Category Archives: Ministry

Good News, Good News!

Good News Today

There was particularly good news to report today.    Our homeless friends Al J. and Steve W. have both been assigned a place to live, but we are not talking just a shelter here!  They are excited, I mean really excited.  So is the group at our church that has been working with them so very long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Al, surprised by the flash.

Al is a homeless veteran.  He had been living in the woods for quite some time.  When our small group first met him he was resistant to the idea of moving out of the woods.   He was heavily bearded with wild long hair and looked pretty ragged.   “I like it here,” he said.    Of course, it was not true.  Later he admitted that he was resigned to living in the woods and never expected to get out.   “I like it here” was just a way of coping.

That was before several families in our Church began to develop real relationships with the homeless they were feeding breakfast to on Sunday mornings.    By relationships, I mean friendships, and true bonds.   This extended beyond just providing food and supplies, beyond inviting them to Church, Sunday School and Wednesday night dinners.   It included true friendships and love for fellow man. 

When Al complained that “I smell,” and said he was uncomfortable in church looking like a tramp, Scott and Pat took him to their home where he showered and put on newly cleaned clothes.   Scott then took him to his son’s hair salon where he was treated like royalty and given a full shampoo, shave and haircut to the astonishment of other customers.    How do you want your hair today, Sir?  Does that look ok, Sir?   

Al looked like and felt like a new man.  Transformed, ready at last to come out of the woods, ready to not be homeless any more.    Somehow he has managed to maintain his neat appearnce despite continuous living in the deep woods.   The homeless ministry team followed through and helped Al get his VA papers.  He said he did not even know he was elgible for help through the VA.   The ministry team managed to get him signed up for the new veteran’s transitional housing program at MUST.   The papers, however, were a long time coming.  Far too long.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two pictures of Steve.

 

 

 

Steve turns out to be an energetic worker, jack of all trades, experienced in all sorts of construction work.  I know.  He has worked for several families in our church and for me.  

I found that he is an excellent carpenter and never slows down.   When he runs out of a job, he picks up a broom or rake, or starts the next phase.   He is also very dependable and has an excellent outlook on life.   I found out that he is experienced in renovation of old houses and had once owned a house just two blocks from the one my wife grew up in.  He gave it up to his wife and began a long downward spiral from there to homelessness. 

When we first met Steve, he lived in a tarp in a pine thicket between two buildings.  After the police raids in the area and Dominic froze to death, he applied to MUST Ministries for entry into their resident’s progam and was eventually accepted.   He said he “did not want to end up like Dominic”.   Steve is the one in the video talking about Dominic that I posted a few weeks ago.    He and Al have attended Sunday School, Church services and Wednesday night dinners almost every week.  That is a bible he is carrying in the left picture above.

Members of our church sponsored Steve and Al to a family church retreat over a recent weekend.  Al said it was the “most fun I’ve had since I was a child”.  Steve said it was a “wonderful experience”.

 Well, the good news came from both of them today.  Al has been accepted into a veteran’s transitional housing program and Steve into a supportive housing program.  Both through MUST Ministries.    Both start April 1.    Our homeless ministry team is planning to have a dinner for them in celebration.  It will be quite a celebration and with many thanks to God for His Grace.

It has turned out to be a great day.  God is good!  

 

 

 

 

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Ministering to the Homeless 7

This is the seventh article in a series on ministering to the homeless.   This one is special.  It is about a ministry by Steve Brigham that has touched my heart to the extent that I’ve included his ministry twice.  The first article on his minstry dates back to February of 2007.    I thought it was time for an update because the compassion and love and sacrifice required for this ministry is just enormous.  The article below is reproduced only in snippets to give you a flavor of what the good Reverand does for the homeless.  Please read the Tri-Town News story for the rest of it.

 Rev.’s appointed rounds are off the beaten path

 Steve Brigham continues outreach to homeless population

BY TOYNETT HALL Staff Writer Tri-Town News January 10, 2008

On a regular basis the Rev. Steve Brigham of the Lakewood Outreach Ministry wakes at the crack of dawn to visit 11 campsites in Ocean County.   These are not the type of campsites where families go to spend a weekend enjoying nature.

Brigham walks along railroad tracks and trudges through the muddy forest floor bearing gifts for the homeless people who live in these campsites and who have become his friends.   One of his goals is to make sure that the people who live in tent encampments throughout the county have enough propane gas to run the heaters that keep them warm through the cold winter nights.

As he reaches a group of tents in what is identifiable as a Mexican encampment, Brigham offers blankets to the people living at the site and tells his amigos where tortillas are being cooked and that he will bring them a big tent the next time he comes.

