Nothing and everything.
More to come. Keep watching this space.
The new newsletter is available for downloading and printing for inserting in church bulletins, here: http://www.thekingsjubilee.org/spring13.pdf
It includes hard copy of these blog entries:
You can print copies to share with your off-line friends.
When I started this ministry, 24 years ago, I had been a Mennonite prison chaplain who was also ordained in the New Jerusalem Pentecostal Holiness Church. The King’s Jubilee actually started in State Correctional Institution at Graterford in the Saturday morning E Block Bible study. E Block was the quarantine unit at the time, where inmates first came into the state system to be sorted out to be shipped to the various institutions where they were to do their time.
Things had gotten funky with the Mennonites. One of the pastors who had founded the prison ministry I supervised threatened to kill me when I would not allow him to bring contraband, inflammatory literature into the Montgomery County Correctional Facility. We went through a conflict mediation process. Everyone there agreed that he was in the wrong, but he would not budge or admit any wrong. In the end, it was a case of if you ain’t Dutch you ain’t much, and I was fired the week before Christmas, even though I had given three months notice so they could have an orderly transition and not damage or lose ministries. They did not care. The ministry in Philadelphia with over 300 volunteers and the only tutoring for women was shut down. Chaplain Sid Barnes at Graterford let me keep the Wednesday Bible Study and the Quarantine Unit ministry, because I had been the most faithful in them. In the case of the latter, I had started it. It was in this Bible study that the vision for this ministry was formulated. It is the vision of Christ’s first message in the synagogue, which was taken from Isaiah 60, “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord!”
Yes, we serve meals to homeless people in center city Philadelphia, but that is not all we do; and that is not all we have done or all we hope to do! Serving the homeless in center city was the task the men in the E Block Bible Study particularly assigned me to do. You see, I told them that no one in this organization I was starting was going to just sit on a board and Monday morning quarterback. Everyone was going to be on the front lines. Furthermore, I wanted them to tell me where I should serve. Within five minutes, 150 convicted felons came to consensus, with no input from me, that they wanted me to serve the homeless in center city Philadelphia. If any of you know this demographic, you should recognize what kind of miracle this was. I took this as my “Macedonian Call”. I started to serve one night a week and have not found a good reason to quit. During Mayor Wilson Goode’s years, we dealt with the rowdy crack heads and the prostitutes. Fast Eddie Rendell had the police harass us all the time. We were investigated by his undercover units at least three times. Each time, I managed to tell them that we would go to jail rather than stop serving, because we needed to obey God rather than men. Mayor Street’s cops tried to tell us that the parks were private property. He was about to aggressively enforce the sidewalk ordinance, when “a routine sweep for bugs” turned up FBI bugs in his office and he had bigger fish to fry. Last year, Mayor Nutter decreed that we could not give away food to poor people in the parks. We had to sue him in federal court to retain our right to do so.
While this was going on, we started a clothing ministry in East Greenville, Clothesline, that continued at Peace Mennonite Church. We also held several music festivals for the poor and homeless in Philadelphia and Pottstown. We served for several years in Pottstown and Stowe, PA. We started a similar ministry at two sites in Columbia, SC, that a local Vineyard church took ownership of. The prison ministry at Graterford continued for several years, until Gov. Tom Ridge stopped all ministry in the prison in a knee jerk reaction to an incident in the mosque there, in 1996. We did Project: Lydia in Northampton County Prison for the women until they did not allow us to include notes or New Testaments. We had a Monday Evening Bible Institute for a couple of years. We started Operation: Clean Start. We have moved countless sets of furniture for people moving into apartments. There have been various other projects.
