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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

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.

Christmas in Pakistan and Sri Lanka

shoukatWe have become friends with a young, Christian Pakistani, Adnan Shoukat, who was forced to flee to Sri Lanka due to persecution. Their church and neighborhood was burned down. He and his mother, Naila, have continued ministry among the poor and homeless in Sri Lanka. Others have continued their ministry in Pakistan. Please pray for them. They faithfully pray for The King’s Jubilee. These people put their lives on the line every day in the Name of Jesus Christ and to help the downtrodden and poor. If you wish to send them a donation, their information is on their website: Life Foundation Pakistan

Their mission is one of just a tiny handful of Christian organizations inside Pakistan who can legally receive money from outside of the country.

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.

To my friends who are in need

I know that I have friends who are receiving, or have applied for, or are thinking about applying for food stamps or Medicaid, or who are getting help from their parents, or from their church, or from the local food bank. For every one I know about, I’m sure there are others who are in the same position, but haven’t told me, because they’re embarrassed or ashamed. If that’s you, there’s something I want to tell you:

If you are ever tempted to think that you are doing wrong by asking for what you need, cut it out. Stop it. Repent. Jesus said that the rich were going to struggle to get into heaven. They might as well be camels, trying to get through the eye of a needle. They can’t do it, but God will make it possible. Your poverty, your need may be the thing that allows them to get through the needle’s eye, when they give to you.

And it really doesn’t matter if the giving is voluntary. I often hear people say that God doesn’t want us to be compelled to give. He wants us to give voluntarily. Well, of course that’s true. It is far better for us to give from a cheerful heart. But God will bless our gifts, and those who receive them, even if we give grudgingly.

Remember what St. Thomas did in India. He was hired by a prince to build a palace. He said he’d work on it, and he kept going back and asking for more money, and more money, and more money. Eventually, the prince wanted to see the palace, and St. Thomas showed him all the poor that he’d been feeding and housing and caring for. The prince, in fury, had him thrown in jail. And then the prince had a dream, in which one of his brothers who had already died came to him and showed him the great palace in Heaven that St. Thomas had been building for him by caring for the poor. St. Thomas had asked God to treat the gifts as if they’d been given freely by the prince, and God had honored that prayer. The prince was being saved by the gifts that St. Thomas was making to the poor on his behalf. Once the prince understood that, he freed St. Thomas and had him continue caring for the poor. But notice: God didn’t wait for him to give freely and cheerfully. God accepted the gifts that the prince gave to the poor, even when he didn’t know he was giving, even when he didn’t choose to give, and even when he would not have given if he’d had the choice.

By accepting the gifts of money and care and services from the rest of us, whether the gift is in an envelope slipped to you after church on Sunday morning, or whether it’s through food stamps or SSDI, or whatever it is, you are ministering to us. You are helping to free us from our attachment to the things of this world. You are helping us to repent ofcharli our worship of mammon. You are our guides and our help on the path to salvation.

For this, I make a metania and kiss both of your cheeks. Thank you.

~ Charli Riggle

A Responsive Prayer for Justice

justiceprayer

A wonderful litany from the Friends tradition. It is unusual because the Friends are not very liturgical.

A Responsive Prayer for Justice

Pray for those who are hungry.
Pray harder for those who will not feed them.
Pray for those who struggle each week to pay their bills.
Pray harder for the wealthy who do not care.
Pray for those who are homeless.
Pray harder for those who deny them shelter.
Pray for the sick and lonely.
Pray harder for those who will not give them comfort.
Pray for those who cry out for dignity.
Pray harder for those who will not listen.
Pray for those oppressed by unjust wages.
Pray harder for those who exploit them.
Pray for those who bear the yoke of prejudice.
Pray harder for those who discriminate against them.
Pray for those whose basic needs are denied.
Pray harder for the public officials who cater to the greedy and ignore those bound unjustly.
Amen.

Another Fun Night in the Park

Deacon Herman and I arrived at the park behind the Galusha Pennypacker statue at about 8pm last night. Fr. Chris, Billy and his wife, Anthony, Stephen, and another volunteer were already there and set up. (Sorry Mrs. Billy and “another volunteer.” My swiss cheese brain does even worse with names than it used to.) The line of mostly men already stretched from the park benches to beyond Galusha’s boots on the other side of the park. We added the soup, the handwashing station, the beans/rice/corn, the sandwiches, 10 gallons of iced, tea, more hard-boiled eggs, and baked goods, to the oranges, hard-boiled eggs, peanuts, and baked goods to what Fr. Chris had brought.

Fr. Chris made sure we were all in our places and said a blessing. We began to serve. Philip and Esther McGraw arrived with more peanuts, more sandwiches and pasta with tomato sauce & beef (I think). Stephen had taken hard-boiled eggs to the far end of the line and handed them out all down the line. This helps keep order. The guys have something satisfying to eat right away, or they can choose to keep it for later. When Philip arrived he did the same thing with the bags of peanuts in the shell. Then he manned the hot sauce bottle. I was serving the beans, rice and corn, vegetarian alternative. It was a huge crowd. We were serving for about 45 minutes. There were probably close to 200 people there, but everyone got something. Many got seconds and thirds. That is a lot of people for this early in the month. People were very grateful. So many people expressed heartfelt thanks. So I need to pass that on to all of you. I can only do what I do because of what people give me. You are the almsgivers. I am just an irritant, a nudge, and a facilitator to get those alms to where they are needed.

So thank you. God bless you.

