A pastors reflection of his work.
Lately, I have been faced with some very challenging issues as I provide housing and counsel to homeless men. I have decided the issues are so challenging that I am planning to develop or find a different kind of ministry more appropriate to a person with my demeanor and age. I have never been afraid to work with and face issues that are troubling and complex when it comes to people I minister with . However there are times when one has to look at the ministry being provided and if it is no longer being effective or causes too much strain and stress to the provider, it is definitely time to change to another ministry focus.
When Redeeming Servant Ministries began, I thought it would be a good thing to publish a newsletter by which I could share stories of concern and celebration among those receiving the said newsletter. I had a sincere appreciation for Jerre Nolte, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church at the time, who encouraged my ministry, and even supported it as an extension of the ministry of Grace Church. I was invited to make the newsletter copies on the church Xerox machine and was allowed to use the same postage system used by Southwestern College and Grace Church. Over a period of 2 years, I published monthly newsletters to approximately 300 patrons. Some of the articles I published are still being talked about today once in a while. Changes in the Church Administration, budgeting my time, and the increasing costs of paper and other supplies, I found it necessary to give up that ministry focus and concentrate on another way of serving people.
In approximately the same time frame, I began a ministry to those in Nursing Homes, Retirement Centers and the Kansas Veterans Home, using my musical interest and providing programs that I called MUSIC AND MINISTRY. These were one hour programs that emphasized the use of my singing spiritual and secular songs accompanied with my instruments, …..piano, banjo, guitar and autoharp. I would alternate a story with some Christian application with a song that would appeal to the elderly. I was having evening and afternoon programs two and three times per week at these facilities. I also took my Music Ministry to places like Wichita, Conway Springs, Arkansas City and other small town nursing homes and churches in the region. One especially rewarding location was a nursing home in Wichita that provided services to those with HIV and AIDS. When my health began to fail, and had to spend more time taking care of my bedridden mother, I had to give up that ministry and struggled with what my next focus would be to serve people. I will never forget when I announced I was leaving that phase of my ministry how so many of the patients fell into tears. This just proved to me how meaningful my work had been to them.
It was about this same time I became certified to work with those having HIV and AIDS. This became a secondary ministry, but never really grew all that much due to the confidentiality issues and most of the patients were moving to Wichita where they could be closer to appropriate medical attention. For several months I served a housing community in Wichita with these patients, however it was too costly for me to continue driving the distance from Winfield to Wichita on a regular basis.
It became apparent to me about that time there were hundreds of people in Winfield that were low and very low income recipients. Most were on a fixed income or faced with a disability of some kind or other. I also recognized so many of these persons had no transportation to get to the food stores, to the doctors offices, to pick up commodities and other important locations, so I decided to focus upon a transportation ministry for these folks. I was driving at the time an old Cadillac that got 9 miles to the gallon on gasoline. I am still amazed how the Lord provided me with the resources from my own fixed income earnings to transport these persons to and from these places. It took my good pastoral friend from Oklahoma City to point out I was being consumed by helping others to the detriment of maintaining my own financial and material needs. After many tears and taking a closer look at how my ministry was being used and even abused, I decided it was no longer effective and that I was beginning to be disrespected. Only rarely did anyone offer to help with gasoline and I began to get calls to take individuals to the grocery store when all they wanted was to pick up a fountain drink at a convenient store.
For a while I floundered around trying to find my next focus on ministry. I was presented with the idea of establishing a blog site on which I could express myself about ministry and other issues, sort of like I did with my newsletter many years ago. Though I enjoyed writing the blogs, they were not meeting a need I have for reaching a greater number of people and to get feedback from them on a regular basis. I was clearly disappointed with blogging and even after many attempts to gain more followers, I discovered every excuse in the books why individuals did not sign on. I currently have 16 followers which is a far cry from the 300 people I had when I did my newsletter, but at least it is 16 opportunities to express myself about spiritual and secular issues. I was encouraged that I should write the blogs as a way of expressing myself and for my own enjoyment, but I have never been fond of doing a ministry for my own enjoyment when I feel I am Called to serve others in whatever ways I can.
