Perfect Timing

Last week, I shared with some of my friends about a donated Walk-in freezer/refrigerator valued at $70,000. Before conducting a meeting for our food pantry network, I mentioned to one of our Guest Speakers to keep his eyes open for any walk-in freezer for donation. He has been storing an unused walk-in freezer and just looking for the right recipient. It was donated to him 4 years ago but for some reasons, he cannot use it! He immediately offered it to me for donation. It was a perfect timing for me to ask the right person!

Unexpected onated shelving

Unexpected donated shelving

Last month, a church offered to donate 200+ crossbars and 100+ wire shelves for pallet shelving.  I needed a truck so I called one our partners to borrow his box truck. As I was waiting for the truck key, I shared my excitement (receiving about $8,000 worth of shelving) with one of the employees. She was happy for me and she said that her husband maybe able to help install the shelves. Perfect timing!

Today, some shelves were assembled by her husband and his employees. I shared with him that we need some professionals who would be able to help us assemble the walk-in freezer. Immediately, he said that he and his crew would be able to assemble it! Another perfect timing!

God has been setting me up

God has been setting me up

Yesterday, I stopped by a very large food pantry that I am helping to establish. I was just checking how much food they received from a food bank that we partnered with. As I was leaving, the pantry coordinator asked me if I could use a small freezer that they do not need anymore. “Sure”, I said! What a timing! (You could see the donated white upright freezer in the picture above.)

I could have not plan all the things that happened. In all the instances above, I was unassuming and not even aware that God has been setting me up! Take a look at the story below.

In Matthew 17:24-27, Peter was looking for something but he found more than what he was asking for. He saw God’s perfect timing when He obeyed Jesus. He went to the right place at the right time and caught the perfect fish that has the exact amount of money they needed! I bet Peter’s faith catapulted when He experienced all the sequence of events. He knew he was being used by God to accomplish His purpose.

That’s how I feel right now. I know that I am walking in the right direction as I see miraculous things unfold before my eyes. That is why I am more excited  walking “in the process” rather than seeing the end result. While “in the process”, I see God’s perfect timing, I experience supernatural things that I could not create and I hear the small faint voice saying, “Trust me.”

These kind of things do not happen to me all the time because of my human nature to force things and to run ahead of God. It is a tension between the natural and the supernatural, the intermingling of heaven and earth and, the interaction between a perfect God and the imperfect humans. However, in my faith walk, I become more cognizant of His Presence and His unconditional love for all humanity. Praise God for allowing me to see glimpses of His perfect timing.

God bless you!

Merlin

 

 

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An Acre of blessing

Last week, we looked at some possibilities how we can be a part of solving hunger in our neighborhoods. One of the ideas was to ask farmers to donate the use of their land to grow produce for the pantries. On my Blog last week, I also wrote the possibility of receiving corn from a farmer.

Pastor Jesus and Bryce worked hard to provide corn for those in need

Pastor Jesus and Bryce worked hard to provide corn for those in need

Last Friday, my friend Bryce, Pastor Jesus and I harvested almost 1000 ears of corn from a friend of a friend.

It was a cool day, around 68 degrees but we were all sweating. I had to take a break a few times to cool off. Suddenly, I saw a family member of the farm owner eating a raw corn!

Fresh from corn stalk, I ate a raw corn. It was the best!

Fresh from corn stalk, I ate a raw corn. It was the best!

 

Out of curiosity, I tried one for the first time in my life! It was unbelievably good!

After savoring the freshest corn I ever had, I went back to harvesting corn.  I can’t imagine harvesting corn under the sun on a 90-degree day. I come to a new appreciation of the farmers who donate not only their produce but also who work hard to harvest produce for those in need.

After harvesting, we allocated them to 3 food pantries who in turn distributed the corn to their recipients the following morning. This is one of the advantages of grass roots movement – mobilization, flexibility and community. The participants are not dependent on one organization but are involved in serving together.

The corn season is not finished yet. So, if you want to implement one of the suggested ideas to help feed the hungry, start talking to your friends to find out who has corn fields or other produce plantations. An Acre of blessing is not just a concept, it is reality!

Fresh corn for 3 food pantries.

Fresh corn for 3 food pantries.

TIP of the Week: Similar to the donor I mentioned above, there many corn growers who are not able to harvest everything and hundreds or thousands of corn ears will be left on the field to rot. This means that you will be helping the corn field owners by harvesting their crops while you are providing food for those in need. If you are non profit organization, you can issue a tax-deductible donation receipt which would help the farmer save tax money next year!

God bless you!

