Other People’s Children: vignettes of joy & tears from unlikely people

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.

Order today to share the joy and beauty in quiet moments.

We’re on the road again!

The King’s Jubilee resumed serving on the street last night. Tony and I made soup and hot chocolate. We picked up a case of bottled water and cups. Our best driver, Will Toy, drove the newly, half-painted orange, yellow and green TKJ-mobile to Philadelphia. We made three stops to find people and serve the hot soup and hot chocolate and water. Tony went down into Suburban Station giving out water and inviting people up. Several people expressed their love for us and their joy at seeing us again after so many weeks absent. We also met a couple of young men from Minneapolis, who were so grateful for so many hospitable groups in Philadelphia.

It felt good to be on the road again. We had good, honest conversations on the way there and on the way home. Tony shared some of his vision for the future of The King’s Jubilee. He said that we will rebuild it from the ground up to be bigger and better than before. He sees it being more integrated with other agencies and thus, better equipped to help with various needs of our homeless clientele to help them move off of the street. He also works at Tindley Temple UMC’s Soup Kitchen, so there is already another connection, with our people. Most of the staff there are senior citizens, so he sees additional services involving seniors and for seniors. He is hoping to widen our base of volunteers so we can truly help men and women break out of the homeless culture and reintegrate into neighborhoods.

Of course, we cannot do any of this without support. We desperately need monthly pledges. It can be done easily and painlessly using Paypal, utilizing any of your credit or debit cards. Make a $25/month pledge today, so we continue to serve the poor and homeless. We operate on a frayed shoestring and give everything to the poor.

Thank you!



Fred’s Gone

Cranford & Fred at the Love Park
Cranford & Fred at the Love Park in 2010

It is so difficult for me to speak of Fred Benjamin in the past tense. I was speaking to him last Wednesday. His presence was always a little more than one could contain. One never knew quite what to expect, except that he would be high energy, assertive, and want to be involved.

Fred lived on the streets for over twenty years. On three occasions in 2010, he helped lead teams of volunteers on tours of the center city homeless experience for The King’s Jubilee, which included the refrigerator box he had lived in for many months. He had a desire to give back and to volunteer. He made friends with the Haverford College women, some of whom wrote to him from Sweden and Germany when they were on semesters abroad. He gave Esther McGraw her street name of “Trooper”, because of all nine of the McGraw children, she came down the most faithfully in all kinds of weather and truly enjoyed serving. She started as a tiny girl. Now she is in her twenties and is helping coordinate Thursday night meals for Twelve Baskets Full.

Fred had a temper and could be ornery, but he was loyal and with his charm and smile, one could not stay angry at him for very long if he got out of hand. He kept fights away from volunteers more than once or twice.

It was about 6 years ago that Fred moved off the street into an apartment. We helped him find furniture and a VCR and computers, etc. He still came out to help serve, and we’d give him rides home, many times. About a year ago, we didn’t see him so much. He said it was because he was taking care of his mom. I’ve met his mom. She seems fine. I have since learned that’s when his health took a turn for the worse. He says it was diabetes, but it was some kind of aggressive kind of wasting disease. He lost 120 pounds in 2 months according to his mom, after he had come down to 240. So in the end his blood sugar spiked and his blood pressure spiked and there was not enough of Fred left to fight it. He passed away at 7:08 am, July 18, 2015, in his apartment, with his cat, L.B. His mom had the police and fire break down the door to find him shortly thereafter.

Fred Benjamin had no insurance and his family has little money, so they are relying on the mercy of Fred’s friends to defray the cost of Fred’s funeral. They chose a modest service. The whole cost is $5500. Between Twelve Baskets Full and TKJ, we have at least $500 collected so far. This harks back to one of the 1st century ministries of Christians and is a powerful statement of love and mercy to the community. You may use the Paypal button to join in.

The viewing and funeral for Fred will be Wednesday, July 29, at:
Jason Lloyd Funeral Home
2125 N. 22nd St
Philadelphia, PA 19121
Viewing & Visitation: 9 am – 11 am
Funeral: 11 am




Rising From the Ashes

It was an overreaction to state that our doors were closing. The truth is serving meals on the streets of Philadelphia was never intended to be the core of the ministry of The King’s Jubilee. It was just what the inmates at Graterford Prison set for me to do personally as I was starting the ministry. The prophetic ministry that has angered so many people was much more at the core of the ministry, as the goal of TKJ is not just to facilitate almsgiving, but to realize the King’s jubilee as Isaiah described it in his great jubilation song of chapter 61, which Jesus quoted in Luke 4, when he introduced his public ministry, and the ministry of all who would be his true disciples!

