CSM Boston: Friday

Serving at BRM

This morning started off at Boston Rescue Mission again. While some were cooking, organizing the cabinets of cans, others were testing their knife skills chopping squash, or doing dishes. We had a busy morning sorting through all the food donations, discarding food that had gone rotten, and getting the meal prepared.

The meal that we served was for the employees and residents of Boston Rescue Mission. Those who are in BRM’s program are men and women who have been released from prison or are recovering addicts (you need to be “clean” for a certain period of time before being admitted to their program). BRM provides a case worker to each resident who helps them spiritually, emotionally, and mentally so they can get back on their feet. Many of the residents we spoke with have families they hope to reconnect with and have some real job skills to put into action. For many, their biggest challenges include finding an employer who will take a risk on someone with a criminal record and re-earning the trust of family members.

Pray for these men and women who have a steep hill to climb. Pray that they were remain clean, make good choices consistently, and that they would find their hope and strength through Jesus Christ.

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After eating lunch at Boston Rescue Mission, we hopped on the T and headed to Community Servings. This is a fantastic organization which provides five frozen meals each week for low-income families with a family member who is critically ill. These meals are all cooked fresh on site, then frozen and hand-packaged within a day or two before delivery. Each family member receives one meal per day, and they have kids meals too! What a great and tangible way to help families who are struggling with an uncertain future. They deliver 8200 lunches/dinners to nearly 875 people each week from communities ranging from Brockton to Boston to Worcester and anywhere in-between.

IMG_3308Our team of students and leaders worked hard all week and represented Emmanuel very very well. We all learned a ton about homelessness and preventing gang-involvement by providing strong support networks.

Among the chief lessons we learned, some included:

  • How few people fit the stereotype of “homeless.” Many of the homeless men and women we met were educated, had jobs for a long time until being laid off, or had so much medical debt that they couldn’t meet their financial commitments.
  • The number one cause of homelessness: Lack of support-network. Most of us have someone to help us we need someone to pick us up. When a person has no one to fall back on, they often tall into the street.
  • Come Back! This was the message the boys at the Eagle’s Nest Landing Center sent us. They want us to come back, and we want to! It’s great to go and serve for a week… but how will we continue serving the other 51 weeks of the year?
  • “Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). All three are important. Loving mercy is like rescuing someone from drowning in the river, while doing justly is going up the river and stopping the person from pushing other into it. As Christians, we are called to both mercy and justice ministry for the sake of glorifying the God we humbly serve.

 

CSM Boston: Thursday

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We spent the day with the boys from Eagle’s Nest Landing Center and had SO much fun with them! We started off at the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology (where ENLC is based out of) and some of the team played chess with the boys while others colored or did word searches. Just before lunch we headed to a local park where we played in the playground with the younger boys, threw the frisbee and and played ball with the older ones. After a few cracks of thunder we figured it was time to head out (apparently it hailed back home, only 45 minutes away… but we didn’t get any of that in the city).

IMG_3269We eventually headed over to the Ray & Joan Kroc Center. This was built by the Salvation Army through the donation of Ray & Joan Kroc (the founders of McDonalds). The Kroc Center has an indoor water park, a gymnasium, educational programs, and a theater/chapel where the Salvation Army holds worship services.

 

We all agreed that we felt a little funny going to a water park on our missions trip, but as soon as we all got in the water the boys really started interacting with us even more than they had before. Whether it was waiting in line for the water slide, playing water volleyball or basketball, floating together in the lazy river, or playing with the littler boys in their section… we really had a blast with the boys.

After we were done swimming together Mr. Duncan took us to the chapel where we all talked together. When I shared with the group that we would love to come back and see them again since we’re so close some of the boys got visibly moved. One of them (who’s usually a jokester) spoke up and said, “That’s really sweet!” and had a huge smile on his face. These are kids who are used to teams coming in for a week and then they never see them again. But since EBC is so close to Boston we have the great opportunity to follow up with these boys and this great ministry. They don’t usually get many volunteers during the school year, and even during the summer CSM is the only group that consistently sends volunteers. What a great opportunity to show these boys that we genuinely care for them and want to invest in them!

