Tag Archives: illness

TKJ’s 25th Anniversary

markerlogoFebruary marks the 25th anniversary of The King’s Jubilee. I dug out a bunch of the old newsletters and other literature today. The hand traced logo is from a newsletter I did in marker in 1996 after people complained about the print quality of my printer. In 1994, our entire budget was less that $4,000. With that we served over 9,000 meals in Philadelphia, Pottstown and Stowe, and  led a Monday Evening Bible Institute, two prison Bible studies, established a Spanish ministry in Graterford Prison; printed an inmate newsletter; established a new homeless ministry in Upper Darby; provided personal care kits via our Project: Lydia program in the Northampton Co. Women’s Prison. I have never received a salary for this ministry. I have basically worked at it pretty much as a full time volunteer. I started to write another paragraph about the various ministries we have done or attempted through the years, but decided to do it as a bullet list, instead. I’m not sure of all the dates.

  • Wednesday, General population Bible study, Graterford Prison, 1989 – 1996
  • Saturday, Intake block Bible study, Graterford Prison, 1989 -1996
  • Christmas morning at Graterford Prison with Bethann & April, 1989 – 1995
  • Serving hot meals and sandwiches to the homeless and poor in Center City Philadelphia, along with clothing, blankets & toiletries. 1987 – present
  • All day Music Festivals with free food for the poor and homeless and the community. We called them “Victory Parties”, because we were sounding the trumpet, to declare Jesus’ victory over homelessness and poverty, in the early nineties. Twice in Philadelphia, Pottstown, Phoenixville, & Upper Darby.
  • Film with discussion series on various social issues, held in different church halls.
  • TKJ Monday Evening Bible Institute, 1993 – 1996
  • Established Spanish language ministry in Graterford Prison. It continues to this day, although not under our leadership. We were just the catalyst to open the door.
  • Inmate Correspondence Discipleship Course
  • TKJ Inmate edited newsletter
  • Sunday evening support prayer meetings / house fellowships in East Greenville, Pottstown & Upper Darby, PA & Columbia, SC.
  • “Clothesline” free clothing ministry in East Greenville. We facilitated it, found its new home and ran it for a little while. April designed its logo when she was in high school. They still use it. Peace Mennonite Church still operates it 20 years later.
  • Project: Lydia, personal care items in hand made drawstring bags distributed to all of the women inmates in the Northampton County Prison. Only for a few months. Then they disallowed us.
  • Serving hot meals and sandwiches, etc., in Pottstown and Stowe, 1990 – 199?
  • Serving hot meals and sandwiches, etc., in Columbia, SC, 1991 – 199? (We got it started, then entrusted it to a local church. We are not interested in empire building.)
  • Serving meals to the homeless and poor in Upper Darby. 1992 – 1996
  • Power Packs, relatively non-perishable snack bags for folks to take with them for the next day, 1992 – present
  • Mount Moriah Cemetery clean up and restoration efforts.
  • A couple of urban / suburban exchange potluck dinners.
  • Ugly Quilts
  • Operation: Clean Start providing cleaning supplies and equipment to those moving off the street into permanent housing. 2011 – present.
  • Gathering and delivering furniture, dishes, bedding, etc., to those who have moved off of the street. 1989 – present.
  • St. Nicholas coin distribution Dec. 6, 1998 – present
  • Occasionally taking folks home for a weekend break from the city or finding someone a home to get off the street, 1989 – present
  • Providing music while we serve in the park. This has happened intermittently and is always desirable.
  • Distributing socks & underwear to ~200 at the Tindley Temple UMC’s Soup Kitchen’s Christmas Lunch, 2012 on.
  • Rent Parties & Virtual Rent Parties 2013 – present
  • Stocking cupboards with staples and basic utensils when people move off the street. 1995 – present. We are launching an organized program to do that, now, called “Jubilee Pantry”.

