Back River UMC honored
BY LORY CANTIN
On Saturday evening, Henry J., a 22-year-old homeless man, told one of our volunteers at Back River UMC, "You know, this shelter has been a real blessing. Before I came here, I didn't know what I was going to do. I was drunk and drugged out most of the time. I hadn't spoken to my brother in years. Because of you I have been able to get some of my life back. I've got a job, I'm looking for a place to live and I've started talking to my family again. Thank You.”
The ministry that served as a blessing to Henry and many others in Baltimore County, began a year ago, Karla Schaefer and the homeless mission street feeding team of Back River UMC, felt a calling to do more for their homeless brothers by working with other churches. In the summer of 2010 they invited more than 20 churches, from all denominations, on the east side of Baltimore County to come together to discuss the homeless situation. Their talk centered on each congregation's individual efforts and how they could be more effective working together. From that meeting the Streets of Hope was born.
Originally operated as a rotating shelter, Streets of Hope found funding with a grant from Baltimore County and a winter home in the unused parsonage at St. Peters Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Colgate. The shelter provided overnight cold weather housing for 16 men, two meals daily, a place to do their laundry and to connect to some of the county's service agencies. Most importantly, the shelter provided the hands and face of Jesus through fellowship by the volunteer churches.
On Sunday May 1, Streets Of Hope was honored by the Delaware Maryland Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America with the 2011 Luther Award recognizing extraordinary efforts by lay people to serve and equip the children of God.
At that ceremony individual honors were presented by Bishop Wolfgang D. Herz-Lane (of the ELCA) to Karla Schaefer of Back River UMC and Carl Horst of Ormes UMC. Other United Methodist churches that were also recognized for their efforts by this award include: Chesaco UMC, Ebenezer/Piney Grove/Sharpe Street UMC, Essex UMC, Camp Chapel UMC and Dundalk/Graceland UMC.
Streets of Hope closed for the season on April 30 and is currently working on plans for next winter. They are looking for a permanent home that will allow them to expand their operational capacity through offering more services for the homeless and the community at large. The winter opening date is scheduled for November 1.
The Rev. Lory Cantin is pastor of Back River UMC in Essex.