Red Cross Motto

"The Greatest Tragedy is indifference"

Our Challenge

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Great Book with a powerful message..

I recently finished a book, "Same kind of different as me."  This book was recommended to me by more than a few people and I honestly don't know what took me so long to finish it.  The message is simple but yet profound.  It is a message that is similar, if not the same that I teach to our volunteers working with the hurting...Move hearts. Change lives.  Make an impact.  Faith that Works attempts to move a person's heart toward love and caring for "the least of these," as described in Matthew 25.  The Lives that are changed is two fold-the volunteer and the person we help.  The last, make an impact is something I feel particularly passionate about.  I want to leave this life knowing I did something of worth, that I did not waste my time here thinking that I am the point.  I am not the point, Jesus is and if I could be so lucky to be used by HIM to make an Impact, I count myself blessed.

Following is a review for Same kind of Different as Me-
Ron Hall is a wealthy international art dealer who travels the world buying and selling rare and expensive works of art. He has grown rich but has also grown selfish and has grown away from his family. When Ron Hall reluctantly volunteers at a homeless shelter (at the insistence of his wife) he soon comes into contact with Denver, a man his wife is convinced is going to change the city. Denver grew up as a sharecropper in Louisiana, living a life that seemed little different from the life of his ancestors one hundreds years before. He eventually walked away from the cotton fields and found that, while life on the streets of Fort Worth was difficult, it was easier than being a sharecropper. It was here, in a homeless shelter, that the two men met, one serving food and the other being a reluctant recipient of this charity.

Today a small group of us will be in tent city, serving the homeless.  I am reminded every time that I am amongst the homeless that I don't get it.  I am so selfish, so "caught up" in me that I could easily miss what God is calling me to.  I realize more and more- I am not the point.  Helping another is not particularly honorable or amazing- it is something we as believers are Commanded to do.   When we obey this, we are changed.  God allows us to feel the pain of our lack in the face of helping another, showing us that we need just as much help as the homeless person.   If we enter outreach with this attitude of humility, asking God what he is going to reveal in our character, we may just walk away like Ron Hall in Same kind of different as me- changed.   We may just come away with a little humility and extra measure of grace.  We may just learn what love truly is and begin living our life with the realization that we are not the point and find  joy in knowing it too!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Another perspective on poverty

There is a way of thinking in the US, that if you want to be successful, all you have to do is work hard and there is opportunity available to all.  To understand poverty and homelessness, we must go a little deeper than pat ideas and look into another person’a life. 