In 1999, we were chrismated into the Orthodox Church. Our family happened to come into an Antiochian Orthodox Church. The King’s Jubilee remains independently incorporated. I am sorry that I was so zealous, as converts often are, that almost all of our former supporters and volunteers dropped out of the ministry, as they saw this as an “Orthodox ministry.” I don’t know why this is such a problem, because my theology has not changed. When I first interviewed with Fr. Boniface, he kept asking me questions. With every answer, he just said, “You are so Orthodox!” Later, I found out that he was right. I had just read the Scriptures and the Fathers and had been Orthodox in my theology for many years and had just been longing for home. That being said, there is no reason my old friends can not join me. We have had Jews and atheists and Muslims and Methodists and Buddhists and Catholics serve with us and they have been happy as clams. We are not there to proselytize anyone. I still say what I have always said, “We do what we do in Jesus’ Name. If you don’t have a problem with that, I don’t have a problem with you joining us.” “In Jesus’ Name” does not mean that we preach at people. It means that we serve according to His will, with respect, love and dignity.
The occasion of this article is that I had a conversation this week with someone who told me that she wanted her church to support The King’s Jubilee, but wasn’t sure they would, because someone would say, “Well, they are Antiochian. Let the Antiochians do it.” I replied, “That’s stupid!”
We receive no budgeted or regular support from the Antiochian Church. My question to you is: Are you Christian?
This is ridiculous! No wonder the Orthodox Church is going nowhere as far as gospel witness is concerned. People say that it is growing fast in America, but that is only because the other churches are imploding under theological liberalism and gnosticism. There are fewer Mennonites in North America than there are Orthodox, yet they support 1,000 foreign missionaries, while we Orthodox barely support 20. We are going to punish the poor, because I was chrismated in an Antiochian church? Hey folks, I’m not Syrian. I’m not Greek. I’m not Russian. I’m not Serbian. I’m not Armenian. I’m not Ukrainian. I’m not Albanian. I’m not Georgian. I am American. Some of my ancestors have been here since 1628. I am trying to be Christian. I suggest that you try to be, too.
Jesus did not come to preserve ethnicities. He came to “build a new nation.” We have too much that needs to get done to worry about which bishop or which ethnicity or even which denomination or even which religion we belong to. Read Matthew 25. Everyone is surprised at the Judgment!
I’m going forward. I am sick of this Orthodox infighting and the jurisdictional nonsense. If this upsets you, I’m sorry. People are dying homeless on the streets. I think that is more important than whether or not we do things in the Antiochian or Greek or Russian way or not.
Lead. Follow. Or get out of the way.
We serve in Jesus’ Name.
Last Thursday night was the first in three weeks that I was well enough to serve in the city. The people were so glad to see me. Alex examined me and noted that I still did not sound altogether well. He was right. A week later, I am still coughing. This is one nasty flu. We had a skeleton crew. The McGraws were out sick. Fr. Chris was the lone representative from Holy Annunciation. It was just Deacon Herman and me in the TKJ-mobile. Anthony was not there, because he was cleaning up after a mercy meal after a funeral for a long time volunteer for the soup kitchen at his church. A couple of the guys pitched in. I was even pressed into manual labor. I served hard boiled eggs, oranges and peanuts. I am much better as a gadfly. I don’t keep the line moving. Linda Notskas and a fellow, whose name I fail to remember, brought lots of clothes and blankets and gave them away from her car.
A self described “dangerous, badass n__ger” came up to me and started to talk about the sad state of affairs. He was a CPA, a graduate of the Wharton School of Business and he was 72. He was also very drunk. He was upset at the sight of so many homeless men, at the national debt, at the Wall St. banksters, at the persistence of racism, etc. I kept talking to him and tried to understand what he was saying, because I could sense his pain and I respect the path that he had taken in his life. He was not homeless. I grew up talking to my dad when he was very drunk, but my dad was a high functioning drunk. He could be coherent and rational. This man wasn’t. He stood in front of me carrying on irrational rants, while people had to step around him on uneven ground. Finally I had to ask him to move to allow a lady who was unsteady on her feet to come through. He just went away angry. I was disappointed that I could not comfort him or ease his pain.
I was hoping to dig into work on Friday after more than two weeks off being sick. I found that I was able to do some, but I was still pretty tired from the full day on Thursday. I started working on an article for this blog for TKJ’s 24th anniversary, which I finished on Saturday. We found out that The King’s Jubilee was chosen for the second week of the Lenten Almsgiving Cash Flash Mob and started promoting that. We are hoping for good participation in that tomorrow and blessings all around!
