February 20 2023
It’s hard to believe that almost 6 and a half years have passed since I first started visiting the people on the streets of Kensington. I’ve been writing about some, but certainly not all, of my experiences in this blog series.
As you would expect, there have been moments of great sorrow and, surprisingly enough, moments of incredible joy and laughter, and privilege.
For me to explain the moments of great sorrow in one letter would fall short of explaining reality as would sharing with you a photograph of a fallen tree to help you understand the destruction of a hurricane.
The moments of great joy, laughter, and privilege are the same and yet for this, I will provide a few examples.
Great joy can be found in realizing that a simple song sheet with encouraging words has saved the life of a reader when they were contemplating suicide.
Great joy is found when the financially poorest of the poor thank me with a gift or a card on a holiday or my birthday.
Great joy and privilege are found when a parent who I have never met reaches out to me in hopes that I know where their son or daughter may be.
Great joy and privilege come when speaking under oath in a Philadelphia courtroom to help the judge and lawyers for the prosecution and defense better understand the true nature of a particular human being, a patient with substance use disorder who, in that particular setting, is labeled as a ‘defendant.’
Great laughter can be found each time we visit. The best example is ‘The Red Box” story as told by Sara. You’ll need to visit with us someday to get the full effect of this funny moment as Sara embellishes this true story each time she tells it with more details that may or may not have actually happened.
During these six and a half years, I've learned so much about addiction and homelessness and yet there is so much more to understand. These human beings are not out on these streets by choice. They are out there courtesy of a disease that does not fit in any standard understanding of a disease process. A patient with this disease, formally known as substance use disorder, may have all the determination in the world to reclaim health. Far too often, however, the medical system at the Medicaid level does not provide a smooth, dignity, and respect-filled transition to any extent from illness to health. In the words of one person I know who is currently in this medical twilight zone in their attempts to be healed,
“It's easier to keep using drugs than it is to find healing.”
During these 6 and 1/2 years, a small team has developed and visits with me on Wednesdays and Sundays. And for this, I am incredibly thankful. Our efforts as a team meet great needs that I alone can not. You know who you are… Thanks for being a part of this! 🙂
There is so much more that we would like to do to serve this population of people who, by the way, are your literal neighbors regardless of where you're sitting and reading this letter.
Your prayers and your donations of physical items such as clothing and first aid supplies and ‘Stevens Bags’ are very much appreciated as are your financial gifts which make necessary purchases possible.
As this ministry has grown, it has become more personal and private for some of the people I've come to know and love, and for the sake of confidentiality, not shared in any form.
The aspects of the ministry that you hear about on a regular basis revolve around street visits. The water and fruit, typically bananas, are what draw people to us as these items meet a physical need.
These public aspects of the ministry and the more private efforts require a lot of prayer and time and energy and funding.
After 6 and 1/2 years, there's only one Church that financially supports these efforts on a monthly basis. I'm very appreciative of that church.
Other consistent financial contributors include a retired pastor, a mother (who I’ve never met) of a former resident of the street, and two other individuals - and that's it. Random donations do come in at times. While all of this is very much appreciated, it's not enough to keep this going. Since the beginning of 2021, I have personally financially gone in the hole by close to $3,000 in easily documentable receipts. This does not include my personal auto expenses which, for a round trip to Kensington is approximately 55 miles two to three times each week. Nor does it include any of my personal expenses such as meals while there.
I am looking for individuals and organizations such as churches to become more consistently financially involved in these efforts. Would you consider becoming financially involved? Are you a representative of a church or other organization who would consider this?
These efforts currently are not within a 501c3. This seems to be of little concern to donors. If you are in an organization or have personal knowledge of how to become a 501c3, perhaps you could donate your services and help us make that transition.
In the meantime, I humbly and prayerfully ask for your consideration to support our efforts through your prayers and consistent funding. Thank you for considering this possibility.
Sincerely and respectfully submitted,