Please Know...

As I come to know the men and women of Kensington, specifically the homeless and addicted, their stories become increasingly sensitive and personal. Their collective story is what I am trying to share with you as my way of breaking the stereotypical beliefs that exist in regard to these fine people. Names are rarely their actual names and wherever I can do so, I might use the opposite pronoun (his/her, etc.) just to help increase their privacy.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

If no one is there to hear it, does a tree falling in the woods make any noise?

I've been asking myself this same question but with very different words over the past few weeks:

"If no Christians support a ministry, is it a ministry?"

Maybe I need to clarify the question:

If only 10 to 20 percent of the material and financial donations for a ministry come from people who identify themselves as strong, Bible-believing, church-going Christians, is that ministry only a ministry to the same percentage?

Here's why I ask…

Only 10 to 20 percent of the material and financial donations for this Relational Ministry that God has placed upon my heart have come from people who identify themselves as strong, Bible-believing, church-going Christians.  Is this ministry only a ministry to that same percentage?

Well, let's look at the evidence…

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

When I travel to Emerald City and its surrounding bridge communities, I deliver water and bananas, clothes and conversation in a friendly way.  I encourage these men and women to share their story with me without casting judgment.  I offer hope through these conversations and handouts[1] such as these above and to the left and right.  I provide blankets, Band-Aids, ibuprofen, individual triple antibiotic ointments packets,[2] books, occasional lunches or dinners and more.  I have visited two Emerald City residents in jail, written to a judge on behalf of one, sat with family members in court, identified a near-death medical situation, assisted two homeless addicted people AS THEY saved four overdosing people with Narcan.  I have taken a few to detox and rehab.  Several have gone to Urban Hope Church with me for Sunday Worship and Family Group.  I have adopted a cat from one who needed to find a home for it so she could focus on getting life put back together.[3]  I have hugged and wiped tears from the cheeks of ladies who 'date' as they have returned from or as they depart for those dates.  When any of these men or women ask why I do this, I say "I do this because I love you in the Name of Jesus just the way you are." I pray with those who are open to it and respect the preferences of those who are not.  I communicate with family members to the degree that the person on the street wants me to do so.  I fill my car's tank with gas to do all of this.

Isn't this what we are supposed to be doing as Christians?  Mathew 25:31-46 says this:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”[4]

I have presented these thoughts not to bring any glory to me.  As I explain to people who have not visited Emerald City and its surrounding bridge communities when they thank me for doing this…  "This is NOT me.  Under my own will, I would not do what I'm doing.  And yet, there I am, loving every moment of this ministry, never feeling threatened or endangered and always feeling blessed beyond words to share in the lives of humans who don't want to be nor do what they do on these streets in the City of Brotherly Love."

Good Christian People and Churches Thereof, I need your support to keep this going "In the Name of Jesus" at a much higher percentage than what I'm currently receiving.  Scripture gives you permission, as shown above, permission that should be all you need to provide the items I've mentioned and/or the funds for their purchase.

While I completely respect the organizational process of churches deciding who to support and how, the needs are tremendous TODAY.  Please contact me to learn how you can help me serve these men and women who are very often residents of our own nearby communities.

Thank you.
Chris Battin




[1] With their own paper and printing expenses
[2] that I found on Amazon
[3] Sadly, this woman died of pneumonia two weeks later. 
[4] New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Dad Sent Me To Emerald City And I'm Thankful!

On the eve of this Father's Day, I think of my Dad who made me who I am.  He and Mom adopted me into their new family of three which grew to four with the adoption of my sister, Kim, about five years later.

Dad was a highly respected Episcopal Priest by calling and vocation.  He ministered to "high society" families and the poorest of the poor with absolute equality.

He kept the image and message of the Risen and Victorious Christ in front of his congregation of Saint John's throughout his forty years as rector[1] in that place.

He taught me through his example to serve "the least of these" and to love in the Name of Christ to the best of my ability.

That life lesson has taken many forms with successes and failures along the way.  These days, I am loving serving those men and women who much of the rest of society does not care to understand.

This series of blogs is my way of helping non-residents of Emerald City and its surrounding bridge communities to better understand day to day life as a daughter or son addicted and homeless.

