Monday, October 18, 2010

A Word from Bubba

This blog has been a long time coming. Since moving MCM from Nashville to Clarksville, God has done some amazing things. Some were downright miracles that there just hasn’t been time to write about.

In April, we signed a 6-month agreement with Hilldale UMC to use one of their buildings for a makeshift catering kitchen and office space. While getting the facility ready, the flood of 2010 happened, and with the help of United Way we jumped into flood relief. Using Hilldale UMC’s gym, we set up an emergency food bank, collecting and distributing food to hundreds of people who were affected by the flood while still moving forward with our original Café plan (to feed hot meals to the poor and homeless; our first meal was on May 6). Through these efforts, we have built relationships with several agencies such as United way, Operation Blessing, Operation Serve, Workforce Essentials, TEMA, Second Harvest, and the Clarksville Mayor’s Office.

After the floodwater went down, we kept moving forward, setting up an official food bank, which has involved moving our warehouse three times and becoming a Second Harvest agency in order to get food at a reduced rate. Since the flood, we have distributed over 100 thousand pounds of food and thousands of cases of water, milk, cleaning supplies, and hygiene items. Our Café has grown to three meals: Tuesday night, Thursday night, and Saturday morning. On average, we serve well over a thousand hot meals each month. Those who have been involved can honestly say they have seen God do mighty works among us—and all Vicki and I can say is “Thank you, God” while giving Him all the credit.

While our small team of staff, volunteers, and Workforce members have done an amazing job of collecting and distributing food, there are a few things we haven’t done very well at all—and one is saying thank you. Things have happened and grown so fast that it’s been all I can do to hang on. And my wife, Vicki, still works a fulltime job in Nashville and does what she can. In May, Dena LaBean came on staff to do administrative work, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. As a result, one of the very things we feel strongly about—sending thank-you cards to those who contribute—has, at times, fallen through the cracks. Some of you have donated money, food, computers, desks, kitchens supplies, and your time; you’ve held food drives or fundraisers, but you have not received a thank you. First of all, I want say I’m sorry for this. We literally cannot survive without your support, and there is no excuse except that we dropped the ball. So I want to say thank you to everyone all at once, including individuals, churches and business, for all you have done to help us serve the poor.

Another way we have not been very efficient is communication. Several of you, through our webpage, Facebook page, phone calls, email, or in person, have expressed interest in getting involved with MCM but have not been contacted back. We know this is a huge problem, and again we’re sorry. This has happened for the same reason, and (ironically) the only solution is to find a volunteer coordinator. So, if you’re interested, please contact us and keep trying till you get a response. This goes for everyone who reads this; please contact us again until we get this problem resolved. We need your help to carry out the mission God has for us.

Which brings us to the present. We have reorganized the leadership of MCM and are in the process of setting up a new administrative board (called the Pillars) and adjusting the existing ministerial board (the Crash Crew). This will allow the leadership to do what they do best in their areas of expertise. (List of members to be announced soon.)

We have a new Manna House. We just signed a 3-year lease on a 5000 sq. ft. building at 1319 East Franklin St., and we’ve started the process of remodeling the offices, building a kitchen, and setting up the warehouse. We hope to have the offices done by Nov. 1 and the kitchen completed by the first of the year. The warehouse will be an ongoing project. So we need you. We need your prayers for the leadership of MCM, for the daily operations, and that we stay on path that God has set before us and continue to hear His voice. I’m learning the hard way that I can’t be everywhere at once and I can’t do everything, so there are a lot of projects that I need help with—from building walls to doing electrical and plumbing work to painting and sorting food. The first project will last from Wednesday the 20th until Saturday the 23rd. If you want to volunteer, please call our office @ 931-933-0970, and please keep trying till you get a response. We also need your financial support. The startup costs of building and stocking a kitchen is high—not to mention that moving to our new location has more than doubled our monthly operating expenses.

This is a very exciting season For Manna Café. We are privileged to be serving this city and our God at the same time. Help us to battle against the hunger issues in our community—because hunger in this town is unacceptable!

Thank you! I’ll be in touch soon.

Bubba (Kenny)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Country Ham in the Hood

As Vicki and I were getting ready for me to leave my day job and go into fulltime ministry, a lot of thoughts came to mind. Some were good, but a lot were not so good. They were thoughts and fears that were sent by the evil one (the accuser of the brethren, that sneaky snake, the devil himself). They were thoughts that would convince any normal person not to do something as stupid as quit a good job with good benefits to work with poor and homeless people, especially in this economy. (For the record, Vicki and I took a vow to not ever be “normal” long before we met, but this was a tough decision—or at least a little bit tough—even for us.)

