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

Humble Pie

Verdell Thomas

I want to tell you about Ms. Verdell Thomas. She was one of the most memorable people I’ve ever met at Cityteam, and she was humble. I think about humility a lot, because I struggle with it: I read about Jesus, a God who became a man, living and suffering along with us, and his example is powerful but can be tough to follow. I think that’s why there are people like Ms. Verdell–when we seek to become authentically humble, here they come–an example of the real thing.

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

There is so much work to do at a place like Cityteam, and even early on I noticed myself drawn to certain kinds of work. There are jobs that guarantee a certain level of human connection: holding a baby, or teaching someone to use a computer, or even serving meals. Honestly? Certain kinds of jobs just feel more fulfilling than others. And I’ve noticed over the years that I’m not alone. Most people are drawn to certain kinds of “jobs” at places like Cityteam.

Meanwhile, there is so much other work to be done, a lot of it less obviously “rewarding.” One of the toughest jobs for me was sorting through bags of donated clothing. People are so generous that sometimes we have piles and piles of clothes to sort through. And then the room will fill up again for next week. But that’s where Ms. Verdell could always be found, sitting in a chair in the back of the clothing donation room, surrounded by bags of clothes.

See, I didn’t even notice her at first. That job kept her away from the crowd, and she would simply arrive and go right to work. I had a hard time figuring her out, she was quite a bit older than me and she hardly ever smiled. Once I saw her, I had to find out her name and introduce myself. And then I saw her smile! “Well, hi!” she said, and of course she already knew my name.

Well, that began our friendship which sadly only lasted a few years before she passed. But in that time she affected me deeply. She’d bake every week and bring different pies or cakes for the volunteers to enjoy. Out of loyalty to her, I tried sweet potato pie and carrot cake for the first time. I’ll always be grateful for that introduction, although I’m still looking for any that tastes as good as hers.

But of course she taught me in much deeper ways than educating my palate. She showed me what true humility in service is. She tirelessly took on that donation pile, for hours each week. She had a greater understanding of just how important that work really is. Kids need those clothes. And the clothes need sorting so we can be sure they’re clean, safe, and in good shape.

Maybe that’s all humility is, really, the lesson for me, from Jesus to Verdell is this: see where there is need. See where there is suffering. And then go to work. Maybe it’s just that simple.

Ms. Verdell's Recipe she was generous enough to share

Ms. Verdell’s Recipe she was generous enough to share

Like our post? Please share! ~Kwinn

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.

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