I HAVE CALLED YOU FRIENDS- [Jesus to his disciples] My last North Bergen post- for 2013.
The chapter for the week is Luke 15.
As I write today- this will be my last North Bergen post- till next year.
I have a few things I need to squeeze in to this one- so bear with me.
The other day- as I was debating on going back up the block- to White Castle [I go at different times- never to eat- but times I know some of the street guys will be there].
I decided to go- at an unusual time.
As I sat there- a few of the street guys were there- and we were getting into our little social club mood.
The street guys know some of the senior citizen crowd- who also hang out there.
Retired guys- yes- some of them are drinkers- but guys who have achieved a degree of success- and they feel like they deserve to just spend the day hanging out- fine with me.
But today- there were 3 older guys talking about religion and the bible.
Now- I have made it a habit to ‘shut up’ when these things happen.
Every so often I’ll hear somebody talking to someone else about God- and even if I think he might be getting some stuff wrong- I avoid the urge to butt in and ‘correct’ stuff like that.
But this time I had to at least ‘correct the record’.
These guys were discussing stuff- one guy says ‘you know the gospels were written hundreds of years after Christ’.
Another says ‘yeah- they did that word of mouth thing- what’s it called’?
So- at this point I did a few second ‘correction’.
‘It’s called Oral Tradition- and most scholars believe the gospels were written about 15- 20 years after Christ’ [this is true by the way- the early Christians did pass things by word of mouth- and some of the disciples realized they needed to write this down for future generations. If you read Acts chapter 1- the writer- Luke- says this- that he decided to also write an account of Christ for future generations].
So- after I spoke up- one of the guys who was sitting there seemed intrigued.
He must have seen me over these past months- with these street guys- and has happened in Texas- I often get seen as a street guy myself.
So Tony comes to sit with me- he asks me about why I’m here- why I have been on the streets and stuff.
I told him its ministry.
As we talked- I realized the church he attends- A messianic congregation in Lodi- I used to have contact with his Pastor because we both broadcast on the same radio station in Texas.
Tony explained to me that he was a Born Again Christian- and he feels part of his calling in life has been at certain times [he emphasized the Timing aspect] God will use him to communicate a Word/Message from God to another person.
I am very familiar with this gift- I have actually done this- taught this- and have seen it operate many times in my life.
So- as Tony learned my background- the ministry and all- he felt honored because he knew that this day God had sent him to me- that he usually knows who the ‘target’ is- and he knew this was one of the times.
But- he has never done this with someone at ‘my level’ [note- Tony was very respectful- and he simply saw me at a ‘higher level’ sort of like a scholar- because of the simple correction I gave earlier to the group- and then when he asked me about the ministry].
So- as we talked- for about an hour or so- he felt like God was telling me that this street work- the outreach to these guys- was without a doubt Gods true purpose.
Tony was envious in a way- he always wanted to do this- and he kept telling me that not many people have this calling [he sees me with the street guys- and he realizes that I did infiltrate this area- he himself probably thought I too was ‘on the streets’.]
Tony also said he felt God was telling me to lay down my years of studying- my books and stuff- and to focus on the outreach part of ministry- he could not emphasize enough how this thing- me on the streets- that this is the most valuable thing- that nothing compares to this.
I Told Tony when I left Texas 3 months ago- I gave my library of books away- for good.
I was able to instruct Tony- about what was happening between us- because he has had this gift [which you can call Prophecy- or a Word of Knowledge/Wisdom- these gifts are mentioned in the book of Corinthians] and I am very familiar with these types of gifts.
I also know when God sends someone.
The morning of my chance meeting with Tony- as I was reading Luke 16- I came across a verse that reminded me of an old friend- Randy.
He came so strongly to mind- that I prayed for him- and knew that something about Randy was important for this day.
Tony- looked- sounded- had the same exact demeanor of Randy- who I haven’t seen in 25 years.
Randy even used to tell me he envied my calling- going out to the streets and all- and that he wished he too had a sort of outgoing way of doing stuff.
So- Tony was ‘Randy’ this day.