Merlin

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Indiana State Fair inspires possibilities

Fun, food, music and innovation

Fun, food, music and innovation

Last week, I went with my children to the Indiana State Fair. We dashed to our dinner spots – soft pretzels, curly fries, strawberry/pineapple whip, etc. It was fun walking around with them and seeing different exhibits and innovative products.

One time at the fair was not enough for me so I went again with my wife last night. This time, we took our time to read some facts and to appreciate the crafts and countless innovations.

Hoosiers are at a crossroads in alleviating hunger

Hoosiers are at a crossroads in alleviating hunger

Did you know that Indiana ranks #5 in producing corn and #4 in soy beans? Indianapolis ranks #11 in overall tech jobs gains in the past 10 years. Indiana was home of some famous people such as Pres. Benjamin Harrison, C.J. Walker and of course John Mellencamp from the Small Town of Seymour. And we all know that Indianapolis is the home of the greatest spectacle racing in the world.

Central Indiana has enough resources to feed the hungry and yet 80,000 kids go to bed hungry and elderly are starving. We can continue to take a look at other negative statistics but I would like for us to focus on the possibilities. So let’s dream together for a few minutes. Based on the information above, what are four immediate possibilities?

An Acre of blessing: Ask local farmers to dedicate the harvest of an acre of their farm to food pantries. Last year FHL asked one of its volunteers if she would dedicate an acre of her farm to plant corn for the food pantries. One of FHL’s partners owns a seed company. They provided corn seed that was planted at the Smith Farm. The result was hundreds of corn were distributed to the food pantries and families in need.

Hunters for the hungry: A few weeks ago, I had a lunch meeting with a new friend. We discussed about urban farming and providing meat for the food pantries through the hunters. I am not a hunter but I heard that the hunters are not able to store and eat all the game that they collect. I received a call from my new friend last night and he shared the possibility of receiving corn and tomatoes in the next week or so and, deer meat in the fall.

Solving hunger with the Techy: ExactTarget (ET) sponsored one of the food pantries that FHL incubated last year. ET also provided email marketing software that FHL is now using. They also sent a group of young innovative employees to FHL office to talk about the hunger issue. One of ET executives is also a board member of FHL. We are now in the process of compiling data that I gathered through dozens of interviews and visits with the food pantries in central Indiana. We will use this to help educate the residents of the possibilities of attacking the hunger problem.

Speed up Indy: Indy 500 is known as the Racing Capital of the World. Why not make Indy as the Speed Capital of the World in alleviating hunger? Indianapolis 500 can be used not only for testing speed but also for providing assistance to achieve innovative methods and technologies in addressing hunger. Do a citywide food drive and fill Indy 500 oval track with food and groceries. Why not?

As I stated earlier, my wife and I took our time to walk around the fair with keen eyes. We observed the vendors, smell all kinds of food (and some animals), watched the children and adult having fun at the rides and read some history and facts about Indiana. The rich past of Indiana and its abundant potential for the future cannot be overlooked. We can alleviate the hunger challenges of the Hoosier state if we become aware of what’s available and what we are missing. Central Indiana has enough resources to tackle the ever growing hunger problem in our neighborhoods. Wont you join us in this quest. As the Executive Director for Youth at YMCA of Greater Indianapolis said, “Let’s start here and show everybody how to do it.” Who knows this state may be known as the “Hoosiers for the Hungry.”

God bless you,

Merlin

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Pockets of a city inflamed

Is. 61:3, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Is. 61:3, “to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

It would be weird to see pockets of the city inflamed, burning and consumed by the fire… of God. The word weird may seem strange but the Dictionary defines it as “involving or suggesting the supernatural; unearthly or uncanny.” Yes, it is supernatural to see neighbors picking up trash on the streets, companies pitching in to provide hundreds of backpack full of school supplies and churches coming together setting aside their agendas and schedule to unify for a week of service. That’s what happened during FHL Week.

Unlike most outreaches that end after the “event”, FHL Week is designed to be the commencement of a year of service. Remember the Pastor who had a house fire several weeks ago? Just days after FHL Week, he received, freezer, refrigerator, dish washer, stove, iron & ironing board and vacuum cleaner. Soon, he will be receiving lawn mower, dining set, sofa, lounge chair, bed and many more!  The FHL missional food pantry network came together to support and to encourage the Pastor through tangible expression of God’s love.

So, FHL Week is just the beginning of FHL Year – a year of giving rather than receiving and a year of expecting the weird things to come because we serve an awesome God.

