Doing ministry can be a distraction

Mark 7:8-9; 13, You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!…  13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” – NIV

Breaking the Mold

The verses above were intended for the religious leaders regarding their ceremonial washings; this had become a tradition but lost the context of its existence. Over the generations it deviated from its original intention. Jesus exposed the man-made custom, which had become a burden for people and, even worse, a tradition they upheld over God’s Word. Whatever we put before God is an idol.

Many of us have been through the same thing in our personal lives – following the tradition without questioning its validity and as Jesus mentioned above, “we do many things like that.” Some ministries, including some food pantries and soup kitchens, have slowly deviated from their original plan of ministering to the clients to just feeding and handing out food to the poor – “doing” ministry has distracted them from their relationship with God and with others. They do the tasks (tradition) that have been handed down to them from former leaders.

Jesus broke the mold of the erroneous beliefs of the past generations and He is still doing it in our present time.

The Pressure

Recently, I had been putting too much pressure on myself to be a model leader and for FHL to be a model organization. I worked long hours in serving, planning and strategizing (After all, I was doing good things for others!). The self-inflicted pressure caught up with me. I felt rushed most of the time, which prevented me from enjoying the process. After several weeks of prayers, I sensed God telling me that He loves me, not because of what I do for Him but because of His unconditional love. He wants my relationship with Him to grow deeper while “doing” ministry.

If my focus is on the task, then I lose my joy and then also my strength – “for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). If my focus is God, then I continue to grow my relationship with Him and I experience the joy of the Lord. The former not only brings loss of strength, but I worry, become anxious and lose sleep at night. Ironically, the ministry that I love becomes a pressure that causes me to lose the joy in the Lord.

The Reminder

fullsizerender-3We have a saying at Faith Hope and Love, “It’s not about food; it’s about relationship” (with God and with others). Food ministry is our gateway to reach out to others, to our leaders, our volunteers and our clients. We do ministry from our relationship with God, and in that we do not become weary doing the tasks of the ministry. We become more productive by resetting the oar of our focus and thus propelling us to grow deeper with God.

{The image to the left is a simple illustration of the “Missional” food ministry that we have been working on in the past several years.}

Posted in FHL Food Pantry | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

…the deeper role of food pantries and soup kitchens

thank-you-for-supporting-shorten-the-line-300dpi

The different sectors of our society have been talking about ways to shorten the line at charitable organizations including food pantries and soup kitchens. At political campaigns we hear about the importance of building community and engaging the neighborhoods to solve the ever growing lines of people in need of food assistance…to uncover the deeper role of food pantries and soup kitchens.

This is at the heart of FHL’s mission – in the process of providing food is to find other ways to assist those in need.

  • The creation of the monthly Table Talk provides a platform where food pantry and soup kitchen leaders can discuss issues and to collaborate to tackle hunger together as a community.
  • The opening of the FHL Training Food Pantry in August provides not only food for the neighborhoods but also on-the-job training for the volunteers in different pantries and kitchens.
  • The FHL warehouse in the East side of Indy is now regularly serving 8+ food pantries to help in food supplies, transportation and temporary storage.
  • The manual for the  Food Pantry Incubation classes is being updated on a regular basis to ensure that volunteers are receiving cutting edge training and equipping to serve those in need beyond food give aways.

Your prayers and support is helping us to serve the neighborhoods through community building and engagement, research and development, training, warehousing, transportation and administration. Through our various partners, FHL will be distributing this year an estimated $1M worth of groceries to different food pantries not including the intangibles such as training, incubating and warehousing/transportation administration.

Once again, thank you for your continued prayers and support.

The FHL Team

 

Posted in FHL Food Pantry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Missions is not an event

FullSizeRender_1

I can’t wait for next year!“, exclaimed one of the FHL Week volunteers.

I remember in the end of summer 2006 (10 years ago), several people told me that they had such great experience during FHL Week and they couldn’t wait for the following year. These conversations stuck in my mind!

One day the Lord put it on my heart to provide food for those in need. Soon, I found myself organizing mobile food pantries at parking lots, schools, churches and other community organizations. After a few years, this outreach evolved to become the main focus of FHL – it was birthed out of the mission week.

History repeats itself.  After the 2016 FHL Week, many volunteers are taking initiatives to serve continuously. For example, the same soup kitchen clients who cooked for the volunteers at 25th St. Baptist are now planning to do the same in September at Barnes UMC. Today, August 25, several people are coming together at Northwood Christian Church located at 4550 N. College Ave. at 4pm to share stories that happened during last month’s mission week.

FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender_1.jpgYesterday, a volunteer and I stopped by a local breakfast restaurant after picking up more than $1,400 worth of produce. As we were about to eat, it seemed like God said to give fruits to the customers. In obedience, I handed fruits to a woman waiting for her food. I asked her if she has any prayer request. She shared with me that she needs wisdom for the next stage of her life. After giving produce to 3 more customers, we handed some to the employees and prayed for one of them. This employee has been anxious about their safety in the neighborhood. We prayed for their protections and that God would change the hearts of the people.

The story above is an example that God provides us opportunity to serve our neighborhoods. I think God is saying to us just to keep our eyes and hearts open and just “do it!”

Outreach is not just something to check on your To Do List. It’s not something you have to do but something you do out of love and compassion for others. What does it mean to you to love others without restrictions or any preconceived plan to change them…just to bring the absolute love of God? – not loving with a purpose but loving unconditionally.

Missions are not something that you schedule for a week (although that’s needed) and then go back to “regular programming”; it becomes part of your regular mode of living. So if “you can’t wait for next year“, you can start right now right where you are because missions is not an event, it’s a lifestyle.

God bless you,

Merlin

Posted in Backyard Missions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Missional Lifestyle – The Why Of FHL Week 2016

Meaningful and sustainable outreaches

The second half of FHL Week was full of surprises and purposeful activities!

FeedMySheep640

Day 4

My day started with feeding my neighbor’s cats and the fish (I guess this is my personal FHL outreach project). As I went inside their house, I felt honored that my neighbors would entrust me their security code and their entire house.

Afterwards, I visited the food drive at the College Avenue Library. I saw some donated items in the box by the entrance and I had an encouraging conversation with the branch manager. I also had the privilege to visit Paw’s Pantry, a food pantry inside IUPUI and delivered a winning check to them for their FHL Week Challenge entry – Paw’s Plush which is to increase awareness of other available resources within the campus. My day ended with a mid-week worship led by IHOPE and hosted by Midtown Vineyard. It was a perfect timing to slow down a little and to reflect what God has been doing in the past few days. All the attendees were refreshed and many of us received encouraging words and prayers from one another.

Day 5

The traffic was a little heavy this morning. While waiting on the traffic, I saw a person at a street corner asking for money.  I spoke with him briefly and gave him a 6-pack of bottled drink (I guess this is another of my personal FHL outreach project). It has been my habit to bring cold drinks with me to be prepared for opportunities like this one.

My first stop was at Hawthorne Place Apartment where one of our pantries are located at. They were going to do a Ribbon Cutting that morning to celebrate their new donated space to operate their pantry. They were one of the winners of the Challenge. I was very encourage to see that the FHL Challenge has been growing and multiplying. Meanwhile, the Mountain Bike children’s outreach was progressing very well. Many children were getting comfortable with the trail and the obstacle course.

After lunch, many children congregated at the lower level of FHL offices to receive instructions for the “Finding the Beauty” project. The children were to take Polaroid pictures of nature around them. It was a blessing to witness their expression as they take pictures of trees, flowers, grass, human beings, etc. The pictures that were taken were absolutely beautiful; some were stunning! While this outreach was happening, I had the opportunity to visit the renovation of the FHL Training Pantry. The volunteers were in the process of reinforcing the shelves and painting the walls.

Late in the afternoon, I visited the “reversed” soup kitchen. A few weeks ago, I challenged the soup kitchen clients to consider cooking and serving the volunteers instead. That night, I saw the vision become a reality – the clients were very happy that they were given the opportunity to serve those who have been serving them week after week. Some of them were already thinking of serving the volunteers of another soup kitchen.

My last stop was at the Four Neighborhood Peace Walk. I was so encouraged to see the collaboration of MKNA, BTNA, CHNA and UNWA neighborhoods. I had the privilege to walk with them and to see the neighborhoods up close and personal.

Day 6

The FHL Training Pantry renovation, Summer Feeding Program, food drive and many more outreaches continue. Through my previous relationship with a Pastor, a group of volunteers from Kansas City helped Barnes UMC clean their kitchen. Later in the day, we had 20 volunteers who helped a local day care clean the inside and the outside of their facility. This group was the same group who delivered groceries from a single person who is in need earlier that day.

The last outreach that I visited was the neighborhood Cook out at Lily of the Valleys church (Lirio de los valles). This outreach was one the FHL Challenge winners. The neighborhood was very open to connect with the church and were very thankful for the outreach. On my way home, I saw a person on a street corner asking for money. I gave him some cold drinks (I guess this is my personal FHL outreach project) and directed him to go to the church for a free dinner. He was thankful for the drinks and for the info about the cook out. On my way back home, I saw a large, vivid and complete rainbow. It reminded me that God’s promises are answered by “Yes” and “Amen” – 2 Cor. 1:20, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

Day 7

When you’re having fun, days just fly by. First thing in the morning I met with the youth group from Bloomington, In. at the FHL warehouse. They cleaned and helped organized the warehouse. Yes, our warehouse needs good cleaning and organizing on a regular basis. After lunch, we all proceeded to the FHL office to clean the surrounding of the building and to install a concrete bench located by the FHL garden. The FHL Training Pantry remodel was completed and the youth helped in cleaning and organizing the pantry.

