Meditation in Memory of Grant Rollins

MEDITATION FOR GRANT

 Rev. Robert Parrish

 St. John’s MCC

 622 Maywood Ave/Raleigh

 July 20, 2019

 

          David, the writer of Psalm 23 knew the hardships of life.  As a child, he knew what it was to protect his sheep from being eaten by wolves or wandering off into areas of danger.  When he grew up to be king, he knew what it was to fight for the protection of his people, and to preserve his own life.  There must have been times when he wandered about the presence of God.  There is no doubt that he had many questions for God, and even expressed frustration and anger.  One only has to look at Psalm 6 to find a glimpse of  this.  In this psalm he cries out to God in the midnight hour, and in his anguish seeks answers. 

          In the life of David we find where he did find comfort from God.  In Psalm 51 we find where God loves him and provides forgiveness for his many sins.  In the reading from the psalm today there is insight, where David found peace in green pastures; healing and comfort was given to him even when he was at the brink.  David, a human being, knew both struggle and comfort.

Friends write messages to the family.

         

       None of us will fully know why Grant left us.  Perhaps he was dealing with pressures and situations that were too hard to bear.  In his dying, he leaves us two messages:  One message is be more aware of those who are asking for help.  Yes, even help them figure out the kind of help and support they need.  Another message is to love everybody you can.  This kind of love is not a flowery and mushy kind.  It is a kind of love that is with some one in their darkest hour.  It is a kind of love that accepts where a person is and helps them to their best resolutions.  This type of love and support is not easy;  but with the help of God we can do the best we can.

          To the homeless community:  Grant is one that lived among us.  May we remember the fun times we shared and the good memories we have.  May we also work and pray for better support and care so that we may live our best lives and to their fullest extent.

          To his family and close friends:  I wouldn’t pretend the words or sentences that would describe what you are feeling.  What I do believe is that the same comfort that David experienced from God is available to you also.  The prophet Isaiah writes “God will keep you in perfect peace if you keep your mind on him”.  As you work towards healing and peace in your own time please know that there is a community of care and love for you.  We will be praying for you.

          The God of comfort, peace, and love is with and for us all.  They are available to us whether in times of struggle or in times when we are doing well.  The love of God is with us when times are bad or when they are good.  May you all know the comfort, peace and love of God….Amen.

Cancer Sucks

Grandpa and I are sitting in the waiting room at the hospital.  We’ve been here for 45 minutes, and the nurse has informed us that it will be 30 minutes more before he can even go into the room to start treatment.  The room is cheerful, but not overly so, as if to say “this is a friendly room”, but not to ignore the fact that we’re here because Grandpa is really sick.

The center is family, and about a year ago, one of our young people introduced us to a man that she called “Grandpa”.  While he was not related by blood, he had taken her under his wing and made sure that she was okay.  They continue to have a familial relationship to this day.  Both were estranged from their own families, so this relationship replaces those natural supports.

As we’ve gotten to know Grandpa, he has adopted all of us as his grandchildren.  Most of our staff is of an age where we don’t have many grandparents left, sometimes family is the family that you choose.  Then Grandpa found out he had lung cancer.  After that, bone cancer.

Typically, folks have a lot of support to go through radiation and chemotherapy, but often times, when something bad happens, our community members have no one, and go through incredible trials all alone.  We were determined that Grandpa would not experience this, after all, we promise to sit with you in the dark.

So, here we sit.  Waiting.  After the treatment is finished, the nurse will come in, hand me some paperwork, let us know that he will be tired and may not feel well.  I’ll get the car, then we will try to find something that he feels like eating.  Right now, he’s getting around well and is only a little tired, but we’re only at the beginning of this journey.  That’s what building relationships really are- a journey with lots of rest stops, many in the dark.

If you would like to help support travel funds for Grandpa’s treatments, please click here and choose to give a monthly donation to keep us in gas and bus passes for his next challenge, chemotherapy.

