Friday, May 18, 2018

I refuse. And you can help...

"I will not abort this promise! I will not let go of this dream!" I have cried out desperate prayers to God lately as I continue to carry a calling, a "knowing," even a responsibility to hold on to a "YES!" I gave Him years ago, and all of the Yes's that have come along ever since. My current Yes? To not give up in the face of what looks like a financial impossibility and a crazy desire to keep chasing the "hood" down with Hope! Could I give up and just get a "normal" job and live a "normal" life? I could, but I am not supposed to. I am called, compelled and determined to relentlessly pursue God's heart by pursuing the faces and places overlooked and under-served. I have come too far, prayed too hard, invested too much and heard too many words from Heaven to go back now!
   But I need your help...I need some believers who will hold up my arms through prayer and giving, just as Moses was held up when He grew weary waiting for the Red Sea to part. 
  You see "missions" is not just a foreign word or international calling. For some, like me, most of my being "sent out" is for the broken, poor, misunderstood and marginalized right here in the United States. The child on the brink of foster care with very little food. The prostitute who needs a hug, a ride to safety and someone who has time to talk. The single mom who is overwhelmed and needs family support. The toddler who wanders around alone, filthy and at risk. The precious folks who give their hearts to Christ right in the middle of it all but need a pastor and a church who will come to them and embrace them right where they are at. The users, the dealers, the babies born addicted, the youth who are filled with potential that no one else sees...the homeless on the street. These are my people. This is my "unreached people group," and I MUST GO. I have been given so much favor and even a building to use in a little town called Bartow, Florida, in one of the most needy, forsaken and segregated neighborhoods in our county, and adjacent to my hometown, Lakeland, Fl, which has been named the "second hungriest city in America." I am praying that God opens the eyes of those who are blind to this need and that he would send help. Just as other missionaries take a risk and follow God into the darkness to other countries, walking by faith and not by sight, I am called to do the same, but to the streets, inner-cities and "Projects" of America.
  But I do not go as "rich among the poor." It has truly been a sacrifice for my family and as of now, I am banking on major breakthrough over the next couple of months in order to keep moving forward in this assignment. Besides the "Hands-On" ministry side of it, the feeding, clothing, mentoring, discipling...there is a lot of administrative responsibilities that I am currently in charge of. Our organization,"Village of Hope Ministries," is a 501-C3 Non-Profit and a Pioneer base for Iris Global ministries. I have the honor of overseeing it all, from leading our amazing volunteers and training missions students to keeping up with paperwork, mail and meetings. This "job" requires a lot of prayer, time and hard work, which has to be funded just like any other position like it.  
  I have a family of my own and a husband who works very hard to provide for us, including our two amazing sons, ages 10 and 7. As with most families though, we are a two-income household and I have a significant part to play in contributing to our financial needs. I am filled with dreams and visions and creativity and ideas and LOVE for the community I have served faithfully as a pastor for over 5 years. As I tell our single pregnant mommas, "Whatever you do, please keep the baby and we will help you however we can..." I kind of feel like one of those mommas in the spirit right now and pray that as you read this, God would touch your heart to "help however you can" so that I can carry this promise and ministry to full term and see God birth all of the things He has so graciously chosen for me to be a part of! Most traditional pastors in the West are funded through their own congregations' support and/or their denomination, but as a missionary/pastor in my context it doesn't work that way.
  A lot of "my people" are very poor or are children who can do very little to give back. Some might call it an "outreach" or "para-church" ministry...I call them Family. And I refuse to abandon them. I live in a very wealthy nation, with many wealthy Christians in it. (If I was one of them, I would not need to write this letter.) I know that money should never be the deciding factor in matters like this, not here, not where I live. There are so many resources available in the body of Christ. But even the average Christian can give something, even if it's $5 a month. (One Starbucks drink can cost more than that!)
 As I write this, I am facing a fundraising deadline to raise a minimum of $3,000 per month in donations, through sponsors/pledges by no later than August 7, 2018. So far I only have around 10% of my budget raised. And as I fundraise? I think of the faces and stories behind my story that really make the effort worth it! The voiceless that I get to speak for. I am speaking up for them. For us. 
  Here's how you can really make a difference: Take a few minutes and go to our donate page at and join my team! All you have to do is set up a recurring (monthly) account with any donation amount and memo it "Jessica Goodman/Missionary Support." My missionary ID number is #001. Please include your mailing address, so I can send you a follow up form as well as contribution receipts. All gifts are tax-deductible!
Or, If you prefer to mail checks, you can write them to:
Village of Hope Ministries
PO Box 6572, Lakeland, Fl, 33807