A short time later Brigham is driving his bus – a motel on wheels – to a site called Shanty Town. At this campsite some of the dwellings are made with wood that came from a lumber yard. Other people live in tents that have been provided by Brigham and anonymous donors.

(…) 

The last site of the day was also in Toms River. At that spot Brigham pitched tents for Gloria, 65, and Richard A. Mazzella Jr., 33. Both individuals said they ended up here as a result of financial hardships.

(…) 

Another resident of the camp, Robert Wayne Pisano, said he has been homeless since he was 16. He is now in his 40s. Pisano said if it were not for Brigham’s kindness, he does not know where he would be. He said Brigham offers people like him a measure of hope.

“I have never seen a man take time out of his life like this. This guy cares who you are and where you are. He treats us like we are his own kids. Every piece of clothing I have on right now is because of Steve,” Pisano said.

As tears welled up in his eyes, Pisano said, “We have nothing. Yes, we are homeless, but we want to be treated like everyone else. Please recognize us.”

(…) 

According to statistics from the New Jersey Corporation for Supportive Housing, a national nonprofit, as of Jan. 25, 2007, there were 14,939 homeless people in New Jersey. Of that number, 12,397 were adults and 2,542 were children.

In Ocean County, 366 adults were found to be homeless. In Monmouth County, 590 adults were found to homeless, according to information provided by the Corporation for Supportive Housing. These numbers may be under-reported, according to the agency.

Anyone who would like to assist the Rev. Steve Brigham may call (732) 364- 0340 or (732) 814-5537. Brigham may also be reached at Lakewood Outreach Ministry Church, P.O. Box 326, Lakewood, NJ 08701.

THIS is what ministering to the homeless means!

Winter is Here, It is already cold,

It is Cold to the Bone

Please volunteer somewhere!

Oldtimer

Ministering to the Homeless 4

Christian duty, county law at odds

in Westgate trial

This is the fourth in a series of articles on how to minister to the homeless.    It concerns a church that is intent on helping the homeless despite the efforts of the county where it resides.   The county wants to limit the number served or close them down.  They refuse.  This has been an 8 year battle so far and the church will not back down.  They are intent in their efforts to minister to the homeless where the county does not.

Find this story here
By Sonja Isger
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 31, 2007

WEST PALM BEACH – Westgate Tabernacle Church may be a place where the heartbreak of homeless men, women and children seems endless.

But what jurors should see first, said county attorney Amy Petrick, is a property owner who has engaged in a lengthy attempt to dodge county zoning and building regulations.

Church leaders built outdoor showers and toilets without permits and allowed people to sleep under a roof riddled by termite and water damage. They continue to pack as many as 100 people where county fire regulations say only 25 should bed.

Though they now claim they have a constitutional right to house as many homeless people in their sanctuary as they see fit, they once offered to seek a permit to shelter the homeless – up to 14 of them. “That’s what this is really about – the number of folks you can have in this facility,” Petrick said in her opening statements Tuesday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.

While the church occupies only a sandy, weed-filled patch in a run-down neighborhood, the sentiment it has stirred about how this community cares for its homeless has filled newspapers, church petitions and dinner conversations.

One excused juror said she had resolved just this weekend to send the church a check. Another potential juror went home after the first day of questioning and asked her husband to pull Bible verses specifically on the homeless. After being excused, Michelle Damone, a married mother of two, said that years back she got caught in a tropical storm and was taken in by strangers. She remembers praying over dinner with them.

The church’s attorney, Barry Silver, is not only arguing that the church must fulfill its mission, but that the county government is failing its homeless by not providing adequate shelter. On the contrary, Petrick said, the county gets millions from state and federal government to aid the homeless and spends even more of its own.

The county and the church, which was built in 1929 just north of Palm Beach International Airport, have been at odds since 1999, when code enforcement officials determined the church was violating zoning laws by operating a homeless shelter in a residential neighborhood.

This is what ministering to the homeless means

Oldtimer’s Comment: You may think that “packing” people in a “termite riddled” and “water damaged” structure is not the proper place for housing the homeless, but when the alternative is a card board box or abandoned car or a high place on the ground in the weeds, you are wrong.   If the county would provide the services, there would be no need for 10o men and women to show up nightly at the church.   Besides, the description used in court papers do not always shine the light that illustrates the true conditions.   See the YouTube video above and see for yourself.

These homeless people would not show up at the church night after night if there were safer or better accommodations.  It is this church’s determination to serve the homeless in the face of fines and or closure that I applaud, not the conditions, which as I see from the video are not the same as those mentioned in the news article.

