Sometimes, when we look at poverty, we can feel nothing but the overwhelming largeness of it all. We cannot wrap our minds -or our arms- around it. We hear statistics like 660 million people living without adequate sanitation... and that they live on less than two dollars a day. We are slammed with a barrage of images: children with flies on their faces, men digging through garbage, and women selling themselves just to put food on the table. If we have a heart to begin with, it is broken.
And so we have a choice: do we spend ourselves entirely, giving of our time and money in a desperate effort to fill the bellies of the world, or do we close ourselves off in bitterness and disenchantment? Because if we do give of our money, sending it in via the number on the screen or the offering plate, how do we know that it ever does any good?
Here is my proposal: give, and give, and give some more. To one person. Invest yourself in poverty you can see- and become a part of their world. I do not mean to say you should quit tithing, or even give up the child you a currently supporting in the Philippines. On the contrary, give to someone you see every day, and begin to understand poverty by making it a part of your world.
While the giving of financial support can make a change in certain circumstances, the value of true, deep and lasting relationship cannot be denied. For example, there is a church here in Chattanooga who has, for the past 5 years, invested heavily in a homeless woman who came to the church for help. I should correct myself -she was homeless. This woman had drug problems. She was vulnerable, wild, and capable of harm. She was unlovable. But she was loved. Several individuals from the congregation made her a part of their lives- and they a part of hers. Countless hours were poured into phone conversations, doctor appointments, counseling, coaching, feeding... you name it. After years of this, the woman changed. Slowly. But surely. She has now been picking up others for church- those who are homeless, helpless, and in a world of trouble. She has come to every church event for years, and attends church regularly, and with a joy and excitement that is contagious. She even got a place of her own to live as well as a job.
But you know what is the greatest part of all? This woman, Kim Davis, became a valuable member of her congregation- someone needed and loved! Kim passed away this week. And she is mourned and will be very much missed. When she left this world, she left as someone who was a part of a community. She was a contributor, a leader, a servant, and a true believer in Jesus, her savior.
So try it- just one person. Be Christ to them, and give, and give, and give some more. The Lord may just bless you with a Kim.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Having only been in the world of non-profits and volunteerism for a few years, I have already noticed the broadly accepted and frequently cited summer "break". I am not talking about kids being out of school and Old Navy doing better business in their beach-wear department. I am talking ministry break. It is all too easy to see that bit of rest on the distant horizon, and run at it, full force, leaving behind the fragile beginnings of good intentions and high hopes.
In the Autumn, with the scent of crisp apples and recently sharpened pencils in the air, it is not so hard to get people excited. It is the beginning of new things, of new ambitions, projects, and plans. You may have noticed the explosions of sign up sheets, kick-offs, and committees. Everyone wants to be doing! -Which is great! Don't get me wrong. I am all about doing. I am also all about resting. If we committee-ed, volunteered, fund-raised our way around the year we'd be exhausted. But here is the thing: why are we resting, and what from?
I myself am a victim of this waving of the white flag, this surrender to all things work-related and volunteer driven. I would be crazy to try and start a new project in June. I would be out of my mind to put a sign up sheet out Memorial Day weekend. People just respect their vacation time and expect you to do the same.
But putting the yearly calendar aside, lets talk about spiritual compartmentalizing. Yes, that's right. I jumped to the spiritual just like that. In the same way that we often look forward to that much needed break -and sometimes leave things undone in our anticipation- it is easy to avoid giving of ourselves to others, because we are simply too "burned out" to do otherwise. Or maybe we are just so uncomfortable, it just seems like a good idea to avoid it completely. We can make it to church on Sunday, drop the kids at Wednesday night activities, maybe even go the church picnic or volunteer in the nursery every once in a while... but visit with strangers? Try to find a homeless man a job? Invite him over for dinner? ...with my family? But I don't have time, you say. Or maybe you are already maxed out and your family needs more of you. Fair enough.
Here is my challenge: (for you and for me) take the time to think through how you might skip that "vacation" this summer. Not to keep on working at the office while your family goes to the beach, but to invest in another person. This might not even mean adding hours to your busy day. This can be done by including others in the blessings you are already receiving from the Lord, like inviting someone over for dinner who doesn't have a home or family of their own. You could give an anonymous gift to your pastor so he can get that car fixed. You might bring your teenage son with you on a Saturday to fix up the house of a widow, instead of playing ball at the park. I am challenging you to live for God- and therefore, for others- by living a life that is full of giving, as well as thankfulness for He who has given. I honestly believe that, though it may seem to tax you in giving, the rewards will be so sweet. ... and definitely better than any sharpened pencil smell.