Thursday, April 23, 2009

Styxx and Missy

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Art At Anawim

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Mole the Gardener


Jeff Strong who works at Anawim is a bold gardener, and he likes to get into dirt. Touch it, whatever. Reminds me of a certain character in Atlantis, a Disney film.
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Some Thoughts On Reform

A lot of people are interested in reforming the church, and I am certainly one of them. Perhaps we don’t all agree at exactly what this reform looks like, but we agree that it must be done. There is a lot of talk here, but little action. It is time to make some changes.

But what is the most effective agent for change? What is the catalyst that will bring about the necessary reform? Let’s look at some of the reforms of the past and see how it happens:

-We could begin with one small group of reformers and live radical lifestyles. Of course, by the next generation (or possibly even before that) the radical lifestyle will be compromised to such a degree as to be un-radical. And besides, people will just exalt us as “special” or “a saint” and so separate themselves from the change they need to have. (Francis of Assisi)

-We could train the poor the truth of living radically for Jesus and let them preach openly. We just need to hope that they don’t start a war. (John Wycliffe- Lombards; Peter Waldo- Waldensians)

-We could begin a really successful writing campaign that stirs the hearts of angry young men and women until they cause an upheaval in churches around the world. Of course, we had better not get politically involved or else we might find ourselves on one side of a battle. (Martin Luther)

-We could go from congregation to congregation, teaching a single, unified message that becomes an underground movement (John Wesley; missionary movement)

-We could have a top-down decision to make some radical Jesus changes. (Vatican II, Desmond Tutu in South Africa)

-We could take to the streets, to show mass support of our important cause (MLK Jr.)

-We could teach a message that is threatening to the powers that be and have them kill us, which will plant the seed for a future generation to make the changes necessary. (Jesus, Anabaptist reformers)

There are so many ways for it to be done successfully. We don’t want to hang our hopes on just one. Reform is multifaceted and powerful and it can be done in many ways.

However, there is one component that is necessary for reform to happen. We need to have a mass of people—not a majority, mind you, but a good amount—knowing that change is necessary and is ready to make sacrifices for the change. Every reform happens in seasons of discontent and usually oppression.

How can we have reform amidst complacency? How can we have reform amidst people who feel that writing on a blog is their contribution to real change? How can we have reform when cable, DVDs, and preachers keep us entertained and satisfied with our lives? Yes, oppression happens, and our answer to it is to “click here”, and so we feel that we’ve done our part.

There is slavery in the world, the oppression of the poor, AIDS is an epidemic, the U.S. is continuing to stir up war to solve their economic woes—and the only thing we can get stirred up about is medical insurance? Just to give you a hint—the people on the street don’t care about medical insurance. They want a safe place to sleep where they won’t be bothered by the police. The people in Darfur aren’t concerned about medical insurance so much as having their family members survive. And Jesus himself is less concerned about medical insurance as he is about equity between the wealthy and the poor—which the Mennonite church seems to have forgotten about. As well as the Methodists, the Waldensians, the Unitarians and whoever else.

There’s plenty to reform. But it won’t happen until we FEEL the anger. God Himself is yelling at the world leaders, saying, “How long will you judge unjustly And show partiality to the wicked? Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked…. You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes." And the psalmist replies, “Arise, O God, judge the earth!”

But we, the wealthy of the world are too caught up in our economic slowdown and the latest events on American Idol to feel the anger of God. We Mennonites are so fearful of experiencing that anger, of facing conflict, that we would rather take medication or slave-harvested chocolate to calm us down instead of changing the world as it should be changed.

This is why reform won’t happen. Not because of a wrong method. But because we lack empathy for the poor. And, as much work as I do for the poor, I have to admit that I am part of the problem myself.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Does It Mean To Be Poor

Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away. Being intentionally poor is telling others where to get their tooth fixed for free.

Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won’t hear you say “I get free lunch” when you get to the cashier.

Being poor is living next to the freeway in the most toxic part of the city. Being intentionally poor is doing so on purpose so you can live with your poor neighbors.

Being poor is wondering if your well-off family member is lying when he says he doesn’t mind when you ask for help.

Being poor is getting toys for your kids for free, from out of a dumpster or from the dollar store. Being intentionally poor is doing so with joy.

Being poor is a heater in only one room of the house. Being intentionally poor is welcoming that one room to the homeless outside your door.

Being poor is hoping your kids don’t have a growth spurt.

Being poor is not enough space for everyone who lives with you. Being intentionally poor is when you do get a place, it fills up right away.

Being poor is relying on people who don’t give a damn about you.

Being poor is stopping the car to take a lamp from a stranger’s trash. Being intentionally poor is regularly going through dumpsters in order to find good food for all those you know in need.

Being poor is people angry at you just for walking around in the mall.

Being poor is the police busting into the apartment right next to yours. And secretly being glad about it.

Being poor is hoping you’ll be invited for dinner. Being intentionally poor is inviting others to diner to share the poor fare you have.

Being poor is your kid’s teacher assuming you don’t have any books in your home. Or enough money to buy your kids decent clothes.

Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.

Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere. Being intentionally poor is knowing your work is doing some good.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually stupid.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually lazy.

Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a sick child asleep on your lap. Being intentionally poor is that same wait with a mentally ill friend.

Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that’s two extra packages for every dollar.

Being poor is needing to shop at Winco because it’s cheaper, but not being able to drive there because the gas or bus fare is too much.

Being poor is getting a fare hike on the bus to pay for a million dollar train to take the white collars to work.