Oldtimer

Ministering to the Homeless 3

Church defies city prosecutor,

helps homeless

This article is about a church in Long Beach California that was being cited by the city for allowing the homeless to sleep in their doorways, stairwells and on the grounds.   The church refused under a penality of $1000 per day fine.    Find this story at it’s original news source.

Article Launched: 01/29/2007 09:56:55 PM PST

The First Congregational Church, a downtown Long Beach (California) landmark, is defying the city prosecutor’s office by allowing the homeless to sleep on its grounds. The pastor, the Rev. Jerald Stinson, affirmed the church’s stand earlier this month in a sermon that brought standing applause from his socially conscious flock.

“Each person who seeks warmth and safety within those railings is a beloved child of God,” he said. “There is a spark of the divine within each of them. If you do not believe that, if you just write them off as worthless, what do you do with everything Jesus said and did?

Corletto and Michael Bryant, 32, are two of many local homeless people
who have accepted the church’s offer of a place to sleep on its grounds.
(Photo by Kevin Chang / Press-Telegram)

The church has a long record of involvement with helping the homeless in Long Beach. For example, the church’s Drop-In Center opens its doors on Sunday when most other agencies are closed. From 12:30 to 4 p.m., the homeless can eat lunch, talk with each other, and use computers. Founded in 1888, First Congregational has a notable record of social concern. While other churches look to the heavens, however properly, the church at Third and Cedar looks across the street and far beyond.

$1,000 a day?

Each night 15 to 20 people sleep on the steps and grounds of the church. Claiming it has received anonymous complaints, the prosecutor’s office says the practice must stop and has threatened a fine of $1,000 a day if it does not. On Sundays, when many social agencies are closed, the church’s Drop-In Center opens its doors from 12:30 to 4 p.m. so street people can eat lunch, read, see movies, play games and chat with each other and with volunteers. According to the church’s Web site, some homeless use the opportunity to check e-mail and write resumes.

“Many who sleep outside the church struggle with mental illness. One gentle, really nice man who has been here for years is convinced Jesus gave him this church, and he regularly asks me for the keys. Another man thinks he is a king and the church is his castle. There is a woman who believes she is the wife of deceased billionaire Howard Hughes, that he is on his way from Las Vegas to take her home. None of those folks, without a great deal of help, will ever be able to find and keep a place of their own.”

Oldtimer’s comment.  I looked and could not find out what became of this situation except that there have been meetings held at the church between the police and the homeless to help define and mediate the tension between the two forces.   I suspect that the church escaped the fines and continues to allow the homeless to sleep on their grounds.   A bulletin asking for volunteers (printed below) indicates the church has not lost its desire to help the homeless.

Homeless Drop In Center call for volunteers:

“The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him: What are you going through?” Simone Well

On Sunday afternoons, the First Congregational Church of of Long Beach operates a Homeless Drop-In Center on their church premises. They open their doors & their hearts to over 300 + homeless brothers & sisters in the Long Beach area.

It enables them to eat, read, rest, & socialize. Many write job applications & resumes in their computer lab. It is also haven for people to go on the day of the week when many agencies which serve the homeless are closed.

This is run entirely by rotating volunteers, so they need our help!

Oftentimes, the homeless are so ostracized, yet they long to interact with the very pedestrians who pass them by on the street. As such, the Drop-In Center mostly serves as a way of connecting people, homeless or otherwise, to create a sense of community.

They need about 15-20 of us to help serve food, set-up, clean-up & mostly reach out to the many homeless who seek shelter there.

This is what ministering to the homeless means

Oldtimer

Ministering to the Homeless 2

A Ministry in the Cold, With a Gospel of Propane
Find and read the rest of this very moving story here:

Jose Adrian Tenahua is in an encampment of homeless people in Ocean County, N.J.;  A minister has been visiting several sites a week to supply the residents with propane. Photo by Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Written By KAREEM FAHIM

 LAKEWOOD, N.J., Feb. 8 — The minister pulled his large blue bus into a parking lot a half-mile from Exit 82 on the Garden State Parkway, behind a Boater’s World and a McDonald’s. Stepping out, he plunged into the frozen backwoods, where he came upon several tents zipped up tight against the frigid wind. In the back of the bus, the minister carried bulging gray metal cans filled with gallons of relief. For the homeless who have settled here, by mucky streams or in thickets of scrub pine, in sight of cellphone towers and gas stations but on the edges of survival, his gift of propane is all that prevents them from falling off.The propane is little salve for most of their problems, like the loneliness and the boredom, the mental disorders and the substance abuse. Yet when the minister, Steven A. Brigham, called out, “Are you home?” a tent flap quickly unzipped to reveal a man with a teardrop tattoo next to one eye.“I need propane,” said the man, Brett Bartholomew, after they caught up for a minute. “I’m down to my last two tanks. I’m using them now.”

