A Battle Lost, but the War not Over

I do not begin to know what the Lord is doing in all of this, but I do know that God never breaks His promises. We join the ranks of those who waited in expectation for the redemption God would bring about. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses..and the rest that believed in what was to come, but did not see it in the present…

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth………These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:13, 39

I long to see the streets of Newark ring forth with praises to the Creator and Savior. I long to see broken hearts restored by the One whose heart broke for the purpose of ushering in that restoration. I long to see fatherless children know the love and faithfulness of the Heavenly Father. I long to see broken, ugly, marred things be made beautiful. There are many longings lefts unfulfilled as this chapter closes, and, although it seems that this battle has been lost, the war is not over…..

Danny’s letter to supporters announcing the closing of Safe Haven, the ministry we started to reach out to children, teens, and families in the inner city of Newark, NJ

Dear Faithful Supporter,

Eleven years ago God gave me a vision for a community… a community plagued by crime, gangs, addictions, prostitution, and filled with thousands of kids being exposed to the hideousness of such evil and raised in the midst of it. My heart broke, and I saw the need for the Gospel to be proclaimed in word and deed in the lives of those precious kids and in the lives of all those living there. Out of that vision Safe Haven was birthed. I never imagined what God would do, and I am still hopeful for what He still will do as the gospel seeds which were planted in those lives begin to bear fruit.

You are receiving his letter because you have been a part of that vision, part of the transformation that God did in thousands of lives through the work of Safe Haven and Trinity Reformed Church. Somehow and in some way, God has included you in his restoration project in Newark, and I am so thankful that we had the privilege to labor together to bring God glory and see our own lives, as well as the lives others, changed. Some of you came and served here, selflessly pouring yourselves into the lives of others, and in turn receiving more from the relationships you developed in that community than you ever imagined. You met Jesus here in a special way and will never forget the things He taught you, the way He comforted you, and the way He used you. Some of you chose to give, and you abundantly and selflessly shared your resources with the poor and marginalized here. As God’s love flowed through your generous hearts, you felt His presence and you rejoiced all the more in the great gifts He has given you and your ability to share with others. You were blessed as you gave. Some of you faithfully prayed, committing this ministry to the Lord and trusting Him to accomplish His good work as His gospel went forth with power and love. You wept for this city with us, and you rejoiced as God answered your prayers and did mighty things to display His power and bring people to Himself. It has been an adventure and I am so thankful for what God has accomplished, and thankful for each of you and your part in this story.

Sadly, it seems that Safe Haven’s small chapter in God’s larger redemption story is coming to an end. The Reformed Church of America, under which Safe Haven operates, has rightly determined it is time for us to close down this ministry. It has been really hard to write this letter, because it is hard to watch an organization into which I poured my life have to close its doors to the community. My heart grieved as I watched from a distance as Safe Haven’s leadership and vision fell apart this last year. I have felt powerless, called away to seminary on a new mission from God, to study and grow and prepare for church planting in the future. There was nothing I could do but pray for God’s will to be done in Newark according to His plan and not mine. “Why God?” is all that comes to my mind as I observed the struggle and witnessed the ministry I love fall apart. I don’t know why He would allow this to happen when there is still such need in that community. I haven’t received an answer yet and am not sure if I will.

Yet in the midst of the sorrow, there is hope… Not a hope in humanity, and our ability or capacity to build organizations and change or fix the broken things in our lives or in our cities, but in God, and in His ability to redeem and make things right according to His plan. He was in Newark before I was. He had His eyes on those kids before I did, and His heart breaks for that community more than mine ever will. Unlike the projects, programs, organizations or institutions we might begin, maintain and grow (and watch die), His Kingdom will have no end and the gates of hell will not prevail over Christ’s work and the invisible pure Church which our Savior leads. Yes, the things we begin do seem to break apart, usually because of our sin, our human pride and our own insecurities, but despite that, God’s redemption plan moves forward, and He accomplishes His will. What might have been intended for evil, He somehow turns around for good, and if there is anything to learn from redemptive history it is just that.

