It is becoming apparent to me that this ministry is really not valued by the church. There are a few who are involved and are faithful, but not enough to sustain it and make it effective to really meet the needs that need to be met.
Soon I will be homeless. That will end the Thursday night meals. No one else has bothered to get the food prep certification. There has not been real organizational cohesion. People want to piggy back on what I have done and the battles I have fought over the years to do their own thing, but don’t embrace the over-arching vision for the ministry.
I have been trying for over a month to write some sort of article that would move people to give. I did write the article about when the money runs out. Then I wrote about Poverty Porn. We received a lot of likes, but no donations. We have been promoting the golf tournament, but no one has registered. I have occasionally wondered how I would know it would be time to stop this ministry. I have given others the advice from Scripture that it is “accepted according to what one has and not according to what he does not have.” (2 Cor. 8:12) One cannot and should not give what one does not have. It doesn’t make sense to me that it should be now that we should stop. We won the court battle. We have an opportunity to really make a difference and possibly end homelessness in Philadelphia. But clearly the resources have run dry. I receive no support either pastoral or budgeted from our church or any encouragement from the leadership, quite the contrary. I get only discouragement there. I finally make the move to rebuild the icon business into a modern shopping cart and it totally tanks, so I closed it. Bethann has been trying to get a job for a year to no avail, even though she got additional training, so insurance costs are through the roof.
Very few people have embraced the vision of this ministry. We are not just there on Thursday nights occasionally to assuage our middle class guilt or to provide an opportunity for our kids to do their required community service hours. We are there to meet Christ and perhaps to be surprised by grace. There is more going on than just Thursday nights. There are the furniture and Operation: Clean Start deliveries, the midnight phone calls, the emergency food deliveries, the counselling of people in crisis, the help with rent and phones and prescriptions. Then there is the cooking of the soup and the beans and rice, the coordinating of volunteers, writing the blog and the newsletter, trying to raise support. Suing the city just to continue serving with the meetings that that involves, networking with other ministries and organizations. Developing a long range plan to end homelessness. Trying to work with Mount Moriah Cemetery, but lacking volunteer support to do so.
People have said, why don’t you work with FOCUS, as if the money would magically appear from somewhere else, if we did that. We tried to do that, several years ago. They said we did not meet their criteria. We have been serving for 24 years. We have people involved from all different Orthodox jurisdictions. They didn’t like that we were located outside the city and travelling in. I pointed out that almost all of the members of the city churches, and many of the priests, were in that same category. This is part of our mission, to get resources from the suburbs into the city. Philadelphia is a region. We did not fit their cookie cutter, so they are exploring something that fits their cookie cutter view rather than helping strengthen a going concern.
Thanks to the GOP sequester, Bethann’s unemployment compensation has been delayed and reduced twice (which is a breach of the social contract, since that is an insurance that employees pay for). It is not even enough to pay for health insurance. It may barely cover utilities. Now contributions have stagnated, even though I put out a mailing to thousands of customers and church members. I am told to be positive. I am sorry. I just don’t see how. I have been thinking for weeks trying to see how. And just seeing our state and federal governments doing one nasty thing after another to hurt the poor and the middle class to benefit the super rich and big corporations; I don’t see how me speaking out will hurt things any more than they already have been. Why should I just quietly become homeless, without at least trying to make some people understand that what is happening in our state and in our country is mean-spirited and hurts real people.
We have been working hard to try to make things work. We get criticized for the decisions we made. I felt wrong for keeping extra money that was given generously to help. I used it, I thought, in a synergistic way to hire a brother, whom the church was neglecting, who was on the verge of homelessness, to help modernize my business, not knowing that the rug was going to be pulled out from under me by my former best friend, in an email.
At this juncture, I am looking for some type of full time employment. I don’t know if I can handle it with my health and the migraines and the strokes. We can’t live on nothing. The King’s Jubilee receives enough in monthly support to keep the tank filled with gas, insure the TKJ-mobile, and to buy the paper products, iced tea and produce, etc., for Thursday nights. If I get a job, I will have to close down the ministry. It’s as simple as that. I can’t do both. This is extremely painful for me, literally.
Once again, we are three months behind on our mortgage, but this time there are no orders at comeandseeicons.com Somebody came to our rescue and paid our insurance for June, We squeaked by for July and nothing for any of our other bills. We can’t let coverage lapse with Bethann’s pacemaker and my history of strokes. And, no, there is no government safety net.
The right wing lie was the government should get out of the business of helping people because it was getting in the way of the church. Well, it’s out of the way now. I don’t see the church anywhere. The need has multiplied. We should be out there. But it’s just the same token service on our terms.
I am sorry that I have failed so miserably. I am not attractive and upbeat. I am not a sports or TV star. I am apparently not charismatic or persuasive. So the homeless will continue to suffer on my account. The 30 to 50 strokes have made me even more dark and intense about things. Sorry. On the bright side, we may be losing our home and our internet connection soon and this website will come down and you won’t have to hear from me any more.
We looked for the church for 25 years so we wouldn’t have to stand alone in ministry. We thought we had found it. Yet, when we and this ministry were facing the worst trials we had ever seen, we stood utterly alone, with no pastoral support or encouragement. And now the money is gone and I am just so tired of the criticisms and of having to beg and of people telling me they won’t give to help the poor, because of this or that or the other of my personal decisions or statements. What does it matter what I say?