At the time you’re reading this, we’ve collectively walked into a new calendar year and are still making our way through Christmas. I’ll be spending a few days with family in Michigan before coming back and getting back to work on some of the new and exciting things coming in 2022. One of the first things I’ll do this month is finalizing all of our data from 2021 and making sure we’ve got an accurate count of everything we’ve accomplished in the year we’ve just finished. Then we’ll send out letters to all of you who have donated in 2021 to make that work possible.

After celebrating what has past, we’ll set out mind and heart toward continuing to expand our housing work in the year we’ve just started. This is a year we look forward to new homes, new renovations, and more people in safe, stable, affordable shelter. We’ll find new ways to celebrate the good work we’re able to do together and we’ll continue to pray that the days ahead will include shared meals, much laughter, and new reasons to celebrate.

As always, I welcome your questions and thoughts. Please feel free to reach out and, if you find yourself encouraged by what we’re working on and want to see if continue and grow, consider becoming a supporter.

Grace and Peace,
Joshua

In November 2021, we provided 285 meals through grocery bags, subsidies, the Urban Farm, meal pickups and dropoffs, and a few other methods. This brings our yearly total up to the end of November to 3,896 meals.

In November 2021, we provided 423 nights of shelter through our network of housing resources including hospitality spaces, rent/utility subsidies, and a few other methods. That brings our year-to-date total to 4,960 nights of shelter.

In November 2021, we provided pastoral care and spiritual direction 211 times lasting 82 hours. This brings our yearly total up to the end of November to 2,914 sessions lasting 1,114 hours.

In November 2021, we provided 207 rides and spent 12.9 hours personally giving rides.  These rides include trips to the doctor, pharmacy, grocery store, and work. This brings out yearly total up to the end of November to 2,490 rides with 319.9 hours personally giving rides.

Josh visiting with the members of sister community Poplar Place in Lancaster, PA

Watching the Christmas parade line up from the porch of a hospitality house

A Short Prayer for a New Year

O God who made our sun and all the other stars and cast them into the universe in their courses, and who finally created humans who remain measured by the movement of creation;
fill us with hope for the new year and inspire us to act in love in myriad small ways alongside our sisters and brothers whom you have created and whom you love;
in order that your creation might thrum with the rhythm not only of starlight but also of your deep and unconditional love.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A Quote to Contemplate

Wendell Berry said, “I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love.”


***
This story was originally published in August of 2015.

***

Derek is hard to describe, but I’ll try. The first time I met him was at a meal and before I knew his name, he asked me if I wanted to hear the rap he was working on. Derek has a way of entering a new and unfamiliar place with confidence, his eyes darting to the left and right to take in his environment as quickly as possible. He is an astounding judge of character most times, but is also eager to assume the best of people even when his instincts suggest differently. Derek walks with an understated strut that we’ve learned to recognize from a block away, knowing him by his walk before we can hear him yelling our names. Derek has a sense of style that defies imitation, shifting subtly from day to day with his newest clothing creations—composed of other people’s castoffs and often given away shortly after their debut—but remaining consistent to a few themes, such as his penchant for handmade necklaces and redesigned skullcaps. Regardless of what’s going on in Derek’s life on any given day, he always asks me how my daughter is in the first minute or two of any of our conversations. He’s eager for us to know he loves us and tells us regularly.

Derek was one of the thirteen people who used to live at the apartment building that we called “Little Calcutta” and wrote about here previously. After four years of sharing countless meals together, planting flowers in the courtyard, taking turns playing the guitar on the porches of roach infested apartments that often lacked running water, and talking very seriously about what the tenants deserved, the tenants were ready to ask for better. Derek was one of the key leaders who helped cultivate justice in that neglected place and he did it with all of his characteristic soft-hearted swagger and persistent hopefulness. When the building was condemned, Derek celebrated alongside everybody and debuted new art and new fashion.

