Thomas Keinath is the pastor at Calvary Temple in Wayne, New Jersey, a so-called mega-church with a 2,000-plus seat sanctuary in an affluent community. It was time for him to take some vacation time, so he did. And what did he do?
Keinath spent his week off living with the homeless in the very un-affluent community of nearby Paterson, New Jersey. During the day, he wandered through the streets along with desperate, sick and destitute. At night, he stayed with them as they built fires to keep warm in freezing cold, and slept with them, under a bridge, surrounded by discarded hypodermic needles. He wrote down the life stories of the people he met, so he could learn from their life stories.
“I needed to understand what they were experiencing, and I needed to feel their pain. How could I bring help or healing to the streets if I did not know what their needs are?” the pastor told reporters.
Now, after his stark experiences, he has led his parishioners at Calvary Temple to reach out to the homeless in the town so close, yet so far away in so many ways. Vans from the church bring the homeless to services at the church on Sundays. Church teams have been delivering food and clothing to the homeless in Patterson on a weekly basis, and Keinath has held Friday evening Bible study with his new friends who live under the highway overpass. The Reverend is developing plans to build a center that will “shelter the homeless while helping them recover from problems, including substance abuse.”
Don’t bet against him. I won’t.
Thomas Keinath is another one of those rare people that are so intrinsically ethical that it’s hard for normal people to identify with them. Fortunately, they are not as rare as we think. And rather than look at them like space aliens or circus freaks, we need to see them for what they are: true role models of selflessness and altruism, whose examples and inspiration can make us better, even if we never approach the high standards they set for themselves.