Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Helping the poor...What can we do?

I had an interesting experience today. For the last few days there has been a man standing at the end of the off ramp I use in traveling to my office. He stands as straight as he can in his rags with a cardboard sign written in black marker, “will work for food”. It is always a hard sight to see in life.

Today, I had stepped out during my lunch hour, and on the way back to the office I was finishing lunch in the car. As I took the exit and drove down the ramp, I once again saw this man. I have had more than my fill of my lunch by now, so I pull over and hand him a granola bar and yogurt. He very politely responded, “thank you brother.” Feeling the need to bring God into the picture I replied, “God bless you” and I drove off as a line of cars had built up behind me.

Driving away I thought what good were my actions.

“Sure, this man has a little more to eat.”

“Gee, I hope he has a spoon for the yogurt.”

“Maybe I should get a pizza and sit down with him for a while”

“What can really be done to bring change and hope into this man’s life?”

Connected to this event, last week a Pastor I work with shared with me a note he received from a man looking for some charity. The policy of the church is to help people once, and then continue to help them with the condition that they get involved in our church. The reasoning behind the policy is understandable. No organization can afford to be abused time and time again. Also the church understands change will only come from communion within the body of Christ. However, I do not think a homeless person could ever become involved at out church, nor the vast majority of suburban churches.

How would he receive information without a mailing address, or access to the internet? How would he bring the snack to small group? How would he get to small group? Who would have enough trust, or enough faith to let them into the house for small group?

The needs of a man like this are clearly different. Are they? In our pursuit to reach people through homogenized styled churches, what struggles could he share the other men would relate to in an accountability group?


This is the question I throw out there. My post is not an attack on my church or any other churched. I know that most people that belong to my church want to help this man, but we do not know how. We develop policies to protect us from abuse. Is not charity meant to be abused?

I have thought, we should invite him to live with us, move into the house until he gets back on his feet. This is a terrifying option, because he could be a thief, or worse. So where does faith come in for such a man?

What can we do? Homeless shelters seem to be a band aid on the problem. Christianity has traditionally been built upon the foundation of the meek and the poor. Even Jesus tells us he is homeless, with no place to lay his head. It seems the very people God gave the Kingdom to are being denied it.

So please help me, help us, what do we do?