An Intern’s Perspective

A blog from the heart of our intern, Maelee Lapinsky.

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Interning for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Dream Center was not my first pick. I say that to be transparent, so you can really grasp the work that the Lord has been doing in me through all of this. I was originally going to intern for a law firm. It was suggested time and time again that I look into getting involved with the Dream Center, but I always made it clear that I was already occupied with something more up my alley. Fast forward to June 14th when instead of being at a desk sorting through legal papers, I found myself at a table with the staff of the Dream Center. I can’t really tell you how it ended up that way, because I am still trying to figure that out. One thing led to another and next thing I knew, I was the intern for the Dream Center.

In the beginning of this whole process that I am still in the midst of, I recognized a real bitterness growing in me due to not following through with my original plan. In the most cliche of terms, I am having to learn to ‘let go and let God’ which looks really good on a throw pillow, but when you try to implement that mentality into your everyday life, you will realize it is surprisingly HARD to give up what plan you feel is best for you in that season to pursue the all knowing, Creator of the universe’s plan for your life.

I have been shocked by what happens when you really trust the process, and trust the God of the process. Here I am continuing to learn with each Adopt-A-Block and every Reid Park Live that God placed me here, in this moment, to do this internship, for His glory. I am also amazed by the relationships I have made as well as the impact that has been made on me. A year ago I would have never thought that I would feel fulfilled by spending my Thursday nights handing out produce in the middle of a food desert. I am learning, I am loving, and I am creating lasting memories. With all of this said, I am not always insanely ecstatic to sit in I77 traffic only to spend 45 minutes in the neighborhood, but I am always comforted knowing that for those 45 minutes I had the opportunity to plant seeds in someone else’s life.

Over the course of the past few months I have realized that the potential ‘my’ plan holds for my life doesn’t compare to the promises that God’s plan carries. Ultimately, I know that my plan B, was always God’s plan A for me.

A Simple Approach

A blog post from the heart of our Community Outreach Coordinator, Susanna Mathew.

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When partnering with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Dream Center you often meet people that you may not know how to approach or help. We meet people who appear to have hit rock bottom, who are viewed as damaged by society or who appear. Pastor Matthew Barnett of the Los Angeles Dream Center says  “… rock bottom is not where people go to die but to be recreated.”

We believe that it is our job to meet them there, in their place of despair, hurt and rejection. We are called as Christians to pull the gold out of what seems like a lifeless rock, and sometimes that takes a lot of sifting. While searching for gold in others we often find the gifts that God has placed in us. When we learn to truly grasp the concept that we were all made in the image of a perfect and grace-filled God we begin to let those qualities shine through us.

All anyone needs is for someone to believe in them, sometimes that is as simple as a word of encouragement that will plant a seed. We don’t always get to see what that seed develops into and it is easy to give up when we do not see results immediately, but persistence and prayer leads to a place of peace. We get to trust that God, the maker and cultivator who places the gold in others and in us is in control.

If you would like to join us as extend a hand to those in need, we would love to have you volunteer with us!

Go With the Flow

A blog post from the heart of our associate director, Joanne Lowry.

It is easy to just go with the flow, to find a place of comfort in your relationship with Christ and others. When we are in this ‘go with the flow’ mentality we aren’t being intentional about pursuing all that God has in store for us and has prepared for us. “Spiritual growth requires an intentional effort. Spiritual stagnation and decline require no effort at all.” When we fail to exert these conscious acts we don’t receive all of the things God has for us. On a larger scale, when we aren’t intentional in our relationships with others, it is easy to make them feel like they are people of convenience not of worth.

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It is part of our mission to make each and every person feel wanted, needed and accepted despite their situation. Intentionally loving others and making them feel like they BELONG, in the midst of what ever lifestyle they may be living paired with speaking and BELIEVING truth over their lives has the potential to produce a radical change in BEHAVIOR. We see growth in ourselves and in our community when we deliberately choose to help those around us. The goal is to be a group of people who live and love by decision, not by default.
One way you can choose to live intentionally is by donating your time to The Dream Center.  To volunteer, click here.

Through the Eyes of a Volunteer: The Eversons

The hard work, dedication and consistency of our volunteer network is inspiring and helps make the Dream Center possible. We were moved to see one of our families, the Eversons, so impacted by their time with our neighbors. In fact, their son Michael recently wrote a paper sharing his experiences:

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I believe that the solution to poverty lies in the hands of those who are passionate about making change. Christians are called to help those in needs using the gifts that we have been given to work as the hands and feet of Jesus. In Romans 12:6-8 Paul says: “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”

When we share what God is doing in and through us we can inspire and motivate others to let God work through them. It is important when reading others testimonies to realize that sometimes to create change we have to step out of our comfort zones. My job is to get people excited so that positive change can occur. I hope after reading my testimony you will graciously give your gift to those in need.

When I was young and immature, my family moved to a new church, which changed our lives. We were lukewarm Christians that were not on fire for Jesus. That church brought a whole new look to Christianity for us; at the time, it led my parents spiritually. I was still young when we moved there and I did not understand a lot. Since first moving there, I have grown with my family spiritually over the past few years, we were all feeling pretty comfortable with where we were at, but there was still that piece that was missing. We had been fed abundantly with scripture and good teaching, but we had not been fed with the beauty of service. My family and I found that we were aching to give. God threw the King’s Kitchen and the Dream into our lives through one of my mom’s friends.

