Friday, September 20, 2013


AMERICAS HILLIEST CITY [ or- don’t die in this mountain]

The chapter for the week is Exodus 32.

But first;

As I wrap up this tour of North Bergen [3 months- will try and do this every year].

I feel like my documenting the way I met some of the street guys-and the interaction [how over time you build trust] was part of what I was supposed to do.

To give an example [another- I have done this a few times already- started blogging about a new area- meeting new street guys- and what developed as ministry] of how we- as believers- can- are commissioned- to go out ‘into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in’.

Ok- that last part ‘come in’.

These are the words of Jesus- and he is saying we need to tell them the gospel- make it clear that this is about the kingdom of God [‘this’ being why I’m around- interacting].

So- the last few days I have indeed stepped up the ‘witnessing’ part of this project.

And yes- the guys have done some soul searching during my time with them.

But- there have been some funny incidents as well.

Yesterday I did my park walk- and on the way back I usually sit on a bus bench right off Bergenline ave.

Its just cool to sit- see the old town- and this time to see some of my buddies doing their daily routine.

So- I see [I will keep this name anonymous for this story] ‘so and so’ across the street.

I usually go and hang with him for a while.

But my dad was at the house- he heard I was wrapping up this visit- and he wanted to come by and see me.

He lives in Nutley- I’m staying in North Bergen.

So- I figure I’ll just go home and see dad- and talk to my buddy later.

But he sees me and waves for me to come over.

What the heck- sure.

He asks- with anxiety in his voice ‘did you see so and so’ [I better keep this name anonymous too].

I say ‘no’.

‘Did you talk to him on the phone earlier’?


‘O that son of a .. lied to me again- this is the 13th time he’s burned me- I’m done dealing with him’.

Now- this is not the first time I heard this saga from this friend- and it’s sad that this keeps happening.

But- the ‘funny’ part was- this was the first time I was the decoy.


Yeah- I told my friend ‘well- maybe I missed the call’- though I knew more than likely the other friend was faking it [the guy who said he talked to me].

But I did say ‘maybe he did call- and I missed the call’.


‘He was with me at White Castle [my friend tells me] and he was pretending he was on the phone with you- and you were going to lend him 20 dollars- so I gave him th…’

Now- let’s be clear- I don’t buy- use- or have used at all this year.

I am clean- for good.

But- it was funny to see that my name was considered a ‘trusted source’ to use as a decoy.

Get it?

Okay- This past week a few of the other guys have had some serious talks with me- about making a change- quitting the stuff their doing- and have talked about anger issues.

One of the guys- who has asked me about the Jehovah Witnesses- finally told me he hates his dad- when he was young his dad converted from Catholic to Jehovah Witness.

He went into about an hour [or more] discussion about all the resentments- not celebrating Christmas- or being the only kid in class not doing the Pledge of Allegiance.

He talked about how his dad was an abusive drunk while he was growing up- beat the hell out of him.

Yeah- he told me he was glad to finally get this off his chest- years of resentment.

Now- this friend tares up the literature in their faces when they give it to him.

He sees them all the time- this area of the country is close to the main headquarters in NYC.

So- I explained the main difference between Historic Christianity and the JW’s.

I told him I do try and avoid the use of the term Cult [though I do realize why this label is on them].

And yeah- we talked about the bible- and had a long conversation about Christ and salvation.

Now- this talk was natural- friends among friends.

But yet- all the years of the well-meaning Christian groups who simply pass out literature- he simply does not hear or have time.

So- you build trust over time- and you gain influence.
This same thing happened with one of the other guys the next day- a long discussion about life-and how God fits into the picture.

So- it took time- made some friends- and in the process have had some influence on them- and they really do not ‘tempt me’.


Over all the years of doing this [25] I have never used with any of the guys.

I simply have no urge- or desire to drink or use drugs when I’m in these situations.

Now- does that mean I am immune to this stuff?


 But I do realize that this style of ministry does indeed violate many of the classic standards of AA and other groups.

But this is not AA- this is a mandate- requirement- from Jesus himself- to

‘Go out into all the world- and preach the gospel to every creature’.

So- that’s what I feel I need to do.

Okay- Exodus chapter 32.

Moses goes up to the mountain to get the 10 commandments.

As he is gone- the people in the camp get inpatient.

‘Where is Moses’?

So- they go to his brother Arron and he says  ‘give me your gold jewelry and we will make a golden calf’.

So they make this idol- and have a big orgy [yes- that’s the deal].

On his way down from the mountain- with the 2 plates of the 10 commandments in his hand- he hears a noise in the camp.

It is the noise of this big party.

He sees how quickly they turned from God- and in anger he takes the commandments- breaks them.

Melts the calf- puts it in water and makes them drink it.

He executes judgment on the people.

But- before this- God had told Moses ‘I will destroy them and make you into this great nation’.

And Moses made a plea for the people ‘no- don’t kill them- they are your people- remember the promise you made to them. Plus- if you kill them the the Egyptians will say ‘see- he brought them into this hill country to destroy them’.

God listens to Moses prayer- and spares the people.

The other day I was reading the book of Psalms and I came across a passage- I think it’s in Psalms 72.

It says ‘Ephraim- being fully armed- turned back in the day of battle’.

It’s talking about one of the tribes of the nation of Israel- when they ran from the battle- even though they did indeed have the equipment to finish the job.

Yesterday I spent the day helping some of the guys.

Rick has a storage unit in Union City- and he sells garments- perfumes- lots of stuff- legal stuff- to other retail shops.

