Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Family Is Famiily

Family is Family:

I was recently called away from Madison as a result of a family situation. My 80 year old mother had just lost her youngest brother Don to a long battle with lung disease, leaving my Mom with only one sibling left, that being my Uncle Dick. My Uncle Don was only 70. He lived in a small community in the southwest, corner of Washington State, called Castle Rock.

A Small Portion of the Wilson Side of the Family
My mother wanted to attend the Memorial service but she could not travel by herself. I was honored to take my mom to pay her respects and to visit with family, that I hadn't seen in several years. To make a long story short we were able to spend a week with her brother Dick in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. It was an outstanding time in some of the most beautiful country on Gods' Green Earth. The time we spent together with my moms brother and my Aunt Carrol was priceless. On the Thursday before the service on Saturday, we let out on a 9 hour drive to get to Castle Rock (along the Columbia River and the Cascade Mountains). More of  Gods' handy work was on magnificent display!

While our visit there was for more somber reasons, we still had time to renew family ties that had not been kindled in many years. My mom and I had the opportunity to visit with 4 more of my younger cousins,  many of whom I hadn't seen in over 20 years. What a joy it was to see their families and get caught up on all the family news, on that side of my world. Again the visit was priceless. Family has always been important to me and cherish every moment the Lord has blessed me with.

Just a small part of our Bethel Homeless Family
Family is defined in many ways. That's what makes this crazy world of ours spin. I am fortunate to have another family too, the family we have created at Bethels Homeless Ministry. Over the past six years (that's right, six years) we at Bethel have watched our family grow and prosper. We have seen monumental development of many in our family. we have touched and been touched by many in our homeless Family. as in many families, we have suffered severe heartbreak also.  Over the years we have had too many of our family leave us too soon or suffer the pains of defeat. Yes, our family has it's own set of issues, Mental health, drugs, alcohol, and their past. If we look closely, it might just look a little like our biological families. To many that visit us and take part in what Bethel's Homeless Ministries has to offer, we are the only Family they can count on. For what ever the reasons are, we are all they have left. This is what makes what we do at Bethel so important. A shoulder to cry on, someone to listen, someone to point them in the right direction, someone to get tough when necessary, someone to love! LOVE, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes this all work!




New Partnership: The Dane County Timebank and Friends of State Street
Blake Cullen, Homeless Ministry Intern

People who are homeless suffer from an extreme level of economic deprivation, surviving on very little. In my personal experience, I have noticed that some who suffer from material poverty also suffer a poverty of spirit, which often results in feelings of frustration and hopelessness. Being rejected and socially ostracized may be a cause of this poverty of spirit for homeless individuals. It takes trusting relationships to help individuals suffering from a poverty of spirit. Bethel’s Homeless Support Services aims to build these types of relationships with Madison’s homeless to empower them.

In pursuit of this end, Bethel has formed a new partnership with the Dane County Timebank.  This partnership will allow us more opportunities to pursue our goal of building relationships and empowering the homeless of Madison. Through this new collaboration, our homeless friends at Bethel will have the opportunity to volunteer in the church, and in turn, will earn access to Timebank services like transportation, legal counseling, workshops, and educational opportunities.

In addition to Timebank services, we have decided to give our homeless volunteers an opportunity to work for and earn much needed goods such as sleeping bags, duffel bags, backpacks, bus passes, and gift cards to local businesses. The scale of how many volunteer hours are required for each of these items is below.

                        Hours and Rewards Scale

Clothing Pantry Voucher                                            2 hours
Backpack                                                                    12 hours
Duffel Bag                                                                  12 hours
Sleeping Bag                                                               15 hours
                        Tent                                                                             30 hours
2 Ride Bus Pass                                                          4 hours
10 Ride Bus Pass                                                        15 hours
31 Day Bus Pass                                                         24 hours
$10 Gift Card (Wendy’s, Walgreens, Redamte)          10 hours

As a result of tight budget constraints and reliance on private contributions, we have decided that this is most practical and feasible rewards scale. To remain fiscally solvent, we will only be purchasing a limited number of these items per week and our store will only be open Fridays from 12-3.

