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Grady’s Still Here

Climbing the mountain top...

For years, we served biscuits in the park on Saturday and Sunday. Regardless of what my week brought, I knew I could check in with folks on the weekend.

I would see Frank, and hear how his week was. Michael would come up to me and tell me about his latest argument with his mother. George would check in and brag about his six days of sobriety, or confess that last week’s 17 days of sobriety was now back down to three.  That has been my routine now for so long, it’s hard for me to imagine it being otherwise.

These days, we do that at the Oak City Outreach Center. A few Sundays ago, I saw my new friend Grady sitting in a corner by himself. The last time I had seen Grady, he was in a pretty dark place, so I stopped by to check in.

When I asked him how he was, he told me he was a little better. Then he told me he had realized that just being here, still having survived at all, was an accomplishment.

I laughed.

“Grady, it’s more than that. It’s a victory of sorts.”

I told him that in college, I had learned a poem by Langston Hughes. I told him Hughes wrote poems that spoke to the black experience in the first third of the last century, and that a lot of the time, even survival was hard. I asked Grady if I could tell him the poem.

“OK, but I don’t know any poetry.”

So, I recited the poem. It’s called Still Here.

been scared and battered.
My hopes the wind done scattered.
Snow has friz me,
Sun has baked me,

Looks like between ‘em they done
Tried to make me

Stop laughin’, stop lovin’, stop livin’–
But I don’t care!
I’m still here!

Grady’s eyes lit up. Behind me, I heard clapping. I turned around, and three large, stereotypical street tough looking guys were behind me, and asked me to tell them the poem again.

So I did.

Grady asked for the title of the poem, and wrote it in his notebook. And then he said, “It’s like he was saying, ‘The world has thrown everything at me it could, and I am still here. So I won.'”

I told him it was exactly like that.

*   *   *

A couple of days later, I saw Grady in the bus station. He was looking tired, and wearing the same clothes he had been wearing on Sunday. He saw me and a big grin shot across his face. I was some 25 feet away, and headed to my bus. I waved.

From across the station, he shouted, “Hugh! I’m still here!”

And some days, that is victory enough.

Related: The Opposite Of Homelessness Is Community

Naming People Who Are Poor

Hello, my name is anonymous

Love Wins Ministries has a small chapel service for our community on Sundays. It looks like any other low-church Protestant worship service, albeit with worse singers and shorter attention spans than most. The one thing that makes it really different, however, is that it’s attended by our volunteers and our friends who live outside, which sometimes makes it… interesting.

Like a lot of churches, we have a time in the service for prayers of the people – where we name our “hopes and dreams, our fears and our prayers before God and our community.” And like lots of churches, the list of things we pray for runs a pretty regular list.

People who are seeking jobs.

People’s health.

Peace in the world.

Victims of crime.

For those who are homeless, especially in bad weather.

See? Just like in your church. In fact, this world I live and work in seems so normal to me that sometimes I forget how we are different.

This past Sunday, during our prayer time, we named people who were sick, and asked for prayer. We named people who had new jobs, and celebrated. We named people we knew would be sleeping outside in the upcoming single digit nights, and asked for their protection.

As I was standing at the front of the room, leading the prayer time, listening to the names being called out, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a volunteer last winter. She had just came to her first chapel service, and wanted to process it with me. Something had rocked her during the service, and she wanted to name it.

“All my life, I’ve prayed for those who were homeless. You named people who were homeless. All my life, I have prayed for people who needed jobs. You named people who needed jobs. I’ve always prayed for people to be safe in the cold weather. You named people who sleep outside in the cold weather. It was the first time I have ever prayed for people who are poor by name.”

Father Gustavo Gutierrez in Brazil famously said, “So you say you love the poor? Name them.”

It’s one thing to know that people are sleeping in the cold. It’s a very different thing to know David and Maria and Shelia and Timmy and Quincy and Grady are sleeping in the cold tonight. It’s one thing to pray for people who don’t have enough food. It’s another to pray for Maria, who can’t afford formula for her infant.

