to him the night before! He did an amazing job. I walked into the room while he was saying all this! “You can’t jump over it (the separation between us and God), you can’t fly over it, you can’t get to God. It don’t matter how good you think you are. A wage is something you earn… and our sin led us to death as our wage. That what we earned. But God gave us a gift! Real life, eternal life.”

They asked him some questions, which he answered very well, and then they all went home. That night his best friend came back over (the other teenager I spoke of before). He told us he was ready to ‘give his life to the Lord and get saved’. We sat down together and talked about what it meant to be ‘saved’, Who we needed to be saved from, and what we were being saved into. He prayed to receive Christ right there in our living room! Both of the young men were grinning from ear to ear (and one of them NEVER smiles!) God had forgiven them and set them free from their sins! That’s all they kept talking about.

They both spent the night last night, and one of them came to me and said some pretty interesting things. Here are some of his quotes (he gave me permission to share them with you!):

On drugs in the neighborhood: “If crack would never have been invented, we could have had so many lawyers and doctors and teachers coming from this neighborhood. Right now you just have so many lives so messed up. All this wasted life….”

On all the other younger kids running the streets in our neighborhood:
“The person I used to be… I was making them do so many bad things. They look up to us, and I was trying to teach them how to be a thug or hard, or something like that. We used to make them fight and stuff… now I want to see them find the Lord the way I find the Lord. If I can find Him, they can too. I am trying to get them while they are young. I didn’t have nobody to show me this when I was their age. I want to see them find the Lord.”

On us coming into their lives over the last year: “If y all wouldn’t have come around we would have been on the street… doing nothing good. If ya’ll would have never come around, I believe life would have been all about getting money, selling drugs… life in the streets would have led us to nowhere… the grave or prison… and setting bad examples for these younger kids.”

On all the drug addicts and prostitutes in our neighborhood: There are some junkies out there, but I am realizing that that is somebody’s people… someone’s uncle, daddy, cousin, son. They are somebody’s people. Somebody out there still loves them somewhere. I know God loves them too. I wasn’t thinking about nothing I used to do. When I used to run the streets, the Lord Jesus Christ used to be the last thing on my mind. We used to treat them any old way.

May God bless the lives of these new brothers… May he raise them up as leaders in our neighborhood… May he do immeasurable more than we can ever ask or imagine!

Psalm 34:3,

Bryan Kelly
Common Ground Montgomery