Here is a link to scripture references on the poor and God's heart toward it-
Jesus said this-Matthew 25:35-36 "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was in prison and you came to me. I was naked and you clothed me."  Then the RIGHTEOUS will answer him, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink and when did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you...AND THE KING WILL ANSWER THEM, TRULY I SAY TO YOU, AS YOU DID IT TO ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE, MY BROTHERS, YOU DID IT FOR ME."   
I recently shared the story below with a friend...who asked me a simple question.  A question I receive quite often in relation to Faith that Works(FTW) work with the homeless- Shouldn’t we only help people that are in progress?  Not perpetuate their situation.  I first shared the scriptures above, then a ftw video, then the story below which gives a personal account of one woman we helped,  which we have  permission to share.  These are the details as I remember them...and are similiar to MANY people we help.  People do not choose to be homeless!  They may choose to stay there, but MANY struggles and heartache landed them there in the first place. 
  She was born into poverty with a drug addict abusive father,  and a mother who hated her.  This young child was then sexually abused by an uncle, and no one helped her, even though certain people knew it was happening.  This same girl ran away from the physical, mental, and sexual abuse into the arms of  man who she thought would rescue her.  She married him, only to learn that he was also an abuser.  She had no education, but went through some training to do home health care.  She came home from supporting her family every night where her husband was drunk and hit her.  She was diagnosed later as having post traumatic syndrome after ending up in the ER with severe head trauma from a beating.  Then one day she had a mental breakdown.  She tried to get help, but she was already "labeled" as a lost cause.  She ran again, leaving her children because she didn't know what else to do.  She was living in a neighborhood where her rent was cheap, but there were crack addicts in her building, and she started to use, depressed from leaving her children and all that she had suffered.   She was lonely, and afraid.  Then her landlord raised her rent from $250 per month, to $350, then up to $600.  When it grew to $600 she could no longer make the rent, and was evicted.  She moved to a hotel, where she begged her mom,dad, relatives to help her, but they laughed at her.  She could no longer pay the hotel owner and went to the streets, where she hooked up with another homeless person/ a man for protection. (many homeless women do this for safety, for they know they will fall victim to abuse and rape from men living on the streets if they are by themselves) She looked and looked for a job.  (she couldn't work as a home health care provider with her condition)No job for a person diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, so she began to lie on her app's.  and finally got a minimum wage job, which we have come to find out is impossible for people to live on.   She found tent city, and moved into a tent, telling herself that somehow she would dig her way out of this life-and that's when FTW met her.  She was our first "official" friend in tent city.  I'll never forget, the first day I met her she said, I don't belong here, I used to have a home, four kids, I gotta get out of here>and we helped her.  We didn't understand all that she had endured.  My heart broke for the little girl she once was-that was brutally let down and abused by everyone in her life that should of been there to nurture, help, and protect her.   WE CANNOT UNDERSTAND- that is the point.  We think education makes us somehow above this sort of suffering- and maybe it does, maybe we will never be alone and living in a tent- As someone told me recently, we are privileged by this definition only:  We have family support, education, good neighborhoods.   I don’t look at it as my job to determine a person’s intentions, but my goal is to follow God’s word and it’s 100’s of exhortations to help the poor/ and not only when they are in progress.

I receive inspiration from the amazing work of Amy Charmicheal, William Carey, Brother Andrew, Mary Slessor, and Mother Teresa, (and and here is a quote from her-
Written By Mother Teresa
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Glory or Shame?

Someone once said, "we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes."  Is this true?   Any of us that have lived long enough to see this quote as true can attest- we do learn great things in the face of defeat- if we choose.  That is the catch to this principal- we have to desire the lesson and not the temptation to grow bitter from it.  The NT says this about Christ-
Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross. disregarding its shame.  Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
When we face a defeat there may be a temptation to wonder and care too much, "what do others think?"-  And hold our head in shame.  I find it interesting that this verse says CHRIST disregarded the shame.  Does that mean that shame may have been a natural reaction to the seeming defeat Christ was facing- The Cross?  We know from scripture that most everyone fled, even Peter denied Him- his followers did not understand.  I can imagine them thinking and conversing with one another- "this is the one we so believed in?"  This can't be the plan- Boo- hiss, shame.  Questioning dialogue, gossip and slander against our perfect LORD- BUT, He endured the pain, disregarded the shame, for the joy awaiting him.  This is a great example for me!
- Defeat has to ultimately be blamed on someone right?  We act as if defeat is unnatural and even wrong, yet all through scripture we see a theme of trial, hardship, and defeat and how God brought joy from it.  
I believe what Paul said, "count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish it's work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
This has been true in my life.   God brings good out of everything- that is HIS nature to do so.  It is fine to mourn and grieve a loss- even a basketball game, but in the end, followers of Christ know-good comes out of everything.   It is a dangerous thing to look into another person’s life and think you know or understand why they are suffering- only God knows and only HE knows the good he intends to bring from it.  In the meantime?  We have His word to draw encouragement from.   We must disregard others opinions of the very holy work God is doing in our life and press on for the glory set before us! 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Little bit at a time..

In 2011 Faith that Works adopted a quote that came from mother Teresa, "Do small things with great faith for therein lies your strength."  It seems that after a year of writing this quote and repeating it to others, it has become an integral part of me.  It applies to all aspects of life in my opinion.    Let me expound~

Cleaning-Everyone knows that if you take the trash out of your car each time you park it at home, and wipe up the spills as they happen, your car remains pretty decent.  It is only when you put off those things that a car can get to the point of needing a two hour overhaul.  Who wants to do that?  By doing a little bit each day, you maintain a spotless car!

