Monday, February 3, 2014

Emergency Shelter at St. Mary's Church in Painesville, Ohio

I saw this nice article in our church bulletin yesterday. I had the privilege of staying overnight at the shelter with 16 guests on Monday night, January 27, 2014. The next morning it was way below zero!

Karpos Ministry for the Homeless and Hungry—St. Mary’s Church, Painesville, Ohio          

            The unusually cold spell in Northeast Ohio has everyone dreaming of hibernation in a warm place. The bone chilling winds and grey laden sky have zapped our spirits. But there is a spirit of hope that has come in an unexpected way with unexpected grace to St. Mary’s. As the polar vortex roared into Northeast Ohio, it put our many homeless Karpos friends, resilient by any measure, into its dangerous and life-threatening path. As the search went on to find ways to ensure their safety it became evident that a response was needed—and fast. Through the quick action of Father Steve Vellenga and the Social Justice Commission, an emergency shelter was established in our gym. This quickly became a safe haven filled with hospitality for all those who needed a place to shelter from the frigid temperatures. For those of us who were able to spend time together during these days and evenings, it brought transformation of heart and a broader feeling of community. It was good to be together, and hear each other’s stories. As the temperature dropped and the snow fell, we played cards and chess, watched movies, and shared meals and snacks together. As members of this renewed community ventured out into the elements the wind was not quite as bone chilling and the sky not as foreboding.
            A small miracle was experienced at St. Mary’s in an unexpected way, at an unexpected time. This is often the way that God works. We came to deeper understanding of how God has dwelled through the ages with those who have been seeking refuge. Let us continue to keep our hearts open to such possibilities and to recognize God’s presence in our lives!

Thank you to everyone who helped with set up, serving, socializing, sleeping over, and praying, and to Father Steve for his hospitality. Thank you to the Painesville police and city manager for their support and assistance, and to our guests for sharing their time with us.

[from the February 2, 2014 church bulletin, St. Mary’s Church, Painesville, Ohio]

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