April 9, 2017
So…we have had many things take place on this little corner in Meridian, Idaho. Loyal To One’s Thrift Store/Community Center building serves so many purposes. By day, all week long, we minister to the least, the lost and the forgotten as they walk through our doors. Often, they minister to us by bringing in “gifts” as we call them. These “gifts” become the life of the store by either providing for others who need clothing and blankets, or becoming inventory to sell which helps support the ministry. By night, there is worship practice. During the weekend, we have Fellowship Service on Sundays. We have had funerals and baby dedications. Someone made a comment that we wear this building out!
And then one Saturday night, we had our first wedding here…
Because we set up for church on Saturday evenings and then have worship practice, we had to set a plan in place to provide for all of the events that would happen between Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. We began by setting the foundation for church the following day, which would be a perfect basis for a wedding…pews, chairs, and tables for refreshments.
Then we added bows…
And punch bowls…
We mixed in some little flourishes and a pinch of creativity…
We fit in practice….
Finally, we folded in cakes,
and the bride and groom
(not to mention a little wedding music on the computer)…. And voila!
There was a wedding!
Kevin and Penny wanted to renew their vows after 20 years of marriage here at Loyal To One, before God and their family and friends who have supported them and loved them through all the ups and downs that 20 years can bring. We said “Of course!”. They wanted their new life together to begin on a fresh page. We had a wonderful ceremony and many of us cried as we watched the true love this couple has for each other pour out from their written vows. Their commitment as a mature couple was evident, but their jitters and pure hearts displayed the beauty of new (re-found) love. It was an honor and a blessing to be part of this amazing moment!
After the wedding, we took it down a notch and brought it back to your basic church backdrop. And we were ready for Sunday!
For more information on this amazing couple, see our blog below from September 23, 2016.
Just an update…they just bought a home and will be moving in next month! God has blessed this little family remarkably!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Friday, February 3, 2017
So, it’s been a few months since my last blog…Since then, Loyal To One Ministry has received a distinguished award, plowed mountains of snow (literally), celebrated the holidays with a fellowship potluck that overflowed with delicious creations, received grants that will provide for cell phones and bicycles for new guys re-entering society, and met the most amazing couple from Virginia (below). Check out all that’s been going on by clicking on the links. Enjoy!
Have you ever met someone who you just knew were sent into your life straight from God? One dear couple who happened upon our Community Center one summer day are just such an example. What began as a couple of weeks’ worth of responsibilities and legal procedures to fulfill the last wishes of a family member who had passed away, became a journey of three months that lead to friendship, love and a season of renewed purpose. We literally got to spend a season with them as they blessed us with their beautiful and gentle spirits. During that time they worked tirelessly in our Book Room and then in our Vintage Room, researching, pricing and placing all the unique items.
At the end of January, we had to say farewell to our new found friends and forever family members of this ministry. We all had hopes that God might allow them to remain here, but He has more work for them to do back in Virginia. Below is what we put together to somehow encompass and show appreciation for all that they did for this ministry and now is displayed in our new and improved Book Room as a small tribute to this amazing couple who filled our days with laughter, wisdom and encouragement. We miss you Tom & Mary Ellen! Although we never got to meet your brother Mac, we will always be grateful to him and God for bringing us together!
Tom and Mary Ellen McElfresh discovered Loyal To One Ministry in the summer of 2016 while they were visiting Tom’s brother, here in Meridian. Later that fall, they came into the store to inform us that Tom’s brother had passed away and his desire was that his possessions go to a good cause. Tom and Mary Ellen had picked Loyal To One first and foremost because of the Scripture on the roof. The days and weeks…and months that followed revealed a beautiful relationship between this amazing couple and the entire Loyal To One family as they began to learn what we are really all about. They quickly became involved with every facet of this ministry including fellowship services, meeting our men on their first day of re-entry, ministering to our community service workers, plowing snow, and lovingly restoring our library (now appropriately designated the “Book Room”). Tom and Mary Ellen not only generously donated their brother’s estate to this ministry, but they continued to bless us by spending nearly all of their free time reading, researching, and cataloguing only the most appropriate books for our Book Room. They transformed this little room into a world all its own that now comes alive with ministry, comfort and childhood imagination. That is why we have decided to dedicate this part of Loyal To One’s Community Center to them. Thank you Tom and Mary Ellen for your love and dedication, but especially for your friendship as we take this journey together in our Lord. We will forever be blessed by the Divine Appointment of our meeting.
