The story of a homeless man who gave without any expectation of a return is being filmed in Fernandina Beach, Florida Thursday and Friday of this week. This is an amazing story of Gary, a homeless man who listened to two strangers tell him he needed to give unconditionally instead of continuing to expect others to keep giving to him.
In 12 days Gary (through) LIVING-IT-FORWARD moved from a tarp in the woods to a 3 bedroom 2 bath condo on the beach.
More important, Gary now has a church family that surrounds him and encourages him daily. This is what we’re all called to do. Place others before ourselves. When we do this wonderful things happen to us that we could never control on our own. If you don’t believe it…just ask Gary.
Today a man who was homeless 10 days ago is moving into a condo on Amelia Island, Florida. Did he receive an inheritance from a long lost relative? Or maybe he spent his last dollar on a lottery ticket. None of the above. He simply changed his focus from receiving to giving. Pastor Gene Wolfenbarger of The Gathering Church in Sevierville, TN has made this comment many times; “You can’t out give God.” We’ll my friend Gary down in Florida has discovered this truth. Gary gives a day of service to his church with no expectations, and he gets a meal. Gary finishes day four of serving at The Journey Church and he is invited to the church softball game with some of his new family members, still no expectations. Now Gary has a tent to sleep in instead of sleeping under a tarp. Gary continues to serve at church with no expectations of receiving anything for his efforts. Day 10 and Gary is moving into a condo prior to moving to Tennessee to join LIVE-IT, a ministry that will reach out to the homeless and the working poor across America. You’ve proved it Gary…you can’t out give God. Looking forward to you joining us.
After signing off from my daily phone call with Gary, I shook my head in disbelief, this is truly amazing. I’m ashamed to say it, but I didn’t really think that God could do so much with so little. I’m referring to the amount spent to buy Gary lunch and the spectacular return on that investment. After volunteering at the Journey Church all week and helping in any way possible, Gary has decided to join a fledgling ministry in Tennessee to help others that are on the streets and are waiting for the next handout. After experienced it for himself, Gary now wants to tell others that hope is not in what you receive, but in what you give. Terri and I celebrate in a life reclaimed to preach the word. We are looking forward to Gary joining us in Tennessee and helping all of us LIVE-IT.
Update on the Florida Trip.
Since leaving Florida our new friend Gary and the Journey Church have been busy. I’ve talked with Gary every day since leaving Fernandina Beach, and his progress is spirit lifting. Gary recommitted his life to Jesus on Sunday and has been volunteering in the church ever since. He’s attending the mens bible study and the fine folks at the Journey Church are assisting him with locating temporary housing. Gary says he has a desire to help Terri and I tell kids how important it is to give to others and to avoid making bad decisions that can lead to being homeless. He said on his own he can’t do it, but with help he knows he can speak to those that may be heading for trouble. God you never cease to amaze me. Something tells me Gary that your days of being alone are behind you.
A RECENT TRIP TO FLORIDA ENDED WITH A BEGINNING.
Sunday, January 17 was the last day of a 3 day visit with Daryl and Kara Bellar, founders of the Journey Church in Fernandina Beach, Florida. During our visit to the island we toured the low income housing projects and asked God to give us someone that we could help. We didn’t know exactly what kind of help we could be, but we knew God did. After church it was time to say goodbye, grab a quick bite to eat, and hit the road. We had a 9 hour drive in front of us and we were getting a late start. Terri grabbed a bag of clothes from the car so she could change for the long drive home, she ran back into the church to change. Minutes later she was back at the car still in her church clothes. Terri said she had walked into the foyer of the church right past a homeless man waiting on a good samaritan to return with a tube for the flat tire on his bike. “Do you think this is the person that God wants us to help” Terri asked. To me it sounded like he had already been helped. However we decided to prayed right then, “God if you want us to help this man, have him approach us”. That should do it I thought. “Now hurry up and change so we can eat”. After what seemed like 10 minutes and no Terri yet, I decided to go in and find her. Walking towards the church entrance I noticed the homeless man (now outside) talking to someone in the distance. I was just a few steps away from the front doors when he turned and looked at me. Abruptly he ended his conversation and walked towards me, talking to me as he approached as if we were picking up a conversation already started. There he was, our burning bush, walking towards me. Say no more God, I hear you loud and clear. Over lunch we found out that Gary lives in the woods behind Kmart. He’s from Charleston, WV and has a daughter. We didn’t talk much about what brought him to live behind Kmart, it didn’t matter. We talked about what Gary enjoyed doing, and how he could help others. Gary home is a tarp, and he acknowledged that there are some who don’t even have cover. We talked about helping people and some of the things that he might be able to do get involved with giving to others. As we finished our lunch I stopped a minute to think about what God had just done. We had one last problem, Gary needed a wrench to take off his tire so he could insert the tube. We decided that we would find one and meet Gary over at the shell service station across the parking lot. The tire was fixed, pictures were taken, and it was again time to go.
We gave Gary two LIVE-IT business cards and asked him for a favor. The Journey Church had a 6:00 pm service that evening, and would he give one of the cards to Pastor Daryl and tell him that he was going to live it and needed to get plugged in. At that very moment and only as God can do, Terri said “look who’s filling up,” sure enough there getting gas was Pastor Daryl and his wife Kara. I pointed to Daryl and told Gary that he was the man I wanted him to take the card to that evening. Without further hesitation Gary walked over to Pastor Daryl and presented him with the card. Gary told Daryl that he was going to live it and that he would be at the service that evening to start his journey.
Sunday, January 17 around 8:30 pm
On the way home to Tennessee and received a call from a 904 area code. It’s Gary calling me to let me know he was at the church service. He told me he enjoyed Pastor Daryl’s talk and that he was going to lunch tomorrow with one of the Pastor’s. He was excited about a new bible he received and a journey shirt. He was also thinking about joining the men’s bible study. God your so good. One down, thousands and thousands to go.