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.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Dear John, Addiction is a Disease and It Affects Her Brain.

From the article: Proof that Addiction is a Disease and How it Affects the Brain[1]:

The brain is a fascinating organ and is the central part of human thinking, behavior, emotion and longing.  Those with a genetic predisposition to addiction possess a brain that responds differently to certain substances or activities which are essentially objects of addiction.  Those who don’t suffer from addiction can logically understand the above but won’t be able to relate to the changes in the brain which makes the object of addiction virtually irresistible.  Thankfully, recovery is possible and people can overcome obstacles.  

The above paragraph comes to us from a rather scientific explanation of the brain and how it is affected by addiction.  Do you see the bold, underlined, italics section of the above paragraph?  When I read that, I knew that I had confirmation of what I wrote in this blog on December 12, 2017:

If those of us on the outside of addiction looking in can just accept the fact that there is a mystery there that we cannot and will never fully understand, then there is a chance that we can more readily accept the addicted person as being fully human and worthy of dignity, honor, respect, and love.

Let's take this conversation further.  In this same article, the following can be found:

The brain’s ability to adapt (allostasis) causes significant changes to how it functions. These changes account for multiple behaviors related to addiction. These include

1. The compulsion to obtain heroin, drugs or engage in destructive activities despite harm to self, family or friends

2. The increased level of difficulty associated with quitting heroin, drugs or risky activities

3. The obsession related to the object or activity one is addicted to making everything else in life unimportant. This is because addiction created a chance in the brains homeostatic balance to accommodate addiction. The brain affected by addiction requires the object of its addiction in order to maintain this new homeostatic balance.

Emphasizing again my bold, italics and underlined section of this quote, this explains why the devout Roman Catholic young woman will humiliate herself by "dating" so as to financially support her addiction.  It is not the drive to financially support her addiction that causes her to "date" nearly as much as it is her altered brain state that gives her no choice but to "date."

Dear John,

The young woman you are with tonight is addicted most likely to heroin.  No woman will humiliate herself with you without this addiction.  Her addiction which started the day her uncle raped her when she was 9 years old or when, as a star athlete in high school, slid into third base the wrong way and badly broke her leg and ended up on Percocet that led her to heroin is with you right now because her brain's circuitry has been severely altered by this heroin use.   Yes.  She needs your money to buy her medicine to keep from becoming dope sick.  More to the point, John, her brain is currently not capable of preventing her behavior with you even with understanding the wrongness of what she's doing.  You are taking advantage of her current cognitive medical illness.  

Stop!

Sincerely,
Chris






[1] http://killtheheroinepidemicnationwide.org/2016/08/05/proof-addiction-disease/         

Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Tour of "Emerald City" before it was what it is.

Thanks to Google Street View, I can give you a tour the area that has since become known as "Emerald City."





Dana Isles and Facedown
"Break Every Chain"
September 17, 2017


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

When Tragedy Strikes Men and Women Who Are Already Dealing with Thier Own Addiction and Homelessness (Please Share.)

Sometimes, in the life of a person who is addicted and homeless, there is a tragedy that comes along that has nothing to do with their current life situation.  Over this past year, I've tried to do what I can to provide a listening ear as a woman mourns the death of her adult child, a man dealt with terminal cancer and a woman who is currently dealing with her boy friend's potentially fatal disorder.  In all cases, the medical situations have little or nothing to do with addiction or homelessness. 

It's an honor to come alongside these men and women as they realize the gravity of the medical situation they or their loved one is facing.  In some cases, these good people share with me the depth of their Christian Faith and how they know our LORD is with them.  In other cases, they request prayer for their partner who is facing a serious medical situation and who they know does not know the LORD.  Not long ago, I prayed with one young woman who feared for her boy friend's medical situation and how it could claim him before he accepts Christ as his Savior.  In the midst of the rubbish and occasional rats and pigeons under that bridge, with the noise of the cars and dirt bikes racing up and down the street, with the shouts and loud interactions of the other 40 to 60 people surrounding us, she and I prayed to our common Savior for his safety and Salvation and her strength to deal with it all.

I cannot imagine any place that I would rather be than with these men and women in this relational ministry.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

What a privilege it is!

