Our AHH "Miracle!"

by:  Pastor John Leon, Executive Director

           I will never forget that day.  It was Sunday, May 6, 2018, when I received the phone call around 12:24pm that Andrew had jumped from the overpass adjacent to our shelter.  It was at least a 150 ft. drop below to the Jackson St. pavement.  I immediately drove to Corvallis Samaritan Hospital where he was taken.  We did not know if he would live or die.  I didn’t want him to be alone.

            I had only met him ten days earlier when he checked in to the shelter, but because of his gentle nature, and though suffering with a mental affliction, he easily could get into anyone’s heart in a very short time.  Those “inner voices” tormented him, causing him to jump.  Andrew just wanted to go to heaven.  He wanted relief from the mental anguish.  But, God had a different plan.

            When I first saw Andrew in the ICU, his injuries were severe.  Both legs sustained multiple fractures.  His pelvis was fractured.  His right arm was broken in multiple places.  Of course, the head injury was the worse.  Though he was unconscious, the nurse reassured me he would be able to hear me.  This was “new territory” for me.  I was alone with Andrew that first day, but not alone.  For I heard that familiar still, small voice, guide me, “I am going to do something special with Andrew!”  Subsequently, I had a strong impression to read Scripture to him every day, and to not miss a day visiting him in his condition.

            That Sunday night, I emailed our board requesting prayer for Andrew.  My wife contacted our home church to pray for Andrew.  Other churches began praying for Andrew.  All our shelter guests were praying for Andrew.  Later when I gave the first updated report to our board, and they inquired on his prognosis, I simply offered, “Let’s just see what Jesus will do!”

            Andrew’s parents and I would periodically meet with his medical team.  They had reason to be pessimistic as Andrew’s head injury was “catastrophic,” and he was not responding to normal commands during his 30-day stay in Corvallis.  After seven surgeries, Andrew was transferred in early June to a “specialty” hospital in Portland that provided attention to his unique needs.  Of course, I was going to miss our visits, due to the distance and my work schedule. 

            There wasn’t much change in Andrew’s status for the next several weeks.  But then, I started getting reports there were some “marked changes.”  Finally, after a couple of months, I was able to take dad up to see him for a visit.  And, what a visit!  Andrew was no longer in that “vegetative “condition.  He was coherent.  He was following commands.  He knew everyone.  He was eating regular food and had put on some weight.  It was a challenge for all of us to control our emotions. 

            Though Andrew could respond with complete sentences, his answers were brief.  To engage him, I asked him if he liked to read, and he said, “Yes.”  “What do you like to read, Andrew?”  He said, “The Bible.”  He then shared the Gospels were his favorite and then recited word for word, completely by himself, that famous verse after I started it for him… “For God…so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son…”  Andrew’s Dad and my eyes were glistening with joy and gratitude, for we knew we were witnessing a miracle.

            Yes, Andrew still has a long journey ahead of him.  He has yet to walk.  Nevertheless, God is indeed doing “something” special with Andrew.  You see, Andrew doesn’t hear those voices anymore.  Andrew is free from such torment.

            The year has been challenging, as God has been teaching me much about mental illness.   But greater yet, God is teaching me what He is willing to do, if we will trust Him to do what only He can do for us.  My friends, thank you for praying for Andrew’s recovery.  Thank you for providing a financial pathway that sustains our mission and enables us to serve a person like Andrew.  Truly, a living miracle of Albany Helping Hands!

Prayer For A Life Without Lack!

By: Pastor John Leon, Executive Director

I was honored to be invited as a participant in our local National Day of Prayer gathering at the Linn County Courthouse steps.  I was asked to pray for unity in our families, the workplace, our community, and cities across our nation.  Initially, I struggled with how to pray in a realistic, but practical way for such an enormous request. 

Subsequently, I asked the Lord for direction to help me pray for such a request.  I believe He guided me to wrap such an assignment around Psalm 23, which thematically offers “a life without lack!”  It is a prayer, I believe, that not only applies to unity, but for our daily lives as well.  Therefore, I share it with you hoping it will minister to your life right where you are in your journey... 

“Heavenly Father, we gather here today, to ask you for no small thing, for unity in our families, with colleagues in our work, for Albany, and all the communities in our nation.  Such a request, from our human and limited perspective, appears improbable if not impossible. 

For we are a desperate people, because we live in a world in which we are trying to save our lives, and we can’t.  Not realizing this truth, this makes us all the more desperate and hopeless, and the more obsessed with ourselves through our futile efforts of self-navigation in order to fix our lives.  Tragically, Father-God, we have only become filled with anger, frustration, and more desperation, leading us to attack and denigrate each other. 

