We’ve been talking for a few weeks about whether it would be better to start the service at 10:30am, but on Micah time that probably means people wouldn’t arrive until 11am.
Just then, Wendy’s name popped up on my caller ID. I answered.
"So, the bus came and I said to give me two minutes, but I took three," she said. "Is there a way I can get to Street Church?"
"I’ll come get you," I said.
As I sat down at my seat, Bobby hollered my way. "Meghann, I need to talk to you." Trying not to be disruptive, I waited a few moments then made my way to where he was sitting.
"Did they tell you I got cancer," he said. "Gonna have to do treatments, but the doctor said I could be alright."
I did know, and he has a long road ahead.
"Would you tell everyone to pray for me," he said. I nodded.
While I coordinated a hotel room over text, we had a good chat about what got him in trouble and how we could work together and do better this time.
"I’m not going to mess it up this time," he said. "I’m gonna die out here if I do. I am not gonna mess it up. I can’t."
"I’m not feeling well, today. Can we do this another day?" he had started at 6:30 that morning.
"You probably aren’t feeling well because you’ve been stuck in bed for days," I advised. Why don’t you take a shower and see how you feel?"
"Be right back," he said.
After a few minutes, another message came through, "Alright, when are you going to be here."
"20 minutes" I said.
In the meantime, I took a call from a woman that counts on Micah to manage her money. She had recently been in the hospital for week and lost her phone in the process. Wendy had asked to stop at the store on the way home, so I told her I would pick up another one.
It took a little longer than I planned. While I rushed off to get the phone, Wendy had filled the cart with more sauces and spices than I have in my own cabinet. "Do you need some food to go with your spices?" I asked when I caught back up with her. After some crafty food stamp math we figured out how she could afford a few heat up meals, a pound of shrimp and some hamburger.
By then, my phone was blowing up again.
"Traffic bad?" said our neighbor who was waiting to do his laundry. It had now been 45 minutes. I picked him up on my way to drop Wendy at home, and decided to make the phone drop off on the way back to Micah to tackle the laundry.
"I’ll be in and out in five minutes," I told my laundry-toting friend in the car.
"Timing you," he said.
Of course, the drop off took more than five minutes.
Recently back in stable housing, the woman who needed the phone had taken up a new hobby of crafting from recycled things. She couldn’t wait to show me the little blue truck she had made from scrap wood, broken necklace pieces and scraps of t-shirt.
"You are pretty good at this," I said. "We need to find some ways to share your creations with others."
"Well," she paused. "I know a lot about making treasures out of discarded things."
Our eyes caught each other, as we both knew what she was saying implied as much about what she was making, as the triumph and tribulation of her own story.
"I made you something," she said, scurrying off into the living room. She came back with a cross constructed out of ribbon and recycled wood.
"I can’t wait to share this at Street Church," I told her.
I could say so many things about the suffering of our neighbors. Their stories are deep and painful, usually involving the catastrophic loss of biological family. They’ve lived outdoors. They’ve been hurt and sometimes hurt others. They’ve given up, at times, and been given up on.
From the outside, they and others who gather with us on Sunday are some of our community’s most renowned lost causes. They outwardly suffer. It shows up in their organizational skills their motivation, their gait and usually the tattoo patchwork across their bodies. Yet, inside this community and relationships with these neighbors, the efforts they go through just to make it through another day are inspiring.
I guess you really have to be there, engaged as meaning parts of their lives, to fully appreciate how much our neighbors want to experience the fullness of their creation. You have to be there to appreciate what it took for Wendy to hustle for a ride to Street Church, for Buddy to come looking for help staying out of trouble, for Bobby to admit he’s scared, for a depressed young man to get out of bed, take a shower AND do his laundry in one day, and a woman who is always in crisis to have made something that could be a blessing to others.
People judge our neighbors for their suffering, each and every day. That judgement debilitates and confines them further. But it is days like this past Sunday that I am reminded of the tenacity they have to overcome that suffering when rooted in a place and with a people to whom they can say they belong.
Thanks be to God,
Micah Ecumenical Ministries