As I have gotten to know Rick- I see he is a good man- who- like many of my other friends thru the years- has tried to fulfill some type of hope/dream- as they struggle with addiction.

Things did not go well.

Now- I have had people tell me ‘John- you need to be careful with these types of guys’.

To be honest- I have been doing this a long time- and yes- part of the ability to gain trust with these guys [these guys- in general- Texas- N.J.- etc.]

Is when things ‘go bad’- or you get into it- a little- then they see that the next day [or that day] that I don’t ‘run in the day of battle’- then yeah- that opens a door to be in the group.

So- we went to this retail shop- a sort of little used sales store in the heart of the Cuban area of Union city [right around the corner where I used to hang out with one of my best friends as a kid- A Cuban buddy].

Now- I’m also careful that the stuff the guy’s sell- is legal [at least when they are in the car with me].

And yeah- Rick just had all sorts of perfumes and vitamins and stuff in his bag.

How do I know?

He passed out [he had a beer in a bag by his seat].

He snuck it in the car.

I told him I can’t have an open beer in the car- I have too many past arrests- DWI things- and that’s a no no.

So- he downed the beer- and in a few minutes passed out.

And yeah- I checked his bag- just legal stuff.

I had his wife Stacey in the car- nice girl- just met her this day.

She grew up in the same area where I live- and after I mentioned a few names- we realized we did know some of the same people as kids.

So- Rick passed out- the deal was off- and I drove them both back to town.

I dropped Stacey off- and I dropped Rick off at White Castle- where I picked him up earlier.

Billy was outside- he saw me pull up with Rick- passed out.

I finally woke him up- and he made it into the place.

I figured something else was up- and sure enough it was.

Billy told me some of the guys do pills when they drink- and that’s probably the story.

Okay- This isn’t the first time this has happened- over many years.

And I do have a rule- I will help with a ride- but the guys can’t be carrying anything [drugs- booze- etc.]

And I of course won’t help with any type of illegal deal- if they do that- there on their own.

In all honesty- I do believe the deal was legal- because I have seen Rick carrying these types of things in his bag- perfumes- vitamins- etc.

And to him- this is a way he feels like he has a little business.

I’m familiar with this- many of my homeless buddies in Texas do the same exact thing.

I used to tell them ‘geez- your homeless- and yet you’re paying rent on 2- or 3 storage units- that doesn’t make sense’.

But after a while- I realized they see this- maybe unrealistically- as a ‘business’- and that makes them feel like they are accomplishing something.

So I stopped saying ‘you’re wasting your time- and money- with these storage units’.

So-because of past experience- I really didn’t doubt Rick’s story- the storage units and all.

And yes indeed- it was true.

But the substance abuse- yeah- that interferes with any hope of making a better life- and Rick- and his sweet wife- who drove back with us- saw that.

She was slapping him in the face- pretty hard- ‘wake the fu.. up’.

He was passed out- I told her don’t worry- this is not new to me.

Okay- I share this part of the story to let you see the real stuff.

Yeah- I know this stuff [and other worse stuff] can- and does happen.

Now- being ‘fully armed’ turned back- in the day of battle.

Moses convinced God not to wipe out the people- and part of the argument was ‘the Egyptians will say- ‘see- God took them out of Egypt- and brought them to the mountains- and there they died’.

Right now- and for the last 3 months- I have been living- praying- doing outreach- in Americas ‘Hilliest City’.

Yeah- North Bergen- N.J. - is the hilliest city in the U.S.

Some say ‘what about San Fran’?

Nope- North Bergen.

The reason is the entire city is built on this hill/ridge that the area is known for.

One of the Psalms I like is Psalms 72- it also says at the time of fulfilment [of promises] that the Lords house will be on the ‘top of the mountains’.

These are all images- I don’t take them as actual prophecies about North Bergen.

But I apply them- in a spiritual way- to my time here.

Over the past 30 years I have prayed for this area- every week.

‘No- You must be making that up’.


One of the pics I posted last night might look strange.

It’s a ‘hole in the yard’.

I killed the grass in the spot I pray in every morning.

The walking in that spot for 3 months has killed the grass.

So yeah- I do pray- and for this area.

So- in a way- in the middle of many of my own battles in life- transition- making major life changes.

I see my journey like the tribe of Ephraim ‘fully armed- don’t turn back’.

In a small way- I have made some inroads- had some experiences- good- and bad.

But over the past 3 months there were times when I wanted to pack up and take off- but I felt I needed to stay longer.

Now- I see it was for these 3 months.

I in a way I am asking God to ‘spare these guys- do something- don’t let them die in this mountain- this hilliest city in the country’.

Rick- whose story I will tell in a future post- grew up here.

His mom was from Peru- his dad was an Italian business man from Brooklyn.

They met here in New York City and married many years ago.

So Rick- whose last name is very Italian- looks Mexican/Hispanic.

He often gets confused with the many south/central American illegal immigrants who now populate this region.

So- I see how this in itself adds to the frustration of living in addiction- in your hometown- and feeling like there’s no way out.

But these last few days I have had some good talks with the guys- they know about the AA- NA meetings in the area.

And I have planted some seeds- that maybe in Gods time will bear fruit.

Some times in life you have no control over all the other things around you.

But- if you’re at a place- like the tribe of Ephraim- and you have the opportunity to shoot the bow- being fully armed.

For heaven’s sake- shoot the thing.

Give it your best shot- because if you don’t go for it now- and yor turn back in the day of battle.

You will regret it in the end.


Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John. Don’t forget to scroll down on the timeline [FaceBoook] - I have posted lots.

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