The Dream Center has created a bond in those neighborhoods that no amount of money could ever buy. We were invited to Friday Night Street Ministry one night, and I was excited to see what God had in store for me through this new experience. We spoke to people about their lives and created relationship with them. Poverty is abundant, and it can appear in different forms. Some people are monetarily living in poverty but others are spiritually poor. The job of the Dream Center is to reach those in both situations.

With testimonies being shared, more people can go out and do service for God which can sometimes include just being willing to listen. It is easy to get through life just living for yourself, but people don’t know the treasures that lie in service. Calling Friday nights service even seems a little wrong because all we do is love on people. More people in love with God means more people in love with service and more people involved in service means a change in poverty. Because of the Adopt-A-Block program the crime in Reid Park (which is one of the most dangerous and poverty stricken neighborhoods in Charlotte) has gone down from 5 dangerous crimes to 1 per week. The Adopt-A-Block program does not give those people money; they just bring God’s love and build relationships.

The whole experience the past couple months has changed the way I view people; I have found that I judged the appearance of everyone, but really people who look scary on the outside can surprise you and be the most open to talking about their life. Don’t be mistaken. I’m not asking everyone to go out and preach in a prison or get on the streets and share the gospel, but God calls us to share the word. All I am asking is that you use the gift that has been given to you to give to others.

EricBelk

Eric

Meet Eric. Waxhaw native. Singer. Comic. Skilled machinist. Delivered from addiction to drugs and alcohol. Homeless since 2008. Friend to his neighbors on the street. Known as “Pops.”READ MORE

Hezekiah

Hezekiah

Hezekiah’s life has led him across a spectrum of successes and struggles. His prowess on the football field led to a stint as a semi-pro player and a earned him membership into the 1980 National Football Foundation Hall of Fame (pictured in the ceremony program).

He spent 6 years serving our country as a US Army drill sergeant. And he has also painfully endured the death of two wives from cancer, addiction battles and homelessness.

But, Hezekiah has hope thanks to the Dream Center and The King’s Kitchen & Bakery, where he works as a dishwasher and attends daily Bible studies. “I’m finally finding some kind of peace. I’m able to deal with situations in my past from perspective. Old demons that used to set me off don’t have as much of an effect on me,” he says.

ShawnMassey

Shawn

Shawn’s is a story of forgiveness and hope. After serving 12 years in prison following a wrongful conviction, Shawn was exonerated, thanks to the help of a team from the Duke University School of Law committed to helping those misidentified and wrongfully prosecuted, in 2010. But his situation leaves him feeling as though he is still in prison here in Charlotte.READ MORE

Elaine

Elaine

Elaine survived an 11-year long addiction as well as a suicide attempt. Elaine questioned God, “Why won’t you let me die?” She told God that if He was allowing her to live, He would have to show her how to do it.

Now, Elaine spends her days walking through Uptown Charlotte and saying prayers for people she meets, encouraging them and reminding them of God’s great love for us. As a woman on the street, Elaine has been shown God’s protection time and time again.

After ministering on the street for 7 years, Elaine was introduced to The King’s Kitchen & Bakery through a friend. At the time, she was searching for a place to learn and grow in her faith. “This place, it’s a family,” she proclaims proudly. “Everyone is willing to do whatever needs to be done.” For Elaine, that means cleaning the bathrooms every Sunday. And doing so with a smile, encouraging word and prayer.

Paul DC

Paul

When it comes to homelessness, Paul wants to tell people, “Treat me like a human being.”

Paul knows about tenacity. A Canadian Native American, Paul killed a bear with a bow and arrow at just 13 years old (pictured below in one of his proudest photos).

Homeless in Charlotte for three years, Paul has been a part of The King’s Kitchen & Bakery and Restoring Place Church for the past year. “I was looking for a church and a safe place where I wasn’t looked at funny or turned away. I’m just trying to worship God. I’m allowed to do that right?”

Paul admits that homeless is a struggle. Particularly when it comes to the way the homeless are treated. “I get tired of seeing people warn other people about homeless people, as though we’re all dangerous,” he says. “A lot of parents do that to their kids. It’s hard.”

His life goals are simple: Get things done in this city. He admits that injustice is hurting people, and he’s committed to ending that. Charlotte is known to many people as a city of family values, and Paul, having seen both hope and hopelessness, desires to see those values authenticated everywhere.

Reggie

Reggie

Reggie has been homeless in Charlotte for 8 years. 2 years ago he heard about The King’s Kitchen & Bakery and walked through the doors for the first time to attend church services on a Sunday.

Reggie doesn’t want to be defined by his homelessness, however. He loves tennis, Gladys Knight, teaching geometry and wind waves, martial arts, and Splinter from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He laughs when he says that he loves drawing eggs (a recent drawing is featured in his picture below) and that if he could do anything with his life he would stop smoking and become a math and science teacher.

During his time with the Dream Center, Reggie has received help from other men in the program and been able to get his ID and social security card. Even more importantly, “The Dream Center has given me a chance to talk about spiritual issues and dilemmas and helped me deal with and direct my anger,” he said. “They are my friends here.”