The beautiful Pascha card to the left was made by Leila Chocheli, mother of Niko Chocheli. When Niko gave me a laminated copy of it, he told me that his mother taught him an important lesson as a child. She would often say, “What you keep is lost. Only what you give away is yours.” He said he did not understand this until well into adulthood, but now it makes perfect sense.
When a realtor describes a house as charming, we have four words of advice: RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! Our house is charming. It is possibly the oldest house in town. The new part was built in 1845 to be the hotel for the railroad when it came through. The last owner was an Irish woodworker. He did some lovely work on the trim. He made a nice back door and beautiful window over the kitchen sink. Why he used single pane glass is beyond me. He restored the hardware to period. He did level the floor in one of the rooms. He made it into one house out of three tiny apartments. (sort of) It still had three electric meters with two wire, knob and tube and old romex to much of the house.
The oil burner was on its last. The old iron pipes to the upstairs bathroom were mostly occluded. The drains weren’t much better, but the switch plates had fairies and waterlilies on them. The wood trim in the kitchen has charming little crosses drilled in it. I have basically replaced the heat system, the plumbing and the electrical service. I am working on rewiring, bit by bit, sorting out the mess. I won’t even start on the shape of the barn. But they say the value of real estate is mainly location. It is a great location.
We were rebuilding the barn to make the ministry and the business more efficient. Then I got sick. That messed everything up. There have been a series of setbacks. Bishop Thomas really wants to see a team of college kids come here to help finish the barn. I don’t know how that is going to happen. Bethann lost her job last summer. We have to pay for Cobra health insurance out of pocket. That takes more than her Unemployment Compensation. We had the court case against the city to keep the ministry going. that put the business on hold and hurt the business. We were both sick around Christmas, so that hurt the business. I was very sick last month, so that hurt the business again. We are on the verge of being able to make some major progress in helping the homeless in Philadelphia, if we had a basic facility there and could be full time working at that, instead of being distracted by the icon business. At the same time, we are on the verge of possibly losing our house, losing our current base of operations, and joining the ranks of the homeless ourselves.
So we are making an appeal.
We are having a rent party this Saturday evening, March 16, starting at 6:30. Since it is Cheesefare Sunday next week, we will be serving vegetarian chili, “Tender Hearted Shepherd’s Pie” (vegan), some cheese and veggies, chips and dip, dessert, etc. The $10 cover charge includes the food and soft drinks. Beer and wine will be available for additional donations. If you want to play an instrument to add to the festivities, please make it unplugged. Kevin Paige is bringing his guitar and his keyboard and his great talents to make music. We are hoping that the Ackers will favor us with some music as well. We are clearing out the furniture, so if you want to dance, you may.
We live at:
27 North Front St. (in the middle of beautiful downtown)
Souderton, PA 18964
Call or email to let us know if you plan to attend, so we know how much food and drink to prepare.
email@example.com (If you can’t attend, but want to help, you can Paypal gifts to this email. If it is designated as a gift from one Paypal account to another, neither one is charged fees. Thanks! God bless you!)
Here is the link to RSVP on Facebook.
It’s a cheap date for a good cause. We are going to try to have green beer in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Hey, I was tickled that the first one to RSVP to say that he was coming was Philly rock legend Kenn Kweder! Please come join the fun.
Last Thursday night was the first in three weeks that I was well enough to serve in the city. The people were so glad to see me. Alex examined me and noted that I still did not sound altogether well. He was right. A week later, I am still coughing. This is one nasty flu. We had a skeleton crew. The McGraws were out sick. Fr. Chris was the lone representative from Holy Annunciation. It was just Deacon Herman and me in the TKJ-mobile. Anthony was not there, because he was cleaning up after a mercy meal after a funeral for a long time volunteer for the soup kitchen at his church. A couple of the guys pitched in. I was even pressed into manual labor. I served hard boiled eggs, oranges and peanuts. I am much better as a gadfly. I don’t keep the line moving. Linda Notskas and a fellow, whose name I fail to remember, brought lots of clothes and blankets and gave them away from her car.