But, the condemnation of the building meant that once again Derek was facing the possibility of homelessness. For years, Derek had drifted between homelessness and near-homelessness, between lack of security and the hope of security. Though there are a particular set of material, social, and health challenges that vex Derek, it’s far too simple to say that those challenges are why Derek has struggled with homelessness. The reality is that Derek’s struggle with homelessness says just as much—if not more—about our society as it does about Derek.

We’ve been taught to expect people like Derek to act desperate and servile. We’ve learned to trade support and assistance, from positions of power and control, for dignity and flattering gratitude. Too often, we ask the Dereks to be somebody else, because we don’t know what to do with who they are. Sadly, when they don’t, can’t, or won’t fit themselves into a broken set of expectations for those in need, we write them off as ungrateful or undeserving. This certainly isn’t justice, and it’s hard even to call it charity. Rather, it’s something of a transaction where we trade some of our surplus resources for good feelings, and the Dereks of the world trade dignity and agency for whatever we’ve chosen to give. Frankly, it’s a bad trade for everybody involved, but it seems to be one we’re all accustomed to making.

So, we did what we’ve done dozens of times before and started going with Derek to make applications at better apartment buildings and to put together the documents and paperwork that he’d need to find a place to lay his head in relative security. The former tenants of Little Calcutta had ten days to find somewhere to go and we were able to relocate most within a week, but Derek kept being turned down for a variety of reasons. Finally, with only a few days left until the building was finally boarded up—a victory worth celebrating in its own right—one of our leaders, Ed, sat in yet another waiting room with Derek as his application was scrutinized in private. As Derek paced the room, Ed noticed that Derek’s shoelaces were tied together, forcing him to shuffle his feet to avoid tripping. Thinking this was a fashion choice, Ed asked Derek, “What’s up with your shoelaces? They make you walk like you’re shackled.”

Derek, normally cheerful and playful, turned his downcast eyes to Ed and responded, “That’s how I feel, that’s how I should be walking.” So, what do you do when your brother makes that kind of confession to you? You wish it wasn’t true, but then you cry because, for the moment, it is. Then you tie your own shoelaces together, because it’s not just the Dereks of the world that are shackled by our broken way of looking at poverty, homelessness, justice, and charity. You tie your shoelaces together and shuffle through the next few days alongside the brother or sister that God gave you, because when that’s how you feel, that’s how you should be walking.

Together, we got there and Derek found a place to take shelter with less than 24 hours to spare. He untied his laces, he joined us at yet another meal and for prayers, and we all gave thanks that for a little while, everything was alright. That night, as we dropped him off, he walked back to his new home with victory on his shoulders, the love of his community around him, and with that familiar strut which fits him so well. After all, if that’s how you feel, that’s how you should be walking.

***

Please consider making a donation to support our continued work at: bit.ly/3CMdonate.

Some Updates from Grace and Main

By this time next month, we’ll already have started the season of Advent and, with it, a new year in the Church calendar. As we continue our journey through the year and temperatures get cooler and days get shorter, we find ourselves preparing ourselves and our work for some seasonal rest, as well. We’re starting to bed down our Urban Farm for the fall and winter with some more compost and mulch and some “no till” beds. We’re taking some of the tool library’s tools in for repairs and re-cataloging what we have there. 

But just as winter brings Advent and Christmas and a new calendar year, we’re also looking forward to new births and new opportunities. Our housing work has taken some big steps forward in the last few months and will continue to do so in the months to come. We are hopeful that this new year will bring growth in our ability not only to provide shelter but also to provide homes and stability in new ways. We are also hopeful that next year will bring a chance for our big meals to resume in a safe way. We would love for you to join us in this hope and prayer as well as by being vaccinated.

As always, I welcome your questions and thoughts. Please feel free to reach out and, if you find yourself encouraged by what we’re working on and want to see if continue and grow, consider becoming a supporter.

Grace and Peace,
Joshua

In September 2021, we provided 388 meals through grocery bags, subsidies, the Urban Farm, meal pickups and dropoffs, and a few other methods. This brings our yearly total up to the end of September to 3,196 meals.

