March 14, 2019

A Perspective on Peace

When I first heard of our quest to get Debbie Brown to Smile Again in Lewiston I was mildly concerned about the logistics of this endeavor.  I volunteered to help drive with a very slight trepidation in my heart of having someone I don't know riding in my car.....(as you may remember when I first joined you all at GSM I didn't want to do this at all but time has passed and I have given rides to various folks to the bus and such and so don't feel that same fear anymore...)

Even though I didn't think I knew this woman, I was up for it.  A homeless woman without teeth? - of course she needs new teeth!  and all had been arranged and paid for and we just needed to get her to Lewiston for 4 appointments. Then I read my co-pastor's account of getting her and her husband to the appointment on Tuesday.  My initial thought was 'and her husband?!'  It's one thing to have a woman ride with me but also a man I don't know?!  I admit that I was not thrilled with my co-pastor....the phrase 'male privilege' crossed my mind.....But as I thought about it and prayed and considered pulling out I felt  that if  my co-pastor says its ok (cuz I trust him) then it will be fine.  And then I read his account of the first appointment and how well it went and I was good.  

So I showed up Thursday at Preble Street Resource Center to pick her and her husband up and we drove to Lewiston. It was great. We even stopped for a burger after.  What happened as I talked with her mostly as her husband was in the back seat and dozing off was that once again I was reminded that we are the same, we share so much of our humanity as she spoke of their hopes for getting housing in Augusta soon and how then he might occasionally be able to see his kids.  She talked about how they try to keep to themselves to stay clear of 'stuff' happening at PS. and then more than once she acknowledged him sleeping in the back seat by saying 'he feels safe'. He feels safe enough riding in the car of a stranger to go to sleep - my words. In that moment I knew Emmanuel and I was once again humbled and in awe.  

Sleep in heavenly peace.....

A humble servant I pray, 

Pastor Nancy

February 11, 2019

In a way street pastors never leave work. Years of street work changes you, how you see and how you react, wherever you find yourself. You sometimes move into an observed need, gently, carefully.
Thus, ninety minutes north of Preble street, Portland ME, at the end of a Wednesday work day at my other job (many of us work one or two of these), and trying to fit in a computer-related appointment after work with the Geek squad at the Augusta ME Best Buy, I saw a man in my headlights just up from the right turn into the BB parking trying to cross the road with his aluminum walker. The several cars before me pulled wide to avoid him and, when I stopped to roll down my passenger side window, the car behind me honked its horn. 

It was late afternoon, fully dark, and very cold, 10-15 degrees. The man was youngish, very big, somewhat disheveled, and wore only cotton pants, a white tee shirt, and an open zippered gray sweat shirt, not even a hoodie. He appeared disoriented by the swerving and honking cars. He was in the middle of the crosswalk and had just begun very slowly and deliberately to turn his walker around. Nearing the curb then, he saw that I’d stopped and rolled down my window, and he pushed his walker over to me. 

"Can I take you anywhere?" I asked. 

He pointed to my shirt pocket and signed, I need to write. 

I saw that he could not speak but could hear. I handed him my street pad and a ballpoint pen. Bending over by the open car door for these (because he is big and my car is small), he took the pad and wrote, "Shaw's." 

I said, "Yes, I’ll take you there," and added, "but I have a ten-minute appointment at Best Buy, can you wait in the car?" 

It was warmed up by then. He was stone cold, I could see, but sweating. I’ve been that way too. He put a thumb up and signed that I open the back door, where he stowed the walker. Then he squeezed into my front passenger seat. I pulled into the BB parking lot and parked. "You'll be okay?" I asked. 

He signed, "Yes." 

After ten minutes with the good Geek Squad, I came out to the car to see whether he was okay. I think I woke him up. 

He signed, "Okay." The car was still warm enough. 

The GS gentleman knew I had a man in need waiting in my car and kindly moved right through our work. Ten minutes later, fearing I might see my rider wandering away, but relieved to find him settled still in the front seat, I jumped in and drove off to the nearby Shaw's. He pointed the way at each turn and smiled, knowingly. 