Friday, September 23, 2016
So it’s been four months since my last post. It’s not that I haven’t had much to say, but rather so much has been going on this summer that by the time I picked one subject, another would present itself…and then someone would be ready to check out at the cash register. For those of you who know what really goes on around here, you will understand. For those of you who are new to our ministry, we do many jobs in one day. Each one is equally important, whether it’s handling the administrative side, visiting the prisons, picking up donations, customer service at our thrift store, or setting up for church – we are ALWAYS busy and ALWAYS blessed!
So, when P and K (you know who you are) ask me why there aren’t new posts, I realize it’s time to move the computer to the register area of the store and multi-task. On that note, I have decided to make them my muse for this post. And not just a muse, but the perfect example of and encouragement for what this ministry is truly all about.
Last summer, one of our homes was blessed enough to have K come to live for a little while. It was evident from the beginning, that he was special. We could see with each encounter with him, that he was going to make it. But I don’t think we were even aware of just how close his walk with God was. One of the first conversations I had with him was when he was going to get his driver’s license after he had been with us for a bit. He said he had been walking to work. I asked how far it was and he explained that it was about seven miles away.
I just looked at him.
Every day, he would walk seven miles to work and then after working, he would walk seven miles home. Now, he worked at a bakery at least twelve hours a day. So he was walking during the darkest part of the night. I told him that must be awful. But his response, coupled with his signature grin was, “I’m so happy to be walking outside, it doesn’t matter.” I was amazed! What did I have to complain about?
The next encounter that stands out was just shortly after he had been attacked by geese…in the middle of the night…walking home from work. It’s now one those stories that legends are made of and it has been handed down to the new guys that haven’t met K yet. “You have a bike to use to get to work? Why, I once knew a man who walked 14 miles a day (up hill both ways) and bravely took on and held back a gaggle of geese, one dark and cold night…” Something like that. Anyway, he kept a greater distance between him and the family of geese and the geese gave him respect after that.
Finally, K not only got to drive but was able to purchase a car of his own. After that, every weekend would find him next to his wife who still lived over an hour away, and anxiously awaited his arrival. He would take those days and visit with his children and grandchildren. But his biggest goal (I know because he told me) was to make sure that every minute of every day his wife, P, felt loved by him. So, faithfully he would take the trip each weekend and sometimes, if we were lucky, he’d go get P and they would have church with us.
As, time went on, K moved up in the bakery company until finally, he became production manager. He was able during those times to find work for his sons there, as well as some of our other guys in the houses. Not all of our guys were as faithful to him, but he never stopped trying to help. All the while, he was building up his relationships with his family, working hard at his job – going in anytime they called, even if he worked a full day and had just gotten to bed- attending church, lifting up his other housemates with jobs and encouraging words, and most of all – becoming closer to God everyday. His devotion sheets weren’t big enough to hold all he had to say each week. Eventually, he and P would do them together when they had their weekends. We got to watch him work hard to become the husband, father and fellow citizen that he truly had always had been. His relationship with God grew so much that it overflowed to everyone he encountered and blessed all who were privileged to know him.
Eventually, K was ready to get a place of his own with P, his lovely wife.
We were sad.
I know, it’s what we want to happen; it’s what we do this for; it’s the best thing. But we are like parents sending our kids off to college. The best ones, take off and have the best life ahead and those are the ones we want to ‘keep’ forever. Anyway, he and P worked hard and struggled to find a place together. They were like a young couple so excited to have a home together again.
Finally, a little over a year after he had come to us, God granted them a home here. We were almost as excited as they were when they got to have their first night together in their new little place. Finally!
God is good! Now they come to church every Sunday here and their children actually live behind them!
So, the final piece to what is really only the beginning is that we were honored to go visit them in their sweet home. To see one of our guys open the door to his very own home, knowing the struggles and barriers he endured over all this time has got to be one of the most wonderful experiences we will ever have! He invited us in, we sat and visited and I could hear his sweet wife’s feet coming down their hallway to greet us. They looked so cozy and homey and happy. We had such a nice time, as they showed us pictures of their newest grandchild – a granddaughter! After all those boys! And…they were able to go to the hospital together to await her arrival! These little moments that many of us take for granted will never again be considered ordinary to our precious P and K.
