A Long Fruitful Day

Yesterday I went to Philadelphia in the late morning. I picked up Gregory Henderson and Anthony McNeil and we proceeded to St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Northern Liberties (a neighborhood in Philadelphia) to set up for the orientation and food safety course that was to start at noon. Jamey Bennett and Bob Lutzick joined us. I was sidewalk supervisor as they did the work setting up. My spine was killing me with extreme pain, so I didn’t do much lifting. A little past noon I started with a short history and philosophy of The King’s Jubilee. I stressed that we do not just serve people leftovers. We strive for nutritional and culinary excellence! And we try to give people options.

Bernard Finkel arrived to teach the food safety class at about 12:30  and discovered that he forgot the folder with the quiz and the permit applications in it. He will email the applications to everyone who was there, who needs them. He began the class shortly after 1 and finished shortly after 3pm. 16 of the 25 people who pre-registered attended, plus three who had not registered, who were just there for the information. We were able to help other ministries and get the word out that it is legal to serve the homeless and poor in the parks of Philadelphia. Two of the attendees whom we had not met before indicated that they hope to serve with The King’s Jubilee. That is very encouraging. Afterwards, I had a conversation with Fr. John and received his blessing.

From there, I dropped Gregory & Anthony back home and proceeded downtown to join The Word In Action International’s 28th Annual Gospelrama in progress at JFK Plaza aka The Love Park. I heard some exceptional Christian rap by some young men. Then I had what we sometimes call “an appointment from God.” It was too loud in the area in front of the stage, so I went next to and sort of behind the stage, by the ramp. There I meet Pete, Rosie’s brother. I have not seen Pete for several years. I have been thinking about him lately. He was surprised I still recognized him. I’ve known him for 25 years. He told me that he has been off the street for eight years now, living in Northeast Phila. We talked and caught up on life and times. He asked about April. His brother, Bill, is in the hospital with a heart attack and hepatitis. Pete is going to join us on Thursday night and bring some of his old clothes to give away. Pete lived on the street for 15 years. So it comes full circle. Before I left, Rev.Joses St. Phard gave me a word of encouragement and a blessing.

I left there at 6:30 to go to Dahlak Eritrean & Ethiopian Restaurant at 4708 Baltimore Ave, Philadelphia, to meet with Tim Horras, my good friend and leader of Philly Socialists. He texted me that he was going to be much later than planned. So I had dinner there. It was excellent! I had a long time to wait. The place lends itself to a feeling of community. The owners are Orthodox Christians. I was enjoying listening to various conversations. I felt free to speak with folks at the table next to mine. They had overheard my phone conversations, so we spoke about the ministry. They looked up this website on their smartphones before I paid my bill. Tim showed up at 8:30 with the band. We spoke about my future, trying to avoid foreclosure, finish writing books, keep the ministry going. We spoke about Ethiopia’s rich Christian history. We spoke about stepping up Philly Socialists’ plans for offering a viable alternative in Pennsylvania, since none of the major players are offering anything palatable or sustainable.

My back was hurting so badly from being on my feet or on poor chairs most of the day, so I took a Percocet with dinner. So I needed to stay until I was clear headed enough to drive home. I met and got to hear great music from two local bands: Big Tusk and Attic Stairs. I also met a number of energetic, young people, committed to making the world better. This gives one hope for the future. I drove home around midnight. I stopped by to fill the tank and pick up a little something in the Wawa. The man at the counter saw the TKJ logo on my hat and said with a sincere smile, “Thank you for your kindness.” I just felt so blessed. I couldn’t say anything in response. I just smiled weakly and left for home.

Autumn Harvest Ragout by April Smith

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. lentils
  • 1 lb. carrots – 1cm cubes
  • 2 huge (or 3 reasonable size) sweet potatoes – 1cm cubes
  • 1 bunch celery sliced
  • 6 onions diced
  • 8 to 10 cloves garlic pressed
  • 12 small beets – 1cm cubes
  • all the greens from those beets – chopped
  • 2 tsp. thyme
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil

Directions:

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Add lentils and 2 tsp. thyme. Cook until done. Meanwhile, saute’ veggies, except greens, in olive oil in batches. Add small amounts of water as needed to braise until tender. When veggies are cooked, combine with lentils & chopped beet greens and add salt and pepper as desired. Put it in the oven to slow cook at 200° for a few hours.

It makes a whole mess of food! We use an agate wash basin. It was full to the brim. The people loved it.

 

Less than spectacular start

What can I say? Our rent party and kick off to our Virtual Rent Party was somewhat less than fantastic. We are grateful for those who came and a few generous souls who gave, but it is not enough. We raised a net of $525. We needed to raise about $4,000. The mortgage company will not take partial payment. We received the notice of foreclosure from their attorney today. People ask us what we are doing about our situation.

