"Would you like some homemade cookies?" I asked the woman walking along North Las Vegas Blvd.
"You can take those cookies," she answered, "And stick them up..." Well, I won't complete her sentence. But I'd much rather eat the cookies than do what she suggested.
Mindy and I went out Saturday morning with our new friend Kathleen Quirk to deliver cookies to street people in the less touristy locations in Las Vegas.
Kathleen has been baking cookies and handing them out for about four years now. It wasn't long before that Kathleen was living on these streets herself, but now she's the kitchen director of the kitchen at Las Vegas Rescue Mission. I had read online about her ministry, Cookies and Hope, in an article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. We connected on Facebook, and I asked her if we could join her on her cookie run.
And most of the street people, unlike the woman mentioned above (who didn't seem to be having a good day) were quite appreciative of the cookies. Kathleen says that when she was on the street she would pray for someone to come her way and give something to her. She hopes she is the answer to prayers made by people on the street.
I asked Kathleen about her favorite memory of handing out cookies, and she told us about the time a man put a gun to her head. Initially she'd met a young woman on the street and started a conversation, giving the woman a business card with her phone number, so the woman could call her she ever wanted to get off the street. Not too long after, the woman called. Kathleen went to help the woman. A man was there, probably the woman's pimp, and he put a gun to Kathleen's head and told her to stay away from his girl. Days later, Kathleen was driving and saw the woman, who got into Kathleen's car. Kathleen called someone who could take the woman to safety out of state. That woman returned to her family and is doing well today, partly due to some cookies.
Another woman that Kathleen met in her cookie ministry is now in the rehabilitation program at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission. We met Nikki as she was sorting clothes for the Rescue Mission while we were taking a tour of the facilities.
We saw the entry rooms to the men's dorms and the women's dorms (the dorms themselves are kept private from visitors). We saw classrooms for those in rehabilitation programs, including a room full of computers that people farther along in the program can use to research employment opportunities.
We saw the dining room that every night feeds five to six hundred people. (There's no worship attendance requirement to eat the evening meal, but those spending the night are required to attend the evening worship service). We heard that the Sunday evening service open to the people is very well attended, usually filling up all the seats. There's a second Sunday evening "family" service for those in the Mission's program.
Mindy and I attended that service, at 7:30 pm Sunday evening. When we went inside, a gentleman in the program let Mindy know where the seating for women was as she wandered toward the men's section. (We later learned that married couples and families were allowed to sit together in one section, but it was fun for me to sit with the guys, and Mindy enjoyed sitting with Kathleen and the women in their section.)
As the service began, everyone was encouraged to stand, though a few guys in the back row with me stayed seated. The two guys on guitars who led the worship had graduated from the program years earlier, but return almost every Sunday night. A ninety year old man named Bob led a time of prayer. Bob has been a part of the ministry of the LVRM for the last thirty years. He prayed for blessings on President Obama, the director of the Mission, and the pastor of the Mission, Jeff. Afterward, Pastor Jeff came forward and told the congregation they'd start the year strong, as he said, "God is good" and the congregation said, "All the time!" Jeff then said, "All the time," and the congregation responded with "God is good!"
Jeff read the passage from Mark 8 about Jesus healing the blind man. In the story, the blind man is not immediately healed completely. At first he sees "men looking like trees." Jeff said that many of us have a fuzzy picture of Jesus. We need to go to God's word to see Jesus clearly. He urged people to make a commitment to read God's Word and pray in the New Year to come. Appropriately, the service concluded with the chorus, Open the Eyes of my Heart. I must admit that not many people talked to us before or after the service, although we were greeted as we entered. Most people there knew each other, and we were obvious outsiders. It was good enough to watch the members of the program greet each other with love and good spirits.
Service Length: 1 hour 1 minute
Sermon Length: 25 minutes
Visitor Treatment: we were greeted as we came in, but other than Mindy's being directed toward the women's section, no particular attention was paid to us as guests
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none
Our Rough Count: 98
Probable Ushers' Count: As people came in, their nametags were scanned and their pictures went up on the screen in front -- so the attendance count would be quite accurate if they added the pastor (who told us he'd forgotten his nametag), Kathleen and us.
Musicians: all male: drums, electric guitar, electric bass, and percussion/tambourine. The two guitar players traded off leading songs
Songs: Come, Now is the Time to Worship
Heart of Worship
Blessed be Your Name
Open the Eyes of my Heart
Miles to church: 12
Miles from start: 85
Total 2016 Miles: 703
Church website: http://www.vegasrescue.org/
Mindy and I had been warmly greeted already that day when we went to the morning worship service at the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Las Vegas . We were meeting Tracy and Troy Morris at the service, friends of friends from Healdsburg Community Church. Tracy had been a part of First Christian Church for most of her life. Now she and Troy are part of the leadership (elders and deacons were installed during the service; Troy was ordained as an elder).
Since it was Epiphany Sunday, Christmas continued in the worship service. Pastor Steve Willis was wearing a white stole with his robe for the season, and I was happy to have one more week of Christmas carols. The morning sermon was pretty much directed toward us, even though Steve hadn't known we were coming. The title was "God is in the Relocation Business," and our life this year is all about moving as we head for a new state every week.
The two places we worshiped Sunday, though in the same city, seemed like two different worlds. But it was good to see God present in both.
Service Length: 1 hour 17 minutes
Sermon Length: 17 minutes
Visitor Treatment: we were greeted as we entered; our new friends Tracy and Troy introduced us to several people. Mindy signed a guest book near the door to the sanctuary, and Dean registered us as visitors on the attendance sheet in the pew.
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none
Our Rough Count: 102
Probable Ushers' Count: 125
Snacks: We arrived too late to visit the church's coffee shop, Holy Grounds, which is open between the two worship services (from 9:00 am to 10:30 am)
Musicians: the choir director (a man) played the organ and a synthesizer; there were 12 women and 9 men in the robed choir
Songs: All Creatures of our God and King
Joy to the World
Children Welcome in the Name of Jesus
Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying
(choir only) Seven-fold Amen
(choir only) He is Born
Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow
We Three Kings
Go Tell it on the Mountain
Miles to church: 12
Miles from start: 686
Total 2016 Miles: 40
Church website: http://www.fcclv.org/