Being poor is needing to buy a 800 dollar car with poor environmental quality and then being preached at because the car is “ruining the environment”. Being intentionally poor is having to make the decision between two sets of values.

Being poor is meeting everyone you know at the soup kitchen at second half of the month when you all run out of food stamps.

Being poor is getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful. Being intentionally poor is being grateful to God for what little you have.

Being poor is knowing which service worker is sincere, which is judging you and which hates her job.

Being poor is losing your job and getting an increase in your rent the same month, and so losing everything. Being intentionally poor is still having options when that happens.

Being poor is getting yelled at by the phone company because you can’t pay your bill and are calling to make arrangements.

Being poor is a cough that doesn’t go away. Being intentionally poor is giving your homeless friend a couch when the hospital tells him to leave the day after his surgery.

Being poor is working harder for less. Being intentionally poor is giving what little you have to those who have even less.

Being poor is a $200 paycheck advance from a company that takes $250 when the paycheck comes in.

Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so. Being intentionally poor is actually choosing poverty and knowing why.

Being poor is seeing how few options you have. Being intentionally poor is choosing to live with fewer options so that those who have no options may have some.


Countless times a day, homeless people are rejected, falsely accused, harassed, ticketed, and even beat up, all for the "crime" of not having a roof over their heads or of being dirty or of carrying all their possessions in a backpack. The homeless are treated as the outcast of society, as those at the bottom of the economic ladder. Yet the homeless are not the cause of the evils of our society. Nor are they necessarily the outcome of our evils. The homeless are people—people who want to live and love and hope and work, just like you do. Let us not continue to punish those who are lowly in our society, but help them.

Battle the cliches of the homeless

The homeless are "us", not "them"—Many of the homeless are good Christians or children of important citizens. Many of our neighbors and friends have been homeless at one time or another. Homelessness is not an evil, or even necessarily a tragedy—it is a stage of life that many of us have gone through.

The homeless DO work—While most do not have jobs, they do work hard, some harder than people who have "regular jobs". It is not easy to get up at 6am to get to dumpsters before anyone else and climb in many of them in order to get recycled cans. Other homeless volunteer at free hot meals and shelters.

Not all homeless are alcoholics—In general, about one third of the homeless have alcohol or drug abuse problems. Many more have mental health or social difficulties. Many have had tragedies that have overwhelmed them, such as a loss of a job or the suicide of a spouse or family member.

Not all homeless are criminals or violent—Most homeless abhor the crime and violence done by the few homeless who do because it gets them accused. The homeless have the same percentage of theft and violence as those who are housed.

Teach your children and the community not to hate the homeless.
The majority of violent crimes against the homeless are done by middle class youth who feel that they have the right to violently fulfill the prejudices of their parents and community. If our youth and community learn that the homeless are human—people like us—then such crimes will be reduced, even eliminated.

Meet and listen to homeless people
Find out the times and locations of local free meals and sit at the table with the homeless. Find out their real motivations and hopes and desires. You may find that they do not differ that much from your own. Be patient with a homeless person’s oddness—you seem just as odd to them.

Include the homeless in social events
Invite the homeless to community and church functions. However, because many of them do not believe that they would be welcome, certain assurances must be made:
It is not necessary to be well-dressed for the function.
It may be necessary to provide transportation to and from the event.
An announcement may be necessary to make sure that everyone is accepting of the homeless.

Support benevolence organizations that assist the homeless
Volunteer at a free meal, give to an organization that helps the homeless, give blankets and clothes to a shelter. Call a local church to find out where you can help the homeless. As you give and volunteer be a friend to those you are helping—seeing and meeting them— not a distant, nameless Benefactor.

Provide opportunities for the homeless
Provide what the homeless REALLY need—opportunities to shower, socks, clean clothes, an address, a chance to work for money, a chance to do volunteer work for others. Be a friend to the homeless and help them get the resources they need.

What The Bible Says About The Poor

No matter how great you think you are, if you oppress the poor, God will crush you and make you die. (Psalm 82)

Those who oppress the poor will die at God’s hand, but the righteous poor will be given the wealth of the wicked. (Psalm 37)

The society that listens to God’s word and provides for the poor will have no poor among them. However, because of the disobedience of his people, the poor will always be among the people. (Deuteronomy 15:4-11)

While many love the rich, even the neighbor of the poor hates them. If you hate your neighbor in need, you sin, but if you help the poor, God blesses you. (Proverbs 14:20-21)

The Creator will punish the one who mocks the poor. (Proverbs 17:5)

Sell what you have and give to the poor. (Luke 12:33)

Invite the poor to your parties and events. (Luke 14:13)

Associate with the lowly, treating them as equals, and so love your neighbor as yourself. (James 2:1-8)

The one who is kind to the poor is giving a loan to God and God will repay in time. (Proverbs 19:17)

Until the poor are assisted, God will not listen to our prayers. But after we do justice to the oppressed, then the Lord will answer our cries. (Isaiah 58:6-11)

The economics of God is that those who have more than what they need give to those who have need, so that everyone’s need is met. At another time, one who was given to will give to those who gave, so all give and all receive in their need. (II Corinthians 8:12-15)

When you give, give out of compassion and care for the other person’s need, or it does you no good. (I Corinthians 13:3)

When you give to the poor, do it for God’s sake, not for your own benefit so others will be impressed or give you benefit for your giving. If you give to be rewarded by men, you will receive nothing from God for your work. (Matthew 6:1-3)

