The Moravian Center of Lancaster—Lancaster Moravian Church and Adult Day Center—are located in the heart of Lancaster City, Pennsylvania. The community is a diverse one with people of different races, ages, ethnicities, religions and socio-economic statuses. Being located above the bus station, a block from the park and the police station, means that we see a great deal of poverty. We have become a safe place for individuals who are homeless, living with addictions and working through mental health concerns to come and ask for assistance and to share their stories.
I am deeply humbled and often in awe of the vulnerability of people who meet me for the first time and share openly of themselves and their hurts, of their mistakes and their losses, of their struggles and their hopes. Time and time again, that simple question opens the door to a deeper conversation, one that leads us into a relationship that goes beyond the need for a bus pass, a snack or some toiletries. I have learned to never underestimate the value of giving a person a safe space, a listening ear and an invitation to share his or her story.
The people sharing these stories have seen and experienced so much hardship, and yet, through our conversations and relationships, I have had encounter after encounter that have left me hopeful and blessed by some of the most beautiful people I have ever met. Often, there are no easy answers or quick fixes for these individuals. Most of those who come into my office are homeless and will still be sleeping on the street after they leave. Church staff, volunteers and I do what we can with material resources, and we make referrals to and give out information about community programs that may be more equipped to help with tangible needs. We always try to do this in a way that is welcoming, nonthreatening and nonjudgmental.
It is always my sincere desire that each person leaves with a bit more hope than when that person came in the door, but the truth is, those who come to shop at the “Hope Shop” often leave a payment of hope that equals or exceeds what they took with them. I have had experience after experience where these individuals have touched my life in deeply powerful ways. Those experiences form the basis of a new Advent devotional.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Hope Shop includes 25 stories of Hope Shop customers. It is an Advent devotional that shares true and hope-filled stories of remarkable people living on the streets of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Each day’s entry includes a Bible verse to consider, the story of an individual, a reflection, a question or two to ponder and a prayer. As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, let us use this book as a reminder that God’s grace and love often come to us in unexpected ways through everyday people.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will go to Lanc Co MyHome, “a network of organizations and individuals working together to provide all the people experiencing homelessness within the Lancaster community with shelter and a place to stay.” More information about their programs and the organizations they partner with can be found in the appendix of the book.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Hope Shop is available on Amazon.com and from the Interprovincial Board of Communication online bookstore.
The Rev. Mandy M. Mastros, LSW, is pastor of the Moravian Center of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Learn more at www.lancastermoravian.org