Thank you so much for praying, giving and taking the time to read these important words from my heart! With love and deepest devotion, Pastor Jessica Goodman ("Mama J")

Monday, October 30, 2017


"God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean." -Words of the apostle Peter
 Acts 10:28b

Yesterday was a "crowded" and "common" Sunday.
I struggled to keep things going in the midst of the "mess." Toddlers, children, teens and adults scattered across our little community room and in the back yard for food, worship, prayer, a teaching about the Holy Spirit and free time. There were pumpkin drawings, candy bags, UNO games. There was also backtalk, kids roaming and climbing and hiding where they shouldn't be, disrespect, vandalism, screaming and physical aggression. There were brand new kids and kids I have seen a million times. And lately? LICE. Yep. (Ever had to make lice-checks and tea-tree oil a part of the check-in process at your church?) Our homes have bugs, rodents, frequent "blackouts" for days at a time...(a cut-off of electricity and/or water) The smells of "dirty" children wearing dirty clothes with holes in them flood into our door along with all of the stories and hurts that drag in with them. They timidly ask me for food to take home on Sundays and I look over at already-emptied shelves and fight off irritation at the asking. "Mama J!" "Yes?" I fill candy bags while kids hover over the counter and a little girl signs names on our giant pumpkin with a sharpie. "Ms. Jessie!" "Pastor Jessie? ""Yes..?" "What?" "Uh-Huh..." "Hold on..." "Can I talk to you about something in private?" "Let me finish this first..." With so many things to do and so many kids and so much need, sometimes I get numb. I get through the day and fight to find the "stop for the one" moments. Like when little "B" (She is 4 or 5 years old, and one of the most neglected, misunderstood but precious little girls I have ever met!) looks at me sitting on the sidewalk with chalk and says "I'm-uh draw you next. What color is you?" I look at her beautiful smile and pass her the yellow chalk. (This is closer to my color than the blue or green alternatives.) Her smile could light up a whole room, but most people will never see it.
  But then a volunteer sends me this picture. (Above) This little boy was not "supposed" to be at church without a parent because of his age. He stayed anyway and may have been parented more yesterday than he has been in months. He was held lovingly, prayed over and given a safe lap to sleep on for as long as he needed. (And it was a long time.)
  When I opened the word of God this morning, to the book of Acts, it led me to the words of Peter, when God showed him that no one was "common" or "unclean" if they were a follower of Jesus.
Every single son or daughter of God is unique, valuable and CLEAN in the sight of God. We cannot get so busy or so turned off by behaviors or germs or anything else that we miss the most important thing; This is a person that Jesus loves. We are the same in His sight. "You are seen and You are loved" is a phrase our ministry has adopted. We speak it over people, we send it in text messages, we write it on the walls. But sometimes we forget to really believe it. It becomes, like the people we repeat it to, Common. 
  I am thankful for God's constant reminders to me that it really is so simple. As Mama Heidi Baker has taught us, "Just Love the One in Front of You." First Jesus, then others-one at a time. No face is the same. No story identical. No child un-important.
  As you consider praying for us or donating to Village of Hope today, think of Matthew 25, that "as you do it unto the least of these, you do it unto Jesus." Maybe like me, it helps you to think of just one little face or one particular need. We are not a "big organization" but the needs are great for the people we get to love, feed, clothe and disciple. This is not "common" work we do, but precious and important in the eyes of God. Maybe God will ask you to just hold one child or feed one person today, wherever you are, or maybe through giving. Obey with joy. It matters. It matters a lot. That's the beauty of the body of Christ. I may see someone you don't or you may hold a child I never noticed. But when we all love the one together, no one is left behind.
  Thank you to all of the quiet heroes who are a part of our ministry in any way. THANK YOU! I want to stop for You. I want to say to all of you who volunteer, donate or pray for us: "You are seen and You are loved." 


Thursday, October 19, 2017

What's New??