More Love Than Before

MORE LOVE THAN BEFORE

Rev. Robert Parrish

There is a proverb that says “A three stranded cord is not easily broken. In a broad sense this means that there is greater strength when teams of people combine together there is greater strength to carry out a common purpose. Instances of this can be seen in major companies combining together. For instance, in 2017 Disney combined with Century Twenty One. This merger gives Micky Mouse and Fox an even greater platform for viewing in your devices.

You might have heard that Love Wins Community Engagement Center has moved. Love Wins is now located at St. Johns Metropolitan Community Church. No, this is not quite like the block buster merger as mentioned above; but it does make the effort to help those in need even stronger.

Change is never completely easy. With it comes the need to be open and flexible. For Love Wins this means getting used to a new space. Questions like, “Where will things fit?” and “Where will our office space be?”, are now being addressed and figured out. Rev. Vance, who is the pastor of St. Johns, has even sacrificed some of his space to help us out.

The advantage of our new space is the patrons of Love Wins have a larger room with couches and a television in which they can relax. There is also much more space out side that even has an area covered with a tent for protection from the sun.

Even though love wins Community Engagement Center is in a new space it still will do what it has previously done. Homeless people will still be given clothes to wear, get food from a food pantry, and be given peer support. Also, spiritual support will still be available to those who wish to have it. In short, the love and care has and will not change.

Sometimes when companies merge “stream lining” must take place. I like to think of it as becoming “leaner but meaner”. Thus, because of our new space Love Wins is not able to keep everything. Therefore, love wins will be having a yard sale that will likely take place in July. But, don’t let the smaller space fool you. Besides those advantages listed earlier, Love Wins Community Engagement Center will have more money with which to operate. This means that love will win more than before.

Love Wins Chaplain, Pastor Robert Parrish

Our New Place!

Welcome to Love Wins at St. John’s!

You’ve probably heard that we’ve made a big move to join our friends at “City on a Hill”, to provide services for Raleigh’s community members!  This is so exciting because we are now able to help people in need on Mondays and Fridays from 9 am-1 pm, and on Tuesdays-Thursdays from 9 am to 8 pm.  That’s 21 additional hours of peer support, clean clothing, educational materials, computer lab access, showers, and meals that we have not had before.  We’re so excited to be a one-stop place where people can get the help that they need and deserve.  Dignity is our most prized possession.  

When you first come to visit us, you will be greeted by one of our volunteers at the reception area.  Here is our volunteer, Jean, monitoring the sign-in sheet, giving people useful directions, general information, and monitoring our computer lab. 

Speaking of computer labs, we now have one!  Here is our friend, Janie, using the computer lab to look up resources.  She’s very proud of our new spot, and wants you all to know that “She’s not going anywhere, this is like home.”

We’re known to always have coffee, peanut butter, and jelly.  This is our morning gathering place for early guests where they can heat up food, make sandwiches, and make their coffee just the way they like it.  The “EAT” artwork says it all!

This is our new classroom/library/quiet/dining room.  We hold arts and crafts classes, people study, read, eat, and have fellowship in this multipurpose area.

 

This is our new clothing closet.  Here our volunteers, Rose and Susan, are keeping it tidy and orderly.  Having a clothing closet next to our shower is so convenient, making this area a one stop hygiene spot so that folks feel clean and good about their next steps towards success.  

Chef Billy is making potato salad in our kitchen.  Breakfast is served at 9:30, lunch at 12 pm, and dinner at 5 pm.  

Our Peer Support Specialists, Blu Honeycutt, and Timothy Starnes, have created an excellent resource room space where they can meet people where they are at, and help them take those next steps towards their goals.  Blu and Tim have been very focused on mental health, and are connecting us with a wide range of professionals to aid people in getting the help that they need to take their next steps.

