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June 18, 2018 12:23 pm

Serving with Ki-ki

What a pleasure to spend time yesterday with Ki-ki, both on the museum trip and as we prepared and served the street meal. Our architect buddy Ricardo had told us that Ki-ki was out of work, and Ki-ki had explained–in mime and with all of our inadequate second languages–that he and his partner Glenda weren’t together. His explanation to me was that with “no trabajo (work)” and “no money” it was “duro (hard).” So we felt sad for that change and hopeful that his work on this trip, and payment for that work, will help him. In spite of his economic woes, at the Romero Museum he slipped over to the little sales counters and bought Romero posters for Dale, Haley, and me, presenting them to us by patting his heart and saying “Romero.” This will be a precious new totem.

For the street meal, we worked out a shopping plan while having lunch at the Casa C. Ki-ki then went to the downtown market for produce while we hit the Wal-Mart for 30# of ground beef, plates and cups, coffee and tea, and all the seasonings Ki-ki needed for the stew. He rejoined us by taxi–with a new partner, Veronica–after dinner and our meal prep began. His commitment to this ministry of serving food to the homeless extends to the slightest detail. He now trusts me to make the coffee in the 100-cup maker we’d bought in 2009, so he could focus his attention on the team members cutting the vegetables. His specifications are exacting, and his expectations are clear. The coffee recipe is pretty simple (which is why I’m trusted with it): one pound of coffee and two pounds of sugar! Very Salvadoran.

Likewise his assignment of our serving roles on the street. We loaded the back of the pick-up with the coffee maker, five gallons of instant iced tea, a tub of 200 tortillas (which several of us helped make, feeling total amateurs next to Trini and daughter Alma), a vat of red beans, and the centerpiece, a steaming pan of five gallons of beef stew. Once all that was secured, Ki-ki stood in the truck bed and, through Nelson, his roommate and our translator for the trip to P.A., he told each team member what they would be doing and where they would stand and do it. He’s not a tyrant; this isn’t about control. He has a vision for this serving ministry and he teaches it to us each time we go out. Knowing our roles helps new members and old while ensuring that we can focus on those we are serving once we hit the curb.

Our last stop this night was under an overpass serving a group that included several glue sniffers, maybe the saddest folks we see. It’s a wide area, with two lanes of rapido traffic both ways separated by a three-foot median wall. Some effort has gone into landscaping the flat stretches of ground on either side of the streets, but the plants haven’t been tended and can’t see the sun for the highway overhead anyway, so the effect is less than uplifting. We had served about 115 meals last night when, as we scraped the bottoms of the stew and bean pots into foam cups–our 100 plates used up–we noticed one more unserved person on the far side of the space, across all the lanes of traffic and the imposing median. We’d been here before, and we’d seen one more person on the other side before. I’d been touched then by Ki-ki’s commitment to reaching everyone he could, valuing each person equally. So it was no surprise that we filled two stew cups and two cups of tea and made our way to the other side.

The woman there was seated on a queen mattress. She had boxes and crates around defining a room-sized space, with her collected items neatly stowed around. She was sober and friendly and grateful for the attention. Her hands were crippled, maybe from arthritis, so she needed Ki-ki to set her meal on a near shelf. He went a step further, holding the stew up to her mouth to give her a taste, then offering her the tea. Ki-ki, Jamie (the volunteer missionary at CC), and Guadalupe’ (a Guatemalan homeless teen who now lives at CC) talked with her for a few minutes as the cars zoomed by and the others we’d served slipped off into dark corners. For those fleeting moments this was everything. Over and over, she said how grateful she was, made sure she knew our names, and told us her birthday. We left her there, finally, on her mattress, still thanking us.

1 response to Serving with Ki-ki

  1. Scott,

    I wonder if that is the same person we served several weeks before you?? Did you meet the man who spent 30 years in the states and was deported?

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