   It has "been a minute" since my latest blog and I wanted to update everyone on some basic highlights of our current ministry season! In the Summer (2017) we hosted an open house Missions Week called "Follow Me," where 30-40 people teamed up to worship, pray, share meals, hit the streets with food, water and God's love and of course love on our Village of Hope base community. It was amazing!! We were also able to host a summer book club and feed consistent meals and hold church services for our Carver Kiddos. During the summer, something else happened that I am still processing and realizing. A dream-door that God allowed to open, for Village of Hope to join the IRIS Global Missions family! We love Rolland and Heidi Baker and the ministry they pioneered, Iris Global, that has impacted my life and so many lives for the gospel in a radical way. We are now Village of Hope Ministries and IRIS BARTOW." What a thrill to have the privilege of pioneering (along with my incredible team!) the very FIRST Iris Base in Florida! Come on! That is a gift from Jesus, and we do not take it lightly. Thank you, Iris Global and Heidi Baker, Will Hart, Joy, Herbert and Jason Lee and Regina Jones for believing in the call of God on my life and the dream of God over Bartow and Lakeland! To find out more about this beautiful organization that we get to partner with, go to
 Lastly, we are midway through out first semester of our inaugural year of "Village of Hope School of Missions" (VHSM) and there has been an open Heaven over the students and the staff so far! What a year we are having! The Lord is even providing some missions housing, slowly but surely, as our school begins to find it's wings and continue to grow in every way. We challenge you to pray about joining this life-changing 7-month journey next school year! In the meantime, schedule a visit or a time to come and volunteer or just worship and pray with us and catch the wind of what God is stirring up in the midst of his people here!
     Lastly, be on the lookout for the documentary film, "Hope Has A Name," which will feature several courageous and inspiring women-missionaries and ministry locations throughout the world! I am honored to have been a small part of this project! Set to premier in November, you can find out more at
   Thank you for reading, sharing and taking these things to heart. We need your prayers and financial support more than ever. We are jumping into some brand new territory and taking on some new projects that require more funds to be raised before we can move forward. Our greatest need to meet our budget is for as many people or groups who can, to sign up as a monthly HOPE Partner. You can give any amount as a recurring month gift, easily and securely online at on our DONATE page. BLESSINGS UPON BLESSINGS!!

Love, Jessica Goodman and VHM/IRIS BARTOW

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

To the Line.

We have to beat the negativity to the line. We are in a race against traffickers, abusers, poverty, illiteracy, low-self worth, hopelessness, hunger...We have to out-run them. Plain and simple.
But "Though we may be out-numbered we are never over-powered!" The power of real love- God's love, has no match!
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed or just down-right tired, but as I have learned from running races, you have to run through the thoughts and feelings, even the pain sometimes, and focus on the finish. Things affect me. But I have to keep running. I have to keep helping. I have to keep praying. What if the pimps get to her first? What if that child's only positive feedback is what he hears from us? What if we wouldn't have been here today when that little one got hurt? What if this were MY son? Has anyone ever rocked this baby? What is this man's story? ...This man going through the physical effects of drugs, convulsing on the curb, unable to speak to me while I hold his shaking hand and sing over him? I see tears coming down his cheeks but no words are forming. What would he tell me if he could? What if...

  20 years ago I was just getting my feet wet in street ministry; feeding the poor, stopping for the one...telling people about Jesus "off-stage." I grew up singing and playing music. I was a "performer," aiming to be a recording artist and full-time touring singer/songwriter. I loved God and people, but from a distance and with eyes half-open. Then I saw Him. HIM. Jesus opened my eyes and I fell in love and became just as addicted as anyone else. But not to heroin or crack,  sex or porn. I became addicted to knowing God and helping the helpless. He opened my eyes. It felt like the first time I ever got glasses. "Wow...This is what I should have been seeing all along? I never knew! WOW! It's all so clear now!" And once we see, we are accountable. Sometimes, for a split second, I try to convince myself that I have an option. That I don't have to care this much or get so "involved." But then I remember. And I keep running. I keep going because that's what God the Father did for me. He kept loving me, pursuing me, waiting for me to fully awaken to the purpose and the need all around me. That same relentless love that He poured into me, I now carry for those who need it the most. They are not "them," they are me. And what if He had opted out of loving me? 
 What if, just short of the cross, just short of the "finish line," He would have said "It's too much. The burden is too heavy..." All hope would be lost. But He didn't. For the JOY set before Him, He endured...
  I can honestly report to you that for every tear, pain, burden, challenge, sacrifice or inconvenience, the JOY set before me is worth it all. The ones who cannot see or refuse to see? They are the ones missing out and missing the opportunities of a lifetime. They are missing out on some serious JOY!
  Someone, right now, needs you to join the race. Some child, homeless mom, lonely widow, lost co-worker...someone needs YOU to see. Someone needs you to care. Really care. Really SEE.
The statistics are staggering for human trafficking, orphans, hunger, disease...But remember: "Though we may be outnumbered, we are never over-powered!" God's love is bigger than all the numbers combined. We can out-run these problems, one life at a time, one step at a time. Every step matters. Every life is precious. Open your eyes. Pray for compassion. To the line. Who's with me?