Our Chaplain, Pastor Robert Parrish, has been meeting folks for one-on-one counseling in both the Resource Room, and our offices (though he’ll meet you wherever you feel most comfortable).  His service is held on Wednesday after lunch, around 12:30 pm.

 

We feel so incredibly blessed to have such an updated space to continue our work in.  We’ve gained a computer lab and a shower, solving 2 problems that we previously didn’t have space to solve, and this space lends so much dignity and pride to what we are doing here at St. John’s MCC.  The congregation has been so supportive, and we feel very loved in this space.  We’re still settling in, and moving can be expensive.  We have bills that need to be paid off from the previous location, so if you would like to donate to help us tidy up the loose ends, please click here to donate to our “help us move” fund.  There is still work ahead, but we’re feeling stronger than ever before! We can’t do this work without you.

Love Wins at St. John’s MCC

622 Maywood Ave. Raleigh, NC 27603  

 

PEOPLE OF PRIDE

By Rev. Robert Parrish

What is pride?  Sometimes it looks like appreciating the clothes that you have to ware in spite the fact that they are out of style or even torn.  Maybe it looks like a basket ball team playing hard even though they are down by thirty  points.  Pride then, is having respect for yourself or a group of people.

Part of my growing up years were spent in Bryson City, NC, which is located near the Tennessee boarder.  My family, and the African American community we were in, were very poor, but, that did not stop the matter of having pride drilled into me.  In fact my mother would say “Son, you may not have the best clothes, but at least they are clean”.

This kind of pride spilled over to older relatives who looked after my brothers and I.  I recall very vividly, a relative that was referred to as “Uncle Doc”.  You see, in the Bryson City adults were often referred to as aunts and uncles as a matter of respect.  UncleDoc expected a lot from the people in our community; this was especially so for the kids.  One day, while two of my brothers and I were setting outside of a community café, Uncle Doc approached and noticed that our hair was not combed.  He asked us why our hair was in such a state.  We could not give him a satisfactory answer.  He then turned around and left us.  However, it was not long before he returned with three combs.  As he gave each of us a comb, I remember him saying “You represent me and this community.  I don’t ever want to see you with your hair uncombed again”.  I never forgot this lesson.

It could be that you are wondering what does this have to do with people who are homeless?  Many homeless people grew up in families and communities just like mine.  In spite of being homeless they hold on to the pride that was instilled in them.  A true illustration of this came to me when one of the staff members at Love Wins named Blu told me about how some homeless people plant flowers outside of their tents.  She went on to say how the space in their tents are often kept neat and clean.  I would imagine that there are those who would wonder how could such a thing be.  What this says to me is that pride shows up wherever you are.

The fact that homeless people indeed take pride in what they have should tell us that they have hope.  Perhaps this pride and hope will lead to a house and yard, or even a job.  This pride and hope helps homeless people take care of those in their tent communities, and to never give up.  I pray  for the day the more of society will see this kind of pride and give them what they deserve.

Pastor Robert Parrish is Chaplain for Love Wins Community Engagement Center, providing spiritual counseling, leadership and Wednesday service.

The Lesson of Small Gifts

*This blog was written by Pastor Robert Parrish, Chaplain of Love Wins Community Engagement Center.  

As pastor, or chaplain, of Love Wins Community Engagement Center, I often give out Bibles to those who request them.  Like many people, homeless people see the need for spiritual nourishment in their lives. 

On one such occasion, a person named G asked me if she could have a Bible.  I gladly got her one.  Upon opening its pages, she stated that the print seemed a little small, but that she might be able to read it in brighter light.  Upon hearing this, I mentioned that I just might have a magnifying glass that she could have.  As a person who is legally blind, I seem to have several magnifiers laying around, and do not find it hard to spare one from time to time.  G was happy to hear that I might be giving her this gift.  Indeed, I did find a magnifier that I thought would be just right for her.  It has level two power and has an (led) light in it.

