We Need to Up Our Game

It's personal.
Alex

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.

 It’s Personal.

“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.

It’s personal.

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.

5 Replies to “We Need to Up Our Game”

  1. It’s only set up for one at a time donations. I costs $20/month fee to Paypal to set up to accept recurring donations. No one has even requested it until today. I had no idea how to set it up and no one else volunteered to do so. Sorry.

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