That's right people! We had a "sneak peek" ultrasound today and I am proud to announce that we only make one gender!!! In April, we will be "that family" with all the boys! Wow. It feels funny to even type this. I will have to share my story soon about how I prayed for boys - even before I was engaged! I am so thankful that everything appears to be normal and healthy. Sure do wish I had a picture, but maybe I will have one after my "real" ultrasound on Tuesday of next week!
This is a pic of Levi with Great-Grandmommy's glasses on... the things you do while waiting!
Me and mom in the waiting room..
This was my Grandmommy's FIRST time to ever see an ultrasound!
We are having a blast with our Wednesday night neighborhood bible studies. We now have three separate studies happening simultaneously in three different locations. Kevin and I now have 27 boys mostly middle school age involved in our study. We have moved our meeting to our YMCA because we outgrew our house. Delta and Nicole still have 8 young women between 16 and 20 years old attending a study at Nicole’s house, and we are excited to announce that a new bible study began this past week with 8 young girls age 8-12.
Middle SCHOOL BOYS
This week we had 22 boys attend and we discussed the question “Who are you becoming?” I contrasted this with the normal question they hear of ‘what do you want to be when you grow up.’ It is a question that has everything to do with character and growth, rather than some occupation. It anticipates that they are constantly becoming something. IF we as Christians are to be ‘transformed’ into the image of Christ then it is extremely important to ask if Christ is being formed in us. I asked the boys what they thought being a ‘real’ man meant. I asked them if they had ever really seen one. A ‘real man’ in our neighborhood would probably brag about what gang he is in, his ability to beat up other guys, his physical relationships with girls, about the money he has, about the car he drives, and the rims he has on it, according to the boys. We looked at how Jesus was the only ‘real’ man that has ever existed, as the one who was truly fully human and walked with the Father the way we were intended too. If we were truly united with Christ and ‘re-born’ according to the bible, then we should be engaged in the process of growing to be more and more like Jesus in our character and actions. I kept asking them throughout the night, ‘who are you becoming like’. They kept saying, ‘Jesus’. I asked them if this was possible in their own strength, if they could somehow make this happen by their own effort. It was a springboard to continue to teach them about the need for God’s grace and about the choices they need to make on a daily basis.
DAY ONE WITH THE YOUNG GIRLS
I think some of the younger girls involved in our tutoring program were considering putting out a ‘hit’ on me if I didn’t follow through with finding someone to begin a bible study with them. I kept hearing week in and week out “ya’ll do all this stuff with the boys and have bible study and ya’ll don’t ever do one with us!” Seriously, it was getting a little hostile! I asked them one day who they would like to teach for them. Two of the girls told me that they wanted Abbey and Mrs. Leigh, a mother and daughter who had been coming over and tutoring them. I went to them and asked them if they would consider taking on this challenge. They were humbled by the trust these girls had granted them and said they would pray about it. Long story short, they did the first one Wednesday night. They young girls LOVED it! I took the girls home at the end of the bible study and the entire way they kept singing the song they had learned (at the top of their lungs with the windows down through Gibbs Village Housing Projects), “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father, BUT THROUGH ME! John 14:6!” It was beautiful.
ALL IN A NIGHT'S WORK!! I think you will be at least be interested by the night we experienced this past Saturday........ Teaser Hint: A wedding, A party, and time with prostitutes?
We (the Kelly’s and the King’s) had the privilege of being a part of a wedding of some friends of ours that live in the Gibbs Village housing projects. Kevin was a groomsman, Nicole was the wedding coordinator , my 4 year‐old son Ethan was a bible toter/ring bearer, Kaiya was a ﬂower girl, and I had the honor of co‐oﬃciating it with the pastor of the church they had recently joined (a HUGE life change! ) We have known this family for over 2 years now and love them dearly. I have had the joy of doing some marriage and personal counseling with the m over the years . It is a blessing that they have granted us such a place in their lives. We have seen God do amazing things with them. We had a blast at the wedding and reception.
INVITED TO A PARTY
…. Kevin and I left the reception to go to a birthday party in the neighborhood of the mother of two of the boys that have been involved with us for a couple years now. The mother of these boys made a big deal about wanting to see us at her party. The invite was really important to her. Now would be a good time to confess that Kevin and I often go places that are questionable at best, for us to go. We like to hold onto the fact that Jesus went places oftentimes that caused him to be criticized and called a drunkard and sinner (can you imagine where this might be going?) We showed up at the ‘party’ and were immediately patted down by an extremely drunk and over protective brother of the birthday girl. We walked in to a smoky packed room with uncomfortable stares from many interesting looking men who were wondering who we were and why we were there. Loud music with extreme profanities rang in our ears. I have to mention that Kevin still had his tux on from the wedding and stood out almost as much as my white complexion…. Almost. The two young boys (8 and 7 years old) came flying through the crowd and jumped on us with wild hugs. The birthday girl ran out and hugged us, thrilled that we showed up. One of the men wasn’t sure he wanted us at that party so I told her that I just wanted to stop by and say happy birthday, that we weren’t there to start or cause any trouble, and that we would be leaving. She would hear nothing of it. She looked at us and loudly announced, “These are my people and my family, and you are my people and my family! You belong here.” She then proceeded to tell everyone in the apartment what we mean to her, what we have done for her kids over the last two years, and how much she appreciates the role we play in their lives and in the lives of the other boys and girls in the neighborhood. It was incredible. The tension faded away, and men and women began to ask us questions and say how much they admired what we were doing and how they had seen us loving the kids over the last year. One father pulled us outside and poured his heart out to us about how we were an inspiration to him and how he wanted to round up some other fathers in the housing project he lived in to come get involved with us in our community. It was unbelievable.