On Sunday, we were planning on getting up and going to church. I had missed two weeks and Bethann had missed one, because of this nasty flu that gave us each bronchitis. I woke up to Bethann sitting on the end of the bed telling me that she thought she was having a heart attack. I went downstairs and got aspirin and water and gave it to her. We got dressed quickly and drove to the ER. They put her on the monitor and her heart rate was wildly erratic. She has atrial fibrillation. They kept her and tried to get to the bottom of it. As I am writing this, she is in surgery having a pacemaker installed.
I finally have felt strong enough to start catching up on orders, then this happens. Thank God for Uncle John Haggerty. He and Ha Nguyen are making the icons while I am visiting Bethann at the hospital. Our daughter, April Smith, stepped in to make the soup for tonight. Serge Metelow and his daughter are making the vegetarian alternative and helping serve tonight. Brian Simpson is driving the TKJ-mobile. I am once again reminded of what the old preacher told me years ago, “Don’t think too highly of yourself. No one is indispensible in the Lord’s service.”
Tomorrow is the Almsgiving Cash Flash Mob for The King’s Jubilee. I haven’t even publicized an event on Saturday, February 23. There is a recital at Tabor United Methodist Church at 1pm put on by Kevin Paige and some of his music students, to benefit The King’s Jubilee. I hope to be there to present the work and the vision of TKJ. Please come if you want to learn more.
Many of you are old enough to remember that great comedy, news, spoof TV show TW3: “That Was The Week That Was.” This was one of those weeks that makes you evaluate and reevaluate everything. I don’t want to be that angry, old man who fought the system and still saw it all end in futility and confusion. I think, if we work together, even if we are weak alone, if our cause is righteous and we put our hope in God, we just may see progress. Pray for peace that the Gospel may go forward.
Well, folks, TW3.
This month marks the completion of the twenty fourth year of The King’s Jubilee ministering in Jesus’ Name. People tell me that this is a feat in and of itself, while I am disappointed we have not accomplished so much more of what we set out to do. One thing is certain, we cannot run the race to win, if we are looking backward.
I think, as Orthodox Christians, we have forgotten this. We are always remembering our traditions and our Traditions. We are remembering our Saints and our feast days and our ethnicities, forgetting that Jesus wanted to take us from many and mold us into “one new nation.” The Saints looked forward to the prize and understood that the traditions are not there to bind us to a dead past. They are there to bind us into the living vine and give us a running start into the future; if we let them. But we need to understand that they are not the end in themselves. They are scaffolding, if you will. The services of the church are not just there to perpetuate the services of the church. That would be a grand Ponzi scheme or like Amway without the soap. Yes they have beauty. Yes they are worship. Yes they have value by themselves, but they are apostolically intended to equip us and save us to DO good works, not to sit around and just be saved.
St. Paul laid out the purpose of the church in his Epistle to the Ephesians, especially in chapter 4:1-15
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord,one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. [NIV]
The church is given the gift of “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers”, sometimes called the five-fold ministry, “to equip his people”, the church, ” for works of service”; that’s the part we have been neglecting. Works of service are good works out in the world. The early church rescued abandoned infants who were left to die. They buried the pagan dead, whose families could not afford or risk the time for proper burials. These works are not recorded in our writings, because there were not arguments over them like there were over doctrines and church government, etc. They were recorded in the accounts of pagan witnesses who marveled at the risks Christians would take to do such acts of generosity, compassion and courage for people who were not even part of their faith community. It was the substance of what it was to be a Christian. These tasks are what knit the church together while they were hammering out the other issues. It was the soap.
I have been trying to communicate this for years. Recently, Richard Stearns coined the term in the title of his book which speaks of this very problem: The Hole in Our Gospel. It is not just the Orthodox who are plagued by this blind spot. We tend to get focused on organizational maintenance, instead of mission achievement.
Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” The gates of hell are not going to mess with the church if the church is not doing anything to mess with them. In that case, they are already winning. The gates of hell need to be stormed!