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CSM Boston: Wednesday

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This morning we experienced “The Story,” where we spent time collecting stories from the homeless around the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church (pictured). During our “Immersion” the other day there was another objective (to feed ourselves and someone in need on $2 for each team member). Today we were simply there to hear people’s stories and to take the position of a servant to learn from these men and women who are often treated as less-than-fully-human.

Here are just a few of the stories we heard (in part, if I gave these people’s full stories this post would be so long few would finish reading):

  • Zavian is a man from Florida who moved to Maine after an accident led to his unemployment. He openly admitted that he’s made mistakes along the way, but a series of layoffs has led to him finding his way to Boston (it’s much better to be on the streets in Boston during the winter than in Maine!). While talking to him we were all impressed by how he talked so articulately and openly. He doesn’t drink alcohol and doesn’t do drugs, so he doesn’t like going to the shelters that are available, since so many who go there aren’t “clean” and they aren’t always the safest place to go if you only have a few worldly possessions. Even though his parents “have plenty of money” he hasn’t told them he’s homeless because his father disowned him years ago and he doesn’t want to worry his mother. He desperately wants to work, but can’t apply for a job without his ID which was lost two years ago. He’s been in process of applying for a new ID with his social worker, but his paper-copy has expired and the plastic ID still hasn’t arrived. When asked how we could pray for him, he asked that he would be able to apply for a new ID soon and that it would come quickly so he could try to find a new job.
  • Dr. Nat received his doctorate in New Delhi and completed post-doctoral studies in Oklahoma City. He had a big disagreement with his colleague about how white blood cells work, so he quit under the thought that he’d easily be able to find new work. Our CSM guide is a science student at Vanderbilt University and pulled up a number of articles Dr. Nat wrote on a highly regarded website about medical research. Now he’s been on the streets for 4 years, still trying to persuade people that his theory about white blood cells is correct, and unable to find employment. Dr. Nat was with a man named Andrew who has helped him make his way on the streets. This really hit home to the group because Dr. Nat destroys so many stereotypes.
  • Jose is from Puerto Rico and warned the group to stay off drugs. He said he should’ve listened to his mama, because the rest of his siblings did and they’re all living in big houses and drive expensive cars. He seemed just like a normal guy who really cared about our team members. Jose was sitting with his friend Cody, who gave our team a glimpse into the life of the homeless. He told them about how so many people just ignore you even exist, saying “Once you become homeless you lose your humanity.” To make his point, he got up and said “excuse me” to a passerby and they completely ignored him. Cody said, “I’m houseless but homefull” because he has everything he needs.
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Dr. Nat’s sign about his scientific research on Leukocytes (White Blood Cells).

Among all the other factors which contribute to homelessness, the greatest cause is lack of a support network. Regardless of the other networks, if you do not have anyone to catch you and to help pick you back up then homelessness is a far greater possibility.

After debriefing over the stories we heard, our team had the rest of the day off to spend in Boston. We hunted down some traditional pastries in Chinatown (interesting!), waded in the Frog Pond (sulking that the fountain wasn’t on), watched a number of street performers along Quincy Market (see the below video I uploaded to YouTube), enjoyed dinner in Faneuil Hall and dessert in the North End. We definitely walked a lot, but we had a great day together pretending to be tourists and unwinding together.

Our team has worked very hard this week. Breakfast is usually at 7:00, Devotionals at 7:30, and we leave the housing site by 8:30am and we don’t return until 7:30pm. Having the afternoon and evening to laugh together, soak our feet in the Frog Pond, and eat was a great re-energizer to keep us going for the rest of the week. Continued prayers for us are appreciated… but especially be praying for those whose stories are summarized above.

CSM Boston: Tuesday

Boston Team - Tie Dye

On this wonderful “tie-dye Tuesday,” the morning started at the Eagle’s Nest again. After an exhilarating game of “7 Up” (while waiting for the boys to finish their classwork), our team was split in two and competed with the boys in Bible Jeopardy. We had lots of play time outside with the boys before lunch. After a few rounds of Knock-Out on the basketball court, we spent plenty of time running and playing with the kids.Mr. Duncan and the guys on our team surprised the boys with two laundry baskets full of water balloons before we left.