 When she arrived back a Love Wins a couple of weeks later, I gave her the magnifier.  Now, even though I could not clearly see her face, I could feel the beams of happiness and gratefulness coming from her.  As she tested its visual capability, G found that the magnifier was perfect for her. 

No, I did not give her a million dollars.  Yet, some how, I feel like I gave her something more.  Who knows how being able to read the Bible more easily might make a difference on how G will be guided in her life.  Can one really say how the wisdom that she might gain from reading the Bible might help her guide some one else?  

Gratefulness in receiving things that most might consider as small or even trivial, is something I see from the people at this engagement center.  Items like a canvas bag or a shirt or blouse are received as gold.  What this seems to say is that nothing is taken for granted.  Gifts or blessings, no matter how great or small, are really appreciated.  Although the clients of Love Wins Community Engagement Center don’t have a lot, they  teach the lessons of appreciation and gratefulness. 

In general, our American society is bombarded with the false notion that you’ve got to have this material thing, or that material thing.  Some how, if an item is more than a year old it is “out of style”.  Also, there is this thought that says “you are entitled to the very best”.  Thank God, or if you prefer, the Universe, that many homeless people teach the lesson of being satisfied with simple things. These marginalized people teach us the value of making items last as long as they can.   They teach us the lesson of being thankful and grateful, even for the small gift of a simple magnifier. 

Growing in Nonjudgemental Love

*Written by Pastor Robert Parrish, provider of services and counseling for Love Wins Community Engagement Center.

I find that most people, when asked, would tell you that they love and accept everyone.  They will say that they don’t pass any judgement. However, study after study shows that human beings do this on a subconscious level.  To confirm this fact, one only has to take a racial bias test. It could be that human beings think that if it is said, acceptance of all people is true.  But, all one really has to do is take a good look at society, or listen to the news, and see that this is not the case. Walking and living in nonjudgmental love takes practice and work.  It is not only what we say about accepting human beings, it is what we do in relationship to them.

Love Wins Community Engagement Center is a place that offers and gives nonjudgmental love.  But admittedly, it is at times not easy. As the pastor of this engagement center I talk with and sit with people from various backgrounds.  It ranges from being thrown out of a home from an early age, to spending significant time in the prison system. Struggles with drug addiction, to living with mental illness is also a part of the above.  How does a person like me who has not experienced these kinds of life experiences give acceptance and love?

The first thing I do, along with other staff at Love Wins, is to be aware of my biases.  This awareness helps me to step away from my prejudice and better enables me to listen to the homeless people more clearly.  I also find a way to recall my own experience when I have been judged, and not accepted as a person who is blind. Being around people in society who have low expectations of me is something that I have to live with every day.  This connection helps me to better understand how people blame homeless people in making their own problems, or how they ” won’t amount to anything”. Thus both of us are accepted for who we are.

A second way that enables me to accept and love homeless people at Love Wins is to walk with them in where they are in this journey called “life”.  In writing this I mean that they don’t have to meet some expectation of what I think they should be. In doing so, a kind of trust develops. It is when trust develops that I, along with other staff, may have the opportunity to help people experience areas of growth or different life choices.  

Nonjudgmental love then seeks to be with people where they are.  This opens the avenue for all of us to grow in relationships and experience growth in ways that we never knew.

Community Garden: Community Market

Our budding Horticulture club is taking the Community Garden very seriously this year.  We started by planning a mixed color heirloom cherry tomato garden, in order to be able to provide an attractive product to bring this summer to the Rebus Works Saturday Market.

 

Our baby tomato plants.

We’ve planted red cherry, brown cherry, orange grape, white grape and red heart tomatoes. When they get larger, we’re going to transplant them, and I’ve purchased a small grow lamp so that they can get up to a viable size. Then we plan to plant what we need, and offer up the rest of the seedlings at the Saturday Market at Rebus Works, so that you can plant your own garden too!