In a nutshell- God sent Tony to give me this Word- this message- and I had already come to see the things Tony was saying.
Even about picking up the street ministry when I get back to Texas.
I wrote in a previous post about ‘taking back your Isaac’.
Out of all the things I laid down this year- the hardest was leaving the street ministry in Texas.
But these past few weeks I felt the Lord saying I will ‘pick’ that up again.
So Tony spoke Gods word to me this day- on my last week in North Bergen.
When I first got to town- and met the street guys- I would refer to them as Friends.
One day Nick took notice ‘John- I know you see us as Friends- but these guys are not friends- they are acquaintances’.
Now- I know what he meant.
It was funny- the other day I was with one of the guys.
He too owed 10 dollars for a particular purchase he made [I say too- because the other guy- in the group of 3- also owed ‘friend’ number 1].
So- the guy I was with- well I kinda was joking a bit-
‘Geez- so and so has owed so and so- about 13 times- since I’ve been here- and yet he always ‘let’s by gones be by-gones’ after he pays’ [he will owe for a day or 2- then when he has the money- he shows up and pays].
‘But’ I told my friend ‘when you owe- once- you get cut off’.
Now- I can’t’ really give all the details- how I know he really has only owed once [in the time I have been here] but that’s the story.
So- I tell my buddy ‘yeah- old ‘so and so’ must be racist- he lets the other guy [who is 100% Italian] off the hook a lot- yet you [not full Italian/white] get cut off after one time’.
He says ‘yeah- I’m gonna sue that son of a bitch’.
Now- we are both laughing here- and I know it’s not funny- well actually it is- but I’m giving you the ‘feel’ of the moment.
So- whenever one guy [usually just one] owes another money- he avoids him.
It’s routine now.
And the way I know is I’ll ask-
‘Was he at White Castle this morning’?
And the other guy says ‘no- he must owe so and so some money’.
That’s the scoop.
So- I’m with one of the guys- sitting on the bus bench off Bergenline Ave.
Across the street is another guy- who won’t talk to ‘us’ today [why me? Because I’m with the guy who owes- funny!]
As we are sitting there- the 3rd guy- who owes to the guy I’m with.
We see him ‘rolling’ down the street-
‘There he is- that son of a ..’
As the 3rd guy sees us- as we are sitting across from the other guy [standing at Quick check].
He too makes a hard left turn [in the middle of the road] and crosses the street [he owes the guy I’m with].
Then the guy I’m sitting with waits to see if he’s going to talk to the other guy- nope.
He owes him too- so all 3 of ‘the crew’ are avoiding each other- on my last week in North Bergen!
So I tell my friend ‘geez- I’m depressed- It’s like I’m leaving in the middle of a family feud’.
He was laughing his … off.
Over time- Nick started referring to me as his Friend.
One day something funny happened.
Rick asked if I could help him with an errand.
So I notice Nick didn’t text me in a day or so [the guys call- text- a lot- but I’m bad with that. I usually don’t answer the phone- or look at texts- so that’s not just here- but some of my buddies in Texas say the same thing ‘you never return my calls/texts!’]
I see Nick a day or 2 later.
He tells me ‘I saw Rick- he was bragging about how you were gonna help him- give him a ride- So he thinks he’s a big shot because you’re his friend…’
‘I told him- look- John chooses his friends- It’s not because you’re some great guy-..’
Now- I realized Nick- in a way- was ‘jealous’ of the fact that I was trying to help Rick.
You think ‘John- these are grown men’.
Yes- but this is not the first time these types of things have happened.
Lots of the guys on the streets have grown up in very dysfunctional homes- and 2 of the guys on this trip have spoken about deep resentments toward their Fathers.
So- even though these guys are my age- late 40’s- 50’s- yet these feelings of rejection- or wanting attention- are results of their dads having had bad relationships with their kids.
So- after time- we all starting seeing one another as friends.
Someone said yesterday- someone that’s not in the group- ‘gee John- you think these guys would take you out to eat before you leave’.
They have been asking me his for the last 3 weeks.
Even the other night Nick bought some Pizza for us at Angelo’s.
