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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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Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Urban "Samaritan" - A Message to the Suburban Church

On December 31, 2016, I experienced my first "Homeless Ministry" with Urban Hope Church.  You can read about it in my first blog on this subject by clicking here.  Since that first experience, I have gone from involvement in this ministry to a combination of outreach with Urban Hope and visiting on my own and then to visiting just on my own.  Well, this past Friday, I went back to my roots in this and visited Emerald City with Urban Hope and those people from this Christian community who chose to join us.

For the first part of this specific blog entry, I'm going to share with you a description of the people who joined us from Urban Hope. 

My primary audience for this specific blog entry is suburban Christians.  I'm going to "speak suburban" so that you will understand the point I'm trying to make.  In so doing, my Urban Friends who I've come to know and love are going to think I'm exposing some degree of prejudice that you didn't think I have.  Well, I don't hold these prejudicial ways of speaking.  Please know this.  Sadly, there are too many suburban people who think in these terms that I now present…  Suburban Friends, if I'm upsetting you by this, so be it.

With those thoughts in mind, here I go… 
  1. This past Friday, a group of probably 30 Puerto-Rican teenagers and a few African American teenagers who are in the youth ministry of Urban Hope Church along with their accompanying adults of the same heritages along with two other women, one other man and myself[1] prepared hot dinners for the addicted and homeless people of Emerald City.
  2. While I've not done an official racial nor gender census, the men of Emerald City are more black than white and more white than Hispanic.  The women are, by far, more white than Hispanic and almost absent of black.  Women outnumber men. 
  3. While not a racial aspect of this picture that I'm trying to paint in your mind's eye, here's another point to consider:  Most of the people of Emerald City are from the suburbs around Philadelphia or points far beyond our specific area. 

Please pause and re-read those three statements so as to develop in your mind an image of what's happening here.

Here's a summary of what I witnessed on Friday night:  Based on raw numbers as described above, 
  1. I witnessed a bunch of inner city mostly Puerto-Rican teenagers serving dinner to, talking to, and praying with a bunch of mostly suburban white women who, in some cases, were old enough to be their Moms. 
  2. I witnessed this total group of teens of Puerto-Rican and African American descents interacting in the Name of Jesus with all of the residents of Emerald City without consideration of that resident's heritage nor their condition of addiction. 
  3. I witnessed amazing adult leadership, on this night all of Puerto-Rican descent, from within Urban Hope to guide these young people, these 7th to 12th graders, in this time of ministry.

Here's a tiny glimpse into what these Puerto-Rican and African American teens experienced when they ministered in the Name of Jesus to the residents of Emerald City:

  1. When they first got out of Urban Hope's van, the first teens to exit would have heard "Kids on the block." announced by the first Emerald City resident to see these teens.  This announcement is automatically passed down the 150 feet or so that make up the community under this Conrail overpass.  Whenever this announcement is made, all drug activity stops and items related to drug use are quickly tucked away, out of sight of the visiting teens. 
  2. Upon receipt of the dinners, conversations, and prayers, these men and women who have the disease of Substance Abuse Disorder, clearly demonstrated their appreciation in the same ways that any other human being would do so. 
  3. In one case of appreciation, a big brawny black man with long flowing dreadlocks came up to me and said "Hey Banana Man, your ears are red from the cold.  Here's a hat for you."  He gave me a knit hat and then started giving members of our team hats and scarves from his own supply! 

Suburban Christians, why do I tell you this?

For two weeks prior to me going on this time of ministry with Urban Hope, I announced by way of Facebook and directly to other people - one being a pastor of a suburban Church - that you were welcome and encouraged to join me.  No one so much as truly acknowledged the invitation and yet, at the same time, other Facebook entries were reacted to by you with "likes"  and reasonable comments.

Our Suburban Christian Faith is to be more than high society tea parties in church halls that have been named after dead priests and fundraising events designed for other people and organizations to do the work of the Church.  Our Faith calls us to serve through God's Church with direct involvement with those people who need our Christ-Centered Love most of all.

To drive the point home just a little bit farther... For every seven seconds that you have spent reading this blog, a set of loved ones (parents, extended family and friends) have lost someone precious to overdose.

In the following passage of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, we suburbanites know the dignity and respect shown to members of the clergy (Priests and Levites in this parable.) 

We may be aware that in Biblical times, the Samaritans were thought of as being the lowest of the low.  Us suburbanites also know the often unspoken (so as not to be outwardly rude) belief that Puerto-Ricans and African Americans are somehow 'less' than us whites. 

As is made so clear in this parable and in my experience of this past Friday Night and countless other times, what we, the suburban portion of the body of Christ consider to be 'less than' is, by far, the greatest in its expressions of our Common Christian Faith. 

Luke 10:25-37 New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”


a.     Luke 10:27 Deut. 6:5
b.     Luke 10:27 Lev. 19:18
c.      Luke 10:35 A denarius was the usual daily wage of a day laborer (see Matt. 20:2).
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

[1] By not referencing a heritage, it is understood in suburban talk that "white" is meant.

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