I’m sure I forgot some things. That’s OK. Through the years, we have also helped several homeless students buy books and computers to complete their studies. One man presented me with his graduation program and a thank you note when he graduated cum laude as a nurse. We have helped other front lines ministries with materials, computers and funds. Once we even delivered a used, electric golfcart to Ora Love so she could get around the project with all of her books and equipment to teach her students.

During Mayor Rendell’s years, we were investigated by undercover police at least three times that I was aware of. I told them that we were willing to go to jail before we would quit, because we had to obey God rather than men. Fast Eddy Rendell thought that the homeless were like dogs and that if we would only stop feeding them, they would go to someone else’s city. I assured him on the three occasions when I met him that no one was on the street because the food was that good! Since then, I have been told that my soup is better than what they serve at The Four Seasons. I still stand by my statement. We have been chased from one park to another. Policemen have harrassed us. Once I was told that Fairmount Park was private property . I took that officer’s name and badge number. He got a civics lesson from his commanding officer the next day. We have witnessed knife fights and fist fights and one shooting. Brownie shot Peaches in the butt with a 22. Most thought she had it coming. The two of them have been more or less happily married for over 15 years now. Ain’t love grand!

Once, the Fruit of Islam at Graterford put a hit out on me, and some other inmates put out a counter hit to protect me, stating that if anything happened to me, Nation of Islam inmates were going to die. They apparently circulated my photo around Phila. Les Bucher & I were coming home from serving one night and we were being ambushed, with a car in front and a car behind and a man in a long coat in the summertime with a big gun in his pocket came running up to Les’s side of the van. He started to raise the gun. He spots me in the “shotgun” position, and says, “O, it’s you, Cranford. Have a nice night!” A signal was given and the car in front moved and we were allowed to leave. Another time, I was taken at gun point from my workplace by an ex-offender so I could get him admitted to a drug rehab while he was high as a kite. Interesting times.

Working in prison and on the street changed me and changed my theology. This has alarmed my old fundamentalist friends. However, a theology that bears bad fruit in the real world is invalid. If it leads me to see my brothers and sisters as “other” or inferior or “market” and not simply as somebody’s children, who are trying to muddle through as best they can figuring it out as they go like I am, then I don’t need it. “Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children.” (Kahlil Gibran)

Through the years, I worked at various jobs to support myself and my family. I always needed something with a flexible schedule so that I could do this work. Finally, I started “Come and See” Icons, Books & Art in January 2001 thinking it would be flexible and could grow and support the ministry. I was doing this out of our half twin in East Greenville, making the icons in a tiny space in the basement and finishing them in a tiny spare bedroom, which was also the office and mailing center. We finally decided to take the leap and move closer to church, to a place with an outbuilding that we hoped to house the business in in May 2006. It required major rebuilding. I set to work to do that. It took money. Some money came in, but then was delayed for a year. By the time we received it I had serious health issues, so I could not do as much. The business also got interrupted repeatedly by my health issues, an infection on my spine, then reaction to the antibiotic that nearly killed me; six months later migrainous strokes. Then debilitating strokes for three months, etc. Finally, the business went under in July of 2013, after never really showing a profit. A major flaw in my business plan was that my main competition was monks.

In 2012, we had to sue Mayor Nutter and the City of Philadelphia, after he decreed that serving free food in the parks to needy people was illegal. We won an injunction and that decision has become a landmark for other groups to fight and win against similar oppressive regulations across the country.

Dr. Jerry Burke & Dr. Peter Psomiadis organized the Hummus Open Golf Tounament. We had the 2nd Annual in 2012 where we debuted the most unusual trophy in sport, The Garbanzo. In 2013, we took it up another notch and introduced commemorative tournament hats.

tkjRaffle

From a 1996 Newsletter, offer still good!

