AND THEN THERE WERE SIX…
Photo: From left to right is Lezlie Anderson, Steve Anderson, Mary Giles, James Giles, Rolin Bruno, and standing in front, Michael Brent.
Many of you, beloved, have followed with my updates since last May as I left California on the “Great Leap” into whatever God might have for me post-schooling. You will remember that I was not all that sure what might lay ahead. On the advice of my friend, Father Richard of Saint James Anglican (Newport Beach, CA), I drove to the Pittsburgh headquarters of a home missionary group called Church Army USA, which reputedly took in misfits such as myself.
While in Pennsylvania I not only got to know the leadership of Church Army, but also came to know a bunch of folks developing a house church missionary movement under The Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches (theceec.org). Next, I spent the month of July getting steeped in the ministry of Church Army Branson (Missouri), where a vibrant new church has sprung forth from years of work among men and women afflicted with addiction to drugs or alcohol.
But Mississippi seemed to be calling to me, where church army members James and Mary Giles were working alongside the hurricane relief efforts of God’s Katrina Kitchen. The long-term volunteers there were struggling to respond to the homeless and afflicted who showed up at the Kitchen, but needed oh-so-much more love than just a meal.
I arrived at the Kitchen August 2, and immediately felt that I was in the right place. Within two weeks God had put before me whole communities of homeless peoples, many of whom were in quite desperate straits, and some of whom could be greatly helped with just love and attention. I dropped my plan to spend a whole month investigating and discerning, and instead drove back to California to pick up the rest of my belongings and say goodbye to my dear friends at Saint James Anglican. I told them about the hurting people of coastal Mississippi and a dream formed in the mind of God for a new ministry.
When I got back to the Kitchen, James and I watched awestruck as God unfolded his dream. In an area where there is virtually no help for recovery from addiction, God had us inviting homeless addicts into my cabin home and trying to love them into His Kingdom. Then God moved the whole Kitchen operation, along with our fledgling Church Army Gulf Coast, six miles east to Gulfport where we were in the midst of hundreds of hurting, hungry, desperate and challenged people.
This month I write to tell you the amazing story of the six people who are trying to keep up with God as he brings His dream for Church Army Gulf Coast alive and moving along on His path.
After James’ ordination to the priesthood, he and Mary heard the call to help hurricane victims on the devastated Gulf Coast, and in January 2006 began coordinating relief tasks for the short term volunteer teams arriving from all over the United States. When God moved the Kitchen from its lovely site overlooking the serene waters off Pass Christian, MS, it was a struggle and a challenge. At the same time, James’ involvement was growing to become one of the key leaders for the overall mission of the Kitchen, multiplying his responsibilities and reducing his time available for ministry to the hurting people arriving to be fed. Mary also took on new responsibilities helping to operate the busy office of God’s Katrina Kitchen.
When I arrived, James and Mary joined others in saying that I was an answer to their prayers. They had been praying for someone to show up who had a heart for the homeless, and I seemed to fill the bill (this despite my tendency to become imperious when frustrated). Drawing upon my experience in Victory Outreach men’s rehab homes, and attempting to employ the 12-step methods which were working so well in Branson, we patched together a program and began accepting men onto the Kitchen campus to live in my tiny bunkhouse with me. I think perhaps God has kept our ministry small because of all the mistakes we continue to make as we learn what our tasks are through hands-on experience.
Already on site were Steve and Lezlie Anderson, who arrived at the Kitchen in October 2005. As an alcoholic in recovery, Steve had wanted to begin having Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on campus, for all those struggling to maintain their sobriety. After my arrival, we began weekly meetings in October 2006 of what is now the Camp Avenue Group, known to the AA central office, and hoping this year to become a fully recognized AA group. Lezlie has also been a great help to us with contributions from her years of experience in Al-Anon.
Most recently arriving is Michael Brent, who has a heart for helping those who are caught in the cycle of addiction. Michael and James had become friends when they attended seminary together, and after an exploratory trip here last month, decided to join us in our pastoral team. Michael’s cabin expanded our capacity from three to five men transforming their lives, and one of the men already here moved in with him. Michael is working on expanding our ministry to help the continued flux of homeless and devastated men and women who drift through the kitchen, in need of counseling, referral, case management, and advocacy.
Tampa, Florida trip
And finally, a personal note. Growing out of my relationship with Alan Morris (another seminary friend of James’, now a bishop), I felt a call to make The CEEC my new church home, in the missionary diocese he was founding. This January 6, I was ordained as a Missionary Deacon in the Diocese of Saint Aidan Lindisfarne. www.staidanlindisfarne.org. Ordination was the end of a long road for me, and the beginning of a new one. It has given me a new sense of peace, and has had the effect of removing some of the shrillness from my words and actions.
May God’s peace remain also with you as you keep each of us here in your prayers.
who may become the first graduate from our program, working on rehabilitat- ing the former apartment building on campus.
I am just beginning a personal web log. As I become more familiar in how to use it, I will post more frequently there; and each of you may enter your own comments: http://resurrectiongulfcoast.blogspot.com/
To make a donation to this ministry,
you may send a check or money order to:
Church Army USA, 210 W. North Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
ON THE MEMO LINE PLEASE WRITE: GULF COAST GC096
Please pray for us,
Rev. Deacon Rolin Bruno