Oscar

I have recently started to paint portraits. I never knew I could do this. I don’t think I could before. Every attempt at art, other than on a computer, or with a blade of some sort to steady my hand and smooth the curves always seemed to look like my kindergarten work. That never even made it onto the refrigerator; it was so bad. This is therapy for me. It is good for my heart. It lowers my blood pressure. I started with a self-portrait. Now I have completed three portraits of two brothers and one sister from the parkway in Philadelphia: Rosalie, Alex and Oscar. Only Alex is still among the living, and he was the only one I had a photograph of. My paintings are cartoonish, not realistic. I am trying to capture something of the emotional and spiritual impact these people made on me, a touch of their beauty, if you will.

Oscar

I shared Oscar’s story more than 20 years ago in a newsletter shortly after he had died. Oscar was in his early 50s. It was 1992. I was 37. We were serving on the sidewalk on the City Hall side of JFK Plaza at that time, more commonly called the Love Park because of the world famous LOVE art in front of the fountain there. We would see Oscar on occasion. Every time he came, he made it a point to seek me out after to say how thankful he was for what we did. He would say how special that I am for doing this. I always deflected by saying something like, “I’m just doing what Jesus compels me to do. I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t do it. It is Jesus who loves you.” He would reply, “I don’t believe in any of that god stuff. I just know that you are really special and I am truly grateful. Thank you!”

At times, we would talk about history or philosophy or the arts. He was well educated. He had had a good paying job at one point. I don’t know if I ever learned how he ended up on the street. He had used cocaine and had suffered a couple of heart attacks as a result. He is among the most civilized people I have ever known, with a twinkle in the eye and a Bohemian side.

Hurricane Andrew hit Homestead, FL, in August of 1992. Church groups were sending clothing and supplies down to the more than 100,000 families whose homes had been destroyed. Word got out that people were having a hard time surviving because it was it slow process to get any cash to buy necessities. So people started tucking cash into the pockets of clothing to short circuit that process, and get money into people’s hands quickly. Several bags of men’s clothing did not fit onto a truck bound for Homestead, so they got re-directed to The King’s Jubilee. They told me about the potential money in the pockets. Between working full-time, leading a Bible study at Graterford prison that afternoon while Bethann made the soup, coordinating with the Pottstown and SC serving sites, somehow searching pockets got missed.

When we gave away the clothing that night, it was a free for all, like always. There was one garment no one seemed to want. It was a corduroy sportcoat with suede elbow patches. Oscar grabbed it and put it on. It fit. It was warm. He said, “I’m not proud. It’s warm. It’s clean.” The others laughed and called him professor. Who knows? Perhaps, that’s what he had been. He disappeared for a couple weeks. When he came back, he told me what happened. Later that night, he checked the pockets of the sportcoat and found a $50 bill. He told me that he wished he could say he did something productive or constructive with it. Alas, he said, he had a good meal at a fancy restaurant and went on a week long bender. He said, “I’m sorry. But it’s been a long time since I had such a good time and could forget about all of this. Thank you. Can you forgive me?”

I told him there was nothing to forgive. He found the money. It was his to do with what he wanted. If he got some relief, well, who am I to judge? (I am weeping as I type this.) His eyes welled up and he thanked me again with a hug. The next time he thanked me for serving all the guys on the street. He said, “I thank God for you, Cranford.” My eyes welled up with tears.

I don’t know if he had found faith, or if he was just being gracious and kind to please me. It was the last time I saw Oscar. He died of a heart attack at 53. I attempted to paint this from memory. It is a poor likeness. The beret and the neck scarf are there. The beard, long, full hair, and brown eyes are there. I tried to convey both his thoughtfulness and the mischief, with the intent stare, the tilt of the head, and the slight smile.



Deah Barakat

Deah Barakat is one of the three Muslim students who was killed on the University of North Carolina campus this week by a mentally deranged, grumpy old man. The photo above was the last thing she posted on her Facebook account with the caption, “Tonight we provided free dental supplies and food to over 75 homeless people in downtown Durham! #‎DowntownSmiles‬”

Matthew 25. Everyone is surprised at the Judgment.

May her Memory be Eternal!

Another 28 Hours

The statistic is that every 28 hours a young black man is killed by police in this country. This has been going on for years. Now thanks to Twitter bringing Michael Brown’s execution in Ferguson to national attention, we have been hearing and seeing the others in rapid succession. But know this, this is not anything new! This has been going on for decades, perhaps for centuries. This is why black people give you a funny look whenever a white person says something stupid like: “Racism is over.” or “We don’t need the Voting Rights Act any more.” or “Aren’t you glad for the work of MLK and you don’t have to worry about discrimination anymore?” etc.

martinWell, it’s Christmas Eve. I should be posting a fine Christmas story of hope and joy. I’m sorry. I’m sitting here with tears down my cheeks, feeling like a foreigner in my native country. When does this stop? Christmas Eve’s victim is Antonio Martin of Berkeley, MO.