We have a vision to end homelessness in Center City Philadelphia in the next five years. It is very doable. However, it is impossible if we keep acting the way we have been acting and thinking that we can just be happy serving people meals on the street for the duration.
Last year, we had to sue in federal court to keep serving food to homeless people in the parks legal. I received exactly zero support from the archdiocese and the local church to do that. Two parish friends did come on their own to witness the proceedings for one day, but I received no pastoral counsel or encouragement. At the time, I was so involved in the case, my health and focus on the business suffered and we nearly lost our house. If we want to make a difference, we can’t just leave each other hang out to dry like that. I searched for the church for 30 years to have a covering for situations like this, not to be left totally alone like I was. So this ministry making it to its 25th year has been a feat by the grace of God.
The case brought into focus our reason for existence. It is not to serve ourselves and just satisfy our own religious needs to serve the poor. That would be to objectify these homeless people. No. We need to meet them as brothers and sisters like St. John Chrysostom said, “If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find Him in the chalice.” As we serve, occasionally we are surprised by grace and we may even find Christ. In the hearing, I also learned that there are only 170 homeless men and women who live in the parkway area. This is consistent with the number we serve. I say only, because this is a very manageable number to target to help them transition off the street. But we need to do it in a caring, Christian manner, that respects their freedom and their dignity, and equips them with the social network to cope in their new surroundings. I feel there are many in the Orthodox Church, with their immigrant experience, who are uniquely suited to this ministry. There are transferable skills of adjustment.
We need to think on a larger scale than what we have been thinking. We can do so much more. And in so doing, Christ will be glorified! We have always had a motto here: “If we can’t do it in Jesus’ Name, we don’t have time to do it.” That’s why we have never received government or United Way funds and never will. We want to be doing God’s work without strings. God’s work should be paid for by God’s people. Let us set the pace and be the example. If the government likes what they see, they can try to copy it.
If you just want to make yourself feel good about helping people, or want to make the kids in Sunday School feel good about helping people, yes, we’ll take your money and your sandwiches and your power packs. People, this may help communicate a tiny aspect of the gospel to five and six year olds, but it is not the core task of the Church, and it is not the best we can do for the homeless! We need to mature in our faith. We are to be making such a difference in the world that the world takes notice and either wants to be like us or wants to kill us! I can assure you that no one was ever martyred for having chanted the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete perfectly or even near perfectly. But “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. 3:12) To “live godly” is to care for the poor and the fatherless, the widows and the orphans.
There were not always homeless on the streets. There is no reason there should be homeless on the streets now, except for the greed of others. We have more than enough vacant homes to house all of the homeless. That is prima facie evidence for a failure of our economic system. But, just in Philadelphia, if we can muster the pressure and creativity, we can restructure the existing resources to end homelessness at a lower cost than what the social service/prison/shelter industry is spending today. We need to work together. We need to be prophetic. We can be the salt and the light that God created us to be in Christ. We need to understand that it is more important to be Christian than it is to be Greek or to be Russian or to be Lebanese or to be Serbian or to be Dutch, etc. We find when we get out into the world and do works of service together, that we are then “built up” and we begin to “reach unity in the faith.”
We are trying to solicit monthly pledges of support, so that we can actually have a reliable base so we can make a difference and start working our plan. We have received a few pledges. Mostly, we have received one time gifts and some people wanting to make sandwiches. Thank you. But we won’t be able to move off square one at this rate.
People have been talking about Orthodox Christian jurisdictional unity in North America for years. What would be the point? Let’s start working together. Let’s make a difference in our world for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s make a difference in Philadelphia, where no one works together! Let us show them how. We will find unity. We will naturally grow together into the head, who is Christ. The jurisdictions will eventually catch up. It may take them a while. They are not used to dramatic forward movement.
Please pray for me and for all of us as we sit down with the City of Philadelphia to negotiate a way to end homelessness in the City of Philadelphia. The first time we tried to meet, Sen. Arlen Specter’s funeral happened. The second time we were to meet, Superstorm Sandy happened.
We are scheduled to meet on Dec. 3.