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Dangerous Medium

Good morning, my brothers. I am honored that you have chosen me to speak to you, the All-Wealthy Fathers Under Liberty, for I have been concerned about our plight for some time. We have been subjected to oppression long enough! (Cheers in the crowd.) I was shocked last week to hear Brother Steven’s speech on hate crime in motion pictures. Up until this point, I have enjoyed the James Bond movies—but no more. Now I understand that they are simply anti-rich propaganda, intended to throw suspicion upon the good brothers who have worked hard to obtain their wealth. How dare they make Dr. No or the other villains wealthy? All of them? Clearly, just as our brother has pointed out, it is simple prejudice and jealousy! (More cheers.) I thank Brother Arnold for his insider’s view and especially for his work in banning these films, as well as any others which portray the wealthy according to stereotypes, instead of the truly honorable men we are. Let the media put the specter of suspicion where it belongs—on the government and the poor! (More cheers.) Let us bring back more wholesome programming, such as Schindler’s List and The Millionaire! (More cheers.)

As serious as the prejudice found in movies is, there is yet another, more insidious cultural influence that we must be concerned about. Movies and magazines, television and newspapers, and, of course, the internet—all have their various forms of prejudice and oppression against the rich and all need to be influenced, such as our Brother Rupert, Brother Ted and Brother Bill have done. But there is another, greater influence that has been all but overlooked. There is a medium that has been influential, not just for decades, a century or a century and a half, but for millennia! It has been used by the enemies of the rich, oppressing us and destroying us since time immemorial! It is the cause of many of the wars against the rich—The Lombard uprising of the 1400s in England, the Thirty Years War in Germany in the 1500s, and it is still used as a primary inspiration of the communists in Latin America today! And while you may think that these events are too out of touch with our current structure, I need to inform you that this medium—this dangerous piece of literature—is in the majority of homes in the United States. Right now. And many of you have read this book, yea, even quoted this book. By now, you have probably guessed what I am speaking about, but you dare not say its name, nor even think it. Yes, that’s right, I am speaking of the Bible—the New Testament in particular.

Perhaps some of you are ready to stand up and speak against me now, because I am speaking ill of a book that you hold so dear. Perhaps some are ready to walk out on me, because much of your wealth—the very reason you are here—has come in part because of your talent in speaking on this particular book. I do not begrudge your use of it, Brothers—especially our dear Brother Robert and Brother Benny. I appreciate your skill and tact in opening this book and carefully directing the thoughts of those who read it. You religious leaders have been essential to our cause, and our most important supporters! You have succeeded to make wealth popular and important among your people with greater success than any of us have! We thank you for your work! (Clapping throughout the hall.)

But we must also recognize how dangerous this book is. The Bible is a complex and multi-faceted piece of literature. It is sixty-six different books, written by a variety of authors over at least a thousand years. Their perspectives vary, as do the issues they discuss. With this, there is much for anyone to expound upon with safety. There are examples of wealthy people who are heroes in this collection of scrolls—Abraham, Jacob, Boaz, Job, Solomon and Esther. However, even these are marginal victories. Abraham and Job are seen as righteous, not because of their wealth, but because of their generosity, faith and sacrifice. Boaz is righteous for assisting a poor, illegal immigrant. Solomon is famous for his wisdom, but ultimately rejected for his disobedience of God’s law and idolatry. Esther is of an oppressed racial minority, which is the real focus of her story. And Jacob is displayed as obtaining his wealth through deceit and the power of God, and suffering greatly in his later life because of his trickery early in his life.

In the Old Testament, where all of these stories take place, there are dangerous themes that crop up now and again. We have a sympathetic woman, gaining a child after praying for so many years, saying, “The weapons of the powerful are cast down and the weak take up strength.” One of the many psalmists say, “Better is the little of the righteous than the wealth of the wicked.” In the book of Proverbs it says, “Give me neither poverty nor wealth, lest I become arrogant and say, ‘Who is God?’” Another psalmist says, “These are the wicked who have increased in wealth.”

In the prophets of the Old Testament, the danger to us increases. Ezekiel says that the sins of Sodom is that the city was wealthy and arrogant, refusing to help the poor and needy. Jeremiah says that the wealthy in his day became so because of deceit. Micah claims that the rich of his day were “full of violence”. Of course, this is blatant prejudice, painting all the wealthy with the same stroke. Nevertheless, the Old Testament is not problematic overall. None of these passages must be thought of as speaking of the rich in general. While there seems to be a theme—especially that of obtaining wealth through violence and deceit—it is not consistent, and we can avoid such pitfalls by our Bible-brokers speaking of these cases as being rare, while most wealthy are good and right before God.

The real problem comes in the New Testament. This is a revolutionary text, and I do not mean that positively. It is speaking from the perspective of the disorderly elements of society, those that disrupt the proper flow of economics and authority. As many of us well know, it is within this tome of subversive writers that we have a few passages that support the lower classes being in submission to the upper classes—and this is as it should be. However, it is always spoken of in the context of the upper classes oppressing and harming the lower classes. The New Testament has nothing good to say about us, brothers.