Before the end of the day, I was able to visit the VBS project in an apartment complex. More than 70 children received backpacks full of school supplies and 18 souls (15 children and 3 parents) received Jesus as their Lord and Savior! What a way to end the FHL Week!

Outflow of our Lifestyle

The 12th Annual FHL Week have reminded us once again that missions are not events, they are outflow of our lifestyle. This is “WHY” we do the FHL Week once a year – to remind us that although projects and services are accomplished during the week, the main object is to pave the way to create missional communities expressed in many different ways. It could be as simple as feeding your neighbor’s cats and fish and carrying cold bottled drink with you everyday with the intention of giving it away to those in need.

I heard that many of the outreaches will continue after this week such as food drives, neighborhood cook out, mountain bike outreach and praying for people at food pantries. This is one of the reasons that we come together for a week of service, to raise the awareness that mission field is the space between your feet.

Missional lifestyle look to others first such as the “reversed” soup kitchen where the soup kitchen clients cooked and served the volunteers to honor and to show appreciation. Missional lifestyle does not need to big or heavily planned. It could be as common as food drive to help a local food pantry. Jesus is our model. He gave and loved unconditionally. He reached out to others with food and He reminded us to give cold water to the thirsty. He stops or postpone His appointment to reach out to a demoniac. He modeled a life that is dependent on God. Mission is part of His life.

FHL Week 2016 was an outflow of our missional lifestyle, to follow God’s Greatest Commandment – “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” – Matthew 22:36-39

FHL on site training of Feed My Sheep Food Pantry.

God bless you!

Merlin

Posted in 2016, FHL Week | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

FHL Week 2016: A different soup kitchen

Posted in 2016, FHL Week | Tagged | Leave a comment

FHL Week 2016: Hope Indianapolis Food Pantry

Posted in 2016, FHL Week | Tagged | Leave a comment

FHL Week 2016: Find the Beauty

Posted in FHL Food Pantry | Tagged | Leave a comment

FHL Week 2016: Onsite Interviews with Daytime Outreaches

Posted in 2016, FHL Week | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FHL Week 2016: Ribbon Cutting

Posted in 2016, FHL Week | Tagged | Leave a comment

FHL Week 2016 A Review So Far

banner1343461BluTintNL

Renewing our neighborhoods start with getting to know each other.

That’s what the 4 continuous neighborhood in Marion County (MKNA, BTNA, CHNA and UNWA) has been doing since March. The culmination is the 2016 FHL Week.

In spite of the fact that during FHL Week dozens of projects and events happen, the main focus is relationship – with God and with others. By applying the Great Commandment in practical ways is where rubber meets the road. Building relationships with the neighborhoods and their residents lead to better communities to better cities.

DAY 1

FHL Week officially started on Sunday, July 24th with the Annual Prayer Celebration. It was held at Midtown Vineyard Church and was joined by neighborhoods and other community members. Included in the celebration are worship, corporate prayer, a time of encouragement and relationship building by praying for one another. It was an awesome time when the 7 leaders and pastors prayed for the different sectors of our society.

DAY 2

The following day, I had the opportunity to visit 2 outreaches: Summer feeding program and bottled drinks giveaway that led several people to praying for anyone they come in contact with at the 38th/Illinois streets. At least 5 people accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior! Hawthorne Place Apt. (one of the sites of FHL-incubated pantries) started to move their pantry site to a larger donated space and Latino church started to invite their neighbors for a neighborhood cook out.

Day 3

On Tuesday, July 26th, the remodeling of the FHL Training Food Pantry started with the help of Second Presbyterian folks and SAWS Ministry. While the summer feeding program was happening, a project by MKNA with the help of IMPD – Kid’s Mountain Bike training was happening. Here’s a short video of the outreach:

Later in the evening, we had a ministry team who helped at a local food pantry by bagging food, carrying bags for the clients and by praying for the clients and the volunteers.

It has been a very busy week of relationship-building through projects and services.  I got to know more people on the streets, the public leaders and clergy, Police officers, community organizations and businesses. We have planted more seeds of caring in the community and we pray that they will grow fruits that will lead to neighborhood renewal.

It’s not too late to get involved. Here’s the week’ Schedule and other helpful links

God bless,

Merlin Gonzales

 

Posted in 2016, FHL Week | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FHL Week – a Mission Trip in your Own Backyard

2016 is The Year of Love!

Since 2005, every other year we celebrate one of the words of “Faith Hope and Love” – the year of Faith, the year of Hope and the year of Love. So for the 12th year of the Annual celebration of backyard mission, we are celebrating Love. As stated in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Although we planned and worked hard to put together projects and outreaches, they were already in God’s plan – even before we were born.

Projects that are Love-directed

In the final weeks of this year’s FHL Week preparation, we found that the projects are in line with bringing the love of God to the neighborhoods. For example:

The $50 Challenge

This idea was inspired by a documentary about 2 young American men who went to Guatemala. They wanted to experience living there for several weeks on a dollar a day – the standard cost of living in a rural village. As soon as they got there, they tried to connect with the locals to learn from them how to live on just a dollar a day. They immediately planted vegetables, learned the way of living and ways to stretch every penny. After several days, they got sick and after several weeks, they lost a lot of weight. In the end, they appreciated what they have in the US but most especially, they experienced what it felt to live like many people around the world (and thousands of people in the US) with very little money or resources.

I thought why not offer a seed money of $50 to the best 5 projects that can multiply it and engage the local community to serve. The main aim is to encourage the groups to be resourceful and engage and involve the local community in solving the hunger issues in our city.

Happy Birthday to everyone!

Happy Birthday to everyone!

Our first entry happened today. The leader of the feeding ministry of Barnes UMC celebrated her birthday by celebrating every clients’ birthday today, no matter when their birthday may be. She decorated the dining room with balloons and special table cloth. Many volunteers provided delicious food, keepsake and a large birthday cake for everyone!

Another Challenge project is also very creative. A soup kitchen clients will be cooking for the volunteers on July 28th. This means that clients will be going around the community to find donations to cook a delicious meal for the volunteers. They are planning to make it really special to show their appreciation to the volunteers!

For more info about the $50 Challenge or to help sponsor this event go to  http://www.fhlinternational.info/2016/06/join-fhl-week-sponsorshop-challenge/

A 4-neighborhood outreaches

A vision to help one another extended to neighborhood associations helping other neighborhood associations. Some of the projects and outreaches are: Indianapolis Police Kids’ Bike outreach, Kitchen repair for a Fire Station, Food Drive, food pantry clean ups and upgrade, various children outreaches, neighborhood public prayers and other creative ways to reach out in their own backyards.

Many of this year’s projects are propelled by love. God has already established and decreed these things to transpire.

Some special things happen during FHL Week. I know God is pleased to see unity through the practical application of the Kingdom. I may be looking too deep into the occasion. Perhaps throughout the years, it became part of me – a backyard mission to serve one another unconditionally, not an event but a lifestyle of Love just as our Lord had shown us some 2000 years ago.

For a complete list of projects and outreaches for the 2016 FHL Week (July 24-30), go to http://www.fhlinternational.info/

God bless you!

Merlin

Posted in FHL Food Pantry, FHL Week | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A weekend of blessings

 

IMG_0803.JPGBlessings while serving

Early last Saturday morning, I met with 7 volunteers from College Park Church to organize and clean our warehouse. They were blessed to hear how FHL got started with a simple outreach to create opportunities for churches while serving the local neighborhoods. This simple but powerful idea was the humble start of Faith Hope and Love Community. They loved the idea of redefining the role of food pantries beyond a food distribution point; to turn food pantries to neighborhood hubs full of the love of God.

After 2 productive hours, we accomplished our tasks. I was glad that all the bottled water were put in cases/boxes. What a blessing! The warehouse was swept and the a couple of shelves were rearranged. We prayed together and, blessed one another.

God meets people where they are at

All kinds of blessings

Later, I had a very satisfying lunch at my favorite fried chicken place – Popeye’s Chicken. Then, I headed to my next stop, the Pantry of Hope in Beech Grove, In. FHL started this pantry inside the Keenan-Stahl Boys & Girls Club in 2010.

FullSizeRender_1

“Pantry of Hope Opens Today”

Suddenly, I remembered when we had our first planning meeting with the leaders of this particular B&G Club. We invited the members of the community – the churches, businesses and the government to share with them the proposed launching of Pantry of Hope. After a series of meetings, we officially launched the “Pantry of Hope” in February 2010.

 

FullSizeRender_2

Plenty of blessings!

I have not visited this pantry in the past 6 months. As I drive in the parking lot, I saw 2 girls holding a “Pantry of Hope Opens Today” sign in front of the building. Outside the door, there were already several people waiting in line. Inside, I was introduced to the new pantry leader. She has been a volunteer since the inception of the pantry and now stepped up to her new role. I was blessed to see part of the vision become a reality – to raise and train new generations of leaders.

After a group prayer, we started the food line. God has sent me there on time. I found out that the prayer team was not there this particular week. So, I positioned myself at the end of the food line and offered prayers to everyone. I always get blessed praying for people!

Grace from God

Almost everyone were very happy to pray with me. A middle-aged woman asked to pray for her mother; she has cancer. One person asked that she get things in order in her life since she got lucky to start with a new job. I told her that it is not luck but the grace of God. I prayed that she receive more revelation from God and be more disciplined in her life.

Another person that I pray for were a mother and a daughter; both of them have their own family but both of them need the assistance of food pantry. I blessed them and asked God for more of His grace for them. Both of them knew the Lord.

