3371 Chattanooga Valley Road Flintstone GA 30725 706.820.2833

3371 Chattanooga Valley Road Flintstone GA 30725 706.820.2833

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Forgotten Fifth

I have been reading about rural poverty in America recently, and came across a wonderful paper by William P. O'Hare, entitled "The Forgotten Fifth: Child Poverty in Rural America."

Here are a few facts that might interest you:

The rates of poverty in rural areas are highest in the most remote counties and lowest in counties in or adjacent to metropolitan areas.

"Rural children are not only more likely to be poor, they are more likely to be living in deep poverty..."

"...rural children are more likely  than urban children to be living in deep poverty. Ten percent of rural children lives in deep poverty compared with 8 percent of urban children."

Those living in rural poverty "tend to be poor for longer spells than their urban counterparts."

So in sum that is...
  • Higher Rates of Poverty
  • Deeper Poverty
  • Persistent Poverty 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: What Every Church Member Should Know about Poverty

Where to begin? This is a great book. Written by Bill Ehlig and Ruby Payne, What Every Church Member Should Know about Poverty is an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning about poverty.
This manual-like book lends itself well to a Sunday school class, small group, or even a longer term study for a church diaconate, session, or other church leadership group. The book is grouped into 13 manageable chapters that divide nicely for both self study and group study. There are thought/discussion provoking questions at the end of each chapter. Also, don't miss out on the Appendix! It is full of statistical charts on poverty. Interested in learning more? Check out the bibliography in the very back. It is loaded with resources for further study.
But now let's get down to the subject matter of this book. What exactly should every church member know about poverty? Well, for starters, the hidden rules among classes, which are key to understanding how to begin relating to the poor (see chapter 2). It is quite easy to maintain an us-and-them view of the poor, thus keeping oneself at a safe distance; however, if one moves beyond this into a state of self-examination, it becomes all but impossible to see personal blind spots, short-comings, and weaknesses. After all, how can we really go about loving someone if we cannot first catch a healthy glimpse of our own sins?
I won't waste time summarizing the whole book but will instead encourage you to read it for yourself! It will be anything but a waste of time, I assure you. I realize it can be tempting to believe that, if you currently have "no contact" with the poor, there is no reason to read such a book. Read the book. Then we can talk. I am willing to bet (not that I am a betting lady) you will never sees things in quite the same light.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


The following comes from a participant in one of Hope's trainings this Spring:

Thank you again for coming and meeting with us, it was very helpful.   It allowed us to see some of our blind spots and think outside the box that we usually comfortably stay in, by talking through what our relationships with the families we've been helping look like.  I think it will produce future discussion as to what Pathway is about, connecting the congregation with the community, and how we can be about that ministry.  All in all, it opened my eyes further to the fact that I am more self involved, impatient and unwilling to "get my hands dirty" than I would like to admit.
Interested in having Hope for Northwest Georgia train your Mercy Committee, Diaconate, or Church group? Contact Heather at the Hope offices.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hope Spotlight: Dennis Laman

Name: Dennis Laman

Time with Hope: Almost 2 years!

Bio: Dennis is a Deacon (the only Deacon, at this point!) at Highlands Presbyterian Church in LaFayette, GA. Dennis lives in Chickamauga, GA with his wife Barbara and their children.

Originally From: Morenci, Arizona

Interesting Fact: Dennis is a Nuclear Start-up engineer and Industrial Electrician.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Giving: A Dangerous Business

In Dr. John Perkins' book Beyond Charity, he describes the act of giving as being "a dangerous business." As Robert Lupton puts it, "Receiving is a humbling matter. It implies neediness. It categorizes one as being worse off than the giver." Perkin goes on to say that we must therefore "be careful how we give. Giving should affirm and not dehumanize. We give because God gave to us. We should be humbled by our opportunities to give... The concept of giving is one of the greatest challenges facing the church in the days ahead. The church's efforts in Christian community development must go beyond charity. They must go further than acts of kindness. Somehow we have to disconnect what and how we give from our need to feel good about ourselves."

It is rather easy to simply give and feel good for the giving. It doesn't matter if we gave the man on the street $5 or dropped off a bag of used clothing at the local thrift store -we still walk away feeling slightly better than we did the hour before. But that lightness of step, that fresh-air feeling and indescribable joy and satisfaction with ourselves, is mostly unfounded. As Perkins states, a gift is something we ourselves would wish to receive. If we were hurting and alone, would we want someone to stuff a dollar into our hand and so prolong our frustrating existence of addiction, shame, and solitude? Or, alternatively, how might we respond if a friend at church placed a bag of stained and tattered clothing in our arms and said, "here, I thought you could use this!" Yikes.

But if we give "because God gave to us," as Perkins argues, what might that look like? If giving is an act of love, then we might think of 1 John 4:19 and "love because He first loved us." Giving is then synonymous with love. God's love, made manifest in the giving of His son, was characterized by sacrifice. It reached deep to the heart of the matter -which was that we were hopeless and dying, unable to lift a finger to change our situation. If we take this example and apply it to our lives, how might this change how we give?

It is not enough to give  and hope for the best. We cannot afford to shrug our shoulders and wash our hands of this messy business called poverty. What a shame this would be to the Cross! This business of giving, messy though it is, is the business of the church. It cannot end at writing a check to the local non-profit or donating unwanted items to the faceless poor. The business of giving must take place in the context of relationship. Perkins argues that, "the best that God's people have to offer is relationships with the poor that reflect that kind of careful, quality attention we have in our own families. This is the high quality of relationships offered by a people seeking to 'love their neighbor as they love themselves.'"

So this week, as you look towards the celebration of Easter and contemplate the wonderful and incomprehensible death and resurrection of our Savior, don't forget the poor. Honor the Cross by making a commitment to enter into a relationship with someone who is "poor" -who lacks connections, is isolated, powerless, physically weak, at risk, or is unable to meet their own basic needs. Don't throw a ham on their front porch and run away. Knock on that door and allow yourself to be humbled as you give the greatest gift you can give- a moment when you allow yourself to need another human being even as you give yourself in friendship.