Be Our Guests

“I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.” 

When men come to Cityteam in need of shelter, we consider it an honor to provide a safe, clean place where they can eat, rest and gain the strength to find a fresh start for their lives. Jesus seemed to be very concerned about the physical wellbeing of the people he met, especially for those who were in distress and so that’s become a central part of how we take part in sharing His love with people.

“With dignity and respect.” We say this almost every day in our work here. ‘When you help someone, help in a way that preserves their dignity and shows them respect.’ So when we invite strangers, daily, into our “home” we want them to be greeted with kindness and hospitality.

There’s one part though, of our hospitality that has been a struggle. Rather than try to explain it, why don’t you just take a look here:

That was our shower and bathroom for the shelter on our second floor earlier this year. Yeah, you’re seeing it right. We had patched and repaired it so many times that we were down to only a couple of working showers, our sinks were being held up by buckets and well…we were using a sheet as a bathroom stall door. It was bad. And we knew it. But we run on very lean resources because all of our funding, 100% of it, comes from donations people give us. So we were trying to make it work with what we had.

But we reached a tipping point this year when the leaks from the bathroom continued to cause damage to our first floor and no amount of patch work could redeem it. We needed a miracle. Finding a contractor who wanted this kind of job in our neighborhood was daunting enough…let alone finding the money to pay for it. So we did all that we knew to do–we prayed and we asked people for help.

In only a few months’ time, a few generous individuals contributed enough money and materials so that we could completely gut and remodel our homeless shelter shower that serves up to 40 men every night. You won’t believe how it looks now..take a look at these after photos:

We keep saying here how it looks like the kind of bathroom you’d find at a luxurious spa. God provides over and over again for our ministry here. But there has been something really special about His provision for this project. As you walk through our building today, the nicest room to be found is also the place where people come from the streets, tired and dirty. Hospitality for the stranger. A fresh start for the wandering soul. Jesus’ promises come to life. Thanks, friends, for being part of something really good here.

Special thanks to the donors who made this renovation possible:

Speakman Company, Val Kanter, Dick & Betty Wilgus, Peter & Val McNeely, Proclamation Presbyterian Church, Grace Bible Fellowship, Scott & Trudy Orthley, and Anonymous.

We highly recommend Chris Goodman at C. Goodman Carpentry who completed this work.

—-Kwinn

Kwinn

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Made New

Hope Anniversary-175

“If I didn’t stop doing what I was doing, I was going to die.”

A man who has lost everything and everyone he held dear while battling heroin addiction. A woman who fought to break free from prostitution, but who is climbing, slowly out of poverty while raising three little ones.  A young man, just out of his teens, whose upbringing had left him certain he would die young out on the streets. They gather together after dinner at Cityteam’s Hope Cafe as part of a group of ten people who were ready to share how their lives are changing.

“A few months ago, I was on the streets, into gangs, and living in darkness. Now I’ve found a home.”

Hope Anniversary-156All of the beautiful stories we hear have one thing in common–each person had made their way to Cityteam in search of help. Some needed a place to sleep, others sought a way out of addiction and some were simply looking for a warm meal. They came in search of relief, which is offered freely at this place, with no strings attached. But, while visiting, they hear the stories of a God who restores, who makes all things new. For these 10, that restoration has become real over the past few months and years. And this is the day that these few will give testimony of what He’s doing and of the promise to come for their lives.

“I tried to live a life without God, and it didn’t work.”

These ten are not the first of us to experience this kind of goodness. The stories we read from when Jesus walked the earth tell of his love for humanity in all its brokenness. He came to give us freedom from the guilt of what we have done to oursHope Anniversary-188elves and to others. He came to heal and restore that which is damaged and destroyed. He has offered us the gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. And he died, that we might be spared. And so he calls us, to believe that this hope might be real, and to follow him. These ten have, and they are here to show us that following Jesus is something beautiful.

“I had been shooting heroin for a long time. I know that Jesus can save me, and I’m all in.”

Hope Anniversary-144So on this night we read from the Bible that Jesus is calling us to not just experience His grace and love for ourselves. He wants us to give it away by telling our stories and through being baptized. And so they do. They bravely face a crowd of friends and strangers and share some of the darkest parts of their pasts. Then they dip down into the water to surrender and bury what is old and to rise into what is new.  It is one of the most powerful evenings we’ve experienced at Cityteam Chester. Real people experiencing real change.  We can only pray that God will continue to use this place to bring His hope to people for years to come. And if we are so lucky, we’ll keep telling the stories of what He has done.