Bethann has been looking for work for over a year since the bank let her go. She went through training for a dental assistant. They did not tell her that she would need to be certified as an X-ray tech. to get a job and that they were not offering that course for another year. It’s amazing to us how people just play free and loose with other people’s lives. She is now going to school for medical office administration. It is a year long course. It is pretty intense.

Over the last four years, I have had some pretty intense health challenges. It started in October 2009 with what we thought was MRSA on my neck. It had to be lanced and treated with antibiotics. I had bad reactions to some of those. It was the first Thanksgiving I missed with the family.

On Tuesday morning, October 19, 2010, I landed in the ER with inexplicable pain in my back and 103 fever. They took vials of blood and lots of X-rays and sent me home at 2am on Valium and Percocet. Later on Wednesday, I went back for a complete MRI of my spine. It took over an hour. Thursday, a Dr. called and told me to stop the Valium, because he thought I had cancer and I had to be Valium free for 10 days for them to take a biopsy. I found someone to cover for me for that night for the city. The Percocet did not cut it. I was literally screaming with pain. They had found what they thought was a tumor the size of a large plum attached to my spine at T-11, T-12, L-1. That Saturday morning the hospital called me and told me they looked at it again and considered my history and thought it was more likely an infection. Come to the ER right away. They started me on IV Vancomycin. They also put me on a morphine drip and a Fentanyl patch. I spent a week in the hospital, then left to continue the IV treatments at home. I ended up back in the hospital, because my PICC line got infected. I had to have it removed and a new one installed in the other arm. They sent me home again after a few days. Then I started to react to the antibiotic. So I went back to the hospital. I was a real puzzle for Dr. Jonathon Cohen, since I was now allergic to six classes of antibiotics. They decided to give me a brand new one.

It was my first day there and Dr. Jerry Burke was just stopping by to visit. He is my good friend, not my doctor. He looked at the monitors and saw that I was crashing, He grabbed my bed and started to undo things and called the nurse and said, “This man is moving to ICU!” She asked if he had doctor’s orders for that. He replied that he would get that in good time. Meanwhile they were moving me. This was the second time Jerry saved my life. I spent nearly a week in intensive care with kidney failure. I also had respiratory problems while in there. They were afraid I was going into Steven Johnson Syndrome, so they put me on Prednisone. I was sent home the weekend before Thanksgiving with a much simpler IV that did not require a machine. I missed another Thanksgiving with the family. I was still reacting to drugs well into December. The Prednisone put my blood sugar all out of whack. That was a long road back with an adjusted diet. Everything finally seemed fine, then I broke out in hives from head to toe in the middle of January for no known reason.

When I came out of the hospital I had a clamshell body brace and a walker. I used the walker to walk around the block. My neighbor, John Haggerty, had moved all of my tools into his shop to make my icons to keep my business alive. He did not know the shipping and billing end of it though. So we had missed an entire Christmas season. I was trying to catch up on orders and to catch up on bills.

We had been waiting for the money to be released from the church to finish the barn. It finally was, so John and I went forward to get the permits and buy the materials and planned to get it done that summer. Then the weekend before my birthday, I had a terrific migraine that lasted for three days with visual effects lasting all through it. I went to the Dr. and she sent me over to the hospital for an MRI on my birthday, June 14, 2011. The next day, I got the results that I had had three little strokes and that I was to report to the hospital. I spent a week on the telemetry unit having every imaginable heart test, scan, image, with contrast, without, etc. The debilitating migraines continued all summer long, for days, sometimes weeks at a time, with no more than 8 days without from June 11 to Sept. 11. I was hospitalized two more times with a 3 or 4 trips to the ER besides, that summer. I had 12 documented strokes. At HUP, we discovered that the migraines caused the strokes. So that was a whole summer shot in the head. We still don’t know what causes the migraines. Since then we have adjusted my medication and vitamins and minerals several times to try to prevent them. I have had an estimated 30 to 50 little strokes with some permanent damage. So we didn’t get most of the work done on the barn that we had planned.

So we try to pick up the pieces of the business again and work on a new drug and vitamin regime, with regular visits to the doctor and the neurologist. The migraines continue with more strokes. At times, I can’t work for a week at a time. 2012 was taken up with the lawsuit against Mayor Nutter and the City of Phila. and that whole mess. I cried the whole months of June and July, because of that. I went through the trial with no support whatsoever from my priest. I had an MRI on my birthday again, because I thought the infection on my spine had come back, because of the exquisite pain. That’s when I learned that the infection had eaten into my spine and I have significant arthritis. The migraines continued. I started 2013 with a bad case of bronchitis that laid me low for three weeks. So I was behind on orders. Then I was in pain. The migraines started again. Then the main iconographer whose work I carried withdrew his work from my site, notifying me by email. By July, it became apparent that with all of my illnesses and the reduced collection, the business was no longer viable, so I closed it.

This summer, my spine started hurting continually. I am in constant pain. My eyes are almost always involuntarily tearing. I cannot take enough painkiller for it, nor do I dare to. I take a lot of turmeric and ginger. Most nights I have to take a Percocet to sleep a couple of hours.