-Jessica Goodman, Founding Pastor, Village of Hope Ministries

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A glimpse of today

"I bleed for the Middle East! I bleed for the Middle East! Blow the trumpet in Zion! Who will go? Who will go?" God cries out through prophetic voice. Voices are lifted in intercession. Songs of surrender and pilgrimage ring out. We pray for China, Harlem NY, Florida...A young boy dances and flips on the floor, no shoes, dirty feet...pure joy erupting from somewhere deep inside. A staff member boldly proclaims the heart of God on the open mic. She leaves for Africa, indefinitely, in 2 months. Prayers and tears and worship flow freely. Incense rising up from an unlikely place.

"Guess what Miss Jessie?"
"You're pregnant." 
 "Was it consensual?" 
...I hold close and cry deep. Then I hold a small child who glues to my shoulder.

Food goes out by the bags and bags. The gospel is preached. Prayers for healing are answered. Spirits are stirred up as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth confronts counterfeit spirits. Coffee pours, hugs are exchanged, clothing is given away and diapers and wipes. Free hot meals are served and Hope shows up. Again. Jesus is here in every single moment.

We walk through the heat, carrying children and groceries, alongside a neighbor who is pregnant for the first time. We pray, walk, say hello and dream. We see Him here. Him. Jesus. The hope of the World. We are tired but we are in love. We will be back. He will be waiting.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Over My Head

Bruised faces. "Spotted" stomachs. Black eyes. Lack of supervision. Neglect. Abuse of every kind. Hunger without excuse. It happens here. Over and over again. Sometimes it feels like a prison without bars or an orphanage with parents in the shadows. Sometimes I just feel like being everyone's mom and taking them home by the dozens. Sometimes I feel like quitting. Sometimes I have no answers and no words that are adequate. There are too many stories to even tell. But one thing I have learned? "Lower Still." This morning I told God, "I'm in over my head." And I was thankful. I know that is right where we are supposed to be. Then Jesus can take control, refill me with His strength and receive the glory when things keep moving forward and breakthroughs happen in spite of my weakness. If I allow myself I can get frozen...paralyzed by this "Giant" of Urban Poverty that surrounds me, breathes down my neck and dares me to continue challenging it. The problems are overwhelming. The need is great. Too great for me. But then? I bend low and look into the face of one. Just one little child. I lock eyes with them and I see Him. My hero in disguise. Turns out I'm not alone. Turns out there's a greater force at work that the Giant can't even recognize. I know who this is! He is always there, I just forget because of the "big." But He is bigger than any giant, when you multiply Him by a hundred little faces! He's unstoppable. He runs wide and wild, not tall and stiff. He's easy to miss if you are looking too high. He's in the moments. He weaves in between the crowd and the "need" and finds the one. And He finds ME too. Suddenly I'm with a person to be loved, not a problem to be solved. I don't have to fight "issues." I can just love the people with the issues. It's personal. This is no contest or threat. It's just love. Love in action. Love going low. Love slowing everything down and reminding me that Love is the point and Love is the solution to every curse that spews out of that Giant's mouth. "Addiction!" He yells. "Hopelessness!" He rages. "Worthless!" He spits. But I go lower, not in fear of him, but in defiance to him and in worship to my King. While Poverty screams the lies that bind generations, I whisper the Hope that will set them free. I hold close. I stroke a cheek. I feel dirt on my knees. I say to the one cast down, "You are seen and You are loved." Suddenly, I feel like a giant on the inside. Love wins. Jesus is right in front of me. And there's not a thing that Giant can do about it! Poverty is just a chain without a face. But Jesus? He shows up in the faces of those who are bound. He lives and breathes and brings life and change and freedom. Love breaks the chain, one link at a time. One child at a time. One prayer at a time. One day at a time. Jesus, friend of the poor...He is the real force to be reckoned with.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Jessica Goodman/"Into The Deep"
2016 Watershed Music Group

The message behind the music...
“I want you to lead from under-water…” I heard the Lord whisper to me. 
I believe there is a deep and “all-in” place in God where we are fully surrendered and leave the comforts of shore-life behind. We dive in and follow Him lower, deeper into His heart until we are fully immersed in His presence and can hear His heartbeat. We say a resounding “Yes” to whatever He asks for the sake of love. It is a place that can feel dark and lonely at times, but the treasures found hidden here are worth it all! This has been a theme of my heart and ministry work for the past few years and from this perspective God has birthed so much life! He has also birthed songs, such as the songs included on this project. 
I want to live from the deep both spiritually and practically. This looks like finding Jesus in the secret place but also in the margins and in the faces of the poor.  This simple offering of worship music and words of testimony and prophecy are an invitation for you to follow me Into The Deep…
-Jessica Goodman

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Just sit down.