We have been featured a lot in the press lately, since Charli Riggle encouraged me to do a Gofundme to save our home from foreclosure in conjunction with the almsgiving Facebook group drive she coordinated. She started the press connections as well. It eventually made it onto both the very local and the national scene. We raised over $45,000 and were able to save our home from foreclosure as well as a neighbor’s, for now. We raised the profile of the ministry and gained a few more monthly donors. We need many more to make this truly sustaining. I have been essentially working two full time jobs for nearly 25 years. No wonder I had a dozen or more strokes! We can end homelessness in Philadelphia. We need your support to be able to work at it to do that, without having to worry about not having insurance for Bethann and losing the house again in another year. Please make a monthly pledge. It’s easy and automatic on Paypal. If everyone who liked us on Facebook would give $10/month, we would have more than we have ever had to work with, ever. That is a McDonald’s meal (blecch!) skipped for you, which would allow us to move forward, full time to develop the ministry in some marvelous ways! We cannot do this ministry without you. We just give your alms away.

God bless you!
Peace,

Cranford Coulter
for The King’s Jubilee

In Grand View Hospital, again

On the morning of January 31, I had a terrific migraine. I realized it had set off a stroke when I was eating my soup at lunch and it was dribbling down the right side of my beard. The right side of my face was numb. The migraine continued for four days. The numbness in my face remained. Plus I have intermittent times of feeling like I was going to fall for no good reason. My typing has gotten even worse with my fingers grabbing totally random keys on the keyboard. I seem to lose small pieces of time. Intermittently I cannot focus on words. The type shakes. This afternoon I felt shaky, but I wasn’t shaking. I have been having a more difficult time finding the right word, so have been talking more slowly; occasionally forgetting to finish sentences altogether. The brain is a strange world.

Several of my friends have been telling me to see a doctor for over a week now. Every time they have seen me, they told me I am not right. And they add that they mean more not right than usual.
I finally called my neurologist today. I spoke to the nurse. She listened to the way I spoke on the phone, then the Dr. listened in for a bit. They told me to go to the ER. They observed me in the ER and felt I was still exhibiting symptoms of experiencing stroke. I had an inconclusive CAT scan. They kept me for observation and an MRI tomorrow.
Yippee skippy!
Peace,
Cranford

Homecoming

Hands of LoveLast night was like a little “homecoming”. Several of the ‘old heads’ that we knew from the early days on the street came out to see us on the street. They have moved off the street into housing a while ago, so I haven’t seen them for some time. A few of them I have known since 1985 when I started as a chaplain in Philadelphia prisons. Two of them continued with me at Graterford State Prison. After they were released, I saw them on the street. I saw Brownie shoot Peaches in the butt with a .22 pistol in front of the family court building on a rainy night 20 years ago. Sadly, everyone sort of agreed she had it coming. They have been happily married for over 15 years now. John asked me for prayer for his wife, “Bunny”, as she has been diagnosed with cancer and has started chemo. Her given name is Ledger. Pray for her.

I have known these men for nearly 30 years. We have aged together. When I met them, they were rough and rowdy young bucks, and I was a young idealist. We were cocksure we could take on the world and win. Now, look at us. The wrinkles are starting to show. We are just hoping to make it through the week and happy to see an old friend or two.

Time, the great equalizer.

“We have fun!”

dollar-coinsMost of the time when people tell me that what we do is special, or that I am a special person for what I do, my response is, “We have fun!” And I am being serious when I say this.

Jesus told us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” The word blessed can mean happy. Doing something that makes you happy is kind of the definition of fun. I can tell you from experience, Jesus did not lie. Now the world has us all excited about receiving. And receiving things can be pretty happy sometimes, especially if we are in a tight spot and they fill a crying need. Well, to be the one who gets to fill that need is even happier! We don’t have much of anything of our own. What we do have, we share. So to do this ministry is such a joy. We have time and some cooking skill, so April and Kevin and I cooked yesterday. And I get to be a delivery person for what you all give, and thus, share in the fun!