Do we really love people who are poor? Not if we don’t know their names.

Related: St. Basil on the PoorWhat It Means To Be Poor

Homelessness Is A Series Of Losses

Alone

His name is Grady, and he’s sitting in a rocking chair in the church nursery, holding a stuffed animal in his hands, with tears streaming down his face. We were sitting in the nursery because it was the only quiet place to have what was turning into an intense conversation.

“It’s all gone. I’m 58 years old, and it’s all gone. I’ve lost everything, man.”

I was listening, and then tried to say something pastoral. Apparently, I was failing.

“I was in the park today, and they were handing out lunch bags. There was a thing of yogurt in the bag, and I got excited, because I like yogurt. Then I realized they forgot to put a spoon in the bag. I sat on the ground and cried, because I don’t even have a spoon! I’m 58 years old and I don’t even own a damn spoon.”

*     *     *

We tell people who come to work with us that homelessness is best understood as a series of losses.

If you become homeless, you’ve lost your home – by definition. But you lose things before that.

You lose the ability to pay your rent or mortgage, which means that you probably lost your job.

If you lose your job, that brings with it attendant losses – you lose your relationship with your co-workers, the socialization that comes with having a place to go every day, your title – you have lost all of that.

If you’re married or partnered, your relationship will almost certainly not survive the next few months.  The kids will end up with the parent with the best support system, so if you’re homeless now, that isn’t you.

The night you leave the house for the last time, you’ll get the things that matter most to you – Granddad’s flag that was on his casket, the photo album of your children, your mom’s ashes – and you will put them in your car, so they will be safe.

You’ll lose the car. I practically guarantee it. Either you still owe money on it, and they’ll come and find you and take it from you, or you’ll park it in the wrong place and it’ll get towed, or it’ll break down and you won’t have money to get it fixed, and then it’ll get towed. Once they tow it, storage costs start at $100 a day. You won’t have any money to get the car out of storage.

And they won’t let you in to get the flag or the photo album or the ashes. They’re gone now, along with everything you didn’t have in your hands when they took your car.

You’re on the streets now. You only have what’s in your hands and on your back. Now, you begin to “look homeless.” It’s harder to find places to clean up, and you don’t have anything to change into, anyway.

The soup kitchen will serve you a nourishing, high calorie meal, but they decide what you’re served. Have Celiac? Too bad. Have IBS? So sorry. You’re Muslim and don’t eat pork? Keep the line moving, buddy.

You’ve lost the right to choose.

You’ll get ran off if you sit on park benches, if you linger in McDonalds when it’s cold outside, if you sit in the bus station when you don’t actually have a ticket. You see, you have lost the right to actually “be” somewhere.

So, you have lost your friends, your job, your place in society, your house, your spouse, your kids, your car, your family heirlooms, your clothes, and your right to even choose what you eat or where you go.

All that’s left is your dignity, and that slips by pretty quick. Since there’s nowhere you’re allowed to be, it isn’t long before you’re pooping in the woods. Because everyone wants to feed you, but no one stops to think what happens after you eat. Pooping in the woods is hard, and cleaning up after yourself in the woods after you poop is harder. You’ll begin to smell, and you’ll know you smell. Before long, you don’t even want to be around people, just so they won’t reject you.

It’s often at this point that people find us. When they’re alone. When they have nowhere to be. When they have lost all choice. When they have lost all hope.

Everything we do at Love Wins Ministries is designed to restore loss. And loss has to be restored in reverse.

So we don’t start with things like housing and jobs. We start with things like dignity and respect. We ask you your name and we share our names. We welcome you in, and give you a place to just “be.” We don’t serve meals, but give you options. Want to make yourself a sandwich? There’s the stuff. You can fix your own cup of coffee the way you like it. Or you can sit and stare at the wall if that’s your thing.

Either way, you’ll be treated with dignity and respect, and your choices will be honored.

We find that by starting with restoring things like dignity and respect and choice, you begin to find ways to restore the other things. And slowly, brick by brick, you can begin the hard work of restoration.

But this time, you won’t be alone.

