Monday, June 25, 2012
This is Dellanora Green (wearing a green Dellanora Green shirt!). She has been a staple character in downtown Modesto for many years now. You can see loads of videos about her on youtube under "singing homeless lady" and other titles (THIS ONE is pretty good). She is an easily recognizable figure downtown. She has a strong voice and sings familiar songs for anyone to enjoy. Singing is how Dellanora makes her meager living.
Dellanora is not an intimidating person. She approaches folks downtown and asks if they would "like a song for a donation." If you say no, she politely walks on until she finds someone interested.
Quite a few years ago now, Jimmy from our team, helped her to record a Christmas CD so that she could sell them to people who wanted to support her further. We've kept in touch with her through the years.
Last week, I saw her downtown as she informed me that she had been issued a warning citation to stop singing as it falls under our "aggressive panhandling" bi-law in the city of Modesto. If you have ever encountered Dellanora, you know how silly that is. She is far from aggressive and she offers a service for very little. She'll take whatever anyone can give and does not badger people for money.
She is literally singing for her supper. A local lawyer has offered to help Dellanora produce a petition for folks to sign to allow her to keep singing on the streets of our city (hear Dellanora talk about it HERE).
I know that I'll be looking for her this week and adding my name to that list. Could you?
I am not against the police or the government and I indeed believe that we should work as a community to discourage aggressive panhandling. But Modesto can be a compassionate community and I believe allowing Dellanora's voice to fill our streets is part of that.
Friday, June 22, 2012
Wednesday night there was a fire at Shiva's Motel on South 9th Street. This is the place where we have been trying to connect with people in one way or another for 8 or more years. 7 people lost the very little that they own including our friends James and Cheryl. Everyone is ok but they have lost clothes and personal belongings. There is a mother and a 3 year old girl. And a few others that I do not know personally.
When we arrived Thursday afternoon to have our weekly Bible study at the Shiva, the team we partner with from Christian Challenge had been there a while already. And local ministries were already engaged. A congregation committed to bring dinner down for the motel residents and our friends were rushing off to the store to buy some sandwich fixins so folks could have a lunch.
We carried on with the Bible study and were able to join in prayer with the community
The local Gospel Mission stepped up to provide some clothes for the people who have lost their things in the fire. It was great to watch people, motivated by compassion, respond in love to an emergency.
Good things can happen when we work together.
Monday, June 18, 2012
Friday, June 15, 2012
For years, a disturbed man has protested downtown here in Modesto. His claims are unclear but he has been quite upset. Many, including our team, have tried to talk to him, hear his story or offer him help. I'm sure he's also had his fair share of detractors. He has refused help or conversation and is obviously dealing with debilitating mental health issues.
He is sometimes outside a church building we've been invited to use for hosting teams. Jimmy and I have been there working on music lately too. Every time I see Ramon, I am confronted with feelings of helplessness. When we pass him, the only thing I've known to do is pray for mercy.
Recently, he took his protest up a notch by ceasing to eat. He has gotten so thin and frail. And I got to witness this week a mercy this man has needed for a long time. Leaving the church, I saw that the police had finally intervened as he was a threat to himself and public safety. You can read the articles about this in our local paper HERE.
It's difficult to know what to do for the mentally ill who are alone (by choice or not) and living in poverty. I often feel helpless on 9th Street.
I remember hearing a pastor talk about prayer once. How we see it as a last resort after we do what we know how to do. We pray when our abilities come to an end. He likened someone saying "Well, I can't do much but I can pray" to saying "Well, I don't have a slingshot but I do have this inter-continental ballistic missile".
Please, let's pray for Ramon. Pray for Cheryl on South 9th Street and Debbie and Cherelle and John and Catherine and Sonja and Arlene and whenever you encounter the poor and mentally ill where ever you are. Listen, be a friend, make eye contact, love, feed and most of all, pray, "Our Father.."
Thursday, June 14, 2012
For a few months now, I (Chris) have been a part of a small Bible study group at the Shiva motel here in Modesto. The Motel owner is Hindu but has been very open and generous in providing a space for us to meet free of charge. She feels the scriptures will help the folks living at the motel. The Shiva is a pretty desperate place. It's where the addicted, handicapped, mentally ill and desperate of our community land when there is no where else to go. Among other traits, Shiva is the Hindu god of destruction.
We have been going through the gospel of John and we're using these little free booklets we ordered online HERE (a great, free outreach resource). We have between 5 and 10 that gather. Usually only one or two from the actual motel itself.
To open our meeting, I asked the group about the most beautiful, refreshing place they had ever been. We talked about rivers, mountains, the beach and even the desert. The last to share was from the Shiva and she shared that the most beautiful, refreshing place was "right here". This took me back a little as 9th Street and the Shiva are the last places I think of when I think "beautiful and refreshing." It is a dirty, pest ridden motel an ugly part of town.
Today, we were in John 7 and read together Jesus' declaration... "If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’”
If Jesus' promises are true, then the lady from the Shiva was right. With Jesus, where ever we are can be the most beautiful, refreshing place there is. Because the river is in us. Rivers of living water.
We talked about how we don't always FEEL like God is near. We don't always feel the waters flowing. Sometimes we have to just trust that God is near even when we don't feel it. But the group also shared what can help in those times. Music, worship, thanksgiving (counting your blessings), gathering with others and getting out in nature can all help. In Christ, living water is always available to us if we take the time to come to him and drink.