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One of the boys asked Michele to read to him, so she got her Bible and they read various Bible stories for a while. It was a great opportunity for her to dig into the faith and teach the kids more about who God is and about his love.

After Eagle’s Nest, we went to Boston Rescue Mission. Anthony, the kitchen supervisor, got us to work quickly. Some students got to work cooking, others organized the food, cleaned the floors, and set up the tables and chairs.

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Here are some of the things students want you to know about the Boston Rescue Mission

  • They have programs to help addicts to get back on their feet.
  • They serve 1500 each day (between the six meals they serve each day to residents and people off the streets)
  • The people who work there are nice and friendly. They’re also residents of the program and are working hard to get back on their feet.
  • It’s awesome.
  • The staff does a great job taking care of volunteers and giving advice to not make the mistakes they made. (The girls were especially warned “beware of those college boys.”)
  • The staff really gets to know the people who come through during meals, and they care for them beyond the food they serve.

CSM Boston: Monday

It’s been a busy few days. The team arrived on Sunday night and enjoyed Mexican food while learning more about what to expect in the week to come.

CSM Boston Team Picture

On Monday morning we spent the morning serving at the Eagle’s Nest Learning Center, which we also spent this morning and will also go on Thursday. Eagle’s Nest provides tutoring, Christian education, and important friendships to boys from some of the most difficult neighborhoods of Boston. Mr. Duncan, Eagle’s Nest founder and only full-time staff member, drives his 15 passenger van to pick up and drop the boys off each day. We have quickly grown to love these energetic and fun boys. Ministries and organizations like Eagle’s Nest are important for students to receive the support and friendships that’s so essential. Many boys turn to gangs for the support they haven’t received elsewhere, Eagle’s Nest helps provide adult mentors, spiritual formation, and educational tutoring that will help these boys develop into mature and godly young men.

After leaving the Eagle’s Nest we went to Boston Commons for our “immersion” experience. Over the next four hours, we broke into four groups and each team member received $2 for dinner and a number of questions related to homelessness in Boston. Each group then spread out throughout the Boston Commons and the neighborhoods surrounding it in search for some answers to our questions (like: “How long have you lived here? What changes in this neighborhood have you observed regarding homelessness? Where can you find a free meal? Where can you find shelter? Where could you receive medical care in case of emergency?”). One of the additional challenges each team received was to purchase and share dinner with one homeless person with our team’s few dollars.

I (Pastor Mike) can’t write at length about other teams’ experiences, but we all agreed that talking to strangers was a challenge that became a bit easier with each conversation.

CSM Boston: Chuck

My group (Jesse, Amy, Sarah) shared some pizza with a man named Chuck (we met a few other people too, but I’ll just tell you about Chuck). As we talked with him, he shared his story about how he’s from Foxboro and how he moved to Boston because “you aren’t allowed to be homeless in a town, you’ll get arrested for being on the street.” Chuck told us how he worked for a concrete pumping company for 32 years when he had a stroke, got laid off, and couldn’t sustain the medical debt after his “girl” left him.

Other groups had similar stories of men and women who broke the stereotypes we may think of when we hear about the “homeless.” One group even met someone with a Masters degree from Boston University.  Stereotypes may fit certain people you will encounter, but they never tell the whole story for everyone who have that stereotype thrust upon them.

Parents, you’d be impressed by the resourcefulness of your teens. Some groups pooled money together to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to be able to share with someone else in need. Another group found a food pantry where they were given plenty of food to be able to eat and share with others.

Our day concluded with a prayer tour through Boston, exploring the challenges of gang violence, education, poverty, and racism.

Prayer Points:

  • Pray for health and soft hearts, that we’d be able to learn and experience all that God has in store for us.
  • Pray for Mr. Duncan and the Eagle’s Nest Learning Center’s ministry. Pray for the boys whose families are not the most nurturing places to grow up.
  • Pray for those who are experiencing homelessness… that they would receive the help available to them, and that they would be given opportunities to get back on their feet.