Related: Acting Against LonelinessThank You For AskingMeet Anthony: When Living In The Woods Isn’t The Worst Part

We’re That Place

Avion & his dad

This week I spoke at the Wednesday night community dinner held at Trinity United Methodist Church. Trinity is our landlord, and I wanted to bring them up to date on how the transition has gone thus far.

As I often do, I told them some stories about our friends who come to the hospitality house. And one of the stories I told was about my friend Avion.

Avion is a toddler. He gets into things, as toddlers do. And when he does, his mom gets frustrated, as moms do.

The space we have at Trinity UMC includes the church’s nursery. It’s still theirs, but we share the use of it during the week. So when Avion was tired and fussy, we opened the nursery and invited him and his mom and dad to play with the toys in there.

I was walking down the hall and looked in the little window in the door, and saw his dad, a street-tough young guy in a black hoodie, on the floor with Avion, playing with blocks. Dad would build things, and Avion would knock them down and laugh. As toddlers do.

Later I walked by and saw them both laid out on the floor, father and son, napping. Mom had dozed off in the rocking chair.

I thought for a minute about how difficult it is to raise toddlers under the best of circumstances, and how hard it must be in an overcrowded shelter to find a quiet place to put your kid down for a nap.

I thought about how frustrating it must be to see your kid acting up, and know that people who don’t know you are judging your parenting, when in reality, your kid is just tired and you don’t have anywhere for him to take a nap.

Later I walked by again and saw Avion and his dad playing on a riding toy. That’s when I snapped the picture at the top of the page.

When we want to help people, we often think of doing huge things. Feeding people. Housing people. Clothing people.

But sometimes, helping people just means making sure they have a place to play with their kid, and giving them a quiet place for the kid to take a nap.

And thanks to our partnership with Trinity, this time, we’re able to be that place.

Related: Everyone Should Have A Place To BeHarold Has A Place To Be

Maggie’s Successor, Not Replacement

goodbye

I was telling someone the other day that Love Wins is in a season of transition right now. She looked at me strangely and then told me I had been saying that for at least the year she has known me.

And it’s true. Actually, it’s been true for several years now. This is my ninth winter to do this work, and every year it seems like I have a new job.

If you read Maggie’s post on Monday, you know that Maggie is leaving us to pursue bigger dreams, and we’re scrambling to find someone to take her position.

It’s hard when someone leaves, even when you know it’s the best thing for them. Even when you know that you’ve helped train them to do this very thing they’re leaving you to do, and even when you are oh so proud of the person they’ve become while working beside you. It’s still hard.

A mentor of mine once told me that your job, as a boss, is to train the person who works for you for their next job – even when the next job is working for someone else. For three years now, we’ve poured into Maggie, giving her tons of responsibility, the tools to make those decisions, and the support to back up those decisions. We call this process Managing by Mistake.

And Maggie has flourished here – she has grown by leaps and bounds. The once timid, conflict-averse 21-year-old we couldn’t get to leave now routinely breaks up arguments, kicks people out of the building if they’re making it unsafe for others, and tracks down people she hasn’t seen for a few days. She keeps track of nearly a dozen congregations working with us, the steady stream of donations that come through the door, the people who call with 50 volunteers who want to do something for Jesus on the third Saturday in May, for an hour and a half. She handles all that with grace and love. Always with love.

So, we’re very proud of Maggie, and are jealous of the people who get to work with her next. But being the boss also means finding the next person to pour into.

It’s hard because in a small organization like ours, it’s inevitable that positions take on the shape of the people who hold them, and Maggie filled hers with an eagerness to get to know you, a child-like excitement for the new, an eternal optimism for what could be, that is going to be hard to recruit for. In fact, it’s going to be impossible.

We know the next operations manager probably won’t be a Maggie – those are rare and seldom seen. But we do hope they’ll love our community, that they’ll strive to make our guests feel welcome, and that they’ll be eager to work with the rest of us as we struggle to make the world as it is into the world as it could be.