As we start this year, I’d like to ask you a few questions:

  • What would happen to our communities if central Indiana build pockets of city inflamed with the love of God – where His presence is welcomed by the neighborhoods and the residents become more aware that the Kingdom of God is within us?
  • Would there be less hunger, crime, addictions and brokenness?
  • Would the unemployment rate go down and would the families walk freely in the streets without concern of being robbed?
Simple but powerful way to reach, to engage and to empower local communities

Simple but powerful way to reach, to engage and to empower local communities from young to old and from different  nations and races.

I sense that as FHL continues to plant missional food pantries in central Indiana, these pockets would converge and would set the entire region inflamed with God’s consuming fire. I can only imagine the sight and the experience when that happens.

Please consider coming alongside FHL in planting and in training food pantries that are focused on people rather than food and relationships rather than transactions. There are many ways to get involved such as helping at food pantries, at the FHL office or by contributing financially to help us continue to set up food pantries and teach the existing ones in central Indiana.

God bless you!

Merlin

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FHL Week 2014 Days 6 and 7

The 10th Annual FHL Week focused on addressing hunger

The 10th Annual FHL Week focused on addressing hunger

On Friday the 25th, we had bottled water giveaway as a way to canvass neighborhoods around our food pantries and preparations for the 2 neighborhood cooks outs on the 26th.

Event focused on unity in the family by Momentum Kingdom Ministries

Event focused on unity in the family by Momentum Kingdom Ministries

Later that day, was the finale of We Are Family outreach in the Martindale neighborhoods. There were food, music, games and prizes. This annual outreach by Momentum Kingdom Ministries – one of the ministries that FHL currently incubates is a very relational. Their goal is to help families restore value within their own homes, then encourage them to invite others on their block and throughout their neighborhood to celebrate the value and love in their homes in hopes to have some positive impact on reducing the rate of violence happening in our communities.

Food, Backpacks, music, prayers and more

Food, backpacks, music, prayers and more

Day 7 of FHL Week 2014 was a time of celebration and blessings. The FHL Madison county area has been doing the “Walnut Street Rock the Park” event for several years. This event is a collaboration with churches, government, businesses and other non profit organizations. As I was pulling in to the park, I saw hundreds of people already lined up for food, drinks and backpacks for kids. The park was in the middle of a neighborhood so the streets were packed with cars on both sides.

It has been a tradition for FHL events to have a prayer team to pray as a way to share the love of God.

It has been a tradition for FHL events to have a prayer team to pray as a way to share the love of God.

It was great to see how it was organized, the sound system was excellent, there were children’s area for various games, food court and a Prayer Tent (2 individuals accepted the Lord!). At the end of the day, they gave away more than 600 backpacks and fed hundreds of people!

As a part of missional food pantry vision, neighborhood cook out is a great way to reach out to the local community.

As a part of missional food pantry vision, neighborhood cook out is a great way to reach out to the local community.

After visiting the Madison County FHL area, my wife Annie and I proceeded to Tree of Life Neighborhood Cook out at the intersection of 40th/Boulevard Place in Indy. This is a site of one of FHL missional food pantries and the newest in the FHL family. They served food in abundance (ribs, chicken, hotdogs, hamburger and rice casserole) for the local neighborhood. After the cook out, they gave away backpacks for the children. Later that day, we celebrated the FHL Week with praise/worship from 3 different groups and we ended the night with prayers inside the church.

Thank you for following the FHL Week 2014 story. I will be writing a summary of FHL Week in the next few days. God moved in mighty ways at each mission sites and He showed His Glory beyond what our physical eyes could see. Be prepared to be blessed with some more stories!

For more information about FHL Week 2014, visit FHL Fan Page and our FHL 2014 Album. If you were not able to join us during FHL Week, FHL year is just starting! Yes, so we have plenty of opportunities for you the rest of 2014! If you have any questions about organizing FHL Week in your own backyard, please contact Merlin Gonzales at merlin@fhlinternational.org or call our office at 317-578-3370.

God bless,

Merlin

 

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FHL Week 2014 Day 5

Day 5 started with helping at Second Harvest Food Bank in Muncie, IN. Thanks to FHL’s Area Coordinator, Facundo Cortez for leading this outreach.

While packing onions, we were able to get to know each other well

While packing onions, we were able to get to know each other well

We had a tour of the facility and learned more about their operations during our orientation. It was good to do something repetitious like bagging onions while having simple conversations with the volunteers. However, we were strictly  told not to rub our eyes, hmm. I got talk with a former President of a Bible College and also an officer for a Kiwanis Club in central Indiana. Two couples from Kentucky came to volunteer for FHL Week.