When we came back in, the mother pulled the little boys over and told everyone in the room how much her sons had learned about God and about the bible and dared anyone to ask them what they had learned. I cannot do justice to the story in my attempt to explain to you what a truly humbling experience it was for us to be given this place of honor at such a ‘party’. As we were leaving I was fighting back tears of appreciation to God for the favor He has granted us in the lives of families like this one.
TIME WITH PROSTITUTES
…. It was now about 11 o’clock and I turned down the block towards my home. A prostitute that I have recently been getting to know (in healthy ways, I promise!) didn’t recognize my wife’s van that I was driving and tried to solicit her services to me. It was very cold out, so I went home and warmed up some chili and other leftovers to take back to her. I returned to the corner where she was and we talked for a while. I have spent other nights recently on that corner just getting to know her and two others who work that same corner at night. I introduced myself as a minister who lives around the corner. I have brought food to them multiple times now and continued a conversation with them little by little over time. This particular girl wouldn’t take any food from me before. This time, she was happy to take it. She talked with me for a while and remembered my name, where I lived, and some of the things we had discussed previously. She told me about herself, which house she was staying in, and about the other two girls she ‘worked’ with. They all looked out for one another. I told her again that I wasn’t out to judge her and that I was just trying to get to know my neighbors. We talked about some of the dangers and struggles she is experiencing. She thanked me for the food and I left and prayed for her on the way home. The next day after we returned from church, I came home to one of the other girls sitting on my doorstep. She said, “‘S B’ gave me some of the chili you gave her last night and told me to come see ya’ll because you might be able to help me. I am really hungry.” Delta made her some food, and we sat on the porch and she poured out her heart to me for a half hour. She just told me her story. She wept as she recounted how men had beaten her, raped her, and even left her for dead. Two of her friends have been murdered in the last few months while working the streets. I told her to come back and see us anytime. She has a few times since. Please pray for A, S, and K as we love these ‘neighbors’.
God has granted us many open doors in our community. The boys and girls involved in our bible studies and tutoring are recruiting other kids to come and we anticipate a lot more kids getting involved. Please pray for us as we are making HUGE and fast-paced decisions on our future ministry space over the next few weeks. Thank you so much for your prayer and support!
I know, I know! It has been forever since I have posted... I wish I could blame it on something crazy, but really it's mostly because I have been going to sleep at about 9 every night. I thought I would just give a quick update on how we are and throw in a few bits about the ministry as well - we shall see how this goes:)
Bryan is SUPER busy these days. He has tons of speaking engagements and lots of things "in the works" as far as ministry goes. There is some REALLY cool stuff going on that I can't wait to share, when the time is right. So many people have given space heaters and blankets to aid the families in our neighborhood through this winter - it has been such a blessing for me to see all the generosity of the Church when they spring into action! He and Kevin are busy with preparations for the Christmas store again this year - here is a pic from last year, followed by the middle school boys bible study:
This store is also supported by the generosity of the Church - and was a huge success last year. Parents and grandparents get to buy brand new gifts at reduced rates and give them to their children THEMSELVES!!! The tutoring program is going great- please pray for these children to be able to excel in their studies as a result of this effort. I really do believe that education is a HUGE step to breaking SO many destructive cycles that we see in our neighborhood.
I am still involved in helping Nicole with a teen girl's bible study that averages about 8 -10 girls each week. Nicole does an amazing job preparing the lesson for each week and then hosting it in her home. We have had several amazing people bring us dinner to serve the girls, and I can't even begin to tell you what a blessing that has been! Since the girls are all hanging out starting at about 3 pm on bible study day, it can be a bit challenging to get everything done. But truly God is blessing these girls in SO many ways. Please see this blog entry that Nicole wrote recently and be greatly encouraged. There is even a cute picture of all the girls on our day trip to Birmingham. Personally, I am into the "honeymoon phase" of this pregnancy - the second trimester - you know, the time where you aren't sick, have a lot more energy, and eat every hour! We will be finding out who this baby is on December 2ND, so you can be sure there will be a post about that! I must say that I am getting excited more and more each day!
I am doing a wonderful bible study on "contentment"that I hope to be sharing quotes from soon - it has been a HUGE help to me the past few weeks.
All the boys are doing great!
Bryce just finished his first season of football. He did a great job and seemed to enjoy all the hitting and blocking!
Ethan is about to be 5!!! I really can't stand that! He is doing really well in his PreK-4 class and is finally learning all his letters. I seriously wondered if they would ever stick in his little brain. He is really loving and thoughtful and ALL BOY! Levi is 15 months old and HILARIOUS!! He keeps us laughing with his open mouth grin and all his attempts at communication with us.
And I will leave you today with this:
Way before celebrating our one-year anniversary in this home, our brand new doorbell gave out. I wonder how many rings make up the life of a doorbell???