During the moments we felt unsure, the Lord brought to memory times when He had provided in the past—times when I knew that I knew that He had taken care of me. I think this is what Revelation 12:11 means: “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (NIV). Erwin McManus puts it this way: We are to witness about God and what He has done. The only things we can truly witness to are those that He has done in our lives; all the rest is just knowledge that we report.

What this means for me is that, as we walk through this life that God has laid before us (and if we have chosen to follow His lead), we witness things that become a testimony to build our faith, and the faith of those around us, so that we are ready for the next rock to climb or the next leap of faith. And believe me when I tell you I’ve had the privilege of witnessing some amazing stuff, even though I feel like my walk has just begun. One example that comes to mind is based on the scripture that God knows even the number of hairs on our head. In other words, He cares about the little stuff—the stuff no one else sees or cares about. This is one of those stories…

After I had moved to Nashville to be an inner-city missionary, things were good, but they were hard. I had worked hard all my life; I wasn’t very successful, but I worked hard. When I decided to move from Clarksville to Nashville, I was working three jobs. I was a breakfast cook in a local diner, I worked as a sound guy at a local bar on the weekends, and I freelanced as a sound tech with a couple of sound companies. When I came to Nashville, I quit all three jobs and went to work as a missionary for $75 a week. Needless to say, money was tight, but God provided over and over.

I had been at the ministry about three or four months, working in the warehouse. One day, I was watching for the food truck to run so we would have food for the community meal called Meal of Hope. While I worked, I started thinking about one of my favorite things to eat. To most people, it wouldn’t mean much—but being a country boy from Tennessee, I had a real draw to country ham. Back when I worked as a breakfast cook, one of the fringe benefits was that a few times a week I would fix myself a couple of small pieces of country ham. And sometimes I’d fix myself a whole piece. I know what some of you are thinking: that country ham is really bad for me…but that’s why it’s so good. So this day while I was working, I just happened to start thinking about that country ham, but with my budget, going out and buying it was out of the question. I remember saying under my breath, “Lord it’s been a while…it sure would taste good right now.” Then I went on about my chores and gave it no more thought.

The food truck came and went like it normally did, and I started sorting through the pan food that had arrived, checking each pan to see its content and deciding what would be served and what would be saved for later. I checked this one pan and saw it was full of cornbread, and I was about to set it aside when I noticed there was something barely sticking out from under one of the pieces of bread. As I took the cornbread out of the pan, I started to laugh. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Under the squares of cornbread was half a piece of cooked country ham.

Work stopped for me for a few minutes while I fixed myself a sammich. My request a little earlier that day had been just a thought. Most people wouldn’t even consider it a prayer, but my heavenly Daddy answered it anyway. In the grand scheme of things, that gift didn’t do much, but it let me know that He was watching out for me...and that He cared about and would provide even the small stuff in all our lives. This was the first of many times that I felt God winking at me—His little Bubba.

Monday, January 18, 2010

So You Wanna Go to Haiti?

Considering the tragedy in Haiti last week, it’s obvious that those people’s lives will never be the same. Some have lost everything. Many are hungry, and many more are homeless. I met with a minister last June who goes into this region on a regular basis and ministers to the orphans and kids on the streets who were already homeless before this tragedy. I said all that to say this: I’m seeing a lot of energy right now—people from all walks of life sending help down there, and this is good. Some are even frustrated and wish they could do more. I feel a need to say that if you really mean this—that if you want to do more—then you’ll get your chance. You see, it’s going to take months and even years for these people to get their lives back to even the poverty level they were at just a few days ago. So relief for them needs to be long-term, not just now, while emotions are high. So don’t get discouraged if you can’t go to Haiti right now. Your time will come.

In a few weeks, most of the world will forget about these people. And that’s when the work will begin for some of you. The work will be just as needed then as it is now—rebuilding homes, businesses, and schools; restoring lives and restoring hope. So get your passport ready, and pray for the efforts that are already in place. Pray for those precious people—that God will show His mercy toward the survivors. And start praying for your own mission trip; God will open the doors as to when, where, and how.