So yeah- after 3 months- it’s not a game- we are friends.
Okay- as I finish my ‘task’-
When I first got to town I was not sure how things would go.
I was trying to ‘hear’ God about what type/style of ministry I should do.
I used to actually ‘preach’ [you know- like a preacher].
But honestly- I’d rather be ‘on the streets’.
But- I printed up about 8 little bible studies- and they are in the format of a Christian based AA meeting.
I thought I might start meetings like that.
But as the weeks rolled by- I saw that was not the way to go.
But- I had these bible studies printed- and decided to give one to each of the guys- and write a personal letter to each of my new Friends.
I will hand them out- like little scrolls [I will post a picture] to the guys the day before I leave.
I attached a gold coin to each letter as a going away gift [the coin thing is a story in itself- if I remember I will mention it another time].
Now- I’m open- and blunt in these notes.
I basically tried to ‘custom fit’ each note for their own situation.
I talked about the danger of drug dealing- how if you keep doing it- you’re gonna get busted.
I talked about how someone with lots of talent is throwing it all away because he’s an addict- and needs to make an effort to change.
I talked about Alcoholism- and how it is ruining someone’s life.
I was blunt- talked as a friend- and made no bones about it- all 3 of you guys need to make a change- before time runs out.
Last night [Thursday- 9-27-13] I spent a little extra time hanging out with Nick- sitting on a bus bench off Bergenline ave.
I was ready to take off- Nick was in one of those ‘states’ where he talks.
Ok- but sometimes when the guys are going on- if I see it’s a result of how they spent their day- then I listen for a while- and take off.
But last night I figured I’ll stay a little longer- times running short.
Nick- a musician- is one of those guys who ‘speaks’ words [prophecy] without realizing it.
I have had this happen many times over the years with street friends- often musical guys [guitars on the streets] and they don’t realize what they are doing- by ‘accidentally’ speaking these Words of Wisdom.
So- the last few weeks the guys have been saying ‘wow John- what a f.. experience this must have been for you- meeting this crew’.
Now- to me this is not new- or a first.
This has been my life- I have done this for around 30 years now.
But to them- these guys in their 50’s [late 40’s- early 60’s] - yeah- this whole experience was new.
And now- after 3 months- yeah- at this late stage in life- we became Friends- just like when you were a kid.
So- last night Nick does another one of those ‘slip up’s’.
He’s wanting to say something about the past few months- and he says ‘what a Fu.. Carnival this must have been for you John’.
Now- he corrects himself [this is often how I know what they are saying is a word from God] and says ‘no- not Carnival- why am I using that word’.
And he goes on.
I often associate signs/images with things.
God often speaks to me thru these things- not in a weird way- let me explain.
One of the things I felt would be a sign this year was a Carnival.
The last 3 months I have been doing ministry- in the streets of North Bergen- where as a kid we used to go to the Carnival- in Hudson County Park.
Before I left Texas I kept saying ‘geez- I think I’m gonna see a Carnival before I go’.
I had this thing in my head- a connection with a Carnival- and this year.
Now- I have been making a journal for this year- I am not the type that does diaries- or journals.
But- this year- I felt the Lord telling me to do one.
Many years ago I used to post an ad [for the web site] in the Jersey Journal.
I ran that ad for a few years- and finally dropped it.
But- I cut out one of the actual pictures- a photo- of the Jersey Journal building- and the view of the Hudson River- across from the NYC skyline.
This is an actual photo of the area.
So- I have had this photo for about 7 years or so- and this year I pulled it off my office wall in Texas [thinking I was never ‘goin back again’] and stuck it in this journal.
A few weeks ago- as I was reviewing the journal- I saw something for the first time in this photo.
Right there- whenever this photo was taken [25 years ago?] there was a small Ferris Wheel- you could see it- there must have been some Carnival going on the day they took the photo.
As I saw it the other day- I felt like God was saying ‘there- see it- this was your Carnival.’
THIS being my last 3 months here- reaching out to the street crew.
So- once again- when Nick said ‘John- this must have been some fuc.. Carnival’ I knew what he meant.