There is a sweet contentment and humility that comes when we learn how to just sit down.
When we are not trying to prove something, be "in charge" or stand taller than anyone else. In fact, I prefer the floor! Even though I grew up singing on stages and standing above the crowd, mic in hand, I actually get awkward now when it comes to public attention and leadership among "the poor." There is something so precious and less demanding about them. And nothing humbles and unravels you quite like the constant presence of needy children. Day after day, year after year. You begin to relax, blend in and learn from them. I have learned to speak "up" to people, not talk "down" to them. I remember preaching the gospel, the truth about eternity and salvation, to a man on a Sunday morning in "The Gardens."  No microphone, no megaphone, no stage. The man was sitting in a chair on the sidewalk. I went lower than him, sat on the ground right in front of him and preached with boldness and authority. I was looking up to him and He listened. I won favor by taking the low road. And I continue to do so. Not just when I "preach," but in so many ways, so many times. I have made it a practice to go low. To identify. Most importantly, To worship. The word worship means "Down." Meekness is the model. Jesus served as our hero-example of this position, or, should I say dis-position! (See Philippians 2) In the Kingdom of God, the ladder is upside down. Oh the treasures lying at the bottom of this ocean! I fall down and find them-I find Him as I surrender. Bending to put shoes on feet, crying, face-to-floor in worship, sitting on the ground spending time with children, eating my lunch under a tree with the homeless...Jesus enters the unseen moments. The river flows to the lowest places. It's true. And I want to be covered in the river of His presence! Sometimes that means covered in dirt, in pain, in kids! But it's long as I'm at the feet of my King. Why do we try so hard to be anywhere else?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

At His Feet

(Original date: May 6, 2015)
By Mama J

"Miss Jessie, I have pokey thangs in my shoes! OUCH!" "Can you help me get these out?"
He came into the kitchen and took off his shoes. They were covered in some sort of prickly pieces of lawn, inside and out. I was a bit scatter-brained and had been dealing with some discipline issues with other kids and wasn't feeling very well. But when Hector walked in yesterday, like one of my sons, I bent down and Jesus met me on the kitchen floor. I stopped. I started taking the prickles out of those little black shoes and started saying "I love you Jesus, I really do..." I looked down and saw little fatherless feet. Little feet with sister's socks on, probably for lack of clothing or clean laundry. Feet that used to run up to me at age 3, now going places they shouldn't have to go and about 5 years older. I love this boy and I love the Jesus that was shining through him. I needed that moment as much as Hector did. It's not the big things that count the most. "Outreach" is not an event or a program. Worship is not always "corporate." A life truly lived for Jesus is made up of snapshots into his heart and real connections with His most prized possessions. Children. The poor. The broken. The lonely. The  "sinner." When He said "Love your neighbor," He meant love your neighbor...that means we must be willing to be in relationship with people, over and over again. To be close enough to call them neighbor, and in so doing, know them well enough to truly love them. The reason most people do not really love the poor is because they don't know them. The reason most people don't really love the Lord the way He commanded us to, is because they don't really know Him. To the degree we abide in Jesus, we will see Him in the face of the one and abide with Him in those moments too. The two greatest commandments flow in natural order and are inseparable. I spent time worshipping Jesus yesterday and loving Him with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. Naturally, when I stooped down to help my little "neighbor," I loved him too. It was an overflow of my love for God. 
  We look for God to show up in grand ways or through impressive people. But Have we forgotten the real Jesus who came in the form of a poor baby, born in a stable? The one who grew up to walk the streets giving his time and love to hundreds of needy people, eating with prostitutes and drunks? The Jesus who said He had no place to lay his head...the Messiah who said "When you receive a child in my name you receive Me..." Our Lord paraded through town on a donkey and died on a cross, innocent. 
 When John the Baptist spoke of Jesus, he said he was not even worthy to untie His sandals. (See John 1) This sounds familiar! What a privilege to untie those little shoes in the kitchen, with Jesus standing right in front of me...

Saturday, September 12, 2015

"I watch my own self."