My son's reading-At the beginning of first grade Luke was having trouble.  His teachers insisted he  read 5 minutes per night, not two hours only on the weekends.  His teachers were right, his last progress report tells us he is an excellent reader, no longer struggling in class with this subject.  By doing a little bit each day, my son will be a poet someday, I just know it!

Exercise-A little bit everyday, this works.  It is known that 30 minutes everyday is better than that occasional 2 hour workout once per week.  So, I figure my new daily thirty minute workouts will lead me right back into those too tight clothes very soon!

This brings me to ministry..I promise, it all is coming together.    After three years of doing small things in a most consistent way, I have seen results.  Relationships are one example.  There is a certain awkwardness in beginning a relationship with a person that you may not have tons in common with.  But, I promise if you are faithful, that relationship will build and you will have a true treasure-maybe a homeless friend, a friend from a foreign land, a very young friend, or very old friend, it could be just someone from another neighborhood or someone very poor or rich.  Stick with it, be faithful, listen, do small acts of kindness, make sure you are consistent and you will be blessed by the many different kinds of friends you find yourself with.   Again-10 minutes per week is better than a full day once every 6 months.  Small things-

Because we are American-we think big.  We tend to think this way in ministry as well.  Bigger buildings, louder music, more people-this is success, God really moving.   We forget that most of Jesus' ministry happened in the midst of 12.   When Mother Teresa said, "Do small things with great faith for therin lies your strength."  I believe she is saying, don't forget the little things, don't pass over something small, because it is small.  Often times we picture this amazing event with tons of people and when 4 show up, it can be discouraging-why?  Because we weigh success by size.  Thinking big isn't sinful in itself, but missing the little is.  When we are so busy thinking of this MAJOR work we want to see God doing, but miss the hurting single mom, missing her pain, missing the opportunity to come alongside her and help her because we are so busy dreaming of the big stuff, this is wrong.   My most precious moments in ministry have been in the small stuff.  God has done big things in those small moments.  I have often heard pastors talk about when the church was small, the relationships rich, and how they miss it.  Let's not miss the small stuff today, seize the small moments and make the most of those little blessings God brings your way today.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Weekend Ramblings...

Today I sat in the back of my car with the door open as I spoke to a woman that has lived homeless for 15 months, listening as she shared some of her life with me.  She smiled and laughed, and was real and honest.  I so enjoyed her, wanting to know more of her Journey and the hurts I am sure she has experienced but I didn't want to scare her away, so I just listened and asked appropriate questions without prying.  Today she wanted to talk about her dog and the teen group that serves in her camp, helping with firewood and tarps.  As I listened, I realized again, we are all so similar.  We all want to be heard, and understood.  We communicate for that sole purpose-to explain ourselves and to be known.  A homeless person is not different from the next, wanting respect, time, and to be known and loved.

I ponder the simple word friendship today.  I was once told by a dear older woman in my life, "Terri, if you have TWO TRUE friends in your life, you are blessed."  I am thankful and blessed with wonderful friends in my life, I thank God everyday for the dear people I count as friends.  God has taught me countless lessons about friendship, one of which came through the death of my father.  My dad had a long and painful bought with cancer.  His diagnosis was bleak, and at the end, we knew he only had a few months to live.  Everyday my first waking thought was that I should go visit my dad today.  He lived 25 minutes away and with a busy life and young kids, it was difficult to get over there.  Intellectually, I knew our time was short, but in my heart I believed there would always be another day.  I am thankful I made peace with my dad, and that we did have some precious moments together before his death, but that Idea that another day would always be there, abruptly ended, sooner than I could ever believe.