A 3-generation family really touched my heart when I asked if I can pray for them. The grandfather asked for health for the entire family. The daughter asked for strength. Then I looked at the teenage grandson; immediately, he asked to pray for his father. Without saying another word, I knew that his father left them. After praying for them, I sensed that the boy needed a fatherly hug. I hugged him tightly. Tears started to flow in his mother’s cheek. As they left, his mother came back to me, gave me a hug and thanked me.

Another person asked that God would give her family grace. They had a death in the family, they have been going through many sickness and financial difficulties. She had strong faith in God but needed encouraging words and some prayers.

IMG_0828

A sobering note but a blessing to know the faith of a mother!

As we were finishing the pantry, a young volunteer handed me a note from a client that just left. “Please pray for my son. I am believing God for an early release release for him. He is locked up, his name is …” the note says. As you read or listen to this message, please pray with me for an early release of her son. God’s grace is sufficient.

Once again, I was reminded WHY do what we do – a missional food pantry that ministers to the entire person. We have heard this phrase many times – God meets people where they are at. In a food pantry, people of different situations come – young, old, white, blacks, healthy, unhealthy, homeless and former well-to-do person… They come in raggedy clothes and in nice outfits. Some are clean cut while others are not. Food pantry is full of people just waiting to meet Jesus – whether they knew Him already or not.

Deeper Role

We need to find the deeper role of food pantries in a neighborhood. Still, many food pantries are spending most of their time in food rather than people. These places should go beyond food distribution but should be neighborhood hubs when the community come together. We cannot be expert in everything, but we can help connect people with the abundant resources around us. Tremendous opportunities are just waiting for us at any food pantries and soup kitchens; we just need to focus our attention on people.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” – Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

God bless you!

Merlin

 

 

 

 

Posted in FHL Food Pantry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Connecting the dots

According to Indy Hunger Network (IHN), only 2% of food distributed to those in need in metropolitan Indianapolis come from food pantries.

An FHL-incubated food pantry is still serving a neighborhood in Indy

An FHL-incubated food pantry that was launched in 2010 is still serving the Beech Grove and surround neighborhoods.

So where are the other 98% come from? Based on the 2013 IHN report:

  • 74% SNAP or Food Stamp
  • 11% School meals
  • 5% WIC
  • 4% Gleaners food bank
  • 2% Midwest food bank
  • 1% USDA commodities (Gleaners)
  • 1% Second Helpings, CICOA, MOA, St. Vincent de Paul pantry

This means that we have tremendous opportunity to increase the food supply and to increase the effectiveness of our food pantries. Based on our experience, many food pantries are looking for ways to help those in need more than just providing food. However, a collaborative approach is needed to reveal various ways to tackle hunger together.

FHL approach to hunger is relational and collaborative. This means that through relationships, we can connect the food pantry recipients (clients) with available community resources such as education, job training and employment, parenting, healthy living, etc.

By exploring the deeper role of food pantry in our neighborhoods, we can uncover ways to provide for those in need beyond food. This is why our monthly Table Talk (collaborative gathering of food pantries/kitchens) that happens every 2nd Thursday of the month is very beneficial not only to the local food pantries but to the entire neighborhoods. At the Table Talk, we discuss other ways how a food pantry could become “neighborhood hub” that engages the entire community to provide long-term solution to hunger.

God bless,

Merlin

 

Posted in FHL Food Pantry | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How practical is the Kingdom of God today?

March madness

The last few weeks were full of excitement!

After a wonderful FHL Board retreat, I was invited as the Keynote Speaker for the Meridian–Kessler Neighborhood Annual Clergy and Service Organizations Breakfast. The topic was “The power and value of Engagement” which has been the focus of Faith Hope and Love Community since its inception in 2005. Three weeks later, several attendees gathered to start planning some neighborhood outreaches including helping the neighborhood food pantries.

FullSizeRender (8)

The “Table Talk” is starting to see positive results in connecting the food pantries in 46208 area and the surrounding neighborhoods. This monthly gathering happens every 2nd Thursday from noon to 1:30p at the FHL offices; please come and visit us.

FullSizeRender 2A few articles in the same area were written about FHL’s vision of redefining food pantries. On April 1st, several people did a prayer walk around Tarkington Park and the MLK Community Center building to intercede for the neighborhood. The FHL warehouse at 3131 N. Franklin Road is continuing its steady improvement to accommodate the current needs.

Simple things done with great love

One night, my wife and I were watching one the episodes of the Lord of the Ring – “An Unexpected Journey.” In one of the scenes Gandalf said, “I have found that it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay, simple acts of kindness and love.”

It is through your continued prayers and support that FHL is able to do the small things well. These simple things done with great love could change the world…in our neighborhoods. We realize that it is not so much about completing tasks but how much love is put in the tasks. Similarly, it is not only feeding the hungry but who we can be for each other.

I believe this is the practical application of the Kingdom of God in our neighborhoods today. No matter what we do, we do it out of love. As Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:3, “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing”.

God bless you,

Merlin

Posted in Connecting Communities, FHL Food Pantry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beyond food

Yes!! We are now settled in our new location at 40 W. 40th St., Indianapolis, In. 46208.

Thank you for your prayers. You may recall about the Table Talk that we launched last October to encourage the collaboration and unity of the food pantries in the 46208 area – we just had our 6th monthly meeting last week! We continue to get to know each other and share some challenges and ideas at our meeting.

FullSizeRender (6)

Table Talk #6 discussion 3/10/16

The image to the left was the actual notes during our last Table Talk. We have uncovered some of the deeper topics relating to the stages of life of the food pantry recipients.
We also discussed some possible ways to assist them beyond a bag of grocery such as learning to listen more, to encourage one another, to be real and to share our own story as well.
At the end of our meeting, relationship with God and with others was the top answer – not only to fighting hunger but in any aspect of our lives.
The real question is not “what we offer others but who we can be for each other?”

It’s like planting little seeds in fertile soil and see it grow and bear fruits.
How different our world would be where every little act of kindness multiplied in people’s lives could affect the future generations and the course of history in our community.

Imagine that your smiles and handshakes are only the early signs of community of love and peace. They become ripple effect to a wider circle – just as a little pebble thrown into a body of water. 
 
Could these acts of kindness affect the way our clients see life? Could there be less depressed, resentful, hateful and disengaged people in our neighborhood. Would it affect the crime rate, the abuses, number of suicides. Would it bring unity instead of division, peace instead of violence, a sense of belongingness instead of rejection, hope instead of desperation, zest instead of emptiness and progress instead of deterioration of our neighborhoods?”

We have the unique opportunity to impact someone’s life not only with a bag of food but faith hope and love. The effect to some people that we serve may see their life not as a hopeless grind but an exciting journey that would inspire others. 
I hope this gives you an insider’s perspective about the things that God is doing through the ministry of Faith Hope and Love. Once again, I thank God for your prayers and generous contribution. Through your partnership, we are able to continue to forge our relationships with our fellow servants in the mission field.
God bless you!
Merlin
Posted in FHL Food Pantry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Changing the culture by influencing the atmosphere

Tropical atmosphere in the middle of winter

In mid January, my wife and I had the privilege to stay at Opryland Hotel. It is the largest non-gambling hotel complex and convention resort in the US.

Tropical climate during winter months

Tropical climate during winter months

It has a magnificent glass atrium covering a ¼ mile river, waterfalls and thousands of tropical plants and trees. Matured papaya and banana trees were bearing fruits! It was because of the tropical atmosphere inside the complex that caused the trees and the plants to grow healthy and to survive all yearlong. The design of the complex, the glass roof, the soil composition and the irrigation system allowed the gardeners to produce an exceptional tropical haven even when the outside temperature is freezing. It was a different reality inside the complex.

Similar to Opryland complex where the tropical plants could live in the middle of freezing environment, Faith Hope and Love Community, Inc. (FHL) believes that we can create a holistic atmosphere in our approach to alleviating hunger in our neighborhoods.

By taking the time to serve each recipient, we get to know each other

By taking the time to serve each recipient, we get to know each other

Neighborhood food pantries and soup kitchens have the unique role in our neighborhoods not only to provide food but also to identify other needs in the community and by connecting the needs with the available resources. FHL aims to be a catalyst for change by engaging in relationships with food insecure neighbors on their path to self-sufficiency.

At "Missional" food pantries, it's about relationship (with God and with others).

At “missional” food pantries, it’s about relationship (with God and with others).

Our hope is to help bring change in the lives of those who are physically and spiritually hungry through “missional” food pantries – pantries rooted in relationship with God and with others.

FHL envision connecting fragmented neighborhood efforts to leverage economies of scale and put more residents on the path to self-sufficiency. How do we do this?

Table Talk

The first Table Talk

The first Table Talk – Relationship building

Table Talk is a monthly collaboration with the food pantry and soup kitchen leaders in 46208 and the surrounding neighborhoods. During the gatherings every 2nd Thursday at noon at the FHL office, we share best practices and we encourage one another. Collaboration brings unity and empowerment.

Sharing of ideas strengthens our each of us.

4th Table Talk – Sharing of ideas

Our last Table Talk (#4) 8 pantry leaders shared their thoughts on volunteers, food supply and their core values. Some shared their challenges while others offered possible solutions. Several community resource partners also joined us to uncover the neighborhood needs and to find out how they could assist in serving.

Wraparound Services

Pantries and soup kitchens are in position to helping people beyond food. With the scale created through the FHL collaborative, all of the neighborhood pantries could benefit from a shared service model.

There would be an opportunity to partner on a community advocate model, mobile pantries, and other projects providing to reduce clients need for emergency food.

We moved our administration office right in the heart of our mission field – 40 West 40th St. to be more available to the community.

