City Uprising in Baltimore

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Our Monday in Baltimore had been a meaningful one. This was the day that we would walk the streets of an inner-city area of Baltimore to invite people to a Health Fair, with the central intent being to invite them to receive a free HIV test. There were four centers that were doing the free HIV tests, and we gathered at St Matthew United Methodist Church on 23rd Street as our center. Tables were set up along the street for the Health Fair and a block party.

Our team gathered in the grassy parking lot across from the church along with three other teams, I think. One of them was the team from Central Presbyterian that we served with at Moravia Elementary School yesterday. We met with three persons from Gallery Church to get our instructions.

In the direction opposite the church, we could see the back of a line of the "row houses" that are so characteristic of downtown Baltimore.

We certainly saw a lot of examples of the row houses on our walks. Some were upscale and very nice, but there were a lot like this.

Brenda walks along a strip of the nicer row houses. We didn't take our cameras because of the rather sensitive nature of the work we were doing, but I snapped a few record shots with my phone.

Our team was composed of Brenda, Rod, Tony Mode, Belinda Baker, Evie Mode and Lexi Hobgood. We were assigned three areas of this neighborhood in succession and finished in the early afternoon. It involved several miles of walking on the streets.

The red outline on the map above shows the area between 23rd and 33rd Streets of Baltimore where our groups walked to promote the HIV testing and health fair at St Matthew Church on 23rd Street. The dashed red outlines are the areas where our particular group walked. Most of our interactions were friendly and light, and we got no really negative responses. People were in general respectful of what we were trying to do for the community. Brenda had a meaningful interaction with the young mother struggling down the street with three small children, looking for a grocery store she had been told was in the area. She was just in town and her husband was looking for a job. Brenda talked with her, helped her across the busy street, hailed down a young man carrying a Safeway bag to ask him how to get to the store, and directed the young mother in that direction. Interestingly, we met the same young lady a couple of hours later with her Mother and whole family, after she got back from the grocery.

Tony and I were making it a practice to ask people if there was something we could pray for them about after we gave them the information card if we were able to engage them in conversation. A shocker came when we asked a very thin African-american woman and man if we could pray for them and she told us that her 22-yr-old son had been shot to death the night before in the parking lot where our vans were parked, a couple of blocks from where we were standing. We were told that there had been 29 shootings with 8 deaths in Baltimore during the previous 5 or 6 days.

Tony and I talked with a young man with a shirt full of satanist symbols, standing outside a shop. We were able to share with him about the HIV testing and health fair and what St Matthew Church was doing. He sort of sneered and laughed, but I felt strangely calm about that since I felt we had had a chance to witness to him. Another man walked up to us proclaiming that he loved Jesus, but was obviously inebriated with something, so we tried to kindly share with him as well.

Brenda had probably had the most moving experiences on one of our last routes as she talked with a young woman on the busy street and gave her a card for the health fair and HIV testing. Brenda directed her to the clinic on 23rd street. She told Brenda that she was pregnant. Brenda ask if she could pray for her and with tears in her eyes she said yes, please. Brenda prayed for her and the baby.

A short distance further Brenda talked with another young woman and gave her information and asked if there was anything she could pray for her. She responded enthusiastically. Brenda prayed for several minutes with her about a number of things she kept mentioning including her housing situation and her son in Afghanistan. And her need to feel the Lord's presence right now.

As we continued our walk we saw again the young pregnant woman and verified her directions to the church for the health fair and HIV testing. She was hot and tired and still was 10 blocks away. She had water and said she would walk slowly as we had to make a turn from the street she was following. When we heard at the meeting that night that one of the positive HIV tests was a woman who had just discovered she was pregnant, Brenda felt it might have been her. We were told in our instructional session that there were ways to protect the infant against HIV if discovered early in the mother.

We wrapped up the neighborhood walks early in the afternoon and had a bit of a rest before heading downtown to the Inner Harbor area for a free night.

