Friday, February 26, 2010

Burglars Break Into Common Ground Ministry House, But Maybe God Has a Sense of Humor

I got a call Tuesday morning from Troy. The Common Ground ministry house our ministries are rehabbing was burglarized. The police had been called - I jumped into the van and drove downtown to see what had happened. Little did I know that this would turn into a funny morning.

It wasn't funny that the burglars had broken the kitchen window, crawled in and stole ladders, tools, some building supplies and did some vandalism. We lost $500-$600 worth of materials. I had been assembling the components for a burglar alarm - just didn't get it all together in time.

One of our neighbors had scared of some burglars from the house next door on Monday, so Troy took most of his tools out that evening. Saved us big time from having a much bigger loss.

The funny part was what happened to one of the burglars.

I went into the house, looked around and saw a bunch of insulation on the floor. Looking up, I saw this:

As part of the rehabbing we are leveling the floors upstairs. Part of the process is to pull the floor boards. We had put insulation between the joists - like this:


The burglars were going from room to room looking for things to steal - and stepped into this one, perhaps thinking there was a gray carpet. The first step was onto that piece of plywood, the second was to a floor joist - and then he slid off as one foot went to the right of the joist and the other went to the left of the joist.

One can only imagine the look on the burglar's face as he fell through the floor, only to be stopped by the floor joist between his legs. We think the third hole came as he was struggling to get out of his predicament.

We figure he got pretty mad and limped into the next room - and kicked what looked like a sheetrock wall. However, we had put sheetrock over a lath and plaster wall - a lot like kicking a concrete wall.

We aren't discouraged. There is a price to pay for anything that is worthwhile doing, including working in a poor neighborhood. We love the people, but there are some whose drug addictions and wickedness cause them to wreck havoc and prey on the poor. A few druggies can steal from so many people that they create a crime wave.

For those of you who are Christians, please pray for our success. We're buying new ladders and tools, fixing the damage and replacing the stolen building materials. So many of our new friends in the neighborhood have had things stolen from them - one of them joked with me saying "Welcome to the neighborhood!"

We're focusing on making something good out of this. The previous week we had our first meeting to begin a neighborhood association. During the meeting it was said that people in this neighborhood  haven't established an effective neighborhood crime watch because they feel the police treat those reporting crimes as potential criminals themselves. I hope a neighborhood association can come together so we can begin breaking down some of those walls and start "community" policing practices.

We now can speak as a neighbor who has also suffered from thieves.

It still strikes me as funny when a burglar falls through a floor - and ends up straddling a floor joist. I don't know if God had any direct part of it, but there is humor when somebody stealing from a ministry house ends up paying an immediate price for his wicked action.

Let's see what happens next...

Guy Swenson

PS: Services this week - same time, same place!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mission Indianapolis

I wish I could tell you all the neat things happening because of our mission to serve the poor, elderly, fatherless and widows in our own "back yard." I can't tell you everything because I want to respect the privacy of others.

But it is facinating to watch God's hand at work in people's lives. Spending time each week in the neighborhood has opened my eyes to see more need, more opportunity and more of how God is at work.

Our congregation is working in other ways too. This Sabbath we are hosting our monthly "Kids Camp" at Anna's House. We use this time to teach basic Bible stories to the kids and lessons that God wants us to learn. Last month it was Noah and obedience - this Sabbath it is faith and Joshua.

If you have wanted to become a better servant of God, consider how you can serve the poor. For us, we began by working with other groups that already had connections with the poor. From that beginning we have followed opportunities and looked for the leading of God's Holy Spirit.

You won't regret the time you spend and the things you will discover about God, your neighbors and yourself.

One more thing: This past weekend we helped the Cincinnati Church of God by hosting the President's Day Young Adults Retreat. The setting was the Jameson Camp, located just minutes from the Indianapolis Airport.

About 70 people spent a great weekend together with social time, great food, church services, learning and sharing opportunities and just plain fun. We appreciate Jim O'Brien and the Cincinnati Church of God for their leadership in creating opportunities like this.

Guy Swenson

Friday, February 5, 2010

Funny How Focusing On Ministry Works Out

Funny how focusing on ministry works out.

