Hope for the Homeless

In the past month, two homeless people in lower Bucks County, PA were laid to rest. At both services to honor their lives the pastors admonished attendees to reflect on what’s important in life and said that the funeral was a celebration of the person’s life.

Drawing from the 23rd Psalm, the pastor at Martha’s funeral spoke of how the Lord uses his children to witness to the world of God’s love and how He reaches down and pulls us out of the pit and restores us to his glory.

The pastor at the service  for Eddie said that we all have a mission, a purpose in life. The most important thing is life is Jesus and reflecting Jesus in our relationship with others.

Christians bring light to the world by showing the fruits of the spirit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

–Galatians 5:22-23

One thing that started happening after the funerals is that the brothers and sisters in the homeless community began to realize they need to come together. One homeless brother told me someone he had been at odds with reached out to make peace.

But all is not well. Wednesday night, on the heels of the last funeral service, someone stole a cell phone at a community meal.

The victim of the theft was angry, rightly so,  and demanded that everyone who was there be searched. Some people refused because it violates their right of privacy and probable cause. I pray that the cell phone will be returned to its rightful owner and the thief be punished.

The homeless community needs not just a place to live, but moral support. They, like King David, need to be lifted out of the pit. The establishment in Bucks County treats the homeless the way blacks were treated during the Jim Crow south.

The homeless need to be encouraged, and, as Martin Luther King preached, not hate the enemy but fight for what’s right in love. “Be angry but do not sin”, the Bible says. When people treat you rotten, it’s hard not to harbor resentment and lash out at them or shun them. I struggle with this myself. Only God can empower you to deal with problems while showing the fruits of the spirit.

When I had a problem with a public official years ago, I lamented about how I had been wronged to a counselor. The counselor said that there will be A-holes in your life, but I shouldn’t let them bring me down. I should just leave them on the ash heap of history and move on. Good advice!

Unlike Curly of The Three Stooges, who joked “I’m a victim of circumstances”, you don’t have to be a victim of circumstances. There is more to life than what you may be going through at a particular time. As the pastor at Martha’s funeral pointed out, God is there for you during the vicissitudes, the ups and downs of life. God is always there.

In the homeless community we need to be there for each other.

“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.

For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth for he hath not another to help him up.

Again, if two lie together, they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?

And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

–Ecclesiastes 4:9 – 4:12

 

Love One Another

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

–Matthew 22:36-40

Loving others in the homeless community by meeting their needs first was testimony given at the funeral service for Eddie McCulley held  today at the First United Methodist Church in Bristol, PA. Eddie, loved by many, as evidenced at the great attendance at the service, died in an RV fire in a homeless camp. Friends attending the service said that Eddie looked out for others – both their physical and emotional needs.

Eddie’s “adopted” daughter said that on one occasion when they bought some Chinese food, the came upon a man who told them he was homeless and hadn’t eaten for three days. They shared their food with him.

When people, including his “daughter” was down, Eddie was always ready with a joke and comforted others who were in the same circumstance as he was.

I didn’t know Eddie very well – mainly from the community meals – but he always greeted me with a smile and was very sociable. He informed me when he was promoted from Mayor of the camp to Governor, and sometimes asked me, his lieutenant (sometimes he called me his liege), if everything was in order.

At one community meal, one of the hosts asked us if we needed anything. “One scotch, one bourbon, and one beer,” Eddie said, tongue in cheek. The host took him seriously and replied “sir, we don’t serve that here; we’re Methodist.”

The funeral is a celebration of Eddie’s life, said the pastor and others who attended the service. We  all have a mission in life, the pastor explained; we are here for a purpose.

We touch others lives, as did Eddie.

A funeral is a time to reflect on our lives and what life is about, to realize what’s important in life. What’s most important, the pastor said, is Jesus.

This is what is important to me.

God wants us to love one another. The way to bring people together is to first love God. Years ago, someone told me about the God/people triangle. The closer we, at the bottom of the triangle, get to God, at the top of the triangle, the closer we get to each other.

People in the homeless community need to be there for one another. We are family and need to be there to edify each other. As the lyrics in the Sister Sledge say:

“Ev’ryone can see we’re together
As we walk on by
(Hey) and we fly just like birds of a feather
I won’t tell no lie
(ALL!) all of the people around us they say
Can they be that close
Just let me state for the record
We’re giving love in a family dose”

The hosts at a community meal for the homeless and needy sung We Are Family.

