(NH) Nancy and Deacon Mark went downtown to Suburban Station in Philadelphia for St. Paul Street Evangelization ministry on Saturday morning. The station was bright and dry, decorated with Christmas trees and shop signs, with Christmas music playing in many areas. Then there were the homeless, whose presence is a stark contrast to the tidy, clean, efficient looking station… Many were coming in from being outside in the rain, dampness clinging to their clothes and their scent. As found before at this location, as soon as our team enters the station we are approached by homeless people. Many tell stories of woe that are shocking and scary. They tell of lives of abuse and neglect, foster homes, addiction and prison, violence, theft, hunger, fear and bitterness. Many also tell of belief in God at work in their lives, of gracious love for Jesus and His Mother, of tremendous concern for the others who are homeless, of hope in getting places of their own, of getting jobs, of being healthy, of getting married, of making contact with their families. They are typically kind and sweet and so thankful for us to pray with them and speak with them about life and God and what He asks of us and what He does for us.
Wanting to do something special for Christmas for some of those that we would meet, the team brought several $10 Dunkin’ Donut giftcards, as there are a few of these shops in the concourse. This seemed a good idea so that we were not carrying cash and could steer use of our gift towards food instead of being used for drugs or liquor. In addition to our usual sacramentals, we also brought some knit gloves, purchased at the dollar store, to offer folks as a little Christmas gift, along with cookies and waters. The people were very appreciative for anything and everything that they received from us, corporeally and spiritually. After giving out all of the gift cards to the needy, there were some who came by later who had drinks from Dunkin’ Donuts but we had not given them gift cards. Apparently those whom we gave gift cards to shared what they had with others and bought them food and drink with their cards. The care of many of the homeless for their brethren truly cuts one to the heart. Our team is so appreciative of being given the privilege to serve the poor in the name of Jesus.
There were many encounters that were moving and this post could go on and on and on. However, for the sake of getting some things done today in addition to this post 🙂 and for the sake of the reader, here are some excerpts and intentions:
Keith – A young man who told of his prior life of alcoholism and being on the wagon for over 6 years, but in need of work and getting back in touch with his family after having been in prison. We bought him a train ticket to Lansdale, per his request.
Odell – A man who was sitting up against the wall in the station, but looked healthy and well dressed. He said he was very blessed. Odell had a speech impediment that made it very difficult to understand him. This has been noted before when ministering to the needy in Philadelphia; many have speech difficulties and it makes one wonder if that is part of the source of why they are not employed or being left behind in the culture. It certainly makes for a difficult life. Odell wanted to pray for Nancy and her children before wanting her to pray for him.
Salim – A young man who was heavily tattooed prays for forgiveness.
Elderly woman – She was mute and tried to sign her needs but was not understandable. She left seemingly pleased with a prayer, a new pair of gloves and a dunkin donuts card.
Charlene – A middle aged woman who we met on previous occasions. She said “Hi I’m back and I need prayer!” We prayed for her needs for shelter and stability and peace and for her daughter too.
Keith – A middle aged man who had spent some time in prison and wants to make good choices in alignment with God’s will in his life. He told us that he gives himself to Jesus and loves the Blessed Mother. His deceased mother’s name is Mary also, and Keith prays for a sign that his mom is well and with Christ.
Dante – 26 year old man who we met before. We prayed for him to have doors open in his life for stability and peace and for him to have strength to make choices to bring this about.
Leonora – For her health, shelter, and care.
Henry and Marcus – For their health, shelter, and care.
John Williams – For the repose of his loved one’s souls.
Jerold – A gentle giant of a man ~ for his needs.
Larry – Released from prison two days ago, having served a 20 something year sentence. Larry is on-fire with the Holy Spirit! He tell of how he has a job setup, is living in a halfway house and wants to build a good future for himself by following what God asks of him. Larry speaks of how he gets “thumped” on what he should do, sometimes it is light and gentle, sometimes it is strong and he knows what to do based on this. He plans to “Keep Holy the Lord’s Day” tomorrow by going to services at a Pentecostal church where he is comfortable, having been raised in that denomination. He accepted a medal of the Blessed Mother and enjoyed speaking with us about her love of us as her children.
Jackie – A soft spoken gentle women who originally came from Louisiana and speaks with a lilting southern accent and excellent vocabulary. She told of how she has no family in the area but came to Philadelphia for the promise of a job, after losing a job of 3 years in New York. The Philadelphia job never came to fruition and Jackie speaks of being stuck in Philadelphia. She has had some college education, which was not surprising considering how well spoken she was. Jackie’s story makes one think about how any of us could be a homeless person, due to job loss, lack of family or friends, mental illness, poor choices, health problems, and bad luck. She asked for a ride to the Art Museum but then having gotten there and seeing the rain, asked to be brought back to the train station. We recommended she go to the Hub of Hope in the station to ask them to help her get work, that she had employable skills. She said she would. On driving home, we saw that she did not enter the station after all but was walking down the street in the rain.