Saturday, May 9, 2009

Emmaus Ministries: Day four

I cooked today. I got to the Ministry Center at 10:00 so I could have lunch ready by noon. I cooked garlic chicken with mozzarella cheese, green beans, rice and served it with cantaloupe and bread.

Our meals are served at a dinning room table, we all sit together. One of the guys begins with a scripture reading and then another prays. There is a real homey feeling about this place. (“Homey” as in home, The Waltons not as in “my hommie, yo dog”).

As soon as a guy enters the center he is met by a staff member. They ask him what his goal is for the day. Guys usually call family, case workers, doctors, housing folks or job opportunities. They then schedule time to use the showers and do their laundry. They also sign up to do a chore.

The rest of the time is spent relaxing, talking with staff and one another. There is group. This is a ministry and the ministry is in it for the long run. that means developing a trusting and respecting relationship is the most important thing we do.

When I finished my shift I walked over to Jesus People USA,. pronounced "Juh-POO-zuh,", This is an old hotel with 500 people living in intentional community. I remember them from the late seventies. These folks do not look like your run of the mill Christians (whatever that is). I first met a woman with beautifully colored tattoos running down both arms and with big, loud ear rings and necklaces. I immediately thought of gypsies. Then I saw a sign on the wall for “Project Nehemiah” it describes their service projects in Romania. I saw many elderly and some folks who clearly have mental health issues. The woman at the counter had bright green hair on the top of her head and the rest of her head was shaved. She was greeted by a friend. He was wearing a long black coat, black platform boots that went up to his knees and black eye makeup and lipstick. To be fair, the majority of folks looked like anyone else except for that fact that nobody was wearing anything new.

I was offered a tour. I visited their chapel and their two cafeterias. Everything is owned in common. Families have rooms but eat with everyone else. I visited their brand new coffee house, “Citizen, Citizen, Citizen.” The neighborhood now has many coffee shops. So it is easy to find a quiet place to have a latte and work or read. That is not that place. This is a skateboarder coffee shop. The music throbs and kids are outside dressed in so many different styles skating and laughing.

The Friendly Towers needs a lot of work. It is not ascetically pleasing to look at. So, why do I like this place and these folks? Because they are living a radical gospel life. They have given up everything to follow the gospels. In return they are transforming their part of the world. Elderly and mentally ill live in a community that values them. Across the street, next to Emmaus is a large two story art gallery. This is part of Jesus People USA. I walk down the street and go down what use to be “blood alley”, nobody but nobody walked down that dangerous place. Today it is safe. These folks put in two shelters for families down this alley. I visit Cornerstone shelter and Sylvan Center.

They have building business, educational services and outreach programs for neighborhood kids. They have rock bands, Irish bands and Goth (explains my first encounter) that travel the world. And worship, these folks know how to worship.

So, it is not my kind of community but I sure do appreciate them. I will probably spend Saturday evening with them watching “The Wrath of Khan”.

Peace and all Good

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