I saw "D" on the one and only working swing in "The Gardens" today, and he wanted me to push him. He is about 3 years old, and has some speech delay. But I heard what I needed to hear. With no one close by watching him or playing with him, he began to talk right away. "My daddy hit my mama." "I'm sorry..." "Did she call the police?" "No." "My mama beat my daddy up." "I said please don't take my daddy to jail." "Are your parents home now? Who is watching you?" "I watch my own self." After a while his mom came back from another house she was visiting and he clammed up and wouldn't speak. She acted surprised by how shy he was acting, but it wasn't that surprising to me. He was scared to talk around her, He was traumatized and confused. And yet? He kissed her face and cuddled her without words. Reaching for a love he wishes he could trust more, and probably instinctively wanted to show her protection and compassion for the abuse he has witnessed. As soon as she walked away he began to talk to us again. (I had a few volunteers along; we were walking the neighborhood as part of our Saturday outreach and just stopping for people.) We scooped him up (with her permission) and brought him, along with about 15 other kids over to the Carver Village of Hope Center for about an hour of playtime, snacks and art. (On the walk over, he kept saying "I don't want to go home." "I'm sorry," I said again.) 
  They were safe, in a peaceful environment and able to talk and laugh without feeling threatened. I helped "D" blow bubbles outside and colored a picture for him and just loved him like my own. I was especially gentle with him as I had seen harsh treatment toward him from another woman in his neighborhood within a matter of minutes after he shared his story with us. And this little guy? Has the sweetest, most tender and innocent spirit and personality! He did not understand why he deserved a slap on the head as an excuse for a "hello." Oh the potential to be tapped into! The heart to be nurtured and the love and attention to be given and soaked up like a sponge! He covered my hand with his tiny hand and I knew he was one of the "Jesus" moments today. When I stopped for him I knew I had stopped for Jesus. I live for these moments. Do you?
   Another little girl didn't have a lot of time to spend with me, but saw me in the backyard and ran up to me and jumped into my arms for several moments. She just wrapped her arms around my neck and rested her head on my shoulder. Not a lot of words, but a whole lot of love! Another face-to-face/cheek-to-cheek encounter with Jesus in the face of the "least." (who are really the greatest!) Time stops for me when I am holding Him, or when I recognize that He is right in front of me, right beside me or standing out in a crowd that would normally hide Him...unless we are so in love and have so trained our eyes to recognize Him that we can spot Him even in the most unlikely places or people. Because we are living a life in front of His face already. Before our feet even hit the ground.
  I think God takes it very personally how we treat Him, particularly how we treat His son, in how we treat the ones who need a push on the swing or a safe shoulder to rest on. He is waiting for us to come and find Him in the face of the ONE. To see, to stop, to care.
 Want to be changed into the likeness of Christ? Soak up his countenance in the cheeks of the broken, in the embrace of the drunkard, in the prayers you send up for the prostitute while holding her hand. Feed his hunger and quench His thirst. Go. Seek. Find...
  You may just be overlooking Him because He doesn't look "important." Take time to hear stories. Know names. Sit in the dirt and play. Share a meal. Do what is not comfortable and convenient. Go where you feel Him leading you, not just where you want to go. Once your eyes are opened, you cannot un-see Him. In fact, He is pretty hard to miss!
  I love you, Jesus. I will be looking for you again tomorrow.
I don't want you to just "watch your own self." Not on my watch.

-"Mama J," (Jessica Goodman) director at and pastor of
"HOPE Church."


Friday, July 31, 2015

"Give Me 30."