We reached the water's edge in the attractive harbor area and walked past the US Coast Guard Cutter Taney. Built in the 1930s, she was stationed at Pearl Harbor and survived the Japanese attack to continue to serve in anti-submarine patrol around Pearl Harbor during World War II.

There was an interesting mixture of old and new buildings.

The submarine USS Torsk is moored by a modern building. Operating out of Pearl Harbor during World War II, she torpedoed the last two Japanese ships sunk before the end of the war.

At this point you could rent a paddleboat to join the other activity in the calm harbor area.

Water taxis shuttled folks around the harbor, and there were lots of folks sitting and enjoying the pleasant evening.

To my eye, this was the most dramatic ship in the harbor. This is the US Sloop of War Constellation, launched in 1854 and serving for a hundred years.

Most of our group gathered under the guns of the Constellation on the Inner Harbor of Baltimore on historic Chesapeake Bay.

We turned our attention away from the historic ships to all the restaurants and snack shops in the fancy new buildings along the harbor. It was certainly a contrast to the low-income row houses we had been among most of the day. Most of the adults wound up at The Cheesecake Factory for fancy desserts.

We all met back on the waterfront at 9:30 and someone wanted a picture of all the adults of the group. Stephen Vineyard took this picture. At least for the seven on the left, maybe we are all so cheerful from a sugar high from those big desserts.

We don't remember whose idea this was, but it drew some interesting comments when Pamela posted a version of it on Facebook. It was just part of the celebration. Actually, things got a little crazier before we were done, as you see below.

We wanted to get a picture of our youth contingent there by the water. Looks like Tony is trying to escape that association, but didn't quite make it. On the other hand, the guy on the right wanted to be a part for some reason, so joined us in the picture.

We made the short walk from the inner harbor to the cobblestone street and the now familiar shape of the 1840s Plaza building where we had met to worship. It had been a busy day of service on the inner city streets in the middle of a heat wave, and then a pleasant time of recreation together.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Today was the day we were to clean up a park for a community to prepare for a block party in the afternoon. We parked the church van and our van on the street just across from the park entrance and filled up our water bottles for the day.

The park to which we had been assigned was Patterson Park, established in 1827 as a large park close to downtown Baltimore. It was not far from the inner harbor where we visited last night.

Belinda and Evie seem to be in the middle of a forest, but through the trees you can see downtown Baltimore. We hung out by the fountain, waiting for our contact from Gallery Church to arrive.

With the bright morning sun, we found that we could get a rainbow in the spray of the fountain, so I got Brenda and Pam in position to make them the treasure at the rainbows end.

Amy and Chris positioned at the rainbows end. This was near the entrance of the park and shows that the city stands right against it on this west side as well as the south side shown behind Belinda and Evie above. More of the characteristic Baltimore row houses are seen behind the girls below.

The wait for our coordinator gave some time to clown around, with Chris jumping over Christian.

They had just gotten a first-class pyramid built when our coordinator arrived and we had to consider going to work.

It turned out that our coordinator was none other than the fellow who had come up to Baltimore from Georgia and had acted as the overall coordinator for the City Uprising in Baltimore for the past several years. Chris and his father Don already knew him well and had worked with him on previous City Uprisings.

We joined in a prayer circle, then were issued our equipment and instructions and went to work.

We divided up into groups of two or three and spread across the park to sweep its length. Christian was the partner of Brenda and I.

At the far end where the park was lined with residential row houses, we formed a long line under Tony's direction to sweep across some of the more used areas of the park.

With our line we swept across a ballfield area with lots of trash and beside the swimming pool. We circled back to the fountain and dumped about a pickup load of trash bags in the trash area.

The park was being prepared for a block party this afternoon. We found out later that one of the ministers at Gallery Church lived in one of the row houses near the park and helped coordinate the block party.

We had supper at the Mission House and prepared for our final celebration worship service at the 1840s Plaza building. It was a good celebration of the work that all the teams had done in City Uprising in the city. The group prepared to leave for Washington DC in the morning while Brenda and I prepared to head westward toward Kentucky.

Off to Louisville

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