Today is St. Nicholas Day. Last night we gave out the dollar coins to the people to celebrate this. I asked for special prayer, because last year things got out of hand and about $300 was stolen. Now I was there to give it away, so it wasn’t a loss to the ministry, but it wasn’t a good scene and wasn’t good for the soul of the persons who stole it. God answers prayer. We didn’t have such a huge crowd. I waited until we were just about done serving food. I did not try to tell the story to the crowd all at once. I did not carry the rolls of coins in a bag. I wore my winter coat that was entirely too warm, but had the right, zippered pockets, and carried a few rolls of coins in each pocket at a time. I just wandered through the people and handed out three dollars to each, remembering their faces. Soon someone asked why there were three coins. So I told them about St. Nicholas inheriting three bags of gold and the three daughters of the poor man. The poor man could not afford dowries for his daughters, so Bishop Nicholas, on the eve of when each of them were to be sold into slavery threw a bag of gold up and over, so that it fell down into the hearth, thus providing dowries for each of these girls in turn. Someone else asked, so I told them again, only this time I mentioned the St. Nicholas’ Cross that you see on all pawnbrokers’ shops, because he redeemed the maidens, and one always hopes one can redeem one’s possessions from the pawnbroker. I had way more than enough coins for everybody. I ended up giving to people twice and some more than twice. Steve and I started to go to the other end of the park and distributed there.

I went back and got more coins. Anthony went with me and we circled two blocks to where people were camped and gave out coins. I handed three coins to one older man saying, “In honor of St. Nicholas, God bless you.” He looked at me kind of startled. Anthony told him that they were dollar coins. The man was just so surprised and grateful. He said, “I’m a Muslim, but I understand some things about Christianity and you’re a righteous man. God bless you.” Then he said to Anthony, “Stick with him. Out here, it could get messy.” I turned back to him and gave him three more dollars and asked him to pray for me. He had tears in his eyes.

When we got back to the benches where we serve, the Project HOME outreach van was there. I reached in the window and gave the volunteers coins for St. Nicholas Day. One of them had come out with us a couple of years ago as it turns out. It apparently was when I was in the hospital, because someone else was in charge. She had very nice things to say about The King’s Jubilee and they learned some things about St. Nicholas.

I also talked to Sadie. Sadie and Daniel are two of the sweetest people you would ever want to meet. Please keep them in your prayers. They have had the worst couple of years. Daniel wasn’t allowed to come out on the damp night, because he has walking pneumonia. Sadie just had surgery for stomach cancer and has started chemo. Earlier this year she had a heart attack and stents and a broken foot. Their 14 year old special needs daughter was repeatedly raped by a fellow special needs student. They had finally moved off the street, then lost their place, because they had taken in a brother-in-law who had a criminal record that got the whole family thrown out of public housing. They were being good Christians to help their nieces and nephews, and they get penalized for it. They are off the street again. Thank God. They maintain a positive and cheerful attitude through it all. They are amazing people! Daniel’s Birthday is tomorrow. I sent extra coins home with Sadie to help celebrate.

Thank you all for enabling me to deliver a bit of happiness to some of our brothers and sisters on the street. We really are having fun!

Be blessed! Have some fun!

Most Richly Blessed

“I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.”

Adlai Stevenson sent this “prayer” on his Christmas card after he was defeated by Eisenhower. One of the people who received the Christmas card was the famed Dr. Howard Rusk, founder of the “Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine” in New York City. Rusk had the prayer, which was then known as “The Prayer of an Unknown Confederate Soldier,” placed in bronze and entitled it “A Creed for the Disabled.” It was also published in Time magazine in December 0f 1956.

A friend posted it on Facebook today and it spoke to me. I have been thinking about my path. I’m in a tight spot and in constant pain, due to damage to my spine from an infection most likely picked up from ministering on the street. But it has been an interesting path and I have met so many lovely people and helped along the way by so many gracious souls. I would not choose a different path. I am a man most richly blessed.

Less than spectacular start

What can I say? Our rent party and kick off to our Virtual Rent Party was somewhat less than fantastic. We are grateful for those who came and a few generous souls who gave, but it is not enough. We raised a net of $525. We needed to raise about $4,000. The mortgage company will not take partial payment. We received the notice of foreclosure from their attorney today. People ask us what we are doing about our situation.

