Yesterday I made four pounds of black-eyed peas. FOUR POUNDS. That’s a lot of beans to contend with. The two
largest pots that I own were filled nearly to the brim. Jon and I were headed to Trinity House with some of our friends. Dinner is brought to Trinity House nightly by different groups of volunteers, who then have the fortunate opportunity to break bread with the residents and hear their stories. We had been recruited, and our assignment was to bring black-eyed peas. I am so thankful that we went.
Trinity House is a beautiful place; a center of redemptive cause and purpose in the middle of Atlanta’s historic Sweet Auburn district. Also beautiful is the fact that despite poverty, poor development and changes in social and economic structure, the pursuit of justice, empowerment and reconciliation is still taking place amidst this urban area. Signposts of African American history abound around Trinity House, which is located in the center of this famous neighborhood – the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement. The home of Trinity House was once the largest African American funeral home in the city; the dining hall of Trinity House is the chapel that once held the body of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. History and stories of hope surround the residents of Trinity House.
Trinity House is run by a local Atlanta church – Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Any familiar with the downtown Atlanta skyline could pick it out; the steeple juts into the sky, with the words “Jesus Saves” displayed like a beacon. The men at Trinity House are formerly homeless, almost all of them overcoming the addictions that destroyed their lives. They arrive at Trinity House broken, hungry, tired, burdened – they depart sober and employed, with a home and money in the bank – restored and redeemed.
Upon arrival at the house, we are instantly greeted by a smiling face – my one hundred pound pots of beans whisked away into the kitchen. The lobby is elegant and cozy, with a painting of Dr. King proudly displayed on the walls. We pass the glowing, stained glass windows of the chapel and land in the middle of the hustle and bustle – lots of chatter and laughter as dinner is being assembled and strangers introduced.
The evening begins with a tour of the facility. Our tour guide, Saeed, takes us around and explains the program – the men – the history – the meaning and symbolism that is deeply rooted and woven into the program. The front door is open to any who are ready to change, but not all are accepted – Saeed explains that the Trinity Program is not one for those who need – it is a program for those who want. If accepted, men are often given a new name that symbolizes their new journey (Saeed is formerly Adrian – his new name and identity meaning “fortunate”). All men start at the third floor and work their way to the second floor, staying anywhere from six months to two years. Brothers of the house wear shirts that coincide with their place in the house and their progress. The colors of the shirts are drawn from an African flag – green for the land – red for the blood that was shed – black for their skin. Real community exists here; accountability programs are staunch, and the Brothers often decide in a committee fashion on the progress and promotion of one another. Harmony, respect and dignity are common themes. Pictures of graduated Brothers adorn the walls; many of the counselors former members themselves. Again, this is a beautiful place.
After the tour we all sit down for dinner, volunteers and Brothers evenly dispersed around the chapel. Everyone dines on some delicious soul food – green beans, black-eyed peas, rolls, salad and fried chicken. As dinner wraps up, the time for stories begins. Everyone has a turn, including the volunteers. I was humbled and moved as I listened to the stories of the Brothers in the house; some with Master’s degrees, former business professionals, fathers, husbands, chefs, project managers, musicians – men from all paths and places. You cannot judge appearance – you never know a person’s story unless you hear it – every created human being has dignity.
The atmosphere in the room is not sad or heavy – it is filled with laughter and noise – hope and joy – acceptance and love – stories of dark pasts, furture plans, hopes and dreams. We laughed and clapped and danced and sang- we were humbled and ministered to. We were inspired.
All I offered was black-eyed peas for 25; I left feeling whole, joyful, hopeful – glowing with all of the knowledge and inspiration that the men of Trinity House had offered to ME. They do this for people five nights per week. This is a beautiful thing.
a beautiful place
I plan to go back to the Trinity House often. I am anxious to watch the progression of the Brothers that I met last night; I am anxious to receive their wisdom and contagious hope. I am anxious to bring my own love to the dinner table – I’m already thinking about what to cook next…
a happy crew
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