At the supermarket entrance, he hauled out of the front seat, I went around and handed him his walker, and he turned carefully to walk in through automatic doors. People weren’t sure how to handle his slowness I could see. He’s used to that, I thought. He then turned and, smiling me the sweetest smile I have ever received, ever, gave me a thumbs up. Then, almost as an afterthought, he pointed to the litter on the pavement from my car floor (sock wrappers from the previous day’s work at Preble street) which had spilled out as he’d pulled himself from the front seat. As if to say thanks for picking up that stuff.

Pastor Mair calls these sorts of encounter miracles. And you know what? They are. 
I never got his name.

December 20, 2018

December Blog Post

This is a time of transitions, both for Grace-Street Ministry and for the way homeless services are delivered in Portland. 
In our small ministry, co-founder Pastor Mair Honan has retired, and I’ve been hired as the new Executive Director.  Thankfully, Pastor Mair remains connected to the ministry as Pastor Emerita, and she is readily available with her wisdom and advice.  At the end of January, our second-longest serving street minister, Pastor Bob, will also be retiring (read his farewell blog post in January).  As Bob moves away, we will be bringing on another pastor, Pastor Jessica Moore, and so we will continue to be at full strength on the street. 
Things on the street are in flux as well.  There is ongoing controversy about where a new homeless shelter might be sited, as the outdated Oxford Street overnight shelter is long overdue for replacement and the pressure to develop this last bit of the Portland peninsula has become too strong to resist.  It is our hope that the homeless will not be isolated far from downtown.  In spite of its obvious difficulties, the community is vibrant and often wonderfully generous and supportive.  I fear that isolating them on the outskirts might very well damage their sense of their own community, but more importantly their connection to the larger Portland community.  So much has already been taken from them.  I hope their sense of being a part of the world is not the next loss.
And all this is happening as winter is upon us, and the day shelter has cut their hours significantly, causing the usual anxiety about the cold and dark to ramp up exponentially.  It’s at this time of year, particularly under circumstances such as these, that the co-pastors of Grace-Street are the most needed.  We bring love, we bring light, we bring comfort and we do our level best to channel the divine and walk with them into the sorrow and the fear.
It’s a blessing and a privilege to be able to do this work.

Pastor Jeff Logan

October 18, 2018

When I cofounded this ministry in 2006, I could never have imagined the miraculous journey we have had - the thousands of people we have had the privilege to know and support. As I am retiring the end of this month, I want to thank all of you who have worked with us, in one way or another, to recognize and love those on the very edge of society. We could not have been here without all of your support.
GSM is in a healthy place.Our new director, Rev. Jeff Logan has been a co-pastor on the street for four years. He is lively in body and spirit (much needed in this work) and has a deep compassion for the people. Pastors Bob Ross, Nancy White, Dave Rizzo and a new co-pastor Jessica Moore (in  training) are with us this Fall.
At present our country seems driven by divisional fears. This ministry has proven to me these divisons are illusions- without a doubt, “we are one human family”. Walk with someone who you believe is 'different' from you and you will discover this truth. The problems in our society are complex, the suffering is vast, but I believe our mission is to stand with Love, where ever we are called. This is quite simple yet hard to do.
And, there is another truth I often shared with people on the street and myself- that we are not alone -Spirit is always with us.  

Clarity and joy to us all. Love, Pastor Mair


August 02, 2018

August Blog Post

There is something special about our Sunday time on the street that is distinct from the weekday afternoons or Thursday evenings.  I especially love our prayer & communion circles, and a recent one in July was particularly rich and fruitful.  18 of us gathered in a light rain to consider the depth of God's love for us, pray, and share in communion.  The circle lasted for about 30 minutes which was unusually long.  Members of the community were engaged asking genuine and respectful questions, praying, and ministering to each other. 

When we finished I went through dozens of pairs of socks, the last of my t-shirts and underwear, and a whole lot of Dunkin Donuts cards.  Most that came to the car were from the circle and that time together in-circle was transformative, if only for a moment.  People were passing socks along to others rather than grabbing for themselves.  It may not sound like much, but in the context of our little ministry, that is something special.

Then there was a conversation with a man whose car was impounded.  He needed to get his ID and possessions out of the trunk, but the lot was closed so we helped him during the week. Then there was a couple, who sleep outside and needed blankets. Apparently, they were able to stay at someone's apartment near Maine Med on Saturday night, but when they woke up all their stuff was gone. 

All in all, it was a microcosm of a Sunday on the street with a special blessing mixed in.