Since becoming involved in ministry to the good people of the streets of Kensington, I've had the occasional privilege of taking someone to a detox center or hospital for treatment.  Yesterday, February 2, 2018, was my first road trip to a place well away from the influences and temptations of Kensington.[1]
                                                                                                                                        
I left home around 8:00am and drove to Anna's house north of Philadelphia.  We then drove in her car to Episcopal Hospital where we were expecting to meet a woman who had recently decided that the time had come for her to detox, rehab and get on with her new life.  For reasons that only she knows, she decided not to go at this time.  As a sign of respect, we don't try to convince her otherwise.  We made sure that she knew that when she's ready, we will do what we can to walk with her during that first step of reclaiming life - and beyond of course.
                                      
At about the time that we were learning that the woman would not be joining us, the man who we had also arranged to take contacted us with a request that gave us insight into his character and the depth of his determination to succeed in this process.  To get from the house where he had stayed that night, to where we had arranged to meet him, this young man would have had to walk right through the neighborhoods of his drug dealers and his drug use.  His determination to find healing through detox and relearning life was stronger than his desire to continue to use drugs.  He did not want to risk the temptation of being close to where the bad has happened in his life.  He contacted us and requested that we pick him up close to where he had stayed that night.  We gladly did.

And so our road trip began.  We asked him how long it had been since his last injection of "medicine."  I fully expected to hear him say "Just now before I came out of the house."  That would be typical because it gives the person an approximate four hour period before dope sickness begins to set in.  His answer took Anna and me by surprise:  "Last night."  That meant that he was something like 12 hours without his medicine.  Dope sickness was settling in but he said he'd be OK. 
                                                                                           
On our journey, the three of us talked a bit but for the most part, our young friend just wanted to stay quiet as he anticipated the events to come over these next few days and months. 

Once near our destination, Anna wanted to make her traditional stop at a certain Wawa Store.  Thanks to a variation between our GPS units, we missed that store but found an awesome little restaurant which has now replaced Wawa as a stop for something to eat on our way up.  Anna has traditionally stopped with people she takes to this organization for one good meal.[2]  The three of us ate a fantastic breakfast as this young man asked more questions about the program he would soon be entering.  Anna provided the answers and offered suggestions based on her experiences over the years.  This young man seemed to take in every word as we ate. 

We arrived and were warmly welcomed by the director.  He gave us a tour of the public areas and explained more about the program.  With our young friend's last injection having been some 15 hours in history, it was evident that he was becoming increasingly uncomfortable.  Increasing sickness and the normal stress of entering this new-to-him place was evident on his face.  Behind the scenes, other people were already working on his behalf to get a prescription for medication to reduce his physical suffering which will only increase and eventually diminish over the next few days.

Anna and I said our goodbyes and made our way back to her home.  From there, I came home to Glen Mills, arriving at about 5:00pm.  I thought about the privilege we just had of "walking with" this young man in his hour of decision, determination and action toward a new life.

**************************

Please continue to pray for Anna and me as God grows this relational ministry to and with the good people of Kensington. 

This was 202 miles of joy.

Your financial contributions make it possible to cover expenses. 





[1] For reasons of confidentiality, I cannot share with you the specifics of location.
[2] Anna does this because we arrive at our destination between meals.  I saw firsthand that all meals at this place are cooked from scratch and are great!  No institutional eating there!!!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Today's word of the day is "Relapse."

I've now been visiting "Emerald City" enough to know and love these men and women in a way that I never would have understood a couple years ago and am humbled now to do so with my whole heart.  

As I made my way down the line of men and women under the Conrail overpass, some with needles in their arms or necks as I visited, many living in dome-style tension pole tents, every twenty feet or so, I was being greeted by a man or woman who I knew had just gotten out of jail (and detoxed while there), or out of detox and some degree of rehab. 

One was a woman who I took, at her request, to a crisis center a couple of months ago.  After not seeing her for all this time, I figured she had moved on to her new life.  Just this past Sunday, I redistributed the blankets that I had washed and was holding for her.  And there she was this afternoon, sitting on the sidewalk with her big beautiful smile broken by feelings of shame as she shared with me her slip back into those little blue packets of white powder.

Another was a man about my age who credits me with saving his life when I identified a medical issue brewing.  It turned out to be advanced pneumonia.  During his medical recovery, he detoxed and was doing great.  Tonight, his tall frame was curled up in an old discarded office chair while being hugged by my partner in this ministry as tears ran down his life beaten cheeks.

And then there was the artist.  She stood on the curb, far under her "Emerald City" move in weight, awaiting her ride to the only "job" she can find after relapsing post-incarceration.

Finally, after months of getting to know one resident of the streets of Kensington and a family member, this one young lady who had been showing incredible potential for a magnificent future and reunification with her quickly growing young children is, tonight, sitting in a sheeted cardboard box to high to communicate with me and to filled with shame to look at me as I told her that I still care and that I'm not angry at her for a situation that will never be described in these blogs.

