Local pastor seeks ‘proper sendoff’ for homeless man

International House of Prayer-First State Forerunner Fellowship Church Pastor David Moorman and his wife, Pastor Kelly Moorman, will be hosting a memorial service for Dennis Christenson on Saturday. Mr. Christensen was a 56-year-old homeless man who was found deceased in Dover on May 13. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — When a deceased homeless man was discovered on May 13 in a corner between the WSFS Bank and the adjacent Little Caesar’s Pizza Shop at 290 S. Dupont Highway in Dover, it could have easily marked the quiet end of a sad story that featured a mostly anonymous subject.

However, that wasn’t good enough for Pastor David Moorman, of the International House of Prayer-First State Forerunner Fellowship Church in Dover.

Pastor Moorman knew that man who had died had a name — Dennis Christensen — and he also knew he had a life that went much deeper than meandering the streets of Dover in search of food, warmth and rest.

“From time to time, a few nameless strangers may have brought (Mr. Christensen) a cup of coffee or a sandwich as they exited the nearby store, some of them even offering a smile along with their gift,” Pastor Moorman said. “Many others turned their heads, judging Dennis, as well as other homeless persons as being ‘bums’ who chose their lifestyle by the choices they had made. That was not Dennis’ choice.”

The pastor added, “Dennis had come to town years ago working and traveling with a carnival. The circumstances of his childhood and loved ones are unknown to us, although he had mentioned once living somewhere in Michigan. While working as a ‘carny,’ Dennis suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized here in Dover.

“When he was discharged, the carnival had long gone, leaving Dennis without resources or a place to live. Dennis then became one of the ‘street people,’ living each day not knowing where the next meal would come from, making do with what little he had and trying his best to survive not only the weather elements, but the other elements which all homeless people face every day … hunger, assault, loneliness, despair and often hopelessness.”

Mr. Christensen became a member of Pastor Moorman’s Forerunner Fellowship Church, which meets most Sundays at the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware facility at 1243 College Park Drive, but gathers on the final Saturday and Sunday each month under a huge tent on Legislative Mall, where it welcomes members of the homeless community to worship and enjoy fellowship with a post-service meal and receive clothing.

“All of these individuals are important. They all are,” Pastor Moorman said. “We do the tent every month on Legislative Mall where we have continuous worship services, feed and clothe the homeless and offer good outreach for homeless people who usually don’t have a church.

“When they come to the tent, they feel more comfortable and don’t feel judged. We’ve had a lot of success and Dennis (Christiansen) was one of those success stories.”

Mr. Christensen would often cook after those tent services and “ran that kitchen like a pro,” according to the pastor.

“He was even overheard one day saying with a big grin on his face, ‘You know, I love hot dogs, but after cooking all that I cooked today, I don’t care if I ever see another one,’” said Pastor Moorman. “He made us laugh. Dennis also loved to eat salads.”

The news of Mr. Christensen’s passing was difficult indeed for the pastor and his wife Kelly, also a pastor, who provided him with his last meal the night before he was found unresponsive by another homeless man in a shopping center alcove.

That’s why the International House of Prayer-First State Church decided to pay the cost of cremation and transportation of his body to Ambruso Funeral Home in Dover.

A memorial service for Mr. Christensen will follow on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Legislative Mall at 411 Legislative Avenue in Dover. Anyone interested in donating to the memorial is asked to visit the web page at https://giving.sharefaith.com/app/giving/ihop37a243.

Rebecca Manahan Martin, director of Code Purple Kent County, also knew Mr. Christensen and tipped her hat to the pastor for his effort to properly memorialize the man.

“I think it is wonderful,” Mrs. Martin said. “(Pastor Moorman) cares so much for the less fortunate and makes every effort to help.”

The pastor said it is the people, like Mr. Christensen, who make his calling more worthwhile.

“The day before (Mr. Christensen) died, he was looking forward to the next tent outreach and not only cooking, but also serving others, many of them homeless, like himself,” Pastor Moorman said. “He wasn’t able to be at church that Mother’s Day Sunday, although he was looking forward to it. We sent him a platter of food from our fellowship dinner. His friend ‘Cowboy’ told us it brought a huge smile to Dennis’ face, as he was very hungry and so thankful that he was remembered even in his absence.”

At Saturday’s memorial service, Mr. Christensen will be remembered in his absence once again — thanks to Pastor Moorman and the International House of Prayer-First State Forerunner Fellowship Church.

“Dennis has no known family members that can claim his remains and lay him to rest,” said Pastor Moorman. “His body was destined to be disposed of by the state, like so many of the unclaimed bodies of the forgotten indigent, with no remembrances of the lives they had lived or the people who had loved them.

“We cannot do this with one of our own. Dennis was a human being. He may have been homeless and separated from his natural family, but to us, and to Jesus, he was precious and valuable and part of our family.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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