It had been several months since Pastor Sam and I had sat down and chatted about the stuff of our lives. From our earthly perspective, a spontaneous moment opened and we talked superficially and ridiculously deeply with each other for the next five hours as we sat in his efficiency style apartment. I kicked off my shoes and relaxed in the comfort of his home. During that time, a few neighbors stopped in. Some of these neighbors stopped in to see what they could get from us while others gave of themselves from deep inside their hearts.
Pastor Sam was pleased to show me around his one-room apartment:
"Over here, I keep my food and extra food for neighbors who may stop in and need a bit to hold them over. I don't have a lot of extra but I make it available. Here, I have clothes: extra shirts and pants, more than what I need and available to anyone who may need some. I keep it washed and folded. As you can see and feel, this apartment is damp and dusty. I wash all of these clothes every week, even if they have not left the shelves. No one ever takes more than they need for the moment. My neighbors are wonderful that way, even in the midst of their situation."
Just then, a man came by to do some sweeping of the public areas of this most unusually designed apartment complex. Pastor Sam, told him that the sweeping could wait until the next day since he and I were in a rather deep and personal conversation. The man understood. Pastor Sam went on to tell me his story of how God became so very real in his life and how, through an incredible path of events, he was ordained as a pastor in his denomination.
At about this point, a lady neighbor stopped by to visit. Pastor Sam shared with me and her the depth of a recent conversation between the two of them that had him, a pastor in his 50s "under spiritual arrest by God into total silence" as this lady 20 years his junior quoted and expanded on scripture to him for a couple hours the night before.
Before our three-way conversation closed, we sat together on Pastor Sam's floor and prayed with and for each other and our friends.
There is so much more that I'd like to share with you about this evening that lasted about 5 hours in Pastor Sam's apartment but I can't because of the personal and awesome nature of what transpired between the people mentioned and others who live in neighboring apartments.
And now a confession…
The "neighboring apartments" mentioned above are tents occupied by men and women who are misunderstood, marginalized and despised by so many people on the outside of addiction and homelessness. Pastor Sam's "apartment" is this piece of sidewalk between columns 2 and 3 on the south end of the Conrail overpass over Frankford Avenue at its intersection with Lehigh Avenue. It was in this location on this night where friends talked and laughed and cried, shared snacks and sodas and hugged and prayed in all the exact same comfort as in any living room in any house in America.