Indeed, we are family.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.”

–First Corinthians 13: 4-8

The Reason for Living

Despite the slings and arrows from modern day Pharisees, God is in control and he takes care of his people. There is a reason for things that happen. We, as humans, don’t always understand why but for those who trust in God there is hope for the future.

I was reminded of this Saturday at the funeral for a dearly beloved woman who was for a time a member of the homeless community in the area of the public library in Levittown, PA.  Although friends and family were saddened by the woman’s death, people of faith accepted it as part of God’s plan.

At the funeral, the pastor comforted those gathered by reading and applying the 23rd Psalm:

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’ sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: For thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.”

The pastor pointed out that the Lord is a God who is there for you when you are into the valleys, when you are not on the mountaintop. He, as he did for the psalmist King David, reaches down and rescues sinners when we are in the pit.

Faith is what protects us from the fear of the unknown.

God uses his children to advance his glorious kingdom, and during the woman’s  bout with cancer, she started getting better despite the doctors thinking that there would be a different outcome. It was a miracle that God used to send a message to others. But later it was the Lord’s time to take her home.

God controls the horizontal; God controls the vertical. His ways aren’t our ways. We must live by faith. God is working in the background and we must just trust in him, as he has our best interests at heart.

At the funeral, I was reminded that we can be redeemed by Jesus and transformed into a new creature, becoming more like Jesus.

Before leaving for the funeral, I got riled up after learning the The Advocates for The Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) welched on their promise to take the homeless to see their friend off, crying that it would be too far for them. Contributions for the friend who was a part of the homeless community are being sent in her name to AHTN.

On top of that, after I went on a brief diatribe at the Levittown Public Library about how politicians tout that they help the homeless but don’t really care, and called out a particular politician, Pat, the head librarian, told me to quiet down, although she’s said nothing to people who talked volumes louder and longer that I did.

I also spoke out against the gross injustice that was done to a homeless woman with COPD who got kicked out of the WIC office in Levittown during business hours where she came to warm up on a cold winter’s day. She was told given a lame excuse.

The problem, evidently, was that Pat did not like what I had to say. The emperor didn’t want to be told he needs a new set of clothes. It was a case of “sit down and shut up.”

The tenor of the funeral quelled my anger, righteous as it may have been, and I got a fresh perspective on life and moved on.

The woman recently laid to rest was a homemaker, a stay at home mom but later in life became homeless.

Staying at home and taking care of children is a noble, selfless thing. I once met a woman who said that when she was single, after she worked her nine-to-five, she was on her own time. If she was tired, she could rest — she was in control of her schedule. But when she got married and had a family, she was on call 24/7. In the evening, after working all day, she would sit down to rest, only to have to get up almost as soon as she sat down. “People always want something”, she said.

As a member of the homeless community in lower Bucks County, PA, the woman continued serving others. She looked out for her fellow homeless, making sure that they had what they need to survive.

The pastor said that we have a reason for being on the earth — to influence others and show them love. We pass on the principles we hold dear to others.

For the Christian, death is not the end. It is a final rest after completing our mission on earth.

Although our dear sister will be sorely missed, we have comfort in that it is God’s will and that the Christian reaction is a witness to the world.

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”

— 1st Thessalonians 4:13-14

A funeral is a time for the living to soul search — to think about who they are and how they act  — what they will be remembered for. I for one, would not, as one druggie in the homeless community bragged, want to be remembered as “the King of the Panhandlers.” Or like another druggie who’s known for ripping off sick old ladies.

It was a sobering gathering. It makes me think of what will be my legacy.

We should not waste our time on earth, but should use it to do good. Shakespeare laid this idea on us in one of his sonnets:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold (Sonnet 73) 

“That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou see’st the twilight of such day

As after sunset fadeth in the west;

Which by and by black night doth take away,

Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the deathbed whereon it must expire,

Consumed with that which it was nourished by.

This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well which thou must leave ere long.”

Life is precious, people have value. Despite our sister’s circumstances, she showed love towards others. Others did the same for her and passed in on. On one occasion, when she was saddened and was crying in the library,  a Christian woman went right to her to comfort her and help resolve the problem, which she did.

Loving and helping one another is why we are here. As the 60s popular song goes we need to “try to love one another right now.” We cannot do this on our own, but can do so if we tap into God’s Word. Loving one another particularly applies to the homeless community.