What God did this past Sunday morning at the River Christmas outreach was absolutely amazing. I had the privilege of being a part of the bus ministry. I was able to go into the neighborhoods of people, parents, children living in poverty. One of the things that impacted me the most was the expectation level of people getting on the bus that morning. Specifically the children’s hunger and expectation level shocked me. Even before we would arrive at a stop, you could see the children running out so they wouldn’t miss the bus. I was amazed at the excitement that these people have; not just for the food boxes they were to receive, but to get on the bus, to experience the love of God.
Even when praying for people on the bus you could see the hunger and desperation in their eyes for hope.
I was able to be a helper in the Kids Church as well. Just realizing that for a lot of kids you are the only they have to who God is and knowing His love is once a week.
When I saw these people on the way home, many of them had totally changed. Their was not a person who didn’t get on the bus to go home that day that hadn’t been impacted for eternity. When you see the same people that you’ve met on the streets; the same people that you prayed with and invited to come to get on the bus to come to church; when you see those same people not only get on the bus, but get radically touched and changed, it is the greatest reward. To know that God is using me to plant seeds and not only that but also to see the harvest of souls being reaped at the same time- it’s all there is to live for. This Sunday engrained in me even more the reason Dr. Rodney Howard Browne does what he does; the reason I’m here is to carry out the Great Commission- to see lives rescued from the pit of hell and given the blessed hope of going to heaven. To see despair, depression and hopelessness, exchanged for eternal purpose and eternal hope is what I live for. It’s the only thing worth living for.
The more lives you see impacted these people it’s breaks your heart and challenges you use every moment for eternity.
The past Sunday was the Operation Raven toy and food distribution attracting over 1300 in attendance at The River at Tampa Bay. The people were invited to come by people at the church and Bible school. Throughout a period of weeks flyers were handed out especially focusing on the church’s local bus routes. So by this outreach and word of mouth many came to The River bringing their kids and loved ones for this event. When the buses came there were many kids running to the buses in excitement about the toy outreach. The parents brought their kids to kids church and the check in process was quick and simple. The kids then were fed the Word and were loved on by the workers.
Some kids had a hard time adjusting from being away from their parents but by the end they were involved in the fun and accepting Jesus into their hearts. In the sanctuary with the adults they were filled with the Word and saturated by the presence of God. Pastor Rodney preached the Gospel and many were drawn in by the Holy Ghost to answer the altar call for salvation. There they made Jesus Lord over their lives and allowed Him to come in and fill them with the life changing love of God. Jesus became real to them and they were filled with the joy of knowing they were going to spend eternity in heaven with Him. Next, they were taken to the altar call room and they were prayed for by workers to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. After receiving the fire of God in their lives and a total of over 300 salvations for the entire morning, they took their children to receive their toys and a box of food to bless the family. Everyone went home, happy and changed by the love of God. The bus workers said that they looked totally different and were definitely touched by the events of that day.
My testimony the way I saw our Sunday morning Outreach. When I drove onto the church property, as usual, the buses were lined up and ready to head out to pick people up in the various neighborhoods. Bus drivers, bus captains and co-captains were their usual, eager looking selves ready to minister to the people that would be getting on their bus. I was surprised to see so many people already at the church before I arrived. Registration tables were already set up and the volunteer workers looked excited and eager to greet the people that would be arriving to register as first time visitors and/ or to receive toys for their children. I was at the registration table at Entrance 2. The volunteers helping were eager to greet the people as they began approaching the tables. I looked over at the children’s church and saw the same eagerness in those volunteers.
We had plenty of help at all the tables. In the service, the Holy Spirit was touching the people. Many sat with headsets on for translation and responded to the altar call. While helping with the altar call, I saw willing volunteers assisting the people with their needs. I went out to help in the food ministry after the service. Everything was organized and the people coming for food were very respectful and patient. You could tell they had experienced the love of God. What amazed me most of the whole Morning, was that we had so many cheerful, willing, helpful volunteers. The work that went into this event was immense, the laborers were amazing and I believe as Acts 20:35 says, “it is more blessed to give than to receive”, I think it showed on everyone’s face that was involved in helping.
Sunday’s service was absolutely phenomenal. God blessed us to be able to give out about nine hundred toys to all the kids for Christmas. God also allowed us to raffle off several bicycles for the kids and these were not any beach cruisers; these were some really nice bikes. Also, the families who wanted a box of food were given one and some of the families were blessed with two or three boxes; and they weren’t just a box of ramen noodles either; they had some good stuff. Sunday was my first day serving with the bus ministry and I really enjoyed it. It was good to see the fruit of the people who I, along with everyone else who has been a part of local out-reach , have been reaching out to week after week in the local neighborhoods in the Tampa area.