I am not about to point fingers at anyone for Safe Haven’s demise, and I encourage you not to either. I know my own failures as a leader must have played a part on the organizational level, and for that I am sad, but through that I hope to grow, and I hope to see God use me once again for His glory and Kingdom and for the healing of others. This has been a good chance for me to hitch in all the more to the promises of God and find my righteousness and significance in what Christ has done for me instead of what I may or may not do for Him. I pray that for you as well, dear partners in this ministry. Rejoice in what God has done, rejoice in Jesus and His Lordship, rejoice in His faithfulness despite our unfaithfulness, and respond to that as you live your life according to His Word. Continue to faithfully go, give and pray for ministries of mercy and justice, and do not lose heart in the battle for our inner cities, for the poor and marginalized of society, for the least of these who are often overlooked and underserved by the Church. Maybe God is clearing Safe Haven out of the way for something even more amazing to happen in that community? I don’t know – but I do know that our God is good, and that He is in control. I do know that He has commanded us to serve and love each other, to be faithful in showing up and leaving the results to Him. I do know that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that He is close and present with us as we step out in faith and obey His Word by the power of His Spirit which He has given to us. That’s where I am finding strength as I grieve and walk through this valley of confusion; as I pray for that community and those precious people made in God’s image and in need of His grace and truth, and as I dream and hope in what God might do in the future.

I encourage you dear friends, to continue in faith, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, to “spend yourselves” on behalf of the hungry and watch God bless you as you bless others. May the joy and grace of our Savior, who spent Himself for us, continually supply you with all strength, wisdom and power as you live for Him and for others.

For the King and the Kingdom,

Danny Iverson

Founder

never, ever, EVER Plan Your Life

I am stunned.

I am shell shocked.

How did this happen?

Every good thing I thought I was going to give my life towards.

Every person in that city that my heart breaks for.

All the struggle we pushed through in order to keep loving in that place.

The very purpose for which we uprooted, moved 8 states away, and endured hours of study and preparation.

ALL

GONE.

or seemingly so.

Anyone who knows us, knows our heart beats for the poor, the broken, the marginalized. Especially for those in the city of Newark, NJ, which contains such a high concentration, a vast majority of such people. with so few resources. so few fathers. so few stable families. SO FEW GOSPEL PREACHING, GOSPEL-PROPELLED CHURCHES.

I have merely tolerated the suburbs. these past two and a half years.

while my heart has broken over the dwindling, struggling, and eventually dying ministry we left behind.

So eager to return. To jump back into the lives of those people we left behind.

AND NOW WE ARE NOT.

never, ever, EVER plan your life.

The Lord will change it all up.

I wrestle hard with the why?
Why wouldn’t You let us go forth to obey the commands to spend ourselves on the hungry?
Why wouldn’t You let us go to a people I am passionate about serving and loving?
Why wouldn’t You let us go to a place with such need and so few laborers?
Why do those street kids that I’ve come to love so much not get the chance to hear and see the love of Christ (at least not yet)?
I Do Not Know

But I do know the promises if Isaiah 45:9-12
9 “Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker,
those who are nothing but potsherds
among the potsherds on the ground.
Does the clay say to the potter,
‘What are you making?’
Does your work say,
‘The potter has no hands’?
10 Woe to the one who says to a father,
‘What have you begotten?’
or to a mother,
‘What have you brought to birth?’
11 “This is what the Lord says—
the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker:
Concerning things to come,
do you question me about my children,
or give me orders about the work of my hands?
12 It is I who made the earth
and created mankind on it.
My own hands stretched out the heavens;
I marshaled their starry hosts.
13 I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness:
I will make all his ways straight.
He will rebuild my city
and set my exiles free,
but not for a price or reward,
says the Lord Almighty.”

So, as I wrestle, and mourn, and grieve…
I cling with all my heart to the fact that

HE IS LORD,

And He has said, “come follow ME”.

not the ministry,

not the people,

not the need.

follow ME.

(more to come in these posts. at this point, I am only emotionally capable of processing one piece of this at a time. Jesus, be my Good Shepherd that walks with me through this valley of the shadow of death… of my dreams and expectations)

Lent, and Less Money Spent

It happens so subtly…the gradual increase in the standard of living…living apart from the reality of the poverty of the other 98% of the world. When I am not living amongst those that don’t know where their groceries are going to come from for the week, or don’t know how they are going to pay the electric bill and keep their heat on in the dead of winter, or where they are going to get a winter coat for their kid…when I’m not living in a place like Newark, NJ where the physical needs are so evident I start to drift into this false reality.

