The “House of Bread” Provided The “Bread of Life” --The Greatest Gift God Has Given Us!

     By: Pastor John Leon, Executive Director

     God had waited a long time for the moment.  After all, it had already been thousands of years of human history and hundreds of prophecies throughout the ages predicting this momentous event, including one in particular.  An extraordinary promise He made to the greatest king in Israel’s monarchy, David… “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before Me.  Your throne shall be established forever (2 Sam. 7:16).”  This promise was about a descendant of David, who would inherit his throne, and be revealed over 900 years later.

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      And now, the wait was over.  The plan conceived by the Father, “before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:5),” was ready to be unveiled.  Everything about this miraculous moment was ordained by God.

     Scripture tells us so… “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman… (Gal. 4:4).”  This means, God was not early or late, but at the right time presented His “special gift.”

     Everything about the event was precise because God was telling His story.  The surroundings would be most inconspicuous, a livestock stable, intentionally hidden from the rulers of Rome and the religious leaders of the day.  Such a humble environment would naturally fit the newly born occupant, as well as the heart of his Father.  So, this explains why only a privileged few would be invited to view the special birthday scene—three wise men and some shepherds.  Therefore, their invitations would be extraordinary.  An unusual “sign” in the heavens for the wise men. 

     And, an angelic visitation for the shepherds… “And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David (Bethlehem) a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger’ (Luke 2:10-12).”

     An interesting sign for the shepherds, don’t you think?  Swaddling clothes were bands of cloth that would wrap the baby tightly, to give the newborn the effect of the snugness of the womb.  And a manger?  Well, that was the food trough for the livestock.  The shepherds would find a baby in a food trough?  Indeed, an unusual sign!  But not for His Father.  It was all precisely what God ordered.  Not too early or too late.  A small town, Bethlehem, the birthplace of David, appropriately means, “House of Bread.”  And how fitting is that, since the food trough was holding the “Bread of Life!”  Subsequently, a self-description Jesus’s Father would later give Him during the last three years of his life, compelling Him to reveal... “I am the bread of life...I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever (John 6:48, 51).”

     Who could have possibly synchronized such corresponding details, transcending thousands of years and diverse cultures, to convey such a message that would not only surpass human affairs, but change the course of human history?  Only God could make such detailed arrangements thousands of years in advance.  Only God could plan such a miraculous arrival for the ages, while ensuring that His Beloved would not only be gift-wrapped in swaddling clothes, but also in obscurity.  However, there was one thing God could not avoid for the occasion.  God did not want to restrain the joy of His angelic realm from celebrating this special birth.  Though the world would not discover the hidden event for some time, God would allow His angelic host to break-out to the shepherds with their own rendition of “Happy Birthday” that glorious night God so enjoyed and had patiently planned to give to the world... “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those whom He is pleased (Luke 2:13-14).”  

     Now, my friend, who could not celebrate the joy of the greatest gift God has ever given to us, not only this Christmas season, but every day of the year?  Therefore, every day we count it a privilege and deep joy to serve those God brings to us, with their broken and devastated lives.  Yes, at times there are tears, because one cannot help weeping with those who weep.  But we always know the deep joy in giving the only hope we know, to every person we encounter, as we present the incomparable story of God’s greatest gift—His Bread of Life!

     My friend, please know you are also an integral part of offering hope to all we encounter at our mission.  Without your support, we could not do what we do every day, providing over 85,000 meals and 35,000 bed-nights every year.  Certainly, we are grateful for how you have helped sustain this ministry to the lost and broken.  Evermore, we are grateful to God for giving to us His greatest gift and miracle, Jesus, His Anointed One!  On behalf of our board, may you have a blessed and joyous celebration this Christmas season and New Year!

 

 

Remembering New Beginning’s Albany Helping Hands Nineteenth Anniversary!

Click here make a donation.  For more information on the fundraiser click here.

Click here make a donation.  For more information on the fundraiser click here.