Redefining Food Pantry

We could affect our environment through our approach to life by changing our perspectives and attitudes. This could change the physical and spiritual climate of our neighborhoods.

Giving thanks to God and encouraging one another

Giving thanks to God and encouraging one another

We believe that relationship with God and with others are they keys in neighborhood transformation. Through our partners, FHL assist the pantries and soup kitchens to provide beyond food and affect the culture of our neighborhoods for a better tomorrow. Perhaps, you could bring something to the table that could help revolutionize our approach to alleviating hunger in our midst.

 

Please contact Merlin Gonzales, President/CEO of Faith Hope and Love Community, Inc. 317-572-5793 or merlin@fhlinternational.org

Posted in FHL Food Pantry | Leave a comment

Heaven on earth, is it possible?

Plenty of food and long spoons

Super long spoon

Super long spoon

One day a man said to God, “God, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.”

God showed the man two doors. Inside the first one, in the middle of the room, was a large round table with a large pot of stew. It smelled delicious and made the man’s mouth water, but the people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.

The man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. God said, “You have seen Hell.”

Behind the second door, the room appeared exactly the same. There was the large round table with the large pot of wonderful stew that made the man’s mouth water. The people had the same long-handled spoons, but they were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.

The man said, “I don’t understand.”

God smiled. It is simple, he said, Love only requires one skill. These people learned early on to share and feed one another. While the greedy only think of themselves… [Author unknown]

The role of FHL

Collaboration brings unity and empowerment

Collaboration brings unity and empowerment

The allegory is about hunger and sharing in the ancient days. Unfortunately, this is still true in our days. Thousands of children are going to bed hungry and the elderly are starving. We still have to learn how we can collaborate, assist and help each other.

Faith Hope Love aims to be a catalyst for change by engaging in relationships with food insecure neighbors on their path to self-sufficiency. In order for us to be more effective in what we do, we have focused our geographic area in the surrounding neighborhoods of 46208 – one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Indy. We are actually moving our office at MLK Community Center located at 40 W. 40th St Indianapolis, IN 46208. Someone said, light shines brighter in dark places. This is the main reason why we are moving our office to come alongside the community on their progress toward revitalization.

Bringing heaven on earth

We can see in the allegory that we can change our environment through our approach to life by changing our perspectives and attitudes. If our focus is all about ourselves, we are actually hurting others and ourselves. The Bible tells us that it is better to give than to receive. We can actually bring heaven here on earth by the way we live. Our environment would change and the atmosphere of heaven can cover the land.  As the allegory tells us, we can be in the similar life situation and see people starving to death, disgruntled and miserable or, the inhabitants could be well fed, happy and in community. It’s about our relationship with God and with others.

My challenge

What if we actually believe the Bible in its entirety and apply it in every minute of our lives. Jesus said do not worry because I am building a home for you in heaven. The Bible said that we can be conduit of His love and mercy, let’s start overflowing with the tangible love of God? God said that if we are followers of Christ, we can heal the sick in Jesus Name, cast out demons and see the bread and the fish multiply in our hands. How about turning water into wine?

What if

Those are my challenges as well. It is hard to live our lives in a world that amplifies the negatives and to logically explain things before believing in the miracles. But what if we suspend our judgment and truly live out the teachings in the Bible – to live as representatives of heaven on earth. Here’s our starting point:

In the next 30 days:

  1. Try to focus our attention to the teachings of the Bible. Every time we caught ourselves thinking negative things (God is positive, there’s noting negative about Him), let’s refocus our mind to the heavenliness.
  2. Focus on others first. When we start to think how awful our lives are, go to a nearest food pantry or soup kitchen and serve there. That will get our thinking straight.
  3. Pray for our enemies and/or those people that irritate us. All of us have those kind of people in our lives.

This is just a start. Please give me some feedback; I’d like to be encouraged as well.

For the continuation of this exercise go to http://www.merlingonzales.com This site is designed to encourage everyone to live in God’s dominion here on earth.

heaven on earth, is it possible?

God bless,

Merlin

Posted in 2015, FHL Food Pantry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How a typical Food Pantry starts…and ends

Starting a pantry is different than sustaining it

Starting a pantry is different than sustaining it

A typical story of starting a food pantry is a church person who wanted to feed the poor. She was told to go to the nearest food bank to receive most of the food she needed to provide for those in need. The food bank told her that she needs to find other sources of food. With the help of her congregation, she enlisted the help of a few people.

The church leaders and a few neighborhood members attended the launching of the food pantry at her church and there seem to have plentiful of volunteers. Soon, the pantry grew and together with the number of clients. However, the faithful volunteers felt overwhelmed by the “progress” of the pantry.

The growth brought new challenges to the operation. She had to do fundraising to purchase additional equipment, storage and space to sustain its growth. In addition, she had to learn to train the volunteers on picking up food at the food bank, data entry for the required reporting to the donors; and other miscellaneous administrative duties.

The food insecure are growing in numbers

The food insecure are growing in numbers

Because of the increasing demand for food, she and her volunteers worked long hours to open another food distribution day per month. The additional day of pantry helped for a few months. The food pantry now serves 100 families twice a month, which look like the pantry is growing successfully. However, the growth increased the demand for her time and her volunteers, so the quality of operation declined. She found herself just doing the transactional task of gathering and giving food while the relational aspect diminished. She noticed that her volunteer list was getting shorter and there were more client complaints each time the pantry is open. Her desk started to pile up with delivery receipts from the food bank, volunteer applications/resignations that are not being processed, various paperwork including food drive flyers, phone calls to return and stacks of sponsorship & “Thank You” letters that she have not mailed.

Within a short period of time, she found herself always rushing and has not had a chance to do a volunteer orientation for a while. So each time a volunteer signs up, she assigns them to areas of most needs. This further creates confusion and resentment from her team since the new volunteers do not know exactly what to do and what’s expected of them. At the end of each week, she realized that the increase of clients is way above the food that she is receiving from a few donors. Her food supply is definitely increasing but the number of clients is increasing all the more.

The food pantry lines are getting longer

The food pantry lines are getting longer

After a few years of reacting to the situation, the person who started the food pantry found herself scrambling for volunteers and resources. In addition, she did not have the proper training (let alone experience) on how to recruit and train volunteers, how to creatively find supporters and advocates and, how to properly store and preserve food.

Her big heart sustained her to continue the food pantry for a few years but soon she retired. Her volunteers were not trained on the big picture of how the entire pantry is run so no one took the leadership and the food pantry ceased its operation.

Posted in Backyard Missions, Food Pantry Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating a missional environment

The first Annual FHL Week in 2005 happened because of the needs in our own backyard – volunteers who want to serve and recipients who are in need of assistance.

Costly Mission Trips

We found out more than 11 years ago that many volunteers want to do mission work but do not have enough money to pay for their missions. Meanwhile, countless people in our own neighborhoods are in need of assistance.

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.

The birth of Backyard Missions

The concept of Mission Trips in Your Own Backyard was well received. We divided central Indiana into different areas. Each area had its own leadership team with Area Coordinators being the point persons. It was like a wildfire as it gained popularity in central Indiana. We even had people from other states who stayed in Indy for several days to learn how we accomplished it.

As this annual event continued to grow, I had to start the preparation 6 months ahead of time. The 1-week event consumed my time and energy year after year. However, I continued to justify that a week of missions in our own backyard was well worth it! After all, we touch thousands of people every year!

A better way

Leading an “annual” backyard missions wears you out! In the past several years, I have been asking the Lord to teach me how to train others in living a lifestyle of missions as opposes to event-driven missions.  I thought that there’s got to be a way to teach and to empower the local communities to be missional all year round. In other words, to reach out to others beyond the missions week.

Awareness of hunger compel people to action

Awareness of hunger compel people to action

In 2010, I started to teach organizations how to start and organize food pantries. In November 2013, after many board meetings and discussions, FHL announced its new mission of incubating missional food pantries.

Missions rooted in relationships

These pantries were designed to be missional, in other words, relational. Although most of them give food only once a month, the pantry leaders are trained to engage their community to be part of the solution on a continuous basis. Together, with the monthly food pantry, follow ups and occasional events are implemented to make sure that the relationships that started during the pantry are nurtured.

Pantry of Love at Beech Grove

Pantry of Love at Beech Grove

Then in late 2014, a revelation came to me! God had already granted my prayer – train others to live a lifestyle of mission. God used food pantry leaders to be the area coordinators in their own communities. We were already doing it but I did not recognized it right away!

Creating missional communities

The pantry leadership teams are trained to teach their volunteers how to reach out and to create an environment of missional living. I am observing that the follow up system that I have been teaching is successful in different neighborhoods as residents are getting connected and engaged. Rather than making people dependent on the system, they become part of the solution – giving back!

Opening of new food pantry during FHL Week

A new food pantry was opened during FHL Week

During FHL Week last week, most of the food pantry leaders that I trained did their own FHL Week in their own neighborhoods. I did not have to organize the entire central Indiana for a week of missions. The system that we created to operate missional food pantries becomes the catalyst for ongoing missions. Thank you God!

Hotdog for the neighborhood

Hotdog for the neighborhood

From my previous Blog, I wrote the first half report of the 2015 FHL Week.

Neighborhood cookout

Neighborhood cookout

The 2nd half of the week was full of activities to engage and to serve the local communities such as neighborhood cook outs, bottled water and food give away, canvassing the local neighborhoods for pantry clients, food distributions and many more.

The ending is just the beginning

And so the closing of the 11th Annual FHL Week (Mission Trip in Your Own Backyard) is also the commencement of a life style of missions. I pray that in the years to come, this tradition of giving will continue with or without the direct involvement of FHL. The seed was planted; we pray that God will do the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:7-8, “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.