Well, holding on to my blogging, I began searching for another focus for my ministry. I have always had an ongoing ministry doing work with Deaf individuals. It has been rewarding for both myself and them to experience better communication through Sign Language. I have also had some success in ministering to others by baking bread and cinnamon rolls. There is nothing that says love any stronger than to show up with a hot loaf of fresh baked home made bread.
I continued searching and prepared several written proposals which were mostly ignored. Then a friend of mine told me about a lady in need of some visitation as she did not get out much and could use the socialization. I began visiting her and even found two others to visit on a regular or simi-regular basis.
During the holidays, I began to have a concern for homeless folks in the Winfield Community and thought it would be nice to invite several to a holiday dinner. The fact is, I began to find people sleeping in tents in the inclement weather, sleeping under the bridges South of town, and many other factors lending to their homelessness. I took a leap of faith and opened my home to many of these folks, in order for them to have shelter until they could get on their feet (so to speak) and live more independently with appropriate housing. Most attempts I made at finding resources to help these persons failed. The police department does not provide help, area homeless shelters (Wichita, Ponca City, Topeka, Stillwater) are full to the brim, the Winfield Ministerial Alliance is essentially ineffective since they fail to work together between the conservative and liberal factions of ministry, therefore cannot agree upon issues of consequence to the community, and though local churches recognize a need for ministering to these folks, the resources are just not there. All is not glamour in such an endeavor……..for such a ministry subjects a home to all kinds of dysfunctional and legal issues surrounding each individual. I have had 4 subjects arrested by the Police Department out of my home. I have been subjected to lazy and non caring individuals who do very little or nothing to help around the house or to provide for their own upkeep. So many are alcoholic, chain smoking, dysfunctional individuals who have no clue what it takes to provide for their own independence. The toughest part for me is those who have mental,…… psychological or behavioral issues. (Anger management…drug addiction,… sexual addiction,… ADHD,… Depression… Physical threats…attempts at suicide or cutting wrists or parts of the body….failure to be motivated to help themselves out of poverty to find independence,…..destructive behavior (breaking furniture or other household items), and the list goes on. For each individual there is a different set of issues which usually centers around some major dysfunctional thinking or behavior. To be a care provider almost certainly includes a certain amount of disrespect and abuse by those I serve. Unfortunately, I have grown weary of this in my own home and have decided to end the personal, in home ministry to the homeless and focus on regaining the peace, quiet and solitude of my own residence. The fear I have is that my compassion gets in the way of my common sense at times and I will fall into the same vulnerability with others as I attempt to love and serve them as God expressed through Jesus Christ that we should.
I know I am not a person of great influence in this community, as I am often belittled for the attempts at ministry I do provide others. I am not even seen as suitable for doing anything official in my own church other than volunteer my time, etc. My ministry is truly an attempt to do God’s work as I am called to do it.. I have never really had fear of any of these persons I serve….(having spent time in prison and having my experiences put to the fire), and with my passive, aggressive approach heavily influenced by LOVE, I guess you could say I am unique in and of myself. I would truly admit I get frustrated, angry and even inconsistent as I deal with the low income and homeless folks I work with, and there have been some I have had to place limits on my service to them, but I can say it has been a dynamic learning experience for which I often feel unprepared except through my capacity to love them as brothers and sisters in Christ. My main prayer is like the words of the Christian song……..”If I have wounded any soul today, ….If I have caused one foot to go astray,….If I have gone in my own willful way., ………Dear Lord,…..Forgive!”
Pray for me as I say goodbye and watch the homeless guys I am now caring for move on to independence. Once they have moved on, I will feel like a fish out of water….looking for God to Call me into another phase of my continued ministry. I must keep my mind open and heart willing to love and embrace the next mission of service i provide to others. As I look back over my life, I realize it is not the big ministry projects that I have done that are most rewarding, but the one at a time opportunities to serve individuals as I find them, become personally involved, and to share the love of Christ from my own perspective. .