A self described “dangerous, badass n__ger” came up to me and started to talk about the sad state of affairs. He was a CPA, a graduate of the Wharton School of Business and he was 72. He was also very drunk. He was upset at the sight of so many homeless men, at the national debt, at the Wall St. banksters, at the persistence of racism, etc. I kept talking to him and tried to understand what he was saying, because I could sense his pain and I respect the path that he had taken in his life. He was not homeless. I grew up talking to my dad when he was very drunk, but my dad was a high functioning drunk. He could be coherent and rational. This man wasn’t. He stood in front of me carrying on irrational rants, while people had to step around him on uneven ground. Finally I had to ask him to move to allow a lady who was unsteady on her feet to come through. He just went away angry. I was disappointed that I could not comfort him or ease his pain.
I was hoping to dig into work on Friday after more than two weeks off being sick. I found that I was able to do some, but I was still pretty tired from the full day on Thursday. I started working on an article for this blog for TKJ’s 24th anniversary, which I finished on Saturday. We found out that The King’s Jubilee was chosen for the second week of the Lenten Almsgiving Cash Flash Mob and started promoting that. We are hoping for good participation in that tomorrow and blessings all around!
On Sunday, we were planning on getting up and going to church. I had missed two weeks and Bethann had missed one, because of this nasty flu that gave us each bronchitis. I woke up to Bethann sitting on the end of the bed telling me that she thought she was having a heart attack. I went downstairs and got aspirin and water and gave it to her. We got dressed quickly and drove to the ER. They put her on the monitor and her heart rate was wildly erratic. She has atrial fibrillation. They kept her and tried to get to the bottom of it. As I am writing this, she is in surgery having a pacemaker installed.
I finally have felt strong enough to start catching up on orders, then this happens. Thank God for Uncle John Haggerty. He and Ha Nguyen are making the icons while I am visiting Bethann at the hospital. Our daughter, April Smith, stepped in to make the soup for tonight. Serge Metelow and his daughter are making the vegetarian alternative and helping serve tonight. Brian Simpson is driving the TKJ-mobile. I am once again reminded of what the old preacher told me years ago, “Don’t think too highly of yourself. No one is indispensible in the Lord’s service.”
Tomorrow is the Almsgiving Cash Flash Mob for The King’s Jubilee. I haven’t even publicized an event on Saturday, February 23. There is a recital at Tabor United Methodist Church at 1pm put on by Kevin Paige and some of his music students, to benefit The King’s Jubilee. I hope to be there to present the work and the vision of TKJ. Please come if you want to learn more.
Many of you are old enough to remember that great comedy, news, spoof TV show TW3: “That Was The Week That Was.” This was one of those weeks that makes you evaluate and reevaluate everything. I don’t want to be that angry, old man who fought the system and still saw it all end in futility and confusion. I think, if we work together, even if we are weak alone, if our cause is righteous and we put our hope in God, we just may see progress. Pray for peace that the Gospel may go forward.
Well, folks, TW3.
Yesterday, an Ethiopian family was entertaining family guests and showing them around center city. Before they realized it, one of the old men got separated from the group and wandered off. They have been trying to find him, but to no avail. He knows little English.
He was wearing long light brown pants and a short sleeved shirt. He is very dark in complexion with gray hair. He is probably 5’10″, with a medium build.
If you find him, please call: Teddy at 267-663-8084 or Gebre at 215-361-0503.
Keep your eyes open.
Everyone, please pray for his safety and safe return to his family.
It is not lost on us that the ban on outdoor serving of hot, nutritious meals to homeless and other poor people in Philadelphia goes into effect on April 13, Great and Holy Friday. The whole community was given very little warning. The proposals came out during Lent. There is at least a one month gap where there is no legal provision for outdoor serving and no adequate indoor venues for serving of food. If all were to comply, what does the city expect this to look like? Let’s see. Hundreds of hungry, desperate people loose on the streets, with nothing but their dignity and freedom left to lose. Dumpster diving is sure to go up. Panhandling is sure to go up. Mugging is likely to go up. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the restaurants and convenience stores in center city weren’t mobbed and stripped of some of their food.
How does this improve the health or safety of anybody? My recommendation to anybody would be to stay away from Philadelphia until the city grows a heart and stops this violation of human rights and curtailment religious freedom. It is not going to be a particularly pretty or safe place.