God bless,

Merlin

Posted in 2015, Backyard Missions, FHL Food Pantry, FHL Week | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FHL Week 2015 (Mid week report)

“…And who is my neighbor?”

In Luke 10:25-37, ‘neighbor’ was Jesus’ main focus. However, “love” was the catalyst that led to the discussion. Love is about relationship. That’s why the first topic in the Food Pantry class is how to be a friend. Once people start to trust you, you will be able to serve them better. Although we want to provide for the food insecure, we want to serve them better.

At the Indiana Statehouse Chamber Forum on Hunger and Poverty

At Indiana Statehouse Chamber Forum

On the eve of FHL week (7/18), FHL was a part of a Forum at the Indiana Statehouse Chamber about hunger and poverty.  I spoke a little bit about my interviews with several community leaders and showed this short video on Hunger and Poverty in our Midst. There were many legislators including the 2 Indianapolis Mayoral Candidates and community leaders who shared their perspectives.

People are starving for relationship

People are starving for relationship

 

 

It was an event that was put together by Bread for the World and FHL was one of the Sponsors. In the end of the forum, the majority of the speakers and respondents agreed that we need to answer the question, “who are our neighbors.”

 

 

The inauguration of Faithful Hands Pantry

The inauguration of Faithful Hands Pantry

 

Simultaneously, FHL opened the newest incubated pantry – Faithful Hands pantry located at Christ Bible Church. Later the same day, FHL hosted a Block Party in the heart of the Mid North neighborhood – the MLK Community Center. This food pantry opens every third Saturday from 10am to noon.

 

Block Party at MLK Community Center

Block Party at MLK Community Center

 

Later in the afternoon, FHL hosted a Block Party in the Butler-Tarkington and Mid North neighborhoods located at MLK Community Center. There were several churches, ministries and organizations who helped out. There were music, games and food. We also registered children for the neighborhood VBS.

 

VBS at Tree of Life Ministries

VBS at Tree of Life Ministries

The VBS will run from Wednesday thru Saturday at Tree of Life Ministries – 40th/Blvd Ave.

Food Pantry in Hawthorne Place Apt.

Food Pantry in Hawthorne Place Apt.

There are other neighborhood events such as neighborhood outreaches at different apartment complexes including a food pantry at Hawthorne Place Apartments. All of these events and outreaches were designed to get to know our neighbors.

I will keep you posted about the rest of the FHL Week in my next Blog.

 

God bless,

Merlin

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in 2015, FHL Food Pantry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The reality of hunger in our own backyard…

…may shock you! Thousands of children go to bed hungry, the elderly are starving and the working poor are growing in numbers.

This short Trailer reveals the views of Indiana government officials and community leaders on hunger. This coming Saturday, July 18th at 10:30a at the Indiana Statehouse Chamber, the Mayoral Candidates, several state officials and community leaders will be present at the Forum on Hunger and Poverty in our own Community. There are still seats available; RSVP by calling 317-926-5371 of email churches@churchfederationindy.org

Also this Saturday at 10am to noon will be the opening the the newest food pantry that FHL is incubating – Faithful Hands located at 3363 N. Central Ave., Indianapolis. Later the same day, will be a Block Party to Kick Off the 2015 FHL Week at the MLK Center located at 40 W. 40th St, Indianapolis.

Hunger is real in our own backyard, however, we can turn this issue around through prayers and by working together.

God bless,

Merlin

Posted in 2015, FHL Food Pantry, FHL Week | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Faithful Hands

Summer 2015 Food Pantry Graduation!

Summer 2015 Food Pantry Graduation!

It was a cold afternoon in February when the class started at 3363 N. College Ave. The Faithful Hands  Pantry Team was anticipating great things to happen starting in their church and into the neighborhoods in the near future.

Soon, Spring came and the training continues with more practical applications of the classroom teaching. In addition to training and classes, the team started to recruit volunteers and advocates.

Now, Summer of 2015, they are ready to graduate. This Friday, July 10th at 6pm will be the graduation ceremony for the Faithful Hands Pantry at Christ Bible Church at 3363 N. College Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46205. Their pantry will be serving the local neighborhoods every Saturday from 10am to noon starting July 18th.

We started the classes in February, 2015

We started the classes in February, 2015

Their hard work and dedication paid off. Throughout the Winter and Spring months, they diligently prepared their team both spiritually and physically. They even replaced their pews with stackable chairs to provide more space for the pantry. They bought trailer to transport food, they informed the neighborhood that the celebration is this Friday and they bought freezer and shelves to make sure that they are ready for what the Lord would provide them for the local residents.

 

Learning through active participation in the classes

Learning through active participation in the classes

If you are in town and available this Friday at 6p, I would like to invite you to encourage the Faithful Hands Pantry team with your presence. There will be some food so please contact FHL at 317-578-3370 to reserve your seat. Based on my numerous conversations with the Pastor and the Food Pantry Director, they are already experiencing spiritual transformation in their congregation. The congregation believes that through the Holy Spirit, they will be making great impact in their neighborhood.

God bless,

Merlin

 

Posted in FHL Food Pantry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FHL Week 2015 coming soon!

What’s up for this year’s FHL Week?

Two days ago, I shared with you the installation of a compressor for our walk-in ref/freezer. We have been busy trying to complete this project since we are expecting great things to follow. Of course, FHL week is coming up on July 19-26. We are hoping that our walk-in ref would be utilized by then.

Why we need our partners

Why do we need that walk-in finished by FHL Week, you may ask. Before I share the answer, let me give you some background stories. Two years ago, we had a seed company who donated high quality corn seeds to FHL. One of our partners agreed to plant the seeds for FHL. They took care of the corn plants and after a few months, we harvested hundreds of corn for several food pantries and numerous individuals. Last year, we had a farmer who called to see if we would like to harvest corn. We harvested hundreds of corn and distributed them to food pantries.

Fresh corn for food pantries.

Fresh corn for food pantries.

So, this year, we have the same partner who volunteered to plant corn seeds again. He and his family already planted the corn seeds a few weeks ago! We are expecting to harvest 5,000+ corn ears possibly in late July, just in time for FHL Week. This is one of the reasons why we need to walk-in ref.

How can we meet the hunger in our midst during FHL Week?

Other projects during FHL Week are block parties, VBS, canvassing the neighborhoods, food drives, launching our newest food pantry, etc. – all projects relating to addressing hunger in our midst. Stay tuned for more about FHL Week 2015.

 It’s about Connecting the Community!

FHLWeek2015ScreenShot

God bless,

Merlin

Posted in 2015, FHL Week | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hot dog lunch fundraising

On Friday May 15th, I shared with you the simple fundraising sponsored by Marsh Supermarket store in d’town Indy and Boar’s Head Brand.

Simple but excellent fundraiser

Simple but excellent fundraiser

Tagging along with their first year anniversary

It was a year ago, when this new Marsh store opened and as a part of the celebration, they did a fundraising to benefit Faith Hope and Love Community. It was their goal to raise $500 in 4 days by selling hot dog sandwich for a dollar. All the proceeds would go to our organization. My wife, my son and I bought 3 sandwiches; they were very delicious and only for a dollar!  After just 2 hours, they sold 93 sandwiches!

$663 in a day!

$663 in a day!

Their biggest in one day!

Last Saturday the 23rd of May, I went back to the store to receive the fundraising money. I was greeted by Debbie, the Store Manager and she was so happy to tell me that they raised $663 in one day! She said that she has done this kind of fundraiser many times through the other stores that she managed in the past and this was the biggest ever in one day.

I would like to thank Debbie of Marsh Supermarket, Boar’s Head, those who bought hot dog sandwiches and my son Andrew for a magnificent but simple fundraising! Hundreds of families will be well fed through this incredible fundraising!

You can also help feed those in need

And one more thing, you can also be a part of providing food for those in need through you financial contribution. It’s easy and safe to give a one-time or a regular donation through FHL’s online giving. Please consider to be a part of providing food for those in need.

I thank God for your continued prayers and support!

God bless,

Merlin

Posted in Fund-Raising | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Countless ways to help the hungry

Last Saturday morning, I visited the Pantry of Love at Iglesia Lirio de Los Valles (Lily of the Valleys church) at 1805 W. Wilkins St., Indianapolis.

Because of limited space, they bag the food ahead of time. One of the recipients came smiling and was thankful to being able to receive food from the pantry. He received a few bags of food. We blessed him as he was heading out. I saw him pushed a jogger’s baby cart on the sidewalk with the groceries he received. Obviously, he does not have a place to stay but he should have enough food for several days.

Later as I was taking a lunch break, I received a phone call from the founder of a ministry that FHL incubated. He said that the only reason why he called me was to thank me for helping them get started.


Their pantry, A Giving Tree is now independent of FHL. From Spring to Fall, they set up their pantry at a parking lot in Westfield In (corner of Carey Rd and SR. 32). Since it was a rainy day, they were delivering the food to the clients who call. However, for the clients who stop by their office, they are able to spend more time with them. Don Stilts, the founder of the organization, said that occasionally, they receive offers from previous clients to assist their pantry.


My last stop for the day was at Keenan-Stahl Boys and Girls Club on 1949 Troy Ave. It was good to see some of the regular volunteers and clients. This is a combination of pre-bagged groceries and choice pantry. The clients receive a bag/s of groceries and also have the privilege to choose from available items on the last tables.  One person received the Lord!

There are countless ways to serve those in need. It varies due to many factors such as geographic and social location, spiritual climate of the neighborhood and space available.