So people have gotten upset with me and say I shouldn’t be political and claim that the Gospel isn’t political. Well if the Gospel isn’t political, why were all the people enraged and wanted to stone Jesus? These were the political power brokers of Jerusalem. Yes. They were church people, just as they are today. Yes. they had no time for Jesus rearranging their lives and laying claim to what they mistakenly thought were their riches, just as they don’t today. The sounding of the “Jubal”, from which we even derive the word tuba, signified the Jubilee which meant that all the land and everything in it belonged to YHWH. The Law prescribed a radical redistribution of the land (the most basic capital in an agrarian society), freeing of all slaves, cancelling of all debts, and a rest for the land and for the draft animals.

This was not just for the Jews and to be forgotten. This was the core lesson of the whole Old Testament. The Jews never kept the sabbath years and the Jubilee. For this, they went into captivity. “These things were for our admonition.” Then Jesus quotes Isaiah’s Jubilee proclamation to initiate the new era in Luke 4. The early Christians took this seriously. That’s why they were martyred so regularly and why so much change took place. They went out and gave proper burials to the pagan poor and slaves whose bodies had been thrown on the trash heap, honoring every human being equally. They rescued babies who were left to die because they were the wrong gender or families had too many, and raised them as their own, respecting and having compassion for every life without discrimination no matter the cost. They honored and protected women, as they revered Mary as she who bore Jesus, establishing monogamy and chastity as the standard. Women were apostles and deacons and some say Priscilla was a priest. She is adorned so in an icon in a chapel under the Vatican. They were a mighty army of radical love; an army that died, but never killed. This is what Jesus called us to.

I am still a follower of Jesus. I have been abused by too many clergy to feel comfortable in church. I suffer with CPTSD from non-sexual clergy abuse. I don’t sort out saved and lost. Jesus forbade that, when he said, “Judge not.” and “Judge nothing before the time.” I don’t care if you or I are atheist today or tomorrow or not, or Muslim, or Jew, or Hindi, or any number of religions or philosophies with which I am not familiar. We are all subject to where we fell out of our mother’s wombs on this orb, as to what we believe, what nationality we are, what language is our primary, etc. It’s interesting, but nothing to be judged on. We welcome anyone to serve with us.

You will see on our site and on our literature that we serve in Jesus’ Name. The Hebrew sense of serving in someone’s name was not to be calling out their name all the time or even ever. It was to be serving according to their will and wishes. So what we mean is that we attempt to follow the Golden Rule. We serve people with dignity and respect. We do not look down upon those we are serving or make them feel as if they are anything but equals, brothers and sisters. We never use an institutional approach. Every one is special and unique. There are no cookie cutter solutions.

So, where from here?

We intend to continue to do and develop our services to those transitioning off of the street. We had hoped to not be serving people on the street by this time at any rate, hoping there would be no need. We already have our Clean Start and Kitchen Jumpstart programs that need continued support and participation. We also have our Rent Party program which we will be expanding and promoting as this is a vital need to help folks move off of the street. We will be developing a one on one or posse friendship program to help people make the move off the street. It can be very hard for people. Homelessness is not just the lack of walls in our city. It is its own subculture. People need something to replace that with if they are to succeed. This is where city volunteers come in.

I will be working, finishing my cookbook / nutritional guide for ministries serving the homeless. We have raised the bar over the years nutritionally, and would like to see others follow suit. I want to share this knowledge of the hows and whys and what nots, before they escape from memory.

Please join us in this next phase of The King’s Jubilee. We need your regular monthly support, even if it’s just $10. Use the Donate button below. Thank you. God bless you.




The artwork above is available at 24″x24″ for sale in a custom, handcrafted frame. It is entitled “Phoenix”. Most of my artwork will be on display Father’s Day weekend at Teich & McColgan Daylilies & Hostas, next to Peace Valley Winery. See you there!

Pariah

"If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find Him in the chalice." - St. John Chrysostom

Sorry, I am removing any and all endorsements from the 12 Baskets group. They have told me they don’t want to be associated with me in any way shape or form, even though none of them would have gotten involved on the street had it not been for me introducing them to it and being there constantly. They say I have been cantankerous and argumentative. Of course, the person saying that to me has been extremely cantankerous and argumentative to me, and has not been on the street that much.

I have never said I am not cantankerous. I can be. I don’t know of a single person who has been at this as long as I have who isn’t at times. It is damned hard to live at below poverty standards and keep going while pastors continue to abuse you and bishops lie and abuse you and feel threatened in their lifestyle, because the pittance you want for the homeless may cut into the grandeur of their banquets and not be considered an irritant!

I am finally quitting, because I am bankrupt after 26-1/2 years serving on the street. Some of these people who are saying these nasty things, just two weeks ago were flattering me and saying how they couldn’t do this. Then, as soon as I was quitting, it was all about how they could do it easy, because of how rich they are. They despise me because of my poverty! This is exactly what makes them unsuited for this ministry!

