Restoring Hearts Ministries

DECEMBER 2017 MISSION UPDATE

Jan
11

Image result for 2017 updateDECEMBER 2017 UPDATE

It’s been a while since I’ve written a personal update regarding this ministry and my heart, so … this is that update and it will also serve as our annual 2017 update.

Forgive me for the length of this, but I truly want you to know in some detail what is going on inside of RHM.

Honestly, the past six months have been filled with blessings, new pressures and challenges and I’ve been, at times, on my heels trying to keep up with all the amazing work happening in the ministry. Today, looking across the ministry, it’s honestly amazing to me what the Lord has done with just a few open hearts.

What once was just a prayerful walk on the streets has over the years turned into a fairly robust ministry and a sound vehicle for the Lord’s love and grace to go forward from.

Of course we continued with the basics;

Handing out gospel tracts was where this all started, and this year we handed out thousands upon thousands of gospel tracts as we continued our mission to evangelize in the city of Trenton every week. We also handed out hundreds of bibles, both new and used.

Again this year, we collected tons (yes really) of clothing, and donated it to Good Stuff Thrift, a partner that allows us to frequent their stores with any individual that we are ministering to in order to outfit them, and we’ve done that many times this year.

We again handed out crates of sleeping bags, hats, gloves and scarfs, toiletries, solar panel charges and more.

We’ve continued our Bible studies across the city of Trenton, and now we have groups running and studying the Bible everyday accept Friday with total attendance near 60 to 80 a week, depending on the time of the month.

We made new strides in some existing ministry areas;

We’ve spent thousands of dollars, more then ever before, providing emergency shelter to the homeless during the worst of the storms this year and depending on funding, we hope to provide this service into the coming year.

Our work with the city of Trenton has continued, as part of the continuum of care in Mercer County for outreach to the homeless. We are an active member of the CCOT mobile outreach team and along with about 20 other organizations we are involved in the active care for the city’s homeless and addicted. This year, our relationship has deepened and RHM is a leader in this group. We provide solutions and actively seek truth amongst the issues facing the homeless in the City and Mercer County. For instance, we re- organized and led the restructuring of outreach to the homeless, creating a new and more welcoming environment for outreach for major city outreaches; from which we offered our services to the homeless community – Prayer, Counseling, Fellowship and of course, the HOPE and LOVE of Jesus Christ. I find it amazing that a faith based organization can work directly with the City and County while making no compromises in our faith stance. We bring Jesus to the outreaches and meetings we have with the City. This year at a major City outreach, one of our homeless men handed the Mayor of Trenton a Bible. He gladly accepted it as a believer, but I loved that this happened and was influenced by our work with that individual and of course Christ within him.

We participated in the 2017 homeless census and will again participate in 2018 in about 20 or so days, where we will join a state team counting the homeless so the state can receive it’s share of the 5.5 or so billion that the USA spends on support of the homeless each year.

And through Christ we broke new ground as well;

Providing food to the homeless is something we have done since the beginning of this ministry, but this year we provided nearly 4000 meals to the homeless and poor and what’s best is this all occurred at bible studies or church services. So not only did folks get fed, but they heard the Word as well being truly fed in Christ.

This year we’ve sent just over a dozen men and women to various detoxs, rehabs and recovery houses, into vivatrol out-patient programs and we are still praying for their complete healing and restoration.

We are happy to announce that RHM is now working with the Trenton Rescue Mission weekly where we serve meals and mingle with our friends residing there during dinner. We also provide live music during dinner for the 3 seatings they have and then we continue that service by setting up coffee and dessert afterwards where we worship together and provide a sermon where anywhere from 20 to 50 people attend week to week.

In 2017, we created a mobile technology platform called HOMES, at great expense, to help the city and the other 20 or so organizations reach out to the homeless, to share data, and provide transparency; to link services to optimize the help that can be provided and we did not charge for the creation or use of this platform. The HOMES solution was given to the City as a gift as a sign of our commitment to the City to help our friends and family living on the street in Trenton. Trenton is now writing the use of this system into its policies which will help with service provision to the homeless, grant efficiency and performance monitoring. This system provides data like the state has never had for the homeless and creates an interactive eco-system to bring the service providers even closer to homeless hearts on the street. It’s currently in the pilot phase, but we have high hopes. In 2018 we hope to be rolling out our public and homeless side of the solution, that will bring focus to the real problems on the street and give the homeless a voice that can not be ignored.