Our folks are getting really creative. One community member even came up with the idea of taking some of these cans that we use, and planting tomatoes in tomato soup cans, corn in corn cans, green beans in the green bean cans, and calling the booth “The Food Pantry”, which I think is brilliant, but we’re gonna have to drill a lot of holes in those cans, and no one can figure out what to do with the spam cans (hahahahahaha).

In the meantime, our first crop will be a beautiful selection of greens to braise, planted last fall by one of our awesome volunteers. We’re excited about the new hot pepper we just seeded, and the spring garden of radishes and carrots that should be available soon. When the community comes together, we can fight food insecurity and learn how to sustain our neighborhoods!

Family Within the Homelessness.

Volunteer K-1 teacher, teaching shapes and colors for our youngest clients.

*This blog was contributed by Pastor Robert Parrish, Love Win’s spiritual counselor and pastor. He’s contributing a series of insightful blogs about his experiences within the community center.  To learn more about Pastor Robert, click here for Alyssa Chamblee’s interview with him.  

I have been a pastor for Love Wins Community Engagement Center a little better than five years now. I count it a privilege to walk with homeless persons through the toughest areas of life. As I provide ministry to them I see the injustice of our society and the many complexities in being homeless.

One day, about a year or so ago, I overheard one of the members of this community say , “We are family”. What; homeless and family? Within the context of this conversation I heard how one homeless person was helping another homeless person find medical support. I heard another person guide someone to where food could be found.

As the pastor here, I’ve learned how homeless persons are family and community to each other. This is something that the greater society does not fully realize as well. In fact, they take on a level of being family that people everywhere could learn and grow from.

Maybe the lesson here is that one does not necessarily need a roof over their heads to be family. It is making connections and helping others where you can.

*Pastor Robert Parrish provides counseling on Tuesdays and Fridays, Tai Chi class on Thursdays, and leads our worship service on Wednesdays at 12:20 pm at Open Table Methodist Church’s beautiful sanctuary.  

Ready to Rent

We’re starting our New Year off with a fledgling program we’re calling “Ready to Rent”. Our newest associate, Stefanie Mayes, has been working with people who have obtained or are obtaining their section 8 vouchers, and spends time calling each place to make sure our folks are still on the list, and how close they are to being renters. This work has been ongoing, and as it evolves, we’ve found some things that simply “go together”.

Stefanie also checks for available rentals, be it rooms or apartments for people who are ready to rent. She’s working on a list of private landlords as well, and we’re starting from base on this list- all previous lists available are long outdated, so if you know a private landlord who would like to fill their space, please email Stefanie here, and we’ll see if we can make a good match for them. This is a fledgling program, and we’re starting from square one, learning as we go.

We often find that paperwork can be daunting for people. It’s confusing. It can be overwhelming. It’s a lot more manageable with a friend to sit with you, look up things that are unfamiliar, and help you figure out what you need to be a future tenant. Some of what Stefanie does is as simple as navigating rental applications with folks. It’s simple, just requiring patience, a computer, and the ability to talk one person through, but it’s invaluable to people navigating housing for the first time. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best one.

We’ve discovered, along this journey, that when people get housing, they’re excited, and we want to help them! We get a lot of donations, food, clothing, and housewares. Stefanie has started taking inventory and putting together those housewares for our folks who get housing, and it’s a blessing- there is so much to keep up with, we realized that this was a department that we were sorely lacking. I know where we keep towels, but I couldn’t tell you what size sheets we have or exactly where they are, what plates match, and how many sets of cutlery we have. I’m unsure of how many toaster ovens and blenders we have. We needed a person for this.

We want to be with you at every step of your journey. We’ll transition with you through the shelter and tents, to those first job interviews, through that first paycheck, to that first room for rent, to your first set of kitchen pans. We want to walk this journey with you, and if nothing else, as Hugh used to say, “We can’t pay your light bill, but we will sit with you in the dark”. We’ll walk with you through the path.

Stefanie Mayes, “Ready to Rent” program leader.