I am tired of begging.

It took me over a week just to start this article, meanwhile our GoFundMe sits there with $20 in it, and we are another week closer to losing a lifetime’s worth of equity, and any shot at having a decent base of operations for The King’s Jubilee. We are serving a hot, nutritious meal to the homeless each Friday night on Logan Circle, now, and have nothing left in the checking account after putting gas in the tank. The people are so glad to see us! One lady kept repeating how she had missed my soups. I am a bad fundraiser, though. I don’t have many friends who are not homeless or poor.

As I am writing this, Tony is out back, working hard to finish the barn, so it can be our office, community kitchen, art studio, project area and drop off point for food, clothing, household goods, and furniture. Please give and share the GoFundMe however you can, online, or by printing the poster and taping it up on the fridge in your break room at work.

Thanks! Peace.

A New Underground Railroad

I have to start with the obvious here. The simplest and least expensive way to end homelessness is for the government to simply give the homeless apartments, no strings attached. Everywhere it has been done, it has worked. Since that takes political boldness and vision which most office holders lack, even in the face of empirical evidence, we need to move on to what we as citizens can do without them.

When the South still enforced the peculiar institution of Black slavery and the North did not, abolitionists organized a series of safe houses and people willing to take a risk who would convey freed and runaway slaves from house to house until they arrived some place ‘safely’ in the North where they could start a new life. Harriet Tubman is famous for her role in guiding so many to freedom. Now I ask you, when there are thousands of homeless men, women and children living on the streets and in the shelters of each of our major cities, subsisting on handouts and hand-me-downs, where there is no possibility of a job without an address, and no way to get an address without having a stable address (You read that right), how is this freedom?

It seems to me we need to get that old train moving again and add a few more stations!

This means we step up and take the risk. Remember the Underground Railroad is not Amtrak. It is not a government program.  What does this look like? It looks much like the original. Families take in people and families who are homeless or about to become homeless and help them get on their feet. This is especially needed for families before they land on the street and the family gets broken up and the children get placed in foster care. Everyone needs to adjust. It is not easy. Our parents or grandparents did it, though, to get through the First Great Depression. From all of the stories I heard, because of the way people helped each other, it was the happiest time in those people’s lifetimes. We can do it again to help people through the Second Great Depression.

When I was in prison ministry, we took in ex-offenders to live with us when they were released from prison. I also started a program and support group for people who took in or related to ex-offenders after their time in our aftercare program. When we are talking about homeless people, it’s not quite the same thing, but for long term homeless, there are some definite cultural issues to deal with. We will facilitate with similar support groups. The idea is to be neighbors to each other and bear each other’s burdens, to share wisdom, and to not let anyone get in too deep.

We can end homelessness if we stop seeing the lines of bodies waiting for food and, instead, look at one face. Become family to that one face. Paste him or her in your family album. Take him or her home. Your grandkids will ask, who is that black man in the family pictures? “O, that’s your mama’s godfather, Michael.”

I guess my thoughts naturally went in the railroad direction today. We received notice that our house is in foreclosure again. This time, because PHH never did negotiate in good faith on an adjustment, and Social Security lost the documentation for expedited disbursement of my back pay for disability. It may work out for the best in the long run, as we may finally be able to negotiate a lower rate and payment. At any rate, the original part of our house was built in the 18th century. It was added onto to be the hotel for the railroad when it came through in 1845. There is an exposed spike between the two parts, right outside our bedroom door to mark this. The barn was built as a stable for the hotel. So we have a suitable, symbolic headquarters for a railroad of hospitality. Please consider how you may get involved.

God bless you.

The artwork to the right is available at 18″x18″ for sale in a custom, handcrafted frame. It is entitled “Prairie Rose”. It is the first from my new Natives series; art derived from photos of native plants from our yard. This is a cloe-up of a bush in our backyard, filtered & tweaked, then museum quality printed on canvas and personally signed. Most of my artwork will be on display Father’s Day weekend at Teich & McColgan Daylilies & Hostas, near Peace Valley Winery. See you there!

My Wildest Dreams

I started to put together a wish list before Christmas, but everything takes so much longer for me these days. Plus, it just didn’t feel right, you know, my mother’s voice in my head is a powerful thing. We were taught never to ask for what we wanted for Christmas or birthdays, but to be surprised and grateful for whatever we received. Of course, in my eyes, my mom was the best gift giver ever! She was so in tune with what I liked. Only one time did she buy me something I did not like. It turns out, she did not like it either, but she did it because of my joining an ultra-conservative Baptist church. It was a perfectly hideous, dark blue, sharkskin suit. She was so happy when I wanted to exchange it.

At any rate, this is for the ministry. At this point, we need everything if we are going to continue. Next month will mark the completion of our 26th year in ministry. There was a time about 18 years ago, we had a couple of men who had been involved in military logistics and procurement. They had peculiar gifts for locating and bargaining for whatever one needed and wanted to donate their skills to TKJ. I put the word out to some of the ministries in the city and told them to give us their wish lists including their wildest and craziest desires. Rev. Ora Love giggled and asked, “Really? Can I get an electric golf cart?” Within a week, we delivered an electric golf cart to her office in Richard Allen Homes for her to cart around her books for the GED and literacy classes. So now, I am going to share with you all of my wild and crazy wish list. I will further preface this by saying that, if you know how we have lived for the last 30 years, you will know that our house is a staging area for the ministry. Bags and boxes of clothes or cups or stacks of blankets may be found in our living room or kitchen at any given time. Our barn is filled with furniture waiting to go to people moving off the street. The office for the ministry is in what would be the dining room.

So here goes:

  • $1,450/month more in monthly pledges. We currently have $550/month. The smallest is $5. The largest is $120. Whatever is comfortable for you: Paypal, recurring debit from credit union or bank, check by mail. This would allow us to be secure in ministry, and expand services.
  • IMMEDIATE NEED: Four months mortgage payments & late fees to avoid foreclosure, so The King’s Jubilee doesn’t lose it’s base of operations. $6,000
  • Work crews to finish the barn; as well as some of the building materials. Our barn was to be our office and storage area for the pantry, as well as the prep kitchen for Thursday nights. We have a lot done. Then I got hospitalized with infections, then strokes and migraines and the infection ate into my spine, etc., leaving me disabled. This would help multiply the ministry both in Philadelphia and in the Bucks-Mont area.
  • Nissan Taxi. The TKJ mobile is 10-1/2 years old. It still works well. We find that we are cramped most of the time. The Nissan Taxi or that sized Nissan van with five passengers and luggage behind would be ideal for our hauling needs for the nights we serve and for helping set up new households, when people move off the street. We don’t know the price or even if Nissan is able to sell us one. 😉 I have stopped in to talk to them, because the proper time to shop for a new car is always when one can’t even afford to fill the gas tank.
  • IMMEDIATE NEED: Money to inspect the TKJ-mobile, which probably means new tires. It is out of inspection now. So we are counting on the police not noticing. The last two weeks meals were paid for partly by what little bit of credit we have left on a Visa card.
  • Drivers. I can’t drive at night, due to damage done from strokes. We have a few. At times, they are all busy with work, or ill, and I have to scramble. It helps if you are a somewhat aggressive driver and are comfortable with city driving, have an eclectic taste in music and a good sense of humor.
  • Friends. One would think this would not need explaining. Alas, it does. Jesus said, “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” You don’t find one by just sitting next to one at church. Paul clarified in Ephesians 4 that we grow together when we go out into the world and do actual works of service together.

PedroThank you for whatever you can do to help fulfill my wildest dreams. They are all to serve the poor and homeless in Jesus’ Name, which means according to his will, with dignity and respect.

By the way, if we get the taxi, it will be painted orange with The King’s Jubilee stickers on it and no taxi sign.



Is it time to dream big?

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.

THWACK!

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.

TKJ Volunteer & Supporters Picnic – August 20

Mark your calendars and plan on coming to our place on Saturday, August 20, for a potluck picnic. There will be games, food, drink, fellowship and bubbles. Bring something to throw on the grill or a side dish, salad or dessert, or your favorite wine, brew or soft drink. Officially, it will go from noon to 10 pm. Come and go as you please. If you show up before noon, we will put you to work. (We may put you to work, later, too, but it’s not a sure thing.) It’s always a fun time. It’s a chance to see some of the people who are involved with this ministry whom you don’t get to see regularly or, perhaps, have never met.

We hope to have all of the power and phone lines underground (to facilitate badminton) and the new floor and storage room in the barn. Come inspect our progress.

Hope to see you there!

TKJ Real Break

UD OCF Real Break crew

The week of March 30, three student members of the University of Delaware OCF took their Spring Break to come to Souderton and Phila- delphia to help us work on the barn and serve on the streets. They were joined for most of the week by their advisor, Basil Peck, and on Thursday by his two teenage daughters.

We finished insulating the upstairs of the barn and installing the interior wall sheathing. We finished the demolition on three of the walls downstairs and fully insulated the largest of them. Electrical wiring was started. The woodstove was half built.

On Thursday, the girls picked up litter around the train tracks in the center of Souderton (across the street from us). They also made the soup and some sandwiches for the street. We all served on the street together.

On Friday, two of the team washed windows and did some other chores for a lady in the local community.

The kids all said they had a great time and that it was the best Spring Break they had ever had. I know it was a real boost to The King’s Jubilee. Thanks gang!

TKJ Real Break

In the last Report, I told you that the University of Delaware OCF is taking their Spring Break to come to Souderton and Philadelphia to help us finish the barn and serve on the streets. This is the week of March 30.

The Antiochian Women of Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in Chester County read this. Then they called and asked if they could bring dinner for the gang on Monday evening. What a blessing! Following dinner, we will have Great Compline and Fr. Noah Bushelli will give a talk.

Sunday evening, I will be telling stories from the street. Tuesday evening, Fred Benjamin, who recently moved into his own apartment after about eighteen years on the street will be here to share some of his experiences and answer questions.

Wednesday evening, we will attend Pre-sanctified Liturgy at St. Philip’s. Thursday evening, we will serve on the street in center city Philadelphia. Friday evening, we will take part in the Akathist Hymn at St. Philip’s.

Saturday is the Philly Spring Cleanup.

During the day we will be working on the barn and doing other small service projects locally, depending on how many people participate. We are in need of some host homes for the students to sleep and shower. All meals will be taken together at our place.

Anyone else who wants to come and help that week is welcome to join us. Please give a call or send an email so we know how to plan. If anyone else wants to bring food for the group, that is welcome, too. Just remember, it is a lenten menu.

If we are going to maximize the effectiveness of the time of these volunteers, we need more funds to buy construction materials.
Donations gladly received.

Thanks!

Spring Break

The University of Delaware OCF (Orthodox Christian Fellowship) have chosen The King’s Jubilee for their spring break service project. This will be the week of March 30. I am so thrilled that they are coming to help us.

Through the years it has been a frustration to me that people are more willing to cross the country or go overseas to help, rather than drive an hour or two to a town near them to help. I understand that mission trips are fun, and it is exciting to go to strange, exotic places. If I had the means I would love to go on them, too. But there is work to be done close to home, as well, and one may find that some of one’s neighbors are stranger than one imagined.

Some of the students want a more economical, yet worthy, spring break this year. May I add that less travel means lower environmental impact?

The plan is that between seven and twenty college students will come to Souderton for the week. They will bring their sleeping bags so we will need some floor space in local homes for them to crash at night. Meals will be taken together at our place. Each morning will start with prayers and Scripture. During the day, we will all work on the barn, building a proper base of operations for TKJ.

Monday and Tuesday evenings will be story telling, perhaps with a special guest. Wednesday evening is Pre-Sanctified Liturgy at St. Philip’s. Thursday evening we will all help serve on the street in Philadelphia. Friday evening is the Akathist Hymn.

Please pray for this event and consider joining us sometime during the week. It promises to be a real boost to help us do more for the poor and homeless, especially for those transitioning off of the street.

What’s Ahead?

If we can finally finish the barn, what are the possibilities? There is always a need for men’s clothing, toiletries and blankets for the guys on the street. There is a need for household goods for those moving off of the street. I currently have no good place to gather and store these. Finishing the barn, especially the clean, dry storage room, would allow us to do more without cluttering up the coat room at church.

Beyond that, I have always envisioned The King’s Jubilee as being much more than a once a week meal serving ministry. On the other hand, I don’t have any desire to build a large organization with an institutional culture. I want to do more of what we did in the early years. We acted as an umbrella organization to start and establish various local ministries and pass them off to local churches to continue for as long as they had people who would do them.

Clothesline in East Greenville is an example of one such ministry. It has been operating a free clothing exchange for over fifteen years. The woman who was operating this came to us when she needed a space to continue this. I contacted the Mennonite Church mission that had recently acquired a building on Main Street and negotiated for Clothesline to operate out of their garage. Our daughter, April, drew a beautiful “trademark” for them. The church people got involved and took ownership in it.

The original organizer of it lost interest and moved on. Over the years the mission closed for a couple years, then reopened, but the clothing ministry continued to help struggling families in Jesus’ Name without interruption.

We started homeless and poor outreaches in Pottstown, Stowe and Upper Darby in Pennsylvania, and in two neighborhoods of Columbia, South Carolina. These all continued for years after The King’s Jubilee had no organizational ties with them. We were just there to lay the groundwork and start them and shepherd them to local churches who then took complete ownership. That is what I want to do more of.
I have ideas for three ministries to help improve neighborhoods. Please let me know if you want to get involved in any of the following.

Broom Brigade
I remember Maureen O’Hara telling John Wayne that “Cleanliness is next to godliness” in one of those old westerns. It’s not found in Scripture, but there’s a kernel of truth there nonetheless. People tend to behave better in a clean environment. Whether the houses are small or large, if the sidewalks are clean and the windows are washed, people feel safer there and are more likely to treat others with respect.

I want to organize a mix of volunteers, some from the neighbor- hood, some homeless, some from outside to sweep, pick up trash, wash windows and weed a block at a time in North Philadelphia. This would be done in cooperation with the block or neighbor organization. If they don’t have an organization, we’ll help start one. Neighbors talking to neighbors and working together has been found to be an effective prevention against property crime and domestic violence.

Sun Power
All of the home improvement shows talk about energy independence and alternatives to expensive, fossil fuels. Remember when everyone with money was buying smaller, more efficient cars in the 1970s after the OPEC oil embargo; while the working poor were left with the gas guzzling, older cars?

There’s a similar thing happening now. Oil and natural gas prices have gone up. Electricity is bound to follow shortly. People with money are investing in insulation, geothermal heat pumps, passive and active solar power. The working poor are stuck renting older housing stock that is very energy inefficient to say the least.
There are solar collectors that can be made for very low cost, sometimes from scavenged materials. A simple passive solar heat siphon can be hung out of a South facing window of a rental property without doing any damage to the existing building.

Windows and doors can be tightened up. Energy and water conservation habits can be taught and learned. These can make a real impact on people’s monthly budgets, not to mention helping the planet. And again, it is a point of contact to share the love of God, when it is done in Jesus’ Name.

Sowing and Reaping
One can’t understand most of the teachings of Jesus without a basic understanding of growing food and the cycles of nature. Over the last century there has been an unprecedented migration off of the land into cities all over the world. The cities have become uncivilized.

I want to organize more community gardens. People who garden are better able to understand the gospel of Christ. Neighborhoods with community gardens have lower rates of violent crime, drug addiction, truancy and domestic violence; even when all other factors are the same.

They have the added benefits of providing fresh produce to help stretch budgets and promote better health; as well as beautifying otherwise blighted, wasted lots.

Prevention is Easier Than Cure
These three ideas all help to build better communities and strengthen families. When families are strong and neighbors are talking to each other, for anyone to fall through the cracks and end up homeless is much less likely. To get these things started, I need more time. Not to put too fine a point on it: to take more time costs money.