We were invited to join the Herion & Opiate Task Force for Mercer County, chaired by our friends at City of Angels and we are learning more about this issue in the state and the country monthly because this issue is so real in the homeless community. Within a partnership with City of Angels we’ve sent our first four members of RHM to Drug Addiction counseling training to work on their counselor certification to assist us in serving our homeless hearts well.

Amazingly, we have more hearts serving with us then ever before. RHM has been serving folks on the street for many years and each year we pick up new people that want to serve and join this ministry and mission.

And this year, we started the Mission House;

Starting the mission house is a giant leap for us. We did this because we feel the current housing solutions are inappropriate and ineffective. So we obtained a house, for another RHM pilot program to provide a place of trust and safety, not a recovery house, but a house that is a home to a small set of men (3 to 5) that are focused on advancing their life

together in Christ. One of our staff members will reside at this home as well to provide daily mentoring to the men as they rebuild and are restored in Christ. The beginning of a model we hope to see advance into the future and hope to see it duplicated over and over again.

All of this is incredible to me. There are several dozen people serving in this ministry to help restore those struggling in homelessness to let them know they are loved, by us and by Christ Jesus.

It’s amazing to see what the Lord can do with open hearts… But with all these efforts, we lost many on the street this year.

Just two days ago another man died, his name was Lenny. I’m sure his family still thinks he is alive and sadly, I am sure many will not even notice his absence from this world, but we will. About 2 weeks before, we had the honor to pray with Lenny and we learned of his faith, but personally, I am crushed to see another person die not understanding their true place in Christ’s grace.

We’ve had many friends die this year and seen some walk away from the opportunity to know Christ and many fall back into addiction. We’ve seen some housed, but far more new faces appear. We’ve seen the prostitution spike, drugs get worse and our homeless friends experience beatings, being chased and harassed on a daily basis, by drug dealers, gang members, police and some in the public.

Truly though, it has been a great time of growth for the ministry, and I am proud of the love we are sharing and the work we are doing in Christ’s name, but honestly there are times when I feel lost in the depth of this mission. I am not sure if this is a problem that can be solved, but that isn’t why we do this.

Restoring Hearts seeks to RESTORE HEARTS to Christ. People are hurting on the street in Trenton and our surrounding areas and we must respond to Christ’s call. There is pain and suffering in our communities that cannot be ignored. Humanity demands it, and Christ commanded it. Many, so many, do not understand who their Savior truly is.

And as long as we can, we will respond to this call to spread the Gospel in the City of Trenton and continue to reflect the mission of Christ with those struggling in homelessness, addiction and the under served. We will continue to push the City of Trenton and the other organizations to up their game and we do surely push. We will advocate for the homeless and poor, the lost and powerless.

I told you that RHM helps with the homeless census, the count that ensures that NJ gets its appropriate allocation of federal funds for the homeless each year. Maybe you didn’t know this, RHM does not take City, County or State funds and as a policy we will not. We have access to the grant system, but we will not access it. First and foremost we look to protect ourselves from mission drift. We participate with the homeless census for the homeless themselves and for the other organizations that we partner with that do take federal dollars. RHM depends solely on what the Lord provides. Money is a powerful tool, but also a powerful tool for other agendas to come in an pull us away from our main mission, proclaiming Christ’s Gospel. So RHM is totally, 100%, privately funded. Depending on the moving of hearts to help us help others in His name.

Certainly you know you can donate into RHM and that helps us, without you we couldn’t be as effective as each one of these efforts has a cost.

Most importantly we need your prayers.

The truth is, we are walking in the ruins, on a battlefield daily. We are like medics running out into fire and pulling others to safety so we can see them healed. We are pressed and attacked often, we personally battle sadness and loss. There is real sacrifice and real struggle in RHM to keep the joy in our hearts and through that there is real battle-hardened faith in Christ. We never have to wonder if we would survive without Christ, because the lack of Christ working in this ministry for even a day would stop us like a brick wall. Without Christ we are nothing, and without your prayers we could be lost, not eternally of course, but this ministry could fail.

If this seems dramatic to you, I suppose it is, but to see the truth in it, you just need to walk with us for one week and you would experience the battle and the deep need for this ministry and I do personally invite you to do that.

In Christ’s mercy and grace please pray for us. Please know, you are important to us, beloved and adored by us and Christ and your heart for this mission means the world to us. If you donate, thank you, if you pray for RHM, thank you. We truly covet your prayers.

Should you have any questions or thoughts, please feel free to contact me directly.