This food pantry serves thousands of families on a monthly basis

This food pantry serves thousands of families on a monthly basis

Later, I visited one of the food pantries where our volunteers have been serving for the past several weeks – International Gateway Community Food Pantry. This food pantry serves thousands of families a month! The operation is excellent but most of all, are the volunteers who serve unconditionally. Thank you to David Woodrupp for his heart to serve those in need. Also to Pastor Mark Brown and his team for leading this important work in the city.

The highlight of the day was at HRH where several ministries come regularly to feed the homeless (or houseless).

HRH provided the place and WAFER brought the food while FHL provided some volunteers.

HRH provided the place and WAFER brought the food while FHL provided some volunteers.

Last night, WAFER Homeless Ministry fed more than 100 people. FHL’s volunteers helped out in serving and in cleaning the dining room after supper. My friend Jonathan Wenzlaff, the Founder of WAFER invited me to speak. I shared about the difference between accepting Jesus as the Savior of your life (confessing Jesus as your Savior with your lips) and accepting Him as the Lord of your life (your life reflects who’s Lord in your life). Jonathan also asked me to lead a Prayer of Salvation for 2 men! Both he and his wife work full time and they dedicated serving the homeless every Thursday night!  Thank you also to Don Hawkins for building a Diner dedicated for the homeless feeding and to Gene Miller for his heart for the homeless. NOTE: There are still nights where food are needed at the diner. Please contact FHL to find out more how you can be a part of this amazing outreach.

Day 5 of FHL Week 2014 was a display of God’s glory -from food banks, to food pantries and to the feeding centers. We have seen the power of God invade our communities and many people are receiving Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I as wrote in the previous blog, miracles are happening everyday! You can be a miracle for someone else today.

God bless,

Merlin

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FHL Week 2014 Day 4

After working out with my son in the morning (Wednesday), we stopped by at a coffee shop to work on a video project about hunger. From the corner of my eye, I saw an old man in his late 80’s or early 90’s standing by the exit door. Both of his hands were firmly holding his walker to keep him from falling, his back was hunched; it seemed to me that he was waiting for someone to open the door to assist him out.

I stood up and asked him if I can open the door for him. He said that he was waiting for his wife and he asked me if I speak Spanish. “A little“, I said. Then he pulled out his wallet and handed me a small pamphlet.

This was given to me at a coffee shop

This was given to me at a coffee shop

The cover had a picture of a rose with the words, “You’re Special.” Immediately, I knew it was a tract to share the promises of God. “God bless you!”, I said as I extend my had to receive it. “Oh, you’re a Christian!”, he said joyfully.

As we were walking out through the door, he asked where I was born. “Philippines“, I said. Then he said “Magandang umaga” (which means Good Morning in Philippines language).  He proceeded carefully and slowly on his way out of the coffee shop. I went back to my seat while processing what just happened. I felt “special” having someone took the time to hand me meaningful message. I said to myself, “This is how someone feels when a total stranger approach you with a sincere heart (rather than just handing out a piece of paper unmindful.) The old man embodies the message.

As I sat back on my chair, I saw him talking to another man and surely enough, he handed one of the pamphlets to him. He obviously is a man with a mission – to share the Word of God in marketplaces. His message was congruent with his action.

While writing this Blog, it occurred to me that he may be a retired missionary. However, this man exemplified that we really do not retire from sharing the Word of God with others. This FHL Week is intended to open opportunities and hearts of people for a lifestyle of missions. I pray that this story would bless you as it blessed me. It’s a miracle for me; it gave me a perspective as a recipient of a Bible tract and a recipient of God’s love through a total stranger.

Who would be that person in your life today who would receive God’s unconditional love through you?

Merlin

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FHL Week 2014 Day 3

In any mission trip, there things that may occur that are not on the schedule. Backyard missions is no exception. Yesterday, we had to be flexible due to changes in volunteers and priorities.

One of the projects was to help a pastor who had a house fire a few weeks ago. As I was pulling in, I saw him, his wife and his daughter in the front porch, all of them exhausted from moving their stuff. My heart went with them when I saw their smiles as they were welcoming me. I sat with them, no words were spoken for a few moments. Then, a great news arrived that would save them a few hundred dollars a month while the house is being fixed. The pastor gave me a big hug and a kiss on my cheek! I was just going to help them move their stuff but a great news arrived unexpectedly. Praise the Lord for His provision!

This plaque was displayed at the entrance of the food pantry rooms

This plaque was displayed at the entrance of the food pantry rooms

Earlier that day, I had the opportunity to visit an established food pantry where our volunteers were helping out. The pantry director was very accommodating by showing me around and by sharing their operational procedures. I was surprised by the generous offer of the pantry leader to help out in training other leaders by sharing information and through visiting their pantry as a part of the pantry class.