At times like this, I am amazed at how people respond. They want to help in any way they can…especially those who, in the natural, don’t have much to give, like the working poor and the homeless. For me, one of the most humbling testimonies to this happened during Hurricane Katrina. At the ministry I was at in Nashville during that time, we were initially told that there would be more than 20 thousand refugees relocating to the Nashville area. Every bed was going to be needed. We decided that our job was to offer housing to the disaster relief volunteers and to set up a clothing distribution center. So we contacted the Red Cross and set up a system whereas they would call us with the names, sizes, and locations of the Nashville refugees, and we would take clothing to them.

With just a few phone calls, we had literally a warehouse full of coats, shirts, shoes, and blankets. These items came from Nashville, Clarksville, and as far away as Dover, Tennessee. I was overwhelmed at the response.

But the one that got me the most was this: One day, we were distributing food and clothing to the community (our poor didn’t go away just because others arrived, and so local ministry couldn’t stop). There was a homeless man there that day. We’ll call him Tom. He was in his mid-thirties, with black, curly hair. He always carried a backpack that looked like it was about to burst. It was obvious he had been on the streets awhile, and it wasn’t too difficult to figure out that he was mentally challenged. The first clue was that he always wore football shoulder pads under his top layer of clothing. The second clue was that he said the reason he wore the pads is that the government had done experiments on him; the pads were to keep him from hurting people with his touch because toxic chemicals oozed from his body.

Tom lived in a tent and camped under a bridge downtown. He was a regular on Fridays (food and clothing distribution day). On this particular Friday (as on several other Fridays), Tom and his buddies came before we opened and stayed till we closed, so I fixed them coffee and sandwiches. And, when I had a chance, I went out on the stoop and drank coffee and talked with the guys. The subject on this day was Katrina, all the people who had lost everything, and how things were going to look different at the ministry because of the 20 thousand refugees. (When all was said and done, Nashville got only about six thousand.) As we were talking, Tom got a really serious look on his face and said, “You know, I don’t have much, but I’ve got an extra tent at the camp. It’s not much, but if anyone needs a place to stay, they can stay with me.”

After I got the lump out of my throat, I replied with a smile on my face and a tear in my eye, “Tom, that’s awesome…. I will sure let them know.” That memory has almost haunted me at times. Here was a man who, in the eyes of most people, had nothing. But what he did have he was willing to share with someone who needed it more. I have no idea where Tom is right now. I haven’t seen him in more than three years, but his story has inspired me more than once when I’ve thought I had nothing to offer. So Lord, as I’m writing this, I pray that Tom and those who are hurting in Haiti have people around them to love on them, feed them, and give them a place to lay their heads. Give them hope and Your love. Show us what we have to give, and give us the strength to give it.

Pastor Bubba

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Bungee Jump

I’ve never bungee jumped, but those who have say that it’s the experience of a lifetime. There are many others who’d say that anyone who did something like that would have to be crazy. And there is some truth to this…. Just think about it: you tie one end of a big rubber band around your leg and the other end around something solid, and then you jump off a perfectly good platform that’s not about to fall!

As we walk through life, there are times God asks us to do things that seem just as crazy. As I was thinking about this, I remembered being a kid and taking swimming lessons, and there was this incident with the HIGH DIVE! There I was, this nine-year-old kid, barely able to swim, standing on a board about fifteen feet in the air (to me, it seemed at least a hundred), and my instructor wanted me to jump. I had a little bit of a hard time with that. If he had started me with the high dive first, there would have been no way he’d have gotten me off that board, but he didn’t. My instructor first had me jump from the side of the pool, then the regular diving board, and then the HIGH DIVE. And even then, there was someone in the water below, saying, “I’ll catch you—I won’t let you drown!” (That was good to know.)

Well, after chickening out a few times, I finally did it—I jumped! And before that summer was over, I was jumping off that board all the time—even backwards and while doing tricks. God has worked the same way with me in other parts of my life. You see, this is not my first jump….It’s just my biggest so far. I’ve had several smaller leaps of faith leading up to this one. The bungee jump that I’m referring to happens on January 15. I’ll be leaving my day job at Second Harvest, and I’ll be going into fulltime ministry with Manna Café.

Ever since that chicken-legged kid on the diving board, I’ve been building up to this. Some jumps were great, and some were belly flops, but God didn’t let me drown. There was playing in a Christian rock band when it wasn’t cool, which led me to start a sound company (which was a flop), but this led me to Provision, where I was introduced to street ministry for the first time, which (after a seven-year detour into the wilderness where I almost drowned) led to leaving three jobs to become an inner-city missionary for 75 dollars a week. And that’s where I fell in love with the poor, became a street minister, received the vision for Manna Café , and met and fell in love with my beautiful wife (she’s my rib). Even there, there were some flops along the way, but God didn’t let me drown.