Dad's lesson from him to me is summed up nicely in this song by Matthew West:
                       
Do Something

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now, thought
How’d we ever get so far down, and
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, yeah, I created you” (now listen)

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something, yeah
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
Oh, it’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

I’m so tired of talking about
How we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire and
I wanna be the one who stands up and says
“I’m gonna do something”

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something, yes it is, come on
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
Oh oh, it’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

We are the salt of the earth
We are a city on a hill
We’re never gonna change the world
By standing still
No, we won’t stand still
No, we won’t stand still
No, we won’t stand still
No

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now
It’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something
It’s time for us to do something
It’s time for us to do something[2]





[1] pastor
[2] Songwriters: Matthew West, Do Something lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Monday, June 11, 2018

Short Stories from Emerald and Frankford Avenues.

With my move from my former rented house to my new apartment almost complete, I need to take a moment to share with you my experiences in Emerald City and Frankford Avenue communities yesterday.[1]  My typical pattern has been to stop in Emerald City first and then Frankford Avenue afterward making my way from one to the other by way of a small uninhabited connector street named Sterner.  I chose to do the opposite order this morning.  I pulled off to the side of Frankford, just outside the coverage of the bridge and unloaded my cooler with its two cases of donated water and bananas that Acme had bagged specifically for me at their reduced brown-speckled banana price of $.33 per pound. 

As I drifted past the first tent quietly calling out "Bananas and water… Banana Man is here." I noticed a familiar blanket serving as a front door to a tent.  "Demetrius, are you in there?  His lady, Cecelia, opened the cloth door and peeked out with a smile.  We greeted each other as would any friends.  I mentioned the cloth door that I've come to know to be theirs from Emerald City.  She explained that they chose to move due to an increase in the rat population over there.  We chatted briefly as Demetrius slept on a mat in the tent a couple of feet away.

On the opposite end of these tented sleepers on this cool and damp Sunday morning, a man sat on a mat in obvious discomfort with a swollen ankle.  He told me of the abscess on his hip due to a bad injection and his concern that the infection was going down his leg.  He was planning on going to Episcopal Hospital to be checked out.

I made my way on block over to Emerald City where the population of men and women has increased since the evictions of Tulip and Kensington Avenues.  There were many new-to-me faces and names to try to learn.  For some of these people, they seemed a bit bewildered by me as I extended my hand to shake theirs. 

I returned to Emerald City after church at Urban Hope and saw Jenny, peering sadly out of her tent.  "Chris, I've just learned that my Dad died.  Can I use your phone to call my Mom?"  Of course, Jenny." I handed her my phone and she called home for the first time in who knows how long.  After that call, Jenny and I chatted briefly. 

Once my banana supply was depleted, I pulled out my bins of clothes that had been donated by people in Delaware County.  I almost always have plenty of women's and occasionally a few men's clothes.  Today was the same except for the rather large supply of women's "unmentionables" as my grandparents called them.  I placed that bin down, explained to the cluster of women gathered that this was what it was.  I smiled and said "Help yourself and… I won't watch."  They laughed. 

One young lady sat propped against one of the support posts of this railroad overpass.  She appeared to be very uncomfortable.  I asked her what was wrong and she explained that her scoliosis is particularly painful on cold and damp days.  I asked her if some ibuprofen would help.  She said yes and I gave her a donated bottle.

As with the bananas and water, clothing distribution is an opportunity to talk to each person as they look through what's available, well, except for when they are looking through those "unmentionables."  Conversations vary of course.  People take what they need and save the rest for others.  I always bring home whatever was not selected. 

One very petite and ponytailed young lady had a black eye and showed me the bruises on her arm and shoulder from a fight with some "women who don't like me."  I expressed my concern and mentioned the clothes.  She asked a friend to look through what I had available because, as she explained, "I can't look now because I have an appointment."  "Please be safe," I said to her.  Her all too common response:  "I'll try."  She walked up the sidewalk past Sterner Street and slipped into the passenger seat of a small car driven by a 'man.' 

