Saturday, June 4, 2016

Our tour of PGM- a testament to God's faithfulness!

This past weekend, my husband and I went to the south side of Chicago along with some friends of ours who also run a non-profit in Marshfield.  We got to take a tour of Pacific Garden Ministries- the biggest homeless shelter and addiction program in Chicago, and home of the radio program "Unshackled", which tells true stories of people being saved and redeemed by Christ.

We were absolutely floored by the experience. Pacific Garden Missions has been around for 139 years. We were able to take a tour and spend the day there. It was so amazing to see the faithfulness of God, and how he has kept this ministry running all this time off of only donations from people! We wanted to see Pacific Gardens to take note of what they have done to remain successful for so long, and to see what things they do that we can implement into our upcoming recovery homes for drug addicts in Marshfield. 

Walking down the "Yellow Brick Road", where all of the offices, dining areas, counseling programs, day rooms, and sanctuary are kept. 

The sanctuary where service is held and "Unshackled" is recorded.

The size of this place was absolutely overwhelming. They serve 3,000 meals a day and house 1,200 people a night. We were amazed as we walked through, and were in awe of what God had built. 

Pacific Garden Missions started 139 years ago in an apartment in Chicago- ironic, huh? ;) The couple who started it wanted to reach the homeless and addicted. They soon started renting a house where the homeless and addicted could stay at for free (again- pretty ironic, since this is exactly how CROSSroads started and what we are going to be doing in the future).

Street lights on the Yellow Brick Road.

Aerial view of Pacific Garden Mission- look how gigantic is it!

One night, the day before the rent on the house was due, the couple who ran it were in a panic because they had no money to pay the rent. They sat up all night praying for God to make a way, as they had no idea where the money was going to come from. The next morning, they woke up to their back yard covered in Morel mushrooms- which sell for $50 a pound. They picked the mushrooms and sold them, which enabled them to pay their rent on the house. The mushrooms had never been there before and never came back again. What an awesome testimony of God's provision- much like Manna from heaven!

They soon moved into a small storefront, then eventually a bigger building, until finally they moved into the huge building that they have now a few years ago. As the ministry grew, God provided everything they needed in the most unlikely ways. People drive up and hand over the keys and titles to cars. Jimmy Butler from the Bulls comes in once every other month and orders $15,000 worth of pizza for everyone. Private donors help them meet their 4.5 million annual budget. God's hand has been there through it all.

I was really touched by the stories of God's provision. It renewed my faith in the fact that if God wants something to happen, he will provide a way for it to happen, even when we don't see a way. It's important that we remember first and foremost that these ministries are God's, and that He will take care of them. 

Sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in worry, wondering how God will work things out, where the money will come from, where the people will come from, where the help will come from. I know in our ministry, we wonder how we are going to be able to help all of these people, how we are going to fund the homes, how we can possibly do all of it when we are just a few people. It's good to be reminded that we don't have to do anything, God is the one who will make a way. He takes care of his people, and He is the one who provides provision. I can only pray that we have the kind of faith in CROSSroads that Pacific Garden Mission has been able to hold onto for 139 years, trusting God even in the hard times. 

The greenhouse.

The massive cafeteria where meals are served.

Taking a tour of the dorms where people sleep.

The "hotbox" where clothes and blankets are sterilized before people enter the facility.

Our day here was such an uplifting experience. For the past few months, I have been struggling with my faith a little bit. Things have been going crazy and the spiritual attacks have been relentless. I was struggling with whiter God saw what was going on, and if He was going to intervene. I was questioning if we are really doing what we are meant to be doing, because we were going through such hardship.

The thing is, just because you are doing what God commands, doesn't mean it will be easy. If anything, you have to expect it to get hard. Not only will there be spiritual warfare if you are a threat to Satan, but I think so many times God allows impossible situations to happen so that He gets the glory when things are worked out. He makes it humanly impossible, so we know it was only by His will and power that things turned around. Hard times of trusting develops our faith, and we can recall how God was faithful when we go through another hard situation.