Benjamin Franklin was the first ambassador to France from the United States. When Thomas Jefferson succeeded Franklin as ambassador to France in 1785, French Foreign Minister Vergennes asked, “It is you who replace Dr. Franklin?” Jefferson replied, “No one can replace him, Sir; I am only his successor.”

We know we’re not replacing Maggie – we’re only finding her successor.

So, this is a long-winded way to say we’re looking for someone new to work with. Someone who is eager to change the world, who believes that people matter, who is curious and innovative but also coachable and teachable. Someone who can be trusted with the lives of vulnerable people but who also knows when to ask for help. Someone who is trustworthy and loyal but also not afraid to stand-up for what she believes.

If you know someone like that, have them send us a resume and a cover letter. Tell them creativity is respected here, so don’t be boring. Tell them that we encourage women, people of color, and sexual minorities to apply, because straight white males have been in charge for thousands of years and have pretty much made a mess of things.

And tell them that this job won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

Related: Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary ThingsWe Are Nothing Special

The Interruptions Are Our Work

While Hugh is on the road this weekend, we’d like to share his latest newsletter with you. Not on our mailing list? Click here to fix that! – Sara

rain boots in winter  the both and  shorts and longs  julie rybarczyk

These letters to you are always a fine balance. I want to convey the sheer overwhelming joy of this work, so you can feel it too. But I also want to tell you the truth, and the truth is, that sometimes joy is hard to find.

Especially during the winter.

Maybe it’s the winter blues that come with less than 10 hours of sunlight. Or that here in Raleigh, winter time mostly is our wet season, so it’s the near endless rain. Or maybe it’s just watching the fatigue on the faces of our friends who live outside – fatigue from dealing with life in the cold.

Whatever it is, life is harder for us in the wintertime.

So when we decided to close the hospitality house for two weeks while we moved from one location to another, I have to admit, part of me was relieved. I mean, I knew it would present a hardship for our friends who depend on us for a place to be, but the idea of having two weeks to just focus on tasks, to have a clear to-do list that won’t get interrupted because someone wants to talk to you – that sounded a bit like heaven.

So we took the two weeks to unpack, and the new location is great. It is bright and colorful, and has lots of natural light. The floor space is plentiful, and outside the doors is a playground just waiting for children to play on it.

And during the two weeks, it was a breath of fresh air to know that today, my to-do list was clear. I woke up knowing exactly what the day would bring, and went to bed each night with a sense of accomplishment. It was amazing.

It also made me miserable.

Because once you know something, you can’t unknow it. And I knew that while we were comfortable and being productive, I also knew that now Danny didn’t have a place to be. I knew Karen had no one to listen to her, and I knew that when it was bitterly cold for three days in a row last week that all my friends would really rather be with us and their friends than scattered in the various places they had to hide that day.

So when we re-opened last Thursday, it was a breath of fresh air. People began to pour in. Hugs were everywhere. People marveled at the new space. And then the honeymoon was over, and people began to bring us their problems again, and interrupt us, and our productivity crawled to a halt.

But I have come to see that that is okay. In fact, it’s good. Because more than ever, I can see that the interruptions to my work, the people who interrupt my work, well, they actually are my work. And there’s much work to be done.

Thank you for helping us do it another month. We couldn’t do it without you.

Related: What Is The Hardest Part of This Job?Praying For The Day The Ground ThawsFolks Could Die Out There

What If No One Shows Up?

Opening Day

Opening day at the hospitality house’s new location.

“What if no one shows up?”

That was the thought circulating around my head yesterday morning as I drove to the hospitality house. You see, we changed locations at the end of the year, and have been closed to the public the last few weeks to get everything ready.

There was painting, and building things and putting walls where there had been no wall before, and taking down doors and running new electrical outlets. It has been a whirlwind of activity, and while it wasn’t finished – it will probably be another month before we are finished – we were at a stopping point.

Th weather has been brutally cold the last few weeks while we’ve been closed. Every day we’ve been all too aware of how cold it was, and that we were not open, so our friends had nowhere to go to get out of the cold.

