Chris Ramsey’s Blog

17 Feb 2018

Jim and Sylvia come to volunteer

By | 2018-02-17T21:24:07+00:00 February 17th, 2018|Book excerpts|0 Comments

Hey, that’s my folks names!

I had a beautiful couple come to volunteer with us at our Sat. afternoon dinner guest program. They were from Northbrook Evangelical Covenant Church in Northbrook, IL. I had met them last month, and now they were happy to return again. Their first names really struck a chord with me. Jim and Sylvia. For these were the names of my mother and father.

“What did you say, your names were?” was my immediate reaction.

They calmly repeated their names.

“Wow, that was both my parent’s names,” I told them.

“Oh well, that is quite interesting,” they said.

“Yeah, cause you know you don’t hear the name Sylvia, much any more,” I said. “It’s kind of an “old school” name it seems.”

They both readily agreed, and they had a great time serving. They had even bought a copy of “Discovering Jesus….” And now the Martins were back once again.

And so we started in talking once again. “You know, Chris, we read your book, and we really liked it,” said Sylvia. “We were especially were touched by “The Rainbow Story.””

“Oh, yeah, that was quite remarkable, wasn’t it?” I said.

Sylvia went on then to tell how they knew Dave and Jean Larsen, who also attended their church. Dave was the brother of Paul Larsen, a former President of the ECC, and long-time supporter of JPUSA and Cornerstone, and the proud father of his daughter, Kathleen.

And they, the Martins, had showed the story to them and they reported that Jean had said, “Yeah, that’s how it all happened.”

You see, Jean Larsen, had been in attendance at this CCO playground dedication in honor of Kathleen Keri Larsen, her niece, who had unexpectedly passed away a few years earlier.

So here’s the story as it appears in the book:

The Rainbow Story

Kathleen Keri Larsen was the daughter of Paul and Liz Larsen, a couple of steadfast supporters of the work and outreach of CCO. Paul was the former President of the Evangelical Covenant Church, and a long-standing friend of JPUSA. His daughter had volunteered at CCO, and her favorite act of service was playing and interacting with the children of the shelter.

In 1996, 27-year-old Kathleen’s life was unexpectedly cut short. Her parents were devastated.

In the months that followed Kathleen’s death, Paul and Liz found great comfort in catching sight of numerous rainbows. These rainbows spoke to their grieving hearts of the covenant promise God had made to Noah (Genesis 9:16). To them, God was telling them that Kathleen was alright, that she was in his care.

The Larsen’s chose to honor their daughter’s life by setting up a memorial fund that would build a roof-top playground at CCO. The playground itself would be dedicated to her memory.

The day came for the memorial and dedication service. The air was filled with mixed emotions—sadness for the loss of Kathleen, but also joy, knowing that she would be happy for the kids who pass through CCO.

The service was beautiful, and included a close friend of Liz Larsen. This friend shared with the crowd that Paul and Liz had been comforted by the sights of various rainbows throughout the past few months.

The mood was somber as JPUSA Pastor Neil Taylor, who was leading this service, continued speaking. Suddenly a young CCO boy blurted out, “Well, there’s your rainbow.” He was pointing to a small but very distinct inverted rainbow shining in the skies.

Everyone looked up to see this rainbow and a hush fell over the crowd. Everyone just stopped for a minute or two, pondering what it was they were witnessing. And then it just vanished.

No one could really put into words what they were feeling. But words weren’t necessary to explain the tears—of both grief and comfort—that were shed by Paul and Liz Larsen.

Everyone in attendance knew that they had just witnessed something extraordinary. And what a blessing it was to simply be in the crowd!

A North Park University Professor and close friend of the family, Klyne Snodgrass, was in attendance at the service. When he got home, he called the National Weather Service in Chicago. He asked if they had seen a small, inverted rainbow appear for a few, brief minutes at the time the service was taking place.

The answer he received was that, “Yes sir, we certainly did.”

The weather bureau explained that the rainbow was actually a “circumzenithal arc.” And according to Wikipedia, “the Circumzenithal Arc has been called a ‘smile in the sky,’ its first impression being that of an upside-down rainbow. It is rarely noticed, however, because it occurs so far overhead.”

So, was this a “God-thing”? That, of course, is a matter of opinion. But I’m not surprised that God showed up in such a spectacular way. He was merely affirming his deep affection for Kathleen, Paul and Liz, and their love and service to the least.

Thanks for stopping by. Chris

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9 Feb 2018

Willy and Ulysses hanging out!

By | 2018-02-09T08:10:52+00:00 February 9th, 2018|General|0 Comments

On the downtown streets of Chicago!

I was downtown when I ran into a couple of gentleman hanging out on a cold winter’s afternoon. Each was hoping to receive some assistance from any of those who were passing by. Willy told me that he usually stays on the EL trains at night. And then he’s out on the street corners during the day-time hours. But when it he gets too cold he retreats to Chicago’s Pedway, which is an underground walkway filled with stores and warmth.