When I first got back to town- my dad gave me a gift- a collection of gold coins that he was saving for me- I guess he figured he would leave them to me in his will.
But- he decided to give them to me now.
Their nice- not 100% gold- but worth some money.
I have been carrying one- a 20 dollar replica- with me as I walk.
I showed it to the crew a few months ago- and Billy really liked it.
‘John- that’s worth some money’.
I told him I gave one to a friend- Patrick- and Billy asked ‘why? Why would you give stuff away’?
But- after a few weeks- when the guys heard I was leaving- they started saying ‘man John- now I kinda wished you hung around a little longer- we need to all go out to eat before you take off’.
Now- these guys are funny at times- and all 3 [the main crew] have fought over stuff since I have been here.
So one day Billy asks ‘John- before you leave- can you give me a gold coin’.
You might think ‘how dare he ask!’
To be honest it didn’t bother me.
I told him I only have 3 of the big coins left [the one I showed him].
But ‘I’ll see what I can do’.
So- this week I have been writing those personal letters to each one of these guys- and I stuck the gold coin- a smaller one- on each letter [see the picture- if I remember to post it!]
Nick- and Rick have opened up some during my time here- but Billy- well he’s what we call a true road warrior.
At first I thought he was homeless- then maybe not- just a show- but I needed to correct that post- because I now know he sure enough is homeless.
I can’t give any more details- but I wanted to correct that part.
Billy is 61- he’s been on the streets for a while- and he’s not the emotional type [like Rick- who has cried a few times when we were talking about life- and God].
But Billy boy- Nah.
It was funny- the other day I went to White Castle to see the guys- Nick says ‘they had Billy laid out on 3 cop cars in the parking lot last night’.
The first thing I thought was ‘o no- I better stop blogging about this journey- maybe too much is out’!
Yeah- I’m trying to be careful with stuff- but this is part of what I’m doing- journaling as much as I can- even right on the edge.
So- I ask Nick ‘what happened’?
I thought for sure it might have been bad.
Nick tells me they gave Billy a 250 fine- for pissing in the park.
We laughed- hard.
So- Billy asks me yesterday ‘John- I guess I have known you for about a month now’ [actually 3- but Billy has a bad memory- as those of you who have been reading my posts know by now].
But he goes on ‘let me ask you a question- what do you think of me- as a person’.
Now- that’s a tough one.
I love these street guys- they are my purpose [here- Texas- everywhere].
I told Billy ‘Billy- this week I am going to give you and the guys a gift [coin he wanted] and when I do- with each gift is a letter- and in that letter it gives you what I feel I need to say- read it’.
I was surprised Billy asked- and I’m kind in my letters- but very honest as well.
I didn’t hit much on the chapter for the week- Luke 15.
But Jesus talks about a missing coin- a missing sheep.
He says when a piece is missing from the ‘collection’- you do all you can to recover the missing one.
You even leave the other pieces by themselves for a while- when you go on the journey to recover the missing piece.
After you find it- you GO HOME- and call all your friends and neighbors- you throw this huge party- and rejoice- because you finally found the missing part of the puzzle.
In these last 3 months- I think-in a way- I have found the missing coin- the son who has been missing for years.
Not one of the crew- so to speak.
But all of them- even though it’s a small group.
In the chapter- when you find the missing piece- you tell your friends- you rejoice.
Part of the value of recovering the missing piece is- you TELL THE STORY.
For what purpose?
You model it- you show the way ‘this’ works- you encourage others- do this too!
For many years I have had experiences like this- I see/experience God when I’m with the down and out.
I never told these stories- till the last few years- since I started the Blog.
But that’s part of this journey- to show how to go out- take some risks- and recover the missing piece.
As I wrap up this 3 month tour- I say good bye to all my new North Bergen friends.
I have been trying to say bye to those I can- and if I missed you- please don’t take offence- I say bye now.
I love you all.
I’ll see you guys again next year.
TIME FOR YOU TO GO OUT TO THE PLACES YOU WILL BE FROM- EVERY NEW BEGINNING STARTS WITH ANOTHER BEGININGS END- Closing Time- Semisonic.
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.