Life to the Fullest

One day we spent extra time visiting with people on the street instead of our usual schedule at Holy Cross on 42nd Street. At the end of our route, Ed told us there was one more person we could visit with who has met LAMP missionaries over the years. He introduced us to Dylan*, a homeless veteran with one prosthetic leg, a cowboy hat, shoulder-length red hair, and a new “USMC” tattoo on his neck.

We started chatting with him, asking how he was doing. At first, he responded, “I’m fine”, but I could tell by his eyes and his tone that wasn’t his true answer. Neither of us responded, and after a few moments of silence he continued, “Actually, I’m not fine.”

Dylan told us how he sleeps on the streets and how people search through his pockets and try to take advantage of him, partly because of his leg. He showed us a pocketknife that he keeps in his hand and told us that he sleeps upright in his chair, half on-guard against people trying to rob him.

Eventually, Brooke asked him if he has a favorite Bible verse; he responded, “Yes, John 3:16 – ‘God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son…'” I was reminded of one of my favorite verses, so I told him and asked if I could share it with him.

We pulled out a New Testament Bible that we had with us, and I read to him John 10:10, “A thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it to the fullest.” He said, “Hey, I love that! I really love that.”

Offering him a copy of the Bible to read anytime, he asked if we had reading glasses. We did, and we went back inside to get some. After we gave Dylan the eyeglasses, he exclaimed, “Wow! I can see!”

A light sparked in his dark eyes, his face softened, and his hard street exterior began to crumble. We then asked if he would like for us to pray with him; he stuck out his hand and we each placed a hand on his fist and prayed with and for him.

After closing our prayer, we asked him to pray for us, meaning to keep us in his future prayers. Yet once more Dylan stuck out his fist and we touched his hand as he led a simple prayer from the heart to Jesus, asking for many blessings for us, his “sisters”, and those we would serve that day. After, he sang us a song he made and encouraged us “kids” to keep up the good work.

The Lord showed me that day His Word in flesh. He let the three of us live John 10:10. His Heart beat through each of us as our hearts spoke to one another. I’m continually surprised by the many ways Jesus disguises and reveals Himself through the poor here in NYC.

-LAMP Missionary Marta Stangl

From Comfort to Conversion

I left my comfort zone in Pittsburgh, PA seven years ago to become a missionary and evangelist. But I got a whole lot more, a loving witness in community and learning valuable lessons from the materially poor. I found myself through being with others I normally wouldn’t have contact with. 

How can you not be affected seeing Tom, our founder, manage the ministry affairs and tend to the needs of his ailing wife, our departed co-founder Lyn. Lyn almost always smiled and said kind things even when her body was under attack with earthly pains. What a lady. Monday after Monday she had to be assisted to our weekly community gathering, but when she got in her seat it was like having the zeal of St. Peter exhorting us missionaries onward in our call to serve the poor with a love that can only come from Jesus, not from ourself. And what a witness of selflessness seeing Marybeth and Ed take care of us missionaries, putting aside their needs for ours. 

The warmth of LAMP was easy to enter into, and my life started to drastically change. I began to realize through other Christians and their unique and personal witnesses of unselfish acts of love that a deeper love in life could be possible for me! Having many blessings through my life, I never thought I could deepen my heart until I witnessed many acts of love while at LAMP.   

I’ve had the privilege to serve with dozens of missionaries through the years, sharing our triumphs, challenges, and ourselves, learning so much from each and everyone of them. I remember the “man’s man” Timothy, now 3-years deceased. We approached a person on the street face down wearing a dress, but we could tell the person was a man. Without hesitation, (I was frozen) Timothy picked that person off the ground with so much love you would have thought it was his own mother. Knowing the tough old school Timothy, it had to be God at work!  What an eye opener it was that day at the Bowery.  

Though I’ve learned many lessons at LAMP, one sticks out the most. All people have the capability and tendency to do both good and bad, that we as Christians are challenged by Jesus to take the narrow way and choose the good in the other and ourselves. I really needed to learn that, and still have a lot to learn. Coming to LAMP, I thought I knew myself, my good and bad side, and had life figured out and under control. Well, being with the materially poor in the Bronx day after day, you learn more than you bargain for.   

