(Editor’s Note: The following story is taken from Fred Newkirk’s monthly newsletter. Fred and his team have been reaching out for decades to destitute and down-trodden people in Long Beach and other nearby cities. Their “Inner Cities Ministries” is based at Long Beach Friends Church and, among other things, runs a twice-weekly meeting called the Basement Gathering Service. We, of Sacramento Friends Church send a small, monthly check in support of that ministry. I had meant to read this story in church last Sunday but forgot to bring it with me up to the pulpit so I am putting it in this newsletter. I think it will touch your heart and give you a glimpse of that world in which Fred has ministered for many years.)
Jimmie Cricket stood by my side last night after the Basement Gathering Service. He was seven years old when he was invited to our Inner city Quaker Meadow Camp. There were seven brothers and sisters in Jimmie’s family and all were born with mild mental handicaps. Jimmie fell in love with our camp program and every summer he was first in line to get signed up. He often was one of the few Caucasian kids amongst mostly African-American kids, and often got harassed, when counselors weren’t looking, about his race, but he loved the camps no matter.
Jimmie’s mother thought his father was in prison for murder, but wasn’t sure, so our male counsellors had a special place in Jimmie’s heart and mind. Jimmie went to a special high school and his senior year he learned to wash pots and pans. Jimmie became a Jesus man and would tell anyone anywhere that he was a Jesus man. Because of his new skill of washing pots and pans, his high school counsellors got him a job in downtown Long Beach washing pots and pans in an upscale restaurant.
Jimmie is now 45 years young, never missed a day washing pots and pans, never called in sick. He has moved from restaurant to restaurant and became christened the “Dish Man”, but always also the Jesus man. He has been mistreated by corporate restaurants, laid off when he was close to getting his benefits, but always found somewhere else to wash his pots and pans. The current restaurant job is treating him with respect and giving him the hours he deserves.
So last night Jimmie came with $45.00 in his pocket so he could help the Preacherman [editor: Fred’s nickname on the streets] help the homeless. He lives in a roach infested hotel on the eastside of LB, but never complains.
Last night was his special night. A mother with three children came needing food for several days and Jimmie reached in his worn bill fold and pulled our $15.00. I added $5 more and she scooted out the door with a big smile on her face. Not much, but she knows how to stretch it. Another $20 bill was given to a surrogate father who needed bus fare to take his lady’s three kids to school. Another $10 was given to a homeless woman who had to go to the hospital for possible gall stone surgery. “Jimmy can I pay you back?” “No Pops, this is my night. You have been in my life for 38 years and this restaurant is treating me right.” Jimmy also scooted into the night with a huge smile on his face.