When God forged Israel into a young nation, he instituted three annual major feasts: The Feast of Unleavened bread, Feast of Harvests, and the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles).  The purpose was twofold.  God enjoys a good party.  Why?  Because, as the Christian philosopher, Dr. Dallas Willard, once stated, “God is the most joyous being in the entire cosmos.”  And, I couldn’t agree more.  We are reminded of this truth when Jesus told the parable of the Prodigal Son. When the wayward son returned home where he belonged, the father, who according to Jesus exemplified God’s heart, threw him a party.  It was an occasion to be joyous!  It was a time to celebrate!  Yes, there is a reason they are called “feasts!”

Therefore, it should not be a surprise that God wanted the nation to celebrate what he had accomplished for them, which was their deliverance from slavery in Egypt.  This is the purpose for the Feast of Unleavened bread.  But the God-appointed feasts were not for celebration only.  God wanted the people to remember.  God wanted the people to remember what he had provided them for their lives.  Abundant crops.  Shelter in the form of “booths” during their wilderness wanderings that provided protection from the inclement weather.  God wanted the people to always realize he was their source and sustenance for their very existence.  So, the purpose of the feasts was to celebrate and to remember their small beginnings, as a people, and then as a young nation with a new-found freedom.

Someone has said, “We remember what we should forget, and forget what we should remember!”  Typically, we all can identify with such a struggle, for the human condition does tend to remember the wrong things and forget the things that are worth remembering.  Here at Albany Helping Hands we do not want to be guilty of the latter.  For it is now we want to remember and celebrate our nineteenth anniversary.  It is the time we officially became a non-profit organization.  

The significance of such an occasion cannot go unnoticed because it was then the mission of Albany Helping Hands began its expansion.  During this time, we purchased the buildings for our current housing of 110 beds.  Later we purchased the present location and building for our thrift store.  It is also during this time we developed the production of cords of wood at our woodlot and the sale of Christmas trees.  All these investments have been made in our effort to become self-sustaining.  

Without question, God has blessed our mission here in Albany.  So, it is during this month of September we want to take the time to remember, as well as celebrate our small beginnings. This ministry began with Pastor Les Bailey providing sandwiches to the needy, and a night of shelter in his church building during the cold wintry months.  Today, we on average, provide over 7,000 meals a month, a shelter for over a 100 folks at night, as well as much needed clothing.  Further yet, we also provide additional resources to facilitate transitional assistance such as job placements, housing, educational needs (GED classes, computer training), and health insurance or disability applications.  

We, of course, will never forget the small beginnings of Helping Hands under the founding leadership of Pastor Bailey and the entire journey that has now brought us to our nineteenth anniversary of becoming a non-profit mission.  In remembering this milestone, we are most grateful to you, and all those who have contributed financially in making our expansion viable in our community, and vital in the lives we have been privileged to serve over the years.

Now to celebrate this special occasion we are making an important appeal to raise $19,000 in 19 days, beginning on September 19th.  Will you please consider making a special donation above and beyond that will demonstrate a joyful response of support to the work and ministry endeavor of Albany Helping Hands?  Indeed, God not only enjoys a time of celebration but also a joyful giver.  We thank you in advance for taking the time to celebrate with us our 19 years of joyful ministry to the neediest in our community, for without you none of it would have been possible.  

May the Lord Bless You and Keep You,
Pastor John Leon
Executive Director, AHH
 

The Heart of Helping Hands!

Albany, Oregon  by: Pastor John Leon, Executive Director, 6/13/2017

God has always had a special place in his heart for the poor and destitute.  Listen to his instruction as he formed Israel into a young nation at the time... “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be...You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake (Deut. 15:7-8, 10).”

Pastor Les Bailey, founder and Former Executive Director (2005)

Pastor Les Bailey, founder and Former Executive Director (2005)

We should be able to understand from this passage, God not only loves all people, but he is particularly close to the most vulnerable of our society.  It has always been this way for God.  God loves the poor.  So much so, he promises to bless that person in all they do, if that individual will take the time to meet the needs of the poor.