Later that day, I visited one of the restaurants in Castleton. The manager knows me there since I normally go there for lunch meetings. I told him about the family outreach we have the next day (Wednesday) – Momentum Kingdom Ministries is leading the “Unity in the Family” outreach for the entire week. The restaurant manager agreed to provide a complete meal (bread sticks, salad and lasagna) for 50 people for the Wednesday night’s event!

These are just a few of the miracles along the way during FHL Week. Thank you for your prayers and support. My next Blog will be another blessing for you.

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FHL Week 2014 Celebration – A Decade of Missions

I have been writing about the simple beginning of a ministry that is impacting thousands of people since 2005. However, we will dedicate the next Blogs for FHL week. We will continue about the history of FHL afterwards.

Here’s the transcript of the message yesterday at the launching of the 10th Annual FHL Week.

with 7 churches and 200 volunteers

with 7 churches and 200 volunteers

In July 2005, the Lord birthed the 1st FHL Week with 7 churches and 200 volunteers. The following year, the Lord brought us to Conseco Fieldhouse with 1200 volunteers from 50 different churches.

FHL did a Christian concert at a secular place.

FHL did a Christian concert at a secular place.

We held our first FHL Prayer Walk at the Circle.

Joined by about 500 people

Joined by about 500 people

Since then until 2012, we start FHL Week at the Circle, with the exception of 2011, where we held the celebration at University Park. Donna led the charge in recruiting 240 Christian dancers who danced their shoes off in downtown Indy

In 2007, I had the privilege to train more than 25 pastors in Cartagena, Colombia to reach out to their communities and have their own FHL Week. There are group of churches now in Noblesville who are doing their own annual week of service.

They did their FHL Week the same year and the following year.

They did their FHL Week the same year and the following year.

Here in the US, I would normally start the preparation for the FHL Week in January, recruiting and training Christian leaders. It is hard work but I enjoyed every minute of it. It is not without challenges. Last year, the Lord spoke to us to do a 24/7 prayer-worship while doing community projects all week long. He spoke to us that He is doing a “New Thing.” Little did we know that He wanted to focus us on addressing hunger while sharing the Gospel and discipling new leaders. That’s why all of us are here to CELEBRATE what God had done in the past 9 years. We are here to rejoice and to honor God.

Number 10 is referred in the Bible as a number of completion, along with number 3 and number 12. There are 10 Commandments and a tithe is 10th of our earnings, which represents our faith in God.

It also represents human failure and God’s provision:

  • In Numbers 13:32, the 10 spies brought back evil reports about the Promised Land, they failed to see God’s provision and power.
  • In Daniel 1:20, they found Daniel to be 10 times better than the magicians and astrologers.
  • In Luke 17:12, the 10 lepers needed Jesus to heal them.

This year is different that the previous 9 FHL Week.

Missional Food Pantries in central Indiana

Missional Food Pantries in central Indiana

We are focusing on hunger this year rather than doing dozens of different projects. This year, I have seen numerous people accept the Lord not through a few leaders but through many people who are being raised up to disciple other people. Through missional food pantries, we have demystified the word missions and we are setting up “Kingdom Hubs” in central Indiana.

A “Hub” is a central part of a wheel. The dictionary defines it as a center around which other things revolve or from which they radiate; a focus of activity and authority. That’s why our food pantries are in churches, at community center and at street corners. These “Kingdom Hubs” are places where people are fed physically and spiritually. The volunteers or “Mercy Missionaries” radiate the light of Christ in their actions. The activities are not focused on just giving away food but on sharing the love of God by living out our faith. And, through the delegated authority that God had given to us, we are taking ground from the enemy and expanding the kingdom of God in central Indiana.

FHL Family Pitch-in

FHL Family Pitch-in

The 10th Annual FHL Week celebrates what God had done and what He will do in the years to come. I believe that through the missional food pantries, we can feed the hungry, share the Gospel and disciple people. We are setting up “Kingdom Hubs” in central Indiana. So, let’s celebrate God and celebrate each other. This week, let’s expect miracles because we are commissioned to do the works of God.

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A testimonial of the healing power of God

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Katrina, here we come!

At Metarie, LA

At Metarie, LA

After the first FHL Week in July 2005, I was ready to take a break and to slow down a little bit.  However, a few weeks later, the threat of a super hurricane – Katrina was all over the news. My wife, Annie was born and grew up in the suburbs of New Orleans. Needless to say, we were glued to the TV the day before Katrina devastated Louisiana and portion of Mississippi. We watched the news around the clock and saw the force of nature devastate New Orleans and Gulf Port, Ms.