Bethann has been looking for work for over a year since the bank let her go. She went through training for a dental assistant. They did not tell her that she would need to be certified as an X-ray tech. to get a job and that they were not offering that course for another year. It’s amazing to us how people just play free and loose with other people’s lives. She is now going to school for medical office administration. It is a year long course. It is pretty intense.

Over the last four years, I have had some pretty intense health challenges. It started in October 2009 with what we thought was MRSA on my neck. It had to be lanced and treated with antibiotics. I had bad reactions to some of those. It was the first Thanksgiving I missed with the family.

On Tuesday morning, October 19, 2010, I landed in the ER with inexplicable pain in my back and 103 fever. They took vials of blood and lots of X-rays and sent me home at 2am on Valium and Percocet. Later on Wednesday, I went back for a complete MRI of my spine. It took over an hour. Thursday, a Dr. called and told me to stop the Valium, because he thought I had cancer and I had to be Valium free for 10 days for them to take a biopsy. I found someone to cover for me for that night for the city. The Percocet did not cut it. I was literally screaming with pain. They had found what they thought was a tumor the size of a large plum attached to my spine at T-11, T-12, L-1. That Saturday morning the hospital called me and told me they looked at it again and considered my history and thought it was more likely an infection. Come to the ER right away. They started me on IV Vancomycin. They also put me on a morphine drip and a Fentanyl patch. I spent a week in the hospital, then left to continue the IV treatments at home. I ended up back in the hospital, because my PICC line got infected. I had to have it removed and a new one installed in the other arm. They sent me home again after a few days. Then I started to react to the antibiotic. So I went back to the hospital. I was a real puzzle for Dr. Jonathon Cohen, since I was now allergic to six classes of antibiotics. They decided to give me a brand new one.

It was my first day there and Dr. Jerry Burke was just stopping by to visit. He is my good friend, not my doctor. He looked at the monitors and saw that I was crashing, He grabbed my bed and started to undo things and called the nurse and said, “This man is moving to ICU!” She asked if he had doctor’s orders for that. He replied that he would get that in good time. Meanwhile they were moving me. This was the second time Jerry saved my life. I spent nearly a week in intensive care with kidney failure. I also had respiratory problems while in there. They were afraid I was going into Steven Johnson Syndrome, so they put me on Prednisone. I was sent home the weekend before Thanksgiving with a much simpler IV that did not require a machine. I missed another Thanksgiving with the family. I was still reacting to drugs well into December. The Prednisone put my blood sugar all out of whack. That was a long road back with an adjusted diet. Everything finally seemed fine, then I broke out in hives from head to toe in the middle of January for no known reason.

When I came out of the hospital I had a clamshell body brace and a walker. I used the walker to walk around the block. My neighbor, John Haggerty, had moved all of my tools into his shop to make my icons to keep my business alive. He did not know the shipping and billing end of it though. So we had missed an entire Christmas season. I was trying to catch up on orders and to catch up on bills.

We had been waiting for the money to be released from the church to finish the barn. It finally was, so John and I went forward to get the permits and buy the materials and planned to get it done that summer. Then the weekend before my birthday, I had a terrific migraine that lasted for three days with visual effects lasting all through it. I went to the Dr. and she sent me over to the hospital for an MRI on my birthday, June 14, 2011. The next day, I got the results that I had had three little strokes and that I was to report to the hospital. I spent a week on the telemetry unit having every imaginable heart test, scan, image, with contrast, without, etc. The debilitating migraines continued all summer long, for days, sometimes weeks at a time, with no more than 8 days without from June 11 to Sept. 11. I was hospitalized two more times with a 3 or 4 trips to the ER besides, that summer. I had 12 documented strokes. At HUP, we discovered that the migraines caused the strokes. So that was a whole summer shot in the head. We still don’t know what causes the migraines. Since then we have adjusted my medication and vitamins and minerals several times to try to prevent them. I have had an estimated 30 to 50 little strokes with some permanent damage. So we didn’t get most of the work done on the barn that we had planned.

