What began as the passion of a few individuals has grown into a movement. With over 30,000 individuals currently living in poverty and homelessness in the city of Orlando, the mission to share the Gospel through food and fellowship has never been greater. While our weekly food sharing program will continue to be a staple of the Orlando inner-city, we're looking ahead to what God has in store. Through prayer and your financial support, our goal is to operate a food truck to expand our reach and take the life-giving services of Straight Street to all in need.
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In January of 2009, I lost my job; a job I was sure would last forever if not until I graduated from the University of Central Florida in December. I thought I had it all planned out and discovered I was wrong. It was then I found submission came easy. I surrendered. I admitted to God that despite all my efforts, I was not in control. I gave it all to Him and began to listen…really listen.
I began to work two services in the children’s ministry at church. In February, my wife and I decided to host a small group of twenty-somethings at our home for Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Love. It was there I met Nic and we quickly became friends. The end project of this series was to Love Out Loud and the group decided to join an organization in feeding the homeless in the downtown Orlando area.
Almost immediately, Nic and I noticed the absence of God in the proceedings of the food share. Only the two of us continued to return every Monday evening to laugh, cry and pray with our new friends. We felt a sense of purpose. We felt a sense of urgency. Most of all, we felt a sense of comfort and ease that assured us we were where we were supposed to be and doing what we were supposed to be doing.
In July, I headed to Bolivia on a mission trip and it was there I befriended Christyne. We had passed each other at church several times, but this trip was the defining moment that united us as brother and sister in Christ. We returned, each transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Both of us with fire in our hearts and a prayer on our lips: "Lord, please continue to use me!” it was then the mission began to unfold.
We got back from Bolivia at the end of July and knew we wanted to evangelize…big time! Nic and I had already infiltrated the homeless culture of downtown Orlando and a food share did not yet exist on Tuesdays and so our friends were going hungry. Five weeks after we returned from Bolivia, On September 1, 2009, Nic, Christyne and I along with three other volunteers held our first food share at Lake Eola with six trays of spaghetti.
We had no idea what we were doing or how to keep it going, however, God has seen fit to show this mission favor and to date, we have never missed a Tuesday night. We always have enough food and there are always compassionate hearts willing to serve. We are people helping people. We work with what we have and when we have not, it still works!
Once the three of us decided we needed to start our own non-profit and become a legitimate ministry, we needed a name. I awoke early that August morning and asked the Lord to help me find a name. I asked that the name be words that were spoken from His lips. I prayed all day and searched through all of my favorite passages and verses and found nothing. Then it happened.
That night, Christyne called and asked if I could help her with a problem. She woke up that same morning and Acts 9 had been mentioned in her daily devotional. She went to work that night and heard a pastor on the radio preaching about the same chapter. She wanted me to read it and help her figure out exactly what God was trying to tell her. I opened my bible completely prepared to find the answer to my own prayer and not only found our name, but our purpose.
We are all blinded by sin. We all persecute our Lord through our disobedience, yet we are all offered an opportunity to be restored. Ananias, in Hebrew, translates to ‘Jehovah has been gracious’. That he has! It matters not where we come from, only where we are and where we desire to be. The blood of Jesus Christ allows us to be renewed. If we desire to be in Christ, we will do what He expects of us: to grow in and through Him and to increase His kingdom.
The implications of this passage are for Christyne, for myself, for us all! That night our mission became crystal clear. This ministry goes beyond passing a plate of food to the hungry or providing a blanket or shoes to someone in need. It means that we must exist to help each other see ourselves as God sees us. We must come alongside our brothers and sisters and show them what matters most is not who we were, what we’ve done or where we’ve been, but rather who God wants us to be and how to get there.
~ PJ Charles