Saturday, June 14, 2014

Jesus - at home amongst the homeless

The Rev. David Buck sits next to the Jesus the Homeless statue that was installed in front of his church, St. Alban's Episcopal, in Davidson, N.C.

In beginning to make plans for a memorial service for people who have died while homeless, I was intrigued to find this story about a bronze statue of a homeless man on a park bench, by Timothy P. Schmalz.

Inspired by Matthew: 25, the sculpture is a representation that suggests Christ is with the most marginalized in our society. The Christ figure is shrouded in a blanket the only indication that it is Jesus is the visible wounds on the feet. The life-size version of the work has enough room that someone is able to sit on the bench. It has generated quite a bit of discussion on Facebook!

There's even a smaller version that could be part of an installation. 
Table of Hope by Joey Valasco (with Manila street children who are homeless)
In conversation with a friend in the Philippines about the statue, she said it reminded her of a painting by an artist who painted the faces of homeless street children in Manila as part of the Last Supper, titled 'Table of Hope' by Joey Valasco. Jesus amongst the homeless. Very powerful.

The 12 children in the painting are real people the painter, Joey Velasco,  discovered in poor areas of Metro Manila and Quezon City. After treating them to meals, Velasco took their pictures and retreated to his room to start working on the painting.
Velasco said, the children, aged 4-14, reveal a story of a greater hunger than a plate of rice could satisfy. He said, “It was they who touched my soul. Through them, God spoke to me and moved me to paint their stories and tell others about their lives.”
The young girl standing at the extreme left, where Judas appears in the da Vinci painting, is 10-year-old Nene. Velasco met her at the Manila North Cemetery, where she and her family lived as squatters among the graves. Onse, 9, sits at the table, his plate cleaned to the last crumb, he listens to Jesus to feed his other hungers. The child, who scavenges with a push cart, has a father addicted to drugs and a mother who works as a strip dancer. Itok, another scavenger who at 11 is the family breadwinner, sits at the right hand of Jesus. According to Velasco, Itok spent time in jail after being caught in a number of robberies. Another child in the painting does not live in Quezon City. Velasco placed a small Sudanese boy under the table eating the fallen scraps with the cats. The artist explained, “The skinny child is not one of the hungry kids who roam our busy streets at night. He is “an imaginary symbolic figure” who in the past “had satisfied himself with unnecessary food, (but) now finds himself under the table seeking spiritual crumbs.” The children featured in the painting are no longer in the areas where Velasco originally found them. Through his partnership with Gawad Kalinga, an organization dedicated to sheltering the homeless, the 12 children and their families now have homes at Romeo Cabrera Village in Quezon City.

The children’s stories are  featured in the book “They Have Jesus: The Stories of the Children of the ‘Hapag ng Pag-asa (Table of Hope).’”

Here's another link to Joey Valasco.
Here's a link to the launch of the book where he also talks about his painting (Youtube) - be sure to read the words of Joey at the launch that are placed underneath the video on Youtube. The video is very heartfelt and moving.

We offer our prayers for all women and men, boys, and girls who are homeless this day......
For families broken because they could not afford to pay the rent.
For those who have no relatives or friends who can take them in.
For those who have no place to keep possessions that remind them who they are.
For those who are afraid and hopeless.
For those who have been betrayed by our social safety net.
For all these people, we pray that you will provide shelter, security and hope.
Jesus, help us to help to see your face in the eyes of every homeless person we meet so that we may be empowered through word and deed to bring justice and peace to those who are homeless. Amen.
[adapted from prayer by Carol Penner]

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