In closing, this new partnership with the Timebank will allow Bethel Homeless Support Services an additional venue to assist and empower those suffering from the adverse effects of homelessness. The Homeless Ministry Board, Conner Wild, Mark Wilson, and Gary Messinger from the Timebank should all be commended for their time and efforts spent implementing this program. As this program is run off of donations, we would greatly appreciate and welcome donated items or financial contributions. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions regarding donations at or (608) 421-3127.


Book Club:

I am sorry that I don't have an update for what's going on with the book club this week. But I promise you one for next week.

I am back and until neet week, "Hasta La Goo-Goo!" ---Mark

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Streets of Madison: What's new this week?

Streets of Madison: What's new this week?: I know this program can work. This is my own 12 year Coin in AA. -Mark Some New Programs are Starting to Take Shape: This week we st...

What's new this week?

I know this program can work. This is my own 12 year
Coin in AA. -Mark
Some New Programs are Starting to Take Shape:

This week we started an AA meeting to compliment the numerous other services involved in the Homeless Support Services offered at Bethel. The meeting was facilitated by Mr. Andrew Hoyt, a long time member of  our Homeless Group. I am not at liberty to let you know how many or even who attended the meeting at 1:30 pm on Friday, but let's say it was a very good meeting and reported by the attendees. This will be offered at the same time as mentioned above, each week. We certainly welcome this group into the fold. Great job Andrew!  

Our next venture is brought to us by Blake Cullen, our University of Wisconsin/School of Social Work intern. He / we are partnering  with the Dane County Time Bank to allow our homeless friends to give back to our program in the form of volunteering to do dome of the things we are required to do on a daily basis. This program will produce a two fold result. Our homeless friends will gain some self esteem, by being able to give back to our program, as well as giving the ability to earn rewards for their services rendered. We currently have about 60 hours per week that will be used for volunteer  opportunities which include but aren't limited to, cleaning the room daily, manning the registration desk, doing dishes, and helping out in the clothing distribution room. For each hour they put in they receive services back. The Dane County Time Bank offers services to include, legal services, counciling ,  transportation to appointments, etc and are putting their own store in  for redemption. We will offer an exchange  for sleeping bags, backpacks,  duffel bags, and  bus passes. Most of these items already have been donated to us , however we would like to include monthly bus passes ($27), gift cards for local restaurants or coffee shops ($10 each), gift cards to Walgreens for personal essentials that they can't get from their food cards ie...aspirin, shampoo, and deodorant .  We estimate that this program will need only $60 per week or $240 per month. We would be very excited to receive any contribution you would be willing to make. This is a worthwhile program designed to lift up our homeless friends and to keep them moving forward towards their individual goals. 
Thank you to Blake for thinking outside the box and thank you to Gary of the Dane County Time Bank for his encouragement and guidance in helping us to move this program forward.
To find out more about the DCTB visit


The Bethel Homeless Support Services have recently purchased place settings for 100. These include plates, cups, bowls, and silverware (not real silver) . We bought these items because with the additional people we serve each day, we were spending much more than we expected to spend on paper and plastic goods. We estimate that we will save around $3600 a year and at the same time reduce the ecological footprint we were leaving. This is a win-win situation. 

Book Club Review:

What did you want to be when you were 11?
We’ve noticed a trend in young adult fiction recently. It seems that around the age of 11 or 12, Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and a host of others (think Narnia, House of Night, etc) hope for a world that is so much bigger than reality. For Percy Jackson, he’s discovering that the blood that runs through his veins is partly that of the god, Poseidon’s. It was at this same age that Harry Potter found out he was a wizard. And for the targeted audience of young adult readers who are devouring these books, it seems they share a similar hope. Perhaps we are all destined for something great and far beyond ordinary reality and it is waiting for us right around the corner.
At that age, I’m pretty sure I thought it would be awesome to fly. To take flight right off the ground. That was far enough from reality for me. At group we talked about people wanting to be professional ball players or police officers, each in their own way impossible. But in fantasy, we can become whatever we can imagine – wizards, the sons of immortal gods, NFL linebackers, or someone who can fly.
It is clear imagination is not dead. I like that literature celebrates that creativity and dreaming.

Pastor Alison WilliamsAssociate Pastor and Director of Congregational Care

The average age of a homeless person in Madison is 9 years old.