The two-story red brick house looked as if it could have been on the parade of homes back in the day; back before the blacks ran the white folks out of the neighborhood. Well, maybe they didn’t run them out, as much as they just moved next door. The white folks were the ones who ran. The house sat alone surrounded by acres of vacant lots and empty malt liquor bottles.
Brother Ken met me at the door. His hands were wet, or maybe sweaty, perhaps both. He welcomed me to the “hood” and laughed. His jubilance reverberated against the abandoned townhouses across the street.
“The ladies are fixin’ a spread, sure hope you’re hungry,” he said loudly with a big smile revealing a wide dark gap in his front teeth.
We stood on what used to be a front porch and got better acquainted. The gentle giant proudly proclaimed his thirty years of sobriety and his calling to this neighborhood. He turned to greet a man and his small son walking through the vacant lot next door. The lad was having a hard time keeping up with his dad as his oversized shoes kept coming off. The man set down the bottle he was carrying in a brown paper sack and bragged to us about having thirteen children. Brother Ken swooned and hollered from that revelation, then invited him to their next meeting.
Brother Ken’s ministry in the hood is in my city, but it seems light years away from my suburban sanctuary. Yet are we really that different? We both minister to broken people with addictions who struggle with broken relationships and broken dreams. The only difference is my community has more resources to live in denial longer than my brother’s.