So we try to pick up the pieces of the business again and work on a new drug and vitamin regime, with regular visits to the doctor and the neurologist. The migraines continue with more strokes. At times, I can’t work for a week at a time. 2012 was taken up with the lawsuit against Mayor Nutter and the City of Phila. and that whole mess. I cried the whole months of June and July, because of that. I went through the trial with no support whatsoever from my priest. I had an MRI on my birthday again, because I thought the infection on my spine had come back, because of the exquisite pain. That’s when I learned that the infection had eaten into my spine and I have significant arthritis. The migraines continued. I started 2013 with a bad case of bronchitis that laid me low for three weeks. So I was behind on orders. Then I was in pain. The migraines started again. Then the main iconographer whose work I carried withdrew his work from my site, notifying me by email. By July, it became apparent that with all of my illnesses and the reduced collection, the business was no longer viable, so I closed it.

This summer, my spine started hurting continually. I am in constant pain. My eyes are almost always involuntarily tearing. I cannot take enough painkiller for it, nor do I dare to. I take a lot of turmeric and ginger. Most nights I have to take a Percocet to sleep a couple of hours.

We kept plugging away, serving more meals. The population on the street has gone up. We are serving more than 200 meals each week. Plus we are helping several men transition off of the street. If we can survive economically until disability kicks in, in a couple of months; and until the new insurance exchange kicks in on Jan. 1, we will be in a much better situation to handle things. Once Bethann finds a job in a physician’s office, we will be OK. It would be a shame to lose everything after coming so close.

Right now, we are paying $1450/month for mortgage plus escrow and $1100 for Cobra insurance per month. I write all of this to answer the questions. We have been serving the poor, the homeless and the imprisoned since 1984. Anyone who really knows how we live knows that this house is a base of operations for service and a place of hospitality and respite for any in need.

I did not write this to be a downer. It is not too late. Please help us save our home and the base of operations for this ministry. The King’s Jubilee is in its 25th year. Please don’t let it go down for lack of an adequate safety net. This ministry is needed now, more than ever. I cannot believe it would be God’s will for it to fold now.

Please pray and consider what you can do for an emergency gift now, and then for a sustaining pledge monthly. God bless you as you bless the poor and homeless in Jesus’ Name.

Is this how it ends?

It is becoming apparent to me that this ministry is really not valued by the church. There are a few who are involved and are faithful, but not enough to sustain it and make it effective to really meet the needs that need to be met.

Soon I will be homeless. That will end the Thursday night meals. No one else has bothered to get the food prep certification. There has not been real organizational cohesion. People want to piggy back on what I have done and the battles I have fought over the years to do their own thing, but don’t embrace the over-arching vision for the ministry.

I have been trying for over a month to write some sort of article that would move people to give. I did write the article about when the money runs out. Then I wrote about Poverty Porn. We received a lot of likes, but no donations. We have been promoting the golf tournament, but no one has registered. I have occasionally wondered how I would know it would be time to stop this ministry. I have given others the advice from Scripture that it is “accepted according to what one has and not according to what he does not have.” (2 Cor. 8:12) One cannot and should not give what one does not have. It doesn’t make sense to me that it should be now that we should stop. We won the court battle. We have an opportunity to really make a difference and possibly end homelessness in Philadelphia. But clearly the resources have run dry. I receive no support either pastoral or budgeted from our church or any encouragement from the leadership, quite the contrary. I get only discouragement there. I finally make the move to rebuild the icon business into a modern shopping cart and it totally tanks, so I closed it. Bethann has been trying to get a job for a year to no avail, even though she got additional training, so insurance costs are through the roof.