In October 2021, we provided 434 nights of shelter through our network of housing resources including hospitality spaces, rent/utility subsidies, and a few other methods. That brings our year-to-date total to 4,430 nights of shelter.

In September 2021, we provided pastoral care and spiritual direction 198 times lasting 91 hours. This brings our yearly total up to the end of September to 2,069 sessions lasting 838 hours.

In September 2021, we provided 255 rides and spent 28.2 hours personally giving rides.  These rides include trips to the doctor, pharmacy, grocery store, and work. This brings out yearly total up to the end of September to 1,951 rides with 378.1 hours personally giving rides.

Here’s a quick glimpse of one of our properties getting a fresh coat of paint, a deep clean, and some new furniture and appliances. By the time you read this, we’ll have moved another household in.

A look down N Main St. with sunset approaching.

A Short Prayer for Stable Shelter

O God who decreed a time for everything in its season — for rising and falling, for growing and withering;

O God who made a home for all creation in the midst of swirling chaos and void and who, in your earthly incarnation, had nowhere to lay your head;
intervene on behalf of all who lack stable shelter of their own and who make their homes in inhospitable places, convict those who, by their decision, make stable shelter a luxury missed by too many;
in order that we see your glory through the love of the people who aspire to represent you to the world.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A Quote to Contemplate

Brennan Manning said, “The kingdom is not an exclusive, well-trimmed suburb with snobbish rules about who can live there. No, it is for a larger, homelier, less self-conscious caste of people who understand they are sinners because they have experienced the yaw and pitch of moral struggle.”

Some Updates from Grace and Main

Fall is coming and with it: cooler temperatures. The trees are starting the spread the rumor in orange, red, and golden whispers. There’s an insistent crispness to the air in the morning even if it relents to heat by midday. By the next time I write to you, I think we’ll have made it to genuine “sweater weather.” Well, I hope so at least. Fall has long been my favorite season; it feels like a sigh after summer’s exertion. In our work and life at Grace and Main, it has usually been a brief respite from the challenges of summer and before the freezing threats of winter. It’s a time to give thanks, even if we know it often feels too brief.

As I write this to you, we’re closing on a piece of property (a set of four apartments) on the Northside of Danville that I’m looking forward to telling you about. The purchase of these units was funded by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Virginia and by a portion of the money granted along with the B.R. Ashby, M.D., Award for Outstanding Community Service that we received earlier this year. These apartments will be a big addition to our work to provide equitable, affordable housing in our neighborhoods and, in the long term, we look forward to expanding that work into many more places with the same values and approach. 

There’s still a lot of work to do, but there’s one thing I know for certain in this moment: we couldn’t do it without you and this is every bit as much your victory as it is ours. So, thank you. Thank you for your prayers, your support, your encouragement, and your trust. There’s good work ahead of us and it’s built on all the good work you’ve made possible in the past. Keep your eyes open and I’ll tell you more about what you’re helping to make happen.

As always, I welcome your questions and thoughts. Please feel free to reach out and, if you find yourself encouraged by what we’re working on and want to see if continue and grow, consider becoming a supporter.

Grace and Peace,
Joshua

In August 2021, we provided 367 meals through grocery bags, subsidies, the Urban Farm, meal pickups and dropoffs, and a few other methods. This brings our yearly total up to the end of August to 2,808 meals.

In September 2021, we provided 372 nights of shelter through our network of housing resources including hospitality spaces, rent/utility subsidies, and a few other methods. That brings our year-to-date total to 3,996 nights of shelter.

In August 2021, we provided pastoral care and spiritual direction 336 times lasting 103 hours. This brings our yearly total up to the end of August to 1,871 sessions lasting 747 hours.

In August 2021, we provided 306 rides and spent 35.9 hours personally giving rides.  These rides include trips to the doctor, pharmacy, grocery store, and work. This brings out yearly total up to the end of August to 1,696 rides with 249.9 hours personally giving rides.

Given our history of shared meals and community feasts, Grace and Main was asked to help provide for the kitchen area of the new community center near Cardinal Village.

