Ministry to the Homeless…

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.

Please check out his book and his website, undertheoverpass.com.  You will be encouraged.

More Hunger

It seems like many of my posts as of late have been about the global hunger and food crisis.  It appeared again on the front page of the USA Today.  Maybe it concerns me because it seems that Scripture says that when we minister to those in need, we are ministering to Jesus Himself.

31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All
the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the
people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the
goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

 34"Then
the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by
my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since
the creation of the world. 35For
I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you
gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

 37"Then
the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and
feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

 40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

 41"Then
he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I
was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you
did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after
me.'

 44"They also
will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger
or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

 45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

 46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Matt 25:31-26, NIV).

How can we not be moved to compassion when we see images such as these:

Hunger in Ethiopia:  The New Famine

We cannot stand by and let the world suffer.  We must ask God what He would have us do to make a difference.

I Can’t Even Begin to Fathom…

I’ve been reading articles about the problems in Zimbabwe lately.  I cannot begin to fathom the rate of inflation in that country.  Depending on the article, it seems to be between 1.5 million to 12.5 million percent.  In perspective, one article stated that a loaf of bread now costs what 12 cars did a decade ago.   The actual math on that statistic is mind boggling.

We seem to freak out when gas prices fluctuate a few cents a day…how would we respond when money became so useless that a loaf of bread cost $180,000?

I struggle to think through practical ways to be able to assist those that are in such dire straights.  How does one go about helping those with so little, except that we start by looking at ourselves and figuring out what we are wasting that others could use to survive and then find ways to take the savings and send it to those in need in such a way that they would get it.  Anyone have any good ideas?

Could It Be This Simple…?

I watched a number of short video clips on Yahoo! News this evening about a product called Plumpynut.  Plumpynut is a paste made from peanut butter, powdererd milk, powdered sugar, vitamins and minerals that contains the equivalent of a glass of milk and a multivitamin in each serving.  It is being used extensively in the country of Niger to give to children that are suffering from malnutrition.  The video clips describe some amazing results in keeping children from dying and preventing them from being hospitalized for malnutrition.  it costs a dollar a day for 2 serving per day of Plumpynut.

I am not one that normally becomes a cheerleader for some "solution" like this without a fair bit of skepticism, but this product seems almost too good to be true.  A dollar a day for a simple product that needs no refrigeration or mixing that can be easily produced and shipped to get to the worlds’ most fragile children so they can be spared the ravished of malnutrition.  Am I missing something here?

Why is our government not investing more money from the resources we send to aid the hungry and malnourished around the world?  And why isn’t the church finding a way to connect with Christian relief organizations to help produce and distribute this product and help offer life, both physical and spiritual.  This is when the church needs to step to the plate and find a way to be on the leading edge of getting ministries in place that can distribute this and have a chance to offer it in the name of Jesus.

Please check out the stories at the link and post some feedback.

Plumpynut Story

Does Anything Really Move Us These Days?

It will soon be another story of a disaster come and gone, lost amidst the coverage of the election, stories on soaring gas prices and reports on the housing crisis.  Over the weekend, Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, was hit by a cyclone that has, as of this time,  killed 4000 people and left almost as many missing.  The latest reports estimate that as many as 10,000 may have died.

The pictures are eerily similar to so many other natural disasters, some which occurred in our country no less than a week ago.  They show homes destroyed, trees uprooted, lives overturned.

Lost in all of the suffering in Myanmar is a sobering truth…souls died without Christ.  Myanmar is primarily Buddhist (nearly 90%) and at best has only 2% of the population that are Christian.  If we do the math, it means that only 200 of the estimated 10,000 people who died were likely to have died with Jesus as their Lord and Savior, leaving 9800 people that died now spending eternity apart from God forever.  Does this reality move us?  Does it lead us to shed a tear?  Do we even give it a second thought?  God loves the people who died in Myanmar every bit as much as He loves us and He is grieving that they are separated from Him for eternity.

Perhaps it is the constant birage of news that overwhelms us. or the exposure to tragedy and death on TV shows that numbs us, but it seems that more people are upset, saddened and outraged that a race horse died at the Kentucky Derby than 10,000 people who were created in the image of the living God.

"After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;  And they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever, Amen." (Revelation 7:9-12, NASB)

It is God’s desire that people from every nation, including the precious people of Myanmar, worship around His throne for eternity.  Yet so many around the world are lost in darkness without Christ.  Lord, make our prayer:

"Set my soul afire Lord, for Thy Holy Word, Burn it deep within me, let Thy voice be heard
Millions grope in darkness in this day and hour, I will be a witness, 
fill me with Thy pow’r

Set my soul afire Lord, set my soul afire.
         
Make my life a witness of Thy saving pow’r. Millions grope in darkness, waiting for Thy Word.