Albany Helping Hands has always been God’s ministry and mission.  Yes, it was born in the heart of one man, Pastor Les Bailey, who only wanted to do what God wanted, and that was to help the poor, thus, the name, “Helping Hands.”  Because of his love for God, Pastor Bailey began fixing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of his garage and distributing the “meal” to the needy in various neighborhoods of our community.  He would be the first to tell you, he did not envision the mission AHH would become to our community.  But, Pastor Bailey is certainly grateful to witness and experience firsthand, from the beginning to the current status, God’s many blessings on this ministry to the poor.  On occasion, you can always hear Pastor Bailey say, this is the “mission, love built.”

Today, we provide over 7000 meals a month, as well as shelter, and clothing.  We also provide other resources that help people with future housing, job placements, and mentoring vocational skills that will lend toward the rebuilding of a broken life.  But most important, we give people hope.  We want people to know they have worth, and they can have a life worth living, because they are invaluable as a living soul, made in the image of God. 

Personally, it is a marvelous opportunity and privilege to be entrusted as God’s steward for such an awesome endeavor, one that is close to the very heart of God.  Therefore, we are available through our various resources to give those who are hurting, a helping hand, with hope and love for anyone in need!

Warm Regards,

Pastor John Leon

Executive Director 

The Ultimate Giver!

  • Blog post: 3/31/2017, Albany Oregon   |   By Pastor John Leon, Executive Director

After the harsh winter months, spring is always a welcome sight.  The cherry blossom trees and flowers blooming remind us of the new life the season brings.  Such new life is conceived by the principle of seed-sowing.  As we know, until a seed is sown, there is nothing to harvest or produce.  But, when a seed is planted in the ground, it provides growth for what it is designed to produce.  And, though many would say this is a “law of science,” the reality is there is a greater law that transcends this agricultural process.  It is the eternal truth of “Giving and Receiving.”

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This truth is encased in the “ethos” (character) of the Triune Godhead.  We know God is love, which is the expression of selfless giving.  God loves, based on who he is and can give himself, even without receiving.  It is his very nature to give.  Therefore, it is not coincidence Jesus spoke metaphorically to describe this same truth when he said, “Unless a grain a wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24).”

The central message of our Easter celebration is this eternal law of giving and receiving.  Father God, so loved the world, he gave up his beloved Son, Jesus.  Because of Jesus’ love for the Father, he willingly gives up his life to him (John 14:31).  Jesus does this, knowing he is the Eternal Seed, who will produce the new family God desired and destined “before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-6).”  This means The Plan was conceived by the Father before the world was even created.  Jesus agreed to the New Covenant, and willingly accepted its construction on his body (Isa. 42:6).  And, the Holy Spirit consummated it on the “Day of the First Fruits Harvest” (Pentecost). 

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We must remember, there can be no fruit-bearing, without a death of the Eternal Seed.  This explains how the Cross was a “natural fit” for the Godhead.  It is their nature to give, selflessly, even sacrificially.  Their love is incomparable to anything the world knows.  Is it any wonder, such love only produces the new eternal family God desired long before creation?  “In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons (non-gender) through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will (the Father), to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved (Jesus) (Eph. 1:5-6).”

All because of God’s grace, he gave us Jesus.  And, he continues to give us himself through his Holy Spirit.  What shall be our response?  What can we give to God?  The only thing we can give...a surrendered heart!  Isn’t he worth it?  He  does not disappoint, my friend, for Jesus has promised, “Because I live, you also will live (John 14:19).”  This is the marvelous message of Easter, all because of the nature of God’s endless and unfathomable giving.  What a plan, what a Savior, what a love of selfless giving!

Now, speaking of giving, our board has asked me to make a special appeal for an important need for our farm.  We have some land that requires cultivation every spring, for the planting of various crops.  We are in need of a new tractor, but since they are rather expensive, we are seeking to buy a used one in good condition.  It will also need a front-loader which will be utilized for our woodlot. A conservative cost estimate for the tractor is about $20,000.  