Here’s some of what we were able to provide to help make shared meals a possibility when COVID allows.

A Short Prayer as Summer turns to Fall

O God who decreed a time for everything in its season — for rising and falling, for growing and withering;
speak to us in the waning of summer’s heat and in the slow turning of leaves to all your brilliant colors;
in order that we might give thanks for your unchanging nature in the midst of all change and, in doing so, might learn a gratitude deeper than any circumstances.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Some Stories Worth Rereading

In March of 2018, I wrote a story called “Precious Memories” about a family in a hospitality house and about what is precious to Jesus and his followers.

In October of 2017, I wrote a story following the death of Bruce called “Bruce Was Ready.” This September was the fourth anniversary of Bruce’s passing as we still miss him very much.

This story was written by Jessica Hearne, CBF Field Personnel serving through Grace and Main Fellowship.

***
Community doesn’t always show up where you expect it. Yes, sometimes you can find it like a rose in a manicured garden, beautiful and inviting, telling a story of care and commitment. Other times you’ll find it like a centuries-old oak tree firmly planted with roots that extend far beneath the surface. But we’ve found over and over again that community has a curious way of showing up in the places you might think it won’t or shouldn’t. The bonds of community can arise in inconvenient and unanticipated ways, like a dandelion pushing up through an inhospitable sidewalk. Sometimes it is not the goodness of the soil that seems to nurture community so much as it is the opportunity to cultivate something beautiful.

One of the unexpected places community has popped up in our lives has been a couple of minivans donated to our community as a way to provide rides. It’s good to have a public transportation system in Danville but, like so many places the size of our city, it just can’t meet all the many, complex, and varied needs of our people. Bus routes don’t always run by the most convenient stops. Buses stop running at 6 pm during the week and do not run at all on Sundays. There is a “Reserve-a-Ride” service that operates in the evenings, but it is four times more expensive than the regular bus service and must be reserved at least a day in advance. Reserving the bus wouldn’t normally be a problem. After all, Grace and Main has provided bus tokens for our people for years but, during the Covid-19 pandemic, new restrictions for social distancing meant that there were fewer seats to be had.

Denise called me one day last year after I had not heard from her in several months. She had been injured and needed a ride to her eye doctor. Medicaid transportation was not an option because the appointment was urgent, the bus schedule wouldn’t get her there in time, and it takes at least forty-eight hours to reserve transportation through Medicaid. Fortunately, I was free and could get her to the appointment. As we were reconnecting on the ride to the doctor, she unfolded her transportation woes more fully. She and her daughter had moved out of the neighborhood that was walking distance to her job and, while that was good in many ways, Denise was now having trouble getting home from work. She was able to use the city bus to get to work in the afternoons, but it was much more complicated at night.

So, where there is a gap in the sidewalk, there’s room for the beautiful dandelion of community. I began giving Denise rides home from work on the evenings when the bus wasn’t available. We also gave more rolls of bus tokens for the evenings it was. The rides helped her keep her job and pay her bills, and they gave me an opportunity to catch up with Denise and her family.

Mrs. Stanford and her son used to take the bus to go to the local food pantry. In the last year, the boxes from the pantry have gotten so big that carrying them home on the bus is impossible. While it’s a blessing to have more than you can carry easily, it does mean that it’s harder to get it home. Using the community’s shared minivan, our leaders have been able to take the Stanford family, as well as many others, to pick up the food boxes that have been crucial to making ends meet. We have also helped many people make bigger trips to the grocery store, making it possible for folks to pick up fresh and perishable food without worrying about how to carry it all home. All the while, we’ve grown community in an unanticipated place.

