The meeting place is set for a small town in Maryland. I, (Jeremy) am returning to the States after recently spending several days in extreme poverty visiting my wife in Haiti, and James is departing Atlanta in his van after spending several nights on the streets with the homeless. For the next week, we will hit the streets of Westminster, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. to bring water bottles, socks and rain tarps to homeless friends we meet. In addition, we will participate in a mock “underground church” at a local youth group to remember the persecuted church while also praying fervently for children living in poverty in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Haiti where Willet Missions works.
During our time in Washington D.C, we visited the location of our country’s “justice department” and found … injustice. If you ever visit the White House, stand at the gate, take some pictures and dwell upon our country’s beginnings. Then, turn around and wave to our friend Connie.
Yesterday, I (James) hit the streets of D.C. with my friends in the band Willet. We met a number of interesting people out there, but one stood out in particular. Her name was Connie, short for Concepcion Picciotto, and she lives close enough to the president to borrow an egg. And despite the verbal abuse from drunkards and physical violence from the U.S. military, she has occupied a small patch of sidewalk across from the White House every single day for 30 years. I had the opportunity to sit at her feet and listen to her talk to me about life. It all started when she was part of a protest on nuclear war, which has now turned into a demonstration of injustice. Now, at age 65, she continues to unveil the travesty of how we spend our tax dollars. She said, “[We need to] stop building weapons, and use the money to eliminate poverty.” With a front row seat to a world power, she certainly has her share of stories. She said: “I could go back into society. I could make a living, but God has a greater task for me. Just imagine, I have seen people freeze to death in that park, right across the street from the house of the most powerful man in the world.”
Having the opportunity to physically meet President Obama’s neighbor reminded us that the decisions in the White House directly impact those living in the United States, and also those living in poverty-stricken countries around the world. Clothe Your Neighbor as Yourself often refers to our “neighbors” as the “homeless in America” and Willet Missions often reminds us to view the people in surrounding countries as our “neighbors,” however, both of our ministries are expanding and partnering together to reach even more people for Jesus.
During our week together, we spent time praying for the people living in tent communities in Haiti as a three-day storm approached, bringing torrential rain. While praying for our international “neighbors,” we also gathered friends and family to visit a local homeless shelter to bring several meals throughout the week to people who also lived in a tent community. This tent community was in my hometown! But God began to answer prayers slowly. Some “homeless friends” of ours, Scott and Natasha, asked us to pray for a place for them to live because they had been living out of a tent in Maryland for almost two months. Seven days later, Scott and Natasha became just “friends” (not “homeless friends”), because they moved into a small apartment, and Scott got a job as a trash-collector to support him and his family.
Each day when we would enter the homeless shelter, we would bring people from all different churches in the area. As our homeless friends would see us come in with food, they would say, “The Church brought us food again!”
They were right.
Sunday morning is the most segregated and divided day of the week in America, but on this day, the Church was bringing food and sharing the love of Jesus to those who needed it the most without the walls of church buildings, denominations, and politics.
You can catch James Barnett, founder of Clothe Your Neighbor as Yourself, and Jeremy Willet, co-founder of Willet Missions, on tour with WILLET as part of the Teeth of a Lion, Fangs of a Lioness Tour sponsored by Food for the Hungry, with special guests Scarlet Letter and A New Awakening. Tour date information available on WilletOnline.com.