More than 10 years ago, The Lord had me start a food delivery at the nearby apartment. I started to deliver a bag of groceries to 3 families. After a year, the volunteer team grew to 3-5 person who deliver to 3-5 families on a monthly basis. Last week, I had the chance to visit the pantry and it now grew to a monthly community night with food/clothing pantry, family dinner, prayers, ESL and other family assistance.

FHL incubates Missional pantries that is flexible as long as the 3 Pillars are in the procedure:

God bless,

Merlin

Posted in FHL Food Pantry, Mobile Food Pantry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting to the root of the problem

In my last Blog, I shared with you some  exciting things that are happening lately. Many of our food pantries are located in the 6 hot spots for crime in Indianapolis. This complement what the city is doing to address the increasing crime in our neighborhoods.  Read more…

I like gardening. It relaxes me while punishing my back (not all the time). I actually bought a “tiny” greenhouse for my mother on Mother’s Day. Yes, I got to have fun with it as well.

A revelation

Last Wednesday, while drinking my coffee, I started pulling weeds on my flower garden beds. It’s hard to believe that the same gardens were almost weed-free last year. With my spade, shovel and pick ax, I pulled the weeds with one hand while digging the root system with the other hand. Some roots were on the sub surface but others were few inches deep.
Get to the root of it?

The “missional” aspect of the FHL food pantry concept while furiously pulling the weeds.

  • Although we help the food insecure with food, we realize that in many instances, there are deeper roots in our lives that result in hunger.
  • Pulling weeds and leaving the root system would not get rid of the weeds. Similarly, giving food to people can tentatively help them but if the root cause/s are not dealt with, we are not really helping them in the long run.
  • I also noticed that different tools are needed to pull different weeds, correspondingly, missional food pantries have ministers, prayer teams, ushers and pastors with different gifts and talents to assist every recipients or to share contacts who would be able to help them.
  • Weeds come back and so are the weeds in our lives. FHL is continuing to find ways how we can help in any way toward holistic approach to hunger.

Thanking God for you

This is why I always thank God for you. You know that the most important thing in a food pantry is not food but people. You see that relationship with God and others is the key to uproot the weeds in our lives. You recognize that the “missional” approach to hunger is an effective way to get to the root of the “hunger” problem.

Call to Action:

1. Volunteer are one of the FHL-incubated food pantries
2. Sacrificially support FHL financially to improve the training and discipleship and to establish more missional food pantries in central Indiana. 1 Chro. 21:24, “But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

PS. Today, Marsh Superstore located at 227 W. Michigan St. in d’town Indy is sponsoring a Hot dog lunch with Boar’s Head starting at 2p.  All proceeds will go the FHL.

MarshMap

God bless,

Merlin

Posted in FHL Food Pantry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit’ in Central Indiana

FoodBankVolunteers960

FHL Volunteers loading food pallets for delivery to our missional food pantries.

Spiritual Progression in Dangerous Neighborhoods

I was about to compose a blog about something that has been on my mind in the past several weeks. However, when one of FHL’s board members sent me newspaper article article, I sensed that the Lord would want me to share it right away.

However, before I share yesterday’s article, I’d like to encourage you to read my post about Spiritual Progression in Dangerous Neighborhoods.  It was something the Lord revealed back in February (2015).

God’s hand is all over FHL. He is showing us ahead of time what is to happen. Similar to time of Joseph, God shown the strategy to Joseph after Pharaoh was given a revelation of what was to come. It was not through the wealth and the power of Egypt that saved the people from starvation but from the Spirit of God. Here’s the newspaper article from yesterday. ( 5/13/2015)

Getting It Accomplished by Man’s Power or God’s Spirit?

(Zechariah 4:6) So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

FHL was birthed in the Spirit and operates by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for being obedient to expand the Kingdom of God through the ministry of Faith Hope and Love. It is through our intimacy with God that He reveals His plan. Let’s continue to ask the Lord for wisdom similar to King Solomon before he administered the resources from heaven.

What  FHL is doing in Central Indiana About Those 6 Hot Crime Spots

Did you know: Most of FHL’s food pantries are within a 5 mile radius of the 6 hot crime spots in Indianapolis.  FHL is currently incubating 6 food pantries for the following locations:

  • 3965 Boulevard Place
  • 5244 E. 32nd St
  • 1805 W. Wilkins
  • 3801 Forest Manor
  • 3363 Central Ave. (expected opening next month)
  • 20854 Lamong Rd. Sheridan, IN

Some of the food pantries that FHL has already  incubated and are now operating on their own in the following locations in Central Indiana:

  • Westfield
  • Castleton
  • Beech Grove
  • Fountain Sq (downtown)

MAP

What Can You Do To Help Fight Hunger and Crime In Central Indiana?

Call to Action:

  1. Continue to intercede for wisdom through prayer for FHL to expand the Kingdom of God through missional food pantries. Acts 6:1-7
  2. Sacrificially support FHL financially to improve the training and discipleship and to establish more missional food pantries 1 Chro. 21:24, “But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

God bless,
Merlin Gonzales

Posted in FHL Indiana | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lessons in assembling a greenhouse

Traditionally, during Mother’s Day, people fills the nurseries, department & hardware stores, churches and restaurants. It is celebrated in countless different ways. Because of her stroke, my mother was not able to go out this year.

A few weeks ago, my wife had an idea to purchase a surprise gift of small raised green house for my mother. With the help of a few friends, we were able to assemble it; it took the 3 of us 4 hours but we got it done.

It take a team with different strength to assemble this beautiful gift.

It take a team with different strength to assemble this beautiful gift.

Some things I learned while assembling:

It takes planning to get things right

The little greenhouse came with instruction book full of pictures but with minimal texts and dozens of parts. If you are like me, I hate looking at instructions and get intimated by illustrations. Since I don’t like reading “assembly” instructions, I just try to figure it out myself and consequently, there are times that I find extra nuts and bolts after I finish the assembly. Of course, I have to disassemble again and then painfully read the manual to get things right.

Similarly, we need to seek the ministry strategy through the life’s manual that God has given us – the Bible. If we seek and ask for wisdom, He will give it to us. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in our every action. God cannot be contained by few methods and procedures. In the OT, Joshua and King David have to ask God what to do every time they are about to go in a battle. They learned that God would provide them strategies that work at the right time. They found out that the same plan that worked in the past does not necessarily work in other situations.

It takes a team with different gifts and talents to implement the plan

As I was assisting my friend in assembling the greenhouse, I noticed that as soon as he look at the instruction, he would work fast as if we have to finish it right away. I found out that he likes doing puzzles. In piecing pieces together, there are times that you tap in your zone and things just fit together; you work faster and with enthusiams. It actually energizes him when things are just happening.

A great team starts with great relationships

A great team starts with great relationships

His brother also came with him to help us out. I’m glad he came because he is a strong man with strong back. He took care of shaving the grass where we will place the greenhouse. Of course, he has to rest regularly to cool down and stretch his back. He was also good in using the electric saw and building the base for the greenhouse.

It’s a journey

As we were on the last stages of the assembly, we bonded closer together. We all have learned together and gained more insights in assembling complicated stuff. In ministry, God would take us on a journey. Sometimes it’s long, sometimes it’s short. There are times that the journey is hard and painful. The journey helps us to learn from God and from others. The journey is necessary to know each other and to bond together. We cannot shorten the journey or we will miss other things, or parts when assembling things. The journey should be welcomed and enjoyed. The journey could also be our pit stop or our destination (we will take a look at this paradox in the Kingdom in the future).

Merlin, Rudy and Ray

Merlin, Rudy and Ray

After assembling the greenhouse, we made sure that all the parts were working and they all did! We walked around it and appreciated each other as we admired our work. We shake hands and congratulated one another for a job well done. We all realized that each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses.  We recognized our contributions but all of us got the credit for the finished product. We knew that by ourselves, the greenhouse will not be completed (in 4 hours).

So, you’re wondering what I did. I assisted in some assembly, in constructing the base, provided drinks and food. Later that day, I put the compost and planted several vegetables.

My mom Norma had a stroke but she is now able to tender her own garden.

My mom Norma had a stroke but she is now able to tender her own garden.

My mother was very happy upon seeing the completed project. She was all smiles as she sat near her garden. I gave her the water hose and she proceeded to water the young plants. The next morning, she woke up early and visited her brand new garden.

God teaches us all the time. We just need to be mindful of His presence and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We can find God even in assembling a “tiny” greenhouse.

God bless,

Merlin

 

Posted in Food Pantry Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Events or a lifestyle

Since my last Blog, many things have transpired.

  • Kindness Day at the Inglewood community East side of Indy. FHL have worked with IUPUI students and members of the congregation for Southport Presbyterian Church.
Missional Community at Inglewood

Missional Community at Inglewood

  • Liberty Christian School invited me to deliver a message of Easter to 300+ students and faculty. The message: Liberty in Christ
300+ students and faculty heard the message of Easter.

300+ students and faculty heard the message of Easter.

  • FHL’s food drive at IU Health Hospitals in late March. This was led and coordinated by Donna Cherry, a board member of FHL. We collected more $2000 worth of non perishable food items
Hemodialysis and Renal depts. of IU Health spearheaded the food drive

Hemodialysis and Renal depts. of IU Health spearheaded the food drive

  • FHL’ food drive by Mr. Quik mid April. Mr. Quik has been a ministry partner of FHL for 4 years now. They do their Annual Food drive in the Spring.
Thanks to Mr. Quik for the recent food drive

Thanks to Mr. Quik for the recent food drive

  • Completion of food pantry class at Spiritual Awakening in Indy. They have completed the 5-series class and is now in process for the final preparation of their site for the expected launching in June.
Spiritual Awakening has completed their missional food pantry classes

Spiritual Awakening has completed their missional food pantry classes

  • Visited and toured the Asbury Theological Seminary. FHL has an M. Div. Intern from Asbury Theological this Spring. After the tour, I was able to sit in at one of their 4-hr Intensive class.
Toured and attended an Intensive class.