The goal of the city’s plan is to bring all organizations firmly under the city’s control. When that happens, it effectively makes them all city programs. They all become secular. They will be viewed by the poor and homeless as part of the monolith and no longer to be trusted. Their approach betrays a basic misunderstanding, on the part of the city, of the psyche of homeless people. Homeless people are the people who did not respond well to institutions or bureaucracy. The one universal that can be stated about the homeless is that they don’t fit in. It should come as no surprise to the city, yet somehow it did, that those of us who have been serving them for years or decades are a bit like them. I have been telling mayors for decades that the city can have all sorts of great ideas, but there is never going to be one good idea. It will take thousands of good ideas to help the thousands of homeless and poor people we serve. We need multiple approaches.
More important than any approach or any idea is relationship. And all of the city agencies and bureaucracies and shelters and programs are all designed to nip those in the bud. All of the orientations warn against personal relationships and teach you to keep a professional distance. This is their fatal flaw. Let the professionals do what they do, but what people need more than that is family and community. Among the myriad of volunteers serving on the street, people can find someone with whom they can connect. This relationship can continue regardless of their housing status. People need alternatives, friends, dignity, freedom, family and love.
”This is just another example that shows that our country is being taken over by control freaks. There seems to be this idea out there that it is the job of the government to take care of everyone and that nobody else should even try.
“But do we really want to have a nation where you have to get the permission of the government before you do good to your fellow man?
“It isn’t as if the government has “rescued” these homeless people. Homeless shelters all over the nation are turning people away each night because they have no more room. There are many homeless people that are lucky just to make it through each night alive during the winter.” - Hawaii News Daily, March 21, 2012
Pray for us. We intend to continue serving the poor. We also intend to continue to fight these anti-christian mayoral decrees.
I guess I’m not a very good showman. I have always tried to avoid the cameras. Even so, we have ended up on all the network affiliates’ newscasts and the daily and weekly papers in the city at some point through the years. Over nearly 23 years, that can probably just be attributed to some bad luck on a few slow news days. I suppose if I were a real go-getter of a fundraiser, this would be the prime time for the human interest story to tug at the heartstrings with the cameras rolling. We do not serve on the street on Thanksgiving. We have found that there are plenty of other people who want to get the attention for spreading table cloths in center city and serving dinner one night a year. One homeless fellow told me that if you want a turkey dinner with all the fixin’s in center city on Thanksgiving Day “all you have to do is stand still and it will come to you.” We are happy that this is part of our American tradition and that there are those families who are happy to serve on Thanksgiving.
We feel that the root cause of homelessness is the break down of the family. When families are strong, it seems there is always room for one more. Almost every Thursday night of the year we are out serving a meal on the street, so at Thanksgiving, we are careful to spend time with our families. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The most important thing you can do to fight homelessness this Thanksgiving is to do your best to have a loving and memorable day with your loved ones. Hopefully your family includes some who can’t be with their’s as well.
We don’t take pictures of the people we serve. We do not make merchandise of them as objects of pity. We treat them with respect. We have come to truly respect and love many of them. Apparently telling this doesn’t loosen the purse strings as effectively as printing a picture of a toothless old man in shabby clothes receiving a steaming hot cup of soup from a smiling, clean volunteer. Sorry.
They still need help. We still need your money to help them. Will it help if I tell you some of them will pray for you? Some of them will.
Last Thursday, we gave turkeys to two of the men who have moved into apartments. After we served on the street, we dropped off 17 turkeys from St. Philip’s Turkeys ‘R’ Us drive to Revs. Joses & Chantal St. Phard at their home for them to distribute at The Word In Action International Ministries. Today, I brought two fresh turkeys and two more frozen turkeys down to TWIA Ministries along with several boxes of food and some grocery store gift cards for them to distribute. Today, they were expecting over 300 families in their north Philadelphia neighborhood to show up looking for food for Thanksgiving.
We will be serving dinner on the street on Tuesday Nov. 29 and then every Thursday until Holy Thursday, and the last Tuesday of each month, as well. We thank God and each of you who support us with sandwiches, turkeys, toiletries, money, etc., and prayer. If we are given more, we will be able to do more. We do not have a reserve. You do not give alms for them to sit in a bank. You give them. We give them. It’s simple.
Have a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving!