"My Daddy be touching anything. That's why I have so many brothers and sisters from him."
Words from this young teenage girl have sat in my heart since I heard them yesterday.
 I hear a lot of things. I see a lot of things. 
A few days ago my friend walked in to visit our clothing closet with her family and had a sling on her arm. "What did you do to your arm?" Silence. "Don't want to talk about it right now?" Then she just said it; "The police hurt my arm when they were putting me into the police car Friday night." ...Oh. 
She has my number. I told her to call if she needs to talk.
 During prayer meeting Tuesday, one of our mentor students, a boy around 10, walked in with a baby girl in a stroller, who felt feverish and smelled like vomit. "J" was very respectful as we prayed. He left then came back. "Ya'll got any snacks for her?" One of the staff picked up the baby while I found a snack to share. Why is a 10-year-old taking care of this baby? I thought. She was his niece. He has a sister old enough to have a baby, but lives with her father, also his father. But He lives somewhere else, with his mother and 3 other siblings, one as young as 3, and a string of different fathers within that sibling group too. Most of our kids have no father in the home. Some are in prison, or were never in their life to begin with.
  "Give me 30," one of the mamas said when one of our "Aunties" (a lady on our leadership team) went to pick her up to take her to lunch. So Auntie C went across the fence for a while to find some kids to love on while she waited. She came back in 30 minutes to pick up our friend, and she was "ready" now...and high as a kite. She loved her and took her to lunch anyway, and got to hear pieces of her heart she may have never shared in her own environment. You see, just the day before, this mama was sitting in our prayer room crying, saying "I need me some Jesus." She had been evicted and sat there with her 2 daughters (whom we have loved and mentored for years) and a beautiful One-year-old-baby girl.
I love these people. They are my people and I want to see them free. They know that we are not there to call the cops and get them in trouble, but to call on Jesus, journey with them and help them get OUT of trouble. 
 The house was packed Tuesday, with a steady flow of people for 2 hours straight. Young and old and in between. Food, clothes, hugs, play time and prayers were swirling through the HOPE Center everywhere you looked. And I loved every minute of it! I am blessed more than they are. This is when I feel fully alive. I needed to stand in that circle of beautiful brown sisters who love me, and hold hands and agree in prayer as we supported each other, quoted God's word and thanked Him for bringing a son home from prison after 8 and a half years! So many memories. So many stories. So much hope in store for my precious Village of Hope! I call it "mine" not as a leader, but as a neighbor.
 I have stood on the porch praying with prostitutes while the "man" of the house politely let me pray for them as he waited behind the screen door. I have witnessed a girl come to me and confess to stealing from our donation jar, say "sorry" and pray to God and ask for forgiveness right in front of me. (She put the money back too.) The community waves at us first now, we don't have to initiate all the contact or conversation when we're walking around. Sometimes I hear a voice without a face. It is a "Hey Miss Jessie!!!" being said through a window screen, somewhere close. There is mutual respect and dignity. I have been hit, cursed at, vandalized, stolen from... but a million times more I have been blessed. They know I have not abandoned them when times got hard. They know I am there through the good and bad. Just like Jesus has been for me!
  Yesterday one of the staff and myself were in "The Gardens" just sitting and spending time with one of our new friends who is also facing eviction and is afraid to tell her "boyfriend" (a man about 20 years older than her, probably a "sugar-daddy," very common in that community...) and introduced us to her son, a sweet boy and gifted basketball player. Within minutes, I watched as a group of about 10-15 people were "stirring" right across the yard in the next building. About 6 waited for someone to answer the door and then attacked them. A "brawl" was breaking out. (This was about the 4th fight in a matter of days) It was loud, angry and there was blood. There was also a sweet little toddler right up in the mix. Did we run? No. We got on our knees and worshipped Jesus. The atmosphere calmed down almost immediately. Then God told me to go over and hold the babies. I held a sweet little one and just waved and greeted everyone. And then? We left and came back with 50 hamburgers. We asked if we could sit in their breezeway and have some shade. "Sure."
So We sat on the concrete, ate a burger, and shared the rest. I loved on another baby, I walked up the stairs and passed out more food. LOVE WON THE FIGHT. 
    And Love will keep winning this fight.
   Baby girl, I know of a Dad in Heaven that is nothing like your daddy who "touches anything." He's a good Father, and He is coming for you. You can trust Him. And you can trust us. We love you too.
                                                                                                                                               -Mama J




Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"That's My Girl."

 I stood on the pavement outside of our "HOPE Center," hanging out with kids and volunteers during our after-school program. It was a nice "winter" afternoon in Florida. I looked to my right and saw a tiny, filthy, silent little girl sitting at one of our picnic tables. She was new to the neighborhood and all alone. I saw her and said, "Who's that? She's beautiful."
 Within minutes of being noticed, she smiled and landed in my arms, wrapped around my neck. Although most of her teeth were black or missing due to lack of care, her smile was golden. She told me about her "Nanny," whom she lived with, and I told her about my "Jesus," who loved her. I escorted her to our clothing closet, wiped her feet as clean as I could and put new socks and shoes on her feet. We also packed up some groceries for her and "Nanny" to share. I can remember her giving heart as she offered to give her old socks to someone who might need them. That first day I met her, I wrote about that and remember typing "That's my girl." And for almost 9 months, she really did get to be my girl!
By fall of last year, Mirena was in urgent need and I increasingly stepped in to help both she and her grandmother, as God led me to do so in crystal clear ways. From sheltering her when the power was off at her apartment, to buying clothes and food, giving rides, and comforting and watching over her during the aftercare of some dental work and making sure she got to school when I could, she truly became a beautiful example of what it looks like when Jesus says "I was a stranger and you invited me in." (Matthew 25:35) Psalm 68:6 says, "God places the lonely in families." As I got closer to her situation, God began to put more puzzle pieces together and revealed some hidden darkness and environmental dangers that eventually led to some of the hardest and most heart-felt prayers I have ever prayed! But He was building a case. Not "against" anyone, but "for" Himself! A testimony of His love and goodness. A story of hope for Mirena. Through a series of fast miracles, God rescued her and brought her home safe to a new family and completely new way of living! On November 1, 2014 she crashed on our couch for the first time. By December 12, (just weeks later) My hero-husband and I were granted non-relative placement...We had legal custody! The little girl who sat at the picnic table now had a place at our table. And the journey began!
  Looking back, there were many difficulties yet many victories. The rewards and lessons learned are priceless, just like she is! We have learned so much about love through this little one!
In a bittersweet turn of events due to circumstances beyond our control (but completely in the hands of God), we had to make the hard decision about 2 weeks ago (At the time of this update it is now 9/12/15) to allow Mirena to be placed in a different home. One more suitable to prioritize the specialized care she needs, and for the safety and health of my other two children, myself and our marriage. Please pray for continued healing and wholeness over M's behavioral health and trauma needs and for the re-adjustment and new season this brings to our family. (Now again, suddenly a "family of four.") We sure do miss her and are saddened. We are blessed to have maintained some contact and ability to have visitation and be treated as "extended family," even though we are no longer able to stand in the gap as her full-time parents. That eases our minds a little. And Maybe our story will still inspire other Christian families to foster or adopt at least one child; To live with your hands wide open, ready to receive or ready to surrender. It's all about obedience and love. It's all about Jesus and "true religion." (James 1:27) Jesus said, "Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming Me." (Matthew 18:5) When we open our hearts and homes to the orphan, the needy, the widow, for a meal or for years or anywhere in between, we are welcoming Him in. When we brought Mirena home, we were really saying, "Welcome Home, Jesus." 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Mama's Heart...What "Yes" looks like.

