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.

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*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.

We’re Doing Something New

HOPEcafe_logo_CT_square“This is our restaurant, and these are our guests.”

If you have been for a visit to Cityteam, and if you’ve had the pleasure of talking to our chef and food coordinator, John Clifford, you’ve heard about his dream. His vision is that our cafeteria wouldn’t ever be called a “soup kitchen” even if there happens to be really great soup on the menu.

At Cityteam, we believe in helping people who have fallen on hard times. And we believe there’s a way to help people while preserving their dignity and  the respect everyone prefers to be shown. So it makes perfect sense that John would want people who are hungry–some without a home, others battling addiction, some elderly and alone–he would want the men, women and children eating dinner at Cityteam to walk into something as nice as what you might pay for somewhere else.

John Clifford, Food Services Coordinator

John Clifford, Food Services Coordinator


After a ten year battle with drug addiction I was left broken, homeless and in prison. Upon my release, I came into Cityteam’s recovery program in the spring of 2007. After God delivered me from addiction, I knew the only thing left was to serve Him and love those in need. Today I have the responsibility of serving over 21,000 people, physically and spiritually, in our food programs.


Serving dinner, well that isn’t a new thing at all for us. In 1989, Cityteam Chester opened its doors with only one offering for the community–a warm, nutritious meal and a kind word for people with no place else to eat. That first meal, donated and prepared by Woodlyn Baptist Church, was symbolic of the way Cityteam has continued to serve the community decades later–volunteers and partners pooling their time and resources to serve our neighbors in need.

Now, what began as a once-weekly community meal is now a full kitchen serving three meals a day, every day of the year. With each bit of growth, we have tried to remain true to our purpose of serving the way Jesus Christ did—filled with compassion, walking humbly and giving opportunity to share hope to people in the midst of painful circumstances. And somewhere along the way, as our food donations became more steady and we found more and more amazing volunteers, we began to think of ourselves as a kind of a restaurant.

“But this doesn’t really feel like a restaurant. Not really.”

Ouch. When a good friend of ours, an honest volunteer  who had been part of serving dinner at Cityteam spoke those words, John and I had to listen to her. You see, at a restaurant there are waitresses, and waiters, and people who help you find your seat. Your food isn’t plated up in advance and everyone’s plate doesn’t look exactly the same. Last year, after listening to this feedback, we realized we needed…more feedback. So we enlisted some faithful volunteers to be in a focus group to help us improve our meal program. They were honest, too. They shared the things they loved and they told us some of the frustrating parts of the meal program.

What resulted was an exciting idea. What if one night each week we turned our cafeteria into a café that actually felt like a restaurant? What if we did it in a way that gave volunteers and guests more opportunity to connect and share life experiences? What if we offered music and teaching about Jesus after dinner that was so inviting that people were excited to stay and invite others to come?

From those focus groups, Hope Café was born. Starting this weekend, our Saturday dinnertime outreach to the homeless and hungry members in our community will take new form by providing an outstanding personal dining experience, purposeful partner roles and appealing music and teaching. We are really excited and are looking for more groups to take on this project with us, almost like a mission trip right here in our neighborhood. Please help us share our vision and think about partnering with us!

Kwinn

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Special thanks to Media Presbyterian Church and the Senior Craftsmen there who dedicated lots of volunteer hours and devoted their resources to help us spruce up the cafeteria in preparation for this project.

If you like our post, please share with your friends! For more information, reach out to us at chester@cityteam.org.

One Man’s Miracle

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Miracles are powerful things. In the first place, they benefit the recipient—a person sick beyond the help of anything but divine intervention. But miracles also resonate with their witnesses. We still talk about Jesus’ compassion, how he raised Jairus’ daughter, how he knew when a desperate woman reached out to touch His cloak. Those stories give hope: if Jesus did all these things, then he can heal us, too.

Last month, I was witness to a miracle. A thousand of us gathered on a church’s lawn for “Baptism Night.” An old friend from Cityteam was first to go. He stood before us, healthy and strong, happily telling us all how Jesus had given his life a new hope. His testimony was inspiring but it reminded me of when my friend looked and acted nothing like this man.

Only months before, I had seen him at his worst. He was losing his battle with heroin, in and out of Cityteam and other programs, each relapse taking a little more of him. He spent two nights in our temporary overnight shelter, where we have one rule: you can’t be high. On the third night, visibly under the influence, he was asked to take a drug test which he refused. He stalked out into the night.

The next morning, he bristled as we spoke, resenting the rules, me, everything but the real problem. With no place left to go, his desperation broke him and he began to beg. I felt desperate myself; I longed for a way to ease his pain but knew he didn’t want the help I could offer. My last words to him were, “When you are ready, we have a place for you.” His eyes glassed over as he turned to go out the door.All I could do was pray. I worried that I might never see him again.

Then the miracle began. Not long after that meeting in December, he returned to Cityteam, this time to our recovery program, ready to fight for his life. He was truly ready to surrender—ready to admit that he was powerless on his own, that he needed a power greater than himself, and that he needed to turn himself over to God’s care. Much like that woman so long ago who needed healing, he reached out—and Jesus went to work. Nothing less than his life had been saved.The pastor dipped him in and out of the pool.  Dripping, his smile beamed at us, a thousand hope-filled witnesses to his miracle.

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

Five Things About Cityteam Chester

PH_04.13.11_009Welcome to the Cityteam Chester Blog!  For our first post, we are sharing a few facts that you may not know about us.

 1. In 1989, before we even had a kitchen, our first ministry was serving one meal each week to hungry people in Chester.  Volunteers at Cityteam Chester prepared and served food to people sitting on milk crates at make-shift tables. Our cafeteria looks a little nicer these days and we now serve over 200 meals prepared in our kitchen every day.

2. Cityteam Chester is supported by over 500 volunteers and serves over 18,000 people each year. Everyone involved in Cityteam Chester has a unique story of how God is using them and changing their lives. Read my story here.

3. Each year, several families get to leave the urban environment of the busy city for a fun-filled week of family camp with Cityteam. What most people don’t know is that our youngest camper was a little boy who was only 1 month old! He will turn 11 years old this summer.

4. Our on-site Nursing Clinic, sponsored by Widener University, provides free primary health care to uninsured or underinsured men, women, and children. Our clinic was featured in Widener’s most recent magazine (page 14).

5. In the early 1900’s long before it became a place for homeless Cityteam Chester Buildingand addicted men to find shelter and recovery, our building was first a Buick dealership. Some time after the dealership had gone, the first floor was a local dance hall. Behind the layers of paint there are hearts surrounding the names of former Chester residents who had pledged their love to each other.

Check back for upcoming posts featuring stories, updates and photos of what’s happening at Cityteam Chester!

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Kwinn Tucker, City Director