Ministry From a Hooker and Two Drunks

Joe and Sam and “T” were my favorites. Not publicly, but emotionally they brought me life. Circa 1991-1997. Got connected with the Good News Church Soup Kitchen just off of Howard Street, a few blocks short of Evanston, Illinois. Was able to get there every Thursday. Supper was 6 p.m., but I loved walking the streets. That wasn’t a metaphor. Wore a clergy collar to do the self-identity thing of being a “priest.”

Heard the shots…weren’t firecrackers. Saw a teenager slumped by the school building. Emergency folk showed up. The first nurse looked down and shrieked, “That’s my son!” Not a golden moment.

Thought it a good idea for my congregation [we were pretty large with 5 staff clergy] to serve the folk at the Soup Kitchen the 4th Thursday of the month, joining the other 29 congregations [Protestant, Catholic and Jewish] in the serving ministry. Posted a sign-up. And anger was unleashed, a new cause for anger. Two members irated, “Why won’t you let me serve next month?” Tried to explain that 40 members signed up and we only used 8 each meal…including food purchase and food preparation. They smiled faintly but felt rejected. I thought to myself, “will anything ever please you?” Gave credence to my experience that some people are incapable of spelling wine without an “h.”

Back to the Soup Kitchen…to Sam and Joe and “T.” Start with “T.” She couldn’t hide all the needle marks. Had pride for her two children, probably in age 4 and 2. She said her name was “T.” I asked what that meant. She looked down, barely audible, “Trash.” For 6 years “T” never missed dinner, nor did her kids. Not sure how it happened, but the smile began to happen. She then offered, “Hey, Holy Man? Gotta new version of T. Wanna hear it?” “Of course. Of course.” She didn’t smile, she beamed, “People around here have said I’m a good person. No more hooking and no more of those horrible drugs. Clinic said I’ve never had better blood. And the nurse said, ‘You have a new name…T is for Treasure.’”

“My oh my, T, as in Treasure! I’m proud of you.” A great moment. One of the best hugs ever.

Then Joe and Sam. They invited me to visit their residence once…so I went with them after the Soup Kitchen supper and short worship service. They didn’t walk, they staggered ahead of me. Sam still had the brown bag, shaped like a wine bottle.

I couldn’t believe “their residence.” An alley off of Howard Street, neatly formed “apartment” of cardboard boxes. They didn’t ask for any help…simply wanted to share part of themselves. They were adamant this was their preference…could “have a new home every other week.” I winced. Then they offered, “Can we help you Father with the worship service? We’d like to close it with those God words…help us learn them.”

It was a basic benediction they then memorized. And each Thursday [they never missed] when we finished worship with Communion [always using grape juice] I nodded to my two liturgists. Both of them, more tipsy than not, helped each other up on chairs, raised their right hands and said, “The Lord bless us and keep us….”

Why all this on a Tuesday? Because I saw the news clip about a 5-year-old boy bringing an angelic presence to a Waffle House. And I thought…how can each of us bring an angelic presence? Each of us must decide that…wouldn’t hurt to share with God a word of gratitude about how you are blessed…and each of us is…and then what can happen today in your life and through your living to help others.

Geesh, this sounds like preaching…and to some maybe it’s meddling. Maybe I’m not as retired as I thought. Okay. Do me a favor…tap into the link…and then….well, that’s for you to finish this.

Peace,

Mark.

The link:
http://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/mind-and-soul/5-year-old-makes-entire-waffle-house-cry-with-goodwill-gesture-toward-homeless-man/ar-BBjWf8w?ocid=HPCDHP

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About Mark H Miller

Diane and I live in Leander, Texas. This past June 17, 2015 I celebrated the 49th anniversary of my ordination. We returned to Texas after three years in Washington, during which I served as interim minister in Bellevue/Eastgate and Mercer Island. Am planning to begin a 5th novel that will have my protagonist, Tricia Gleason, serve a year in licensed ministry in Snoqualmie, Washington. The novel, "The Lemon Drop Didn't Melt," will find Tricia wrestling with ministry challenges. None of which more daunting than someone wanting her breathing to stop. All the published novels are available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle under Mark Henry Miller. A primary goal in our return to Texas is to make sure grandchildren get lots of attention--here and in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Traveling is definitely an activity that will not slow down. With that, of course, fishing will happen. To that the t-shirt is apt, "I fish; therefore I am." In addition to novels, the book of Blogs, "Voice Of My Heart," is also available on Amazon.
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