Merlin Gonzales

Walking Hungry – Merlin Gonzales

My knapsack was ready in the morning with two cold water bottles, a cooling towel, a face mask, a change of socks, and a MacBook.

I started walking from a Castleton pantry to a Nora pantry, about 5.5 miles. I want to experience how it feels to walk from a food pantry to another with an empty stomach.

At one of the intersections on 82nd Street, I noticed a woman in the media writing something on brown cardboard. I said Hi to her as I pass by and she said Hi. A few seconds later, she said, “Be careful out there.”

That prompted me to go back to have a quick chat with her. I found out that she’s been asking for money for six months and that she has to be at her “station” early enough so others won’t take her spot. She said that she needs to do it because she needs at least $16 every day to pay for her pain management/medication due to drug abuse in the past. She cannot have a real job, because it would take two weeks to receive her pay and she cannot afford not to have her daily medication, so she is stuck in that lifestyle for the moment. Furthermore, she said that her son does not know she is begging for money for a living. I told her that there’s a food pantry not too far from her spot. She said that it must be the same pantry where the lady delivers some food to her on Saturdays. She rides 2 – 3 buses from her home to her spot, and it takes 2 – 3 hours one way so she cannot receive perishable items. Plus, she can only receive a few items as she pointed to her blue knapsack. I prayed for her and her son before proceeding to my mission.

As the sun got hotter, I slowed down my pace to make sure I can get to my destination and maybe back. I drank a little water to quench my thirst, but not too much since I started to feel that I will have to go to a restroom soon, but there’s no establishment closeby. If you do not have a vehicle, you have to plan and become aware of your environment and, you need a lot of extra time to travel.

I did not make it to my destination (about half a mile away) because I have to stop by Starbucks to get a wifi connection for my online meeting at noon. After a few hours, I asked my wife to pick me up; I did not have enough energy to walk back. As soon as we got home, I fired up the grill to cook some chicken wings, zucchini, and red bell pepper.

As I was devouring the food, I noticed I repeatedly say thank you God for food. I really, really appreciate the food!

The second day of the Hunger Challenge taught me about the conveniences in life that we neglect to appreciate, some insight of life in the streets, and learned to appreciate food beyond just satisfying my appetite.

Merlin GonzalesWalking Hungry – Merlin Gonzales
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Time with people, nature and God – Merlin Gonzales

My first day into Hunger Challenge was quite different than what I expected.

After a cup of coffee and tendering my garden, I thought of visiting an Indiana Nature Park after my morning meditations; I can still work, meet with people online, and enjoy nature all at the same time.

The idea was agreeable with my wife so we jumped in the car and headed to Portland Arch Nature Preserve in Attica, IN. I was able to hike and witnessed some wonderful sandstone formations. It seemed to me that I was more sensitive to the nature surrounding me. The colors of the rock and the sounds of the whispering wind against the leaves were succinct and clear. A few times, I felt closer to God as I observe nature and the wonder of the silence of the forest.

I was surprised that in spite of an empty stomach, I had the energy to continue on (See attached picture). On the way home, I was on conference call for the 5th time; thank you to my patient wife for driving us around. As soon as I got home, I felt very hungry (I have not had any meals the entire day yet). We had hamburger meat in the refrigerator and within a few minutes, my wife mixed the meat with some seasoning and I slapped them quickly on the grill.

It was such a relief to finally eat. I felt so much better and started to think clearly. I wonder how my 2nd day would look like and how I will feel. I hope to be able to sustain my energy as I was planning to walk from a food pantry to another with empty stomach.

Merlin GonzalesTime with people, nature and God – Merlin Gonzales
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Praying in the rain – Merlin Gonzales

The FHL Week 2020 started with bangs of thunderstorms, flashes of lightning, and heavy rain.

Within minutes of corporate prayer at the FHL Drive-thru missional food pantry, the rain poured with thunder and bolts of lightning. As we were praying, it seemed like the Lord is saying I will pour out my Spirit on all people,
“And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.” Joel 2:28 (NIV)

Halfway in our prayer, I was reminded about the first FHL Week in 2005 when I walked barefoot around the Indianapolis Circle to dedicate the week to the Lord and prophetically declare the His holiness in the city. While it was pouring rain, I took off my shoes and prayer walked around the building seven times barefooted.

Along the way, while praying and looking to heaven and the pavement, many thoughts came to my mind. God’s faithfulness in providing the former Starbucks building to set up His glory in Castleton, – from an empty building into a place of His habitation and provisions for His people. I was reminded of how excited I was when I found out that Starbucks will be paying for the rent of a prime location to be used to feed His people physically and spiritually.

It was humbling to realize that a once abandoned building is now a spiritual hub in the community. On those asphalt driveway and parking lot, thousands of individuals had already been fed and 200 souls were saved in just a little over 2 months. In a parking lot – people are being saved!!!

In the 4th round walking around the building, a notion came to my mind that in the coming weeks, people will be baptized in the parking, people will be healed physically and spiritually and people will be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I have never imagined that a vision could change a community is such a short time. For example, I had a meeting with one of our drive-thru leaders yesterday at a restaurant behind our building. They provided us a conference room and when it was time to pay the bill, we found out that the Manager comps our lunch as a sign of appreciation for what we do in the community. In fact, ALL the businesses behind our drive-thru MFP, are already our friends and are willing to work alongside us in blessing the community.

In the tail end of my prayer walk with soaking clothes and sore feet, I was invigorated by the notion – that God will soak us with His presence and claim Castleton in His Name. I believe that greater things are yet to come to the city and that we can do the impossible through the grace of God and His anointing.

Tomorrow, we will start our Hunger Challenge (0-0-1), eating a meal a day and chronicle our experience with God and with others. Please do not forget to sign up on this platform to share with others what could be possible.

God bless you and please keep safe and healthy!!

Merlin GonzalesPraying in the rain – Merlin Gonzales
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Fresh perspectives

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Early in the morning, I was still thinking about how self-absorbed I was yesterday. I felt so bad. Then, I got busy preparing to go to an event.

Day 7 was a little hard for me. Jocelyn, one of the ambassador and I went to a Back to School event where they provided different resources for kids going back to school. Although it was not as hot as the previous weeks, the sun was intense.

After 2 hours being under the sun, I started to feel weak and dizzy. Jocelyn encouraged me to eat some cut fruits that she brought for the crowd. I immediately felt better. How could the food insecure walk in the middle of summer to go to work, to a pantry or do errands? What about the kids who did not have dinner the night before plus no breakfast the following day? How could they focus on their classes? What about the elderly who are on fixed income, deciding which they’re going to spend their money between prescription medicine and healthy food?

At the event, I met different community agencies. There were a few ladies from the same church who wanted their church to get involved in setting up Missional Food Pantry. Here’s a short video clip of one of the interviews that day.

Later that day, we had a celebration dinner for the week with several Ambassadors. We shared stories and testimonials. It was great to hear their hearts as they express their feelings beyond being hungry and in expanding their awareness about what’s happening in the neighborhoods.

I shared with everyone that I and a few other ambassadors will continue the challenge of eating one meal a day for the next 7 days until August 4th. For me, I would like to go deeper than experiencing how it feels to be hungry but to get me closer to God as I rely on His strength to continue on. You will hear more about this journey beyond being hungry for 7 days.

Thank you for all the ambassadors, the donors and for you who have supported us in various ways.

God bless you,

Merlin GonzalesFresh perspectives
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