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As I come to know these fine people, they share with me more of their personal and sensitive stories. Their collective story is what I am trying to share with you as my way of breaking the stereotypical beliefs that exist. "Blog names" have occasionally been given to me by the person whose story I am telling. Names are never their actual names and wherever I can do so, I might use the opposite pronoun (his/her, etc.) just to help increase their privacy.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Breaking Chains in Emerald City

Hamburgers, hotdogs, and chicken served to homeless and addicted men and women while they sat at tables and chairs…  

You might think I’m describing a homeless shelter somewhere…  Well, in a way I am except this homeless shelter is not recognized as such by the City of Philadelphia because it is a community of 40 to 60 people under a railroad bridge on Emerald Street.   This community of rather transient people has been around so long that it has picked up the name “Emerald City” and it is here that something of a miracle happened yesterday. 


The humanly visible portion of this miracle started when Tammy Vaughn, the drummer for Dana Isles and Facedown, walked up to me at MusicFest two Saturdays ago.  We chatted for a bit and wandered over to where the rest of the band was sitting down and listening to the Catinas.  Tammy said that she had been reading these blogs.  I casually said to Dana that it would be cool if someday the band could present their music and message to the people under the bridge.  She said “Okay.”  A few of us looked at our calendars and eight days later, at least seven ministries were working together to bring God’s Love to hurting people under a bridge on a crystal clear day.

By the end of the day, people’s bellies were full with chicken, hot dogs, and hamburgers that had been prepared by Rick Alvares and friends from the House of Adonai and Never Give Up.  Most ate at tables and chairs instead of on the sidewalk at their mats.  Two barbers, one from Salvation of Sorrows, cut hair and a manicurist did nails.  Multiple tables of clothing and shoes and blankets were given to this community.  These good people heard a powerful spoken message from Rick Cartagena and an inspiring message and music by Dana Isles and Facedown.  At least two people from this community accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior.  Two others firmed up their previous commitment.  Another moved out of Emerald City and into the House of Adonai.

God arranged for multiple people from different ministry backgrounds and giftedness to come together to meet the real and essential needs of the people who have moved into this community known as “Emerald City.”

Emerald City…

When we think of that name, an image from the Wizard of Oz might come to mind.  Ironically enough, one resident of Emerald City shared his opinion with me that “When Doctor Oz embarrassed Philadelphia by exposing the issue of “The Tracks” to the nation in one of his shows this spring, the city of Brotherly Love and Conrail cleaned up that area and our Emerald City’s population grew.”

I can tell you that Emerald City is at the corner of Emerald Street and Lehigh Avenue.  That’s true enough but that’s not the total description.  The news media gave the tracks regional (if not national) notoriety this summer as negotiations for their cleanup and cleanup itself happened.

The Tracks are in a deep gulch that runs through a residential area in Kensington.  To get to the tracks, people had to walk down a steep hill.  Emerald City is about two blocks east of the end of that gulch.   

The tracks that people walked down to in the gulch are the tracks that rattle the bridge above the heads of the residents of our Emerald City. 

Stop reading and digest the significance of that low setting. 

In this low setting men and women live as best as they can determine to do so as they find themselves trapped in addiction.  As they smoke and/or inject, Moms and Dads think of the children of whom they’ve lost custody.  Some of those Moms and too many parent’s daughters shed a tear as they dress for their afternoon or night of “dates.”  Most every resident harbors in their heart regret for the pain and embarrassment they have caused to their families. 

And it is into this location, under this bridge, in this tunnel, that The LORD of the Universe made His presence known yesterday in a real and tangible and audible way to love on this community in the Name of Christ and to tell them that the chain of addiction can be broken.[1]

[1] Every effort was made to NOT show the faces of the residents of the community as I created this video.  Dana Isles and Facedown are just outside the bridge and I was sitting in the middle of the closed road on the far end of the tunnel about a hundred yards away.  

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