Antonio Martin has been shot and killed in Berkeley, MO, a black teen by a white cop, who had a body cam, but wasn’t wearing it. He left it in the car. He had a cruiser cam, but turned it off. They claim this video shows him raising a gun. I defy you to pick out a gun from this video. The cops maced the woman taking the video, so it seems they didn’t want it documented. They felt a need to hide what they were doing. There are cameras on the store, closer to the incident. The police aren’t releasing those. It took 30 minutes for Antonio to bleed out and die. In that time, lots of police came to the scene, but not one ambulance! He could have been saved. The police would not even let his mother comfort him, but forced him to die alone.

White privilege says, if only they would behave themselves, they wouldn’t get themselves killed. The cops were called because a couple of black kids robbed the station. Is robbing a station a capital offense? Do we know these were the kids who did it? Where is due process? Where is the jury of one’s peers? Where is the judge? Is it up to the cop to just show up and start shooting black kids, and that satisfies justice? I notice there is no mention of stolen money recovered.

One every 28 hours. It can happen with no provocation. It can happen  when one just opens the door. It can happen in the middle of the night in a home invasion. What effect do you think that has had on black men growing up in the US? Could this be why I hear so many white men complain about their “attitude”? Think about this. What if you were in a situation where you needed help from a policeman, but you were afraid if you approached him, he was more likely to frisk and arrest you than to help you? What if you grew up in a neighborhood where half of the men were convicted of a felony, had done or were doing hard time in prison and had permanently lost their right to vote by the time they were 30?

It’s time to wake up.

Here’s the video the police did not want to show you, where the truth is revealed, which was also testified to by multiple witnesses. He had a cell phone in his hand, not a gun. Also, he was at the station with his girlfriend. Who holds up a station with a guy partner with his girlfriend along?



Flowers for Bunny

I didn’t post what music I was listening to as I made soup yesterday on Facebook. The kitchen was silent. There were no good choices. I was in my kitchen while Brownie was in Phila. funeralizing his wife, “Bunny”. Thanks to the kindness and generosity of a volunteer and supporter who knows how to do such things, The King’s Jubilee was able to provide flowers for the funeral. I have known Brownie for over 20 years. I met him in prison, then caught up with him on the street. He and Bunny, Marilyn Ledger, have been faithfully married for over 14 years by mutual declaration and common law. He stuck with her and cared for her through her battle with cancer. He came out to ask me for prayer for her in December. Last week, when she died, he was beside himself with grief. He had no money for flowers for his beloved and wanted to make sure there were flowers. He remembered the few times that I drove him and Bunny home on cold nights and was so grateful. Memory Eternal.

Pray for Brownie that he will find a way to move forward. Another thing, we need new dishes for him, preferably unbreakable ones. He smashed all his when he got the call from the hospital that Bunny had died in her sleep.

“Lord, please take good care of Daniel.”

As we pulled up at the park at 1801 Vine to serve last night, Sadie was waiting for us. She said, “I have some bad news. Danny passed yesterday morning.”

I asked her how it happened and she told me that he just collapsed and was gone. The rest of the family wouldn’t let her see him until he was on the stretcher to be carried out. She thought they were all playing a game and she pounded his chest, telling Danny to open his eyes now, the joke was over. It was no joke. The reality of Danny’s death still had not sunk in to Sadie as of last night.

Sadie & Daniel have been mentioned three times before on this blog. The last time was in December, because Daniel could not come out on a wet night to receive his St. Nicholas coins just prior to his 38th birthday on December 7th, as he had walking pneumonia. He never recovered from that pneumonia. Sadie took him to the hospital on three occasions, because he was so bad he was coughing up blood and they turned him away, saying he was alright. Now if he had fancier insurance instead of medical assistance, or didn’t have an address in public housing, or were more assertive, or were white instead of mulatto, he may have been treated and he would live to see his grandchildren grow up. But, as I have said before, Daniel and Sadie are some of the sweetest people you would ever want to meet. They have had the worst couple of years imaginable and now this.

Daniel would always ask me how I was doing and really want to know. He wanted to know because he wanted to help in any way he could. He was always quick with cheerful encouragement. He would look up possible resources. He would check up with me to see if I followed through. I found out last night that he organized a circle of prayer intercessors among several of the men on the street. They had heard about Danny and were looking for Sadie and asked how my wife, Bethann was doing, because they remembered her from when Danny put her on their prayer list when she had her pacemaker installed.

Daniel is one of those rare people, unsinkable, in whom there is no guile. As I went to bed last night, I just spontaneously prayed over and over until I went to sleep: “Lord, please take good care of Daniel.”

In the place of thy rest, O Lord, where all thy saints repose, give rest also to the soul of thy servant Daniel, for Thou alone art the Lover of mankind.

“It’s always good to have an intention.”

damaged headstonesWe finally made it to a clean-up day at Mount Moriah Cemetery on Saturday. I left my house at 6am to load John Haggerty’s pick up with a load of furniture from Myron Starinshak’s estate to deliver to a couple of the men who have moved off of the street into an apartment, Anthony McNeil and Gregory Henderson. I delivered that to their place near Broad & Allegheny.  They joined me and we continued down to 6201 Kingsessing Ave., the Philadelphia side of Mount Moriah Cemetery. We arrived at the Cemetery a little after 8am. Hal Smith was already there and working. So we had a foursome representing The King’s Jubilee. We cut up saplings into more manageable pieces to load onto the trailers and trucks after they had been cut down by chainsaws. We yanked tall weeds and weedy shrubs. Tony got going with the scythe. He was working his way up the hill as fast or faster with that than the guy with the weed whacker was working his way down the hill.