Thank you for supporting this place. Your prayers and generosity change lives.

—Kwinn

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46

Kwinn

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

*Special thanks to Stephanie Oberti for the beautiful photos.

A Glimpse of Hope

She sways to the music with one hand in the air. It’s the old familiar hymn about Surrender, and she knows every word. I see her cry, smile, sing, and even dance a little. She looks happy, and whole.  While the song lasts, she has forgotten the torment of her pain, her addiction, and her life on the streets.

This woman, V*, walked into Hope Cafe for dinner that night and she stayed after for our worship hour. Many of us at Cityteam know her. We’ve seen her struggles and tried to help her in the ways that we can. Tonight, as I sit down beside her, I’m looking forward to the music and it looks like we have this in common.

The band plays a few songs, and the music is great. It sounds good, but it feels better.  I find myself settling down, chaos within me being smoothed out. I see that V is enjoying herself, too, and then the time comes to sit and talk about tonight’s Bible verses.

We are talking about Jesus. The passage says that all who are thirsty can come to Him for a kind of water that restores our souls. We all say a couple of things and V tells me she wants to go to rehab, this time for real. In the next breath, she tells me about her plans for her next drink. The demons of her past haunt her and alcohol has a hold that seems unbreakable.  Then she says the thing I’ll never forget.

“I know Jesus gets me,” she says and holds her hand to her chest. “He understands me, He understands my heart.” She’s right, He totally does. Sometimes we spend all this time trying to figure out God, trying to make sense of who He is. And there it is, the most important thing: Jesus has us figured out.

He gets us, all the parts of us. The parts that are not cleaned up, that are unhealed. He knows them all and He loves us richly. He understands and his response to our brokenness is not to abandon a seemingly hopeless cause but to make an offer to quench our thirsty souls. Thank you, V, I really needed that.

The music starts again and this is the one that gets her to sing. “All to Jesus, I surrender. All to Him I freely give.” I am moved by the peace she is granted in her momentary surrender. I join her, reminded of how good it is to sing to a God who knows it all and loves us still.

———————————–

*V’s real name has been omitted to protect her privacy

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Thanks very much to Joel Gerlach for editing this story.

A Father’s Story: Coming Back From a Life of Addiction

by Doug Black

“She won the lottery!”

He stopped me in the hall at Cityteam, holding his cell phone with the biggest, proudest grin.”Who?”, I asked. “My daughter! She won [a large amount] on her scratch-off ticket!”

He was excited. Whether or not you agree with playing the lottery, it’s pretty easy to get excited about a suitcase full of money. But, besides the money, he was excited about something else. “I’m so glad she’s provided for. Almost like God’s making up for what I couldn’t do.”

He relived the accounts of his time on the street. He told me how his wife would overlook his crack cocaine sales and stay home to take care of the kids. How he would make sure he wouldn’t use his own “product” like all the other guys. His plan to be a smart businessman, keeping from the arguments and gang violence that the other guys would get involved with.

He spent time telling me about how he began using crack “here and there” until it took control of his life. There were days he would wake up in an abandoned house, covered in his own filth and drug residue. His wife and kids, unaware of his location, would just wait and pray. Then, loud and heated discussions came once Daddy got home.

Until, ultimately, there was no home left to return to.

And that’s when he came to the Men’s Recovery Program at CityTeam. His attitude that kept him from interacting with folks in a happy manner dissipated. His lack of empathy that kept him far from his kids was washed away. Hours of hard work on his recovery, nights of praying to God for his addiction issues lead to a changed heart–and a new relationship with his family. One that continues to this day.

Addiction is a family destroyer; it doesn’t just break the bonds between family members, it decimates the emotional and physical strength of everyone involved. Typically, a male who uses drugs will find himself soon divorced, estranged from children, and ignored by other family members who deny they even know him.

Doug Headshot

Doug Black Recovery Manager at Cityteam

We’re grateful at Cityteam that we get to be part of the healing. Not just healing the body, but seeing souls mended. Witnessing finances come back on track, and broken families get pieced back together. Just like this man, who graduated our program, and returned back into his kids’ lives.

Click Here To See How Addiction Impacts Us All