Some of our Urban Farm leaders get to the garden using the bus system, but even more ride along together in what becomes a rolling conversation by the time we pick everybody up. But when Jack texted me one day and asked if I could pick him up early to go the garden, I knew he needed some time to talk in private. Jack has been helping take care of his sick friend Billy, and the physical and emotional strain was taking a toll. “I just need to vent,” he said as he got in the van. During the ten-minute drive from his place to the Urban Farm, we chatted about Jack’s trouble getting Billy to appointments, and how Billy didn’t want to get out of bed and it was making him sicker. We talked about all the physical work Jack was doing, lifting Billy in and out of his bed and chair, helping him bathe, and taking care of his house. And we talked about Jack’s frustrations with Billy’s family as they were making decisions about his care. When we arrived at the farm for our volunteer day, Jack revealed that he couldn’t actually stay to work because he had to get to the hospital for visiting hours to see Billy. He said he’d catch the bus and confessed that the ride that was really just an excuse to talk to someone he knew would listen. I told him he could vent to me anytime and took comfort in how community shows up where it’s needed and not just where it’s convenient.

So far this year, I have given over 250 rides to our friends in Danville who don’t have their own transportation. That’s more than fifty hours I have spent chatting with folks about their health, joys, and frustrations, and listening to stories about where they’ve been and what they’ve seen and experienced. Fifty hours of tending the gardens of community that may not always have the beauty of a rose or the longevity of an oak, but seem to have the tenacity and persistence of a dandelion instead. Fifty hours of learning that that’s a beauty and longevity of its own.

***
Please consider making a donation to support our continued work at: bit.ly/3CMdonate.

Some Updates from Grace and Main

Wow, it has been hot out!

I’m sure you’ve noticed and it probably doesn’t even need to be said, but it feels like the beginning of August nearly requires those words to be said aloud. But even with all the heat and humidity, our work continues steadily and is even beginning to take some steps in new, exciting directions. In the months to come, we’ll be expanding our work around stable, affordable housing by adding a couple of new properties to our network. You’ll hear more about that in future months. For now, we’re packing extra water down to the Urban Farm and enjoying the chances we get to gather outside whether at a cookout or just to catch up and appreciate the good side of all this hot weather.

As always, I welcome your questions and thoughts. Please feel free to reach out and, if you find yourself encouraged by what we’re working on and want to see if continue and grow, consider becoming a supporter.

Grace and Peace,
Joshua

In June 2021, we provided 403 meals through grocery bags, subsidies, the Urban Farm, meal pickups and dropoffs, and a few other methods. This brings our yearly total up to the end of June to 1,893 meals.

In July 2021, we provided 393 nights of shelter through our network of housing resources including hospitality spaces, rent/utility subsidies, and a few other methods. That brings our year-to-date total to 3,096 nights of shelter.

In June 2021, we provided pastoral care and spiritual direction 194 times lasting 93.1 hours. This brings our yearly total up to the end of June to 1,300 sessions lasting 540 hours.

In June 2021, we provided 289 rides and spent 32.1 hours personally giving rides.  These rides include trips to the doctor, pharmacy, grocery store, and work. This brings out yearly total up to the end of June to 1,219 rides with 183.4 hours personally giving rides.

An unwelcome garden visitor, immediately prior to their relocation

Youth campers from New Jersey working hard at the Urban Farm

A Short Prayer for People with Unstable Housing

O God who created the foxes and the birds and all the places they take refuge, and who,
before creating us, prepared a place for us where we might find home and community;
be especially close to those who have nowhere to lay their head and lay on our hearts a burden to make homes for all of your children;
in order that we might offer our hospitality to you through the lives of our brothers and sisters.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Some Stories Worth Rereading

In December of 2018, Jessica wrote a story called “The Good News of Obstacle Courses and Dance Parties” about what it’s like to live our way of life in community while having a child.

In June of 2017, I wrote a story called “Roland’s Unceasing Prayers” about one of our long-time leaders and his way of walking and praying through the neighborhoods.

Some Updates from Grace and Main

Sometimes, it feels like things are starting to open up a little more, like when we’re able to eat together in a small group of vaccinated folks or when I have a conversation with someone on the porch and don’t worry about the lack of masks. Other times, it feels like there’s still a long way to go, like when we’re registering people to get a vaccine or having yet another Zoom meeting. Regardless, God is still faithful and our work continues even if sometimes looks different. Blessedly, it doesn’t always look different. We’re still providing of nights of shelter and meals, rides and listening ears. Sure, maybe we have to be a little more creative, but there is still good work worth doing.