In His love,
Erik Lydick
pastor
Restoring Hearts Ministries of Trenton erik@restoringhearts.org (609)358-3258

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Offense: Sleeping in public

Jul
11


With all the beautiful weather, the BBQ’s and the beach, please don’t forget about those in need living on the street. This is Marie, we know her well, sleeping on a highway divider, just 3 feet from a very busy road on the edge of a bridge by the train station in Trenton.  She is a sweet woman, no teeth, kind, caring, disabled and struggling in homelessness.

Most would look at Marie and assume she is high, or drunk and passed out there. Most drive by and pity her or shame her for being high or drunk and sleeping on the street in full view of the public, hundreds of cars passing by, in full view of everyone entering and exiting the river-line in Trenton, in full view of everyone walking to the Amtrak and NJ Transit trains from South Clinton Ave.  As people pass by, many are likely thinking thoughts like, “What a strange place to sleep.” or “What a shame.” or “She should probably go get a job and stop living off the system.” or something else without really understanding what is happening here…

Can you imagine this? How tired would you have to be to sleep here? What would drive a person to sleep in this spot?

Please, before you read on, put yourself in HER place and think about it for a minute…

Exhaustion is something the homeless battle daily. Often it’s easier to sleep during the day, even in public view because frankly it’s safer for the homeless. Marie likely didn’t choose this spot because this was the only place she could find to sleep, she likely chose this spot because it was the safest place she could find to sleep.  A place where she’d be “safe”, and it would be at least a bit more unlikely that anyone would hurt her or steal from her in the full view of the public eye. The same eye that judges her daily.

Marie is sleeping here, because sleeping on the street at night in Trenton as a woman is a very dangerous thing to do. As a man, I’ve seen other men reduced to shells because of exhaustion. They walk around like ghosts, wearing their skin like a body suit that is too big, drooping and almost unable to walk. They fall asleep in bible study and in church almost the moment they hit the chair, because that is truly a safe place to sleep.

This is just from sheer exhaustion. Now, men are able to defend themselves for the most part or at least seem like a threat (even if they wouldn’t hurt a fly) (because frankly most homeless people wouldn’t hurt a fly, in fact they are generally extremely kind to animals and just about everyone else) but I’ve seen men force to move bed down spots over and over again, because the public or the police or the gangs or other homeless people are harassing them or threatening them.  And this is men, but for a woman it’s much harder.  The threat of harassment  and violence is there of course, but so is the threat of rape or being caught up in human trafficking.

Even if they live in the shelter sleep is difficult, because the moment you drop your guard, you loose your stuff or worse.

Can you imagine?

So here is Marie, sleeping, in the safest place she can find. Trying so hard to just grab a few restorative moments of sleep.  Pray for her.

and please, amongst the beautiful weather, the BBQs and beach trips, the family vacations, consider the homeless. Please don’t forget about them. Pray for them. They need your help and so do we.

Restoring Hearts Ministries of Trenton

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Homeless abuse

Apr
11

We’ve been hearing from our homeless friends about the Trenton Transit Station and about how certain Transit Police are badgering the homeless over the past few days. This happens from time to time and every once and a while it reaches a crescendo, a high point and then suddenly people are getting maced and arrested. We are at this point again now.

The ministry we are involved in spends multiple hours with the homeless in Trenton every week. We sit with them, talk with them, study with them, connect with them, we take day trips with them; we do all we can to connect and value them. The goal of the ministry is share the love of Christ with them, to give hope and love. We know that Christ can rebuild any life, save any soul and ultimately those that grab hold of the relationship that Jesus offers will be better off. We do supply practical needs, we respond in emergencies with supplies and hotel stays and we care for as many as we can. We attempt to help them through the broken social services system and help them find jobs and housing. We even attempt to help them restore family relationships. We do our best to keep them safe, fed, protected and loved. The cost is immense financially and emotionally for our ministry and team.

All of these folks have emotional baggage, most much deeper then you and I. There are some with serious mental illness. The fact that there are seriously mental ill people on the street is heartbreaking, but in your mind, set these folks aside for a moment for this conversation. I’m not referring to this section of people on the street right now. For the sake of helping you understand the division I am trying to create, let’s call the remaining group of homeless, high functioning homeless.

This group can manage on the street and deal with the basics of being homeless. It’s important to understand, homelessness is just a state of being, it doesn’t describe the person. Once you establish trust, you’ll find most homeless folks to be caring and compassionate, humble and deeply hurt. Once you establish trust you see their desperate desire to be valued and loved. Please, it’s important to understand, that establishing trust takes training and months if not years of consistent caring contact.