As I walked around with my tub of clothes, I was reintroduced to an addicted mother and daughter who share a tent.  As they looked through the last remaining tub of clothes, they reminded me of their names which, in this blog are Malinda and Darby.  They also reminded me that they are both from a town in southern Delaware County.  After selecting a few things, I stepped away and my Aston Pa. neighbor, also Malinda (but not really) popped out of her next door tent.  She gave me her charming smile and then she did something with me for the second time since we realized that we call home so close to each other separated by five miles of Concord Road.

Malinda walked over to me and hugged me and just kept hugging me for probably 30 seconds.  During that time, I told her that I've prayed for her each time I drive down Concord Road.  I pray for her safety and that one day, this lifestyle will be a chapter in her past.  She seemed a bit surprised that anyone would pray for her but also seemed appreciative. 

As she stepped away from her hug, I asked if she needed a quilt and she said that she did.  We walked to my car and I gave her one that had wide pink and white stripes.  She carried it and a small stack of McDonald's napkins that she saw sitting near the quilt.  As she grabbed them she looked at me and simply said "I need these…"  She turned and with the quilt in hand, walked to and turned onto the uninhabited Sterner Street.

Sprinkled throughout this visit were three nearly identical comments to me made by one man and two women.  "Chris, your hair is getting sort of long." 

I love this relational ministry!

It's now off I go to get my hair cut…





[1] Sunday, June 10, 2018

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Human Beings Nearing Eviction...

So many thoughts are flying through my mind from my visit to Emerald City and its surrounding bridge communities this past Sunday.

Demetrius was asking me about my move to my new apartment from the house that my apparently-soon-to-be-former wife and I rented together about eight years ago.  He was asking me if I saw this transition as the end of my marriage.  We talked in depth about this and about related issues as we sat at the entrance of his tent on the sidewalk in Emerald City.

Shortly thereafter, I made my way over to Frankford Avenue.  As I pulled over to the curb, I waved to Melanie who was standing there, a bit wobbly from her recent 'medicine' dose but fully aware of her surroundings.  She returned my wave with a smile and said "Hi Chris." as I got out of my Uplander.  She did so with all of the normalcy that one neighbor would greet another.  We talked as neighbors would, not about drugs nor homelessness nor anything else of obvious relevance to our immediate surroundings.  We simultaneously and naturally reached out to each other for a hug, the hug of friendship between two souls who have not seen each other in days.

Further down the sidewalk, I met a long time friend from this community who has relapsed.  He seemed saddened and embarrassed to be "caught" by me as he injected, albeit unintentionally, in front of me.  I gave him a hug and we conversed a bit about the stuff of his life not otherwise associated with bridge life.

Still further down the sidewalk, as I was calling out "Banana Man is here." a tiny voice belonging to a  tiny and delightful pigtailed young lady who I need to get on my knees to hug popped out of her tent.  Like the others before her on this visit, we conversed about the stuff of life and not so much about the stuff of addicted/homeless life.

Why do I share these short stories with you?

I'd like you to know that these addicted and homeless men and women were men and women before they were addicted and homeless.

It breaks my heart to know that some of them, the ones I've specifically mentioned here and/or others who I know, are at such life risk by the City of Brotherly Love if they don't comply with eviction: the City's solution to their medical/psychological/spiritual situation.

These are human beings worthy of dignity, honor, respect, and love.  When will we begin to understand this?

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Dear Daughter's Dad,

Dear Daughter's Dad,

May I ask you a question?  I really would like to know if you don't mind sharing your answer.  If you'd rather not tell me, that's fine too…  I'm asking you because I'd like to know what it's like…  I don't have nor will I ever have a daughter (or son) to call my own.  For the record, I do have one wonderful emotionally adopted daughter.  I'll never know the joy of looking into a child's eyes and knowing she's part me.

It may seem like an odd question but it's on my heart and mind. 

What went through your heart and mind the first time you ever saw 'Dad's Daughter' as a little girl try to put on makeup? 

You may have laughed a bit when you saw lipstick on her chin and forehead and not on her lips or blush in her ears and not on her cheeks.  I'm guessing that you wished she'd not grow up so fast.  Maybe you jumped ahead in your mind to her young adult years when she would know how to do this and be doing so for wonder filled reasons.

