Last month I celebrated the seventeenth month of my commitment to serve the least, the last and the lepers along the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast, following three months of preparatory training with Church Army USA. Now God is calling me into a new training period, while He prepares me for the future in His service.
I have been reflecting upon all that God has blessed me with over the last twenty months through Church Army Gulf Coast, its partner God’s Katrina Kitchen, and the newly formed missionary diocese of Saint Aidan Lindisfarne.
In Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, I learned that every person who walked through the door of Church Army’s coffee shop was a ministry opportunity. In Branson, Missouri, I learned that the Twelve Step Program properly applied was a doorway to a relationship with God, and observed how that door led to the next door, a relationship with Christ. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, I learned how a Native American can open doorways to Christ for his brothers while they recover their ancient heritage.
In the Mississippi Gulf Coast cities of Pass Christian, Gulfport, and Long Beach I worked alongside God’s Katrina Kitchen as they housed thousands of short term volunteers, coordinated relief work for thousands more, served hundreds of thousands of meals, cleaned up innumerable cubic yards of debris, and mucked out and helped to rehabilitate hundreds of homes. I was blessed to serve under Fr. James Giles, who, backed up by his wife Mary, coordinated volunteer efforts, served as assistant director, and became Pastor to the two dozen or so long term staff, all serving without pay.
In its first two cities the Kitchen was open to the public for three meals a day, seven (later six) days per week. Through the red-and-white dining tent walked every manner of people, from displaced homeowners to struggling construction workers to homeless drifters with devastated lives. Each person had a story, and each felt loved by the simple act of someone who would take the time to listen to their stories.
For some of the men, along with homelessness and desperation there came alcohol and drugs, before and after, one reinforcing the other in a slow death spiral. These are the men I invited into the bunkhouse to live alongside me, teaching them sober living, spiritual disciplines, the message of the Bible, and the doorway to Christ. Statistics and numbers cannot tell their stories, only their names and their remembered faces: Dale, Doug, and Mike; Barry, Jeff, and Nate; Bill, Sam, and Larry; Ron, Ed, and Terry; Fred and Van; and the one who would not come in out of the cold, Tom. Each one touched my life as I touched theirs. Each one saw Jesus: some a little, some a lot. Each one grew, some a little, some a lot.
In Pennsylvania I met Alan Morris, a true man of God dedicated to Making Disciples Who Make Disciples. I was welcomed into a fellowship of Anglicans similarly dedicated, meeting in their homes, at house churches, and even in campgrounds. I participated or was present at the ordinations of Kirk, Andrew, and Colin; the consecration of Alan as bishop of our missionary diocese; and of course my own ordination as a Missionary Deacon.
I assisted our archbishop, Russ McClanahan when he consecrated Henry Roberts as a bishop for a cluster of black pentecostal churches in Mobile, Alabama, challenging our church to expand its boundaries.
God's Kitchen continues to operate in Long Beach, Mississippi. They are currently accepting volunteers who want to help rebuild the Gulf Coast, housing them at the Long Beach church, feeding them, and coordinating work sites. My prayers are with them, and I invite you to pray for them also.
My friends, each of you has played a part in this season`of growing God’s kingdom, by your prayers, by your financial support and even just by my knowing that someone cared enough to read my stories in my newsletters or read through this web log. Thank you. Knowing you were out there and that you care has been a blessing beyond words.
Now we find ourselves in a time of transition and waiting upon the Lord for direction as to what comes next. James and Mary are looking toward St Louis, Missouri as Church Army’s ministry there continues to expand to addicts and their families through the leadership of Mark Hedrick. I have moved to Ambridge, Pennsylvania to work with Alan Morris on developing ways to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. I am looking forward to learning much more working alongside my bishop.
James and Mary recently sent out a letter (which I unashamedly have imitated here) to their supporters, recommitting themselves to be Disciples of Christ. I am also recommitting myself in ministry to:
>Serve those who struggle with homelessness and addictions,
>Seek opportunities for others to be transformed by the calling of Christ,
>Encourage religious community among all manners of peoples,
>Provide practical spiritual discipling of the followers of Christ, and
>Love the least, the last, and the lepers of our society.
In God’s Love,