Please pray for lack of hindrance, clear minds and clear communication. Thank you.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
“Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
- Proverbs 31:8-9
There is the old saying, “Beggars can’t be choosers!” It was used to teach us not to be rude when we were offered a treat or a trinket when we were children. It was the first myth to be busted when I started to serve among the homeless in the 1980s. Beggars sure can be choosers! However in Phila. parlance, the word is “choicey.” Someone would be taking too long deciding which cookie they wanted. The person behind them, “Don’t be so choicey, now. Cop and roll!”
When I first observed this, I admit, I was just a little bit miffed, and a trifle confused. Here were people, standing smack dab in front of me, receiving something for free, sometimes openly criticizing or complaining about it, or asking for more options. It went against my mother’s voice in my head, which had always, unfailingly, reliably told me that “beggars cannot be choosers.”
I needed to process this. It is not an easy thing when the world conflicts with your mother’s voice in your head.
I decided to put myself in their shoes, not literally, imaginatively.
OK. I’m homeless. I have little to no real choice over where and when I can sleep. I have to scramble to find a way to keep clean and find clothing or find a way to change or keep clothing. My stuff can be stolen by the police or anybody else at any moment. Everything is out of control! What’s to eat? At least I can exercise some control over what I eat, can’t I? Give me that. Leave me that shred of human dignity and free will.
Two weeks ago, one of the men approached me as we were unloading the TKJ-mobile and asked me if we had any beans. He is vegetarian and he asked me if I could please make him some beans, even if it is just a small serving, just for him. He is not a fad vegetarian. He has a foreign accent and has been a lifelong, vegetarian. He now finds himself needing to find meals on the street in an American city, where meat and eggs are cheap and ubiquitous. That night, we did have oranges and some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I told him that I would make him beans for the next week.
Last week, I made a big pot of mixed beans and rice, with lots of garlic, celery, onion, turmeric, sage and various other spices. This man and others were very pleased. It was unlike any beans and rice they had ever had before. Yesterday, I made a huge pot of smoked turkey soup with cabbage, baby pea pods, potatoes, broccoli, green beans, kale, leeks, etc. Then I made three pounds of pinto beans, with cabbage, kale, celery, turmeric, garlic, cinnamon, sage, basil, ginger, black pepper, St. John’s wort, and a few other spices. We offered it as our vegetarian alternative. It was a big hit! Again, they were like no other pinto beans they had ever tasted! I did take a tiny taste. It was quite marvelous. Don’t ask me to replicate it. When I cook, there’s no book. It’s jazz!
One older gentleman asked for some of the beans and cabbage, but was concerned that it might have too much sodium, since he has high blood pressure. I told him that I did too, so I don’t use much salt. I figure people can add their own. You can always add it, but you can’t take it away. Some of the spices I used are actually known to lower blood pressure. He thanked me. He told me that the people who serve on Monday seemed to be conscious of nutrition. He wondered if there were any way we could reach out and educate the rest of the people serving to improve the health of their offerings. Now that is an interesting and rather daunting question.
If we believe the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” shouldn’t we be offering the healthiest, most palatable choices to our brothers and sisters who have fallen on hard times?
I know, something is better than nothing. Many of us are just doing the best that we can with what we have. Call me Pollyanna, but I still believe in progress. I think we can all do a little better.
Let’s be people of action.
It is time to take The King’s Jubilee to the next level, if we really want to be serious about addressing the needs of the poor and homeless in Jesus’ Name. Please read on and prayerfully consider how you may participate in this life-changing ministry. Thank you!
We are on the cusp of something amazing! We have the opportunity of actually ending homelessness in Philadelphia! Ironically, it is because of the city’s crackdown and our lawsuit that makes this a possibility. But we need to step up to the plate. We need to seriously up our game! We cannot be a one day a week and sometimes on weekends ministry. Why should it be us? Because we have been working with these guys for nearly thirty years. They trust us. Relationship is the key to this puzzle.
Let me tell you some stories.
“Get me some help or die!”