'Daughter's Dad', I saw 'Dad's Daughter' today. 
                                                                               
It was mid-afternoon.  She was standing next to and facing the side of my Chevy Uplander.  She was leaning in toward the passenger side back tinted window and gazing intently at her own reflection as she applied her makeup with the skill of any woman about to go on a date with her Prince Charming. 

It wasn't hard to spot a tear welling up in her eye that I could see from my vantage point.  There was no joy of anticipating a nice night.  This was a tear of sadness, self-condemnation, and fear.

I gently approached her and inquired…  "I see a tear 'Dad's Daughter.'  May I ask?...  Why are you crying?"

Without looking at me, she continued her task so as not to be delayed in meeting her first 'date' for the day.  "I have to go humiliate myself," she says with a tone of self-disgust and disbelief that her life has moved in this direction. 

She tries to convince herself and me that there's an understandable and justifiable reason for her afternoon plans in which she finds no delight.  "I need my medicine."  To further convince herself, she adds: "I'm already getting sick."

A few days before this, 'Daughter's Dad', as she and I sat at her home on the sidewalk under the railroad overpass, 'Dad's Daughter' told me how much she really loves you and her whole family.  She shed tears of love on that day, not tears of fear as on this day.

She's told me on several occasions how much she loves you and her whole family.  She's asked me to assure you of her love even though she is not talking to you right now due to the shame she feels in her soul, the very soul you brought to this earth in the moment of her conception.[1]

I do what I can to help 'Dad's Daughter' know of her goodness and her worthiness to be treated with dignity, honor, respect, and love.  I try to gently share the news of our Loving LORD but my words fall short of what's needed to convey God's never absent love.  I can't even find the needed words to convey to 'Dad's Daughter' your love kept mutually alienated by that burnt bridge between you.

Thank you, LORD for giving Steven Curtis Chapman the words he needed for his life story that so aptly fit the needs of our life story with and our love and care for 'Dad's Daughter.' 

Daughter's Dad:  As you read the following, read it from your perspective and then read it as if from God's perspective.

Dad's Daughter:  As you read the following, read it from your Dad's perspective and then read it as if from God's perspective.  Finally, try to read this a third time as if you have just written it to yourself.


Only One and Only You
        
I caught you looking in the window at your reflection and
I could see you were unimpressed
I watch you wither like a willow at what you think are imperfections
When you compare you to all the rest
And I wish I could find a way to make you see you the way I do
So I wrote this song for you

You’re better than a Beethoven symphony
And Mona Lisa wishes she could be a masterpiece like you
More than any Michelangelo
When I look at you I know
There’s no other masterpiece like you
You are the only one and only you

There is music in your laughter the world has never heard before
You came and brought a melody
The way you say it the way you see it
When you’re sad and glad and so much more
All these gifts only you can bring
I know that right now everything that you feel says it’s just not true
So I’ll keep reminding you that

You’re better than a Beethoven symphony
And Mona Lisa wishes she could be a masterpiece like you
More than any Michelangelo
When I look at you I know there’s no other masterpiece like you
You are the only one and only you

Wonderfully, carefully woven together by God’s own hand
And you’re better than a Beethoven symphony
And Mona Lisa wishes she could be a masterpiece like you
More than any Michelangelo
When I look at you I know there’s no other masterpiece like you
You are the only one and only you
You are the only one and only you[2]



 Dear Daughter's Dad and Dad's Daughter,

You are Dad and Daughter just as much today as you were when blush was being cleaned out of ears.  Tear down that burnt bridge. Build a masterpiece of a new bridge of relationship so as to once again hear the symphony of Dad and Daughter Love between you.

Daughter's Dad, What went through your heart and mind the first time you ever saw 'Dad's Daughter' as a little girl try to put on makeup?  I'd really like to know.


May 19, 2018



[1] or brought into your world in the moment of her adoption
[2] Songwriters: Steven Curtis Chapman: Only One and Only You lyrics © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Mona Lisa...