So, it was important we open fast. In the last days, we were prioritizing – that can wait a few more days, this has to be done right now.

The paint had dried, and most of the furniture was in the right place. It was 8:55 yesterday morning, opening day, and we were waiting to see who would show up at the hospitality house’s new location at 824 North Bloodworth.

And the guests began to roll in. They came in with their updates and their stories, telling us about their life over the last two weeks, the cold weather, the hope of job interviews, slights they had gotten from other organizations and service providers.

There was Tammy, who is studying for her CNA exam and needed a quiet place to read. Robert came by to check out the new digs. We love him, but are also aware that at least one time our last location was broken into, he was responsible. So, we pretty much followed him around everywhere.

Henry told us about his time in jail, Sam is out of prison and going straight, this time for sure. Dwight helped me run a new phone line. A couple of folks asked us for money, knowing full well we won’t give it to them but trying to stay in practice.

Linda went back to the hospital for a wound that just won’t heal, but now there is a lawyer involved, so maybe that will help. David has a job interview, Ashley brought Baby Liberty by for a visit. Officer Wendy from the Raleigh Police Department came by to check out the new digs, and so did our friend Shana from the Raleigh Wake Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness.

It was a full day, full of laughter and hugs and hope and dreams (and carbs). It was a good day.

But then again, it’s always a good day when you get to be with your friends.

Jesus Said Go To Hell

The following is a sermon delivered by Hugh to the First United Methodist Church of Pottstown, PA on December 14.

Irish sheep

I bring you greetings of grace and peace from the congregation at Love Wins Ministries in Raleigh, North Carolina. It’s always a bit difficult to describe our work at Love Wins. Officials call us a homelessness agency, but most of the folks that interact with us know we are a church.

Although, as my friend Wilbur, who happens to live under a bridge, says, “This ain’t like no church I have ever seen.”

Most of us agree with him.

Perhaps it is easier to describe Love Wins by what we don’t do.

It’s true that in the last 12 months or so, at least 15 people who were chronically homeless have gotten permanent, stable housing. But we aren’t a housing ministry.

It’s also true that we provide hot meals to more than 250 people a week, but we aren’t a feeding ministry. And we help dozens of folks write their resume each year, but we aren’t a jobs ministry, either.

What we are, actually, is a ministry of community and presence in the homeless and at-risk communities of Raleigh, NC.

About 10 years ago, I found myself reading the Bible. Don’t get me wrong – I had read it before. I had grown up in poverty in the rural south, where even the atheists are a little Christian. I had memorized Bible verses before I had memorized my address. In the language of my childhood, I was “washed in the blood” and was assured of my place in God’s good graces.

I had spent my twenties trying to escape my roots, working on making a fortune to make sure I was never poor again.

It was in the midst of that that I came across the reading for today.

And I realized I was in big, big trouble.

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The street translation of that is this: “Jesus said, ‘People were hungry, and you did nothing. People were thirsty, and you did nothing. People had needs, and you did nothing. So, go to hell.'”

The next few years were spent wrestling with this. Eventually I repented – an old fashioned word that means I changed my direction.

Eight years ago I ended up in Raleigh, and I founded Love Wins, a place that does nothing but extend hospitality as a way to bear witness to the love of God to some folks who have real reasons to doubt that love.

We are, like I said earlier, a church. We have a worshiping community that meets on Sunday afternoons, where folks get married and buried and communion is shared and prayers of the people are uttered, just like happens here. It just happens that most of us in that room slept outside or at the shelter last night.

We know lots of people who live in the woods, and on the weekends it’s hard to get food because the soup kitchens are closed. So we share hot meals and coffee with our friends who live outside, nearly a thousand meals a month.

We discovered that our friends who are homeless have nowhere to be during the day – no place to sit, no place to rest, no place they are allowed to just be. Like a lot of churches, we had space we weren’t using during the day, so we opened that up and invited people in. We fired up the 100 cup coffee urn and told people to make themselves at home.