We are about to lose our house. No one gives a shit!
I have extreme depression and CPTSD because of CLERGY ABUSE! No one gives a shit! (Perhaps this is why I am cantankerous?)
I gave up a lucrative career to serve the poor. My children and grandchildren are wonderful, happy children, largely as a result. Thousands of inmates and poor received some hope and joy and unconditional friendship. Hundreds received HS GEDs. Hundreds learned English as a second language. A couple received their Bachelor’s degree. One graduated as a nurse Cum Laude. One became a prison chaplain. Others got their families together, etc. That’s among the homeless and inmates. Then, among our volunteers; Several found their callings to be doctors and medical missionaries and counselors and priests and nurses or to serve the homeless in other cities, while they were serving with us, because I stuck by the stuff. No one gives a shit!

I went through the court case with no support from any of these people or the church, in tears for months, in order to continue serving in the parks. No one gives a shit!

I was trying to be magnanimous. I gave my cooking gear and supplies to 12 Baskets, even while I was hearing negative comments, then it went beyond the pale.

I am a throwaway. I am a difficult person. Never mind the sociopathic priests or the bishops who refuse to deal with them and just hang up on me. Never mind the pastor who threatened to kill me. He got to keep his salary. He was the right nationality. I can just go to hell. I can’t go to church without risking a stroke. But I am “playing the victim” to say this!

Yesterday, I brought a week’s rent down to a couple, only to find out today that Social Security lost our documentation for expediting back disability pay. This means, we are likely to lose our house. This is why I quit. I was just too tired of begging to people who didn’t give a damn. All they care about is their warped view of Matthew 25. Here is a news flash. If you are serving the homeless to get into heaven, it won’t work! You can’t buy your way into heaven. Everyone is surprised at the Judgment. That is the point of that story. Judge no one. Muslims or atheists may enter before you. No one can con God. If you are doing this to earn points with God, the people can smell that on you, and it stinks to high heaven of self-righteousness. You may as well stay home.

You need to serve the poor because it is the right thing to do and because you enjoy doing it. The McGraws understand this and are faithful, loving people, with more patience than me. I am really glad that 12 Baskets is taking up this work and pray that God will bless and strengthen their hands and hearts and provide them with every good thing to continue to provide for my friends for many years! I guess I am blessing them after all. God chooses the foolish things to confound the wise. If God could use me, He can certainly use them.

First, I want to say thank you to all of those who have supported us through the years and have participated in this ministry. May God bless you! I am sorry if any of you feel I have not said that enough. It is at the end of most, but not all blog entries on this blog.

Second, we will be serving meals in the park this Thursday and next Thursday, May 7, will be our last, due to lack of support from the church.

Third, I was just told to “stop playing the victim!” I am sorry, but I am not playing. I really do suffer from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from being bullied by clergy, Orthodox, Protestant & Anabaptist. Most recently this has caused churches to be ashamed of me and this ministry, even though I have been told by two Orthodox Bishops and several Orthodox Priests to not shut up and to not give in to bullies, even if they are priests or bishops! Clergy are not infallible. We are in foreclosure again because of sickness and stresses of this ministry and the slowness of the Social Security Administration. I honestly identify with and empathize with the people on the street. I have been regularly attacked for this in the press, by city administrations, by pastors, by fellow church goers.

Jesus identified with the poor and outcast. So I still think I’m in good company. I will continue to serve as I can. I don’t know what that will look like. But I need to find more likeminded people who aren’t ashamed to be seen with me. In other words, I need someone to minister to me like I have ministered among the homeless for over 26 years.

Peace, Cranford

Tonight’s Meal

Love Pack
Love Pack

Just because I said on Tuesday that we did not have the resources for Thursday night’s meal, does not mean we are not serving Thursday night’s meal. It just means somethings got to happen to make this possible. Not only are we serving a meal; we are serving a feast! I am making a turkey soup with beef broth. Miss April is making a vegan side and buttery cabbage and pasta side. Holy Annunciation are bringing peanuts, eggs, oranges, bananas, and pastries. Pennridge South Middle School are bringing blankets and “Love Packs” with toiletry items and snacks & water for later. Bob is bringing bags of socks. Esther is bringing spaghetti. I’m bringing iced tea, hot sauce, salt and pepper!

I forgot to mention sandwiches! I don’t remember who all are bringing sandwiches, but we will have plenty, so people will have enough for a late night snack or breakfast or lunch tomorrow.

Thank you, people, for coming through again!

Thank God!