From time to time, as I sit on the sidewalk chatting with Demetrius and Cecelia or others in Emerald City and its surrounding bridge communities, I glance toward my Chevy Uplander[1].  A Mom and Dad's daughter is leaning in toward my tinted windows, using them as her makeup mirror.  She is holding back self-condemning tears and "fixing" her God created beautiful face in preparation for her hours of walking Kensington Avenue in search of that male high school dropout or that influential New Jersey Attorney[2] who is in apparent need of a blow job in exchange for a few dollars so that she can buy her next doses of medicine.

I'm in her home.  I can't stop her.

I observe her and cry in my spirit[3] as I realize that I'm in her territory under the Conrail overpass that she's called home since the earliest days of her homeless addiction.  I think of her Mom and Dad and aunt and honorable uncle, as well as her sons and daughters who ache for her health, safety and return to their family.  My heart quivers in the knowledge that she longs for the same but can't grasp it due to the strength of the arm wrestling battle between her addiction and her heart.

Dear LORD!  Where are the words to convey my heart's message to these ladies who think all is lost?

Thank you, Steven Curtis Chapman!!!!!

I caught you looking in the window at your reflection and
I could see you were unimpressed
I watch you wither like a willow at what you think are imperfections
When you compare you to all the rest
And I wish I could find a way to make you see you the way I do
So I wrote this song for you

You’re better than a Beethoven symphony
And Mona Lisa wishes she could be a masterpiece like you
More than any Michelangelo
When I look at you I know
There’s no other masterpiece like you
You are the only one and only you

There is music in your laughter the world has never heard before
You came and brought a melody
The way you say it the way you see it
When you’re sad and glad and so much more
All these gifts only you can bring
Still, I know that right now everything that you feel says it’s just not true
So I’ll keep reminding you that

You’re better than a Beethoven symphony
And Mona Lisa wishes she could be a masterpiece like you
More than any Michelangelo
When I look at you I know there’s no other masterpiece like you
You are the only one and only you

Wonderfully, carefully woven together by God’s own hand
And you’re better than a Beethoven symphony
And Mona Lisa wishes she could be a masterpiece like you
More than any Michelangelo
When I look at you I know there’s no other masterpiece like you
You are the only one and only you
You are the only one and only you[4]





[1] With its 178 thousand miles
[2] And perhaps one right after the other in either order…
[3] And at my home once there
[4] Songwriters: Steven Curtis Chapman
Only One and Only You lyrics © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

Thursday, May 10, 2018

You're Evicted!

Evictions happen in expected and surprising ways.

There are the expected types of evictions by a landlord or a bank when the tenant can't pay the rent or the mortgage owner can't pay the mortgage.

There are other types of evictions such as in a marriage when one evicts the other or themselves from the real or perceived circumstances of their situation.  This may help that.

And then there are those once in a lifetime forms of eviction when a city known for its "brotherly love" decides to rearrange its tenants so as to "clean up" its streets.

In the case of the renting tenant and the mortgage owner and the marriage partner, they will sadly move on to some other setting completely separate and devoid of their original landlord or bank or spouse.

In the case of the city of brotherly love, it's not even slightly a separation.  Except for the few "tenants" of Emerald City and its surrounding bridge communities who may choose to find detox and rehab through this eviction process, many will remain "tenants" of the city and take up residence in their "landlord's" abandoned buildings.  They will continue to take their medicine and some of these daughters and sons will overdose and die in the absence of their "housemates".

This past Sunday, as I visited the men and women of Emerald City and its surrounding bridge communities, I made one request as I sat on the sidewalk with those who I know and love:
                                                                                                                                                        
"At the end of this eviction process, in the event that you choose not to go to detox or some other setting for healing and rather decide to continue to take your "medicine" in abandoned buildings, please promise me that you will never inject alone." 

I did not need to explain my rationale.  Each man and woman understood my thought.  All promised and that's great.  When the reality of the "landlord" and "tenant" relationship shifts from the bridges to the 'abandos,'[1] will the promise be maintained or will the City of Brotherly Love bear the burden of knowing they could have done better by keeping this addicted "family" together where they could look out for each other while real solutions are found.