Heavenly Father, not only do we need you to forgive us for such polarizing toxicity, we ask you to forgive us for trying to be our own savior.  Yes, Lord, we are indeed a desperate people, but you can turn such desperation encased in darkness and despair, into an exuberant joy that pervades the well-being of any person who wants you to guide and direct their life. 

You have said as much in your eternal word, reflected as the Shepherd who offers a “life without lack” for anyone who wants such a Savior.  Therefore, Lord, we acknowledge our healing and the genesis for unity in our relationships on all levels by getting our eyes off our circumstances and ourselves, and instead, on who you are!  

For you provide us a wonderful promise…Lord, you are our Shepherd, and we shall not want.  You desire to fulfill every need we could possibly have, and heal every deep ache we have experienced, especially those self-inflicted injuries we have tried to fix ourselves.  You make us to lie down in green pastures and lead us beside still waters, in which we don’t have to worry or be filled with anxiety and distress. 

Jesus, you have a way, and only you, in which you restore our souls every day, in every aspect of our lives.  You are able to still our minds and hearts with your peace, even when the storms of life are crashing all around us.  
    
Even when there seems to be no answers, but only confusion, you will lead us on paths of righteousness for the sake of your name.  No matter how difficult or impossible our journey may be, you will always provide the right answer.  Because you are just like that!  

And yes, Father, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, with darkness and despair all around, we will not fear!  Why?  For you, Jesus, are with us!  Your rod and staff, they comfort us.  Father, know we are so grateful for Jesus, because we can rely all the time on His protective strength, and not our own.  And, we are thankful for His staff that gives us guidance every time, in all places, as we seek Him. 

Jesus, you satisfy all our needs, even as you prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies.  We know such attendance to us, provides the means to love those who don’t like us very much and can compel us to serve them in love.  Only you can create and cultivate such unity that is not mere words or steeped in idealism, but an active reality as we walk it out in our lives because you anoint our heads with oil, causing our cups to overflow with your love!    

Father God, we love you because you are still, so willing to rescue us from ourselves, so that we may experience the life, with you that you originally intended for us and every human being.  Therefore, we ask, that every family, every person we encounter daily in our community, and communities throughout this blessed nation, which you have blessed, will discover the reality of this wonderful promise, that we can learn to live a “life without lack” with you as our Shepherd, enabling one to say with confidence in you… “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever!”  Amen.

                                           Pastor John Leon, Executive Director

The Ultimate “Bridge of Hope!”

By: Pastor John Leon, Executive Director

Our board and staff have been working diligently in preparing for our annual fundraiser on April 19th, the Bridge of Hope Dinner/ Auction.  When I heard of such a theme for a fundraiser during my first year, I thought, “What an intriguing, but most appropriate theme, considering our mission.”

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Though we know the fundamental purpose of a bridge, it is good to look at a meaningful definition when used as a verb.  Webster’s dictionary offers, “To make a bridge over or across something; a gap.”  Yes, that is what we do as our mission.  Bridge-building with folks who do not have very much hope.  Many are broken and disconnected from their families for various reasons, some without any choice in the matter.

Let me share one story. His name is Quinten.  He is twenty-years-old.  Mom died at the age of 32, while Quinten, at the age of 12, was her caregiver. He had maternal grandparents, but they didn’t want him.  Subsequently, he then stayed with a “distant relative,” until she was recently evicted.  Two-and-half months ago Quinten showed up at our shelter, with no family, no money, no future, and no God.  His entire family background are atheists as he described. 

Now I have many responsibilities that demand my attention, but none are more important than the introductory meeting with a new “guest” at our shelter.

God has taught me the significance of listening to every person’s story—their journey in life—because He is interested in everyone’s life.  It is through listening, I discover a great opportunity to build a bridge with someone, estranged from loved ones, a chasm of separation comprised of deep loneliness, discouragement, disillusionment, and distrust.  Such heartache produces a jagged and rugged gap in one’s life.  Only a “bridge” will do to cover such a gap and reconstitute a life worth living.  And, that is what we strive to do at Albany Helping Hands, to create a “bridge of hope” with every individual.

