"What we really need," Mark told our group, looking out over the park, "is for the churches to pray, not as denominations, but as one in the Body of Christ." We were standing on the edge of a green park in Center City that was home to many each night. But with new construction projects all over the area, the sleeping quarters were slowly dwindling.
Mark told us that he was voluntarily homeless, staying out here with the guys to learn how his church could better serve the poor in the city. He stood with another man and we all talked for a while about the area. I asked them how they felt about the new regulation that City Council had passed that banned large outdoor feeding of the homeless in the area. They talked about how the people were still living there, for now, until the fencing went up.
"But then they'll put that wire up, and that will be it," said the other man. We asked him what he thought of the regulation, how it made him feel that he wouldn't be able to sleep there anymore. "It doesn't really matter what I think," he told us. "They've decided, so it doesn't matter what I feel."
We stood for a few minutes in silence looking around at the park and the collection of people there, belongings claiming spots, cardboard structures being built.
"You know what I think?" Mark chimed in. "I think that this regulation will force churches to action. They'll have to pray even harder now for a solution to homelessness." Then he went on to outline what he thought would make a good homeless shelter. "People could have a place to stay, and then maybe a park outside where people could hang out. They could eat inside, too, all together."
The problem seemed all too big for our little group, but Mark continued to explain that since Jesus prayed for us to be unified, we could do it. If we all prayed as one, we could do it. He spoke to us with hope, as a man who knew that he and those he was serving deserved a place to call home at night.
-Nicole Engelhardt, CSM Philadelphia Apprentice
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