Words can't define what just happened.

Words can’t define what just happened.

Suddenly, as I was watching the TV, I heard a faint voice saying, “Why are you just sitting there watching the storm?” An idea of inviting the volunteers came to mind immediately. Simultaneously, my friend Matt called and asked me if we can organize a group of people to go to New Orleans. After a few days, we were able to gather more than 50 individuals for an exploration meeting regarding a short-term mission trip to New Orleans.

We flew to Baton Rouge just a few weeks after the hurricane hit land.

We flew to Baton Rouge just a few weeks after the hurricane hit land.

The Lord got me connected with a local Pastor in Baton Rouge, LA. but I needed to go there to scope out the staging ground and to make necessary arrangements for our volunteers. One of the couples who attended the previous meeting offered their private airplane to fly me to Louisiana to check out the area. After a few days, my wife Annie and I flew to Baton Rouge with our friends Roger and Anita in their airplane. In just a few weeks, I found myself in the middle of what seemingly pre-determined sequence of events.

Self-sustained short -term missions to New Orleans

Self-sustained short -term missions to New Orleans

After a few days of visiting several places in Louisiana, we were able to network in Indianapolis to gather a semi trailer full of supplies such as water, plywood, clothes, etc. Things moved so quickly and in Sept., 2005, 22 big-hearted volunteers drove in 3 vehicles for a short-term mission trip to New Orleans.

I was blessed to be a part of such a life-changing mission.

I was blessed to be a part of such a life-changing mission.

It was quite an experience to be at ground zero within just few weeks of the calamity. I have seen so much devastation and people in desperation. This experience moved me to organize 2 more trips to New Orleans and we were able to send 2 more groups of volunteers with 2 more semi-trailers full of supplies and materials.

In early November 2005, some Pastors in Castleton/Nora area started to call me inquiring about FHL Week 2006! I thanked them for the idea but told them that I was not planning to do FHL Week every year. I was just thankful that we were able bless our communities in July, 2005. I was done. But they kept on urging me to do it again! They shared with me that their congregations were blessed by the week of missions.

My next Blog will reveal what happened afterwards.

God bless you!

Merlin

 

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It started in 2005

This was the first banner displayed at a few locations in Castleton and Nora areas in July 2005.

This was the first banner displayed at a few locations in Castleton and Nora areas in July 2005.

In the next few Blogs, I will write about the simple history of Faith Hope and Love. In November 2004, I gave my first sermon. The title (paraphrase) Serving Castleton and beyond. In February 2005, I shared this sermon with a few pastors in the area with a letter encouraging them to join together to serve our local neighborhoods. After numerous individual conversations, we had our first meeting in April 2005 to see if we are called to serve together. We met on a regular basis.

After a couple of months, 7 churches agreed to serve Castleton & Nora communities. It was a vision of providing opportunities to those who are not able to go on a short-term missions outside the country or the state. We thought that the last full week of July would be ideal to involve the entire family. We decided to call the week – Faith Hope and Love Week. We were able to recruit and mobilize 200+ individuals  who served on less than 10 projects throughout the week. We started with Prayer Walks and ended the week with a celebration.

It was a vision that became a reality in such a short period of time. We were not an official organization at that time and we funded the entire week of missions with contributions from the volunteers and my own bank account. Everyone had positive experience – doing missions work in our own neighborhoods with our families and friends. Thus, Faith Hope and Love Week was born.

Merlin

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The 10th Annual FHL Week

Hunger is spreading in our neighborhoods

Hunger is spreading in our neighborhoods. This particular food pantry serves more than 10,000 families per month!

I wrote the first draft of this Blog on Feb 13th this year but I have been waiting for the Lord to reveal what would be the focus of the next FHL Week. Many FHL volunteers and partners has been asking me about the FHL Week this year, so here it is. It’s hard to believe that FHL will be celebrating a decade of “Mission Trip in Your Own Backyard“. Who would have thought that an idea in 2005 of bringing together 7 churches in Castleton/Nora area for a week of community services will turn into what is now know as Faith Hope and Love (FHL).

Literally, FHL worked and collaborated with the 7 spheres of our society namely, religion, family, education, government, business, media and arts/entertainment. FHL mobilized thousands of volunteers on an annual basis and touched even more people throughout the years. In the fall of 2006, FHL did the first mobile food pantry. We set up pantries everywhere such as parking lots, inside a grocery store, community centers, schools and churches.

We have learned a lot and we developed the FHL food pantry incubation which include classroom teachings and field trips. In addition, FHL provides food once a month to be disributed at local neighborhoods during the 6 months incubation period. At the end of 6 months incubation, it is our goal to enable the food pantry sites to become self-sustained. This kind of training and incubation is the first of its kind in the nation.

