In late July, Otto Mintz, sick with congestive heart failure, left his homeless encampment behind the Garner Kmart for the last time, and took the CAT bus to WakeMed. On Aug. 1, Otto died.
Although many of the homeless die alone, and without mention on the obituary page, such was not the case for Otto, a guitar-playing man with a ready smile who made lots of friends during his years living in the woods near one of Garner's busiest shopping districts.
Cindy and Al Boyce, who are part of the Church in the Woods ministry, which Otto sometimes attended, made sure his obituary and picture were published in The News & Observer. With Church in the Woods founder Alice McGee and others, a memorial service was planned for Otto at the Ernest T. Myatt Presbyterian Church.
"They need to know that homeless people are loved too," Cindy Boyce said.
At the Aug. 23 service, which would have been Otto's 57th birthday, an eclectic group of people began to arrive: Those who knew Otto as the guy who held a sign at the corner of Old Stage and Fayetteville roads, volunteers with the homeless and the homeless themselves—many of whom also lived in the woods in tents and makeshift hovels—filed into the church. This would prove to be no ordinary church service in memory of a man who was twice hospitalized after being hit by cars.
David Roberts, who brings food, sleeping bags and other essentials to those living in the woods, said that while preparing his comments, Jesus "imaged Otto's joyous face from heaven above into my mind's eye. Then I cried tears of joy. Then Otto spoke to me and said 'I love you.' And still crying, I responded, 'I love you too, Otto.' Now isn't it fulfilling to know that Otto is enjoying heaven's peace and heaven's bliss? I must say Otto was a kind and generous man."
In the rear of the church, a man chanted: "God Bless Otto. God Bless Otto. God Bless Otto."
Several times during the service, Otto's friend from the woods, Melanie Lewallen, was moved to stand up and praise Otto. "My dog Delilah—she will chew anybody up, she don't care—she was born on Otto's bed," Lewallen yelled. "Now I've had her seven years. Hallelujah."
Mike Montague, who also ministers to the folks in the encampment, said he considered Otto a friend. "Just meet Otto one time and you knew he was a kind person; he had a good soul; he had a good heart. You could just tell. I'm going to miss him."
Otto Mintz is survived by a son, Jeffrey Mintz; brothers, Tim and Dennis Mintz; and sisters, Sharon Mintz and Karen Ramsey. He was buried beside his parents in Port Huron, Mich.
Robbie Watkins remembers in the early 1990s when just a handful of folks would show up at Raleigh's Kadampa Center, where traditional Tibetan Buddhism is practiced. Today, it's common for 100 or more people to attend a center event, said Watkins, the center's director.
On Saturday, Oct. 6, the Kadampa Center will hold an open house, celebrate its 15th anniversary and cut the ribbon for the grand opening of its new, 4,100-square-foot center at 5412 Etta Burke Court. The event, which runs from 1-4 p.m., includes a program titled "Basics for the Practice of Tibetan Buddhism."
Maybe it's the fact that the Dalai Lama, whom Watkins calls "the face of Buddhism around the world," is a Tibetan Buddhist that draws Westerners to the practice, but whatever the attraction, Watkins says because of increased interest, he estimates the center will outgrow its new space within three to five years.
"There's an incredible amount of interest in Buddhism among the general population," Watkins said. Unlike many of the world's great religions, Buddhism is non-dogmatic and non-proselytizing, combining religion and psychology, he added.
Watkins said many Westerners combine Buddhism with other religious practices, which is just fine with Buddhists. "We offer something useful, and people are welcome to come and taste it," he said. "The teachings of the Buddha offer a very accurate and detailed description of how the mind works."
In Buddhism there's no God, and it offers a non-theistic worldview. "I think that appeals to a lot of people," Watkins said. "Everything involves working with your own mind."
The Kadampa Center was founded in 1992 by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. The word kadampa "refers to those who are able to see the Buddha's teachings as personal advice that applies immediately to their own lives."
Today, the center's programs are taught under the guidance of resident teacher Geshe Gelek Chodak. For more information, call 859-3433.
Cary's Connections Church is asking local Christians to "have a global impact." For the next two Sundays at 10:30 a.m., Connections, a storefront congregation located in Swift Creek Shopping Center, 2825 Jones Franklin Road, will feature discussions about the global questions of peace, hunger and human dignity. The Oct. 7 topic is "Waging Peace in a Violent World," followed by "Dealing with Global Poverty" on Oct. 14.
According to its Web site, Connections Church is "a group of people from very different backgrounds (Haitian, Bahamian, Puerto Rican, and black and white North American) who are learning what it means to be one community of faith together."
For more information, visit www.connectionschurch.ws or call 233-1115.
Raleigh's Catholic community of St. Francis of Assisi is asking questions: "Should politicians ever compromise their faith values for the common good or the will of the people? How do you manage the tug-of-war between your faith values and those you encounter in the voting booth?"
For some answers, the Rev. Clete Kiley, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Faith & Politics Institute, will lead the church's ongoing discussion of the complex relationship between faith and politics. The event will be held Tuesday, Oct. 9, at 7 p.m., at the church, 11401 Leesville Road. A light dinner will be served at 6 p.m. RSVP to 847-8205 by Oct. 5.
The Southern Life Community, a consortium of faith-based peace communities in the South, will gather in Virginia Beach, Va., Oct. 19-21. The weekend will include an Oct. 20 March and possible civil disobedience at the global headquarters of Blackwater USA in Moyock, N.C., the 7,000-acre private military base where the company trains a private security force.
Blackwater was implicated in a Sept. 16 attack in Baghdad in which 11 Iraqi civilians were reported killed. For more information, e-mail Will Baggs at email@example.com or call (757) 423-5420 or (757) 623-8207.
A walk of remembrance for victims of war and torture is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 27, at Johnston County Airport, where CIA jets tied to extraordinary rendition of suspected terrorists are based. The day's events kick off with a rally at the Smithfield Town Commons, 200 S. Front St., at 12:30 p.m. For more information: www.NCStopTortureNow.net or call (919) 834-4478.