Homelessness for most is a gradual decline, it doesn’t suddenly jump upon someone. For some it does, but in the majority it is a slow walk to reach this place. Regardless of the journey to this spot, the result is a hurt person, that feels betrayed, devalued, unloved, unprotected and alone that is truly helpless. They are always on guard against danger and abuse, from other homeless folks, from passer-byes, the police, even from ministries. They can strike out as a first reaction, in what seems to be an unbalanced and over the top reaction to the simplest thing. It is a scary thing to see and experience.

As an individual, Even as a 6’4” 300lb plus man, I find it scary at times. There have been rare occasions when even I wondered how far this reaction would go, wondering if I was in danger. Trust me, this is real and I mean this, but training as taught us as a ministry how to de-escalate these incidents.

But commonly there is a dysfunction in the way these folks handle relationships. When you consider the journey, the condition on the streets and months and months or years of abuse received on the streets, the constant barrage of betrayal and abuse provided there from so many sources, you see quickly how a verbally over the top or violent reaction to a perceived threat to a homeless heart is, to them, the best form of self protection.

They have no where to run, no house to go to, no place to retreat too. An emotional or physical response that communicates “Get away from me!”, is the best defense. If you’re heart is not breaking now, you might need to re-read this post again to this point.

Now, we’ve attempted to paint the emotional and spiritual picture for you. Now consider the physical… Add now no good sleep, no soft bed, no regular showers, no consistent health care. Get the picture now?

They are defenseless, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Now, We try and respect law enforcement. We see the challenge of the job, but when we hear of and see badgering of homeless individuals, about the constant rousting of them from places that are essentially public, We get upset.

We understand law enforcement and the need for it, the need for public safety in public places and I understand trying to handle unruly people and situations. But We don’t understand waking a sleeping man or woman to have them “move along”. We don’t understand following a homeless person, once they’ve gotten up to move, by command, and badgering them while they move out. We don’t understand, detaining people in hand cuffs you see everyday, in the same location and harassing them. We don’t understand denying people access to city and county homeless outreaches inside the train station, when you know these outreaches are for the homeless and the person you are preventing from accessing the outreach is homeless. We don’t understand police officers that yell at and degrade people in handcuffs. We don’t understand giving tickets for simple, in many cases, provoked reactions to the homeless, that we know they cannot pay, and will eventually for most become warrants. We don’t understand why no police official, no DA, judge, no political representative sees the issues here.

If they do, We don’t see the reaction or a plan to fix this.

We know the plan that the Transit Center police have to “help” the homeless – arrest them. That plan was shared with me, directly from the mouth of a Transit Police Officer who is directly involved with the homeless and partners with the City of Trenton and some other organizations, like VOA. We are sure destroying any future chances to gain employment or contributing to the emotional distress of that individual or creating further mistrust, or driving an individual further and further away from normal society is a help to the homeless… are you kidding?

Can you see the scenario here? 1) the plan is to arrest them. 2) the homeless are helpless, with no where to retreat too, carrying deep emotional scars and a over the top reaction is sometimes their only defense 3) the police are at times all over these people, like this week.

Can you see it? It’s a system built to abuse the homeless. And please understand, we know these folks well, we see the unbalanced understanding around acceptable behavior and what is normal, but honestly, most have no idea or what normal looks like for a homeless person and what they have to carry around each day. The police should.

We pray and We continue to pray for help, for solutions, for favor in this ministry around this problem. We have contacted the divisional HQ for the Transit Police, I’ve contacted our City contacts and We are waiting.

We run Bible studies at that location, 2 sometimes 3 a week each feeding and ministering up to 25 people a study. We spend about 6-10 hours at that building at week, either inside or outside and frankly we are am just waiting for the day when they kick us out at well.

God himself warns of our treatment of the poor, explains to us how He holds them dear in His heart.

We have put this before God, I have laid this at His feet, but admittedly my heart is still not at rest. Certainly not because We don’t trust God, We certainly do, but because it’s another day, and another day of the guys having to worry about being safe or left at rest. So We wait for wisdom and direction from God. We can see when ministry includes advocacy and advocacy goes to protest. Admittedly, We are a bit distressed by the reports from our friends and the responses of the officials We have been talking to over the past few days and those that haven’t returned our calls.

While we wait, We just think more people need to hear these things, need to see and feel the conditions on the street, the policies and practices and real life for the poorest of the poor in our area.