The home-schoolers’ group at St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church Souderton just started meeting this autumn. Bishop Thomas gave them the name of St. Justin Academy. For their first ever service project, they chose to make power packs for The King’s Jubilee. One of the moms called me to ask what went into power packs and I referred her to Michael Heveran or Teresa Gillmore at St. Philip Neri R. C. Church in Pennsburg. Michael has made a lot of power packs. Teresa invented them and proposed the idea to us over twenty years ago. I must confess that I have never made one. Plus my brain has been a little Swiss cheesy lately, so I deferred to the experts.
The small group of home-schoolers colored about fifty paper bags with colorful crosses and other decorations and filled them with food and juice suitable to be a snack or lunch for tomorrow. I had the joy of giving them away on the street tonight. The men were very thankful!
It is good to have our children and grandchildren develop a habit of hands on giving of alms in tangible ways. May God grant them many blessed years of fruitful learning and giving!
I have been praying the Prayer of a Sick Person quite a bit over the last year, especially this summer. Since June 8th, I have had more days with debilitating migraines than without. I have experienced at least three incidences of strokes, the second two with multiple infarcts. I have been unable to do the work for “Come and See” Icons, since my eyesight and depth perception is unreliable. Even the computer work is painful. The business is about to go under, if it hasn’t already. The last Tuesday of August and the first Thursday of September, I coordinated The King’s Jubilee from a hospital bed using my cellphone. I was so grateful I could do that.
The first hospital roommate I had, thought he was being held against his will while people were ransacking his house. He broke free from his restraints and cornered a couple of nurses. They would get him calmed down and restrain and sedate him again. He would sleep for ten minutes, then he would go off again. This went on for seven hours, before they moved me out his room to a room at the extreme other end of the hall, at 4 am. I could still hear him screaming his wife’s name. He was in psychic hell. It is only by the grace of God that I am not in a similar condition. Lord have mercy.
Later that morning, I prayed the prayer above. When I got to the phrase: “let mercy and justice meet”, I thought not only of how I deserve hell and long for heaven (for that is truly what the prayer is asking), but that I also long for it for my tormented former roommate and for my current roommate who suffered a couple of seizures and doesn’t have health insurance, so isn’t going to get the follow up care he needs. He will probably be bankrupted for the rest of his life by the hospital bill on his credit report.
I began to seriously meditate on that phrase of the prayer. It seems, as a society, we crave justice. We want to see wrongdoers punished, the slothful poor, the immoral exposed. That is all just. And it’s all fine when it’s somebody else or somebody else’s child, or somebody else’s best friend. When it strikes closer to home, we seriously plead for mercy. Mercy is where just punishment is withheld. “Lord have mercy!” is the most oft repeated prayer in all our services and private devotions. We know that the Lord is just, but we aren’t asking for justice just yet.
The beauty of this prayer is that it is from the perspective of facing one’s mortality and final judgment and it is calling for God’s justice only to be met by his mercy. This is similar to what I pray for when I
pray “for a good defense at the judgment seat of Christ.” Christ stands in my place and satisfies the demands for justice. I am clothed in my white baptismal garment, hidden in Christ. Mercy is granted. Justice is satisfied.
The icon of the Falling Asleep of the Theotokos is the most apt visual representation of this concept. Mary died because of the fall of Adam. That’s justice. Jesus Christ is there immediately to carry her in his arms like a swaddled babe to life eternal in Glory! That’s justice and mercy having met. It is the hope of every believer hidden in Christ.
This prayer is not just about the sweet by and by though. We pray for the peace of the whole world; Lord have mercy! and the unity of all mankind; Lord have mercy!
As I continued my meditation, I realized that what I have been seeking for, longing for, and working for my whole adult life is to see mercy and justice meet. I want a second chance when I do wrong. I want to help the ex-offender safely get a second shot at life after he is released. I want to be delivered from my illness. I want to help addicts and alcoholics be dilivered from their illnesses. I want my family healed. We expand our family to include others who hope for the same. I want to survive a bad decision or two or three or 146. I want us to find a way to let people find their way forward even though they may have bet on the wrong horse in uncertain economic times.
The Lord told us that if we do not show mercy, we will not be shown mercy. So pray the Jesus Prayer with as long a rope as you want to, if you don’t give alms and still want to let children die because their parents can’t afford healthcare, well, Lord have mercy.