Very few people have embraced the vision of this ministry. We are not just there on Thursday nights occasionally to assuage our middle class guilt or to provide an opportunity for our kids to do their required community service hours. We are there to meet Christ and perhaps to be surprised by grace. There is more going on than just Thursday nights. There are the furniture and Operation: Clean Start deliveries, the midnight phone calls, the emergency food deliveries, the counselling of people in crisis, the help with rent and phones and prescriptions. Then there is the cooking of the soup and the beans and rice, the coordinating of volunteers, writing the blog and the newsletter, trying to raise support. Suing the city just to continue serving with the meetings that that involves, networking with other ministries and organizations. Developing a long range plan to end homelessness. Trying to work with Mount Moriah Cemetery, but lacking volunteer support to do so.

People have said, why don’t you work with FOCUS, as if the money would magically appear from somewhere else, if we did that. We tried to do that, several years ago. They said we did not meet their criteria. We have been serving for 24 years. We have people involved from all different Orthodox jurisdictions. They didn’t like that we were located outside the city and travelling in. I pointed out that almost all of the members of the city churches, and many of the priests, were in that same category. This is part of our mission, to get resources from the suburbs into the city. Philadelphia is a region. We did not fit their cookie cutter, so they are exploring something that fits their cookie cutter view rather than helping strengthen a going concern.

Thanks to the GOP sequester, Bethann’s unemployment compensation has been delayed and reduced twice (which is a breach of the social contract, since that is an insurance that employees pay for). It is not even enough to pay for health insurance. It may  barely cover utilities. Now contributions have stagnated, even though I put out a mailing to thousands of customers and church members. I am told to be positive. I am sorry. I just don’t see how. I have been thinking for weeks trying to see how. And just seeing our state and federal governments doing one nasty thing after another to hurt the poor and the middle class to benefit the super rich and big corporations; I don’t see how me speaking out will hurt things any more than they already have been. Why should I just quietly become homeless, without at least trying to make some people understand that what is happening in our state and in our country is mean-spirited and hurts real people.

We have been working hard to try to make things work. We get criticized for the decisions we made. I felt wrong for keeping extra money that was given generously to help. I used it, I thought, in a synergistic way to hire a brother, whom the church was neglecting, who was on the verge of homelessness, to help modernize my business, not knowing that the rug was going to be pulled out from under me by my former best friend, in an email.

At this juncture, I am looking for some type of full time employment. I don’t know if I can handle it with my health and the migraines and the strokes. We can’t live on nothing. The King’s Jubilee receives enough in monthly support to keep the tank filled with gas, insure the TKJ-mobile, and to buy the paper products, iced tea and produce, etc., for Thursday nights. If I get a job, I will have to close down the ministry. It’s as simple as that. I can’t do both. This is extremely painful for me, literally.

Once again, we are three months behind on our mortgage, but this time there are no orders at comeandseeicons.com Somebody came to our rescue and paid our insurance for June, We squeaked by for July and nothing for any of our other bills. We can’t let coverage lapse with Bethann’s pacemaker and my history of strokes. And, no, there is no government safety net.

The right wing lie was the government should get out of the business of helping people because it was getting in the way of the church. Well, it’s out of the way now. I don’t see the church anywhere. The need has multiplied. We should be out there. But it’s just the same token service on our terms.

I am sorry that I have failed so miserably. I am not attractive and upbeat. I am not a sports or TV star. I am apparently not charismatic or persuasive. So the homeless will continue to suffer on my account. The 30 to 50 strokes have made me even more dark and intense about things. Sorry. On the bright side, we may be losing our home and our internet connection soon and this website will come down and you won’t have to hear from me any more.

We looked for the church for 25 years so we wouldn’t have to stand alone in ministry. We thought we had found it. Yet, when we and this ministry were facing the worst trials we had ever seen, we stood utterly alone, with no pastoral support or encouragement. And now the money is gone and I am just so tired of the criticisms and of having to beg and of people telling me they won’t give to help the poor, because of this or that or the other of my personal decisions or statements. What does it matter what I say?