Here’s to P for holding the family together during all of this time, for loving K and patiently waiting for life to be everything they ever wanted it to be; for embracing whatever God has for them and being the wonderful woman God created her to be. And here’s to K. Once you put God as the center of your life, He smiled on you really big and EVERYONE sees it and you are a wonderful example to all of us and especially the ones who will follow you. Thank you for making what we do and what keeps us busy, sometimes too busy to blog, so very, very worthwhile! God bless you and your precious family! We are honored to call you friends!
Yesterday was “Red Nose Day”. It’s a day to raise money for and recognize the need of children everywhere. I didn’t know this until yesterday morning, when one of our volunteers came up to me and offered me what looked to be a red, squeeze ball. Having a certain childlike love for little bouncy balls that can cause all sort of havoc when bounced against the floor and allowed to ricochet all around the room (this is especially fun in a completely empty house when applied in the kitchen/dining room area), I was pretty happy with my little gift. He informed me that it was a red nose. I looked at it and wondered what the significance was. He explained that today (yesterday) was “Red Nose Day” and that everyone was wearing them to bring awareness to impoverished children everywhere. It wasn’t just hungry or in-need children, but just a wonderful way to acknowledge children and try to reach them whatever their needs are.
I loved the idea! I couldn’t make mine stay on my nose, but I put it on throughout the day and giggled at how funny I must look and what a wonderful idea this was. Well, I found out he had bought as many as he could afford so everyone could have one to wear. I thought, “How sweet! He actually stood at the store where they were sold, considered all of us here and bought them so he could share this fun day with his new-found friends and co-workers.”
As the day went on, we shared the noses with others who came to work and volunteer. The spirit was infectious! Before I knew it, people were donning straw hats and leis! The store was filled with laughter and everyone had a brightness about them. The smiles didn’t stop all day! I thought, “What a tribute to children, when we can all find a child within who gets permission to come out and bring a little light into the world!”
Thank you dear friend for reminding us how fun it is to be a child again and making our world a lot brighter with your presence!
“…Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the Kingdom of God.”- Mark 10:14
Friday, April 22, 2016
I have sat down to write for the past few weeks, but have been a little too weary. I sometimes wonder if I should pay closer attention to what Pastor Joseph is going to preach on before he does, and prepare for the results. It seems that whatever the sermon is about on Sunday, the week (and sometimes weeks) that follow are filled with just those things. One Sunday is was on possession and oppression. The believer facing different spirits of oppression, including health issues and other struggles, sent by God always because He is in control of everything. So, then the weeks that followed found our brothers and sisters in hospital, facing family crisis and being overall oppressed while we prayed and tried to use the tools taught to us on our Sunday service. It’s kind of like praying for patience. Any seasoned believer knows that, that prayer is almost always a path to trials and testing, all to teach him patience.
So, recently, the Pastor has preached on “counting it all joy” when we find ourselves in trials and these “momentary light afflictions”. Also, he has preached on faith. So, where do we find ourselves? (God has given us the opportunity to practice what Pastor has preached.)
Interestingly, it’s not so much our congregation or the community we serve that we are watching and praying for as they face these trials and afflictions….it’s us. Over the past week, following wonderful healings and praise reports from the previous weeks and the excitement of Pastor’s book being released, we find ourselves in the midst of brokenness. Everything has come at us…from brothers in the homes breaking our hearts, to members of the congregation breaking our spirit, to Orchard flooding due to yet another blocked irrigation line, which will cost dearly with money that isn’t there because so many once again haven’t fulfilled their financial commitment in the homes… Hmmm….”count it all joy?”
Well, with each painful, fiery dart I have tried to say “thank you” 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Each time I saw Pastor’s heart break I tried to remind him to “count it all joy” James 1:2-4. Oh yes, he reminded me as we looked at the checkbook and wondered how we will make it, “God will provide” Philippians 4:19.