Suicide Hill
“Suicide Hill” – This is now cleared of bramble and vines. The obelisk is clean and there is a road up the hill.

Hal stayed for the whole five hours. He’s still a young buck. I was exhausted and we packed up and left at about 12:30. I have aches where I didn’t know I have muscles. Tony was looking for Ben-Gay and worried about his legs cramping on the truck ride home. I am up writing, because I hurt too badly to sleep. Gregory, whose nickname is Kool-Aid, was making some old man noises, too, by the time we left, but, he’s allowed. He worked hard, and he’s almost as old as I am. Even so, it felt good! We cleared a lot of brush and weeds. There is another section of the cemetery that is now accessible. Progress was made. We will be back.

The Friends of Mount Moriah provided hot dogs, chili, cider, lemonade, coffee, tea, water, cookies, apple crisp, just with a donation jar there. They had a whole basket of clean, new, work gloves available for anyone to use, who didn’t bring their own. Tools were provided, though I brought my own. We could not have asked for better weather. It was a gorgeous, sunny day!

Most of the people I asked had some distant relative buried there, but not all. One lady, who I was working beside for a time, said that both sets of her husband’s grandparents were buried there. They are in a section of the cemetery that has been unmaintained for so long that they have not been able to find the graves. They come regularly to volunteer to clean up. She told me that her son-in-law’s father passed away on Friday. So she came, driving all the way from Cape May, NJ, and did this in his memory. She said, “I think, it’s always good to have an intention.”

Let’s be about doing good works. Let’s be people of action!

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.  As it is written:
“He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever.”
– 2 Corinthians 9:6-9

Memory Eternal, Barry Stavrou.

Our sympathy in Christ to Christine Stavrou and the entire Stavrou family at the passing of beloved husband and father, Barry Stavrou.

Barry, along with his wife, Christine, have been faithful supporters of The King’s Jubilee, through prayer support, patronage of “Come and See” Icons, and encouragement. Barry reposed peacefully in the Lord yesterday following an heroic struggle with cancer.  Barry helped oversee renovations and preservation of St. John Chrysostom Albanian Orthodox Church in center city Philadelphia. Before leaving for Georgia, Barry oversaw the construction of both phases of St. Philip’s church building, and upon returning to Pennsylvania recently, spearheaded several renovation projects.  He will be greatly missed.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to The King’s Jubilee, which can be given through St Philip’s (or directly using the Paypal Donate button and we will give the family a card with your specified greeting).  The King’s Jubilee has been ministering in Jesus’ Name among poor and homeless people in Philadelphia since February of 1989, currently traveling down weekly to serve meals to nearly 200 people.  We also seek to equip and encourage any who wish to join them in similar service, wherever they are located.

Services will be held at St Philip’s as follows:

Monday, October 1:
Viewing 7-9 p.m.  (Trisagion at 8 p.m.)

Tuesday, October 2:
Viewing 10-11 a.m.
Funeral  11 a.m.
followed by burial at St Philip’s Cemetery & Mercy Meal in the Great Room

St Philip Orthodox Church
1970 Clearview Rd
Souderton, PA  18964
215-721-4947

May his memory be eternal!

As a generation passes, I think, who will step in to do this work? What three men or women can we find to do what this man did?

Autumn 2012 Report

The new newsletter is available for download, printing and distribution. Please feel free to download and print this. It is in PDF format. It is designed to be printed back to back (duplex) on 8.5″ x 11″ paper then folded in half, so it can fit neatly in a church bulletin.

After over 23 years of serving on the street, we feel we are the cusp of something truly momentous. That is why Satan is attacking so hard. We need your support.

Here it is: Autumn 2012 Report

Myron Starinshak’s Funeral

Arrangements have been made for Myron’s funeral:

It will be at St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church, Souderton, PA.

Wednesday, August 15:
6-8 pm Viewing
7 pm Trisagion Prayers
Thursday, August 16:
10-11 am Viewing
11 am Funeral followed by mercy meal.

A graveside service will be held 2PM Friday, August 17 at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery, Annville.

May his memory be eternal!

 

Here is the link to his obituary in the local paper’s website.

Memory Eternal!

St. Myron of Crete
This icon of St. Myron of Crete was donated to St. Philip’s in honor of Myron Starinshak.

I just learned via Facebook that our dear friend, long time supporter and brother in Christ, Myron Starinshak, passed away this weekend. Before he had his strokes a few years ago, he served faithfully, riding shotgun in the TKJ-mobile with me, to serve on the streets of Philadelphia. For many years he was a true, steady bass in the choir. He helped me at a couple of icon festivals. He used to do dozens of odd jobs around church. As soon as we know funeral arrangements, I will post them.

He was faithful to the end. He will be missed. May his memory be eternal!