Thursday, March 22, 2007

On your knees for God's House




Dear Friends,

Please keep Full Circle Ministries in your prayers as we have a potentially difficult
situation that could close our doors to the homeless here at God's House in Madison, WI.

We were under the impression that everything was resolved early in February with the building and zoning commission here and that there was no problem with what we are doing. Yesterday another Inspector from the commission stopped in and said that he thinks he will have to shut us down.

He arrived just as our special speaker, Jim Brashear, arrived to share his testimony and mission experiences in Mexico. I asked if the inspector could come back later, as our speaker was on a tight schedule and had to catch the bus for Midway in Chicago.

The inspector began asking questions about our entrance into the building, about what we would do if we had more than 25 people in our space and about whether we are cooking meals or not. I indicated that the side entrance was the main entrance we use and that there are exits also through the other side of the building and out the back. I told him I hadn't thought about what to do if we have more than 25 people. It hadn't occurred to me that there was any problem since our space is so large, 1500 sq.ft.

I also told him that our meals are pot luck. People bring and share what they have. Generally we're just warming up casseroles or spaghetti or something in the microwave. I did tell him we'd cooked on Sunday the 11th for our India Adventure. al and Roger made chicken curry in a nesco roaster for that day.

The entrance to the building is a door that is only 6 ft. tall. We've nicknamed it "The Hobbit Door". There are steps and no handicapped access into the basement. There is a ramp access to the upstairs. The owner was told earlier when they applied for the permit to remodel the basement that they would only have to put in a ramp for the upstairs and the rest would be considered okay, grandfathered in, because of
the structural changes it would require to make a handicapped entrance to the lower level.

The inspector said the entrance was a problem (no explanation) and he wanted me to call him to set another time for him to come back and see everything. His parting words were, "I think I'm going to have to shut you down." I was to call him at 7:30am this morning.

I called this morning and he said that he hadn't realized that others had already looked into our situation, so he wanted to talk with them before proceeding. We made arrangements for him to come at 8:30am tomorrow (Friday) morning to do the inspection.

Every day we serve somewhere between 30-50 people as they come and go in our
Day Center. We are open to everyone, not just homeless. We have many who come
who are on disability and are lonely or bored with their lives. We have others who
come who are not homeless who are looking for friendship or a chance to make a
difference. We have people who have housing but who have emotional or mental
problems and are looking for acceptance and love. People come who are looking for a place to be valued for who they are and given an opportunity to use the gifts God has given them.

Like the old country hymn asking the question "Will the circle be unbroken" when we one day we all stand in God's presence. Will all of our loved ones be there, all of our friends. Well..... the circle will only be unbroken if everyone is there, even the people who are not so easy to love.

When you stop in you may see 2 or 3 sleeping because they were not able to sleep
at the shelter last night. You may see some playing scrabble or chess or checkers, a bit of stress relief. You'll see people working on filling out job applications or learning to use the computer. You'll see the poor who have worked and could not get to a meal site come in to make a sandwich to take for lunch at work tomorrow or toast a bagel or eat whatever we have on hand because they're hungry after working with no lunch today. You'll see people quietly talking or laughing or studying the Bible or reading books from our Christian library. On Thursday afternoons you'll see everyone relaxing having a good time watching a movie, a movie that Jesus can use to speak to them about the problems in their own lives and about what really matters in life.

God has been moving marvelously on the hearts of those who come. We are seeing
lives changed and people who have nearly given up are feeling encouraged and ready
to try again to make something better of their lives. The lost are finding Jesus. Homeless and lonely Christians are growing in Jesus and are given opportunity to serve others. There is a growing sense of family and community where each person is loved and encouraged.

They come in to make phone calls to get a job or reconnect with family they have left
in their past. They search the internet for jobs and check email. We take phone
messages so employers or helping agencies have a way to connect with them. They
send and receive mail. In Madison, you cannot get a post office box unless you have
a physical address where you live, making it difficult for prospective employers or family to connect with the homeless. Many ask for prayer or want to talk out tough situations they are facing.

We rejoice with them as we see so many prayers answered. Faith is contagious.

Please pray with us that God will determine it is time to come to the aid of His people;
that He will hear our prayers of repentance for the people of this city and especially
those in the Marquette neighborhood/Williamson St. area and that He will have mercy on us here in Madison. Please pray that God will rise up and resolve this issue and keep the doors open to the lost and lonely, the poor and the hurting.

Please pray that God will help Al Vorhees, the city Inspector, to see this building and the works happening here as God's works and that he would fear to stand in the way of what God is doing.

Vorhees is planning to come at 8:30 am tomorrow (Friday). Please pray that God will grant us wisdom and solutions for any problem that needs to be resolved. This truly is an issue of whether or not Christians can do what God is calling us to do in a church building. Do we not have the freedom to open our church doors to anyone who wants to come? Must we be licensed as a Mission House to invite the poor and the homeless to come in. Can we not cook in the church kitchen? Can the city ignore grand-fathered rights because they don't like the people who are coming in the building? Would they rather have the homeless and the lonely out on the streets begging for spare change or looking for someone to love them? Would the city close down the building because we are letting the poor come as they are, not dressed in Sunday best? Would they shut us down because we are open during the week and not just on Sunday?

Please pray that Al Vorhees, the code enforcement officer/building inspector, will do as God would have him do. And please pray that this issue would be put to rest, that we would not be continually having to deal with one building inspector after another.

We are trusting in Him through whom all things are possible.
Love from all of us at Full Circle,
Sherry

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