In FHL Week 2014, FHL will be concentrating its effort in the gathering and the distribution of food. FHL would like to invite central Indiana to come up with ideas how to bring communities together in addressing the ever increasing hunger problem.

Hunger does not discriminate

Hunger does not discriminate

As I have written in the past, some of our neighborhoods are already in the crisis mode, in fact, some of the families are in constant emergency state because of lack of food on their table. We don’t need to wait for natural disasters to come to act. Many families are already in desperation for food and for relationships.

In the next few days, you will be receiving more info about the FHL Week 2014 – July 20 – 26. Our concentration for this year’s FHL Week is not how many projects and how many volunteers we can mobilize (although that’s noble) but how can we touch people we come in contact with the unconditional love of God. Our focus is not about having a big event but having relationship that will last long after FHL week. It is not about the event but about the people, both the volunteers and the recipients.

God bless you!

Merlin

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Turning your lawn into a vegetable garden

In just 4 weeks, I already harvested some sugar beans

In just 4 weeks, I already harvested some sugar beans

Four weeks ago, I shared with you how I turned part of my lawn into a vegetable plot. You maybe wondering what’s the progress. I planted different kinds of tomatoes and peppers. I also planted Okra, Sugar Beans, Eggplant, Cucumber, Zucchini and Asian cucumber.

You will notice that there are flowering plants on the border. Here’s why. Last year, my plants were eaten by rabbits. I tried many different methods and nothing worked. I heard that rabbits do not like the smell of Marigolds. I also bought a fake Raven. Viola! Although I’ve seen rabbits on my yard, I have never had any rabbit problems invading my garden so far.

photo (2)

 

On this picture, you will also notice that I built my trellis with the bamboo in my yard that I cut a few weeks ago. I used my firewood rack as the base, put 4 iron stakes to support it and criss-crossed the bamboo over it. Utilizing the firewood rack saved me storage space in my garage and provided me a good foundation for my trellis. At the end of my vegetable garden, I planted the national flower of the Philippines, Sampaguita. It is a type of Jasmine that produces very sweet smell and it also likes to climb.

I will update you of the progress in the next few weeks. Hope this simple tutorial helps inspire you to start your own little vegetable garden.

God Bless,

Merlin

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It’s happening in our own backyard

Some people line up 15+ hours before this pantry opens.

Some people line up 15+ hours before this pantry opens.

In the past several weeks, I have been interviewing people about hunger in central Indiana. I talked to Mayors, ministry leaders, food pantry directors and people on the streets. Here are some of the questions I asked:

  • We have more food pantries now than ever before yet our we have more hungry people in our neighborhoods, why?
  • What is the ripple effect of hunger in our communities?
  • Do you think the root cause of hunger is not enough food or is it the distribution, storage or awareness of what’s available?

Most of the people I interviewed said that food is not the problem. In an instant, that may sound silly, but as we look deeper into the issue, it’s not about lack of food in our city. They said that it is a combination of many things in our society and our individual lives. Some people said that we need to provide training such as life skills, job placement networking and simply, awareness of the resources around us.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit 2 of the largest food pantries in Indianapolis. The largest pantry said that they serve 3,500 families on a weekly basis. Sometimes, the line starts the night before the pantry doors open! Another pantry serves 1,000 families per week. This pantry is much smaller in physical size but they serve more people per square footage-wise. Both of these food pantries are faith-based and are administered by volunteers.

When I saw the lines of people waiting to receive their food, I can’t help but think that hunger is real in the Hoosier land. It’s hard to believe that people would line up more than 15 hours before food pantry starts! As one of the central Indiana Mayors said, “this is unacceptable” for a country like the US.

In the next few weeks, FHL will be releasing a video about hunger. In this video, you will see and hear the different perspectives and the various answers to my questions. Maybe you may want to contribute your insight by commenting on it on FHL video vault or on FHL FaceBook Fan Page.

Thank you for your prayers and support to FHL as we continue to explore the answers to the mystery of hunger in our midst.

God bless you,

Merlin Gonzales

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Facing death with unsurpassed peace

It's just about food but relationship

It’s just about food but relationship

Memorial Day is a day of remembering men and women who died while serving the US. Armed Forces. This is not to be confused with Veterans Day. It was called Decoration Day because soldiers’ graves were decorated.

