Tuesday’s Child Has Far to Go: The Tuesday Ministry
They came. They came to our Tuesday Ministry, July 2,2013, in the flash flood,thunder and lightening type of summer rain we are having here in Fort Myers, Florida. They came by foot, by bike and by bus. Only Roger has a car and he brought two others. Almost everyone was dripping wet. We gave out shirts and towels. Lauretta opened her heavy backpack and gave out mangos from her tree to everyone. The mangos were exquisite and she was applauded. Chris settled her 3 month old baby and two year old in. Little Carl was given a big new truck and he moved it around the circle. Kathleen, 70, wiped her face and silver hair with a towel and sat by her favorite person, Mr. Gary who welcomed her warmly.
Some came because they were hungry and Ellen McNally the local Call to Action President and her husband Jack,85, brought a tantalizing homemade Lasagna with garlic bread that cooked in the oven awaiting presentation with a delicious green salad and deserts. Call To Action is a progressive Catholic group with chapters throughout the United States and they support women priests. On our Ministry Tuesdays they make this a literal form of support by bringing and serving the food prepared by themselves and other CTA members. They are an important part of our Good Shepherd Ministries, served by two Roman Catholic women priests, myself, Judy Lee, and co-pastor Judy Beaumont. Ellen and Jack are a part of the family that gathers on Tuesdays. They were with us in 2007 when we joined a ministry of the Lamb of God Lutheran Episcopal church in feeding the hungry and homeless on Saturday nights in a local park. They were with us in 2008 when we drew up to a hundred and fifty people on our Friday night Church in the Park. They were with us in late 2009 when we purchased the house that we turned into a church and a transitional shelter for homeless people. And they remain with us now as we continue the feeding traditions on Tuesdays and Sunday after church. No one needs come to church to be fed, the hot food is served after the church service and all are welcome to any part of the afternoon. They also can get food from our food pantry at those times. They are among the over 70 homeless people we have now gotten into affordable housing and assisted in getting incomes. And they are the newly homeless or unemployed or living on low fixed incomes who seek our support. They come to minister to each other. Those with homes bring those without homes and resources to be helped.
They come because we are family to those who have no families and friends to those who have no friends. They come because they are hungry for affiliation and acceptance and love and a place to have fellowship and thank God together as much as for food and a host of social and spiritual services. Most love coming to the worship and discussion of the day’s Scriptures that takes place before the meal.Our group meeting is lively and animated. People were were shunned and scorned by others now lead the group.
Today’s Scriptures were the story of Joseph forgiving his brothers in Genesis 49 and of Jesus telling his followers not to be afraid and to trust God’s love as God knows when a tiny bird falls and how many hairs you have on your head. Joking about his shaved head, Mr. G. led the discussion of forgiveness sharing that for the first time he was able to ask a family member for forgiveness. He said it was easier for him to forgive than to ask for forgiveness. But a weight was lifted off of his chest. This resonated with many as they shared stories of forgiving and being forgiven. Lauretta tied the two Scriptures together as she said “I know the love God has for me because of this church. When I came to the church when it was in the park, I was out of my head. I needed forgiveness from so many for the things I did. I disrupted everything. No one wanted to come near me. I was thrown out of every other church and was so hungry. This church welcomed me as I was and cared for me as if I was a little sparrow with broken wings. The pastors and all of you who were there loved me back to health. I could not accept my mental illness and would not take my medicine. But through your love today I am happy to take my meds, I have a lovely home and am reunited with my family,and most of all you are my family. That’s why I bring you fruits and honey and things all the time.” Everyone applauded her and the meeting went on.
After the meeting I spoke with Chris who is newly housed with her two babies. We agreed to help her pay her electricity deposit or she would lose this precious housing. This is not something we do often as the line then goes around the block.But we could not see her lose this precious housing. She was also delighted at the gifts of clothing for her children and herself and her developmentally slow older brother. As I held the tiny baby who already wheezed with asthma I thought of those sparrows and prayed.