Like the time I encountered a Muslim woman who frequented our canteen truck ministry LAMPcafé. She was in full Muslim attire and would bark orders at our truck loudly demanding food, even trying to cut the line.   Needless to say she wasn’t the most popular amongst us there.  But LAMP trained me to react in love and compassion, so I tried it. I would talk to her in loving tone, and save her extra scraps of food and sundries we had donated (she could not eat our staple ham-and-cheese sandwich), and give her a little extra when I could. Well after a few months coming weekly, she softened. Then one day she came and I handed her a bag of food, and she said, “I want something else”.  I shuddered to think, “What else lady?” on that very busy Friday serving 140 folks. She said, “I want one of your Christian prayer beads”. She meant the rosary. I nearly fell over. I explained what it was, that we believe Jesus is God coming to save His children; she accepted it. The next week she brought another Muslim woman to get a rosary for her.   

This lady taught me about my tendency to sometimes be quick to judge, and the power of seeking the deeper, sometimes veiled inherent goodness of each person. After she starting bringing her children to meet me, I realized she had a lot of mouths to feed, that she had to have tough love to be a mother and scrap and survive. Before I met her I thought Muslims were closed to Christianity, but I guess I was wrong again! I’ve been humbled many times about my initial inclination. As things unfold, I learn more about what is Christian humility and my need to grow in it, such a stinging lesson!

 I must not leave out the materially poor nursing home residents I bring Holy Communion and minister to; how they persevere through loneliness and severe physical debilitation, but still find love inside themselves, praying and receiving Communion and showing me love despite their deteriorating physical and emotional condition. They teach me to not give up or give in and to reach inside myself when I want to give up, to seek God and the better things in life, love. That life is not about being comfortable, but seeking and finding the richness of life, God and love, no matter the size of the cross we have. It is a joy to see God never abandons anyone, only we can abandon Him. I must keep going to those nursing homes, where more learning is needed.  

In closing, if it weren’t for being with my sisters and brothers in LAMP Ministries, and doing for others, the materially poor, I would never have gotten to see the deeper more Christ-like goodness I am capable of (with God’s Grace), unless I saw it lived out by others. My life would not now be filled with as dynamic of love, love of a community of missionaries, and the poor, who teach us to grow and to see who we really are, people capable to grow deeper if we step outside of our comfort zones. 

As for me, I am much less a follower of myself. I am one of many Christians who have worn the LAMP mission Crucifix going out face-to-face, loving the materially poor, seeking to be followers of Christ day in and day out. I may not have completely found myself, but one thing is for sure, I want to be like Jesus and only Him. I am grateful He puts His qualities in the many folks who will let Him bring His Light in them. 

And thank you beautiful Bronx, may heaven shine on you like you shine on me and in me. 

LAMP missionary Steve Patterson

Advent, Winter Newsletter, and SEEK Conference..

We wish you a blessed and fruitful Advent! May our hearts be inflamed with love for Our Lord as we patiently await his coming in a special way this season. Christ, who was born to renew the earth, and whose second advent will mark when God “makes all things new” (cf. Revelations 21:5) continually renews and uplifts us individually, as communities, and in the entire Church on earth. Here at LAMP we are excited to see what Our Lord’s plan will bring us as we enter into the Advent season and prepare to celebrate His Incarnation in just a few short weeks.

We are happy to announce the completion of our latest newsletter. Feel free to check it out here to see how we have been following the compassionate heartbeat of Jesus and Mary in our ministry and life.

This January 2-9 LAMP will have a booth at the SEEK Conference in Indianapolis. Come and find us to meet missionaries Luke Matthews and Brooke Pasker and learn more about LAMP’s developing mission!

Video from our 35th anniversary!

LAMP recently celebrated its 35th anniversary at a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Timothy Cardinal Dolan! Here are, courtesy of St. Patrick’s Cathedral:

1) An abbreviated video segment (25:35) containing portions of the Mass, the entire homily, etc.

2) The clips that show or discuss LAMP directly (3:49)

The video of the entire Mass is available here . Jesus bless you!