The Final Finally:  Before leaving Lehigh Avenue, I checked in by phone with another young person.  She spoke to me in her dope sickness and couldn’t focus on anything other than getting her medicine and getting well.  She too has detoxed a few times over her years of drug use only to find herself relapsing.

How does relapse happen?  I'm new in this ministry. I don't know.  I think we're missing something between the behaviors of the addiction and the human body's reaction to addiction.  If we could identify that missing component, these dear people would not be suffering in their addiction as they are on this cold and rainy night.

Reflections on "Lifesong" by Casting Crowns

Empty hands held high
Such small sacrifice
Now joined with my life
I sing in vain tonight
May the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to you

Let my lifesong sing to you
Let my lifesong sing to you
I want to sign your name
To the end of this day
Lord led my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to you

Anyone who has seen me in a worship setting where most people have their hands held high during praise songs will tell you that I don't raise my hands high.  I never have.  I don't know why.  I think it's more of a physical discomfort issue than anything else.  My skinny arms holding up my six-foot wingspan gets uncomfortable quickly.  But who cares… That's not the point of this song.

Here's what I see that I can relate to in this first couple of verses:

I sing in vain tonight, "May the words I say and the things I do make my lifesong sing and bring a smile to You, LORD.  Let my lifesong sing to you!  Let my lifesong sing to you!  I want to sign your name to the end of this day that my Lord led my heart and my heart was true.  Let my lifesong sing to you!"

It's the "in vain" part that's always in front of me.  "In vain" means "failing to have or unlikely to have the intended or desired result."  In other words, I try to do and say what's right in all situations but I can't seem to pull it off.  At the end of the day, I know I've failed or fallen short in some way.

There is an answer to this issue but before I mention it, let me point out that, even with this answer, I will still get in my own way and fail and fall short from time to time.  Failing and falling short will be greatly reduced but never eliminated from my life once I have made the following declaration as an ongoing prayer:

"Lord I give my life to You as a living sacrifice to reach a world in need and to be your hands and feet.  So may the words I say and the things I do make my lifesong sing and bring a smile to you.  Let my lifesong sing to you! Let my lifesong sing to you!  I want to sign your name to the end of this day that You, my Lord, led my heart and my heart was true!  Let my lifesong sing to you!  Hallelujah, Hallelujah let my lifesong sing to you!"

This prayer, on this side of the pearly gates, will never happen in absolute definite totality.  Our human (sin) nature simply won't allow that.  Here's Biblical proof of this from Paul himself:

Romans 7:15-20 
15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. 

Philippians 3:12  
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. New Living Translation (NLT)  

In my current ministry to and with the good people of "Emerald City" and the neighboring bridge communities, I can personalize the above statement as follows:

"Lord I give my life to You as a living sacrifice to reach their world in need and to be your hands and feet.  So may the words I say as I see them prepare their injections and light their pipes and leave for their evening of "dates" and the things I do in all of my interactions with these men and women who are created in Your image make my lifesong sing and bring a smile to you.  Let my lifesong sing to you in such a way that they see more of you and less of me!  I want to sign your name to the end of this day that You, my Lord, led my heart and my heart was true!  Hallelujah, Hallelujah let my lifesong sing to You!"  In Jesus' Holy Name. Amen
                                                                                                                                                                   

Here are the uninterrupted lyrics:

Empty hands held high
Such small sacrifice
Now joined with my life
I sing in vain tonight
May the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to you

Let my lifesong sing to you
Let my lifesong sing to you
I want to sign your name
To the end of this day
Lord led my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to you

Lord, I give my life
A living sacrifice
To reach a world in need
To be your hands and feet
So may the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to you

Let my lifesong sing to you
Let my lifesong sing to you
I want to sign your name
To the end of this day
Lord led my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to you

Hallelujah, Hallelujah let my lifesong sing to you
Hallelujah, Hallelujah let my lifesong sing to you
Hallelujah, Hallelujah let my lifesong sing to you

Let my lifesong sing to you
Let my lifesong sing to you
I want to sign your name
To the end of this day
Lord led my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to you

Let my lifesong sing to you
Let my lifesong sing to you
I want to sign your name
To the end of this day
Lord led my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to you


Written by John Mark Hall • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

Here it is on YouTube:


Saturday, January 27, 2018

"Terri" and Her Kitten

There are times when a VLOG is so much better than a BLOG...



If you would like to donate to this ministry, please click here to visit my web page.

Thank you.