It is a ritual Mr. Brigham performs several times a week — more when the temperature drops — in a kind of propane ministry he has built since 2003 that now serves 44 homeless men and women scattered in nine encampments in the Ocean County communities of Lakewood and two neighboring towns on the Jersey Shore.

Mr. Brigham, who started working with the homeless six years ago, gave the Mexicans a communal tent, where they sit together and eat meals they make in a giant turkey cooker. A dozen yards away, through littered undergrowth, there is a shantytown of black residents, who have lived in the wilderness for years.

The four people who live under the power lines are white. Ronnie Banks, who is black, used to live there, but after being taunted with a racial epithet, he moved to Mr. Bartholomew’s camp.

Mr. Banks, a recovering addict, said he had served time in prison for dealing drugs. His tent is, in the ramshackle, patchwork world of the camps, nearly spotless. There are teddy bears on his bed and pink carnations next to it. He said he was close with his 13 children; one daughter works just down the road. His tent sits alone, at the opposite end of a rise that allows him and Mr. Bartholomew to watch over the path that leads to their homes.

The woods around them are filled with trash. Residents of the homes nearby complain about their presence. “This is the safest place for me right now,” Mr. Banks said.

(…)

THIS is what ministering to the homeless means!

Winter is coming, It is already cold,

Soon to be Cold to the Bone.

Please volunteer somewhere!

Ministering to the Homeless 1

Minister seeks homeless despite snow, ice

I’ll be regularly inserting stories as winter sets in that illustrate what true ministry to the homeless means.  I hope it inspires a few readers to action.   Not all these stories are about Christians doing the work.  Ministering to the homelessness and needy is not the responsibility of any one religion, any one government, nor any one person.  We all must pitch in.    Jews, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, everyone with a good heart can share.   I am a Christian, but I want to be careful not to offend anyone else in their ministry in their own way.   Everyone counts and we all are needed to help.

This first report starts in the 1970’s with Reverend Ronal King when he started ministering to homeless.  He is the founder of Christians Feed the Hungry .  The following story dated February of this year illustrates a very small portion of his work.  His ministry works out of Rock Hill, South Carolina, one of the poorest areas of the country.  There are areas in which entire communities do not have running water, such as along Blackmon Road.  

“For decades, Blackmon Road has been a magnet for York County’s poor. The community lies at the end of a dirt road off S.C. 72, less than two miles from downtown Rock Hill. Many residents are squatters who live in crumbling shacks or old school buses with no indoor plumbing or electricity. “

(I found this story at HeraldOnline but it has since been removed) 
By Toya Graham · The Herald – Updated 02/01/07 – 11:24 PM

As temperatures hovered below freezing early Thursday, the Rev. Ronal King got in a pickup truck and headed down Interstate 77 in search of those who had nowhere to go to escape the bitter cold and promised snow.
“We want to make sure no one freezes to death,” said King, founder of Christians Feed the Hungry, a nonprofit agency that reaches out to the hungry, homeless and those who are destitute and indigent.Before long, King found three men and a woman huddled underneath several I-77 overpasses. Three more were found during the early morning hours behind two Rock Hill businesses, and one other was at a local hospital — all had nowhere to go.King took three to a Charlotte church. He put one up at a Rock Hill hotel. Two got warmth in a Feed the Hungry car for several hours, and one was returned to his family.The eighth person declined assistance. “We gave him scarves, gloves and a hat and food,” King said. “He preferred to make it on his own.”King searches every night for those who are homeless, looking once at 11 p.m. and again at 3 a.m. While King was able to make a difference for the eight on Thursday, he was discouraged because there were no available rooms in a Rock Hill shelter!

Oldtimer says: I came across the following just before Thanksgiving as an update to further illustrate what his ministry does: 


“Feed the Hungry” Looking for Turkeys…
Submitted by CN2.COM Editor
 

According to a recent survey, almost 15 percent of South Carolina families do not have the resources to feed themselves during some point of the year.That is why Feed the Hungry’s Rev. Ronal King is out collecting turkeys, to make sure nobody has to go hungry on this Thanksgiving holiday. He purchased nearly 200 turkeys from Wal-Mart in Rock Hill Thursday to take to area churches, shelters, and families in need. King is hoping to get over 1,000 birds by Thanksgiving.“We know just about who we need to feed Thanksgiving Day. But we (also) feed those in prison, EMS workers, people who won’t be home with their families that day. We help! Anyone who will call us will get a meal until the food runs out,” commented Rev. KingThis is what ministering to the homeless and needy means!