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Diocese of Rockville Centre

- Kyle Blackmer

It has been about one month since our team returned from our mission in Ecuador and the fire is still blazing within us. We are continuing to spread Christ’s love, but now, to people in our own communities. As you have read, Tina recently spoke with her young students about missionary work. KK and Justin have attended several youth group meetings at Holy Name of Mary Church in Valley Stream, NY, to spread their missionary zeal. A small group of us are even kick starting an effort to encourage young people – junior high and high school students, youth groups, confirmation classes, etc. – to set Long Island ablaze and to do God’s work.

Last night we brought the love of God to the streets of New York City during our “Midnight Run.” A group of ten students and four adult volunteers (including Marianne and Matthew) packed a van full of warm clothes, toiletries, and hot and cold food and drinks, and trekked into Manhattan to care for the homeless of the city. This night would come to remind me so much of our work in Ecuador and really showed us all that poverty is very real in our own country.

We made three stops over the course of the night. Our first was near some midtown public housing buildings. There we served five very gracious and friendly men who had been waiting for us to arrive. We handed out “slammin!” hot soup, sandwiches, and drinks, as well as clothing and shoes – all of it generously donated by our university and local communities and sorted by several incredibly caring individuals from Adelphi’s Resident Student Association.

One man at this stop, named Darryl, has been living on the streets for the last thirteen years. We struck up a great conversation after I learned that he previously lived in Syracuse – my hometown – but, like most others, couldn’t take the cold winters any more. The weather in NYC has been bad this year, too, but Darryl mentioned that in his many years of poverty he has experienced worse.

Our next stop was only a few blocks away, but here we were met by an even larger group, waiting for the “midnight run.” This site was right outside of a large office building, but the entrance was surrounded by cardboard dwellings – a perfect display of the huge socioeconomic gap that exists in our country and our world. Several of our teammates worked to waterproof these meager structures with garbage bags while the rest of us sifted through boxes and boxes of clothes to find the right sizes for the ten-plus people looking for help. The scene was life changing. Never before had I seen people living in cardboard boxes. I had met people experiencing this level of poverty before, but never in their own environment; it was heartbreaking.

Katie and I spoke with a man named Vic who had traveled to New York from California for work. He told us of his privileged upbringing and we discussed at length his business venture in music education, for which he has already received two patents. If I could read his résumé, I would never guess that Vic was living on the streets! Vic is an example of how poverty can hit anyone during these difficult economic times.

The last stop of the night was in front of a Methodist church another few blocks away. Here were set up even more box shelters. We only met two or three of the inhabitants of this small community, one of whom is Marianne’s good friend Gus, but we left bags of food and clothing for those who were already asleep for the night. At this one site, there were seven people sleeping in boxes and three more protected only by sleeping bags. After distributing food to our sleeping brothers and sisters, we concluded the night and prayed that the Lord lift them out of their poverty.

The New York/Long Island area woke this morning to about two inches of snow and freezing temperatures. For most of us this was a minor inconvenience. But for the people we met last night, those lucky even to have cardboard walls, bad weather can mean life or death. Please pray for Darryl, Vic, Gus, and all of the people we met last night and all of those who live in poverty every day.

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