There was about four-two people on the bus I was on and probably about a third of them were children. After the service, I asked one of the families as we were giving out the toys if they enjoyed the service and they said they really did. As we took the people back to their homes on the bus, I sat across from a father who had three children. I couldn’t help but look at this beautiful little girl who rested peacefully on her father’s chest while the two older siblings behind them held their brand new race car and a new Barbie doll. They probably were not used to getting many toys because they hadn’t even taken them out of their packages. They were content with merely looking at them instead of even playing with them. I know when I was a kid, and still today for that matter, man when I get a gift it doesn’t take me long to get the wrapping paper off and get my gift out of the package. I also want to mention how much I enjoy being around Mr. Eric who was our bus captain for the day. He did an excellent job talking and ministering to the people and instructing me on what I was to do. God is doing some really amazing things here in Tampa and I count it a great privilege to be a part of it.
What an amazing day. It was a lot of fun. I was impressed by two things.
My husband and I are in the Food Ministry every Sunday so we get to see the regular people come through. This Sunday, we were blessed to see many new faces. Many of the new people were from Plant City. We’re reaching past our immediate vicinity and touching more people for Christ. We are sowing into peoples’ lives. In a way, it’s sad because so many people need help, but on the other hand, this is a ministry and we have the ability to give assistance. Some of our men were talking to the people, teaching them to sow an item of food into their neighbors’ lives. That is really awesome. Our church is showing people how to take what they have and sow even when there’s little to give. We are showing people the Biblical way to move away from lack.
The other thing was how many people from church were helping. We all were wearing orange or yellow safety vests so we could tell who were the volunteers. When I looked across the parking lot, it was like watching ants. Everyone was so busy with toy distribution, food ministry, bus ministry, hot dog sales, music, etc. The really great thing was everyone was smiling and friendly. It was warm and hectic, but we were having so much fun blessing people. If I was a first time visitor watching the members, I would definitely want to come back and visit again or even become a member because of the love that people show.
As a student at RBI, I have learned the value of soul winning. It is the very heart of God put into action. We are taught as young children that God is love, yet many times we have an understanding of what that means, but not the wisdom to put that into action. Soul winning is putting that love into action, reconciling those who have not experienced that love to a place that allows them to experience the loving embrace of Daddy. Sunday, December 13th, 2009 was no different from any other Sunday except that the method of reconciliation was different.
We have several buses that go into the community and pick up people who would not otherwise go to church for any number of reasons. It was the first time that I helped out with the bus ministry and I was not necessarily expecting anything to happen. Watching people get on the bus because they were following a routine was normal to see. Kids got on the bus wanting toys, adults got on the bus because they were getting food, and teens got on the bus because their parents made them come. The bus ride home was the difference. Toys given to children were a major part of the excitement, but it was amazing to see every single hand on the bus go up when asked, “Who has Jesus in their heart?” Children were quicker to respond than the adults.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me…” and that is what happened on Sunday. Children came to the church and were received with the loving arms. We are the body of Christ and on Sunday, lives were transformed by the loving arms of Jesus Christ through us. I thank God that I was able to be a part of ministering the love of God to people door to door and then seeing the fruit of that labor. I saw the love of God on every face during that bus ride home.
Nothing brings greater joy to my heart then to see smiles on children’s faces. And there was plenty of that on Sunday at the River Church during the Operation Raven Christmas Outreach. I am fortunate to help coordinate the bus ministry every Sunday and that means I was heavily involved with all of the planning and preparation that went into this event.
Sunday morning was grand as people from the community filled our buses in great anticipation of the days activities. I helped stack, count and prepare the toys for the giveaway so I knew first -hand what the children had in store. During service Bus Captains and their team pulled toys to make ready for those children that were on their bus. As the children approached their bus after service you could see their faces light up as the toys were handed out. Little girls were handed dolls, stuffed animals, Barbie’s and dress up kits little boys received toy trucks, fire engines, cars and balls. Our Bus Captains made sure not one child was disappointed with the toy they received. Everything we do in the bus ministry revolves around the people we serve and we serve them with gladness. I know for a fact that every person that boards one of our buses on Sunday feels welcome, valued and loved.
I am so blessed to be part of a ministry that pours so much into the local community and the world. Pastor Rodney is burdened with the eternal condition of those we serve and in turn I am burdened. In over 20 years of serving the Lord I have never labored so much to see the hearts of man made ready for Christ’s return. Before coming to The River I was not a candidate to receive the soul-winners crown in heaven but not anymore. In less than 2 years I have lead 100’s of people to the Lord and if God keeps track of assists like the Major League Baseball (and I believe he does), then I have 1000’s upon 1000’s held in my account.