Thursday, August 27, 2009

Coincidence-Circumstance-God Instance

Sandy did not go with me to last Friday's Community Dinner at the Presbyterian Church. She stayed home to do laundry and eat a couple vine ripe tomato sandwiches. I tried to get residents from the Men's shelter to ride with me to dinner. I got no takers. I decided to walk for my health. It is about a 12 minute brisk walk and I set out at 11:47 A. M. I arrived at 12 noon and I got right into the line for food at the end of grace. Because I arrived at that time I got 1/2 of a chicken breast bar-b-cued over charcoal with brown sauce and fruit. Dinner was served by a Baptist Church with children and youth working with adults. Because I was alone, I decided to have an after dinner coffee. While I was sitting on a pew on the side of the dining room watching the people enjoying the great chicken dinner, a man walked up and asked me to help a young woman whom he had met in the county jail where both were inmates. Now released he wanted to help the young woman who was living on the streets. I introduced myself and talked with her for a moment and realized that she would do well at "On Our Own" which is a day program in the afternoon hours that serves people with drug and alcohol addictions and people with mental health problems. The center is run by paid staff with the help of the members. With education, speakers, group support and friendship the members become more independent and able to care for themselves and others. Many of the homeless in the area are members. I escorted the young woman there. As I talked of the place it was obvious that she had never heard of it before our walk. I brought her inside and introduced her to the people of "On Our Own." She was welcomed with open arms, a glass of water and cake.

By the time I walked back to work, I realized that none of this would have happened if it had been a regular Friday. Because I was there alone, I was available to help another human in need. It was not a coincidence or circumstance that I was there without Sandy. The providence of God was at work in my schedule. What a blessing is mine in this job.

God bless you all,
Ken and Sandy Bitler

Sunday, August 2, 2009

August 2, 2009 Planted More Garden

I gave arugala from the garden to Sarah yesterday. Aaron and she came down to talk to us about the risks of what we are trying to do. I am plugging away trying to raise the money that we will need to survive this year. Our announcement about going into Individual Volunteer Service full time appeared in our conference newsletter, The iVoice. We've gotten some positive feedback via email and responses to the article. I am encouaged. We really need 53 individuals who can send us $25 per month for the 12 months of our stay to meet our budget. We work 40 hours per week at three programs for the homeless. In return meeting ground allows us to eat any meal being prepared at the houses where we work. We are living in a completely furnished two bedroom apartment with all utilities paid that is set aside for full time volunteers in mission. We also receive $100 per month stipend to help us with our expenses. We must provide ourselves with health insurance, truck maintenance, gas and truck insurance, property taxes and insurance on our home, food for evening snacks and weekends, copays for medical care and prescription copays, clothes, incidentals, and emergencies.

Planted a packet of green beans for fall harvest yesterday. Today in rained for an hour. Tomato plants are setting tomatoes and pepper plants are in blossom. Carrots came up and leaf lettuce is struggling. My neighbor's tomato plants are 50 inches tall and loaded with fruit. He gave me enough cucumbers to feed cucumber salad to 50 homeless people last Wednesday.

We worshiped at the chapel service at the Farm and ate dinner with a group of teenage volunteers from PA.

Sandy wants to blog next time.

The opinions in this blog are solely our own, not the opinions of Meeting Ground.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 29, 2009

We have been busy getting to know the residents in the houses where we work and in the programs in those houses. Sandy is a quick study in names but I have always had trouble and use every connection to get to know people. We work together at the drop in center on Monday and Wednesday. Sandy knows most of the people who are guests there. I have been doing intake forms on the new guests. We have had more people learning of the services of showers, laundry and breakfast. We also have a job list that is published weekly by the Cecil County Community College that we pass around the breakfast table. Everyone is looking for work. Some people come for drinking water.

We have been worshiping at the Farm on Sunday afternoons at 4:00 PM. The service is very laid back with folk songs and gospel songs. We do a Bible study after everyone introduces themselves and tells something good that has happened to them this week. The Bible study seeks to get us to look into the scriptures for what God is saying to us through the word. We end by holding hands and affirming that we are a people of faith and love and sing Shalom. It is a time when people from the Farm, Volunteers in Mission Groups, and staff can get to know one another and begin the practice of community. Then we go to eat with one another at the tables of Meeting Ground. This last Sunday we looked at the simple life of the party at the table of the Kingdom of God in Luke's gospel. Everyone is welcome except those who turned down the invitation to come and dine.