Let us take, for example, a brief letter to various churches, written by the brother or cousin of Jesus, James, or perhaps by his students. James was an important figure in the early church and his word was considered law by many groups of this fledgling— but revolutionary— religious movement. He had much to say about us, my brothers—and none of it was good. Listen to this: “The poor brother should be glad for his high position, and the wealthy should be glad for his lowly position, for even as a flower in bloom will soon fade and become ugly, so will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuit of wealth.” Again, listen to this: “God chose the poor of this world to be rich in faith… but it is the wealthy that drag you into court and oppress you.” (A few gasps in the midst of a shocked silence.) But this is not all. This so-called “just” James dares to make yet another, horrible, prejudicial remark. This is difficult for me to read, and it is extremely shocking, so please be prepared for it: “Weep and howl, you rich, for your miseries are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are destroyed. Your gold and silver have rusted, and it’s rust is a witness against you in God’s judgment. The laborers you have hired are crying out against you for you have withheld their wages and it will be heard by the Lord of the harvest. You have lived… luxuriously on earth…” I’m sorry, I’m trying… “and you have… fattened yourself for the day of slaughter.” (Stunned silence.)

I hope you are outraged as much as I am. This is blatant hate speech. It is more forthrightly prejudiced against us than almost anything I have ever heard or read, except perhaps that despicable song by Aerosmith. And if it was only in the letter of James—which our Brother Martin Luther called a “right straw epistle”—then perhaps it could be bearable. The book is small, it could be avoided.

But who can avoid Jesus? Yet Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor for yours is the kingdom of heaven. But woe to you who are rich for you have already received your comfort! Woe to you who are well fed, for you shall go hungry! Woe to you who are entertained now, for you shall weep!” It is Jesus who says, “No one can serve two masters, either he will love the one and hate the other. No one can serve both God and wealth.” It is Jesus who says, “Sell all your possessions and give to the poor, and then you will have treasure in heaven.” It is Jesus who says, “None of you can be my disciple unless you renounce all of your possessions.” It is Jesus who says, “You say ‘I am wealthy, I have need of nothing,’ but you do not see that you are poor and blind and wretched and miserable and naked.”

Do you not see? The real enemy of our cause in this so-called Holy Writ is not James, but Jesus himself. It is Jesus that enacted the change that turned the Bible from a humble critic of the excess of the unrighteous rich to an attack on all of us! These terrible, poor-loving, deceptive words, in blatant opposition to the equality of rich men everywhere were spoken by the founder of the Jesus movement himself! I know that many of you scholars might be saying, “Well, Jesus may not have said that,” or, “there are certianly other interpretations.” Of course there are. Of course there are doubts. But the clear reading of the text is impossible to deny when brought all together.

Allow me to repeat a couple main points. This book is dangerous. It works directly against our cause, and influences the simple minded to be prejudiced against the wealthy. Secondly, this book is in the majority of American homes! There are people who read from this book daily! Worst of all, there are many who actually believe this book to be God’s own Word and so might very well believe what it says. Now, we know, Brothers, that God supports us and our cause—let there be no question about that. God has granted us our wealth and so wants us to rule the world and influence the people with it. And so God has given us a commission—we must subvert the clear meaning of this book. It is a book filled with despicable lies that will tear down the fabric of our very society. And so we must continue the work accomplished so boldly by our forefather Thomas Jefferson.

We must discourage the reading of this book as much as possible. If the masses are to read anything, let them read the relatively safe Old Testament. Even better, we must follow in the ways of our Muslim brothers and claim through our media that both New and Old Testaments have been superseded by greater, better, teaching. The best, most popular teaching are the new ethics based upon scientific principles. This allows us to support an ethics that are based on positive, capitalistic principles. In this way, the hate speech may be muted, and we will regain our former glory and honor that we deserve to have.

I see my time is up. Thank you for your apt attention, brothers. (Wild applause breaks out.)

Top Ten Excuses for Not Giving To The Poor

1. "They are stealing from hard working people"— Keeping one’s possessions secure They just want to take advantage of me

2. "They need to get a job"— They are just lazy

3. "I’m up to my eyeballs in debt."— I don’t have any extra

4. "My family comes first"—I need to care for my own first

5. "The poor will be with us always"—The need is so big, who can fix it?

6. "They’ll just use it for drugs and alcohol"— They will use what I give for evil purposes

7. "I worked for my money"—I can use my wealth as I please

8. "I need to be a good steward of God’s money"—Giving to the poor is a waste of resources

9. "Is it the right thing to do?" Money doesn’t really help them anyway

And the only real excuse that I've never heard:
10. It’s too much work to do it right

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wealth and the Revolution

All institutions are based on wealth. The economics of the wealth—how the resources are moved and who controls them—change with the times and with each society. But wealth is instrumental to how institutions and powerful people operate. Ancient institutions we primarily about the collection of wealth and the distribution of it to the powerful. Nothing much has changed. As can be seen in any corporation or government, the bottom line is always about finances—who gets what wealth.

Revolution always promises to change the system of how wealth is distributed. And it always says that the lower classes will gain more wealth. And sometimes that is true. Until the lower classes become the upper classes and then suddenly they want to keep the newly-gained income they’ve achieved through their hard work. People are people, no matter which side of the tracks their on and they want to gain and keep as much wealth as they can.

Jesus is proposing a new system of distributing wealth.

The Revolution Jesus is proposing is prepared to punish anyone who uses their wealth strictly for their own gain and pleasure. In other words, anyone who has excess wealth—money or possessions that are not needed, possibly termed "disposable income"—and they use it for their own gain when there are those who have need, they will be punished. Those who keep resources for their own greed will not be accepted in a system that focuses on meeting the needs of everyone.

