Walking In Their Shoes: A Bridgeton Pastor Lives For Two Days Among The Homeless
4 years ago this month, Dr. Weinstein spent a weekend homeless in Bridgeton, which helped inspire the Code Blue movement...
By Mickey Brandt
Few of us would be homeless by choice. Rob Weinstein, a Bridgeton pastor, is an exception.
His plight, and his challenge, was a recent 48-hour journey living on the street, intended to open his heart to the problems his community faces, then spur his congregation to greater levels of faith and action. He literally went straight from the parking lot of the church, where he slept on a concrete slab, to the pulpit, where he preached the lessons of the ordeal. His inner city, non-denominational, evangelical church has about a hundred members.
Rob told me the experience was isolating, frightening, and discouraging. He said he went two days without food, water, shelter, or a bathroom. No one, neither stranger nor casual acquaintance, acknowledged him or offered any help. Even several church members passed by without recognizing him. In posing as a homeless person, he became as invisible as any real one.
“You’re part of the world, but not part of the world,” he said. “You become disassociated from society and it’s no wonder.”
As his hunger and thirst increased, his physical and mental condition deteriorated. He walked to his mother’s home during the last hours of his self-imposed exile.
During our interview, Rob sprinkled his answers to my probing questions with apt metaphors and poignant biblical references. He didn’t simply quote Scripture; he formed relentless intellectual arguments. Throughout, he made it clear that his life was guided – being called to temporary homelessness was only the most recent example.
“God has given me a voice and I have to use it on the issues He’s concerned about,” he said.
He was often provocative and facetious about the inadequacies of Christian action on helping the homeless and others in need.
“I like to think people who passed me on the street said a prayer for me, but what I really could have used was a hamburger,” he noted.
He said the monotony of pointless wandering through Bridgeton gave him a lot of time to think and he spent some of it on the “ignorance, apathy, and complacency” of churches in general. He so desperately wants to change it that he’s edgy to the point of anger.
“As long as we’re content with just doing a little good, we don’t do the great things that God wants us to do” he said in his insistent and disarming manner. “If it’s dark, why blame it on the darkness? We’re supposed to be the light, so why aren’t we shining?”
I enjoyed provoking Rob, too, although he returned my serves with Rafael Nadal quickness and force. His answers were not doctrinaire, they were directed. So, doesn’t being a good Christian mean going “all in” for others at the expense of one’s self? He quoted Mother Theresa: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, just feed one.” How did he know God called him to that weekend of trial? “I can tell because it’s something I would have never done of my own accord; I keep doing things I’d never want to do.” How can he be sure he’s following God’s plan? “If I err, I do it in the direction of service, not in the direction of pew-sitting.”
Wasn’t it a phony stunt because he knew he’d have a bed by Sunday night? “In no way is what I did comparable, it was a glimpse. No one can imagine what they go through and for people to judge them is ludicrous.” Should tax money go to curing these ills? “I worked in government; it isn’t effective that way. If God had wanted government to solve the problems, Jesus would have come as a Roman magistrate, not a carpenter.”
The preacher presented a bright sincerity in a field crowded with charismatic fakers. He is building the brand, but the brand seems more like Jesus, less like Rob.
What was most important about the homeless weekend? Simple. As Rob sees things, it’s the lesson of lessons for all of us, sometimes called the golden rule.
“A few days before I went out, I told a homeless man who sleeps behind our church what I was going to do. He offered me his sleeping bag.”
Follow Mickey Brandt on Twitter @mickey_brandt
December 11, 2013
Volume 6, Issue 11
From the M25 President Dr. Robin Weinstein: On July 5th, the day after our #IndependenceDay celebration with all its fanfare and patriotic zeal, I was invited to tour the "home" of a #Vietnam #Veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps. A member of Bethany Grace Community Church has become familiar with him and his story through our shower ministry for the homeless.
This homeless #hero of #CumberlandCountyNJ is recovering from colon #cancer with a colostomy bag in the middle of the woods in #Fairton. While some enjoyed their #July4th fireworks, his "home" was caught in a torrential downpour of rain.
#HOUSING is a #HUMANRIGHT for all and NO VETERAN should be #HOMELESS! The Cumberland County Housing First Collaborative will work with our partners to ensure that he, along with every veteran, man, woman, and child have a place to call #home. Learn more at www.endhomelessness2020.com
and join the movement! #BetheMiracle #BridgetonNJ #MillvilleNJ #VinelandNJ
Members of the Collaborative include: Gateway Community Action Partnership, Prac Newjersey, Resources for Independent Living, Inc, M25 Initiative, Cumberland County, NJ Jail and Inspira Health Network.
TEN WAYS TO HELP END HOMELESSNESS IN CUMBERLAND COUNTY, NJ!
We are excited to announce that Dr. Robin Weinstein will be speaking for the NJ Second Congressional District at NJ Hill Day in Washington, DC to advocate for the homeless and the poor. Will you join me? Transportation is available and registration is free! Registration is at http://ow.ly/MHJq30cZeDG
The 2017 New Jersey Congressional Reception will be held on Wednesday July 26, 2017 from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM in the Dirksen Senate Auditorium in Washington, D.C. “No Housing Cuts” will be the theme that will be shared with our elected officials with the message that cuts are hurting our communities that serve low-income families, the homeless and those with special needs.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 27, 2017
CONTACT: Dr. Robin Weinstein (1-844-M25 HOPE)
STATEMENT ON 2017 HOMELESS POINT IN TIME SURVEY FOR CUMBERLAND COUNTY
Surveys shows an increase of Homelessness in Cumberland County of 7.9%
(BRIDGETON, NJ)—Dr. Robin Weinstein, President & Founder of the M25 Initiative and Co-Founder of the Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition, today released the following statement concerning the 2017 Point-In-Time Survey for Cumberland County, NJ:
“The information gathered from the Point-In-Time survey is invaluable to policy makers and those on the front lines of combatting homelessness in New Jersey. The results give us a snapshot of our successes and challenges in ending homelessness in our generation. The data from the survey underscores the importance and value of the Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition and the urgency of the work of the Cumberland County Housing First Collaborative to end chronic homelessness by 2020 in our area.
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