Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4
Paul’s words to the Philippians were tangible and applicable for us today!
After breakfast we headed west on to Niagara Falls and arrived at 1910 Falls St, St. George’s Cathedral. There we met Ms. Joanne Lorenzo who runs and operates the Niagara Falls Outreach Center, and her thirteen-year old son, Joey Lorenzo. Ms. Joanne’s ministry started over 20 years ago with a dozen roses. She would go out at night and pass out a single rose to known prostitutes and tell them that Jesus loved them. Little-by-little, these same women would join Joanne and church. The Lord gave her so much favor with these women, that the ministry soon became known as the Magdalene Project. To this day, Ms. Joanne faithfully continues that ministry and has adopted many more at the outreach center in Niagara.
Soon after introductions we were broken off into girls and boys and given our assignments for the morning. The girls were tasked with preparing lunches for the “Hotel Outreach” that would take place at night and they were in charge of separating and sorting candy and other treats for the kids that were going to come in the afternoon for Kidz Club. While the girls were busy doing their tasks, the boys, followed Ms. Joanne to another church where she stores donated furniture and food. The boys were assigned to load a truck with grocery bags filled with canned and dry food that would be given during the “Hotel Outreach” and they were also tasked with reorganizing the furniture in the church (it was more like a tiny warehouse than a church, there was a lot of furniture!).
After completing the tasks in the morning Ms. Joanne practiced with all of our students two different skits about how God seeks to transform our minds that the students would perform when the children came for the Kidz Club. Around 1pm, we quickly sat down to have lunch and right afterwards we walked the streets passing out flyers and candy promoting the Kidz Club. This in itself was quite an adventure, as Joey warned us that we could encounter people who could be hostile towards outsider. As we walked down the streets of some pretty run-down homes, it was encouraging to see how God was using Joey in his hometown to share the gospel by giving out candy to his peers and neighbors. He walked alongside our youth and became an adopted member for the time we were there. We praise God that our students were emboldened to go into these neighborhoods, knock on doors and speak to strangers while God protected the group.
At 2:30pm Kidz Club started and the children started trickling in. The kids could choose to play in different stations -basketball, football, jump rope, coloring, face painting, chess, etc. As soon as the kids walked in, our team greeted them with joy and excitement. The boys played games outside with most of the little boys while the girls painted the little girls nails, and also allowed the little girls to paint their nails. Kidz club was a blast! Seeing our youth engage with the kids and cater to their needs was something special to witness. Our youth were able to build friendships with the children, calling them by name, learning about their hobbies and having conversations with them.
One of the greatest blessings of the morning was encountering and meeting volunteers from the community. Mr. Belton helped teach the kids chess with great patience, while another volunteer painted the faces of the kids. Ms. Ann-Marie, was saved by God’s good and faithful love through the Magdalene Project, helped clean dishes while Ms. Kitty offered her day to help manage the kids. There was also another volunteer, Taylor, who is attending school for sociology and recommitted her life to Christ while volunteering at the Kidz Club.
Our late afternoon/night was spent doing “Hotel Outreach”. At first the name of the ministry is somewhat misleading as we all thought that we would be going to hotels, which was really not the case. Ms. Joanne explained to us that in Niagara there are no homeless shelters, so the government places homeless in low budget, or broken-down motels. We made three different stops at different motels, and in our very first stop we encounter some hostility from a woman there. She was not pleased that we were there and became agitated that we were passing out food and praying for people. Towards the end of that first stop the group gather around David, who had just been released from jail, to pray for him. When the lady saw this she became enraged and started yelling foul things and even gave credit to Satan for Ms. Joanne’s ministry and the prayers.
After going to the next couple of stops repeating the same process of passing out lunch, grocery bags filled with food, toiletries and praying for people, the leaders explained to the kids that what they did today was not in vain. We also talked about the lady that we encountered in the first stop and reiterated that the most important part is that we keep in mind that she is lost, that we are to pray for her and intercede on her behalf so that Jesus may reveal himself to her. We also talked about the reality of demonic forces and their opposition to the Gospel going out.
The day was jammed packed and full of serving, but the most rewarding piece were the people we met and the stories we heard. From volunteers, to kids in the Kidz Club, to the people we encountered in the streets or in the “Hotel Outreach” it was a joy getting to meet them, pray for them and serve them. By the end of the day I even heard some of our students say that they truly know now was being exhausted means, and is only the first day!
Please pray for us, as tomorrow will be another jammed packed day of ministry. We will be going to the Buffalo Dream Center Outreach Center to do “Project Prevention”. We will be going house to house ministering to at-risk families and refuges.