Volunteers at Work at AHH Farm which is run with the cooperation of Linn-Benton Food Share

Volunteers at Work at AHH Farm which is run with the cooperation of Linn-Benton Food Share

It will be called, “Jason’s Tractor,” in honor of Jason Gould, who passed away tragically at 23 years of age. 

Jason primarily loved six things in life: His family and friends, the outdoors, farming, animals, the homeless and Jesus.  He had a special place in his heart for the homeless, and enjoyed spending time on our farm. 

It is our hope you will give generously, in Jason’s memory, for the purchase of this important farm tool that will prove to be invaluable to our mission.  On behalf of our board, we thank you in advance.  And please know, we are very grateful for every dollar invested in Albany Helping Hands.  

May You Have a Blessed Easter Celebration,

Pastor John E. Leon, Executive Director

 

A Lesson Well-Learned From The Lord!

  • Blog post from: Albany Oregon   |   By Pastor John Leon, Executive Director

I will not forget that warm spring day ten years ago.  I just got a haircut, and walked out onto the sidewalk, encountering an elderly homeless man asking a young couple for money.  I was running late, and they were directly in front of my vehicle, so I barely could get around them in order to “escape” and avoid any interaction.  As I succeeded and entered my car, I found myself saying, “Praise the Lord!”

However, the “relief” was short-lived as I came to a nearby stop-light, and while waiting, watched the elderly man, possessing nothing but a child-sized back-pack, walking slowly in the crosswalk in front of my vehicle.  As he did, I heard the Lord say to me, “You know, John, I made him in my image, and died for him, too!”  Tears welled-up in my eyes, as I asked the Lord to forgive me, and help me catch-up to the man during the rush-hour traffic.  A few minutes later I was able to reach the man, and place a “gift” into his hand, while expressing God’s love for him.

He was thankful, but I think I was more grateful for the lesson God began to teach me that day, a lesson encapsulated in Scripture… “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view (NIV, 2 Cor. 5:16).”  It would be several months later, this principle would be amplified in a very real and practical way when I volunteered at AHH, as the Lord prepared me for the raw reality of homelessness.  He gave me three instructions: 1) Do not judge; 2) Learn their first names; and, 3) Listen to their story!

Certainly, I understood the first one, in which I was not to dismiss or disqualify anyone by my attitude or actions, but then later would discover the value of the other two dynamics.  One’s name is a part of their identity.  Remembering someone’s name, which may seem incidental, can go far in removing barriers of distrust and skepticism.  But, more importantly, it conveys, “You are important to me…you are valued!”  Often, people would be touched by the fact, “You remembered my name!” 

Now, this small gesture was an introduction to something critically more significant which was to “listen to their story.”  Let’s face it.  Listening is a lost skill, especially in our digital, fast-paced culture.  There is a reason one of Jesus’ most often repeated phrases was, “He who has an ear, let him hear!”  I’ve learned, to listen to someone’s life journey is a privilege.  It should be guarded as a sacred moment.  The details are intricate and deeply personal, frequently dark, disillusioning, and filled with distress.  Always, the story told is a soul ravaged by brokenness.  And with the opportunity to hear, yes, the heartache is unavoidable for this unique, living soul, made in the image of God, who God also says is invaluable to Him.

In such moments, seeing people through the lens of the Holy Spirit is paramount.  There is no time for cynicism nor feigned, detached sympathy, for that is only a view from the world’s self-protected window.  Instead, it is more important to be vulnerable, “to weep with those who weep,” by investing the time, no matter the cost, that says, “Your life does indeed matter and your story is worth my interest, as well as involvement!”  After all, isn’t that the heart of our gospel message, God showing up, through his Son, Jesus, and validating we are worth his love and sacrifice?  No wonder, we sing Amazing Grace!

The lesson the Lord began to teach me through that homeless man years ago, has been profound.  And now, to think God has entrusted me with this awesome opportunity of serving Helping Hands in this endeavor of ministry, well, it simply causes me to smile with a heart of gratitude to God, and to those he will allow me to validate through his love!