As the wife of a pastor, I get a very personal view of his heart and just what it takes for him to maintain a kind and gentle spirit when faced with adversity and personal attacks. Just as his season of darkness that is spoken of in his journals in his book, God always shows up in a much grander scale than any of the hardships that come to a shepherd, to help strengthen him. In fact, he says to me often – “Honey, sheep bite. The world hurts. Yet we are still victorious in Christ. Let us just both maintain our eternal perspective that comes from our calling.” –
Thursday, March 24, 2016
When our residents first apply with Loyal To One, they are told about certain requirements for staying with us. While we are not a program, because as Pastor Joseph says “We don’t live life through a program,” we do have a few good habits we enforce while our guys are staying with us. Because our residents apply as Christian men, most are already doing these things and are encouraged to be living with others who are doing the same. One of these unique requirements are daily devotions which we ask them to do first thing in the morning. Joseph always reminds the men that medical science has found that whatever you put into your brain within the first thirty minutes of the morning, sets your thinking for the day.
So, the men each have their own weekly form that they turn in with their personal daily devotion entries. They can pick whatever resource they want. They can read a verse, or chapter each day from the Bible. They can choose to comment about what they read, or how they feel, or what they are praying for. They can be detailed or brief. It’s personal and it’s between God and them how they choose to complete these forms.
However, they are aware that Joseph and I read them on a weekly basis. They know this and some are open and share their hearts. We are very blessed when they do because then we can have a glimpse into their walk with Jesus, as well as their struggles, worries, prayers and praise reports. Because we have several homes and many men living in them, we can’t always connect individually with each man. These devotions really help us to know them and know what to pray for and even how to help. We can see if they are settling back into life well, or if there’s something more they may need from us.
Often, as we read these precious bits of their hearts, we cry. There is so much beauty and sometimes so much pain just in re-entering for our men. We care so much for each and every one of them, that we feel their pain, celebrate their victories and pray for their needs with the heart of a sister or brother who desires only the best God has for each and every one of them.
We thought perhaps you might like to share some of their thoughts (completely anonymously of course, but no less impactful). What follows are some excerpts from several of their most powerful entries:
Tuesday: I pray to God and thank Him for the second chance and love from my family.
Friday; I am thankful that the Lord feels my heart.
Note at the top of the page: I have lots to be blessed, or feel blessed about. My kids will all be in one place, or should be, by this weekend. So I study blessings (this week). Just being able to talk, walk, breathe and work is a blessing to me. Having brothers in the home to be of service to is a great blessing as well.
Note at the top of the page:
My mind has been on (my brother in the home whose struggling with illness) and his health issues this week so I thought it only fitting that I study on healing (this week). We pray for our brother many times a day and hope that he has the courage to push through this. Not give up because he has more work to do for the Lord.
Note at the top of the page: I feel compelled to study on patience again as while looking for a place…and being shot down time after time, I really need it.
Friday: Today I had an incident with one guy on my crew. Having the Lord help guide me through the situation, I was able to keep my calm.
Saturday: Everyday is a blessed day for me, even my bad days are nothing compared to my past.
Friday: I see that I am blessed, which has never happened in my life…till now. This is because I’m reading and living the life for Christ.
Saturday: At work today I felt a lot of love. Thanks to Loyal To 1 Ministry… I am cared for. The Lord moves in strange ways.
Monday: Daily Bread – Thank You God for Your love for me
Tuesday: Daily Bread – I am holding on…!
Thursday: I choose to live my life everyday with joy and glory, that is the path I am walking now and when someone asks to stray, I offer to take them on my journey on the path to holiness and righteousness with our Lord and Savior.
Thursday: I prayed earnestly for the first time in my life driving to school yesterday morning, God answered my prayers the same day. Amazing!
Note at the top of the page: I won’t be a poser. I will be obedient. My life will reflect my beliefs and glorify God.
So, as you can see, we are at once inspired, touched and heartbroken as we read into the hearts of our men. Often, after our weekly reviews, Pastor Joseph picks up his phone and connects with the guys on a personal basis which may not have happened without this invaluable insight. Thanks for sharing.
