tv Viewpoint NBC November 9, 2014 5:30am-6:01am EST
good morning. welcome to "viewpoint," i'm pat law soon muse. for more than 40 years, luth earn place church has stood as a beacon of hope and hospitality. the church is well known for its tireless work to address poverty and homelessness in the city. now that work has been documented in a brand new book called "breaking bread: stories of lutheran church." joining us is the author of the book and well as long-time member of the church, gary maring has been there since
1968. evelyn green is program director at bethany center at m street village. welcome all of you. reverend, you wrote this book, congratulations first off. >> thank you. >> you call this the story of a community written by a community. tell us about that. >> well, i think the wonder of the book is pulling together a variety of people's stories and having it be done sort of with each other allowing people to be interviewed, to create stories from that and then giving people a chance to look back at what they shared and sort of edit their own stories. another group of people weaving it altogether. so definitely a group effort. >> so sort of a collection of short stories. >> uh-huh. >> written in chronological order, so to speak. >> yes. luther place ministries alone could fill their own book. but in this book you zeroed in on one of the church's
ministries, n street village. why was it so important to write about n street? >> i think given our close proximity to n street village right across the street as well as the night shelter still in the building that is the luther place church, i think our regular on going contact and i think that in some ways was sort of a foundational story that wrapped together that sense of hospitality and justice and also people taking sort of risks with their own lives and creating something new and meaningful for people. so i think it really provides the foundation for a lot of ministry. >> gary maring, you're part of the foundation. you've been a member of the church since 1968 and were a founding member of n. street village. so you've really seen what the book talks about when it speaks of biblical hospitality in action, haven't you? >> i have. over the 40 years that we are
celebrating, our 40th anniversary, stretching that out a little bit beyond the year, but amazing to look back over those 40 years from the devastation after martin luther king's assassination when i first came to the church and my wife and i were married a week after his assassination, to see that devastation and the impact on the church realizing that we needed to revisit what our mission was about in the city. a lot of people left the church, fear of being in the city, and our core group stayed and created a new vision, and n street became part of that vision for the future. homelessness was a key issue. women deinstitutionalized, coming out of st. elizabeth appearing on the street and quickly realized that was in our mission. >> evelyn, you are the manager at bethany center and you've been there since 2003.
tell us about the work you do, first of all, there. >> i'm the manager of the day center. we see at least, at least 60 to 70 women a day who come in. we serve breakfast, lunch, a snack. we have a lot of activities. we have washer, driers, we have a clothing room, they can be able to take showers. they have a safe place to come so they don't have to go to the degradation an humiliation on the street. >> you know about that firsthand. >> yes. >> you're working there now, but first went to the n street village. as a homeless woman yourself, tell us about your story. >> yes it was in the late -- around 188 i first stepped my first on n street from another day center who had asked me to
leave because of substance abuse. they asked me to leave, and someone told me about n street village. i took my show on the road, going around there, drinking and drugging, and it was some people around there that gave me some guidance. they let me come in, but they put me out. i came in and they put me out. but i kept coming, although i was drinking and drugging, i kept coming and they kept putting me out. but in june of 1990, some staff there, and i want to mention her name, sharon hart and joan hoffmeier, they first took me to detox and that started my road to recovery. >> you say the tough love you got at n street village really was key to your recovery, but you had to hit rock bottom
first. >> yes. i came into n street village, like i said, in -- first time in 1990 and i got six months of sobriety and i went back out. because i got one more out there. when i came back, they didn't let me right back up in their program. they had me sit out front for four days and come back in the daytime. that was tough love to me because they wouldn't show what i was about. the tough love was that i had to prove myself, you know. i had to prove that, if i wanted their program, that i had to do something different. >> and you did. >> and i did, i did. >> we've got to take a break. we'll continue talking about "breaking bread" the stories of luther place and n street village. we'll be right back. ♪ food is more than just a meal.
we8 come back. we're talking about the book "breaking bread," stories of luther place and n street village. reverend brau, the n street village was founded in 1972 and now serves about 1400? >> that's correct. >> what's it been like to continue the mission of the n street village in a city where homelessness is still very much out of control? >> i think that -- i was telling evelyn in the car on the way over, it just continues to be humbling of the level of new people coming in every day. so what it is is it continues to be a challenge. people coming through who are new, i am part of a spiritual gathering every wednesday morning. i just said for a few wednesdays it was pretty quiet. yesterday a room was packed with new people, many whom i had never met before. i thought too myself, i took a big deep breath and i thought,
this is just going on and on. i think a level of humility and challenge and also worry about what does this mean. >> open, caring hearts and a commitment to community. those have also been key for you, haven't they, gary? if you hadn't embraced your -- your church hadn't embraced this ministry to help people who couldn't help themselves, you could never have done all the things that you have done? >> i think looking at that time property, some of the forefathers bought the property on n street village thinking we would need more porking for the congregants coming in from the suburbs. god was to eventually show us a different mission and use for that property. after the assassination of martin luther king and the devastation we saw in the city,
we realized our mission was more than having a parking lot for congregants. it became a mission of hospitality, matthew 25 became our key rallying cry i think. it's inscribed on the cornerstone. what you do for the least of these you do unto me, jesus said, in his final sermon. >> one of your form are pastors, reverend john steinbrook who many of us remember says in the book that -- he looked around the church one day and said, if all we're going to do is use this building to sing hymns, we might as well be a gas station. >> that's a lot of property to be used on a sunday morning, yes. we decided it needed to be used all day long and for real ministry in the city. >> did that, reverend brau, sort of set an example for other churches around the city, not
just churches but other religious institutions as a way to minister to the needs of the homeless and suffering from poverty by ministering to them. >> i think for some it catches on and for some it doesn't. i think it has to take -- in addition to the caring hearts, a willingness to take risk and to also allow yourselves to address over and over again how vulnerable you are, both as individual and as a congregation. and i think that's hard work. i think some people have embraced it, our congregations and some did not. however, the whole effort didn't happen without partners. it was an interfaith effort. there were jewish congregations, other faiths also part of the whole putting the ministry together. i think across the board there has been some deepening and understanding of justice work. >> but gary, do you think it is
a model, other churches here and churches around the country look at what luther place has done, is it a model? >> we think it's a model. one of the things that we did to tell others about that model was to create the steinbrook center. we have young people from colleges coming in spring breaks and summer and january semester to volunteer, learn about homelessness. we probably have 2,000 young people coming in every year to learn about homelessness and get a chance to see and work in n street village. yes, we think it's a model and we're telling the story. >> your book "breaking bread" tells the story. we'll continue talking about the book when we come back.
