Somebody asked me for money last week. I told him I had none. He asked me, “Where did all that money you raised go to?” I said, “We gave it away. That’s what we do.”
That is the short answer, of course. This ministry has expenses. We have to keep the TKJ-mobile in good repair, gassed up and insured. We have to keep paying the phone bill and for webhosting and internet access, for our mortgage and utilities, so we still have a kitchen to cook in. We are not housed by or sponsored by any one church. Under Fr. Noah’s leadership, St. Philip’s has disowned us, even while sending people our way for us to help. I still have not received SSDI. Bethann’s Unemployment has run out. She still has one more quarter of school. So the money that was raised helped to one degree or another to keep 20 people from becoming homeless, plus helped an additional 15 transition off of the street, and helped provide two meals/week and other help to about 250 other poor and homeless people for the last eight months. That is not a bad return on about $45,000. But that’s not the whole picture. About half of that money will be coming back to the ministry once I get my SSDI, as it will pay off the portion that is a loan to us to cover until that comes through. So consider that as a return on $22,500. I’d challenge you to say you did better with your money anywhere else. To survive until that happens, we need more support.
There is nothing in the bank. We are late on the phone and internet bill. Soon we will be late on the mortgage. The TKJ-mobile is more than 10 years old. We need to think about a replacement before it gets costly to maintain or less than optimally safe.
It puzzles me. People are always praising me and patting me on the back for what I do. Don’t they realize I can’t do anything without their support? Some of the same people get upset when I speak of quitting, saying that I should cheer up and “God will provide.” Yet they do not make regular donations. A lot of churches like what I do and like to have their children get involved once or twice a year. Don’t get me wrong, we are grateful, but think this through. How do they think we can stay in business to receive their power packs, or socks, or cookies, with no support? It is sort of how the faith of the Christmas and Easter Christians must be very strong, for them to trust the church to still be there for them after staying away so long. One day their parish may not be. If everyone were to do that, it certainly wouldn’t be.
We have been at this for over 25 years. We have been harassed by the last three mayors. We had to sue this one in federal court (with no Orthodox clergy standing with us. That hurt.) to continue this ministry. When one reads the words of Christ, one never comes away with a sense that his priority was on building a big stultifying organization for everyone to support and the poor were to be an afterthought. No. It is quite the contrary. Everything is about being poor and serving the poor. The only picture He gives us of the Last Judgment mentions nothing of dogma, personal sin, morality, tradition, or church. It only mentions how we treat the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the widows & orphans, “the least of these my brethren.”
Yet, somehow, I have spent nearly 30 years serving the imprisoned and the homeless, and I have found myself repeatedly chased out of churches by pastors and priests. This has not just happened to me. This is a common experience among most of the people I know who serve in these ministries. Complex PTSD from clergy abuse is a common malady among us. In all of the churches we have gone to, I have known only three, rare pastors who were not so threatened by my calling that they could deal with me honestly and openly.
Here, I’ve done it again. I set out to write a wonderful, fundraising article, because we are down to our last dime. This is what comes out. I suffer chronic spine pain as a result of an infection most likely picked up on the street. This pain set off my chronic, complex migraines that caused strokes due to a strange developmental defect in the right side of my brain. I have CPTSD from non-sexual, clergy abuse (bullying).
Cooking interesting, nutritious meals for the folks on the street and watching them enjoy them makes me happy. Working with people who also enjoy serving the poor and homeless, also makes me happy. Advocating for and with the poor energizes me. It is what I was made for. We do what we do with no government or corporate money. We serve in Jesus’ Name. Come join us. Support us. We don’t hold onto money to build a large organization. We give it away and we use it to serve the poor and homeless in our midst, in Jesus’ Name on your behalf. Yes. I may be a cranky, achy, old curmudgeon around suburban, white folks. It seems most of them/you are uncomfortable around me. So support me so I can stay away and be happy, where I can do some good with your money in Jesus’ Name. God bless you.