ROXBURY, NJ - This summer, a handful of youth and adults from First Presbyterian Church of Succasunna had the opportunity to spend a week in Center City Philadelphia with an outreach program called Broad Street Ministry.
What was once Wylie Memorial Presbyterian Church has been reborn into a community center focusing on Radical Hospitality. Monday through Friday the doors of Broad Street are open from 11:30 to 3:00.
Inside, guests will find a dentist and doctors office, mental health services, social services, a place to receive mail, a free lunch, a clothing closet, an art table and air conditioning.
Outside of this space, those that enter are rarely treated as guests. Many are homeless, sleeping on the streets or in shelters. Some have housing but are in need of additional services.
Broad Street believes in the dignity of each human being and treats each person as a guest, a beloved child of God as they enter this space.
Breaking Bread is the lunch program where a hostess greets each person as they arrive. Volunteers serve the guests restaurant style, pouring their water and bringing a chef designed meal to them. As many as 280 meals are served each day and each person is treated with dignity.
During the week, the youth and adults from the Succasunna Presbyterian Church stayed in the Broad Street Ministry church and went out into the city each day to learn about the various issues people live with each and every day. Issues such as: homelessness, food deserts, safe space, income and cost of living, mental illness, and the impact of diseases such as HIV on various communities.
A major component of this mission trip was not just to go and help people but also experience some of these issues first hand. The meals the group ate were limited, simulating what a food desert would be like, with only small amounts of vegetables and very little fruit.
Each day, the group was asked to reflect on Who did we see? Who did we not hear? And where is there hope? In other words: Who are the invisible? Who are the voiceless? And who are the advocates working towards wholeness for the greater community?
Some of the agencies visited were Philadelphia Fight, a medical agency treating people with HIV, Aids, and Hepatitis C. and Bethel, a small Presbyterian church that has a food pantry in a part of Philly that is considered a food desert.
They also visited Mill Creek Farm which is another ministry aimed towards the issue of city food deserts. This farm is located within the city of Philadelphia and provides affordable fresh produce to the local community. The youth and adults from Succasunna spent a morning at the farm picking, washing, and preparing produce to be sold.
Trips were also made to Beacon, a Presbyterian church that is blessed to have a large front yard that is the only green space in the community, provides safe space for children to gather and play and Hub of Hope, an abandoned subway stop that has been renovated into a social services location as well as providing dinner Friday to Sunday for 180 people.
One Step Away is a street newspaper, created, run, and sold by homeless people. The youth and adults from Succasunna helped sell papers on the street. Most of the time we were completely ignored, but every once in awhile someone would stop and buy a paper from us. One of our youth was given $20. There are some generous people out there..
Serving meals at Breaking Bread and Hub of Hope were probably two of the highlights of the trip. Although the youth also really enjoyed the day they spent playing with the children at Beacon.