It occurred to me the other day that somewhere in the midst of a presidential election and the current economic challenges we're all aware of, Galveston, TX disappeared from the map. If memory serves me correctly, they were hit with a pretty significant hurricane the middle of September, but I can't remember the last time I heard any news report or saw any link on any news website home page link with a story about how they are doing down there.
I'm sure they are struggling even more than the rest of the nation in the midst of the challenges we all are facing. I'm sure most have no permament home yet. Do they have power? Food? Clothing? Running water?
Need doesnt disappear just because we walk away from it or ignore it. It sure didn't in the parabale of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Even though the priest and the Levite turned their heads the other way and walked past, the need still was there, to be met by the Samaritan.
Sadly, there are needs we see every day and walk past, thinking they may disappear if we just walk fast enough. But they are still there, waiting to be met by us, so we can be a beacon of light and hope to those living in a dark, hopeless world. Let's all slow down just a little bit and be a Samaritan and stop to assist those in need and be filled with compassion as Jesus was.
I had the great opportunity and joy to hear Mike Yankoski speak yesterday at a homelessness conference I attended through my job as a supervisor with a local housing agency. He is the author of the book "Under the Overpass" (see sidebar for link). The book is a journal of the entry into and journey through homelessness him and his friend took for 5 months in 6 major U.S cities. This was in response to God speaking to his heart about his own willingness to look the other way when need met him face to face. His transparency was refreshing, for I know too often I have looked the other way when need has confronted me
I had read the book a year or two ago and was and continue to be inspired and challenged by the message and by the lessons that it contained as they experienced how people treated them while they lived a life as those Jesus refers to as "the least of these" (Matt. 25:31-46).
I was touched and reminded of many things as he spoke. One was that we take so much for granted, such as a place to lay our head at night, a bed, sheets and blankets, clothing, a lock on our door to secure our possessions, a car we don't have to sleep in, a refrigerator filled with more food that we don't need than food we really do need, being able to buy food and gas and have a roof over our heads instead of having to choose between these, a switch to turn on heat when we are cold and air conditioning when we are warm, a shower to get cleaned up every day, a toilet we can go to when we need to take care of our needs.
As well, I was reminded that we must never lose sight of the fact that those that are homeless are PEOPLE first and foremost. It is easy, too easy to dismiss someone when they don't look, or talk, or smell the way that we expect we should. Mike shared how he made special notations in his journal on the days when people actually spoke with them or held a conversation. He said it happened so infrequently that it was noteworthy. How sad it is that the people that Jesus loves and cares for so much are marginalized and often treated as less that people, less than human, because circumstances placed them in a situation that we could easily be in ourselves except for God's grace.
I continue to hope and pray and work toward the day when the church will be the church Jesus called us to be. A church that will lavishly minister to those around us in need and not be fearful, or live in light of times past when we feel we may have beed deceived by someone in need which keeps us from giving wholeheartedly to the next person we see that is in need.
A few weeks ago I was was able to enjoy a nice afternoon of playing golf with a few men. All of us had our shots that shined and shots that left a bit to be desired. However, one thing we all did very well was to have some positive talk going back and forth as we all tried to hit a good shot or two. "Knock it in the hole…show us how its' done….nice shot" were a part of all of our vocabularies as we tried to spur each other on to give Tiger Woods some competition. It was encouraging.
In fact, there was probably more encouragement during that round of golf than most Christians hear in church in an entire month. There is something wrong with that.
Doesn't the Scripture say that we are to "encourage one another daily". (Heb 3:13; 10:25). We're to communicate in such a way with each other so that when this round of golf called life is played, we're equipped to stay at it and not give up. Our speech is to be sprinkled with grace.
Why can't the encouragement of the golf course make it into the church? We seem to find too many ways to tear each other down or at least withhold a good word. More people will feel churches are a safe place to be when they know they will be encouraged and strengthened for whatever life may send their way.