If I’m honest, there are moments I simply shake my head in disbelief when I hear the stories of such shattered brokenness.  But, I must also tell you I sit with a stilled confidence knowing “we” have an answer for any hopeless situation.  All, because of the “ultimate Bridge of Hope…the Cross!  And, what an amazing “bridge” it serves.  It was built for every human being since we were separated from our own Creator, bent on going our own way due to our self-pride.  Alienated.  Alone.  Broken.  Separated from the only one who will and can love us best.

So, God made the first move.  Father-God conceived the plan, constructed through His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, on a Cross, and consummated by His Holy Spirit. He “bridged the gap” between us and Himself, through the powerful demonstration of selfless love.   All of which was designed to reconstitute the original life He intended for each of us. God never destined, for each of us, to go it alone, but rather, fully dependent upon Him, to do in us what we cannot do for ourselves.

Therefore, it is from such a spiritual narrative we attempt to build a bridge of hope with every guest we are privileged to encounter.  It is such a blessing to be given the opportunity to provide such a bridge.  This is why we need your support more than ever.  Affordable housing is a desperate need, contributing to the increase in homelessness.  Will you consider enlarging our ability to provide more hope to those in need?  We hope you will accept our invitation to be a part of our eighth annual Bridge of Hope Dinner/Auction on April 19th. 

By the way, we just saw Quinten off to the Job Corp where he will learn some new job skills and complete his high school diploma.  He only needs five credits.  Oh, and I almost forgot.  Before he left, he asked if I could obtain a cross attached with a chain, so he could wear it around his neck.  I said, “Absolutely, Quinten!”  My friend, I will never forget Quinten, wearing, yes, that “Bridge of Hope!”

 

Have a Blessed Resurrection Day Celebration!

Pastor John Leon, Executive Director

 

  
 

Grateful to God… and for You!

By: Pastor John Leon, Executive Director

Probably, second only to the theme of God’s love, the emphasis to always be thankful to God in all things is a salient Scriptural strand throughout all of God’s word.  

A couple come to mind… “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Col. 3:17).”  Or, as another declares, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Ps. 106:1).”  It is clear the Lord values a grateful heart.

Therefore, it would be gross negligence on our part, here at Albany Helping Hands, if we did not express our gratefulness to God, and for you, since you were an integral part of providing for us a record year of blessings in 2017.  Perhaps these blessings occurred because God knew the need for services would greatly increase.  

 For a detailed look and Meal Service Count and Housing Census data  click here.

For a detailed look and Meal Service Count and Housing Census data click here.

Food and Bed

We provided a record number of meals (87,648) representing an 11.2 percent increase over the previous year.     Also, the need for shelter increased by 12.6 percent, as over 36,000 bed nights were provided.

The last five months of the year we were operating at maximum occupancy, which was unusual, but understandable due to the acute housing shortage in our area and statewide.  

 

Housing Expansion

 Future home of Albany Helping Hands facility for single mothers with children.

Future home of Albany Helping Hands facility for single mothers with children.

And, speaking of housing, our board seized the opportunity in purchasing three new properties—two adjacent to our main campus on Ninth Ave., as well as the former church building of Pastor Les Bailey, the founder of this mission. This residential building will be renovated and designated for single mothers with children.  Certainly, this will fill a tremendous need for such housing in our community.  

Also, one of the other homes is already occupied with five residents, who would have been out in the cold if this property had not been purchased, due to our lack of available beds.

Jason Gould Memorial Tractor

Another tremendous blessing was the recent purchase of “Jason’s tractor.”  It is not new but is a solid “used” tractor that will be very helpful on our woodlot and will be invaluable for other various needs.  Thank you to all who gave designated donations for this project. (For more information on the Jason Gould story and the fundraising click here)

Yes, indeed, our expenditures increased in 2017 because of the increased needs, but amazingly, so did God’s grace and your giving, for which we are so thankful.  We could never do, what we do, without you. For none of which I have shared with you would have been possible, as we endeavor to serve the most desperate and destitute!  

As I serve in my capacity, I have many responsibilities, but the one most important to me is the privilege of “listening to the story” of every person who comes to us.  Some are more severe than others, and so there are times it is unavoidable for me to shake my head with stunned disbelief at the level of brokenness the person has experienced.  But then, in a private moment with God, I express my gratitude to Him that this mission is now here for the most brokenhearted and less fortunate.
  
 Is it any wonder why it is so important to be thankful to God in all we do, “in word or deed?”  Therefore, on behalf of our board, staff, and our “guests,” please know how grateful we are to you for every donation and dollar given to us to do what we did in 2017.  So grateful to God…and for you, please know this!   

Pastor John Leon, Executive Director
 

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!