Originally, we thought we were going to be fighting homelessness. But we came to realize we are actually fighting the loneliness that accompanies homelessness. We’re treating homelessness as the lack of relationship that it is, and not the financial problem everyone wants to make it be.

Because the opposite of homelessness is not housing – it is community.

Imagine for a moment that when you left here today, as you pull in your neighborhood, you see the fire trucks in your driveway. Your house has burned down, with everything you own in it. Where will you sleep tonight? Who will help you? What will you wear tomorrow?

As I described that scenario, you were making a list in your head of the people you would call, the friends who would help you. It’s your community that will keep you safe, that will make sure you don’t end up on the street.

I want to tell you about a member of my community, my friend Ashley.

When I first met Ashley, she was the street smart alcoholic wife of a serial felon. The husband had been running a meth house up north, which resulted in his arrest and their losing their children to the state. They had moved here for a fresh start after he got out of prison.

Sadly, it didn’t last. He relapsed and, eventually, was arrested again. Ashley had had enough – she left him.

Life on the street is hard, and she started coming to Love Wins to have a place to get away, a place to rest. She was in and out of homelessness that year, fighting a relapse into addiction. Sometimes she would show up drunk, and sometimes she was high and sometimes she was delightful. Regardless, because we believe that everyone we see is Jesus in disguise, she was welcomed, she was treated with dignity and respect and she was loved.

Eventually, she asked us to help her get into rehab, which was followed by 12 step meetings and relapses and more meetings and so much prayer, both by her and for her.

She began volunteering at our hospitality house, where she would clean up messes made by drunks and learn how to love other people, the same way she was being loved. Eventually, following long conversations, she was baptized at her insistence.

ashley

This is Ashley on her baptism day, with her very pink Bible a member gave her and a very pink cupcake another member made for the party afterwards. (Her favorite color is pink.)

It was at our hospitality house that she met David, a good-hearted guy whose love for her is palpable. Together, they made the transition from living in a tent to a room in a rooming house to finally, an apartment. We helped negotiate with landlords and they used one of our computers to search craigslist for listings, but they worked really hard.

They are ridiculously cute together – he’s a clean cut rural farm boy, while she’s a street smart woman with tattoos and piercings and a shock of pink hair. But they make it work. Together they have left homelessness, quit drinking, and quit using drugs.

So this summer, when they found out they were pregnant, it was just the next step in their journey, a chance for Ashley to raise a child while sober, to make up for mistakes of the past. A chance for David to show even more love than he thought possible. A chance to begin again.

They decided to call her Liberty, because after a lifetime of struggle, Ashley wanted her daughter’s very name to proclaim freedom.

Babies bring their routine with them, even before they arrive. Prenatal visits, WIC applications, Medicaid applications, and ultrasounds. Ashley and David and our community worked to handle it like champs. They met with us to help figure out who should be called when she goes into labor, who will take them to the hospital, all of that. We took her shopping for maternity clothes and planned her shower.

Life was good. Until it wasn’t.

We were all scared on Thanksgiving when we got a call that Ashley had been rushed to the hospital at 4:30 that morning. Her water had broken, way too early. She had woken up, covered in amniotic fluid, freaking out because it was a good 10 weeks too early for this to be happening.

I went up there that morning to sit and pray with them and find out more. Ashley was fine, the doctors said. The baby was going to be ok, they said with much less certainty, but the key was that Ashley needed to stay in bed for the next four weeks, at least, to give the baby’s lungs time to develop. As David said, she needed to cook a little longer before she was done.

This is Ashley and David at the hospital, trying to keep their spirits up.

Ashley chafed at being confined to a hospital bed, and was ecstatic when the doctors authorized a daily wheelchair trip to the courtyard outside. David was scared and excited and afraid to leave her side. Our community did daily visits, because being in bed for four weeks stinks, but maybe it stinks a bit less when you’re surrounded by people who love you.

And so it went, for two weeks. I was in Maryland for a conference this past Thursday when I was woken up at three in the morning by an insistent cell phone. Ashley had went into labor, and at 32 weeks, Baby Liberty was coming!
She was born on December 10, weighing just three pounds and 13 ounces. She’s living in the NICU right now, with tubes and wires everywhere, but very healthy, all things considered.

