We had a very tiring winter, and even though we received quite a bit of material goods to help shelter and protect our most vulnerable among us, we didn’t receive quite the personal help from the religious community that we had hoped would be descriptive of Jesus’ body.
Nevertheless, we had partnered with two other churches and received food donations from the evangelical community, partnering with the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities. Enough interest was generated through our circles, and through some media attention locally and in the Philadelphia Inquirer, that private citizens came to help us prepare for reopening this fall.
A cashier from our local Home Depot found an affinity with our story. Her brother was one of these marginalized individuals. Suffering from schizophrenia, his illness was severe enough that homelessness was his only avenue. There was no available institution to keep him safe, and being able to hold a job was just impossible.
Like most families that deal with this stuff, they were unable to practically keep him safe—he would just wander off in his delusional world. This woman knew, first-hand and personally, the struggles that face the homeless, and why most of them are in this condition. She lost her brother due to these impossible struggles and her heart went out to our mission. After we met, she also told me that she believes this was meant to be by God—her brother’s name was Corky.
She works for Home Depot, but as part of her volunteer life, serves with and organization called “TEAM DEPOT” (a humanitarian effort of the chain), volunteering with local contractors, store suppliers, fellow workers, and family, to do construction projects for good causes. We were contacted by Greater Philadelphia Cares on their behalf, and the projects began.
We have since been approved by our local Code Enforcement Officer, and Fire Marshal to begin constructing our Home-Base of Homeless Ministry Operations in the basement of the Parish House where we meet for church each Sunday. As it turns out, most of our church will be able to eat dinner, have church, and go to sleep in the same building.
We have significant challenges ahead with all of this, beginning with financial struggles (not for the shelter, but for the church—it seems that people will contribute to one, but not both, and the church element to all of this is crucial), staffing difficulties, meeting the zoning code requirements, and constructing the shelter.
We are looking for help through our GBCs in these ways, and have already received a significant boost from Camp Conquest. Their 4Runner Campers came on June 19th and on the 21st to help construction efforts. These kids (with their boundless energy) did so much work that we are nearly completely ready for the Construction Crews from TEAM DEPOT to come on July 14th to convert the Parish House.
This will be a day filled with energy, where possibly three different Home Depot stores will be represented, with newspaper and television coverage. TEAM DEPOT will be inviting their coworkers and families, and we are inviting our GBC family as well. Only last Sunday, I was invited to present our ministry at the store’s employee meeting at 5:30 am—quite an opportunity!
In addition to the current efforts, on May 16th we received a Community Support Award from the Montgomery County Mental Health Association for our Main Street winter shelter efforts.
Within our church, we are exploring what it means to “bless those who curse you.” We are always looking for Jesus’ “Third Way,” the way of blessing. Meaning, if an arrogant Roman soldier demands an inferior to carry his backpack one mile, one could retaliate, or cower. Jesus’ third way is to rise above the arrogant to a higher expression of holy compassion (neither retaliatory, or cowardice), but that of blessing, thus revealing Christ.
Due to difficulties and financial constrains within our region, our county and state officials made some decisions that adversely impacted our poor in Pottstown. Initially we wanted things fixed (like everyone else would), asking for policy change. When we saw that the right changes could not be made, we wanted to “Bless the County,” and in so doing, God just keeps creating real (not marketed) opportunities for His Kingdom and light to be clearly seen.
Please click around the links below for a snapshot of how God is moving.