Wow!! Today was just an awesome and inspiring day. There were so many moments when I could feel God’s presence amongst the groups in which I interacted with today. Today really showed me that the people we are ministering to this week are normal and regular people. They have the same conversations that everyone has, and they can be just as spiritual as anyone in church. It is often something that we forget when we minister to people. It seems at times that we resort the people we minister to to people who could not be grounded spiritually at all. We degrade them theologically without even thinking about. We also try and shelter them from those conversations, and just look to feed them and help them and not figure out where they really are spiritually. I personally continue to learn and relearn this lesson all the time.
We began our day with a prayer service before lunch at Rising Hope Church. They always have the prayer service before lunch and make it a requirement. If you are getting lunch at Rising Hope you must attend the prayer service to get your meal ticket. Myself and one of my friends on the trip lead the prayer service. We planned and executed the entire service (which was only about 30 mins.). We began with music and centered ourselves in a manner of worship. We both played music then divided the other parts. I did the scripture and meditation part and my friend was in charge of prayer. I reflected on Romans 8 and talked about God’s Love on our lives. I discussed the agape love that is among all people in God’s creation. I also discussed my intentionality to personally connect with the people at the church and form relationships. We closed with a moving prayer time and allowed all the people in the room to lift up any personal prayers they had lying on their hearts. This truly was moving because their prayers were so authentic. One person even prayed that God would save him from the bad life he was living. It was a moment when I felt God was working and present through everyone who was in the sanctuary for prayer.
After service we enjoyed a lunch with all the people who attended the service. I intentionally did not sit with any of my Wesley colleagues in order to sit and talk with others who were members of the community. Discussion started with who I was and why I was in seminary (fairly mild topics). However, discussion quickly changed to topics of faith and beliefs and how I treat people of other faiths and beliefs. I was knocked off my feet sometimes by the questions posed by them. They never really questioned my theology, but definitely wanted to hear what I believed and where I was spiritually. Through the conversation I learned a little bit more about their stories. I began feel truly vulnerable with them and felt that I could share most anything with them. One of the gentleman who I have gotten to know from Sunday church to the ice cream social at the Kennedy shelter to lunch today connected really well with my spiritual talk. He pulled out his Bible and showed me all of the scribble marks and all the thoughts he had had while listening to sermons or just random thoughts he had. It showed me that the people in this community are your average everyday people who just have a less than most people. Sadly as I mentioned earlier this leads to a social stigma that disconnects them from us. However, I feel if we connect with them and talk to them we will notice there is not much difference between them and us.
After lunch we went to a group home that is part of the New Hope Housing network. It is called Mondloch I and caters to what they define as chronically homeless and have a diagnosis of mental illness. Their goal in the house is to be able to move them to a functionality where they can live in New Hope Housing run apartments. Mental illness is wide spread among those who are homeless because of their often low functionality in workplaces and in homes. Often mentally ill people do not do well in shelters because of their functionality and therefore New Hope Housing has sought this housing in order to be able to allow them a transitional housing where they can seek treatment and hopefully move them into a more independent housing situation.
While I did not interact directly with the residence we learned a lot about what happens at Mondloch I House. This is just another example to show that there is not, and cannot be, one single way to attack and conquer homelessness. Dealing with homelessness is something that must be done with intentionality and thought for who you are reaching out to try and help. It is important to remember the demographics of the community and the people you are reaching to. It is a constant reminder that there is a definite need and that there are people out there working to make it better, but there is still work to do and bonds to be formed.
Today continued the formation of my mind toward this society. I am so happy for the people I have met and interacted with today. Reminder sites for these two ministries (Rising Hope and New Hope Housing) are located under My Links on the right hand column. Check back tomorrow to see where God leads me in this journey.