This brings us to about two years ago, when Vicki and I started going into Tent City (and actually doing ministry on our own). This time last year, we chartered Manna Café Ministries as a nonprofit organization. Now it’s time for the biggest jump of all: establishing MCM as a full-fledged ministry. So just like the bungee jumper puts his total trust in that big rubber band, I’m putting my total trust in God—strapping Him to my ankle, standing the platform of a perfectly good job, and jumping (!!) into a life of full time ministry—and all I know for sure is He won’t let me drown. Some will say I’m crazy. My prayer is Jesus will say, “Good job.”
I know as I’m writing this that there are some of you that God is calling to your own jump. So as I pray for you, you pray for me so that we don’t chicken out. I’LL SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE.


Pastor Bubba

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A few years ago, when I was contemplating becoming a pastor, I definitely felt God calling me to this path, as I had much earlier in my life. But when it had happened years earlier, with the help of others I was able to talk myself out of it. And I was about to do it again. You see, in my own eyes, I had missed my chance. I was the person least likely to succeed or to actually be used by God to create a greater good. Though I was now walking with the Lord again, I’d had, not so many years ago, what I call my 7-year wilderness experience, which started with a divorce from my wife of 17 years. This led to a life of drinking, drugs, wild parties, lots of women--oh, and did I mention drugs and drinking, lots of drinking. So, in my brain and in my way of thinking, God was surely making a mistake--a big one. It was okay for me to work behind the scenes doing sound, working in a warehouse, something like that--being involved in ministry but not actually being a minister and doing ministry. Surely there was someone better for the job. Then I came across a scripture: Proverbs 24:16 says, “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he arises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.”

When I first looked at this passage, my interest was piqued. Not that I considered myself a righteous man, because I sure had fallen a lot. So I had to ask the question, “What is a righteous man?” The Bible says that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Noah was said to have righteousness that comes by faith. Moses talked with God on regular basis, led Israel to freedom, and parted the Red Sea; and David was considered a man after God’s own heart. How more righteous can you get than that? The thing I realized is that all these heroes of the Bible were considered righteous, but they all had failure in their lives. Abraham tried to pass his wife off as his sister, Noah had the whole getting drunk and getting naked thing, Moses was a murderer and a coward, and then there’s David, who had an affair with Bathsheba and then knocked off her old man. And these are just a few of the stories.

As I looked in the Word at the righteous men and women of our faith, even I could see that they weren’t without failure. They all had, in one way or another, screwed up. What made them different is that they, in one way or another, woke up--came to their senses (a lot of the time with a lot of help from God). They admitted they were wrong and that they had fallen. They said, as David did in Psalm 31:1, “Deliver me in your righteousness.” In other words, they weren’t righteous because they were all that and a bag of chips. It was because they allowed God the Father, Creator of the universe, to pick them up and fix them with His righteousness, not theirs. And they went on to do mighty works because of their faith.

So I started to realize that there was hope for me after all. You see, I have fallen a lot in my life. In fact, I’m sure there are people who are shocked that I’m a pastor and that finally, after all these years, I have surrendered into full-time ministry. I’m not doing this in my own righteousness but by the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ, who has ordained me to preach the Good News to the poor, lost, and wounded--to the ones that society has given up on--to help them get back up and not let calamity keep them down. So in these blogs as well as in my life, I’m not going to witness about how good I am but that I have fallen over and over and the Lord has picked me back up. I’m going to tell the story of His mercy and of restored hope.

The reason this blog is called The Word According to Bubba is that, on the streets, I’m known as Pastor Bubba, and these writings will be insights and stories about how I’ve learned (and am still learning) to get back up and walk in the Lord’s righteousness. I spent years as a wicked man, letting calamity keep me down, and now by the grace and the blood of Jesus my path has become righteous. And it’s my job now to show those who think like I once did (that they have done too much wrong, that God has given up on them, and that there is no place in God’s plan for them) that there’s a way out. With Jesus leading the way, I want to expose the lies and show the calamity-stricken the path to righteousness. If while reading this you realize you’re one of those people, and you think surely God can’t use you, then think again. Through the mercy and blood of Jesus, get up and start walking the path God has called you to. Walk that walk that you were supposed to walk all along.

Pastor Bubba (Kenny York)