Four Months With Walmer’s Homeless
At one of our weekly outdoor divine services at Walmer Town Hall, I shared with my homeless congregants that Jesus knows exactly how they feel as homeless people. This is because Jesus was himself a homeless man who had “nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20) save for the hospitality of strangers and friends.
To homeless migrants in transit from a neighbouring country, I added that as a young child Jesus had been the son of refugee parents forced to flee to Egypt (Matthew 2:14 -15). Our Lord was not only poor but marginalised as well – on the very outer edges of society like them.
The midnight of 27 March 2020 was a round up by police of all people found out of doors, sadly often executed with much disregard and some violence. The shock and bruises of many people delivered by police van to the Walmer shelter told me of a sad lack of understanding for anyone who had asked to collect a bag holding medication or toiletries, for example. For many people these compassionless acts reinforced the belief that “no one cares”.
August is designated the month of “Compassion” in the Anglican Church. A favourite old hymn reminds us, “Jesus thou art all compassion”, so if we are to emulate Jesus, we need to pray that we be compassion-filled by the Holy Spirit. We ask ourselves: How is Jesus’ compassion different to loving sympathy for, or empathy with, someone in their pain or need?
Jesus shows us by his living loving example: Gospel author Matthew (15: 29 -39) records how when faced with thousands of hungry people, Jesus had “compassion” on them. No doubt Jesus’ own hunger and tiredness filled him with sympathy and empathy for the people who were hungry too, but Jesus felt compassion – compelled to ACT.
Yes, Jesus’ brand of love is different: it shows up in solidarity, it does not distance or delegate or outsource responsibility for the human need that stares it in the face.
Loving people of St John’s, may the Holy Spirit continue to open our eyes our ears our hearts and our hands to live this Month of Compassion in the way of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
BY JANE COWEN (DEACON)
Footnote: There were initially 102 people at Walmer Town Hall on 1 April 2020, reducing to 80 after transfers to other shelters in the first month. Six of the residents have been reconciled with family in Port Elizabeth, Durban and Johannesburg.
Five people have restarted car guarding jobs, and two men have rejoined fishing boats. Two frail residents have been given subsidised frail care placements. One gentleman died and I was able to trace his family who could then claim and bury him with dignity.
At the time of closure of the Town Hall at the end of July, all residents were offered a transfer to a choice of three well-managed and fully-catered shelters in the Metro. Sadly, 15 people chose to return to life on the streets either in Walmer, Humewood, Summerstrand or the Five Ways area.
Dr Brombacher shares a message of hope and inspiration.
Click here to watch.
Petro will explain how to install this on your smartphone.
Click here to watch.
Do you have a sewing machine?
Would you like to help to make face masks?
St John’s has partnered with Masks for PE and is encouraging people to make masks to give away in needy areas.
Wearing face masks when out and about is mandatory. Everyone needs at least 2. That’s a lot of masks!
Masks for PE makes it very easy for people to help.
They supply packs with enough pre-cut fabric for 30 masks, thread, fabric ties and instructions.
Finished masks will be packaged along with instructions in English and isiXhosa as to how to wear them safely and how to care for them.
Masks will be distributed at our Fountain Road Soup Kitchen in Ggebera and the Centre of Concern.
Belinda and Mike Jordan will be co-ordinating this project for St John’s.
Contact Belinda on 083 447 3900 if you want to start sewing and to arrange for delivery and collection.
Please contact Andrew 083 546 2451
or Petro 072 663 9774 should you have any questions or require assistance with ZOOM.
Please be aware that the recycling area is currently closed until further notice.