So often, we put God is a box. We ask for what we expect is humanly possible, rather than relying on the supernatural truth that God can do above all we ask or think. His plans are much bigger than ours- so big, in fact, that Him showing up and opening doors are the only way that those plans will manifest. It's important that we stay God-reliant instead of self-reliant.

Extra mats

And that is just what PGM did. God transformed their ministry into something much bigger than they could have ever dreamed, because they relied on Him and Him alone. The faith of this ministry is astounding, and I can only hope to be as faithful to what God has called me to do as they are- to be able to have blind faith even when I can't see anything happening. To take God out of the box, and let him do what He WANTS to do- not limiting Him to what we believe is possible.

A map of all the other countries besides North America where "Unshackled" is aired.

Some of the awards that PGM has received.

Radio equipment from when "Unshackled" first started airing.

The "Unshackled" office.

Good motto!

Our crew, getting ready to view a live taping of "Unshackled".

The atmosphere was absolutely amazing. To have thousands of drug addicts and homeless people crying out to the Lord in worship service really affected my heart. It reminded my husband and I where we came from. We were saved in a ministry very similar to this, but on a much smaller scale- Milwaukee Victory Church. It is there where we met God, and He turned our lives around. Being back in that environment made me call to remembrance all of the wonderful, miraculous things that God has done in our lives- and will do in the lives of the addicts we are trying to help.

I am so excited for our recovery homes to open up in Marshfield, so that other addicts can experience the power of God like we have, and like we did this weekend. There is something amazing about being at a church service that isn't full of "good" religious people, but broken sinners who know they need God and cry out for Him to heal them. It is an experience that most people will never have the luck to encounter. This is my husband and I's life, and calling, and it was so refreshing to see that we are not alone in wanting to care for the outcasted. 

The service was filled with testimonies from people who God has restored from addiction. They do three services a day there- one before each meal. That is how people change- through the word of God. That is the only thing that was able to change my husband and I. 

The pastor gave an amazing message. What really blew me away was that it was on 2 Samuel 16. That was the first bible study that I ever wrote, and I have never heard anyone else preach on it. My husband and I looked at each other in shock when the preacher went there, because it's a chapter that we talk about often, yet have never heard anyone else talk about. In reality, it is my life verse for ministry leadership. It's about how King David was attacked, insulted, and slandered by Shimei. He didn't defend himself, however, because he knew that God would defend him. He knew that if he just left it in God's hands, God would bring good out of the persecution he was suffering. When people throw rocks at you, God will bless you to make up for the distress they have caused you. I have seen God do this personally in my life numerous times. We are dealing with something right now where someone who we helped has turned vindictive, just like how David helped Saul only to be attacked by his cousin Shimei. It was the perfect word for me. Keep pressing on- even when people kick you while you are down. God will bring good out of it if you let him. I felt like the message was directed at me, and left in awe.

"Unshackled" getting ready to be  recorded. 

This lady had the most amazing voice!

Our friends Ed and Nancy outside of PGM.

The basement where the donations are kept.

God has spoken so clearly to us through this trip that if we allow Him to build it, He will do great things. No matter how overwhelming ministry can get at times, God has the power to give us perseverance, and provide our every need. His plans are good, and we only need to be obedient and have faith in what He is doing- even when we can't see the end result. 

More awards for this amazing ministry. One really cool thing that we found out during the tour is that Mr. T comes in and preaches every few months. How amazing is that?

The dorms

Our group

My husband and I.

All in all, it was a fabulous trip. It was just what we needed, and our faith in God has grown tremendously. I will recall this trip when we start to get discouraged, tired, or feel like things aren't happening the way we think they should. This trip was a reminder that God is faithful, and that we can do nothing without Him- but He can do everything through us, if wee just believe!