I delivered Alex’s lifeline phone and mail to him. He uses our address. I put out the one little bag of clothing I had to give away. We had a few other conversations. Daniel asks for payer for continued healing for his wife, Sadie. He is going for a scan for a large growth on his face to see if it is cancerous. Please keep Daniel and Sadie and their children in your prayers. Sweeter, kinder people are hard to find; and they have had a tough run.

Stephen and Anthony cleaned up and loaded the TKJ-mobile. Fr. Christos and I had a good conversation. Dn. Herman got to catch up on life and times with the McGraws. Then we left. We dropped off Anthony at his son’s place, being careful to keep the windows and doors shut. We have had strange encounters on that corner. Then we proceeded home listening to great music and talking about Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson and Blind Willie McTell. Of course, we stopped on the way at the Sunoco to say hello to Shamyra.

But we could not have had all that fun, were it not for a whole lot of preparation. Last year Anthony and I took a three hour course over at the city morgue building. That’s where the health dept. offices are. That is how we got the permit to prepare hot food to serve. I also filed for a permit, which by agreement they have to grant, to serve on Thursday nights in the park at 18th & Vine Sts. Our daughter, Lydia, made and froze four quarts of chicken broth last week. She doesn’t waste anything. We raised her well. On her way over to drop those off along with some other garden produce for us, she stopped by a roadside stand to see if she could pick up some bargains. Our little granddaughter told the lady that it was for the homeless, so Lydia told her the whole story about the increasing need, etc. The farmer was delighted to help. She had some corn and some cabbage that she was not comfortable selling at the stand and was going to feed it to her sheep, but would be much happier if people would eat it. The sheep did not need it. She gave us three huge heads of cabbage and about 4 dozen ears of corn. There was nothing al all wrong with it! I made sure of that. I tasted the corn as we were processing it. It was the best that I have tasted this season. That was a real encouragement to Lydia and to us.

So yesterday morning, I went to Produce Junction to get onions, celery and radishes. I went to Giant to get 300 paper, hot/cold cups and 9 pounds of ground beef. Two of the 3 lb. packs were reduced from $8 to $4.37. I was pleased. By the time I got home, Bethann and Kevin had husked the corn. (Kevin helps with the soup every other week.) I heated up the water to blanch the corn in the soup kettle, while Kevin chopped celery and I sliced radishes. I blanched the corn. Kevin grated ginger root. I soaked, then cooked the pinto beans in the roaster pan, with some of the ginger root in the water. We blanched the sweet corn, then rinsed it to cool it down to cut it off the cobs. We put it in bowls to use later in the beans and rice. I ended up using some in the soup, as well. There was just so much! I made a rice cooker full of wholegrain rice with a handful of turmeric and a dash of olive oil. Turmeric is a natural mood elevator. Kevin kept chopping. He chopped more than enough cabbage for the soup. I had to scoop some off the top of the bowl to put in the fridge. It’s going to the shelter down the block today. He chopped three huge onions. He left just after noon, I think.

The beans finished cooking. The rice finished cooking. I combined the rice and the beans and most of the corn. The large roaster pan was full. I added some water, Lawry’s Season Salt, curry, garlic, coriander, and turmeric. Then I put that in the oven at 180 degree to slow cook.

I poured the chicken broth into the soup kettle and began to heat it up. Then I added the rest of the ginger, the radishes, the onions, celery, and cabbage. I added water, fresh ground pepper, turmeric, granulated garlic, allspice, and curry. Then I fried up the ground beef 1-1/2 pounds at a time in the cast iron skillet, cooking it thoroughly and adding it to the soup. Then I added the remaining corn. The 22 quart stock pot was full to the brim. It was a good thing. It was exactly the right amount.

Then there were the people who made sandwiches. Someone snook down my driveway and put eight loaves of sandwiches in the back of my car while I wasn’t looking. Someone in the McGraw household made the pasta dish. I don’t know who made that gross of hard-boiled eggs that Fr. Chris brought out. Four shoeboxes full of hard-boiled eggs were delivered to our house on Thursday from another family.

So our one hour of fun on the parkway on Thursday night is a little bit like those fireworks on the 4th of July. It gives the impression of a spectacular, spontaneous display, but it can only happen with a lot of forethought, work and coordination. I’m just glad that God has my back in this.

One more thought.

We could have so much more fun and do so much more good, if we had regular pledged support and didn’t have to worry about closing down every week. Please give. (Nudge.)

It’s Time to Step Up!

Tomorrow a faithful member of The King’s Jubilee team, Luann Motel, will be funeralized and buried at St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church. She has been making sandwiches for us for many years, whenever she was able. She has had a long, hard struggle with ill health. Just last Thursday, Esther McGraw told me there would probably be no more sandwiches from Luann, please pray. She passed away on Friday. As each generation passes, we need to raise up  workers to step in to fill their shoes, if we are going to keep moving forward. I always tell people to make the sandwiches like you would like to eat them, only we can’t use mayonaisse. Put them into sandwich baggies and stack them back into the laof bags and write on the loaf bags what is in them. People have a right to know what they are eating.

Luann followed instructions pretty well, except I don’t recall her ever writing the words “love” and “prayers” on the bags. It was evident they were included. We will miss her. The men will miss her and will pray for her. May her memory be eternal!

Prayer Request

Please pray for Karen Kaufmann, Vincent’s mom. She was in a car accident this morning. She was rear-ended while stopped at a light on 663. She was hit by a man in an SUV, who was fussing with his dog, going almost 50 mph. Her car is totaled. She is pretty banged up and sore. The ER did scans, released her, and told her to get a neck brace.

The man who hit her is very sorry and wants to do everything to make this right. Thank God, he has good insurance.

Both Karen and Vincent are volunteers and supporters of this ministry.