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I thought you would want to meet Liberty.

Yesterday, some of the folks from Love Wins went to the hospital and picked up Ashley and David and took them home, and helped set up the nursery and assemble baby furniture to get ready for Liberty’s homecoming.

Their struggle is far from over. Newborn babies are expensive, and preemies even more so. Baby Liberty is going to need lots of love and attention in the months to come, and countless doctor visits and so on. And all of that is time consuming and expensive. But Ashley and David and Baby Liberty will get through it, because this time, it’s different. This time, they have community. This time, they are not alone.

The text today tells it matters how the people on the bottom are treated. It doesn’t just say that how we treat them is how we treat Jesus, but actually says that they are Jesus in disguise.

The beggar on the street? Jesus. The family in the shelter? Jesus.

The woman trading sex for survival on the wrong side of town, the mom who has her kids taken from her because she can’t provide, the gay kid being bullied in school? Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

They are all Jesus. And if we are with them, then Jesus is with us.

All it takes is that we have the courage to do it.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Thank you for helping us to provide hospitality to vulnerable people. After all, there’s no place like home. Share the love of home by visiting our Holiday Market.

Help David, Ashley & Baby Liberty

David, Ashley & Baby Liberty

When I first met Ashley, she was the street smart alcoholic wife of a serial felon. The husband had been running a meth house up north, which resulted in his arrest and their losing their children to the state. They had moved here for a fresh start after he got out of prison.

Sadly, it didn’t last. He relapsed and, eventually, was arrested. Ashley had had enough – she filed for divorce.

The next year was a year of struggle – homelessness, 12-step meetings, relapses, bouts of sobriety, baptism, a change of heart, hours of volunteering at our hospitality house, countless long conversations. It was during that year she met David, a good-hearted guy whose love for her is palpable. Together, they made the transition from a tent to a rooming house to finally, an apartment.

They are ridiculously cute together – he’s a clean cut rural farm boy, while she’s a street smart woman with tattoos and piercings. But they make it work. Together they have left homelessness, quit drinking, and quit using drugs.

So this summer, when they found out they were pregnant, it was just the next step in their journey, a chance for Ashley to raise a child while sober, to make up for mistakes of the past. A chance for David to show even more love than he thought possible.

Babies bring their routine with them, even before they arrive. Prenatal visits, WIC applications, Medicaid applications, and ultrasounds. Ashley and David handled it like champs, navigating the system mostly by bus while showing much less frustration than I would have felt. We have met with them as a community, figuring out who should be called when she goes into labor, who will take them to the hospital, all of that. We were all proud of them and the responsibility they were showing.

Life was good. Until it wasn’t.

We were all scared on Thanksgiving when we got a call that Ashley had been rushed to the hospital at 4:30 that morning. Her water had broken, way too early. She had woken up, covered in amniotic fluid, scared out of her mind because it was a good 10 weeks too early for this to be happening.

I went up there that morning to sit and pray with them and find out more information. Ashley was fine, the doctors said. The baby was going to be ok, they said with much less certainty, but the key was that Ashley needed to stay in bed for the next four weeks, at least, to give the baby’s lungs time to develop. As David said, she needed to cook a little longer before she was done.

The last week has been a bit of a blur, for us and for them. Ashley chafes at being confined to a hospital bed, and was ecstatic when the doctors authorized a daily wheelchair trip to the courtyard outside. David is scared, and excited and afraid to leave her side. Our community is doing daily visits, because being in bed for four weeks sucks, but maybe it sucks a bit less when you’re surrounded by people who love you.

David and Ashley had been preparing for a baby, but this is happening way too soon. It looks like she will, if all goes well, arrive on December 26, still nearly two months ahead of time. In the meantime, David and Ashley are living in the hospital, watching too much daytime television and trying to not feel afraid.

