Intern Chaplain Fred likes to joke that every time he walks into a rowdy room, it immediately becomes calm. He thinks it’s because he has a commanding presence. Fred is 6 foot tall, has broad shoulders, and some days wears a serious expression on his face. Many people would be surprised to learn that Fred was bullied throughout his life, and had a contentious relationship with his father.
Before Fred found solace at Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission in the summer of 2014, he lived with his father and stepmother in Northeast Philadelphia. Fred and his father did not see eye to eye.
One day, Fred’s father kicked him out. At that moment Fred knew he needed to be self-sufficient. Fred is close to his mother and sister, but he did not want to burden them. Instead, Fred turned to Sunday Breakfast, a shelter he heard homeless men talking about as he walked down the street.
“Chef Anthony and Chaplain Sam were the first people I spoke to when I came to the Mission,” Fred shares. “They told me if I needed help, this was the place for me to be. They welcomed me. I shared with them everything I was going through. Three weeks later, on September 8, 2014, I became an Overcomer.”
In his first months in the Overcomer Program, Fred battled with strong feelings of anger toward his father. When Fred was a boy, Fred’s father would motivate him by verbally belittling him. As a result, Fred became a violent teenager, and would get into fights with strangers on the street.
“I would fight people who I thought deserved it,” Fred explained. “If they were going to be a bully and disrespect the weak, I was going to show them how that felt.”
Learning how to be meek was one of the most significant lessons Fred learned as a new Overcomer. A meek person is someone who has a tame and humble demeanor. Fred use to believe meekness meant weakness. The chaplains helped him realize that’s not the case.
“I use to view Jesus as a coward,” Fred expressed honestly. “If he was strong and powerful he should have stopped the people that beat him and nailed him to the cross. But now I know Jesus was not weak at all. Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and rose from the dead so I could have eternal life. He is not weak, he is strong.”
Today, Fred reads the Bible to learn how to be a strong, Godly man. Fred also looks to the chaplains who serve as positive examples of the type of man he wants to be. Chaplain Tyrone, who assists in the kitchen, teaches Fred how to be a good friend and care for the physically and spiritually weak. Chaplain Jeff, who has a wife and three children, teaches Fred how to be a family man, and Chaplain Harvey, the Men’s Program Director, is an example of the type of grandfather that Fred wants to be one day.
“The chaplains showed me that being a man is shouldering the burden of responsibility,” Fred shared. “My dad goes against the burden of responsibility. God has given me the strength to forgive him. When bad things happen, no matter how you feel about it, it’s not always your place to do something about it. I have to leave it in God’s hands.”
Nearly three years after joining the Sunday Breakfast family, Fred has graduated from the Overcomer Program and currently serves as an intern chaplain at the Mission. As an intern chaplain, Fred assists with evening intake, security, and provides clothes and toiletries to guests in need.
In the next several months, Fred hopes to secure a steady job and an apartment of his own. He also desires to help other men the way the chaplains have helped him by starting a prison ministry. Although Fred has never been in prison, he has met a lot of men who have. He wants those incarnated to know there is hope, and opportunity for a second chance through Christ.
“Sunday Breakfast is a place you come to if you need solace,” Fred explained with a smile on his face. “I understand that I’m not a normal person, and I feel at home around a whole bunch of people that are not normal too. I feel very comfortable at Sunday Breakfast – I’m home.”