Sunday, August 24, 2008

I love my brother and his wife so much...

I cried several times throughout this day, I have to admit. Especially, when one old fellow stood up and commanded the attention of those around him and asked them, "Were you hungry yesterday? Will you go to bed hungry tonight? Do you know why you will not? It's this man right here."

My brother, in Cleveland (no Garden Paradise) has gone out every Tuesday for the past seventeen years and fed the homeless. I do not mean small scale, sammich and two cookies type thing for a dozen folks. This was how I always thought of it because, in two decades, I had never gotten off my ass and went out to see how it worked, but a few weeks ago, I did just that.

He gets up at 6:00 AM, goes to various places, including the food bank, and picks up food and supplies - his vehicle - his labor - his gasoline. He then goes back to a church that allows him to use the kitchen facilities and starts cooking. He has troops - little old ladies, beautiful little old ladies - who assist by peeling, cutting and chopping.

One of the ladies has end stage breast cancer, but she wouldn't miss a day for the world. She has, when she was very ill from the chemo, but she doesn't now, despite her time being measured in months, perhaps weeks or even days. She misses her husband and is not afraid of the time when she will join him, she told me.

I pray for that kind of loving grace should I face the same situation.

He stands over the stove and cooks real food all day long and about 6:00 PM, there's a changeover and the little old ladies go home and the younger group comes in. They all load up and drive downtown in the van that my brother bought for the church and maintains, despite it even catching on fire one of the evenings.

They drive up behind the one of two shelters where they provide meals and he does his little special honk and the homeless come from everywhere - maybe 20% of them from the shelter itself (which does not offer meals) - and the rest from the woodwork or something. It was crazy to watch. They line up, platefuls of food get handed out, smiles and greetings are exchanged, blessings shared, the folks eat and mostly clean up and midway somewhere my brother talks to them about how God has touched his life.

Then they all load up and move on to the next shelter, closing up shop there on the downtown streets around 9:30-10:00 and heading back to the church where my brother, his wife, another woman and a mentally challenged young man (Ray-Ray - so nice they had to name him twice) clean up and lock the doors around 11:00 PM.

The stories I heard about my brother throughout that day made me so proud, I just cannot tell you.

Dinner was chicken breast Parma-John (he's John, Parma's a local city), veggies in cheese sauce (carrots, potatoes, peas and green beans), chili with crackers, bread and butter, salad with lettuce, cukes, olives, tomatoes, fresh cheese, chicken and garbanzo beans, dessert, coffee and juice or chocolate milk.

Don't ask me how he does it on the $75.00 a week he budgets, but he does it and yeah, he hustles to make it happen. And it happens, every single week for seventeen years.

Dinner (not including the big bowl of chili):


Some of the folks who did not go to bed hungry that night:

And "the night shift" of folks who make it happen:

Some of the volunteers have either been junkies or homeless or drunks or even all of the above, but there they are, giving back what once they begged for.

I'm crying now, even as I write this.

I am so blessed. How about you?

If you wish to help - and as you can see, even small amounts of money can make a huge difference - about 350 (it ranges between 300 and 500 people fed every single week!) were fed on that $75.00 that day - you can send a check or money order (for even $5 or $10) to:

John LaRue/Rescue the Perishing Ministry
Cooley Avenue Church of God
12401 Cooley Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44111