Would you please lift this up to God with us? Lift up the men and women on the streets as well as the police and please lift this ministry up for provision, wisdom and guidance, while we attempt to be useful in this place.

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God’s work in progress

Apr
11

This morning we had a meeting with a ministry partner after Bible study at the transit center. Though they are not a ministry and do not serve the Lord as directly as we do, they are aligned with us in trying to positively impact the homeless issue in our area for a specific subgroup in the homeless community.
Restoring Hearts Ministries cares for believers and those that do not believe at that site. We care for those that are seeking the Lord through the Word of God and those that are seeking a free meal and we provide both freely regardless of whether they believe or not.
At these studies, we seek to introduce others to Christ by displaying His heart and teaching His Word. Many come and sit and eat and some listen, some don’t. Some allow the Word to impact them, some just eat and rest with us in the safe place that the Lord has provided.
Now it’s only by the Grace of God, for those 2 hours we are on site, that this space is safe from judgement and safe from harassment, a safe place where they can be fed spiritually and physically.
That alone is an amazing thing, the fact that space now exists as a safe place, even if it is for a small amount of time, the fact that people are hearing the Word of God consistently there, the fact that we have the provisions to feed anyone at all is amazing to me, The fact that the transit police are starting to work around us without issue is amazing, but most of all we are blessed to see hearts changing there. They come back, time and time again and slowly and surely the Lord is changing hearts.
We know this to be true. God is working and we heard confirmation of that fact during this partner meeting.
We invited this particular partner to come and sit with us this morning to meet and talk with two of the men that we are ministering to, in order to help us find housing for them. The meeting went well, even though both men showed no optimism in regard to the meeting, we ourselves were optimistic as connecting the dots to get help can be very challenging. We know there are viable programs for these two men that will lead to some help, even if housing them isn’t the end result, the connection itself will bring many helpful tools to battle their homelessness.
Our hopes are high, and our prayers will follow, but of the two men, this organization knew one well. They had interfaced with him before and they have attempted to assist him in the past, but to date he has proven to be resistant to help, even difficult to work with. This man from this organization had personally experienced that before and this data was also in the records that this organization had for him. He was in their database as a difficult client who has refused housing before. And I believe that assessment WAS true; he was resistant to help and a user, he was difficult to work with and he was refusing housing…
But not now… He’s been attending church, he’s been reading the Bible, he’s been coming to study, allowing our ministry to pray for him, engage him in friendship and the Lord is changing him.
This man, from this partner organization said to us, “That was great! That was the most I’ve ever been able to talk with him. I can see he is changing.” … we already knew that 🙂
Our God cares! We know it, and now this man, from this organization knows it also.
See, unlike the many helpful programs out there, our “program” has no requirements to meet, no ID is needed to work with us, no particular background is required. We take the sinner or saint, the believer or non believer, the criminal, the user, whatever… all we ask is that you can be respectful of others, be truthful with us, have a heart to listen and are open to love.
Oh yes, we have a “program”, it’s Name is higher then any other, it’s requirement simple, it starts in the heart, works in the heart and overflows into the world to end hopelessness, it expresses love, mercy, compassion and grace… Our program is Jesus, our manual is the Bible and the results are undeniable.
Results that look miraculous to others, are a significant work of love by our “program” leader. Changes occur without notice in His clientele, He calls them His children and He is actually the Father of all.
At this programs end you receive no paperwork, no referrals, just peace, contentment, love and forgiveness and freedom on earth as well as the right to be called a child of God, Oh yes and a room in His house in the best place for all eternity. 🙂
We praise you Jesus for this ministry, this vehicle of your love, thank you Lord for the work you are doing in the hearts of these homeless souls Lord.
Days like today are the reasons we serve, to see others see you and your work in hearts that so many thought were lost, too difficult to work with, those that others thought had no desire for help, yet you Lord turn them without forms or IDs, ignoring the past, you save over and over again.
It’s days like this we are reminded of the reason for this ministry, we see the mission exposed so clearly, we more correctly understand phrases like “standing in the gap”, like “carrying our brothers burdens”, like “do not neglect to do good”, like “rightly handling the Word of truth.”, it’s humbling to see you work Lord.
Jesus you reach into the ruins of the world and save the low and the hurt. You are God, you are Love and we are thankful for you Jesus! Thank you for allowing us to see you work today and everyday.
Praise you Lord! All Glory and Honor to you, Jesus! Amen!

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