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.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Can a Ministry be a Ministry and Not Be 501c3?

It was recently explained to me by a leader of a suburban church that since my Relational Ministry is not a 501c3, the church, as an organization, could not support my efforts.[1]  "You call it a ministry." was one of the statements made to me.

Well, let's see:

Matthew 25:34-36 (MSG)

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,

For more than a year, I've provided bananas and occasional other foods as able.

I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,

            For more than a year, I've provided water.

I was homeless and you gave me a room,

I provided a room at my house for 10 days after an Emerald City resident was released from prison.

I have provided sheets, many of which became walls of 'rooms' to create some degree of privacy on the streets.

I was shivering and you gave me clothes,

I've provided coats and clothes.  I've tucked our county's sons and daughters in with blankets and quilts as they slept on pieces of cardboard shivering in their sleep in the cold of winter.

I was sick and you stopped to visit,

By visiting multiple days in a row, I identified a seriously ill man who ended up in the hospital with advanced pneumonia.  He told me later that I saved his life.  I visited him in the hospital as he recovered. 

As I type this, I am waiting for a text from a former Emerald City resident who is stuck in a hospital awaiting surgery for a non-addiction related issue and wants me to visit.

I was in prison and you came to me.’

I have visited two Emerald City residents in prison and attended their court sessions with their family members.  I wrote to the judge providing character insights for one of them.[2]


Miscellaneous:

  • I've had countless casual conversations with residents on matters of Faith as we sat on the sidewalk.
  • I've assisted with four overdosed people, one who needed CPR.  All were saved not by me but by the excellent care given to these four human beings by two residents of Emerald City.[3],[4]
  • I've been scolded at and then apologized to by a Philadelphia police officer who thought I was trying to pick up one of the ladies for a 'date'.  He thanked me for my efforts.  (That was a fun moment.)
  • I've provided Bibles and other Christian themed books, art books, and crossword books and notebooks for diarying[5].
  • I've purchased and distributed several copies of the book, Walking Into Walls, to people who were ready and open to making the changes mentioned in that book.
  • I've been told by these overlooked men and women that I'm a blessing to them.
  • One drug dealer told me: "If the mayor ever asks me, I'm going to tell him that you should get the citizen of the year award for all that you do for this community."[6]
  • I've listened to, held the hand and hugged the straight, gay and lesbian addicted and homeless person also dealing with cancer, MS, HIV, and AIDS.
  • I've been told by one that I'm their father figure since losing their own parents years ago.
  • I've provided printed prayers and Christian song lyrics to residents and dealers. 
  • I've reunited by phone residents and family members who had not spoken in months. 
  • I've passed messages back and forth between residents and family members who are not ready to speak to each other directly.
  • I've come to know fathers and mothers and aunts and cousins of residents of the streets of Kensington.  All adore their street-imprisoned son/daughter, nephew/niece, cousin and ache to the deepest fathoms of their heart for a safe return.
  • I've applied triple antibiotic ointment and bandages to nail-in-foot holes and medicine-injection-gone-wrong abbesses. 
  • I've been approached for and given a hug to ladies as they hop out of cars on their return from dates and before they leave for their next appointment.
  • I've been laughed at by a Mom's daughter, both with whom I've had interaction, when the daughter, who I've known for over a year opened a donated red box to discover it filled with still tagged slim fitting Victoria's Secret extremely kinky "unmentionables."  "Chris! A good church guy like you brings us this!!!  Thanks!!!"[7]
  • I've taken currently addicted and recovered former residents of Emerald City with me to church at Urban Hope.
  • I've provided the soap, water, and towels to a fair skinned lady back in the morning from her night of dates to wash her blackened flip-flopped feet.  As she did so, I read to her the account of Jesus washing his disciples' feet.  I poured fresh water over her feet and ankles as she wiped away the remaining bubbles.  I looked up at her…  a tiny tear.  No one has seen her since. 

Throughout this, I've said, "I've."  In factual reality, I'm not doing this.  I would not do these things on my own.  I give all the glory to God and I would never change this experience for anything - well, until our LORD may say otherwise.  I show up and awesome things happen in front of me to which I try to respond in the Name of Jesus.

Is this a ministry?  That's not for me to decide. 

Please help me to keep this going.



[1] Individuals there are free to contribute. 
[2] I would do this more if I knew the full names of Emerald City residents.  Very often, all I know is their street name.
[3] I've never needed my Narcan because the residents carry it to use on each other as needed.
[4] This is an example of what makes these communities a 'grass roots' safe injection site.
[5] Is that a word?
[6] I still laugh when I think about the context of that comment.
[7] OK… That wasn't my most wholesome ministry moment but it did open doors of communication to people who may have had reservations about my efforts.  God works in mysterious ways!

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