When the Revolution comes, they will first take all the "rich"—all those who used their disposable income for their own gain—and they will either punish or exile all of them. Then the Revolution will punish everyone who uses wealth in a way that harms those around them. These punishments will be quite severe, for the use of wealth and resources for everyone who has need is a basic tenant of the Revolution.
This does not mean that fun will not be had. Perhaps you think of the Revolution as a peasant revolution, where everyone is miserable and living on almost nothing. Just the opposite. The Revolution will be characterized by parties and feasts. The only difference between these parties and feasts and the ones you see now is that in the Revolution, the parties will not be exclusive. They are for everyone and all races, all languages, all kinds, all peoples will be involved in them.

And so, as an ethic in preparation for the coming Revolution, Jesus strongly recommends that you take any extra provision you have—any extra money or possession that you have—and use it for those who have need. Perhaps you will allow those who have need to use what you have through loans or shared use. Perhaps you will sell what you have and make the income available to those in need. Perhaps you will just give things away. But take care that you do not just collect and keep for yourself what is not necessary.

The Revolution is coming!

Parable of the Good Christian

Once there was a good Christian man who was wealthy. He would read his Bible daily, praise God every Sunday and he treated his family well. Every day he would walk to his office from his house.

One day, as he was walking to his office, he saw a man in disheveled, dirty clothes, holding a sign which said, "Homeless—anything will help." The disheveled man looked, pleading with the Christian with his eyes. The Christian turned his head, saying to himself, "He needs to get a job instead of bothering good people on the street."

The next day the Christian saw a filthy woman holding a sign which said, "Pregnant and homeless, please help." She asked him, "Could you spare a few dollars so I could get a motel room," he replied, "Isn’t there a shelter you could go to?" And he passed her by.

The next day the Christian saw a man with brown skin sitting on the sidewalk with one leg missing. The man asked with a deep accent, "Could you please assist me in any way?" The Christian became upset with all of these interruptions of his pleasant morning meditation, and he yelled, "Can’t you people just leave me alone? Why don’t you just go back where you came from?"

As he walked into his office on that third day, the Christian had a heart attack and died. The angels picked him up and delivered him immediately (or so it seemed to him) to the Father for judgment. The Father looked down at him and said, "This week you have been tested. I sent you three of my angels, to see how you would respond to them. I have brought them here to witness to your action."

The first angel, no longer disheveled, but wearing white robes said, "This Christian refused to help me." The second angel, no longer dirty, said, "He told me to find a shelter, but offered no help." The third angel, with his leg fully intact, said, "This Christian told me to go back where I came from. So I am here. He refused to help me." The Father looked at the man and judged: "You have done evil to your brothers and sisters. I gave you many blessings, and you refused to help those in need. You will be punished eternally."

As the enforcement officers came to take the Christian away, he called to the Father, "But Lord, Lord—what about my family? Shouldn’t they be given a chance? Please send one of these angels to them to explain to them their sin so they can repent." The Father replied, "Do they not read my Word daily? If they ignore the one who has been risen from the dead, they will not listen to an angel."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Homeless Evicted

This is an article published on the End Homelessness site:

How to Distmantle a Tent City
by Shannon Moriarty

Published April 15, 2009 @ 06:55PM PST

It was a reporter's dream: a state with a Hollywood governor, a city with a former NBA star Mayor. In the shadows of that city's skyscrapers, along the banks of the River America, lay a modern day "Hooverville." In recent months, this tent city scituated on the outskirts of Sacramento attracted non-stop media attention- domestic, international, and Oprah- as the "face of the American economic crisis."

But today, this encampment of 150 to 200-or-so homeless people (most of them chronically homeless) is gone. Mayor Kevin Johnson ordered its removal last Thursday. Today, the last of the people who called this tent city home have no choice but to move on.

Despite the media fascination with Sacramento's tent city, life for its residents has not been easy, according to the LA Times:

The tent city sprawls along the river in small clusters of ersatz neighborhoods. Walker and her neighbor, Charly Hine, 38, have pitched their tents at the distant edge to stay away from noise and trouble.

Gibson's tent is in a separate, small, neat grouping. One neighbor displays an American flag and a goose with the word "welcome" on its breast. It is a favorite subject, its owner says, of news photographers. Another has a mailbox and a gate.

The largest and most raucous neighborhood is composed of about 70 tents closest to the street.

Near noon, Tammie and Keith Day are drinking beer around a cold fire pit, worrying about how she'll get her diabetes medication and fretting about whether officials will shutter the tent city.

"We're homeless and being evicted?" Tammie fumes. "Now I've heard everything."

Clearly, the media glare has left Mayor Kevin Johnson uncomfortable and unsure of how to handle the situation. After an countless of meetings and summits, he announced that the current tent city would be closed. At the same time, he announced, the city is considering the feasibility of a permanent homeless encampment and looking to increase the number of city shelter beds.

Right. First clear out the tent city and then decide what you're going to do with the people. Makes perfect sense.

Suffice to say, Sacramento homeless advocates are not happy. In fact, things got heated today as the clearing out got underway, according to the Sacramento Bee:

Sister Libby Fernandez of Loaves & Fishes, which provides services to homeless men, women and children, led a group of advocates demanding a moratorium on camping citations and pushing for a place where people can camp legally and with basic services including toilets and garbage pickup.

"We've been campaigning for this for more than a year," she said. "Now we're back to square one again."

Fernandez and others said they will engage in nonviolent "civil disobedience" if campers are forced to leave, and will risk going to jail to make their point.

So the big question that remains is this: where are these evicted homeless campers going to live?

The answer? Another tent city, of course.

