This is what happens when a small group of ministry partners travel from the rural farmland of Berks County to the inner city of Philadelphia to serve those in need on July 15th.
Mike, John, and Theo warmly welcomed Longswamp UCC’s delivery of approximately 30 bags of clothing and toiletries and $425 in cash and gift cards to Old First UCC’s Saturday Breakfast and Clothing Cupboard. Our small team of six ministry partners helped organize clothing, became personal shoppers, and took prayer requests for a group of 73 men and women that have been living on the streets. That was the doing part and that was expected, but there was much more that happened in Philly!
Julianna said that she really enjoyed talking to the people as she helped them find the right size shirts. When a man named Mike saw her name tag, he told her his 15 year old daughter’s middle name was Julie. He connected with Julianna and poured out his life story of mistakes made due to alcohol and drug addiction which left him divorced, homeless, serving time in prison, and trying to mend his relationship with his daughters after his absence. She offered him encouragement for staying clean for the last 18 months and hope that with this progress he may reconnect with his daughters. “Homeless people become part of the city landscape. It’s as if they are objects, which makes it really easy to walk by without a second thought. Actually talking to them brings back their humanity. It puts a human face to the issue of poverty.” –Julianna C., 20 years old
Zack was, according to his father, a bit fearful about what types of people he might meet on this trip. Zack met and talked to a variety of people. “I connected with a man who served in the army as his father did before him. I connected with him because my father was in the military. He was also a fellow re-enactor who had done civil war re-enactments as I do WWII re-enactments. What was very interesting was that many of the men looked and spoke as a normal man would. The only difference was that these men may have made a bad decision or just weren’t so lucky.” — Zackary R., 15 years old
“Someone asked me if any of the people were scary or intimidating but they were not. I tried to make eye contact and get close or touch their arm or shoulder to let them know someone cares and they were all very respectful. A man named Mark talked to me at the door outside. He was so thankful for all the bags of clothes we were bringing in.” –Laurie H.
In addition to meeting some of our southern neighbors from Old First UCC, members of St. Luke’s UCC of Ottsville were cooking up the breakfast the morning we were there. Both are part of the Penn Southeast Conference which is exploring merging with our PNEC. We served together in Philly and might be united under a new conference in the near future! Unexpected connections — how we find God at work when we step out of our comfort zone and serve! —Thank you to Rick R. for stepping out to collect clothes and cash AND to everyone that donated time, clothing and toiletries so generously.
-Tina C., Acting Team Leader, Longswamp United Church of Christ