People reading this may think that this blog is going to be about those well-intentioned men and women who visit Emerald City and the Frankford Avenue Bridge Communities to provide pastoral care in the Name of Jesus. That's a fine group of people but that's not who this blog is about.
This blog is about a man I'm calling Martin. More accurately, I'm calling him Pastor Martin. I've known Pastor Martin for the whole time I've been visiting these good people, these sons and daughters and moms and dads who call the underside of two Conrail overpasses "home."
Martin was ordained into the pastorate of God's church many years ago. At some point since then, the demon of addiction found its way into his being and derailed his church pastorate. Or did it? One thing led to another on this all too well-known path and now Pastor Martin lives under these overpasses and calls them home.
When I first met Pastor Martin, I would not ever have guessed that within a very few months, I would begin to form a friendship with him which increasingly emphasizes pastoral care of the members of these communities that I visit and he lives within. But I have.
Pastor Martin is in good company with men of God who suffer! Please take a moment to read this passage and follow the lettered footnotes I've added as I compare The Apostle Paul with the Pastorate of Martin.
2 Corinthians 12 New International Version (NIV)
Paul’s Vision and His Thorn
12 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh[A], a messenger of Satan[B], to torment me.8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me[C]. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults[D], in hardships, in persecutions[E], in difficulties[F]. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Pastor Martin's church is not made up of bricks and mortar[G], stucco, ivy, nor stained glass. It has no organ, nor choir nor board of directors. Pastor Martin's church is the purest form of church you might ever witness. He suffers with his thorn and ministers and offers authentic Biblical counsel when the thorn allows him to do so. He knows the sheep of his pasture otherwise known to the rest of us as the people of Emerald City and the Frankford Avenue Bridge Communities in a way that none of us who visit can do.
If you are into pastoral care and you want to know how to best minister to these good people on the streets of Kensington, sit down with Pastor Martin as your peer in ministry and learn from him. Your ministry will be better for it.
[B] How many times do we all refer to addiction as a demon?
[C] Over the years, Pastor Martin has been in detox and been "clean" for various periods of time.
[D] Pastor Martin and those with whom he lives, endure insults from drivers as they shout terrible things from the safety of their car windows.
[E] Persecutions: "the subjecting of a race or group of people to cruel or unfair treatment." Pastor Martin and the community experiences some form of this almost daily.
[F] Hardships and Difficulties: Too many to list here, everything from living there to seeking help and resolution to the issues at hand and hitting road blocks with every attempt.
[G] Other than those that keep the rail line from crashing down.