Our ministry has been close friends with a family for over three years. In May, six members of the family were baptized and received into the Church. This is an amazing blessing. Laura Cartagena and I are the new godparents. This is the first (and sixth) time I’ve become a godfather. It’s awesome.
Also in May, a boy was murdered. We had met and prayed with the boy multiple times, but we did not know him or his family well. In a separate drive-by shooting, another boy closer to our ministry was shot in the head. The bullet is still in his head, but he has mostly recovered. These boys were high school friends, and their other friends, who range in age from 13 to 19, are leading a lifestyle centered on guns, drugs, and a strange sense of valor. If they do not leave this street lifestyle, there will be more deaths over the next few years. Please pray for these boys. Pray that ‘street life’ will be revealed as miserable and replaced with life in Christ.
Life in Christ needs to be the highest priority for all of us, but we are often afraid to completely give ourselves to the Lord. We avoid God and fear death because we want to preserve a distorted part of ourselves which will not withstand the presence of God. ‘No one can see the face of God and live.’ (Exodus 33:20) This part of ourselves is a false self-image. It is a little idol we create that is not worthy of the true self which God created.
In the desert, Moses destroyed the Israelites’ idol, a golden calf. He burned it, crushed it, pounded it to powder, mixed it with water, and made everyone drink it down. (Exodus 32:20) This have-no-mercy approach is the only way to approach our own little idols.
When our idols are gone and we have fully come to terms with God, there is no reason to fear death. Death is for our good. Death is the opportunity to start over and leave this imperfect, always lacking, and often painful world. The gift of Jesus is peace, and this peace opens the door of heaven, puts us in touch with our true selves, and makes it unnecessary to avoid God and fear death.
As a ministry, we continually have to start all over following Christ. We are tempted to get off mission by only meeting the immediate material needs of families. Recently our food pantry experienced explosive growth with more people than ever calling to request food and visits.
Meeting only material needs is easier, more quantifiable, and in the short run more gratifying for the missionary. In this way, we are tempted to abandon the mission and delude ourselves that we are the savior of the poor. This attitude is unchristian and a recipe for burnout.
Our mission focuses on spiritual poverty rather than material poverty. There are many food pantries and agencies in DC which make food available to people in need. When we find a hungry family, it is usually caused by a neglectful parent who may suffer from mental illness or drug abuse. Our mission is to use friendship evangelization powered by God’s grace to address spiritual poverty while still meeting the immediate material needs of the family. Your financial generosity and prayers make this possible.
Through your generosity, we now have two canoes, and our ministry fishing trips have expanded to new horizons. We now take families to national parks and paddle to beaches which are not accessible by roads. We also broadened our expeditions to include clamming and crabbing. Some of the neighborhood kids have started a ‘lemonade stand’ type business selling clams. On our outings, they get to swim, have fun, and work as entrepreneurs all at the same time.
Daniel Shields, our newest board member, joined A Simple House as a full-time volunteer for the summer. We also expect a new full-time volunteer to join us in September. Please pray that more people will participate in this work.
At the House of the Three Teresas in northwest DC, a team of volunteers pulled up our downstairs floor which was eaten away by termites and rodents. More volunteers poured concrete and laid a new sub-floor. We are currently working on painting the downstairs, installing a new floor, and putting a fence in our backyard (the old one was destroyed in a storm).
Our pastor, Msgr. Charles Pope, was recently transferred to a neighboring parish, and we welcome Fr. Raymond Moore as our new pastor. Msgr. Pope was fundamental to the start and development of our ministry. We hope to continue seeing him on a regular basis.
Since the last letter, the House of the Three Teresas was broken into, and our tools and fishing poles were stolen. In the same neighborhood, one of our volunteers was attacked late at night. The House of the Three Teresas is in a wealthier and therefore ‘safer’ part of town, but the area appears to be targeted for muggings and break-ins. Since then, we have invested in a security door, and we no longer let volunteers or visitors walk to their cars alone after dark. Please pray for the safety of our ministry.
Thank you for supporting us. May Christ’s peace be with you.
Clark Massey with full-time volunteers Laura Cartagena, Ryan Hehman, and Jessica Hensle and board members Luis Cartagena, Kristina Massey, Michael Ortner, Fr. Adam Ryan OSB, and Daniel Shields.