Most of the 150-200 campers are moving just a short walk down the American River levee to a growing tent city (Sacramento Tent City Version 2.0, we'll call it). Although the encampment is on private property, police stay it still violates the city's law against camping. Could this mean it's just a matter of time before these homeless people are evicted again?

You know what they say. You can take the people out of tent city, but you can't take the tent away from the people.

Stay tuned... this story isn't over yet.

Monday, April 13, 2009

"Jesus Was A Bum" "Some thoughts on Homelessness"

Two excellent poems from Street Roots, a local street paper in Portland:

Jesus Was A Bum
by Tobiah Tillman

Where do we find Jesus son this cluttered earth?
AS a bastard child He was in His birth.
Born out of wedlock, (gasp) Oh my God!
Destined to be struck down by Satan's rod.

Who was this half man that you follow?
His flesh you eat and His blood you swallow.
Did you know He was homeless and dirty?
Did you you He didn't live much past thirty?

A man born a fugitive to a crazy empire.
He called himself lliving water not holy fire.
A man of love, not a man of hate.
Sacrifice and suffering was this man's fate.

He washed our feet, we spit in His face.
We erected a Wall-Mart in providence place.
We worship the offering and forget the Lord.
When I got to His house I fall asleep bored.

We worship a man who hung out with whores,
And kicked it with lepers, healing their sores.
Did you know Jesus was just a simple hobo?
Yeah? Well how many of them do you actually know?

"Some Thoughts On Homelessness"
by Gimel Gaiah

Why did that street kid call me family?
Why did the rich man just peel a 20 dollar bill and
give it to me out of his wallet?
Why is it hard to look people in the eyes why you
are a stranger to them?
Why did that lady just give me cookies?
Why did that lady give me clothes and a scarf?
Why did she give me such a sweet smile, and he?
I am homeless. Why is all this happening?
A man walks up with 2 huge bags, one full of shoes,
the other a tent, he asks if I am truly homeless and
would I like these items.
All my life I never imagined this.
Love for a new family of understanding life.
I see the love everywhere, on all street corners.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Meet Tony

Please watch this short video of Tony as he explains how he needs to panhandle to make ends meet.

Many people say that panhandlers only are after drugs or alcohol. But that simply isn't true. A job isn't always the best option for everyone (even if you could get one). Many people who struggle with alcoholism or drug abuse, if they get a job, they have a lot of money in their pocket and 40 hours of stress a week-- a recipe for relapse, if there ever was one!

Tony works when he can, panhandles when he must. He explains how much he might get and how the economy effects the amount.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Should This Man Be Head of ANY Church?

I originally posted this at YAR--

I have been involved in some pretty strange things—a church planter of an all-homeless/mentally ill congregation; encouraging leaders of a mosque in Bangladesh to re-think Jesus; dumpster diving for Jesus, and so recently becoming the poster child for dumpster diving in Portland (Check out and read a recent article about me—heck, just look at the pics!). Stuff like that. But when I got a call from MCUSA a week ago, that took the cake.

Someone nominated me to be the Executive Director of MCUSA.

At first I figured it must be a joke. Who would, in their right mind, think that I—radical pastor who has to bite his tongue every time he speaks to a middle class person—would make a good Executive Director? Someone just did it for a lark, I thought. Or perhaps I was recommended by someone who just wanted to shake things up. Well, that would do it. Me as taking Jim Schrag’s place? Just unthinkable.

But some of my friends weren’t so sure. They thought it was not such a crazy idea after all, but fascinating. My wife looked over the qualifications in the packet I received and she said, “Actually, you pretty much qualify for the position.” Scary. And perhaps MCUSA needs a little shaking up. And it isn’t like I wouldn’t work with whomever God gave me.

In thinking about it, I thought about the things I could stir up, changes I might be able to initiate in the church:

1. While continuing the focus of antiracism, I could also encourage MCUSA to welcome another significant group that are without a voice in MCUSA: the lower class. For many different reasons, those who are poor or uneducated aren’t given an equal opportunity to speak out in the Church, conferences or in most congregations. I would want to champion their cause, to allow them to have a voice where they currently have no voice.

2. I would want to service agencies to be more missional and missional agencies to be more service-oriented.

3. As an aspect of following Jesus, I could encourage the following programs:
-A church-wide memorization program of Jesus’ words
-Discussion groups on Jesus’ words and life, investigating the meaning of Jesus’ words and pursuing the living of them out

4. I could invite leaders from the Mennonite church all around the world—for instance, Columbia, Vietnam, India, Congo, Ethiopia, and Germany— to talk in our churches and to our conferences. We can only become a world-wide church if we participate in and interact with the world.

5. I could try to help us balance our church and conference budgets by encouraging volunteerism, discouraging restructuring, and using technology to try to reduce costs.

6. I would directly challenge MCUSA and its congregations to be less nationalistic. This could mean a name change for the Church, as well as seeking out means to be politically involved that does not involve partisan dichotomies.

7. Encourage educational opportunities that teach how to create peace and love. I would encourage the Mennonite schools to have outreach courses not taught by professionals, but by those who have been involved in ongoing acts of love in challenging areas. For instance we can have an MCCer teach about cross cultural communication in an urban setting; a CPTer teaching about how to deal with an angry person; and perhaps someone who has been working with the homeless teaching about how a church can begin to be pastoral to the poor, etc.

8. I would want to encourage the development of new monastic-type communities, who could then become full members of every conference.

9. I would attempt to create contexts in which the church can openly talk about controversial issues, like LGTBQ

10. I would want to introduce the idea of stewardship as being giving to people’s needs in a way that creates relationship, instead of money being a replacement for relationship.