The very idea that friendship should be easy and that we will have continued chances to make things right, is wrong.  God teaches us many lessons through other people, but it requires humility and sacrifice.   To LEARN means we don't know something already, if we are not humble how do we know we have something to learn.  I learned something from my fathers death- when I was faced with something so final as death, the conflicts I imagined in the relationship took a strange backseat.   What had always been the most important thing- forgiveness and reconciliation, all of a sudden became the only important thing, without excuse.  I couldn't afford pride, the cost was much too high.

Friendship requires much forgiveness, the willingness to overlook an offense, grace.  If we want a true friend we need to know them, care about their hurts, understand their failings yet still extend grace.  The following scripture from Ecclesiastes says it best-

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up." 

Notice here-"For if they fall."  And we will fall.  We will fail one another, speak harshly, act prideful, and unforgiving.  A true friend endures these things, hopes in the best in their friend, and helps his/her friend  Be better in a loving and careful way.  I must be reminded today what God's word says about friendship.  I must teach my kids how to forgive and love those in their life.  It is the greater call-the only call!  Jesus prayed this shortly before his death-

 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

I want this to be my aim.  Jesus must have made this his last prayer for believers because He knew the battle it would be!  We must never stop trying to be a better friend- there is much at stake.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Great Day!

“Be Faithful in the small things, for therein lies your strength.” ~ Mother Teresa
We want to show people their life has meaning and purpose.  Life should not be wasted in trivial pursuits, although these pursuits can bring dimension and fill the hours of the day, in the end they leave us only hungry for more.  It is only when we engage in God’s purpose that we are satisfied.

The more we help people the more I  realize that the volunteer needs just as much help.  Our mission statement, encouraging individuals to put their faith into action takes on a new life, when you show people how.  Before heading downtown today to serve in a homeless camp, I spoke to the volunteers.  I asked the team (Westminster's Varsity girls Basketball team) to leave their phones behind as well as their pre-conceived ideas and put themselves in another's shoes.  They were awesome!  They interacted, laughed, and served whole heartedly.  I realized, kids have it right.  They don't judge or try too hard to figure it out-but accept things at face value.  When we got in the car to head back to West County one of the girls, Brittany,  said, "Mrs. Stipo, that was awesome, thanks so much, I wish we would have done that earlier in the season."  I do are few photos from today-

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The greatest of these is love..

"Is life not full of opportunities for learning love?  Every man and woman every day has a thousand of them.  The world is not a playground; it is a schoolroom.  Life is not a holiday, but an education.  And the one eternal lesson for us all is how better we can love."  Henry Drummond

Opportunities for learning love?  With Valentines Day approaching this seems to be on everyones mind.  Each day I see reminders of the "day of love" approaching.  My daughter says it is the silliest holiday, only putting pressure on couples to further define relationships and break up others.  Yesterday morning,  The Today Show featured Valentines Day Lingerie, hmm..our church happens to be featuring a series on love, beginning this Sunday called LoveLies, hmm.. all this input, do any of these reflect the quote above?

I am certainly not an expert on Love.  I begin this post aware of my many failings in this area, with the awareness that much of what I learn, I learn by mistakes I have made.  When I think of Love, these are the images that flash in my mind:

Steve (my husband) skipping his workout to fix a problem with my car
This same man making the bed every morning
My daughter coming home and running into my arms after a particularly long separation
An Elderly couple holding hands
Giving those in need the things they lack-our action outreach Thursdays
My grown daughters tears when they are leaving after a visit
Emma and Luke snuggling
Katie patiently teaching me all about Pinterest and Spotify
Sadie, tirelessly cleaning
Hannah's laugh
A prayer with a friend

On and on I could go.. But there are other un-earthly images sketched in my mind-

Jesus and His sacrifice on a cross.
Missionaries around the world sacrificing EVERYTHING to take the gospel forth
God's word- the ultimate love letter

So, as Valentines Day is right around the corner I hope to reach out to those I love in tangible ways that mean something to them.  Love after all can't only be felt, it must be acted upon.   Chocolates are nice, but "showing" your love is even better.  Take the opportunity to learn love this week!

Ephesians 5:1-2
"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."