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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 annual 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





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 it time to dream big?

We started off the summer with high hopes. My health seemed finally back on track after the ordeals of the staph infection on the spine, the morphine overdose in the hospital, the secondary infection, the reactions to the antibiotics, renal failure, the ICU, the hives, the prednisone, hives again, the long slog back to finally feeling somewhat normal. (What’s normal?) I was going to the gym three times a week. My heart rate and blood pressure were starting to come down. The disbursement of the bequest from the estate of Harry Mason finally came through along with another large donation, after a long dry spell in giving for The King’s Jubilee. It seemed like it was our time to finally get the barn in shape in order to move the ministry forward.

THWACK!

On June 8, I was hit with a twelve day long atypical migraine accompanied by a stroke. Debilitating migraines with strokes, doctors’ visits, hospital stays and tests following in their train, persisted through September 11. During that period, I did not have more than two days in a row without debilitating migraines. This left me three months behind on filling orders for “Come and See” Icons, Books & Art. This business not only pays our bills and gives me a flexible schedule so that I can do the ministry, it usually subsidizes the work of The King’s Jubilee.

I was so tempted to just quit everything, sell the business, sell the house, and …

That fantasy faded pretty fast. The house has too many unfinished projects that were supposed to get done over the summer. The business may or may not be in business at this point, so who would buy it? Where would we go? Our grandchildren are here.

Pretty quickly I got a second wind and decided to expand the ministry. I talked it over with the board and we are going to expand our outreach with two new programs. I have already mentioned them on the blog. One is Operation: Clean Start. This will give every individual or family who is moving off the street into permanent housing a bucket full of cleaning supplies and tools to help them make their new space into a comfortable home. It will include personal touches such as a note from the family that put it together and a nice decorative item or favorite book. The second is We’ve Got You Covered. This is where we are encouraging every family in every Orthodox church in the region to bring a used blanket or Ugly Quilt to church some time between now and the end of the year to be given away by one of the Orthodox Christian ministries in Jesus’ Name.

When I shared these programs with Bishop THOMAS three weeks ago, he was very excited and supportive of both of them, but said that he thought that I was not dreaming big enough. I told him about the original vision I had for a family healing center that included a horse riding stable and Christmas tree farm. I won’t go into all of the details now. Suffice it to say; it is big and the bishop liked it. We have done some more dreaming along the same lines, but with skills that would better match our actual abilities, like icon making, woodworking and a native plant nursery as part of a family healing center. We’re talking about money with more zeros in it than I am comfortable dealing with to get it started, but I was told to dream big.

OK. That’s nice. We started dreaming and scheming in 1989. In the meantime we have been feeding people and giving away clothes and blankets and toiletries and furniture and cleaning supplies, etc. We have to put tires and brakes on the TKJ-mobile. ($800 at the state inspection this month) We fill the tank with gas. We put out newsletters. We buy soup ingredients. We need to use office space and have clean storage space. We take time out of our work week to make soup and to help people move or to counsel them. It takes time to recruit and coordinate volunteers. That has always happened out of our house, rent free. These new programs may not sound like much, but I have done similar things in the past and they take a huge commitment of time and energy. I was told of another ministry to the poor that pays $700/month rent for a hole in the wall office for its paid staff person, yet that it was hard to raise money for The King’s Jubilee to finish my barn because it belongs to me personally. OK. Why don’t we call it rent then? Or we could call it paying me as a staff person? There is a decision that was taken by The King’s Jubilee over fifteen years ago to start paying me one day a week for the work I do. That has never happened with any regularity. If I use all of the pay to make the barn a usable facility for storage and staging to improve the ministry, is that then unacceptable?

To think of a million dollar property to further the work of this ministry is exciting. Honestly, I don’t think it is the next, best step for this ministry. I am trying to get enough people involved to serve a second night on the street. Land does not minister. Buildings do not serve. Jesus did not say to pray for more money. Yes. We need all those things; in proportion; in due time. But first, we need workers. I have seen organizations with beautiful facilities that I could never call ministry. They had hired staff, but no heart. We need to build a larger team of faithful, youthful servants among the poor and homeless if we are going to take on the larger challenges to see our big dreams fulfilled. Pray with me for that, and ask how you fit into this grand scheme, in some little or large way.

I always dream big. Just ask my wife. Bethann told me to remind the bishop that “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” (Prov.13:12a) Of course the second part of the verse is: “but when the desire cometh it is a tree of life.” It would be glorious to do so much more for the poor and homeless in our region. It would be nice to not go bankrupt while we are waiting for our big dream.

Where’s Cranford?

As some of you may know, Cranford was admitted to the hospital last week with severe back pain. After many tests and some scary speculation, it has been determined that he has an infection next to his spine. He is being treated, his pain is being moderated with medication, and he will remain in the hospital for a few more days. Even when he’s able to return home, however, he still won’t be back to his old self. They are expecting a recovery time of at least 6 weeks.

Your continued prayers are greatly appreciated. How else can you help? Watch this space for a call for significant assistance in continuing the ministry of The King’s Jubilee to the homeless of Philadelphia. Knowing the meals on the street go on will go a long way in easing the burden this illness is placing on Cranford.