The Wisdom of "George"

February 15, 2019

It was a cold January evening as the Anchor team gathered in the community center on Coggeshall Street for a team meeting. We had just completed a Mobile Ministries run at PAACA up the street, and now were settling into a ministry meeting over pizza. There was one problem. "George" had tagged along with us. He was hungry, lonely, and wanted to get out of the cold.

Don't get me wrong, we love "George". He is outgoing. He leaves our volunteers each week in hysterics. It's just that we rarely see "George" sober and this night was no exception. We had a lot of business to get through and "George" loves to talk. Especially if his inhibitions are impaired.

We coaxed "George" to have some pizza with the hopes that it would slow down his talking and we started our business meeting. Sarah was walking the team through some of the highlights of our ministry in 2018. The discussion turned to the Wednesday Bible study and luncheon. At mention of the luncheon, "George" perked up and started talking. I nervously looked at the clock. "I remember those lunches. You guys made Fred the cook and I was his assistant. I will never forget th. It gave us something to do every Wednesday morning. Instead of going to the liquor store at 9 AM, we came here."

The team was stunned into silence. "George", despite having a few beers in him, had managed to capture the essence of Anchor Ministries. Let me explain. Sally Wood and Sarah Terrell began the Wednesday Lunch and Bible Study as a way to go deeper with the friends we served at the Mobile Ministries truck on Tuesday evenings. It was a simple matter to invite them to the Anchor Center which was just up the street. Soon a small group of local homeless and neighborhood folk began to study the Bible and share a meal together.

Soon after this got off the ground, we learned that Fred had run a restaurant before his life fell apart and he wound up on the streets. Fred was a severe alcoholic and had been written off as "chronically homeless", having lived on the streets for five years. The team invited Fred to run our kitchen and soon he was ordering food, barking orders at the volunteers, and took on "George" as his "sous chef". We had never seen Fred so alive. He suddenly had something to contribute.

But Fred was still struggling with the bottle. He would be there some weeks, and then others he would stay away. One night, Andy, a member of the Anchor team, found Fred sitting on a park bench. A woman had just handed him a Christian tract and he was sitting there thinking. Andy asked Fred if anything was holding him back from getting help. Fred looked back at Andy and said, "I am ready."

So Andy took "George" and Fred to detox. "George" backed out at the last minute, but Fred decided to stay. He completed detox. He completed a program in New Hampshire. And then he completed the Salvation Army work therapy program in Providence. Today, Fred has just celebrated 18 months sober. He has his own place and a job.

What is Anchor? Anchor is relationship; an invitation to put cooking skills to use, and a timely encounter at a park bench.

Who is Anchor? We are a relational bridge filling in the gaps between the vulnerable and the resources they need to thrive.

Thank you "George" for reminding us who we are. It is only a matter of time before you follow in Fred's footsteps and find freedom.