Our loved ones in Emerald City and its surrounding bridge communities are being evicted because our society does not fully understand that they have an addiction that is recognized as follows in the DSM-5:

DSM 5 Criteria for Substance Use Disorder
Opioid Use Disorder Criteria:
A minimum of 2-3 criteria is required for a mild substance use disorder diagnosis, while 4-5 is moderate, and 6-7 is severe (APA, 2013). Opioid Use Disorder is specified instead of Substance Use Disorder, if opioids are the drug of abuse. Note: A printable checklist version is linked below
1.     Taking the opioid in larger amounts and for longer than intended
2.     Wanting to cut down or quit but not being able to do it
3.     Spending a lot of time obtaining the opioid
4.     Craving or a strong desire to use opioids
5.     Repeatedly unable to carry out major obligations at work, school, or home due to opioid use
6.     Continued use despite persistent or recurring social or interpersonal problems caused or made worse by opioid use
7.     Stopping or reducing important social, occupational, or recreational activities due to opioid use
8.     Recurrent use of opioids in physically hazardous situations
9.     Consistent use of opioids despite acknowledgment of persistent or recurrent physical or psychological difficulties from using opioids
10.   *Tolerance as defined by either a need for markedly increased amounts to achieve intoxication or desired effect or markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount. (Does not apply for diminished effect when used appropriately under medical supervision)
11.   *Withdrawal manifesting as either characteristic syndrome or the substance is used to avoid withdrawal (Does not apply when used appropriately under medical supervision)
*This criterion is not considered to be met for those individuals taking opioids solely under appropriate medical supervision.[2]


You're Evicted and it may cost you your life! 




[1] That's the word for abandoned house or building.
[2] https://www.buppractice.com/node/12351               

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Addiction and Homelessness Knows the Suburban Intersection of Concord and Cheyney Roads in Glen Mills. Pa.

This past Sunday I sat on the sidewalk under the Frankford Avenue Bridge.  I sat there with four women and one man.  One of the women was unconscious, breathing well and with a good color tone so we knew she was not in danger.  She was going to be in pain though after waking up from her one leg and opposite arm laying under her in the most unnatural of positions. 

One of these women, Melanie, is my neighbor from Aston, Pa.  Once I realized that a few weeks ago, I've made it a point to check in with her every visit to be sure she's OK.[1]  On this visit, we had a chance to talk more than ever.  We talked about Concord Road, the main road that connects her Aston with my Glen Mills.  I asked her if she was familiar with the intersection of Concord Road and Cheyney Road.  She knew it well.

I asked her if she recalled the church up on the hill near that intersection.  She knew it well as well.  I told her that I grew up at that church, not simply as a member but that my Dad had been the priest there.  I could see in her eyes that her Roman Catholic orientation to Christian life was a bit confused to hear that "My Dad was the priest there."  I explained that this was an Episcopal Church.  She smiled.

This church has been known as Saint John's for over 300 years.  I think I'm right in saying that this community of Christian believers was 75 years old when George Washington and Troupes marched past it on the way to Chadds Ford.

Those of us who live in the suburbs have a bad habit of thinking that the issue of addiction and homelessness in Kensington is a Kensington issue and not a suburban issue.  Melanie provides all of us with a clear example of how wrong that thinking is and urges us to consider how we, the churches of the suburbs, should respond.

As the City of Brotherly love prepares to evict our suburban sons and daughters from the relative safety of these bridge communities, I would hope and pray that at least a few suburban churches would step forward and do what needs to be done to let Melanie and her street Family know they are loved in the Name of Jesus. 

Does Anybody Hear Her

She is running
A hundred miles an hour
In the wrong direction
She is trying
But the canyons ever widening
In the depths of her cold heart
So she sets out on another misadventure just to find
She's another two years older and she's three more steps behind

Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she's going down today?
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see?

She is yearning
For shelter and affection
That she never found at home
She is searching
For a hero to ride in,
To ride in and save the day
And then walks in her prince charming
And he knows just what to say
A momentary lapse of reason
And she gives herself away

Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she's going down today?
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see?

If judgment looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Who can't see past her scarlet letter
And we never even met her
If judgment looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Who can't see past her scarlet letter
And we never even met her

Never even met her
Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she's going down today?
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see?
Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see?