welcome back. we're talking about the book "breaking bread." you're working at the village where you used to be a client, evelyn. how different is it being a woman on the street than it would be for a man? >> it's 100% different. being a woman, you have to -- being a man, you can get up, put on a suit and tie and be all right. baggage you have to take. if you have children, i don't view to drag them with you if you don't have no one to keep them. worry about somewhere to sleep. i had to worry anti -- because i came up in foster care, i didn't have no one to turn to.
i was on the street from the age of 15 until i came into the shelter. >> you say you went there looking for food. >> i went there looking for food because i had -- not only did i have to do what i had to do for something to drink and drug. i had to do what i had to do for something to eat sometimes. it was -- you carry yourself through a lot of changes, not only mentally, but physically, too. a woman have to carry their self through a whole lot of mental changes and physical changes. >> reverend brau, part of the success that you have had has been the work -- through the work of your volunteer network, your interfaith volunteers. tell us about that. >> well, every day in the day program there are people who come to volunteer to serve breakfast and lunch, and then for the night shelter every
night of the year there's dinner brought in and served by volunteers. >> the day program and the night shelter are in the church? >> the day program is across the street in the n street village proper buildings and the night shelter is in the physical building of the church still. so it's been there for years. so just lots of volunteers as well as people coming in to volunteer to bring in a variety of programs. there's people that come in and do dancing or yoga or bring in parties, there's lots of movement in and out. so i think that it's both -- it's a transformative experience because as people serve, people who are experiencing homelessness just like the book tells the stories of people's hearts begin to be changed. we meet in this place where we find out we really are connected to each other. >> gary, part of the ministry of the church and n street village has mixed medicine. tell us about miriam's house?
>> we merged with miriam's house about three years ago. miriam's house was opened about the same time our flagship building at n street was opened. their ministry, 21 units up florida avenue was for women with hiv/aids. that was a very important ministry. but as financial times got difficult, we realized we had similar missions and it would be in all our interests to merge. hiv/aids situation has changed significantly. women came there to die in the early years. now women are able to sustain their lives with the medicines they they get. miriam's house, it was a wonderful extension of n street village. >> what are your thoughts about the problems in the city, the district has now dealing with homelessness and trying to close the old d.c. general shelter and get families out of there and into transitional and personal
meant housing. >> we're part of about 60 non-profits that advocate on homelessness and issues of affordable housing. that's one of the issues we rallied around this spring and got coverage about the abysmal situation at d.c. general. there's active talk now of trying to find other space and change that. we interviewed a lot of families. it was just a terrible situation that we found out about and felt we had to take to the media. >> evelyn, reflect on that, being homeless as winter approaches. >> well, we look at a lot of women -- >> do they come to the center and say i don't want to spend the winter -- >> the night, yes, now the the cold. what we do, me and my time, we -- our night shelter or our
programs, if we can't get them into our programs, we have the -- refer for the other day -- the emergency programs. but we see a lot of women -- that's what i was talking to pastor karen, i haven't seen this many homeless people at the time i've been working at n street for a long, long time. thank god to n street. >> that speaks to the need that so many are facing right now. >> we'll continue our talk about ruther place right after this.
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these are the stories of regular people who pulled together because of i would say a vocal and prophetic leader, reverend john stein blooet brook. way care? our god is a god in all people. we do need to pay attention to our neighbor as well as loving ourselves and god. i think there are spiritual issues we have these days where we forget to look around ourselves. >> gary maring? >> i think churches need to look at the assets they have. for luther place, it was a parking lot in the late '60s and early '70s that's were were using to park congregants. through a lot of struggle and prayer we found a new mission for that parking lot which became n street village. all churches need to look at their assets. through public partnerships we were able to create a remarkable facility.
>> you're talking about thinking out of the box. >> absolutely. takinging some risk. >> evelyn, what would you say to a woman now walking a mile in the shoes that you used to wear? >> what can i do to help you? come to 14 and n street and see what we can do to help you. >> reverend brau, are the older members of your church more committed or the younger members? do you find an equal level of commitment? >> that was part of the reason of doing the book. it was an intergenerational effort. we have stories of the elders and the younger members, too. it becomes part of the congregation's and n street's story. how do we convey this over time and give people courage to carry on. >> gary, since you've been there for so long, since 1968, what's the future of luther place?
>> i see it every sunday. lots of young kids and babies at luther place. it gives me hope and seeing the younger generation taking over on our church council, we've passed the baton. so i see very hopeful leadership for the future. >> all right. the book is "breaking bread: stories of luther place memorial church and n street village." it's a quick read but a compelling read. thank you all for being with us, reverend karen brau, senior pastor of the church, gary maring a board member and founder of n. street village. evelyn green, you're manager at bethany center and you've helped make n street village what it is today. >> thank you. thank you for being with us. thank you for joining us, that's "viewpoint," i'm pat lawson muse. stay with us for "news 4 today."
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