A modern monk heard it said, and taught his brothers, that money is like manure. Unless it is quickly spread around, it does no good, but scorches and defiles what it covers. – Evergetinos
The home-schoolers’ group at St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church Souderton just started meeting this autumn. Bishop Thomas gave them the name of St. Justin Academy. For their first ever service project, they chose to make power packs for The King’s Jubilee. One of the moms called me to ask what went into power packs and I referred her to Michael Heveran or Teresa Gillmore at St. Philip Neri R. C. Church in Pennsburg. Michael has made a lot of power packs. Teresa invented them and proposed the idea to us over twenty years ago. I must confess that I have never made one. Plus my brain has been a little Swiss cheesy lately, so I deferred to the experts.
The small group of home-schoolers colored about fifty paper bags with colorful crosses and other decorations and filled them with food and juice suitable to be a snack or lunch for tomorrow. I had the joy of giving them away on the street tonight. The men were very thankful!
It is good to have our children and grandchildren develop a habit of hands on giving of alms in tangible ways. May God grant them many blessed years of fruitful learning and giving!
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.
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.
The First Ugly Quilts have been completed and are ready to give away. They are really beautiful! They were made with all scavenged, no cost material. The lady who made them saved time by using old mattress pads for filler, thus eliminating the need for knotting them. We hope this picture inspires many more of these to be made.