There are many places that claim to be the first one to celebrate Memorial Day. After some research, here are some places to claim to first celebrate Memorial Day:

  • Warrenton, Virginia
  • Savanna, Georgia
  • Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
  • Boalsburg, Pennsylvania
  • Waterloo, New York
  • Charleston, South Carolina – During the Civil War, Union soldiers who were prisoners of war had been held at the Charleston Race course; at least 257 Union prisoners were buried in mass graves in a confederate prison camp. To honor the soldiers, former slaves dug up their bodies to give them proper burial as a gratitude for fighting for their freedom. They built an enclosure and an arch labeled “Martyrs of the Race Course”. That’s interesting because Memorial Day in Indy means Indy 500 Race, the greatest spectacle of Racing. On May 1, 1865, they held a parade of 10,000 people led by 2,800 Black children, mutual aid societies, Union troops, black ministers and white northern missionaries where they marched, sang and celebrated. From Wikipedia – “This was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina. What you have there is black Americans recently freed from slavery announcing to the world with their flowers, their feet, and their songs what the war had been about. What they basically were creating was the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.”

Now that we have a little bit of history class on Memorial Day, let’s see how this fits with the verses below.

Acts 7:54-60, 54 “When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”

Popularly known as the first Martyr, Stephen had an intimate relationship with God; he had the hope that dissolved all the fears in the world. His faith in God did not waver as he faced death. Since his death, countless Christians have died for their witness to the truth of the gospel. They set their eyes on Jesus instead of the world. They did not value the approval of men over the approval of God. They refuse to disown Jesus. They have the courage to stand up for the truth. Similar to the Union soldiers, they sacrificed their lives for freedom, freedom from slavery, and freedom from slavery of sin.

In 2005, there was a movie titled, “End of the Spear” that recounts the story of 5 American missionaries in the jungle of Ecuador in 1956. They flew a small plane is the inner jungle to reach the natives. One day, the plane crashed in the middle of deep forest. The missionaries did not die from the crash; they managed to get out of the airplane. Then the natives, the Waodani tribe came. Mincayani, one of the tribesmen, killed the missionaries. However, some of the families of the murdered martyrs stayed in Ecuador. The same tribe who murdered the men eventually converted to Christianity through the persistence of the next generation missionaries. It was a story of the love of God even for just one person.

God bless you!

Merlin

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Vegetable Gardening Process

In this issue, I would like to share with you my experience in turning part of my yard into a vegetable garden. This is my first time starting my own vegetable garden. In the past years, I’ve been planting flowering plants but I thought of starting this project this year.

Scraping sod is simple and a good arms exercise

Scraping sod is simple and a good arms exercise

Mow your lawn as short as possible before digging out your sod. The process is easier if you do it after a good soaking rain or after you water the area well. Use a flat-end shovel to cut through the sod, one small portion at a time. You can use the sod to fill areas in your yard or give them to your neighbors, they’ll thank you for it.

Using shovel, aerate the soil.

Using shovel, aerate the soil

 

Your next step is to cultivate the ground. I found it easier to let the ground dry a little bit to avoid too much mud while digging manually. Break up the ground then add garden soil on top of it. Use iron rake to mix the soil well. After cultivating it, let it sit for a few days to settle the ground. If you are doing it manually, this would be a great time to rest your back.

After letting your ground settle, planting your vegetable seedlings is next

After letting your ground settle, planting your vegetable seedlings is next

 

I planted Tomatoes, Peppers, Okras, Eggplants, Beans and Cucumbers. I also planted Marigolds along the side to keep rabbits off. Make sure you plant your vegetables first before putting your borders. I also invested $8 for fake Falcon to scare the rodents away. I am using my firewood rack to build a trellis in the middle. This past winter was so cold that it killed my bamboo trees, however, I am using them to fortify my trellis and for future stakes.

 

Big pots are good for vegetable gardening

Big pots are good for vegetable gardening

I used to have ornamental bananas and other tropical plants and I collected a few large pots. This year, I decided to use them for raised gardens. Less than three weeks ago, I planted Bokchoy, Red Radish, lettuce and celery in those pots. This morning I was blessed to harvest a few leaves of Bokchoy. I used a pair of kitchen shears to cut some mature leaves and to make room for the celery in the middle of the pot.

 

So much fund when you see you hard work pays off

It’s fun seeing your hard work pays off

I was also blessed to harvest some radish this morning. I used my old rectangular planters which ware deep enough to grow Red radishes, Spinach and Onion.

Hope this article encourages you to start your own vegetable gardens. It is fun to do vegetable gardening; start small and learn from it. Zechariah 4:10, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin,…

Vegetable gardening is good exercise and it’s good for your soul.

God bless,

Merlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Cupboard of Lawrence Township

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Mayor Brainard on Hunger

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Interview with the Mayor of Westfield

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