Ashley and David need your help. Being in the hospital is expensive. I grabbed breakfast for me and David the other morning in the hospital coffee shop, where two bagel sandwiches and two coffees topped $15. Their income is less than a thousand dollars a month right now, with David being at her bedside and all. The hospital feeds Ashley, of course, but they are less concerned about David eating well, or at all. He’s mainly living on ramen noodles and Chef Boyardee out of a can.

The nursery isn’t set up yet, and the list of things they still need is long. If you’re the praying sort, I surely hope you will pray for them and for the little baby girl they’re sitting watch for. And if you’re able to help us with the individual items on the list below, that would be great too. But if you are only able to give money, that’s fine as well – because as valuable as prayer is, there are some problems in this world only money can solve.

Baby Liberty Needs:


Thank you for helping us to provide hospitality to vulnerable people. After all, there’s no place like home. Share the love of home by visiting our Holiday Market.

 

FAQ About The Big Move

Questioned Proposal

As we mentioned in our newsletter and on the blog earlier this week, Love Wins Ministries is moving its hospitality house, offices, and chapel services to our new location at 824 N. Bloodworth St., where we will be housed in the former education wing of Trinity United Methodist Church.

We’ve heard lots of questions since our announcement, so we thought we would try to answer them here. If your question didn’t get covered, feel free to leave it in the comments.

Why are you moving? Several reasons, actually. One is that our three-year lease with Hillyer Memorial Christian Church at our current location is up on December 31. Another is that as much as we love our neighborhood on W. Jones St., the reality is we have outgrown our current space. As much as we hate it, it’s time.

When are you moving? Our current lease is up at the end of the year. We’ll be spending the week between Christmas and New Year’s furiously packing and cleaning.

When will the hospitality house re-open? We hope to have everything back together by the middle of January, but since we are, first and foremost, a community, we’ll be at the new place and extending hospitality to folks that want to help us with build-out and painting, starting January 2.

How can I help you move? We’re so glad you asked! If you’re in the area, you can help by joining us on designated moving days to pack/load/unpack. Bonus points if you own a truck or trailer. Keep an eye on the blog or sign up for our newsletter to find out when the moving days will be.

If you live far away or are local and can’t make the moving days, we would appreciate donations to help cover the costs of moving. Boxes, tape, truck rental and temporary storage all add up!

Will the new hospitality house have the same services? The new hospitality house won’t have all the same services, but most of them. The big difference we are seeing right now is that we won’t have a washer and dryer at the new location. That’s partly because there’s no convenient washer and dryer hook-up, and partly because we found that a washer and dryer service didn’t serve our community-building goals in the long run. Luckily, since we first began offering laundry services three years ago, other organizations have stepped up to the plate.

And it’s also important to remember that there are a lot of things we don’t know yet – we’re excited to learn about new possibilities in the new location.

Will your hours be the same? As of now, yes. We plan to be open to the public Monday – Thursday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. And of course, for chapel every Sunday at 3 p.m.

Will you have new projects at the hospitality house? Yes! There’s an existing playground the kids in our community are excited about, but it desperately needs to be renovated. There’s also plenty of room for a community garden, which will be both a one-time build-out and an ongoing project throughout the year.

We see lots of potential at the new location.

How far is the new hospitality house from the old one? The Bloodworth St. location is just under two miles from the Jones St. location.

Is it as accessible by public transportation? Yes, maybe more so than the Jones St. location. It’s a half-mile walk from the nearest R-Line (Raleigh’s free downtown circulator) stop and down the street from two city bus stops, one in each direction.

How does Trinity UMC feel about the move? Trinity’s congregation has been extremely welcoming. Its ruling body voted unanimously to invite Love Wins to move our hospitality house and operations to their location.

How long will you be at the Bloodworth St. location? For the foreseeable future – we hate moving! We’re signing a lease, with the option to renew, so we look forward to a long partnership with Trinity.

How can I volunteer with you at the Trinity location? Check out our volunteer page, and if we haven’t scared you off, email Maggie for more information.

Well, that’s what we know – if we didn’t get to your question, feel free to put it in the comments below. And thanks for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers as we navigate the moving process. We need them!