Friday, July 6, 2007

The Widow's Mite; A Date to Move; Lives on the Move.


Jesus watched a poor widow put two very small copper coins into the temple treasury. "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." (Luke 21:1-3)

One street over and a block north of my bunkhouse at Gods Katrina Kitchen you may find a row of fairly nice homes along Woodward Avenue. Most of them were damaged by Hurricane Katrina, but they are beginning to show new attractiveness as the residents make repairs and clean up their properties.

But just a few steps farther, walking north to cross the railroad tracks, you will find a different picture. Looking around, you might think the calendar had been rolled back to 1907 instead of 2007. Ramshackle wood shacks which were hardly livable before Katrina show decades of disrepair, with no sign of any improvements since the devastation of the hurricane. This is a neighborhood which speaks of generations of grinding poverty and lack of hope, a neighborhood neglected, ignored and despised.

Last week as I was walking back from the nieghborhood store I was hailed by a resident south of the tracks, who assailed me with the bitterness she felt about the presence of God's Katrina Kitchen a block south. She spoke of alleged crime and occasional litter, but some of her most bitter words were reserved for the residents north of the tracks who would walk through her neighborhood to eat at the Kitchen. Some of them were young mothers leading 4 to 6 small children for one or two meals per day. "This was a nice neighborhood," the woman said, "before all these people north of the tracks started walking through here every day."

A different viewpoint can be seen in this letter to the local newspaper from a woman who lives about four more blocks to the north:

This Tuesday while I was in the office trailer of the Kitchen, a young black woman came in, dressed as one might expect for one of those residents that live two blocks away--that is, north of the railroad tracks. She told office manager Vicki that she wanted to make a donation, and handed her a fifty dollar bill.

Vicki looked misty-eyed. "That's the kind of thing," she told me, "that makes it worth going on here."


Other donations have been coming in the last few days, along with a few offers of places for God's Katrina Kitchen to move to. You see, on Monday the city council of Gulfport denied the kitchen's request to stay on the property for one more year, and the city sent a notice to vacate by July 31. The council meeting was covered and reported by the local TV station whose article may be found here:

A video clip of the meeting shown on the evening news, with clips of founder Greg Porter and director James Giles can be found here:

The staff of the Kitchen have been kept busy for the last few days pursuing possible places for the Kitchen to stay, and following up on new offers. In the meantime, the Kitchen continues to feed 1000 to 1500 meals per day, and James' children's ministry has been reaching out to the kids in a neighborhood park, where the children share the turf with a local street gang.

What the future holds for the Kitchen and for the ministry of Church Army Gulf Coast has yet to be revealed, but no one here finds it easy to believe that God wants us to stop doing what we have been doing. Please pray God's peace for all of us as God unfolds his plan.


Three weeks ago the kitchen staff were steeling themselves for long hours and extra shifts after our cook Mister Bill (our first graduate from the NoAH program) moved on, and other cooks were expected to be on leave.

In the meantime, two men came to me and asked to be admitted to the NoAH program. They had heard about it from Eddie, who had recently left the program. Freddie and Van had met on the West Side Pier near the Kitchen, and in discussing their lives (and why they had to sleep on the Pier) resolved that they were never going to use drugs again. I showed them the NoAH covenant and, as usual, asked them to pray about it overnight before signing the covenant.

The next morning Freddie and Van were not to be seen, and we wondered what had happened. But late that evening they showed up at the Kitchen and told us they had been arrested for sleeping on the pier and had spent the night in jail. After being released, they had walked directly from the jail (in the north of Gulfport, 6 miles away) to the Kitchen. Nothing was going to deter them from trying to get into the program.

James and Steve and I found some lodging for Freddie and Van that night at the Rescue Mission in Biloxi, and interviewed them extensively the next morning before admitting them into the NoAH Life Transformation Program. Today is their 20th day, when they will be presented with their personal study bibles. They have been taking in all they could of what Church Army could give them: Morning and evening devotions, spiritual growth classes (Making Peace with Your Past), bible studies, AA meetings, 12-step classes, and work, work, work. They are doing so well that I am afraid to boast.

Oh, and did I fail to mention? Both Freddie and Van are seasoned professional cooks. They stepped into the breach in the kitchen and have been pairing off for the morning and evening shifts leading groups of volunteers to feed 1000-plus people each day. In addition, Freddie has been helping out with the outreach to the children at the neighborhood park.

God knew exactly who to send to us at exactly the right time when our programs here had matured to exactly the right level. Please pray for Freddie and Van as they look forward to new lives as New Creations in Christ.

I will try my best to keep you all updated on the news from the Gulf Coast. I pray that this time will be our time of blessing, and not the Time of Trouble.

In Christ,

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