Toured and attended an Intensive class.

  • Started the New Leadership Series last Monday: Hosting the Presence, Unveiling Heaven’s Agenda by Bill Johnson.
Unveiling Heaven's Agenda

Unveiling Heaven’s Agenda

The activities listed above were events, however, for me, it’s a lifestyle of living out my heritage. As Christians, we tend to forget that we have a rich heritage. This heritage include living with dignity and also dying with dignity. Our witnessing for Christ should reflect more than just giving a tract or casually talking about Him. A Christian lifestyle mirrors the way we treat others because our lives are a part of the story of God’s actions in the world.

As Christians, we are living to give up everything. We came from the Heritage of the King. Live it out everyday. Christian life is not going from one event to another but it’s about living out our birthright.

God bless you!

Merlin

 

Posted in Backyard Missions, FHL Food Pantry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Faith in the midst of uncertainties

Thousands of years ago, a nation of more than 2 million people was freed from 400 years of slavery. They were given a promise that they will inhabit a rich and fertile land. Their charge was to subdue it and conquer it in order for them to settle there.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.

Although the promise to receive the land was for sure, it would not be easy. Since the people were born to slavery, they did not know how to make critical decisions and they doubted easily. So step by step, God taught the people how to live as free men and how to invade and inhabit the promised land.

The Book of Numbers recorded the instructions from God in order for them to obtain the promise. First, was to count the soldiers, organize by tribes, assign (priestly) duties and celebrate their new life (Passover).

  • The soldiers totaled 603,000! However, all these men but 2 did not pass the training. So the next generation of men were trained. They counted them again and they totaled 601,730.
  • Part of the organization of the tribes was to assign different leaders. Twelve leaders were assigned to find out (spy the land) about the promise. After they were given directions how to get there, they were instructed to see what the land was like, were people weak or strong, few or many, was it surrounded by walls, was the land fertile and also to bring samples of crops of the land.
  • Duties were assigned and instructions were given. Those who did not follow the instructions were punished or terminated. Although the promise was certain, the majority of the leaders doubted and even convinced the rest of the people to go back to slavery rather than moving forward to receive the promise.
  • The celebration in the wilderness to remember their past and to anticipate the fruition of the promise. Those who did not join the celebration were also terminated.

The stories in the Book of Numbers instruct us to trust God in the midst of uncertainties where doubts are abundant and where skeptical people are everywhere. We need to remember especially when we are in the wilderness that all the promises of God is certain and whatever He started, He will complete.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. – 2 Corinthians 1:20

God bless you,

Merlin

 

Posted in FHL Food Pantry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spiritual progression in dangerous neighborhoods

Something is happening in the 6 dangerous neighborhoods in Indy..
Six dangerous Indy neighborhoods

Six dangerous Indy neighborhoods

God has been changing the spiritual climate of the Crown Hill neighborhood in Indianapolis in the past few years:
  • Based on my numerous conversations with the local residents and volunteers, I found that many people have been praying for transformation in this area since 20+ years ago. 
  • Since Five years ago, FHL has been providing hundreds of volunteers in this area on a regular basis, mostly neighborhood clean ups.
  • Three years ago our volunteers started to pray for a church in the area so that we can come along side them in the continued work of the Lord.
  • Two years ago, on separate occasions, FHL got connected with Tree of Life Ministries who was planting a church in the area (40th/Boulevard).
  • Last year, FHL trained and opened a food pantry at Tree of Life Ministries. Since then, the church has been growing and the immediate neighborhood is changing for the better!
  • Because of the impact of the food pantry in Crown Hill neighborhood, the pastor of Tree of Life Ministries has sponsored Spiritual Awakening Tabernacle (located just 1.5 miles away from Tree of Life) to the “Missional” Food Pantry School.
Here’s an interesting article on Indianapolis Star, a leading newspaper in Indianapolis. It included maps of dangerous neighborhoods in Indianapolis.
If you will look at the maps provided in this Article,
http://www.indystar.com/story/news/crime/2014/10/09/mayor-ballard-and-impd-to-focus-on-crime-prevention-in-six-indianapolis-area-neighborhoods/16979317/ , 5 out of 6 of the dangerous Indy neighborhoods are within 5+ miles radius of 40th & Boulevard. Both churches are within walking distance from the 34th & Illinois neighborhood, which is one of the dangerous neighborhoods! The article stated, Rather than more police, Mayor Greg Ballard says the approach is about finding ways to provide more mental health resources and more food for needy kids in the targeted areas. He says it’s a “more holistic” way to address crime. 
Several of the food pantries that FHL has trained are located in those 6 neighborhoods. I think the Lord is sending us a message to be a part of the transformation of these neighborhoods. Through food pantries, we have demystified the word missions and we are setting up “Kingdom Hubs” in central Indiana. Read more about this…
My sense is that FHL will be adding at least 2 more food pantries within the 6 Indy neighborhoods in the next 2 years. What if we develop Missional Communities through planting more missional food pantries strategically located in these neighborhoods? Or, what if we turn the existing food pantries into missional communities having the 3 Pillars of being missional, namely, Acts 6 – Outreach, Mark 16 – Evangelism and Matthew 28 – Discipleship
Every night 80,000+ kids go to bed hungry

Every night 80,000+ kids in Metro Indy go to bed hungry

Last night (2/25/15) was the start of Winter “Missional” Food Pantry classes at Spiritual Awakening Tabernacle, 3363 Central Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46205. It’s a 4-week course every Wednesday from 5:30p-7:00p. In case you may be wondering what we learn together in the classes, here’s the…

Table of Contents
SESSION ONE: Missional Community
The History of Faith Hope and Love Food Pantries
SESSION TWO: Food Pantry Operation
Overall Organization of a Faith Hope and Love Food Pantry
Regulations of a Faith Hope and Love Food Pantry
Requirements and Agreement
Physical Layout of a Faith Hope and Love Food Pantry
Team Roles and Assignments of an FHL Food Pantry
SESSION THREE: Prayer Team
Focus on His Presence
Prayer Team Roles and Assignments
Ministry Cards and Instructions
SESSION FOUR: Community Relations
Developing Community Relations
Marketing of Food Pantry
SESSION FIVE: Food Safety
Permanent Safe Site or Mobile Site
Food Storage, Safety and Handling Certificate
SESSION SIX: Food Pantry Planning
Monthly Schedule for Food Pantries
SAMPLE of Monthly Schedule
Calendar for Food Pantry
Forms for Volunteers and Recipients
SESSION SEVEN: Accountability
Reporting
Being Self-Sufficient
Giving Back
FHL Food Pantry Network
Reports for Evaluation of Pantries
Review and Exam
SESSION EIGHT: Field Trip
Resources
Visit existing Food Pantry
Process of Receiving Food from FHL
Summary
Posted in Backyard Missions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A road that seems endless

It’s dark but you can see a glimmer of light. You feel alone although you are surrounded by people. You try to find your way for an ideal destination but you always end up in the same place. The atmosphere of detention hover over you despite the fact that the road looks wide open.

In this road, people get confused, judged and the sense of desperation is ever present. Whereas people want to help but you still feel trapped and helpless. There seems to be an invisible wall that you cannot breakthrough.

At Shiloh MBC

Groceries to help those in need

Millions of Americans have been on this road or are still confined in it. I know of a person who tries her best to get out of it but after trying for many years to get out, she still felt trapped. The government offers help but it seems like the system makes it difficult to receive assistance. Although some people know how to work the system and receive help, they become so dependent on it that they are still imprisoned in the same road.

I have been on this road a few times in the past. I lived with one of my uncles in Manila. He has 5 children and 2 are special needs ki

ds. He and his wife have big hearts so several of my cousins lived with them for a few years while I was going to college. They had less than 1000 sq. ft apartment, 2 bedrooms and a bath. There are times when 12 to 15 people lived in this small home. Sometimes, we don’t have enough finances that our regular dinner are steamed rice, tomatoes and soy sauce or little dried fish.

All of us have been in this road. It may not be about physical poverty but emotional or spiritual hunger. This morning, I heard a song by Third Day and it embodies what I am writing about:

“Well no matter who you are and no matter what you’ve done
There will come a time when you can’t make it on your own
And in your hour of desperation
Know you’re not the only one
Prayin’,’Lord above, I need a miracle
I need a miracle'”

All of us can help others in many ways. We need community. However, the ultimate help come from our Father in heaven. I love the lyrics of Hillsong, “Mighty to Save”

Saviour he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave.

Relationship-building means earning the trust

Relationship-building means earning the trust

The road I am talking about can be a saving grace for us as well. It’s a place where we realize that there’s another reality. It’s a zone where we can hear the voice of God clearer. Then suddenly, our perspective in life changes and we are able to shatter that invisible wall that is bounding us for many years. The chain and the shackles that pull us back break and we grasp that all we need is to fully surrender to the Almighty God.

Last Saturday, I had a meeting with 2 godly men. As the waitress came, we asked her if she has any prayer request since we are about to bless our food. She requested to pray for her young daughter who was just diagnosed with mental deficiency. At the end of our lunch, she agreed that our group can come to her house to lay hands on her daughter.photo (9)

Yesterday, I had a lunch with a person who wanted me to be her mentor so she can finish her Master degree from a Christian university. As the waitress came to serve our food, I asked her, “We are just about to bless our food, ‘Do you have any prayer request?'” She was startled and immediately said to pray for her uncle’s health. Then she turned her back on us. However, she came back immediately and said that she was touched and thanked us. She came back a few times while we were eating to thank us. When we were about to leave, she said with teary eyes, that she appreciated the prayers and she felt different. She said that even her co-workers noticed that she changed from being short with them to being joyful.