I met Bob in the county jail. Then he was transferred to the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, which was the largest maximum security prison in the country at the time. He attended our Bible studies there. He kept his nose clean and was paroled in minimum time. I would see him around town, so he knew where I worked. He seemed to be doing OK. Then one summer day, about noon, he came into the architectural office where I was office manager. My desk was right by the back door. I was heading for my desk as he came in the back door holding a pistol in his pocket. He was high.
He told me I had to get him into a drug rehab today or he would kill me. He said he had tried and tried and they all had waiting lists and prerequisites. He was afraid if he waited, he wouldn’t want to, or he would overdose, or he would kill somebody. He just wanted to stop now. I tried to calm him down. I stayed amazingly calm. God’s grace was with me. It was almost like I was watching from outside myself, as he held the gun to my back. I explained to the receptionist that I would be taking the rest of the day off for a ministry emergency. No one ever saw the gun, and I never told them the story.
We walked to my car and I drove Bob to a private, drug, inpatient, rehabilitation center that I knew was equipped to deal with violent patients. The whole twenty miles there, he was pointing the gun at my side. I coached him as to exactly how he had to act to get in that day. He had to leave the gun behind. He could not threaten anyone else personally, but he had to present himself as someone who was an immediate threat to himself. If he were too subdued, they would not admit him. If he were too violent, they would arrest him. He complied. He was still high, but he followed the script perfectly. He was in a straitjacket and admitted within an hour.
His girlfriend came and retrieved his gun from my car. We followed up with visits to Bob while he was in rehab and after he was released. Bob got clean and sober and had another chance at life.
“I don’t believe in any of that God stuff, but you’re really special!”
Oscar would always make it a point to thank us for coming out to serve. He would sometimes observe the Philadelphia police treating us ill or the crack addicts acting up, being less than civil. He would ask me what made me come back again and again. I told him, “Jesus loves you and He compels me to be here.” Oscar would say, “I don’t believe in any of that God stuff, but you’re really special!”
We would see him off and on over a period of a couple of years. We would have a similar exchange most nights after talking about literature or history or the arts. He was about 50. He did not fit the stereotype that most people have for a homeless person. He was white, always clean and presentable, well read, sane. One night after our conversation, he surprised me. He said, “I thank God for you.”
I went home with tears in my eyes.
That was the last time I was to see Oscar. He died of a heart attack not long after that.
“The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” [Luke 17:21] The “you” is plural so this could be translated “the kingdom of God is among (or between) you.” The point is that the kingdom of God is not some event or happening or place that you can be the first of your friends to discover. It is not a social or political movement or worldly empire, although it can and will shake all of these to their foundations. The kingdom of God is among us. We experience the kingdom of God whenever we recognize a unique reflection of the glory of God in another person or it is so recognized in us by another. It can come as a fleeting flash of insight or last a lifetime of mutual care and forgiveness. It is what knits us together as brothers and sisters, knits our marriages together, ends our loneliness. This is personal, not institutional. This is messy and unpredictable. This cannot be programmed in or out. God will not be confined to our box.
All ministry is personal.
Every person we meet uniquely reflects something of the image of God. God sees something lovable and worth dying for in each and every person we meet. I instruct all of our volunteers to pray something like this: Lord, with each person I meet today, show me what it is about them that you love. I always follow up with the warning: Be prepared to have your heart broken when He starts to answer this prayer.
On Saturday, November 20, 2010, Alexander Bejliri, visited me at Grand View Hospital. Alex and I have known each other for almost 25 years. Alex has been homeless or in various rooming houses all of these years. He works as a dishwasher or odd jobs. Through the years, whenever I have been sick and had to miss going down to the street, he would call me at home to check in on me. With this illness, he was beside himself with concern for me, not being able to imagine what could have happened to me to keep me away for so long.
During my second hospitalization, he called me repeatedly to try to figure out how to visit me. I told him the name of the hospital and that it is in Sellersville, but there is no public transportation from Philadelphia to it. I asked him to pray for me. He told me that he went to Ss. Peter and Paul Basilica and prayed for me every day. He insisted that he needed to visit me in person. I thanked him for his prayers and said I would be discharged shortly. When I was hospitalized the third time, I ended up in ICU with my cellphone turned off and no non-family phone calls forwarded to my room. As soon as he discovered I was out of ICU and could receive visitors, he determined to make the trek. He took the train to Lansdale; then took the bus to the end of the line at Landis’ Supermarket in Telford. Then he walked five and a half miles to the hospital. Still, he did not sit down during his visit. He was amazed that I had a walker and needed to use it.
