There is something special about our 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. time on the street that is distinct from the weekday afternoons or evenings.
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 night, but when they woke up all their stuff was gone.
All in all, it was a microcosm of a on the street with a special blessing mixed in.
August 02, 2018
May 10, 2018
Listening to many the stories of housing issues are similar. One couple a few months ago found housing after more than a year of homelessness. After only 2 months they are looking again as the place they hoped to call home is being converted to something else and they are out. They desperately look for a new place and find themselves in a long line of others doing the same. They were hopeful and yet discouraged - a rollercoaster - an emotional cycle of relief and dismay and then back again. It is complicated and confusing and difficult. She leans into me and whispers with tear filled eyes, ‘I can’t come back here to the shelter…’ Listening with my heart, giving emotional support in the moment, wondering why? Is it enough? For that moment of time, it was enough. Bearing God’s Grace to the helpless, to the least, to a beloved child of God – it is. Knowing things may get worse for them, being present with them, love and light bearers in a world of darkness and despair, helping them to hold onto hope.
March 28, 2018
After a recent prayer and Communion service, a group gathered around the car for some socks, hats, gloves, and face masks. Just as the last person walked away, a young man who had just received a pair socks suddenly went down to the ground hard. He was clearly high and may have been overdosing. A Resource Center Case Worker came across the street and she was already on the phone with 911. The thoughts raced through my mind… I’m not an EMT. What can I possible do? Then our mission statement came into my head. “We offer a consistent, compassionate, pastoral presence to the homeless and marginalized in downtown Portland, Maine.” That’s it, I was simply put there as a loving, compassionate presence. So, I held him and prayed. Nothing more and nothing less.
Unfortunately, this is all too common an event in the homeless community. Yet God finds ways to remind us that He’s always there, especially amidst the suffering.
January 18, 2018
Every so often, there are little snapshot moments that almost perfectly encapsulate what street work is like. A couple of weeks back, I was walking up to the day shelter in 10-degree weather, carrying a backpack full of socks, another bag of socks so that I didn’t run out, and a bag of winter hats. I was wearing two coats, a hat and gloves and a scarf to keep the winter chill at bay. I was also limping because of a minor but annoying foot injury.
I took a breath, said a prayer, walked into the day shelter with all of this stuff, and I no sooner walked through the door than my glasses completely fogged up and I couldn’t see anything. I could still hear all the voices and ancillary noise of a chaotic day at the shelter, made all the more jagged by the cold weather, but I was essentially blind.
I took off my gloves and tried to wipe my fogged-over glasses on my shirt, meanwhile dropping various things on the floor as I stood in the middle of the chaos with little idea of what was going on around me, except for the young man who was telling me that the care given to the older man who had ultimately died the night before in the overnight shelter had been poorly managed. I was trying to respond to him, while simultaneously attempting to pick up dropped gloves and still wiping at my recalcitrant glasses.
I finally gave up on the glasses, shoved them in a pocket, dropped the extra socks I was carrying and tried to get my blurry bearings in the middle of it all. The young man continued to talk about the night before, and other folks were coming up to ask for socks. I bent over, picked up the bag of hats I’d dropped, fixed the young man with a blurry gaze and asked him if he’d mind giving out the hats to those who might need them. Hey stopped speaking and his face seemed to light up. “Sure,” he said, and he happily wandered off to distribute the hats.
I was trying to open bags of socks to give them out, when someone said “Hey, Pastor, you dropped your glove,” and he handed me my glove, disappearing before I could thank him.