Dear Friends and Family,
The first Friends and Family letter was mailed in 2003. Because of the generous response, I moved to Anacostia and started the ministry. In December 2005, the Kirwan Catholic Worker donated a house in Northwest, DC, and in 2008, a donor provided a duplex for volunteers in Kansas City.
There are two formerly homeless women living in the houses, and 16 fulltime volunteers have lived and served in the houses. There have also been many part-time volunteers including 17 seminarians. Thank you and God for these blessings. It is an honor to serve the poor and receive so much encouragement and support from donors.
A Simple House feeds, serves, and supports an impressive number of people, but there is no statistical data that can really explain the work. A Simple House is best understood as a response to scripture and a few modern problems. Although we have grown, we need to always recommit to our call.
There is persistent poverty in America. This poverty has survived multi-billion dollar fixes and the Great Society programs of the sixties. A former member of the Kennedy administration said that the remaining poverty is “a problem which defies a solution,” and there is a saying in Southeast, DC, “The government declared war on poverty, and poverty won.”
Shelter, food, and treatment for addiction are often available in American cities, but something mysterious prevents people from taking advantage of them. Many people have lost hope, and this loss of hope causes behaviors that resemble a slow suicide. To provide material goods without friendship or spiritual support only continues the problem. The real problem is spiritual poverty.
A Simple House is a basic response to this poverty. Homelessness, parents abandoning their children, severe depression, drug addiction, hunger, and young children missing school are frequent problems in the families we serve. Our work involves gaining their trust, providing material support, and helping the parents grow. This type of work is always unique. It has involved sheltering families, bible studies, providing for neglected children, and encouraging mothers who are depressed.
Man’s ego can turn spirituality into a weapon. This usually happens through proselytizing, which is condemned by Jesus (Mt 23:15). It is also true that someone can proselytize with secularism in a way that is violent and cruel. Real Christian evangelization and charity are as kind as they are radical. They facilitate a relationship with God and are only secondarily concerned with promoting a set of ideas.
All evangelization must integrate charity. The charity that addresses people’s deepest needs must be guided by truth. Unfortunately, evangelization and charity are usually seen as separate activities. The work of A Simple House is a reintegration of evangelization and charity. This means preaching truth with love and loving in truth.
“So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.” (1 Thess 2:8)
Friendship evangelization was the first evangelization, and it is the new evangelization. As we become intimate friends with Christ, it feels natural to introduce other friends to Him. If Christ is not a friend, the evangelist is talking about someone they do not know and an awkwardness results. Friendship evangelization does not try to argue someone into the Church. It strives to love them into the Church, and it meets their spiritual and material needs. Friendship evangelization is the method of our work.
Jesus said, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mt 19:21) He also said, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece.” (Lk 9:3)
A Simple House has renounced endowments and has no more than three months operating expenses at any time. Because of this, there are times of feasting and times of fasting at A Simple House. During the feasts, we provide for the poor with a super abundance, and during the fasts, we deny ourselves and serve the poor as best we can.
This way of living gets the most out of every donation, and it teaches volunteers to depend upon God for their daily bread. St. Paul said, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:11-13)
The gifts given to A Simple House are never hoarded, and because of our voluntary poverty, the overhead costs are minimal.
We only have 12 days of operating funds.
A Simple House is an experiment in Christianity, and its survival is a miracle. There are no specially trained professionals or special programs to inspire faith or hope. There has only been love, and love has borne great fruit. Please pray for us and support our work.
Clark Massey with full-time volunteers Sylvia Artiles, Laura Cartagena, Erin Fortenberry, Ryan Hehman, Danielle Howard, Bianca Tropeano, and Sarah Wishall.
Since the last newsletter…