The King’s Jubilee is trying in small, tangible ways to share the mercy of God that we all truly crave with the poor and needy in center city and the prosperous and needy in the suburbs. It is truly “more blessed to give than to receive.” There is no point to prosperity, if you can’t use it to help someone else.
Be someone’s answer to prayer today. It is the tender mercies of God that lead men to repentance.
Cranford Joseph Coulter
director, The King’s Jubilee
I would feel remiss if I did not share some thoughts on behalf of my family on what Cranford has so aptly referred to as “the most amazing tour of center city Philadelphia”. My husband Craig, “the girls” and I joined 18 of our brothers and sisters in Christ Saturday morning to tour areas of center city that many of our ”Thursday night friends” (a nickname that I believe Stephanie has given the hungry and homeless people that we serve) call home. I didn’t realize until we reached our first stop, the Love Park, that our tour would take us back to parts of the City of Brotherly Love where I spent so much time when I worked in center city. The Love Park was a favorite spot for meeting friends at lunchtime. Seems it still is!
I recall seeing many homeless people at the Love Park during those lunch time visits 15 – 20 years ago, nearly every time I was there. What I didn’t remember noticing as much back then as I noticed on Saturday, were their beautiful smiles, the gratitude in their eyes and their kind and gentle spirits as we handed out servings of spaghetti, peanuts, sandwiches and power packs. Craig, the girls and I were all taken aback by the sheer number of hungry and homeless that we saw on Saturday, even though on any given Thursday night, we may have 50 to 100 people lining up for food! I don’t remember seeing so many, years ago.
Before Craig and I married, I commuted by train to work from Chester County. Every work day I would walk through the concourse level, either coming into or leaving center city. Back then, the concourse seemed so dreary and dirty. As we walked down from the street level on Saturday, I noticed immediately that it looked different. I was pleased to see that improvements had been made and perhaps better lighting installed. I asked Fred if he knew how often the floors were cleaned? He told us they were cleaned every day. Thanks be to God! Craig used the concourse rest room (something I most likely avoided doing back when I was commuting). When Craig came out from the rest room, he shared with us that he had spotted one of our Thursday night friends in the restroom enjoying a sponge bath. It made me smile and I was comforted a little as I thought about how much better our friend would feel after washing up! Going down another level to the train platform, I had a hard time reconciling the idea that the homeless had encampments right there by the train tracks that I used day in and day out to take me back to my warm, comfortable home in the country. As I listened to Fred describe some of the encampments, I gave thanks for the many blessings and for the gifts and talents that God has bestowed on each one of us. Imagine what could be accomplished if we would just take the time to tap into some of the creativity and resourcefulness that many of our homeless friends have been blessed with!
Stopping at the Dunkin Donuts and seeing the costly and drastic measures they, like many other businesses, have taken to prevent the hungry from taking food that is being thrown out, was very thought provoking. Logic and Love lead to the question of how this wasteful, terrible disconnect can simply be connected? Thy will be done. There must be a way. Visiting the spot that was Bruce’s at the corner of 18th and Vine Streets gave me a glimpse into how faithful and courageous our Thursday night friends must be.
We were sorry that we had to leave before the end of our tour, but even though we missed the most awesomest (and that’s being dittoed by an English major) part of the tour, Craig, the girls and I all thought it was the most awesomest tour of center city we had ever taken, too! I’m hoping that Fred will consider doing another one somewhere down the road, perhaps even when it isn’t perfect weather for being on the streets?!
Craig, the girls and I are all very grateful to be a part of this life-changing ministry and for the awesomest tour that Fred so thoughtfully conducted! Last but not least, we are immensely thankful for the many blessings, the spiritual nourishment and the JOY that our Thursday night friends so lovingly provide us when we are with them.
n closing, I’d like to include a quote from The Prologue of Ohrid, St. Nikolai Velimirovich as my friend and brother in Christ John just shared this with me today:
He, who mocks the naked and hungry soldier, mocks his king. He, who mocks the poor, shames his Creator. If you know that the poor man’s Creator is your Creator, the one and the same, you would not mock him. If you know that the poor man stands in the same military rank in which you are also, you will cover him, feed him and you will bring him closer to yourself.
O, Omnipotent Lord, boundless is Your wisdom in the economy of Your creation. Illumine us by Your Holy Spirit that we may marvel at that economy and, with reverence and love, gaze upon all of Your creation, gazing upon them through You.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.