As always, I welcome your questions and thoughts. Please feel free to reach out and, if you find yourself encouraged by what we’re working on and want to see if continue and grow, consider becoming a supporter.

Grace and Peace,
Joshua

In May 2021, we provided 402 meals through grocery bags, subsidies, the Urban Farm, meal pickups and dropoffs, and a few other methods. This brings our yearly total up to the end of May to 1,490 meals.

In June 2021, we provided 390 nights of shelter through our network of housing resources including hospitality spaces, rent/utility subsidies, and a few other methods. That brings our year-to-date total to 2,668 nights of shelter.

In May 2021, we provided pastoral care and spiritual direction 216 times lasting 92.5 hours. This brings our yearly total up to the end of May to 1,106 sessions lasting 446.9 hours.

In May 2021, we provided 219 rides and spent 37 hours personally giving rides.  These rides include trips to the doctor, pharmacy, grocery store, and work. This brings out yearly total up to the end of May to 930 rides with 151.3 hours personally giving rides.

A Short Prayer for Summer

O God of lightning bugs, oceans, breezes, and cicadas,
who filled the world with seasons and weather that punctuate the million moments that make up our lives;
move in our lives and days and remind us in the summer to give thanks of the cycle of our lives and even its ever-imminent changes;
in order that we might find our rest in you and be secure in your love regardless of the season.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Some Stories Worth Rereading

In December of 2016, I wrote a story called “Father’s Love” about what it’s like to be a father of a well-loved daughter in community.

In January of 2016, I wrote a story called “Chef Alex’s Table” about a lovingly prepared meal by a member of the community with a chef’s training and a neighbor’s love.

The first four things I ever learned about Daniel were apparent within just moments of meeting him on a porch on North Main St. He was friends with Bruce, he played the guitar with passing ease, he had a not-inconsiderable drinking problem, and he could tell a story as easy as breathing. A natural introvert with the gift of gab and for pulling faces, Daniel was often both the life of a party and the first person ready to go home.

One evening years ago I gave him an unanticipated, early ride home from a party Grace and Main threw to celebrate somebody’s first month of sobriety. At that party, Daniel had sneaked away to go get a beer in the restaurant’s bar. As I drove him back to his place on North Main, I was a little irritated to be missing the last of the party, but Daniel was even more so. Maybe it was embarrassment or maybe it was indignation, but he was ready to pick a fight.

“I wish you all loved me like you love Bruce,” he said, half grumbling but meaning for me to hear it. Bruce had been clean and sober for over a year at that point and Daniel had both celebrated and lamented the sobriety of his dear friend and once-drinking-companion.

“We love you just as much, Daniel,” I had insisted, perhaps with more force than I might otherwise have if I hadn’t already been aggravated.

“Well,” he said with a thoughtful pause that became a familiar pattern, “I don’t feel it.” It wasn’t the first time he’d said it and it wouldn’t be the last time. He’d say it again to me as we overlooked the garden months later when he relapsed for the first time. But this time I didn’t respond for a minute or two. I believed what I was saying, but I was aggravated and I had no clear idea how to make somebody feel something.

“Well, we do,” I finally offered to the growing silence before trying to bring the lightest shade of levity to our heavy conversation by continuing, “whether you like it or not.” I’d meant it to be a way of saying that our love for him was unconditional and not built on his own achievements or any kind of merit. Even more, I wanted Daniel to know that while our love might be weak, God’s love was undeniable, inescapable, and perfect. It was a lot to ask one half-joking statement to accomplish, but there was truth to it nonetheless.