Or does anybody even know she's going down today?
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see?

He is running a hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction[2]  




[1] If I can find her that is…
[2] Songwriters: John Mark Hall
Does Anybody Hear Her lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Essential Music Publishing, Capitol Christian Music Group

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Unspeakable Joy in Two Tent Flaps


Prior to going to Urban Hope for worship this morning, I visited the good people of Emerald City.  I
chatted with those who were awake at 9:30 am.  Two similar conversations in two different tents will live with me as glorious moments for years to come.

I knelt in the tent flap of one man and woman who were just waking up and who asked for bananas and water.  The young lady who I've known for months has been battling a basic kind of cold for a few days now.  Through a raspy voice and while still lying on her mat inside their tent, she looked over at me and said she was done with this street life.  "It's just not worth it." she delicately proclaimed as she laid there on her mat in a tent on a public sidewalk under a railroad overpass in the City of Brotherly Love.

We chatted for a few minutes.  I concluded our conversation with "I'm proud of you, Jennifer, for coming to this conclusion."  I sensed that no one had told her of their pride in her in a long time.

A few minutes later, as I was quietly calling out to a row of tents with as of yet still sleeping Emerald City residents "Banana Man is here."  "Bananas and Water.", I passed one rather small and cute tent.  I heard two voices of unrelated Caucasian "sisters" who I've come to know and love for the fine young women who they are.  The opening to their tent was facing the wall.  I approached and was warmly greeted by these two.  Sally and Katrina greeted me as they sat in their tent.  

Katrina is dealing with an uncasted broken arm.  She looked at me from her sitting position inside her cute two person tent and with the most delicate smile in all of Emerald City she told me that she can't do this anymore and has made arrangements to begin a treatment that will eventually have her free of her addiction. 

I conveyed my pride in her and then requested a moment to pray for her and her wrist.  I reached in and placed my hand on her exposed broken arm and prayed for her physical and spiritual healing.  As one who would normally disregard prayer as a useless endeavor, she, with me, concluded with "Amen."

Unspeakable Joy in Two Tent Flaps

Set Me Free - An Addicted Person's Theme Song

It hasn't always been this way
I remember brighter days
Before the dark ones came
Stole my mind
Wrapped my soul in chains
 
Now I live among the dead
Fighting voices in my head
Hoping someone hears me crying in the night
And carries me away

Set me free of the chains holding me
Is anybody out there hearing me?
Set me free

Morning breaks another day
Finds me crying in the rain
All alone with my demons I am

Who is this man that comes my way?
The dark ones shriek
They scream his name
Is this the one they say will set the captives free?
Jesus, rescue me

Set me free of the chains holding me
Is anybody out there hearing me?
Set me free

And as the god man passes by
He looks straight through my eyes
And darkness cannot hide

Do you want to be free?
Lift your chains
I hold the key
All power on heaven and earth belong to me

Do you want to be free?
Lift your chains
I hold the key
All power on heaven and earth belong to me

You are free
You are free
You are free
We are free
We are free
Jesus set us free[1]


I recently started liking this song.  For months, I've skipped past it because it's a bit more hard rock than I normally enjoy.  After listing one time and really taking in the lyrics, I now see this as a theme song for so many of the men and women who I consider friends in Emerald City and its surrounding bridge communities. 

Do you see the bold and italics portion above?  If you consider yourself to be a follower of Christ and called to ministry on the streets of Kensington and similar communities, then that's your role in serving these men and women.  We are called to hear them crying in the night[2] and to present the message that will carry them away, to set them free of the chains holding them.

We present ONLY!  

For as much as we want the best for you, the residents of Emerald City and its surrounding bridge communities, we cannot set you free in the Name of Jesus until you are ready to be set free.  That readiness comes from deep inside your being, your soul, your heart. 

Between now and the moment when that readiness settles into your soul, please know that you are loved with all dignity, honor, and respect for being exactly who you are - a child of God - made in the image of God.

Between now and then - Be Safe!                                                           



[1] Songwriters: Bernie Herms / Mark Hall
Set Me Free lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Capitol Christian Music Group
[2] And they do cry and they cry hard