Many people ask me "How did you get started at Carver?" And I explain the practical (For which I am thankful!) but I don't always go much further than that. When I was around 19 or 20, I had radically encountered the life-changing love of Jesus. At the same time I fell in love with street ministry and making disciples. I was introduced to Carver Village as one of the locations where our team would stop to give sandwiches, prayer and love. I continued to be involved with the neighborhood even after things changed with that particular ministry. (And I continue to do street ministry in other locations and one face at a time!) Oh sure, I had some "set-backs." Life-threatening Postpartum Depression, the birth of two babies, deaths in our family, and a marriage being held together only by the hand of the Lord. (He has gloriously restored us and we even got to foster another child!) I also had some shifting and yielding to do in regards to church, my role in it and opening my mind to where I would lead and call "home." There are many details and precious times of God speaking over the years to confirm His direction, but one of the most powerful things He showed me years ago was this vision:
I saw God's hands scooping up the children of Carver (particularly the boys) and gathering them up to Heaven like "jacks" in a game. He held them and then released them/threw them back down to the earth and when they landed, all on their feet, they were full-grown and standing solid, sure-footed, like army men. They were now pastors, teachers, missionaries...They were walking in the confidence of God's love and purpose. They were not statistics. I knew that beyond giving out food, doing outreaches or running programs, that He was assigning me this "post" to keep watch over, for the the sake of the next generation! He has spoken clearly to me of His jealous love over the people of Carver; "NO ONE is invisible to Me." Someone has to see, lead, be a Moses...Be a spiritual Mama to these sons and daughters. They had been like "sheep without a shepherd" and He has been faithful to give me the grace, prayers, provision and faith needed to continue to see what He sees over them, not what society says about them. I am standing guard over the word of the Lord. I just keep saying "Yes," No matter the cost! But I am not saying yes to solving their problems, I am not even saying yes to a vision or calling alone, I am ultimately saying "YES!" to Jesus Himself. Not just in the big picture, but with every little part of it. When I hug the poor, I hug Christ. When I feed the homeless, I feed Him. When I put a bandaid on a boo-boo or wash little feet, I care for His most prized possessions. When I preach to one man, bound by demons and alcohol on a Sunday morning on a sidewalk, instead of sitting in a pew, I feel fully alive! When I hold a spiritual son who tells me of his news of full-blown AIDS, I am wrapping Him in the arms of Christ. When I play basket-ball barefoot and visit the elderly, I am identifying with the gospel, first-hand. And when I administer tough-love and manners and the truth about sin to our young people? I am still loving, because Love tells the truth.
What started with sandwiches and street witnessing has given birth to a miracle...the miracle of a mother's love. The miracle of God proving what is possible in an "impossible" situation. Besides the salvations, physical healings, provision, and even supernatural food multiplication we have seen at Carver, the miracle we see all the time there? The miracle of God's faithfulness and Love. 
"He will be faithful to complete this good work that He has begun!" Phil. 1:6
...And I will be watching, praying and cheering Him on! I invite you into this amazing journey with me! Every "Yes" matters. So glad I didn't say "No" to what I saw! What do YOU see? What is God asking you to say Yes to?