We kept plugging away, serving more meals. The population on the street has gone up. We are serving more than 200 meals each week. Plus we are helping several men transition off of the street. If we can survive economically until disability kicks in, in a couple of months; and until the new insurance exchange kicks in on Jan. 1, we will be in a much better situation to handle things. Once Bethann finds a job in a physician’s office, we will be OK. It would be a shame to lose everything after coming so close.

Right now, we are paying $1450/month for mortgage plus escrow and $1100 for Cobra insurance per month. I write all of this to answer the questions. We have been serving the poor, the homeless and the imprisoned since 1984. Anyone who really knows how we live knows that this house is a base of operations for service and a place of hospitality and respite for any in need.

I did not write this to be a downer. It is not too late. Please help us save our home and the base of operations for this ministry. The King’s Jubilee is in its 25th year. Please don’t let it go down for lack of an adequate safety net. This ministry is needed now, more than ever. I cannot believe it would be God’s will for it to fold now.

Please pray and consider what you can do for an emergency gift now, and then for a sustaining pledge monthly. God bless you as you bless the poor and homeless in Jesus’ Name.

Free Safe Serve Class – Sept. 28

Serving the homeless is not a crime.We have arranged with the City of Philadelphia Health Dept. to offer the Safe Serve class and certification at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church at 7th and Brown on September 28. This is a free two hour class on safe food handling and preparation and is required for those who wish to cook meals for the street. We need to get the word out there. We are concerned for food safety and best practices. This is not a burdensome requirement. This is mostly common sense stuff. There are a number of people who have the idea that just anything is better than nothing, and that is a dangerous idea. At The King’s Jubilee, first we want to be safe. We strive for nutritional and culinary excellence!

We will be starting at noon with a ministry orientation and sharing of the vision of The King’s Jubilee. The Safe Serve class will start at 1pm. Anyone is welcome to join us. You need to preregister for the class with us for me to turn the list in to the Health Dept. ahead of time, to take the class to get certified. Please email me with your name, street address, phone number, and email address, before September 24, to be included. The certification is good for five years. Please help share this, so we can improve the food safety for those seeking meals on the street.

The orientation portion of the program is to help build the ministry and improve our level of service among the poor and homeless, as well as explore the possibility of branching out into other areas of ministry. Please join us.

email: tkj@shoutforjoy.net

Rent Party and Virtual Rent Party

FugolBack in April, I announced new areas of ministry of “rent parties, virtual rent parties, entrepreneurial training, computer training, shop skills training, Orthodox Worker & Catholic Worker & Mennonite Worker development for Christian hospitality.” I am happy to report we have moved forward on entrepreneurial training, computer training and shop skills training. We just hosted a gentleman in our house for a couple of days removing the virus known as Windows 8 from his laptop so that we could install Ubuntu operating system, so that he could have a better functioning computer, so he can pursue his writing and educational interests. Cogsville is developing a disciplined approach to guide the men there according to their gifts to find appropriate career or trade paths, by setting goals and giving encouragement to succeed, and training in multiple disciplines.

I felt the need to close “Come and See” Icons, Books & Art so the Fugol is not for sale there to support these ministries. Prints are available on Zazzle, on the Merchandise page. I will make hand-crafted, framed prints available here, soon, as well.

We are starting the Virtual Rent Party. We will be hosting a live rent party as well. The Virtual Rent Party will go on continuously. We will keep on adding new goals as goals are met. One of the ideas behind this is that not everyone who has a need can host a party. Another is that we want to go regional and national with this. We also don’t think it should matter whose party you are giving to. If you give to a friend, it is not tax-deductible. If you don’t know who you are giving to, but they need it, it is. We are hoping people will throw real parties in different parts of the country in support of the Virtual Rent Party. As goals are met, new projects will be added and the progress will be reported on the Rent Party page. If you are organizing a rent party in your area you can let us know and we can help you promote it here and on Facebook. Some may wish to do a combination live and virtual rent party in their area, to help a neighbor, with the excess raised going to the Virtual Rent Party to help someone in another town.

We have projects for the first couple of months. We will be accepting suggestions and applications as the needs are met. We hope this turns into a huge movement. As we sit here alone, it all seems so helpless. If we work together, we can accomplish much! To accomplish this, we will need to tell our friends and ask them to tell their friends, and  so on. This will need to go viral.

We are also having a live Rent Party at our house on Friday, Sept. 13, from 6pm to 10pm. $10 cover, includes dinner, beer or wine extra donation. We need to raise two months mortgage payments and COBRA payments. We would like to make a dent into the virtual rent party as well. Our last rent party, in March, was a roaring success. Everyone had a great time. We raised enough to catch up on our mortgage and to help another family catch up on theirs and to help rescue a man from homelessness. We need to maintain our home base if we are going to be able to continue to keep helping the homeless and poor. Please join us. It will be a blast!