Set my soul afire, Lord, set my soul afire!"

Does anything really move us these days?

 

Does Snickers Really Satisfy?

I read a blog entry today that made me think.  The title was "On Mud Pies and Chewing Gum".  From what I can tell, the author of the blog was from a liberal, feminist background.  I clicked on the link in the midst of reading another article.  Her point is valid, and something we need to consider as believers.  Her basic point was, why do we have children in the world eating mud pies at the same time we have a candy company buying out a gum company for $23 billion (yes, billion) dollars?  She says, "it’s kind of sickening, people spending billions on such crap that they
don’t need to consume at all, while people are dying of starvation and
malnutrition."

I can’t help but agree.   I am guilty as charged that my snack attacks waste money and food that can be used to help be a part, allbeit small, of helping hungry people have a basic meal.

What are we willing to do without so others may have?  Sacrificing in that manner seemed to be the model of the New Testament church.

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any
of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had" (Acts 4:32, NIV).

Imagine the resources that would be freed up if we simply did without one snack item a day and committed the money to feeding the poor.  Let’s see, the math is as follows..a dollar a day, times 365 days a year, equals 365 dollars a year per person.  If each of the 8 million members that attend a Sunday service in my denomination (Southern Baptist) did that, the total amount would be 2,920,000,000.  2 BILLION, 920 MILLION dollars.  It may not cure hunger, but it certainly would put a dent in it.

Just something to think the next time we eat that Mars bar…

Let Them Eat Dirt?

As I was scanning the internet for news, an interesting headline caught my eye…"Hungry Haitians Resort to Eating Dirt" .  I knew I must not be reading it correctly, so I clicked on the link
to investigate a little bit further.  Sadly, the headline accurately
described  the disturbing truth; because food prices are rising and
people make so little money, they are buying (YES, BUYING!!) dirt to be
able to make mud cookies to live on.

I
thought about the 3 good meals I had that day, and the numerous snacks
I didn’t need that I ate anyways and the abundant blessings and
resources God has provided to me, and it disturbed me that there should
be anyone that has to eat dirt to survive.  If we can’t be moved to
compassion, to examination, to repentance, to action when faced with
knowing there
are people around the world eating cookies made from dirt for dinner,
or worse yet, eating nothing at all and dying from hunger, then all we
have left is to pray.  To pray that God would examine our hearts that we might
regain the Lord’s compassion for the broken, bruised, wounded and weary
among us.  Jesus Himself said He came "…to preach the gospel to the
poor…" (Luke 4:18c, NKJV).  They are around us, among us, in need.
Our prayer…"Lord, give us compassion, mercy, grace and love to be an expression of
You in their midst."

Are Your Passions Getting You Dirty?

As
I was reading my email today, one of the multitude of advertising
banners that you see every day with your email caught my eye. It was
for the laundry detergent Wisk. It showed a picture of a shirt, and a
daily calendar that changed to three different events during the day.


The first was in the morning…"soy latte", and it showed a stain of
the soy latte on the shirt. The next was "dog park", which then showed
paw prints on the shirt as well. The final one was "pasta dinner", and
it showed the stain from the dinner as well. My first thought was, "Who
would wear that shirt all day with all those stains on it"? Then, the
slogan came…"Your passions get you dirty. Our power gets you clean".

As
Christians, we need to ask ourselves the question, "Are our passions
getting us dirty?" That is where Jesus lived His life, letting His
passion get Him dirty. He came to seek and to save that which was lost.
He allowed Himself to get dirty meeting the needs of others. He was
touched by unclean people (Matt. 8:18-22). He hung out with tax
collectors and sinners (Matt. 8:9-13). He let social norms fly out the
window to meet the woman at the well (John 4:1-26). He defended the
rights of the poor, the captives. the blind, the oppressed (Luke
4:18-19). He healed lepers by touching them and making Himself unclean
in the eyes of the religious establishment of the day (Luke 8:1-4).
Jesus got dirty, coming face to face with raw humanity. In Jesus’ day
it was the tax collectors and the lepers. Today, it is the homeless and
those with AIDS. We must get dirty to make a difference.

Our
response must be several fold. First, we must ask the question…what is
our passion? Is it to see the lost saved, the Kingdom of God grow, to
minister to those in need…or is it ease, convenience, power, money,
fame, fortune, safety.

We
then must ask, "Is our passion getting us dirty"? It has to be the
right passion, otherwise we spend our time building our lives on the
sand rather than the foundation. (Ps 127:1; 1 Cor. 3:10-15).

Then,
we need to "get dirty" in our efforts to see people come to know Jesus.
A clean church does a lost world no good. If our passions don’t get us
dirty, then His power won’t be able to have a chance to get a lost
world clean.