Even after all Alex had gone through to visit me, he was amazed that none of the homeless guys had visited me. He thought nothing of his sacrifice and care to visit me, but treated it only as what should be expected of a friend. He shook his head that I should be brought low like this after serving the poor for 25 years. I tried to assure him that God was using it for good. Since I was laid up, more people were getting involved in the ministry and taking on more responsibility. He said something that blew me away: “Others come and then don’t come. For 25 years you come and you serve the poor peoples. You come in the rain and in the snow and when the sun shines. We look for your face, your face, your face! We look for your face.”
The kingdom of God is among us.
I just can’t stop crying.
When Mayor Nutter’s decree prohibiting serving food to the homeless in the parks of Philadelphia was supposed to go into effect on June 1, I began to cry. I could not help it. I cried openly for over a week. I cried at the drop of a hat until we won our preliminary injunction to stop it. I was still down and depressed because the injunction only covered the four plaintiffs and was not final. I’m still not right. I was a mess on the witness stand. Politicians and lawyers play free and loose with so-called principles and points of law and rights, but we are talking about living, breathing, human beings, who have feelings, and bleed red blood.
Regardless of what the mayor says his intent was, to homeless people, it felt like a solid blow to the gut! People were saying, “Why does he hate us so?” “Why is he ashamed of us?” One even said, “I worked for his campaign and now he kicks me in the teeth like this?”
It was wrongheaded and it was hurtful.
When the homeless community in Philadelphia is hurting, I am hurting. Christ called me to serve them and has knit me together with them.
Out of this battle, however, we can rise like a Phoenix to actually hammer out a plan, working with the mayor and the city, to end homelessness in the city. I know we always will have the poor, but there is no excuse for them to be homeless. This is more than a money problem. There are trust issues. There are issues of reintegration into neighborhoods and families. Government can do money and property and social service nuts and bolts stuff. But it is not in a position to handle the trust and reintegration issues. By God’s grace, we at The King’s Jubilee are. So, we are coming to a place of healing and reconciliation to work together.
Where you come in:
This is where you come in. We won’t hold a gun to your back. We might make you cry. It definitely is personal! We need your support.
I have been trying to run a business, “Come and See” Icons, Books & Art, and a ministry, The King’s Jubilee, by myself. I started the business in 2000, hoping that it would take off and be able to support the ministry in such a way that I could be full time in ministry. That has not happened. I have had various health problems, some probably stemming from exposures on the street. Although, it could be that I am just too old to be moonlighting to this extent. At any rate, between health issues and ministry, I don’t do a very good job at the business, and I get cranky with customers.
I have consulted with several Orthodox priests in the Philadelphia area, and they support my vision. My time would be better spent being full time serving among the homeless, helping them to transition off of the street. We hope to acquire an operations center in Philadelphia for training of volunteers, for bicycle rebuilding, for job preparation for the homeless, a place to do laundry, and for counseling and prayer.
Bishop THOMAS is a strong endorser of this ministry and has joined us on the street on a couple of occasions. We do not receive budgeted support from any church or diocese. We depend on almsgiving and monthly pledges and live by faith. To this point, we have had 5 monthly donors for a base of support of $445. With that and random other donations, we deliver and serve over 1,000 meals in Jesus’ Name and provide other services.
We are looking for a thousand small donors who will pledge monthly support. Please pray and consider what you can give. One donor set up a regular donation with a direct transfer, avoiding credit card charges. You may wish to mail a check, or have us debit your account, or use Paypal. The Paypal Donate button is up on the right or you can get contact information here. Whatever you are comfortable with.
We are suggesting $10 or $20 per month.
May God bless you as you bless the poor and homeless in Jesus’ Name.