One thing is certain: I never lack for new ideas.

However, as tempting as it would be, I think it would be wrong for me to apply for the position.

First of all, my own church, Anawim, is not yet ready to stand without me, because of inadequate leadership (although in another year, it may be.) Also, I couldn’t in good conscience put my name forward as long as a woman has not yet been moderator of MCUSA.

But most of all, I do not actually represent MCUSA, nor, I think, could I ever (unless it changes considerably). The Executive Director position is as much as anything supposed to be the voice and face of MCUSA. Even if I got a haircut, I don’t think I fit the bill. Finally, I am more of a prophetic, even challenging voice, and the members of the church are much more used to leaders who are conciliatory. I don’t think MCUSA is ready for me. Maybe next time around, eh?

I still think it sounds funny.

De Pauperum

A nice blog on a church just beginning to be involved in ministry to the homeless in their parking lot.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Bible's Answer to the Recession

This is by Chad Taylor. It was sent to me by Mark Woodson, who was the head of the Sonnyside Coffee House for many years, feeding the homeless.

As the machinery of conference and meetings marches on the growing dilemma in our cities and streets grows. When I arrived in Sacramento, CA. on Friday March 20th the headlines in the city newspaper's front page read, "Tent City to be Moved..." I read further of the stunning and heartbreaking story of literally thousands of homeless men, women and children that ironically enough were camped next to the American River with the skyline of Sacramento in the distance. Nearly 2000 lived outside of the state Capitol in what is now being dubbed, "Tent City".

As we found the entrance to this sprawling landscape of tents as far as the eye could see we were dumbstruck. What was billed as a "prophetic conference" turned into a major outreach into a quickly growing tragedy on the backdrop of the American experience. As I travelled to our conference in Fresno, CA. after our week in Stockton the headlines on the front page of the New York Times blazed the news of Fresno and its homeless shanty towns and what some are calling, "Hoovervilles" reminiscent of the 30's and 40's during the Great Depression. What we saw in Fresno was shocking. Literally, tents filled the downtown streets and homeless of all ages, color and gender wandered the streets like a war zone.

Oprah Winfrey in her extensive expose on the homeless boom in America and especially the "Tent City" in Sacramento, CA. has called it, "The new faces of the Homeless" and the increasing number of families and working class people that have been laid off of work, lost their homes to foreclosure and have no other alternative but the streets. As we walked through the endless tents and saw the daunted tear stained faces our hearts were broken. Saturday night at our conference in Fresno, CA. 5 homeless people from Tent City joined us in worship as the alters filled with our cries for the streets of America. 4 more came the next day for Sunday morning and Sunday night. We grabbed the torch from Heaven for the harvest and lifted up our voices for the streets of America - and we went...

"He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way. Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock." Ps. 107:40

My message to California was simple, God does have a "Bail out plan" and it's the poor and homeless that litter our sidewalks. God has a bail out plan for every city, church and family in America if we will give heed to it. It's not just "evangelism, charity, or empathy" it truly is the only guarantee out of what statistics clearly point to as a economic crisis that could reach historic proportions. Read carefully the promises below and ask God to make them a reality in your life:

He that has pity on the poor lends to the Lord and that which he has given He will repay." Prov. 19:17
Blessed is he that considers the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth." Ps 42:1-3
He that gives to the poor shall not lack, but he that hides his eyes shall have many curses..." Prov. 28:27
But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed..."Luke 14:13-14

If we respond correctly no recession or depression can touch us. God promises us that as we relieve the needs of the poor "He will repay" and "deliver us in trouble". It can be concluded that much of what we are facing now is because we DID NOT meet the needs of our poor and brought the curses mentioned in Prov. 28:27 to our cities and nation. Below you will find more of God's heart on this growing tragedy in America -

He that oppresses the poor to increase his riches, and he that gives to the rich, shall surely come to want. Prov. 22:16
The Rich man's wealth is his strong city: the destruction of the poor is their poverty. Prob. 10:15
He that oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.
Prov. 14:31
Revival and the new buzz word, "glory" is not complex or some road lined with gold. Revival is a result of the cries of the poor coupled with the cries of the church that is not so self-absorbent and self-exalted that they cannot see their great need of God's grace and power. God makes if very clear in the Bible that the key to open the floodgates of His power and glory is the poor and the needy not the rich and content -
"When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water." Isa 41:17-18

The road to glory is not lined with excessiveness and Christian extremes but rather the poor in spirit and the poor in body. The "glory" often seen and experienced today is not a divine glory but rather a self induced one underwritten by self proclaimed prophets that have no power to make a lasting impact on the cities they parade their goods in. The poor get poorer and the hungrier get hungrier. The time is coming when there will be no excuses left for why we never reached out to them in our convocations of excess and the preaching of a experiential gospel rather than the message of the Cross of Jesus Christ. The greatest call from God today is leaders and ministers that will make up a hedge and lead the people from the prayer lines to the front lines.