The false reality that everything given to me is mine. Instead of a blessing to be sacrificially poured out for others.

The false reality that there are not people, just like me, desperately trying to figure out a way to feed their kids, or get them into some sort of schooling, or keep their baby alive from the tyrant of malnutrition.

The false reality that this luxurious life, and neighborhood, and standard of living is the norm, instead of the exception.

The false reality that I should indulge now, instead of store up treasures for the life to come, which will last forever.

This is what Lent is for. Lent- a time of fasting, self sacrifice, of sober heart preparation to gaze upon the Son of God who forsook the luxurious of heaven itself, relinquished his rights, and gave Himself up to the point of giving His very life on the cross. All to gain an eternal reward of rescuing you. And me. And that mamma in Africa who loves her kid just as much as I do mine, but can’t find food or health care to keep her baby alive.

This is where money spent, and Lent come together to shake off those mirages, that dream world of indulgent living which will pass like a vapor.

So in this season of Lent, I propose a challenge…a challenge for myself and for anyone willing to take it on. A challenge of abstaining from “extra” spending…not defaulting on the car payment, but those cups of coffee, or that cute shirt that caught your eye in the store, or getting nails done, or the swinging through the drive-thru when a sandwich at home could have done just fine. How much money do we really spend on all these quick indulgences…money that could be helping someone in desperate need. Money that could have served Kingdom, eternal purposes, but instead serves my flesh. I will be keeping a tally of each time I would have bought that cup of coffee or just eaten out when I could have packed a lunch….and my guess is that I will have enough money to have sponsored a child with World Vision

Or start supporting that missionary family raising money to spend their lives to show the glorious riches of Christ to a people who haven’t heard the name of Jesus.

Jesus Himself endured the cross for the joy set before him…will I merely abstain from the non essentials so that I may have the joy of having invested in eternity and been hands and feet of Christ to hurting, needy people on this planet?

Here we go, into a 40 day season of Lent, and of less money spent…on that which is fading, so that I can spend it on that which is eternal.

Would you join me?

From the Mouths of Babes…a desperate cry

“OH PLEASE, LORD! PLEASE, LORD!!!!OH, HELP ME, LORD, PLEASE!!!!”

I hear a desperate cry coming from Katy-Grace’s voice, while I was busy at work folding laundry.

Had she hurt herself?

Was she stuck?

Was she in the midst of fierce temptation?

I turn, and saw this:

IMG_0475

(luckily I had my phone to snap it as quick as I saw it)

Mamma’s little helper had decided changing baby doll’s diapers wasn’t “real” enough so she stepped it up, and made her real life brother her subject. She just wasn’t counting on how much and how fast little brothers move compared to baby dolls.

I’m just glad it wasn’t poopy.

AND I’m glad that, when stuck in a (seemingly, to a three year old) desperate situation, her first heart’s cry was that of David’s.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.”

(Psalm 121:1-2)

Joy Dare ~ 3rd addition

A Holy Experience

To follow this string of gifts recorded, start here….The Joy Dare, Joy Dare

48. whisps of cirrus clouds smeared across a brilliant blue sky

49. picnics and canoe trips

50. the tinted sun beams of a setting sun splintering through cracked door and clear glass

51. an inquisitive little three year old girl

52. a late night reading session with the one who napped too long that day

53. music created….by dinner guests, host, and all the kids during evening family worship

54. the young children’s satisfaction of being able to rattle off catechism questions

55. the warmth the rising sun brings

56. the orchestra of bird song all sung together

57. the LIVING word of God and how it fills the soul

58. a long chat with an old friend

59. the cuteness factor of the two year old’s pouting position (head in hands, crouched in corner)

60. my wise, godly grandmother

61. hand written notes from that grandmother

62. a family of five living, ministering in a dangerous country, because their safety is in the hands of their Father, not where they live

63. all who risk everything for the sake of the Gospel, and the challenge they lay before us

64. the privilege of leading hungry souls to the truth of God’s word

65. the cheeriness of lemons and limes as a table centerpiece

66. God’s design for the vast variety of color to all spring forth from the same brown dirt

67. Spanish moss draped over sprawling oak

68. Scripture’s outline for relationship reconciliation

69. the actual applying of such an outline and the release that comes with that obedience