Recalling Cold Weather Ministry

Snowy night

I want to repeat this poem from early March, because I gave it short attention back then.  As we have reached milestones in our Divine Intervention, I am recalling some of my Friday nights from this past winter.

March 31 was the last day of the winter season at the cold weather intervention where I helped out on Fridays this past year.  We will not serve guests overnight for the rest of this year–until December 1.  We will continue to have opportunities for relationships and connecting at Friday night potlucks until we resume overnights in December.

It has been a winter of growth for me.  I learned to connect with people in deeper ways this winter.  I learned to say ‘no’ when I thought I couldn’t do it.  I learned to say ‘yes’ with greater genuineness.  I learned to listen in ways that I had missed before.  I learned about alcoholism and other substance abuse at a much deeper level than I knew before.  And I learned that I still have a  lot to learn about alcohol abuse; I am learning.  I learned about resources and needs in Milwaukee.  I learned about job hunting when one has big gaps in employment history.  I learned about loneliness and being alone.  I learned about community.  I learned about big families.

For us, at least 10 guests were placed in programs or transitional housing this past season.  All of our winter guests connected twice with Social Services on site and received services as appropriate.  Vouchers for glasses, hearing aids, etc., were distributed to all those in need.  Several guests are in treatment for various needs.  At least one guest was successful with his employment to the point he was able to rent an apartment again.  I have seen many successes.

I met wonderful guests and staff and many fabulous volunteers over this winter.  It is a community I hold dear.  I am thankful for the leadership and heart and chutzpah of Pastor Karen, in particular.

I recall those who left us early and unexpectedly.  I recall folks I really miss, and worry about and pray for.

On Our First Winter Night, Near Winter-End

Snow wrapped warm around the trees just outside,
it does look cold away from our high communal window.
Where are those who walked away this week,
Who breached our earthly covenant, past weeks and now?
Where does John sleep tonight?
Who holds him, inside somewhere, alone or embracing another one, eyes wide open or shut?
Trapped, is he at once a Trapper tonight?
John’s gentle voice soothes me still,
Gone months ago, some of him still cocooned in me.

Plow blades thunder on the black abyss away from the blinds-barred window by me.
Almost at once, the midnight orb around me is silent,
Hushed in shallow snores; no snorts or gasps puncture this night.
Wrapped in our fellowship blanket, it looks cold out there.

My eyes burn and haze some as I wonder about Maandella.
In shallow breath, I pray for that little one.
Open as much as I can be open, I invite the Holy One in.
But my mind moves some to Maandella.
God-of-grace, where is she tonight?
Is she broken, beaten, in some stupor? Where is she?
How have I been blessed to be blessed and be here?
Bless Maandella. Aware and asleep, innocent,
Maandella is blessed. Let her live.
Bless Maandella, and fill her with joy.
Will she know it?
Bless Maandella this snowy night.

Naomi left weeks ago. Sent away? Bolted away?
I turn my mind away from her, angry.
I am angry.
Some caustic acid, with properties I barely know, burned off the love that gilded her here.
I seethe.
I almost break some throbbing blood vessel.
And I relent: Where is she tonight?
Bless Naomi through this caustic snowy night.
Bless her with joy and purity. Give her hope.
The love that she flushed away with a cold, hard bottle,
Give love to Naomi again. Let her know love.
Bless Naomi.
Bless her man, in from the cold, alone now,
Bless him, alone, here in this warm community,
Not quite whole tonight.

c Thomas Bolton, March 2, 2012


About Tom Bolton

I'm a Husband and Dad, an Enterprise Systems Manager at the City of Milwaukee, and a Disciple and Lay Servant at First United Methodist of West Allis. I love working beside young people. As I study the Bible, sometimes I feel moved to work through my understanding by writing poetry. I also am going through a process to discern my calling, and to learn more about Christian Leadership. Sometimes I just feel like writing about something that grabs my attention too.
This entry was posted in Poetry, Reflecting on Missions and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Recalling Cold Weather Ministry

  1. Noel Williams (prhayz) says:

    Awesome! I rejoice with you, Tom. I pray that the good Lord will continue to bless and keep you as you continue your chosen task of helping people.

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful post. The angels in heaven are rejoicing for. God bless you.

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