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.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The green shirt is red.

This past weekend, I was on Mission with Urban Hope Training Center. This is a Ministry in Kensington, a section of Philadelphia nicknamed the Badlands.

The story that I am about to tell you did not take place in Kensington. It actually took place in Mifflin Square, a one Block Intercity Park in South Philadelphia.

About 50 people, mostly teenagers , got off of a school bus and walked into Mifflin Square.  Almost all of us were wearing Urban Hope's bright green t-shirt or sweatshirt. We looked like a Green Wave making our way into this beautiful city park. As this wave progressed to the center of the park, I was aware of all the local people turning to watch this wave move in their direction.  People on the basketball court, rugged young men in the heat of a serious basketball game stopped to watch this wave move toward them. Little children stopped playing ball and watched this green wave move toward them.

The suburbanite in me started getting nervous as I had flashbacks to an old movie that I had seen about gang and turf wars. I actually started wondering if we were walking into a serious problem.

And then it happened.

Almost simultaneously, all of the local people, the rugged basketball players, the little children, everyone in their own way invited the green shirted people to join them in their activity. Suddenly the basketball court and the children's playground had green shirted teenagers interacting with the local people.

As most people reading this know, basketball is not my thing. As I was standing there observing this amazing moment, I heard a voice behind me, that of an older man inviting me to sit down with him. He was dressed in his traditional Muslim garb and he wanted to talk to me an unknown man wearing a green shirt. We conversed about his community and the diversity of its people. I expressed my thankfulness that he and I could sit down and converse with each other. He was appreciative of the opportunity as well.

The community is predominantly Cambodian and yet there are many people representing Syria, Pakistan and the Middle East.

Everyone from these various nationalities seemed very happy to see the people in the green shirts. I have since come to understand that Urban Hope has had such a strong presence throughout Philadelphia and always while wearing these green shirts that the shirts themselves have come to represent the love of Christ. People will not necessarily know the person wearing the green shirt but they do know the green shirt. And that's what matters. Individuals who wear these green shirts do not do so for personal recognition. They do so to be on Mission and to represent the shed blood of Christ. And that's why these green shirts are red.