Today, many people need a miracle from God. Would you consider being a miracle for others by offering them some assistance or to pray with them because God can change the road that they are on.

God bless you,

Merlin

Posted in FHL Food Pantry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Have you been on this road?

Posted in FHL Food Pantry | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

FHL launching its latest food pantry

The 20th food pantry that FHL has trained is opening its doors this Saturday, January 31st from 4pm to 6pm!

Iglesia Pentecostal Divino Salvador started their training in early fall. They had several field trainings that include serving at other existing pantries, visiting Midwest Food Bank and the FHL warehouse, received their food handling certificate and had been attending the FHL Pantry Network meetings.

At Iglesia Divino Salvador

At Iglesia Divino Salvador

As a part of their preparation, they had a prayer walk, a 24-hr prayer chain, prayer and worship celebration. They have been inviting potential clients as a part of the FHL pantry operation, they will be passing out invitation flyers to 3 neighborhoods and will be putting their directional signs and banner just a few days before the pantry opens. Here is a quick scoop of their pantry launching.

Because of moving to a new location, the opening was postponed for a couple of months. They received their food and have stocked the shelves properly. They had their volunteer orientation, t-shirts were ordered, name tags were prepared and they did served the servants through foot washing. Finally, they have been approved by MFB and FHL and will open their doors to the public this Saturday!

We are all excited for them and for the surrounding neighborhoods. I would like to invite you to join us for the launching of the Pantry of Faith in Sheridan, Indiana. Please pray that people will realize that we are not only interested in distributing food but also to create a transformational atmosphere in the community.

God bless,

Merlin

Posted in FHL Food Pantry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Everyone understands this language

KindnessAssistedLiving640

Last Monday, January 19, FHL mobilized 35 IUPUI students and 10 other volunteers to serve at 3 project sites. This was also in conjunction with the MLK Day of Service. Throughout the years, FHL mobilizes hundreds of volunteers from churches, schools and community organizations for a “plug-and-play” kind of outreaches to connect our neighborhoods through service projects. FHL calls it Kindness Day.

The short video below will give you more insight how to reach out to the volunteers and to the recipients of services. www.fhlcommunity.org

Kindness Days start with relating with our volunteers and we hope that they would be more inspired to help others, not to mention that we just need to be kind to others. The Bible teaches us to treat others the way we want to be treated. At FHL food pantries, our first customers are our volunteers because the face of our pantries reflect the way our volunteers behave toward others.

Although projects need to be accomplished, we can see bigger impact in people’s lives when we become conscious of others. We can actually accomplish more! We have a saying at FHL, “it’s not about food; it’s about people.” Many times, people will appreciate us more than the food we give them and the projects we accomplished for them.

I grew up in the Philippines. English is my second language. I have been and still being misunderstood in many occasions. I need help in the use of preposition and grammar. However, I can communicate with others without my English and they can understand me precisely.

It’s true that action speaks louder than voice. Our kindness to others can be understood by others through our action and the way we treat them. I am talking not only about volunteers but also about our employees, employers and customers. Businesses and organizations can save millions of dollars of training and team building expenses if they speak more of this language – KINDNESS.

Posted in Backyard Missions | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Food is not the answer…

Food is not the answer…

Previously, I shared with you the baptism of 5 individuals at Tree of Life Christian Ministries inspired by missional food pantry. This time, I am going to share with you the next step of building a missional community.

More than 10 years ago, I completed a 2-year advanced training in church leadership while I was the Outreach Pastor at the Vineyard Community Church Northside. I started several ministries in the church and one of them being a food pantry. It has now grown to be a Community Night that provides not only food but other social and spiritual services.

Since 2006, FHL has been involved in many aspects of developing food pantries. Here are some of my observations:
EVERY food pantry gives food but not everyone offers ways towards community transformation
SOME food pantries offer prayer but not every pantry shares the Gospel
MOST food pantries are sponsored or housed in a church

What if we move from the basics to building missional community?

Here’s a 40-second video explaining what FHL food pantries are doing ~
Everybody gets to play and everyone can contribute something. Rather than serving simply as a place of food distribution to those who are in need, FHL is transforming food pantries into community hubs where spiritual and social needs are fulfilled, along with the sharing of food. The neighborhood is engaged and relationship is strengthened.

And one more thing, our government has been highlighting a similar concept based on an article from Indy Star .
The answer to hunger is not food, although it is needed, the answer to reducing crime is not more police, although they are vital for a healthy society and the answer to poverty is not money. Everything boils down to this, Matthew 22:35-40 “Loving God and loving others” – all of man’s problems will be solved…, not just for this life but for eternity.

Thank you for your continued support to bring transformation to our communities.

Food is not the most important thing in an FHL food pantry, it’s the people!

God bless,
Merlin

Posted in FHL Food Pantry | Leave a comment

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 37 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in FHL Food Pantry | Leave a comment

The Greatest Gift

The lady with a cancer was looking for you?

Those were the words relayed by Maxine when she called me last Sunday night. Maxine has been serving the Prayer Team at B&G Pantry of Hope since we started it a few years ago. I wrote about some of the amazing stories that has been happening at this pantry.

Read more about the stories at Boys and Girls Club..

FHL’s “missional” food pantries in Metro Indy truly are gifts to our neighborhoods. Jude 1:2, “May mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you” is becoming reality. Through engaging the community, the “have and the have nots” are giving and receiving to multiply the awareness of God’s Kingdom. Whether giving food, money or sharing the greatest gift – the Good News of Jesus Christ, and through your help, the love of God is being experienced everywhere.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the greatest gift ever, “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” and “an eternal life.” That is why we take every opportunity to share the Gospel. There’s no greater gift that we can ever give.

The lady who asked about me last Saturday, has the eternity in heart heart. She did not remember me because of the food (although she is grateful for it) but because of sharing God’s love with her. Everyday, we have the same opportunity, especially this Christmas Season.

Thank you Jesus!

Thank you Jesus!

I pray that you have a Christ filled Christmas Season and remember to share the Greatest Gift ever – Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!

Merlin

 

Posted in Backyard Missions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thank you for your partnership!

As I looked back in the past week, your friendship and your support is making a difference in hundreds of families. From the Christmas outreach by one of the ministries that FHL is incubating to food pantries scattered around greater Indianapolis, countless blessings are distributed to those in need.

Think of the 2 souls that were transformed from the kingdom of this world to the eternal Kingdom through the food pantry at Tree of Life last Saturday. Their eternal future was changed in a twinkle of an eye (1 Cor. 15:52),… “for the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal, with immortality.” These blessings are literally out of this world, and you are a part of it!

Although you may or may not be directly involved in the front line (you can, if you wish to), you are a part of the bigger picture that God has called the ministry of Faith Hope and Love. It is impossible for me to comprehend the impact that you are providing for the community! I cannot even quantify it since it involves the eternal.

It has been said “…even for just one soul…”, is more than enough. Through the plan that I believe that God has given FHL, we are seeing at least 3-7 persons accept Jesus in their heart every month. On the first Sunday of the New Year, we will be baptizing the people who accepted Jesus in their heart at Tree of Life Ministries from May thru Dec. Please stay tuned for the final details of this historical event in the Crown Hill Neighborhood.

Last night, I received a message that donors are donating before the year-end totaling $7,500 and all if it will be matched the employers. If you haven’t finalized your Year-End giving, please consider donating to FHL. You can donate online  or mail your check to FHL, 8383 Craig St. Ste. 335, Indianapolis, IN 46250.

Donate3Ways

God bless you,
Merlin

Posted in Fund-Raising | Leave a comment

Partnership is a good thing

In my book, “The Kingdom On Our Midst“, I wrote, “The world has never been so connected yet it is growing to be disconnected.”

The world of communication has been evolving faster than anyone could comprehend. I am sure you asked this question, “What would I do without mobile phones?” and lately, “What would I do without smart phones?”

Technology is a part of the ministry of Faith Hope and Love, from data organizing and storage to social media. Currently, I’m in Florida for my vacation with my wife and my son.

At John's Pass inSt. Petersburg, Florida

Boardwalk at John’s Pass in St. Petersburg, Florida

 

Although I am a thousand miles away, through our ministry partners and through the use of technology, the ministry has been doing great things:

  • The ministry that FHL is incubating, Momentum Kingdom Ministry just finished their annual Christmas outreach last Saturday, Dec. 13th with 400 volunteers and 130+ families were served in various ways.
  • That same day 2 people receive Jesus in their heart at one of the pantries that FHL is incubating – CNTR Missional Food Pantry (at Tree of Life Ministries). Through our leaders, the required experiential training was also conducted at the same place.
  • Today, FHL received 8+ pallets of non perishable donations from a Fortune 100 company.

With technology, I am able to communicate and coordinate some of the activities from a thousand miles away. Yes, the Internet could make the communications impersonal, however, we can also use it as a tool in building relationships (and getting things done).

This Saturday, we will have 2 pantries, one at Monte de Sion at 3305 Lowry Rd and at Lirio de los Valles at 1805 W. Wilkins St both at 11am. Please consider visiting them if you are able to; you’ll be blessed.

As you are thinking of your Year-End donations, please keep FHL in mind. Here’s the link to Donate Online or you can mail your donation to FHL, 8383 Craig St. Ste 335, Indianapolis, IN 46250. Yes, partnership is a good thing. We can get things done together and see the Kingdom of God expand in our midst.

God bless you and thank you for your partnership!

Merlin

Posted in FHL Food Pantry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment