I just published the first in what will hopefully be a series of books with my paintings and stories of our friends from the street, along with a few ringers, to remind us to be welcoming to strangers.
This little book is an invitation to YOU to step into a new comfort zone with your sisters and brothers in this world. We are all frightened children trying to find the silk edge of the blanket at times. Let us be kind.
I can’t express how disappointed I am with how little we have accomplished at The King’s Jubilee. We have been at it for over 26 years. By this time we had hoped to have made street side serving of meals unnecessary, because we had played a major role in ending homelessness in Philadelphia. Instead, we can count on two hands the number of people we have had a large part in making the transition off the street and perhaps 100 more to whom we gave some little bit of help through the years move off the street. I know this is not standard fundraising procedure. Most ministries speak very glowingly and, as we used to say, “evangelastically” about their accomplishments to garner support. We can only do what we have resources to do. It is that simple. Somehow I expected the church to get behind work like this, whichever church, and for pastors to invite and to recommend participation and support. Through the years, that has rarely happened. I have gotten more jealousy, abuse, and invitations to leave churches from pastors, because of this ministry. Yet, none of them has been able to say that what I am doing or teaching is wrong.
Now, I need you to get over your distaste for my honesty and help save some lives!
A few weeks ago, I posted an appeal to help save “Rashawn’s Diamond”. Diamond recently was hospitalized with tuberculosis and walking pneumonia. After a couple of days in ICU and the rest of the week on the respiratory care floor, she was released back onto the street. She and her husband, Rashawn, were able to spend nights in one of two shelters in the city that allow married couples to stay together. Daytimes were still rough, lugging all of their stuff around in the horrible weather. They are little people. Rashawn is disabled due to his dwarfism, so the type and amount of work he can get is limited. We were only able to raise $301 toward what we thought was going to be $500 for the month for rent. We kicked in an additional $249 to make up the difference and provide for some food. We knew that they owed this SRO hotel $230 from the last time they had stayed there. I had hoped we would raise the whole amount, since it was Great Lent. For most people in Montgomery and Bucks Counties the extra $230 is not that much, maybe a ski outing with the kids, or a dinner out at Wm. Penn Inn or Maize. At any rate, a pastor of a poor, storefront church, who works at a secular job, came up with the difference. We had a hard time making connection with him. Rashawn & Diamond came home with me on Thursday night and slept in our little living room, with the cats. We all had a good breakfast of bacon and eggs. Diamond took delight in cutting and sharing a pink grapefruit with Rashawn. They have talked to me everyday since to remind me to hug the cats for them, and named us honorary grandparents. We are not old enough for that, but, you know, it’s hard to judge with us white people.
Because it took an extra day to get the money, all of the cheaper rooms were taken for the month, plus the management raised the rent on all the rooms by $100, so the rent for their room ended up being $700, but they don’t have to walk down the hall for the bathroom. I stayed until I was sure they were getting in. I felt like I was in a scene from a bad detective movie from the early 1970s, except there was an Obama2012.com bumper sticker on the front desk window. in front of the extremely rude, young black man who was hollering at Diamond that “No you can’t try before you buy! All the rooms look alike! It’s first come first serve! If you don’t take it, someone else will!” I was tempted to try to gently remind him that he was in the “hospitality” industry, but I didn’t want to end up on the 6 o’clock news: “Lifelong homeless minister gunned down at the Blue Moon Hotel this afternoon in an altercation with hotel staff, along with two dwarves. Shooter claims self-defense.” It was definitely a new experience for me. It is disappointing to me that such places exist and are in such demand. Rashawn and Diamond are glad to be there. It is out of the cold and damp. They have a bed and a shower and a TV. They don’t have to make a major plan to find a toilet.
$700 a month is more than we usually raise for the whole ministry. People spend a lot on food and cups and such. I understand that. There is more to this ministry than Thursday night. There always has been. Yet when I say we need money, it doesn’t seem to sink in most of the time. I want to help these people. I have known Rashawn for over 20 years. He is a straight arrow. He works whenever and wherever he can. Diamond needs to be off the street in order to live. They were on the verge of getting a place once before. They are in line to get a place now; just a couple more steps. They need a reliable address and good phone reception to be able to complete the process and to apply for the other benefits they need. This is a major flaw in the so-called safety net. Once one has fallen through to the point of homelessness, one needs a boost up just to get hold of the net again. If I could, I would just write a check. I can’t even pay my own mortgage or utility bills. We’re on SNAP and Medicaid, because what I do is worthless to the church. I’m alive. Diamond will die if she has to live outdoors. Take a true pro-life action. Save a beautiful life! Give using the donate button below and everything given will go to help Diamond & Rashawn transition off the street into permanent housing.
May God bless you!
The artwork featured above is: Remembrance of Summers Future & Past
The same plant in two seasons. The bare sticks poking through the snow reminding us of the past and future glory. This is what Holy Week and Pascha are about. It is not just a commemoration of past events. We are remembering the coming in glory of the Kingdom of God! This is Spring Revival Time! It is time to shake off the doldrums, renew our almsgiving and re-energize for action, so that it may be done on “earth as it is in heaven.”
This art piece is available in a strictly limited edition signed by the artist, me, museum quality printed on canvas and framed in a handcrafted frame designed for this piece. The art is 13″ x 7″ plus frame. Call 267-497-0268 for pricing, etc.
Summer is our busiest time at The King’s Jubilee.
Today would have been the day our house would have been foreclosed on and auctioned at sheriff sale. Say what you will about Facebook. It is because of our feisty, faithful, Facebook friends, that the sale is not happening today.
This is not to deny that large donations did indeed come from our local community and members of the local parish. They did. But they came after the plea was put out there to the wider world on GoFundMe at the urging of three women on Facebook. And it was through one of them, who lives in the Seattle area, that the connection was made with the Philadelphia Inquirer reporter. The articles in the Inquirer, combined with our Facebook network , which circles the globe, really got things moving. The first article was shared more than 1,000 times within what I could see from my network. Then it got picked up by the Huffington Post on the night of the State of the Union Address in an article that suggested that I should have been among those whom Pres. Obama invited to be there. It has been a very exciting, frustrating, and humbling experience.
The frustrating part was dealing with the sheriff, the bankers and the lawyer. the ineptitude and the outright lies were just mind-boggling. I don’t know how they can sleep at night and I asked them that. I don’t know how this system can possibly be financially sound in any way. My advice to anyone with money, at this point would be to not keep it as money. The bankers are idiots. liars and thieves. Either invest it in good people who will be able to take care of you later or buy land or jewels or something that has some intrinsic value. Or give it to the poor, knowing that God will repay. I even think stuffing your cash in a mattress would be better than giving it to the lot at HSBC and PHH.
It was exciting to see the numbers go up on GoFundMe and to wake up one morning and see that over $1,000 had come in from total strangers in Australia. We spent over two weeks solid just typing and writing thank you notes. It was also very humbling. When Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” He was not referring to the afterlife. No. It is a whole lot more fun to be able to give, than it is to receive. Of course, the beauty here is, that this will enable us to be able to keep on giving to the homeless and poor people whom we serve. But it was humbling, also, to see who came to our aid. Some people whom we haven’t spoken with for years sent large checks. Complete strangers sent $1,000. Old people with shaky handwriting sent in $5 bills with kind notes. A few children gave their alms box money. This kind of thing bestows an awesome responsibility on a person. We are so grateful for the support and encouragement that we received.
I have to tell you that the first thing we did with some of it was to help a few other people. We just couldn’t be happy without sharing some of the first fruits to encourage some of our other faithful Facebook friends, and a couple of real neighbors.
We may or may not have enough to hold on to the house. Bethann’s unemployment benefits ran out. My Social Security Disability Income appeal hearing hasn’t happened yet. If that gets decided in my favor soon, it should pay retroactively to October of 2010 and we will be OK. Bethann’s school goes until September. It is intense and full-time. She does not have health insurance now. We make too little to qualify for subsidy under the ACA. She was making too much, with unemployment to qualify for Medical Assistance, since Gov. Corbett blocked the Medicaid expansion, as part of his war on the poor.
The title says “Our House”, but it is only our house by virtue of the fact that we live here and work here, and I have installed gas, replaced the boiler, water heater, refrigerator, range, plumbing, electrical service, front door, windows, rebuilt the barn, put 30% down and made payments and paid the taxes and utilities for seven years. It’s really the Lord’s. To cite one of the jubilary psalms: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” (Ps. 24:1) We just use it for a time. Hopefully, we do a good job using it for His kingdom.
After three friends urged me to use GoFundMe to raise funds to save our house from foreclosure, I set it up yesterday afternoon. And the Share the Love Almsgivng Facebook group has selected us for their 12 Days of Christmas Cash Flash Mob. People can give here on the website using Paypal, or give cash or use the GoFundMe site. We estimate that we need $15,000 to save our house. During the first 34 hours, $1.710 came in.
After a series of unfortunate events, they have set the sheriff’s sale for our house for February 26, 2014. February also marks the 25th anniversary of our founding of The King’s Jubilee. Through the years our home has served as the only base for this ministry. Our kitchen has prepared over 1/4 million meals through the years that were then served to the poor and homeless. Our home has also taken in homeless ex-offenders and one homeless family through the years. It has hosted mission workers and guests from Indonesia, Africa, India, France, Germany, and Canada who needed a place to stay.
I had an infection on my neck that I most likely picked up from the street, that later showed up on my spine. The treatment of it nearly killed me. I was allergic to the IV antibiotics. It ate into my spine. This led to chronic migraines. They caused 30 to 50 little strokes. I also suffer PTSD as a result of the strokes, and the court case with the city, and other incidents of being bullied. Altogether, this caused my business to fail due to too may interruptions and left me unemployable. I still can do the ministry, but that does not pay anything. My wife, Bethann, lost her job with its insurance, July 2012. We kept paying COBRA $1100, which was more than her unemployment income, so as the business failed, we fell behind on the mortgage. Now we can’t afford the insurance. I have Medical Assistance. We have to pay out of pocket for Bethann. We are in negotiation with the bank, but they are fast tracking the foreclosure at the same time. SSDI should come through, but not in time. Bethann is going to school to become a medical administrator.
Anything we receive will be paid forward once we get our feet under us again. Thank you. God bless you!
I know it was called the Great Depression, but from all the stories I heard about that time when I was growing up, it sounded like it was the happiest time this country ever experienced. Sure, money was tight. Jobs were scarce. But people looked out for each other. They worked together. People tolerated more quirkiness and took in people who were not their relatives as if they were, just because they were fellow human beings. “Whose brother was Uncle Wynne?” No one could quite make the connection. It didn’t matter. He was family now.
My dad grew up in Youngstown, Ohio. His parents were Mae Wise Coulter and Joseph Coulter. Except no one ever called my grandfather Joseph. They always called him Freeman or just “Free”. You see, he was an atheist, who in those days liked to style themselves as “free thinkers”, so he took the moniker “Freeman.” Mae was a devout, Holiness Methodist. Freeman owned his own service station and worked on cars. He loved his work. He was good at it. My uncle Howard raced at Daytona Beach and Bonneville and my dad, Charlie, was in his pit crew, when he was just 13 or 14. That would be about 1938. Of course, Howard paid his way to those races. He was 11 years older than my dad. But I digress.
All during the Depression, Freeman and Mae were, at any given time, supporting four to six other households in one way or another. If Free was aware of it, he never let on. He worked long hours. He was happy if he had clean clothes and hearty meals, good scotch on the weekends and some cheap beer during the week. He had good friends. He let tabs go long at the shop. Sometimes he got paid with vegetables or chickens or plumbing or electrical work. It all worked out. He handled the books at the shop and gave Mae the profits. Mae handled the household finances. Mae always had a large garden. She was always cooking and baking, and canning. She would send one or more of her four children with packages of meals, fresh produce, canned veggies or fruit and envelopes of money to various neighbors, after school, before their dad came home for dinner. The children all wore handmade clothes or hand-me-downs. She made her own clothes, nothing fancy, always floral, but not too many. She kept weekday shoes and Sunday shoes. Occasionally Free would ask her why they couldn’t get something nicer for the house or some nicer clothes. She would just say, “Times are tough. We need to watch what we spend.” And that was the end of it.
All four of Mae and Freeman’s children grew up to be hard working members of society. They all carried with them those lessons and memories and I heard them tell various stories, each one of them, with smiles and tears, of the quiet generosity, through the Great Depression. This is not unique to my family. I have interviewed many folks born between 1880 and 1920, and their stories are much alike.
Back then, people recognized themselves in any other human being. I know that is what my dad took away from the experience and what he drilled into his four kids. I met Vice-Presidents and plumbers, bishops and florists, and was told, “Don’t sweat it. Everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time. People are people.” There is even a social theory that says that the Great Depression was the great equalizer that laid the groundwork in the national psyche for the civil rights movement. It seems to be slipping away. I hope we haven’t lost that.
I never met my Grandpa Coulter, though I am named for him. My middle name is Joseph. He died of his first heart attack in 1953. Mae passed away at age 82 in 1972.
So my dad synthesized both his parents’ positions, his dad’s ‘freethinking’ atheism and the quiet, practical generosity of his mother. Whenever he saw a need, if he had the means to meet it, he met it. A general appeal letter came from an old family friend’s daughter and son-in-law who were serving with Wickliffe Bible Translators as medical missionaries in Peru. They had transferred all of their money into the Peruvian currency for the year. Then there was hyperinflation, so it was not going to last. They needed X thousands dollars to make up the shortfall. Charlie acted as if the letter was to him alone. These are family. She helped pull my first loose tooth when she babysat me. He wired the whole amount that day. One example. I could only give you a half dozen. I only know the ones that he was careless about laying around or that people told me about later.
So when the Pope talked about atheists possibly going to heaven according to Matthew 25, and the cardinals got all nervous and had to walk it back or somehow make that not covered by papal infallibility, because we wouldn’t want to not be able to hold hell over atheists heads, instead of just letting them be surprised by grace, I think Jesus wept.
Don’t get me wrong. My dad was an ornery cuss and impossible to live with. We got along like oil and water. He probably had the same congenital brain defect that I have that is making me tend to the ornery side. But his example and his stories are responsible for a lot of who I am today. So for Mae & Joseph and Charles: may their memory be eternal!
May we each recognize the humanity and the image of God in each person we encounter.
We are dealing with people in crisis constantly. On Tuesday after Memorial Day, as I was doing my errands, people asked me how my long weekend was. I found the question absurd. I had planned a fun weekend with some yard work, and replace a window, go to a friend’s picnic, help Anthony install Ubuntu on his computer, go to the church picnic, and finish by delivering Anthony home while delivering some household goods to a fellow who recently moved off of the street. In other words, a fairly normal, weekend. Instead, Anthony and I, along with Alex and Ray worked all day Saturday moving a fellow out of his apartment who was going to be homeless shortly. Then Anthony, John, Ha, Carter & I went to the Communaute Positive banquet in Horsham, where I presented John Haggerty and Chantal & Joses St. Phard with awards. We met John’s mother, brother, and sister-in-law there. Sunday morning, we went to church. I got a terrible migraine. I took my Percocet and Ketorolac. I loaded up Greg’s remaining things at church into our car. After church and coffee hour, Anthony went back to the apartment with Greg to continue packing. He got a ride back to our place with Greg’s stuff in John’s truck on John’s way home from work. At 3:30 April and our grandsons came over for me to take a look at Aidan’s bicycle. He had a very adult experience. He could not make it do anything wrong when he took it to me to get it fixed, so I could do nothing.
Bright and early Monday, Serge, Alex, Anthony, Greg & I continued to work on the move. We took two trips back and forth between Souderton and Cheltenham with three vehicles. Then Anthony and I joined Bethann and Hilary and the rest at the church picnic. After the church picnic, I drove Anthony home to Philadelphia. I didn’t manage to get the stuff together for the other man who had moved off of the street. I was too exhausted to go there anyway. He lives on the extreme other end of Phila. from Anthony.
What I am trying to say is this is pretty much normal. I don’t just make soup and beans and rice on Thursday. (That does pretty much take all day on Thursday.) I am dealing with people in various stages of crisis all the time. To many of the people on the street, I am their pastor, like it or not. I never told them that’s what I was. I never introduce myself as such. That’s what they call me. That’s how they come to me. That’s how I serve them as well as I can. I have known some of them since 1985.
Ask me about Mother’s Day. The Thursday night before Mother’s Day, we were done serving food. A married couple whom I have known for several years and have helped on several occasions waited to speak with me. They are no longer homeless, but times are tight, so they come out to eat with us. We had gathered together some clothing for their one year old great nephew recently. They started by thanking me for that. Then they got real serious and said, “We have to talk.” Here their 14 year old special needs daughter was repeatedly raped by a fellow student at her school. The father of the boy was proud of his son for doing this. They wanted to know the answer to two questions. They go to an evangelical church and they had asked their pastor. Their pastor had told them, “I’m not equipped to answer these questions.”
The mom said to me, “Pastor Cranford, our daughter really wants to see this boy punished. My husband wants to kill the dad. The boy has been taken away and put in foster care, because the dad was openly bragging about what the son did. Because the boy is special needs, he will not be put in jail, but in a special, reform school to retrain him on what is right and wrong. They say my daughter has to decide on her own whether or not to press charges.” She was disappointed that he wouldn’t be punished. I told her that it sounded like a good solution. It would get the boy away from her. It would hopefully get him some help. It sounds like he had some terrible parenting, and that was a major part of the problem. “Vengeance is mine. I will repay, sayeth the Lord.” This sounded good to her.
The second question really blew my mind that a pastor said it was not in his area of expertise. This girl is really seeking the Lord in the midst of this terrible situation. (She waited for three or four weeks to tell her mom about the rapes because her mom had been hospitalized for a heart attack and she was afraid it would be too much for her.) She asked her pastor what Scripture she should read or meditate on in a situation like this. I thought for half a minute, then told her the first several Psalms from the Old Testament and the Gospels, especially the Sermon on the Mount from the New Testament.
The beautiful Pascha card to the left was made by Leila Chocheli, mother of Niko Chocheli. When Niko gave me a laminated copy of it, he told me that his mother taught him an important lesson as a child. She would often say, “What you keep is lost. Only what you give away is yours.” He said he did not understand this until well into adulthood, but now it makes perfect sense.
When a realtor describes a house as charming, we have four words of advice: RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! Our house is charming. It is possibly the oldest house in town. The new part was built in 1845 to be the hotel for the railroad when it came through. The last owner was an Irish woodworker. He did some lovely work on the trim. He made a nice back door and beautiful window over the kitchen sink. Why he used single pane glass is beyond me. He restored the hardware to period. He did level the floor in one of the rooms. He made it into one house out of three tiny apartments. (sort of) It still had three electric meters with two wire, knob and tube and old romex to much of the house.
The oil burner was on its last. The old iron pipes to the upstairs bathroom were mostly occluded. The drains weren’t much better, but the switch plates had fairies and waterlilies on them. The wood trim in the kitchen has charming little crosses drilled in it. I have basically replaced the heat system, the plumbing and the electrical service. I am working on rewiring, bit by bit, sorting out the mess. I won’t even start on the shape of the barn. But they say the value of real estate is mainly location. It is a great location.
We were rebuilding the barn to make the ministry and the business more efficient. Then I got sick. That messed everything up. There have been a series of setbacks. Bishop Thomas really wants to see a team of college kids come here to help finish the barn. I don’t know how that is going to happen. Bethann lost her job last summer. We have to pay for Cobra health insurance out of pocket. That takes more than her Unemployment Compensation. We had the court case against the city to keep the ministry going. that put the business on hold and hurt the business. We were both sick around Christmas, so that hurt the business. I was very sick last month, so that hurt the business again. We are on the verge of being able to make some major progress in helping the homeless in Philadelphia, if we had a basic facility there and could be full time working at that, instead of being distracted by the icon business. At the same time, we are on the verge of possibly losing our house, losing our current base of operations, and joining the ranks of the homeless ourselves.
So we are making an appeal.
We are having a rent party this Saturday evening, March 16, starting at 6:30. Since it is Cheesefare Sunday next week, we will be serving vegetarian chili, “Tender Hearted Shepherd’s Pie” (vegan), some cheese and veggies, chips and dip, dessert, etc. The $10 cover charge includes the food and soft drinks. Beer and wine will be available for additional donations. If you want to play an instrument to add to the festivities, please make it unplugged. Kevin Paige is bringing his guitar and his keyboard and his great talents to make music. We are hoping that the Ackers will favor us with some music as well. We are clearing out the furniture, so if you want to dance, you may.