“Come and See” Icons, Books & Art is closed

I think it is apparent that I need to close up shop. I have experienced a number of illnesses which caused me to be a poor businessman. This meant I was not able to deliver icons in a timely fashion or pay my bills in a timely fashion either, with added medical expenses and downtime. This alienated one of my major iconographers, who had been my best friend, withdrew his collection, just as I was streamlining the site to make it more efficient as a shopping cart. He did this by email and has refused to answer any phone calls.
At this point, it is costing me more to continue, so I just need to stop. I am finishing the last orders that have been placed and that is it.
Thank you.

I don’t know how I will make a living. I was hoping to be full time serving with The King’s Jubilee. There is plenty of work to be done, but it seems the church does not want to support ministry among the poor or really want to end homelessness in Philadelphia. At this point I don’t know if we can even continue the ministry at all or even if we will end up joining the ranks of the homeless ourselves. I’m sorry. I have been told to be positive. I guess, on the positive side, that was the longest I have ever had one job. I was really quite frustrated and bored with it. Perhaps now that I am not distracted with trying to make the business succeed, I can just directly fund-raise and work on ministry, and more quickly get to our goal of ending homelessness in Philadelphia.

Please give. We need your support. Mail a check or use the Paypal button. May God bless you as you join in this work of serving the poor in Jesus’ Name.

Rent Party at Charming House (reposted from shoutforjoy.us)

gateWhen 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.
phone: 267:497-0267
cjoseph@shoutforjoy.us  (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.

Oops! I forgot to check the calendar.

February was a blur. First, I was sick with the flu and bronchitis so bad that I could hardly do anything for two weeks. Bethann got it, too, not as severely, but with the bronchitis. On the 17th, we were both going to make it to church for the first time in three weeks. She sat up on the edge of the bed and told me she thinks she is having a heart attack. I got her some aspirin and water. We got dressed and I rushed her to the ER. It turns out it was very bad atrial fibrillation. She was in the hospital until Friday. They installed a pacemaker on Thursday. We did make it to church on the 24th.

On Thursday, February 28, we made soup and I got supplies and went to Giant to get the iced tea. In fact, that is why I was a little late getting to the city. I was a little disoriented, not focused on the fact that it was Thursday, for the entire day. I know that sounds funny and it is, but our life has been that disrupted by various forces and events lately. Serge and Alex and Serge and Alex (that’s not a typo, two different families) dropped off sandwiches. Brian came and we headed down to the city. When we arrived, I realized that it was the last Thursday of the month and the people of Holy Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church made the soup and brought the iced tea and cups, etc. I said to Brian, “I’m an idiot. Leave the soup and iced tea in the car. Just grab the sandwiches. I forgot which week it was.” I let Fr. Chris know what I had done and told him that if he ran out of soup, we had plenty more!

They served the line. Everyone got plenty. A little bit after we got there, Linda Notskas arrived with blankets and quilts and a few coats from St. John Chrysostom Albanian Orthodox Church. We helped her give those out. She had a car full, but she felt heart broken that she didn’t have more. She is such a sweetheart. God bless her.

Well, the crowd cleared. We packed up. We said our goodbyes to the folks from Holy Annunciation. They shared their well wishes and hugs for Bethann. We were just about to get into the TKJ-mobile, when Alex came over. (the 3rd Alex of the evening) I was so glad to see him. I had his cellphone, which he had arranged to have mailed to our house. I asked him if he wanted soup. He was surprised we had any left, so I told him the sorry tale of my forgetfulness. One thing led to another. We had several more stragglers. It turns out there had been a lecture at the Free Library about the persistence of poverty in America that a number of the guys attended. They missed our normal serving line. We ended up giving away well more than half of the soup and all of the iced tea. The guys were very appreciative. They had made a difficult choice to go to this lecture and discussion, but had chosen long term edification and hope for progress over a hot meal. God used my absentmindedness to be the ram in the bush to provide for them and bless them for their wisdom.

“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”

- 1 Corinthians 1:27