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Life is full of surprises, both good and bad. In this ministry, our good surprises seem to come in the kinds of packages that most folks take for granted, like a Sunday BBQ. What does it mean for our House Leader/Pastor In Training and some of the guys from our Nampa facility to pull their resources together and have a simple afternoon BBQ after church? Well, it means the vision for this ministry has come to fruition. It means that several of our guys who live together in one place, yet in separate apartments, from all walks of life and trials, took the time to get ready for church, pile into one or two cars, show up at service and fill several rows of chairs. It means that after singing out worship songs, participating in the message, and sharing hugs and visits with the other members of the congregation, they all pulled together to bring food and provisions to the courtyard of the Nampa facility. It means that they had to get together sometime before Sunday even happened to make plans, clear their day for each other, collect or buy what they could afford and find a BBQ. It’s not just about the afternoon or even the day, it’s about the lives they share together that has somehow provided the desire to spend more time together breaking bread outside of any required appointments. It’s the moments when they have given each other a ride to work, found a brother broken and sat with him, taken in a brother and cared for him when the rest of the world has abandoned him, spoken up for each other, held each other accountable…these are the moments that brought the bond that ultimately is seen in events like a Sunday BBQ. The same things that bring traditional families with parents and brothers and sisters together on a week-end, are the same life events and caring that bring these guys together on what may be their only day off from work and make life a little more normal, a little sweeter, a little more like home. These are our happy little surprises that remind us how much we love them and why we do what God has allowed us to do. –
Sunday, February 21, 2016
Another Sunday Fellowship Service has come and gone and we are left with the residual beauty that we encounter each week. It seems that as Sunday comes around, our week of the business and worries of the world is punctuated by this day of love and mutual caring that can only occur among Believers. As we make the rounds and engage in conversation, we can hear the tender rhythm of other voices comparing weeks, seeking prayer from one another, and encouraging the weary ones. I am overwhelmed, once again, at the love that fills this little store as it transforms from a busy Community Center into a sanctuary where all are loved and cared for on such a personal level. No one is left standing alone. Everyone feels, if only for these few hours, the most, the found and the remembered. And the hope is…it carries us through the week, until we meet again.
As we find our seats and settle down to worship, the pastor asks me to say a prayer over the service. This is not hard for this shy girl after all the fellowship and hugs I just enjoyed. This is because I want to thank God so much for everyone in the service and pray for a wonderful week ahead filled with hope and opportunities. The Spirit is so strong among this congregation that as the singing begins, we are already filled and the voices come forward full of praise and thanksgiving. I can’t help but smile as I hear them and feel our family come together to worship the Lord. –
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Webster’s Dictionary defines a miracle as: “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.” Pastor Joseph often refers to every time Christians come together to meet or worship or even just have a conversation, as being a miracle (as defined by Webster – who, by the way, was a Christian). Obviously, since the Holy Spirit indwells each believer, when we interact, we are experiencing God in each other and therefore, experiencing a miracle. This was very evident last night when we held our first Bible Study for all of our Orchard property residents in the infamous Pink House.
We opened the Pink House officially last Saturday night when we held our first house meeting in it for all the guys living on the Orchard property. One of the men from our Mornin Mist property moved in that evening and spent his first night. I’m sure we all held our collective breaths as we waited to see if this house that has given us such trials over the past few months was going to finally cooperate. Because of it’s infamous history, it’s been a long road to recovery for this house. When Loyal To One first acquired it, it had to be cleansed both physically and spiritually. It’s the last phase of our Orchard property to be opened for our men because every time we would get close to being ready to open it, something new would put a halt to our progress. We finally decided that God just wanted it to sit empty a little longer so it’s popularity with the wrong population would eventually melt away and thereby become the safe home He wants it to be.
So…there we were last night, most of the men from the property, a few others from Mornin Mist, and Pastor Bob, sitting around in the cozy living area. Pastor Joseph asked each person to share about his walk with the Lord and what had brought him to Loyal To One. Each person testified to a different background and traveled path which ultimately led to his desire to finally seek out what God has for him. With each testimony, however, the common thread of knowing that God had called them, wanting to really do this with only God by their side, and the realization that the only path to complete success will be by submitting to God and allowing Him to make the change was spun.
As Joseph and I listened and shared, we saw the beauty of brokenness giving way to “…thoughts of peace…a future and a hope” that God has planned for each one. Our hearts were filled with so much love and blessings as we left last night, we realized that God was truly there in our mist and on the property and finally in the Pink House, because we had truly witnessed several miracles. –