The Power of a Simple Yes

Liliana* had been at Baychester, a homeless shelter for women and children, for quite a while now. Each time the missionaries knocked on her door, she declined any invitation to pray and seemed very uninterested in speaking with us. So today, we walked past her room without knocking expecting the same attitude. As I walked past her and saw her back turned to us through the open door, I felt the spirits of fear, despair, and deception present. I slowed.

Give me a chance. God whispered to my heart.

Okay, Lord, yes. But I have no idea what is going to come of this.

I turned around, a bit fearful, and lightly knocked on her open door.

“Hi I’m Hailey and this is Mary. We are from the church and were wondering if you wanted to pray today?”

Come Holy Spirit.

She looked over her shoulder and threw down her towel.

“Yes, I actually would. I need guidance.”

God took that yes, that slightly opened door of her heart, and seized the opportunity to love her. She was overwhelmed with being a mother, so we spoke of our mother, Mary. Her eyes lit up at the picture of Our Lady of Fatima which she hung on her mirror. She listened attentively and actively as I taught her how to pray the rosary.

“You know, even if you aren’t praying it at any moment, you can still hold onto it because there is power in it; Jesus is present.” I encouraged.

“I once had a rosary,” Liliana began. “Whenever I would leave to go somewhere, I would put it in my daughter’s baby bag and so I knew that no matter what happened, Jesus was with us. I lost it a while ago and have been looking for another one. And now I have one again.”

Yes, yes you do. Jesus is taking care of you. Lord, I’m amazed by you.

Then we prayed.

Come Holy Spirit.

We prayed with the story of the parting of the Red Sea. God our Father parted the sea to guide the Israelites safely to the promised land. Lord, right now we may be looking at a raging sea in front of us, unsure of how to cross it. But you can and will guide us safely through to the abundance you have prepared for us on the other side. Jesus, we trust in you.

As we prayed, tears began to fall upon her shirt. They were tears of freedom. Chains were breaking. She was being set free.

“Sorry,” she sniffled, “I haven’t cried in a while.”

In that moment, I knew the Devil was defeated. He no longer held her in the bondage of fear—Christ gave her peace. He no longer held her in the bondage of despair—Christ gave her hope. He no longer held her in the bondage of deception—Christ’s beating heart resounded, each beat whispering His love into her heart. The fog was lifted. She encountered His love. She encountered His Heart that beat solely for love of her.

Jesus’ beating heart moved my heart to say yes to giving Him a chance to love Liliana that day. Jesus’ beating heart moved Liliana to say yes to prayer that day. And on that day Liliana was set free by Jesus’ Beating Heart to say yes to His perfect peace, hope, mercy, and love. That is the power of a simple yes. That is the power of love.

– LAMP Missionary Hailey Megge

His Beautiful Face

Two LAMP Missionaries were serving at our LAMP Café ministry on a beautiful late summer New York day. At first glance, the scene looks familiar—the same location, the same silver Café truck, a long line of our brothers and sisters hungry for food and especially hungry for God. But this is God’s ministry so no day is ever mundane. It is always fresh, always new.

Marco wouldn’t come close to the truck.

“Can we talk over here, away from the truck?” He asked as Mary approached him to talk and offer to pray with him.

“I don’t want to stand too close because I smell bad. I know that it’s not nice to be around me because I smell. No one wants me around.” He said this softly, his eyes cast down.

Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society—completely forgotten, completely left alone… -Mother Teresa

Marco is bound by the chains of alcoholism. The missionaries sat and listened to his story. Mary, a LAMP Missionary, recounts their conversation.

“He was crying and explaining that we don’t understand addiction. I said that he was right, I don’t know what drug/alcohol addiction is like but I can still feel for him. I struggle with other things, as all of us do.” When we serve the poor, many times, we cannot heal them from their sickness or take away their pain. We can simply be there with them as a testimony that God loves them in the midst of it all.

Standing at the cross of Jesus was his mother…(John 19:25)

“He shared how he doesn’t want to drink but feels like he has to. I gave him a small Divine Mercy image explaining the mercy of Jesus and how that mercy can give him the freedom he is aching for.”

Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great. (2 Samuel 12:14)

The conversation came to a close and they all prayed together.

“I thank God for sending me beautiful people like you” Marco said through tear filled eyes.

Mary, recognizing the beautiful face of our suffering Christ as He endured His passion in this man’s suffering face, replied under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,

“I thank God for sending me a beautiful person like you.” And she meant it.

– LAMP Missionary Mary Maynard

His Glorious Face

THE FACE OF MERCY: Stories and Reflections from the streets of New York

“Jesus Christ reveals the face of the Father’s mercy.” (Pope Francis)

Of You my heart has spoken: Seek His Face.” (Psalm 27)

May 24, 2016

It has been just over a week since a beloved brother in the Lord completed his journey to the Father’s House. Timothy Gilbride served faithfully as a LAMP Missionary for the past six years. After an unexpected cancer diagnosis in February, and a brief but valiant battle, he was taken home on May 15, 2016, Pentecost Sunday. Timothy was a joyful servant – full of abundant life, inimitable humor, and humble sincerity.

In these days since his death, wake and funeral, we in the LAMP family have shared many “Timothy stories”. There are many to share! One thing we dearly miss is listening to the riveting stories he himself told on Monday mornings at our weekly community gathering. While I could write about Timothy, I think it would be more effective to let you hear from him personally. The following is an account written by Timothy himself. Though just one of numerous stories from time spent with the elderly poor in several nursing homes in Brooklyn, it offers an authentic glimpse into the heart of our dear brother and friend.May Timothy, who constantly sought the Face of Jesus in His beloved poor, now behold His Glorious Face for all eternity!

“While doing my rounds at the nursing home, I came across Dolores* sitting in her wheelchair in the hall. She is ordinarily very eager to pray and talk about God. But this day she seemed out-of-sorts and distraught. She told me she didn’t want to visit this day. I let her know that if she changed her mind, I would be on her floor for a while. Moments later, she asked me to come to her room. She told me that she was not a good Christian because she could not forgive her husband. She then went on a 20-minute rant covering a variety of human emotions – mostly rage and sadness. She was crying, punching tables, and throwing items around the room. She obviously had very deep pain. Not knowing what to do, I prayed for guidance from the Holy Spirit.

Even though this was a woman well versed in the Bible, I could see that there was a different approach that needed to be taken.

I was led to just continue to listen. Apparently her husband had abused and tortured her for some time and she had never revealed this to anyone. As time went on she was getting more weary. The intensity abated. When she appeared to be completely exhausted, we prayed for God’s help and I departed. I left her in a peaceful state.

On my next visit, I was greeted with a big, warm, loving smile from Dolores. She exclaimed, “I have forgiven my husband. I prayed to God to help me forgive him, and I did.”

I thank the Holy Spirit for leading me to her, guiding me through our encounter, and leading to a peaceful resolution for her. And I am grateful to God for using me as His instrument to help heal her wounded heart.”

– LAMP Missionary Kirsten Goza

His Faithful Face

THE FACE OF MERCY: Stories and Reflections from the streets of New York

“Jesus Christ reveals the face of the Father’s mercy.” (Pope Francis)

Of You my heart has spoken: Seek His Face.” (Psalm 27)

May 6, 2016

Sometimes I struggle to be faithful. Last Tuesday was one of those days. I was standing on the street outside Planned Parenthood. It was cloudy. Cold. Feeling somewhat guilty, I still had to honestly admit to myself that I was simply…bored. Not too many conversations happening. I was trying to pray the Rosary but just kept losing track of endless Hail Mary’s. I could not focus. And it was a losing battle not to check my watch every two minutes (which felt like twenty-five).

I looked down the sidewalk at my fellow missionary. She was faithfully standing there, with her pro-life pamphlets and her rosary. Okay. We’re in this together. It’s not all about you. Just stay.

How much time left? Twenty more minutes?! Okay. Just twenty minutes. You can do this! Just stay. Be here. Present Moment. Grace is here. Offer it up. Sacrifice. Babies are counting on you. Stay. Remain. Faithfulness, not success.