I had the privilege of baptizing Daniel not too many weeks after that awkward ride home. Over the years, we’ve learned that recovery is a lot like the vows we make at baptism. Each day, we have a chance to recommit ourselves to our promises and sometimes we simply fail to keep them. Relapse means a chance to try again—something we learned how to do from Daniel. Whenever Daniel relapsed, he did so with a flair for the dramatic. But when he finally entered recovery for the final time, he did it with equal passion and flash. “I asked Jesus to take it away from me, and He did,” Daniel liked to explain when asked how he finally got clean, “I never thought I could be this content without drinking, but I don’t even want to [drink] anymore.” The eagerness with which he had once drank was turned toward prayer and the earnest pursuit of the Kingdom of God. Rarely did I visit Daniel that he didn’t want to talk at length about what God might be calling him to do in the neighborhood. As one of the creators and organizers of the Morning Breakfasts we once did on North Main, Daniel knew that doing good was easier than it seemed and no less possible for him than anyone else.

Daniel moved into Bruce’s hospitality room a little over a year before Bruce would show signs of cancer and then pass quickly. His first day of sobriety was October 22, 2015, a date we celebrated every year following. In the last days of Bruce’s life, Daniel was in the hospital every day to help share in caring for our beloved brother. Where once he had tried to break Bruce’s knees with a baseball bat out of a mix of drunkenness and jealousy, Daniel lifted a spoon to Bruce’s lips in those final days and gathered pictures and cards to hold close enough for Bruce to see. In the months that followed, Daniel took up the mantle of Bruce as caretaker of the house, the Tool Library, and the Urban Farm property not to mention Booboo the cat, whom we may or may not have sneaked into the hospital in those strange days of September 2017.

After a life lived hard and often fast, Daniel started getting sick a little while back. Liver cancer and some other complications meant numerous drives to Charlottesville early in the morning and the occasional hotel stay. Some of these trips were made during COVID-19 lockdowns, making them even more eerie than they might have been otherwise. With remarkably few exceptions, Daniel fell asleep in the car before we could even make it to Blairs. He was always more talkative for the return trip. We’d talk about what he was reading in the Bible or about what we thought heaven was like. We took turns telling stories ranging from reminiscence to the inventive and likely-only-somewhat-true. My favorite stories were his many wild adventures over the years like the time he accidentally hitchhiked to Charleston, West Virginia, when he had meant to go to Charleston, South Carolina; true to form, instead of finding a way home, Daniel just lived in Charleston for a year making him the only person I’ve ever met who accidentally transplanted himself to West Virginia. Inevitably we’d stop somewhere on the way back so he could get a milkshake and our conversation would turn like a homing pigeon toward Bruce for a bit; ice cream still made us both think about Bruce.

When the end of Daniel’s path was approaching, we talked often, and at length, about how he wanted to die at home and how he was ready. His vibrant, genuine faith buoyed him through suffering and struggle while turning his attention to loving others even in those last, most difficult days.

“You know we love you, right?” I asked him one of the last times I saw him. I knew the answer and I didn’t need to confirm it after all these years, but sometimes a question mark does what a period can’t.

“Yes,” Daniel said with that characteristic pause, “I certainly do.” He reached his hand down from his chair and scratched Booboo behind the ears. “I love yall too.” At the end of the path, he felt our love and abided in God’s love. With confidence in the resurrection, with faith in the God who loved him before he was born, and with over five years of sobriety and many more of service to the Kingdom, Daniel passed from this life to the next part of the story on Friday, May 7, 2021. We give thanks for his life and that now he rests from his labors and knows how deeply he is loved in a way that is far beyond words – whether he likes it or not.

***
Please consider making a donation to support our continued work at: bit.ly/3CMdonate.

Some Updates from Grace and Main

The steady proliferation of folks getting vaccinated around our community has continued and, for this, we give thanks. Slowly, cautiously we’re finding ways to see each other and take joy in each other’s presence. The warmer weather makes it much easier, of course, but so does the inkling of hope around the edges of all these vaccines that things seem to be getting better than they have been in the last year or so.

This update includes our “quarterly numbers.” That is, we’ve got a bunch of numbers about the first three months of 2021 as we’ve continued our work in our neighborhoods in our own unique ways. You’ll find them below, but suffice it to say: the last year has been hard, but God has been faithful.