We live at:
27 North Front St. (in the middle of beautiful downtown)
Souderton, PA 18964
Call or email to let us know if you plan to attend, so we know how much food and drink to prepare.
email@example.com (If you can’t attend, but want to help, you can Paypal gifts to this email. If it is designated as a gift from one Paypal account to another, neither one is charged fees. Thanks! God bless you!)
It’s a cheap date for a good cause. We are going to try to have green beer in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Hey, I was tickled that the first one to RSVP to say that he was coming was Philly rock legend Kenn Kweder! Please come join the fun.
Last Thursday night was the first in three weeks that I was well enough to serve in the city. The people were so glad to see me. Alex examined me and noted that I still did not sound altogether well. He was right. A week later, I am still coughing. This is one nasty flu. We had a skeleton crew. The McGraws were out sick. Fr. Chris was the lone representative from Holy Annunciation. It was just Deacon Herman and me in the TKJ-mobile. Anthony was not there, because he was cleaning up after a mercy meal after a funeral for a long time volunteer for the soup kitchen at his church. A couple of the guys pitched in. I was even pressed into manual labor. I served hard boiled eggs, oranges and peanuts. I am much better as a gadfly. I don’t keep the line moving. Linda Notskas and a fellow, whose name I fail to remember, brought lots of clothes and blankets and gave them away from her car.
A self described “dangerous, badass n__ger” came up to me and started to talk about the sad state of affairs. He was a CPA, a graduate of the Wharton School of Business and he was 72. He was also very drunk. He was upset at the sight of so many homeless men, at the national debt, at the Wall St. banksters, at the persistence of racism, etc. I kept talking to him and tried to understand what he was saying, because I could sense his pain and I respect the path that he had taken in his life. He was not homeless. I grew up talking to my dad when he was very drunk, but my dad was a high functioning drunk. He could be coherent and rational. This man wasn’t. He stood in front of me carrying on irrational rants, while people had to step around him on uneven ground. Finally I had to ask him to move to allow a lady who was unsteady on her feet to come through. He just went away angry. I was disappointed that I could not comfort him or ease his pain.
I was hoping to dig into work on Friday after more than two weeks off being sick. I found that I was able to do some, but I was still pretty tired from the full day on Thursday. I started working on an article for this blog for TKJ’s 24th anniversary, which I finished on Saturday. We found out that The King’s Jubilee was chosen for the second week of the Lenten Almsgiving Cash Flash Mob and started promoting that. We are hoping for good participation in that tomorrow and blessings all around!
On Sunday, we were planning on getting up and going to church. I had missed two weeks and Bethann had missed one, because of this nasty flu that gave us each bronchitis. I woke up to Bethann sitting on the end of the bed telling me that she thought she was having a heart attack. I went downstairs and got aspirin and water and gave it to her. We got dressed quickly and drove to the ER. They put her on the monitor and her heart rate was wildly erratic. She has atrial fibrillation. They kept her and tried to get to the bottom of it. As I am writing this, she is in surgery having a pacemaker installed.
I finally have felt strong enough to start catching up on orders, then this happens. Thank God for Uncle John Haggerty. He and Ha Nguyen are making the icons while I am visiting Bethann at the hospital. Our daughter, April Smith, stepped in to make the soup for tonight. Serge Metelow and his daughter are making the vegetarian alternative and helping serve tonight. Brian Simpson is driving the TKJ-mobile. I am once again reminded of what the old preacher told me years ago, “Don’t think too highly of yourself. No one is indispensible in the Lord’s service.”
Tomorrow is the Almsgiving Cash Flash Mob for The King’s Jubilee. I haven’t even publicized an event on Saturday, February 23. There is a recital at Tabor United Methodist Church at 1pm put on by Kevin Paige and some of his music students, to benefit The King’s Jubilee. I hope to be there to present the work and the vision of TKJ. Please come if you want to learn more.
Many of you are old enough to remember that great comedy, news, spoof TV show TW3: “That Was The Week That Was.” This was one of those weeks that makes you evaluate and reevaluate everything. I don’t want to be that angry, old man who fought the system and still saw it all end in futility and confusion. I think, if we work together, even if we are weak alone, if our cause is righteous and we put our hope in God, we just may see progress. Pray for peace that the Gospel may go forward.