A South African Smile

The other week, Miss April made Moroccan Rice as the vegetarian alternative. One of our regular customers is a well-spoken, South African man. He truly appreciated this dish. He told me it reminded him of home, because, you see, Morocco, in north Africa, has the same climate as South Africa, being about the same distance away from the equator. They share a lot of the same ingredients in their cuisines; and borrow many recipes back and forth, as a result. I am always happy to learn new things and to make connections with food. This really tickled him that we had served this. He asked if I was of African descent. This is the first time in my life I have been asked this question. (He has very dark skin. ) I said No, but we just like to draw on all different backgrounds for ideas in cooking, and that our daughter, April, is especially adventuresome.

He asked me if I used African recipes,  as well, at times, because they tasted quite tasty and familiar. I laughed. I told him that I never follow recipes. I just write them, but I use a lot of African root vegetables and spices from South Africa and India. He thanked us again for taking such care in making excellent food every week. He said, it gave them something to look forward to for Thursday nights.

A big thank you to everyone who makes this possible! God bless you!



Tindley Temple UMC Soup Kitchen Christmas Party on a Wing and a Prayer

I guess the headline should really read “on Chase Visa” since we put most of the socks and underwear on our personal credit card since we didn’t have enough cash to buy them in time for the party.  Money had been given but it takes several days for it to process from Paypal into TKJ’s checking account. Tuesday, Bethann & I went to our least favorite discount store and cleaned them out of men’s tube socks and severely depleted their shelf supply of tighty whities. Sorry guys, boxers are just too expensive for us and to offer the choice too complicated. Then we got a pack each of 4 different sizes of women’s panties and four packs of socks. This came to $329.

Anthony McNeal
Anthony McNeal

The people of St. Michael the Archangel Orthodox Church gathered several dozen sets of underwear and socks and some T-shirts. Early Wednesday, 6:30am, I drove down to Tindley Temple in south Philly, picking up Anthony McNeal on the way. Anthony began to help cook. I began to sort and bag the socks and underwear. A few of the students from the neighborhood school, who were there to serve the meal, sorted and bagged the women’s socks and underwear. Liz, a volunteer from the church, helped me bag more of the men’s. We got done and set up just before the people started arriving for their lunch of fried chicken and all the trimmings.  Attendance was kind of low there this year, so we had lots of underwear and socks to give out on Thursday night. I left there about 2pm. It was hard work, but great fun with the old ladies who keep that place running. The men and women really appreciated the socks and underwear. There were also just the right number of pairs of gloves that people requested. They were so happy!

Bob Lutzick
Bob Lutzick

I headed further south to Bob Lutzick’s house near 3rd & Snyder to pick up coats and blankets and a microwave which he had gathered for TKJ, He gave me a tour of his icons and we had a cup of tea. Bob is such an encouraging, generous, and humble guy. And he has a whack sense of humor, too. One would almost think he was from MN. From there, I stopped by Tindley again, to see if I could give Anthony a ride home. He was not done cleaning up. They had to be especially thorough, since the kitchen was going to be closed for a couple of weeks. He didn’t get out of there until after 5. So I continued on home.

Traffic on Broad St. and on 309 North was ridiculous. It took forever. Bethann got worried, since it got dark, and I was out driving. I don’t see so well with headlights in my eyes. They make my eyes hurt and unable to see the darker areas close to the car. I compensate for this  by wearing my funky sunglasses at night. I arrived home after 5pm, exhausted, but happy.

Thank you for your support and your prayers.



Christmas Events 2014

socksChristmas would hardly be Christmas without new socks and underwear! It’s a guy thing. Dads expect it. What  else is there to buy them? After all, most men just buy whatever they need or want whenever they want to. Well, middle class and up men, that is. For the last few years, we have had the privilege of bringing the joy of new socks and underwear to about 200 homeless men and women at Tindley Temple United Methodist Church’s Soup Kitchen’s Christmas Party. This year it is on Wednesday, December 17, at noon. That is only 9 days away. We need to raise about $500 to make this happen. We prefer money, so we can go shopping and get all the proper range of sizes to meet the need, in an orderly fashion. Then we will help serve the meal and give away these gifts along with some toiletries from the ladies auxiliary from the church.

christmas-cookiesThe following week is Christmas. Since Christmas and New Year’s Day both fall on Thursday and Friday is under-served, we are going to serve on Friday both of those weeks. On Friday, Dec. 26, we hope to bring lots of home made cookies along to give away, as a special treat, and a touch of home. So, if you bake, please make an extra plate or two for us and get it to our house by 6:30 pm,that Friday, or call me to see who else may be able to bring them down.

This is a great opportunity for younger children to come down, since it will not be a school night. We will be serving hot chocolate those nights to add to the festive atmosphere. Come join the fun! Make it a family outing!