Common Ground is rehabbing an old home to be used as transitional housing and for church activities in a near-westide neighborhood in Indianapolis. On Thursday we got a helping hand from two companies. Pete Malloy from Jobsite Supply in Indianaapolis knew we've been doing a whole-house rehab on a shoe-string budget and contacted Tim Kenworthy from Fomo Products. Tim sent a team the 240 miles from Norton, OH to demonstrate the ability of their low-pressure foam system to seal a house from heat-robbing air infiltration for a weatherization class that was invited to observe.

It was a blessing to have the house sealed like this before we did the rest of the insulation. But things didn't work out the way I expected.

When I arrived at the house not all the prep work was done. Not a big problem - but my friend Troy, whose volunteer ministry helping the poor helped get us started in the neighborhood, wasn't focusing on getting it done.

Instead, a woman who was attending the weatherization class was talking to him and Troy was telling her about his throat cancer treatments, how his health crisis woke him up, he stopped being a drug dealer and what he was doing to help build up the neighborhood that he had been destroying. In my mind I was thinking "Troy, that is good but we've got to open up the floor downstairs so they can spray the foam on the joists and sill plates." I didn't say anything - I figured that we would lose a few minutes with Troy not focusing on the prep, but we would still get the final prep work downstairs finished while the upstairs was being sealed.

A few minutes later this woman came up to me and asked "Why did Troy tell me that story?" I mumbled something about, "Well, that is Troy." (I love Troy - he is completely upfront with people and under his crusty exterior he has a real gift of empathy.) Another few minutes and this lady dashes downstairs. Then Troy goes downstairs.

A few more minutes go by and the foam application demonstration upstairs is continuing. (They sealed the house up tight as a drum.) But I don't hear the sound of saws downstairs, so I go downstairs to see if there is a problem.

Troy is there with the woman and her husband. They've been crying together. Turns out the woman had had surgery in her neck for cancer.  Troy talking about his cancer and how he is dealing with it caught her totally off guard and gave voice to deep-seated concerns she had. She wasn't sure how much to give to God and what she should be doing. Then they shared with me how they were supporting a 29 bed drug addiction rehabilitation home in Richmond, IN as a ministry and valued greatly what we were doing. We're looking forward to getting to know them better.

Then Tim from Fomo Products came to review the project and we talked. He loves ministry work. He had gone to New Orleans after Katrina to work on homes. We compared notes about Katrina relief - Common Ground had organized a Katrina relief project in Pascagoula, MS to help. Tim was thrilled that this project was helping a ministry.

While we were talking, the man applying the foam (also named Tim) pulled off his mask and told us about his best friend who lives south of Indianapolis and owns an appliance repair business. He said he was going to call his friend and see about getting some appliances donated.

When I am in my "driver" mode I focus on getting things done. Looking at the series of events on Thursday morning, for those familiar with the story in Luke 10, call me "Mr. Martha." You see, Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was not helping serve the crowd at the house where Jesus was teaching. Jesus helped Martha realize that there was a higher set of priorities - and listening to Jesus was a higher priority.

Now friends, don't call Troy "Mr. Mary." He won't understand and will probably let you know in colorful terms where you might be heading in the afterlife. (As in "Go to ____") But a little later, Troy told me that talking to this woman about her needs was more important than getting the insulation done.

You know, Troy was right about what was important. That morning, I think Troy was listening to Jesus. As it turned out, it wasn't and either/or situation. We could listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit and get the house sealed.

What was remarkable to me was that "by accident" I made 4 new friends who are interested in helping the poor, those imprisoned with addictions and sharing blessings with others.

It wasn't "by accident." When I focus on ministry - works of service - God connects me with more people in a different way. A few years ago I didn't know how to engage in this kind of ministry. Being open to opportunities and saying "yes" to some of them has given God the means to teach me.

It's kind of funny how focusing on ministry works out.



On a "Martha" note, this week we are having Sabbath services at 2:30 PM at the MTC office. Next week we are helping the Cincinnati Church of God host the President's Day Young Adults Retreat here in Indianapolis. Our services will be combined with the retreat. Call Common Ground at 317-707-5026 if you have any questions or interest.

Guy Swenson