Willy also shared with me that he gets to know a lot of the same folks that pass him throughout their busy days. And some will give more than a bit of change. Some will bring him some food and drink, and some will even buy him some new clothes and shoes…. when they get his sizes.

Willy says he believes in the Lord Jesus, and he thanks Him each morning when he wakes up!

Whereas, Ulysses, proudly proclaims that he’s vet. He says he stays in different “spots” each night. Then I ask him, “If you were given a room right now, would you take it?”

“Yes, I would,” he said.

“Are you working with a caseworker to get housing?” I ask.

“Oh yeah, ” he says. “I’ve been on a waiting list for the past 2 1/2 years.”

Ulysses comes off so genuine, so humble. And then I notice a Bible laying at the foot off his seat.

Maybe guys like Willy and Ulysses are out there to teach us all something. The only question is, “Are we willing to be taught… and are we willing to share a bit of ourselves?”

Pray for them and the many more “out on the cold, hard streets” of Chicago.

Thanks Chris.

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3 Feb 2018

More of my friends!

By | 2018-02-03T21:27:45+00:00 February 3rd, 2018|General|0 Comments

From around the world!

Here’s three of my food pantry and soup kitchen friends

Thu Nguyen came to Chicago about 10 years ago with her family of seven from Saigon, Vietnam. She tells me that she is so thankful for the food pantry. And she says that there is nothing like this back in Saigon. She says her family had to “work hard” just to make it back home.

And there’s Hava Botonjic from Bosnia. She is a beautiful, elderly lady who always comes about 2 hours before we start the food pantry and our soup kitchen. She doesn’t speak hardly any English, but one gets the idea that she’s a no-nonsense woman who won’t be deterred from getting what she feels she needs.

And then there’s Louis Ferndec who came to Chicago about 40 years ago from Cuba. He tells me has no family in Chicago, and that he’s presently staying at a homeless shelter on the Southside. But he likes to come back to Uptown because he likes the neighborhood. He tells me he’s working with a caseworker trying to get “housing.”

I then ask Louis if he ever gets mad that more people aren’t helping him to get off the streets. “No, you can’t get mad,” he says. “It’s never good to get mad.”

Then I asked him if he ever feels like anyone owes him anything? “No, I don’t feel like anyone owes me anything,” he says.

Three persons from all different parts of the world. And Thu and Louis tell me that they attend “Pastor Kim’s” church for time to time. And they tell me they both believe in Jesus. And they do so with a quiet conviction which rings true.

And I’m so blessed to know them. For I see a lot of “Jesus” in them.


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29 Jan 2018

Tiny Houses or Big Lofts?

By | 2018-01-29T09:27:16+00:00 January 29th, 2018|General|0 Comments

What can we afford?

Just a couple of days ago I attended the a brand new organization’s fundraiser. It’s called Chicago Tiny House Inc.—a new non-profit, whose mission “is to create tiny house communities throughout Chicago that will provide homeless Chicagoans with safe and cost-effective housing and integrated support services.” It was a beautiful, fun-filled, information packed event that brought about 100 folks together around this “homeless” problem that we, in the inner cities across America, face each and every day. We learned that these folks will be learning from the models for “tiny houses” for the homeless in cities such as New York City, Detroit, and Denver. And we learned from guest speaker, Alan Mills, a long-time homeless advocate from Uptown, that there are about 100,000 folks in Chicago that have no place call their own. Who are these folks? They are the persons that are sleeping in the shelters, in the tents, under the bridges, or they are sleeping on various couches or floors of friends and family (for as long they as can…most are constantly on the move).

Uptown, like so many neighborhoods across the country, have lost so much “affordable” and even extremely low-income rooms that could at least put a roof over someone’s head. So many low-income buildings have been sold to private developers who have turned so many structures into high-priced condos, or lofts, or high-rent apartments. Mills pointed out that we must not “lay-down” and let this happen. He said we must continue to advocate for the homeless and that getting behind this “Tiny House” movement is definitely a welcome addition to fight and the right to be “housed.”

Not surprisingly, I would agree wholeheartedly.

The next day I was walking to the store when I passed the old Stewart School building—a former elementary school building in Uptown. It had been closed down for a few years with “some” debate over what should the building should be use for. During last summer, the school’s “front yard” was filled with tents of “real people”… until they were evicted from the property. And now, we see the reason. The former Stewart school is being transformed into “Stewart School” lofts. And they might even available later this year.

I guess it’s not too hard to see where our priorities are.

Where are all these folks who’ve called “Uptown” home for so long going to go? Somehow, I don’t think they’ll be checking out the lofts at Stewart school.

Pray for more “housing” —any kind of housing. Pray for this Tiny House Movement. Pray for the souls left out on the street. Pray for our hearts to be moved —and continue to be moved—to do all that we can to help these folks. Why? Because like the billboard says, “Being homeless, it’s worse than you think.”

Thanks, Chris.

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