UN ECOSOC Consultative Status NGO
Action for Peace
By Ellen Kim
In the past three days of APPA—Action for Peace through Prayer and Aid—I didn’t really feel much for the homeless. Perhaps it was because we hadn’t conversed with any homeless people yet until the previous day.
Thirty students, including me, had walked to a nearby park with two packs of water bottles with the purpose of helping the homeless there. At first, I didn’t know what to expect. After all, I had lived such a sheltered life and I had never been exposed to such extreme poverty. I had assumed that they were filthy and too dangerous to approach, so I was a little afraid. I didn’t know what to say or how to properly communicate my feelings. I was a nervous wreck.
Rev. Sang-jin Choi told us it was okay to travel in groups of three or four, so my fear slightly eased. I decided to walk around with Jeemin Wooh and Grace Oh, who were both sophomores. A couple of men approached us for a water bottle but did not say anything else.
After passing out a few water bottles and muttering, “God bless you,” we finally sat down and talked to a woman sitting on the park bench silently eating chips. Wearing a bright yellow shirt, matching earrings, a knee-length skirt, stockings, and lopsided glasses, she didn’t seem homeless at first. She seemed cold at first, as if she was closed off from the world, but she gradually opened up as we asked her questions.
“How are you?” quickly transitioned into “what’s your favorite music?” to “do you believe in Jesus Christ?” As we delved deeper into her personal life, I could feel something. Was it my heart breaking? All the tragedies that she faced, including her son being murdered, her grandfather dying, and her family drifting away from each other were things I thought only happened in cliché stories. But it was real—almost tangible.
Her name was Yolanda and she was a single mother in her late thirties. Burdened with so many hardships, it wasn’t surprising that her faith in God seemed a little weak. With no support with the exception of her brother and sister, she was prone to drug and alcohol abuse. Surprisingly, she didn’t smoke, do drugs, drink, or wander around Washington D.C. at night.
It wasn’t until we began to pray that I began to cry. At first, my prayer simply poured out of me. But my voice slowly grew quiet as the words I wanted to say got stuck in my throat. I was speechless. Her story—all the pain and suffering that she endured—made me completely speechless, perhaps even breathless. Everyone cried. Jeemin cried, Grace cried, and even the woman who looked so cold and indifferent had tears streaming down her cheeks. Those tears will be forever stained on my heart—a reminder of Yolanda and her story.
The day after, I was ready for the homeless experience. I wanted to go through what people like Yolanda goes through and feel how she feels everyday. Thirty students would amble down streets in a straight line silently to Franklin Park in Washington D.C., between K Street and 13th Street. Then we would all individually sit on benches and not speak for three hours. I had expected it to be okay. But we had not eaten in so long that after the first hour, the hunger started to set in. The bench hurt my butt and my toes started to cramp. I had tried to entertain myself by doodling in my notebook and reading the book of Mark in the Bible.
A couple walked by and sat on the bench, snacking on a Subway sandwich. I closed my eyes and hugged my backpack to my chest, trying to ignore the delicious smell and my rumbling stomach. I dozed off for a while but my neck started to cramp, so after the couple left, I laid down and rested my head on my backpack. Needless to say, my bed was plenty more comfortable than a dirty bench. Not to mention, all the bugs distracted me from my sleep. Then I remembered the verse of Luke. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
As humans, we are selfish. We only want to feed ourselves and those who are close to us, yet we pay no heed for those who are starving and dying on the streets. While we are blessed with a warm home and a nice meal to eat, others are struggling to live. It’s ironic how we who are better off than most of the world, complain more than those who aren’t. I suppose it’s our greed that has us craving for more than just a family, a home, and food. We want to afford luxuries and expensive clothes. This is why I was more inspired to help the homeless. Maybe I’d volunteer at homeless shelters and be less apathetic to those who are begging for a little to eat. I want to no longer ignore those who are crying out for help because they are like us—we are all humans.
Grassroots Worship for Fostering Racial harmony and Reconciliation:
APPA’s unique program for the homeless is held at the House of Peace every Sunday at the Third Street Church of God, in Washington, DC. Fifty to sixty multiracial homeless and low-income people gather weekly to worship God. This fellowship is a church “for the homeless, by the homeless, and of the homeless.” APPA has eight ordained deacons and deaconess, who were themselves once homeless. APPA has provided luncheon meals after the worship services to foster racial harmony and fellowship and has offered other worship programs such as prayer meetings, revivals, seminars, and so on.
Intercessory prayer and worship services for the poor, especially through joint programs with healing ministry-oriented African-American or Asian-American churches, have also been effective in promoting racial harmony and reconciliation.
through Prayer and Aid