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!