Sunday, September 26, Bethann and I went to Holy Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Elkins Park, PA for Matins and Liturgy. I spoke about The King’s Jubilee at the end of the Liturgy. I let them know that we are an independently incorporated pan-Orthodox ministry among the poor and homeless in the Philadelphia region. I shared a few lessons that I have learned through the years.
We pray with our eyes open. We do this ministry by faith, but with a healthy dose of street smarts. We are not idealists, but we can make a difference.
“It is accepted according to what a man has, not what he has not.” We do what we can and try not to promise anything. We need to recognize our limitations and not take on burdens we cannot sustain. When one of the men tells me that he needs me to bring a blanket or a certain size hoodie the next week; I tell him to ask God for someone to give it to me and let him be the one who finds it in the bag when I get it out of the car. I give them Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added to you as well.” This is the Gospel and we serve in Jesus’ Name. The Gospel is for us and for them. It calls us to make the hard choice that leads to the easier path; instead of the easy choice that leads to the hard path. “The way of the transgressor is hard.” We are not responsible to make their lives easier. We can only offer a small demonstration of God’s mercy. It is the tender mercies of God that lead men to repentance.
We need to serve with respect. Everyone whom we serve was created in the image of God. There is something in every human being that uniquely reflects God’s glory. There is something that God finds uniquely lovable about everyone we meet. Pray and ask God to give you a glimpse of this in each person you meet. But be prepared to have your heart broken. This is where I began to cry. I tried not to, but as soon as I said this I thought of Rosie who I first met in the Women’s Detention Facility, then again on the street. She was just two weeks older than me. She succumbed to leukemia two years ago. Her brothers stopped by in August so that we could remember her together. I also thought of Pops who had made the Cross I was wearing out of salvaged electrical wire. He suffered the indignity of Alzheimer’s disease living under a parking ramp with other homeless men looking out for him, until he passed away several years ago. I also thought of Oscar, the atheist who learned to thank God for our friendship, before he died in his 50s due to the failure of a heart weakened by cocaine. In an instant all these memories flooded in and I could no longer speak.
There are no graves for me to visit, but I hope to see them again.