As always, I welcome your questions and thoughts. Please feel free to reach out and, if you find yourself encouraged by what we’re working on and want to see if continue and grow, consider becoming a supporter.

Grace and Peace,
Joshua

In the first three months of 2021, we provided 707 meals through grocery bags, subsidies, the Urban Farm, meal pickups and dropoffs, and a few other methods.

In the first three months of 2021, we provided 1,508 nights of shelter through our network of housing resources including hospitality spaces, rent/utility subsidies, and a few other methods.

In the first three months of 2021, we provided pastoral care and spiritual direction 601 times lasting 253.9 hours. 

In the first three months of 2021, we provided 517 rides and spent 88 hours personally giving rides.  These rides include trips to the doctor, pharmacy, grocery store, and work.

It’s a beautiful time of year in our neighborhoods.

Things are picking back up around our Urban Farm after a nice winter’s rest.

A Short Prayer for Persistence During Times of Fatigue

O God of Both the Seen and the Unseen,
whose love is unending, unrelenting, and lavish;
abide in us and help us to rest as you showed us, but also give us strength when we must persist in the face of challenge, adversity, and struggle;
in order that we might know and model comfort in your loving presence whether we rest or work.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Some Stories Worth Rereading

In October of 2015, I wrote a story called “The Winter’s Lie and Lisa’s Ring” about the generous, loving willingness of one of our folks to sacrifice for someone else and how it showed all the stories about there not being enough to go around to be lies.

In May of 2018, I wrote a story called “Marcus Has Everything” about a friend who had shoes held together by plastic, grocery bags but who somehow also “had everything.”

We had a new story last month (read it here), but here’s another of our other kind of update. In this one you’ll see some data form our recent work, some pictures, a prayer for the amplification of our love, and links to a couple of stories that are on our minds recently.

We’ve been so thankful for the proliferation of folks getting vaccinated and have even seen times when those vaccines have made it possible for some of us to gather in small groups again outside and safely. We continue to make sure that folks are getting vaccinated in our neighborhoods and encourage you to get the vaccine when you’re able.

In February 2021, we provided 190 meals through grocery bags, subsidies, the Urban Farm, meal pickups and dropoffs, and a few other methods. Our total number of meals provided through the end of February was 406.

In March 2021, we provided 503 nights of shelter through our network of housing resources including hospitality spaces, rent/utility subsidies, and a few other methods. That brings our total nights of shelter provided so far in 2021 to 1,508.

In February, we provided pastoral care and spiritual direction 157 times lasting 65.4 hours. That brings our total of instances of pastoral care and spiritual direction in 2021 up to February to 353 times lasting 148.7 hours.

In February, we provided 167 rides and spent 26.83 hours personally giving rides. That brought our total for 2021 up to February to 326 rides with 53.98 hours personally giving rides. These rides include trips to the doctor, pharmacy, grocery store, and work.

A COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic some of us worked at. This picture was taken just prior to the event that vaccinated a couple thousand people.

Most of a recent donation of tools from donors and partners including a new mower, a wood chipper, a pole saw, and a tiller. We are very thankful and eager to put them all to work.

A Short Prayer for the Amplification of Our Love

O Lord of All Creation,
who knows and love all creatures great and small with an unfathomable devotion;
grow your love in us for all the myriad parts of your creation that cross our paths every day, especially for our enemies and those whom the world would teach us to hate or deride;
in order that we might grow in maturity to reflect your divine and unquenchable love for all.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Some Stories Worth Rereading

In November of 2018, I wrote a story called “Better Plans” about a Grace and Main leader who was experiencing homelessness when we first met him and who gave eight dollars to a brother because maybe he had “better plans” for it than he did.

In September of 2016, Louise wrote a story called “The Ground is Rich.” Louise spent a summer working with us and wrote a piece for a local magazine about what she had learned. We loved having her around and hope to see here again soon.