The last 2 Sundays we have worshiped at Jacob's Well UMC at 10 AM which meets at a local high school auditorium. We were looking for a church that had a contemporary service. As we left Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre area on July 1, we were listening to a Christian rock radio station and I said, "I want to go to a church that has a good rock band and sounds like that!" The United Methodist Charge that is 6 miles south of Elkton is the Chesapeake City Charge of 2 churches worshiping in 3 places. The preacher has 3 services every Sunday morning. The worship is informal, lay lead, and personal. Communion is served every Sunday. During communion there is a prayer station and other stations that people can go to for deeper service in the community.
We have been warmly welcomed. The charge has been praying for us as we came to be the first United Methodist long term Individual Volunteers in Mission to serve at Meeting Ground. Many United Methodist churches are very active in caring for homeless, poor and under employed people through Meeting Ground.

This week two more United Methodists , Ellen and Buzz Ditto, arrived to work at the Farm. The Buzz will work with the maintenance man who cares for all of the buildings that house the mission and Ellen will work at the Farm helping the director. We met them at our training in Cleveland. They are lay people with a deep sense of God's call in their lives to serve all God's people. The Dittos will be here for 2 months service. They served last winter in hurricane recovery in Slidedell, Louisiana last winter. Add them to your prayer life.

Sandy is working a late shift at the women's shelter tonight. She's a fill in. I've been invited to preach at a Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, DE on Aug. 9. Visited a resident who is in the hospital this evening. I'm still a pastor doing pastor work.

Yours in Christ's Service,
Ken and Sandy

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 6, 2009
We got trained at the drop in center called the Mary Randall Center yesterday morning. It is a new program that helps the homeless or any poor person get a shower MWF and or do a load of wash. Everyone who comes to our houses must go through an intake form of very personal information. We saw a married couple go through the process. There are sometimes 12 to 20 new people on a day, hoping at least to get a shower. The couple yesterday got a shower and had time to go to the Catholic charities and get a $20 voucher to go to the DMV to get a copy of his MD license. Then he will go to Social Security to get a new SS card and with those he can apply for work. many people come in without their personal papers. A local church has given them a tent. So they will move out of their van into the woods. Churches bring supper to the park 7 nights a week for the people who live in the woods. On the weekends they feed lunch and sometimes breakfast. We supply cold cereal at our drop in center and coffee. and at the men's shelter we have churches who come in and serve lunch to anyone who shows up.

We went to the farm to eat lunch which was a full dinner, turkey, green beans, salad with lots of extras to add, sweet pot., baked corn, sandwiches (make your own ham or turkey), drinks of water, ice tea with and without sugar. Cans of soda are $.50. We met with Lyla the personnel director and assistant to the Director and the Director, Randy. Randy never wears long pants or shoes. He wears cargo shorts and sandals. We filled out confidentiality forms, more forms, and discussed work schedules across the next several weeks. We will be working Monday thru Friday with weekends off to the middle of Aug. Then we will go to Tuesday thru Sat. with Sun and Mon. off. They spoke about making the Drop in center Monday thru Friday with Sandy and I directing the program on Tuesday and Thursday in the future.

We left right after our meeting to open a bank account at the PNC Bank. And after supper we went to the Christiana Mall in Delaware(no sales tax) to buy me a pair of sneakers as mine split open when I knelt down to plant my tomato plants. We got a pair of New Balance gray suede sneakers at JC Penny's, They didn't have 11 1/2- 4E's so I got a 12- 4E that feels good on my right foot but loose on my left foot.

We turned in early and I read the first 10 year history of Meeting Ground to her until she fell asleep. Back to our old patterns. We've been so exhausted during and since the move that we have fallen asleep as soon as we went to bed.

July 7, 2009
Today we go to the Farm to learn more about its unique ministries and hopefully work with the children's summer program. One family has 7 children and the mother is expecting twins. The kids are well behaved, intelligent and happy. They have bikes and ride all over the yard and driveway(dirt). There were probably 15 children eating at our table yesterday. I looked around and realized we were sitting at the kid's table and they said it was OK.

Wow what a place. They have 53 people living in accommodations for 35. 24 are children. One family has 6 children and another has 7 children. There are also 2 work groups here who are repairing buildings with about 12 in each group. They are to come later this week to work on my garden clearing more sod with shovels, spades and garden rakes. I hope to plant zuchini squash, green and yellowsnap beans and peas and snap peas. if i get a crop I'll freeze some and give some to my neighbors.

We were shown the buildings at the farm loaded with furniture, toys, cloths, shoes and bedding. Some of the goods are sold to the poor at very low price and some is given to those going into housing of a permanent nature.

Write again soon. We are so tired we go to bed early every night.
Ken and Sandy