Why don’t we just go? There’s only ten more minutes! Nothing is going to happen in the next ten minutes. Nobody is coming. It’s completely reasonable. You did your duty. It’s understandable. Some days are just like this. Don’t be so rigid. It’s fine. You can go.

Jesus. Help me. I cannot do this. Help me. I can stay here for five more minutes. It is not going to kill me. I trust You. Help me just stay these last five minutes! To be faithful!

Then, unbelievably, time’s up. Relief fills me as I glance at my watch and see the magical hand hit quarter past eleven. Praise the Lord!! I begin heading down the street to join the other missionary for our closing prayer. But I don’t see her at first…

Then I notice her, leaning in to the window of a car parked on the curb. She’s talking. Deep breath. Patience! Okay, Jesus.

I walk back to my post. And pray, more. Holy Spirit, be with her. Guide the conversation she is having.

Ten more minutes. But new resolve fills me now. Who is she speaking to? What is happening?

I glance over, and see the other missionary approaching me.

“That was amazing,” she says, shaking her head in disbelief. “That girl was just waiting in the car for her mom, who was in the building. She rolled down the window and actually asked me for a pamphlet! How did she know what I was doing here? Anyway, she’s pregnant. She has three children, and wants to finish school. She said she’s not sure if she should…terminate…”

As my sister missionary went on to describe their conversation, it became so clear that the Holy Spirit needed us to be there for those last five minutes! The young woman took our literature, and it seemed hopeful that she would reach out to the Sisters of Life for help. And that she was now more willing to give this baby a chance by choosing life.

I learned something that day about fidelity, even in small things. Results may not always be visible, as they were so mercifully that day, but His grace is always present and active.

Because, “Strong is His love for us. He is faithful forever” (Psalm 117:2).

– LAMP Missionary Kirsten Goza

His Redeeming Face

THE FACE OF MERCY: Stories and Reflections from the streets of New York

“Jesus Christ reveals the face of the Father’s mercy.” (Pope Francis)

Of You my heart has spoken: Seek His Face.” (Psalm 27)

March 31, 2016

It was Tuesday of Holy Week. She appeared across the sidewalk from me, looking around for a building address. I got that familiar sinking feeling in my stomach as I thought, “I bet she’s trying to find Planned Parenthood.”

I approached to offer her one of our pro-life brochures. Looking confused, she responded, “Oh, is this where the parenting place is?” Side-stepping her question, I explained that we were offering information about free pre-natal resources. Did she know someone who was pregnant?

Suddenly, she opened up. She was pregnant. It was her first baby. She was not from New York and didn’t know how to access resources here. She felt afraid…overwhelmed…unsure. She had considered abortion, but…something in her heart told her that was not the answer.

I told her about the Sisters of Life and encouraged her to call. “You can do this,” I told her. “God has a plan for you and for this baby. But you can’t do it alone. It’s not going to be easy. But He is going to be there, and there are so many people out there who are willing to walk the whole way with you.”

I gave her a rosary and explained what it was. “Mary is a mother. She is the Mother of Jesus. She knows what it’s like. She struggled. She can walk this path with you.” I watched her thoughtfully fingering the pink plastic beads.

Then I handed her two Scripture cards – “This one is for you. And this one is for your baby.” She read the verse: “You are precious in God’s eyes (cf. Isaiah 43:4).” She smiled at me and started to cry at the same time.

“Now you’re making me cry. It’s just because I’m pregnant!” she laughed.

I asked about the baby’s father. Was he in the picture? “Actually,” she answered, discreetly glancing sideways, “he’s right over there.” There was a man leaning against a mailbox on the curb. “Sometimes it’s hard to talk to your partner about…these things,” she continued.

“Right,” I responded. “That’s why you need positive support from others.”

“Okay. I’m going home, and I’ll call the Sisters from there. I feel better. I think God put you here. Actually, I saw you out here last summer. I remembered you when I came today. I was actually looking for you. And then, there you were! And…can I have a hug?”

Jesus, I don’t remember ever seeing this woman in my life. I don’t know where she came from. All I know is that we stand out here week after week and, once in a while, You show us Your redeeming Face. Thank You.

– LAMP Missionary Kirsten Goza