"The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully. And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God." Ezek 22:29-31

Our only recourse now is to exit the prayer lines and start a bread line. To hand out water, feed the poor and minister to the growing population of homeless humanity the awesome power of Jesus Christ. We are a nation hanging in the balances and God's word is clear how we can swing the pendulum from disaster to blessing -

"And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in." Isa 58:10-12

Find your "Tent City" and take time out in every conference in America to send out teams and find the increasing number of poor and disenfranchised in your streets. Transform your meetings into major outlets of revival and blessing and turn back the curses that are already reeking havoc in the epi-centers of this nation. No one is exempt; it is a clarion call to every church, ministry and alleged revival meeting in America.
"Whoso stops his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself but shall not be heard..." Prov. 21:13

** Visit our NEW YouTube sight for Chad Taylor and Consuming Fire and see the LIVE VIDEOS FROM TENT CITY in Fresno and Sacramento. It will break your heart and propel you to action- LINK:

Saturday, April 4, 2009

"Get A Job"

Many people think that the homeless should just "get a job". The homeless, especially in holding signs looking for money or work will be told this. However, it is very difficult for the homeless to get a job. I had been planning on writing an essay on this, but Steven Samra has done it for me! Check this out:

Bible Basics on Social Justice

For those who are interested in developing a biblical theology of the poor, here's a good place to start: Look up all these passages!

Basic justice:
Exodus 23:2-3
Leviticus 14:21
Leviticus 19:15
Leviticus 25
Deuteronomy 24:14-15
II Samuel 12:1-6
Psalm 72:12-14
Isaiah 11:1-8

God’s provision to the poor:
Exodus 15:23-16:36
Psalm 145:15-16
Psalm 146
Matthew 6:25-34
Luke 18:2-8

The Plight of the Needy
Proverbs 13:23
Proverbs 14:20
Proverbs 18:23
Proverbs 19:4, 7
Proverbs 22:7
Proverbs 28:15
Proverbs 30:7-9
Ecclesiastes 5:8
Ecclesiastes 9:15-16

Acting with Generosity to the poor:
Genesis 18
Deuteronomy 15
Psalm 41:1-3
Proverbs 14:21, 31
Proverbs 19:17
Proverbs 22:9
Proverbs 28:27
Proverbs 29:7
Daniel 4:27
Isaiah 58:1-12
Matthew 6:19-34
Matthew 25:31-46
Mark 14:3-9
Luke 12:33-34
Luke 14:12-14
Luke 16:1-13
Luke 19:8-9
Acts 2:43-45
Acts 4:32-37
I Corinthians 13:3
II Corinthians 8:1-9:15
Galatians 2:10
I Timothy 6:17-19
Hebrews 13:1-3
James 1:27-2:13

Respect to the poor
Genesis 18:1-
Proverbs 17:5
James 2:1-12

God’s deliverance of the oppressed:
Genesis 19 and Ezekiel 16:49
Exodus 2:23-25
Exodus 5-15
Exodus 22:21-27
Psalm 22
Psalm 34:6
Psalm 37
Psalm 73
Psalm 82
Psalm 107
Psalm 146
Proverbs 21:13
Proverbs 22:16, 22-23
Isaiah 10:1-4
Isaiah 40
Isaiah 52-53
Jeremiah 5:26-29
Ezekiel 22:29-31
Amos 5:11-12
Zechariah 7:9-14
Matthew 6:2-4
Matthew 11:1-5
Mark 3:1ff
Mark 10:46-52
Luke 4:18-21
Luke 6:24-26
Luke 16
Luke 18:2-8
Romans 12:14-21
James 1:9-11
James 5:1-5
Revelation 6:9-11
Revelation 18:1-24

Warning against stinginess/greed:
Deuteronomy 15
Deuteronomy 24:14-15
Matthew 25:41-46
Mark 10:17-30
Luke 12:15-21
Luke 16:19-31
Acts 5:1-11
I Timothy 6:9-11
Revelation 3:14-22

God’s call to the outcast and lowly:
Genesis 50:15-21
Proverbs 19:1
Proverbs 19:22
Proverbs 20:13
Proverbs 21:17
Proverbs 28:3
Proverbs 28:6
Ecclesiastes 4:13
Isaiah 40
Matthew 5:3-12
Matthew 10:7-8
Matthew 21:28-32
Mark 2:13-17
Mark 4:17
Mark 12:42-44
Luke 4: 18-19 (Isaiah 61:1-4)
Luke 14:16-24
Luke 15:1-7
Luke 18:9-14
Luke 19:1-10

Calling to be poor:
Genesis 12:1-9
Genesis 22
Judges 7
Matt 6:19-34/Luke 12:22-34
Matthew 10:5-42/Luke 9
Luke 6:20-24
Luke 14:26-33

The Exaltation of the Outcast/needy:
I Samuel 2:6-8
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Psalm 113:5-8
Luke 1:46-55
Luke 14:8-11
Philippians 2:1-11
James 1:9-11

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Meditations on Righteous Indegnation

When working with the homeless it is easy to be angry. It is easy to look at those who have and say, "Why are you so selfish!" It is easy to look at the poor who take advantage of each other and to yell at them for the fact that they are dragging their own brother down. It is easy to be angry at oneself for not doing enough. There is so much stress and sorrow all around, it is easy to despair, to give up, to give in to the cultural pressures of greed and an easy life.

This is why I found this meditation by Richard Dahlstrom so helpful:

He reflects on one of my favorite books, The Brother's Karamozov, and my very favorite character, Father Z. But he pulls something out of the book I had never considered myself.

Also, in this theme, we should always remember Psalm 73. See my commentary on this here:

Meditation: Fyodor speaks...

Watch a little 60 minutes, or read a little news these days and there's a good chance you'll become angry at someone, or some political party, or some bank CEO, or maybe someone named Bernie. The anger and fear that are coursing through our culture right now are dangerous at many levels. Give in to these fleeting emotions (and it is remarkably easy to do so these days), and they become the soil for bitterness, greed, and isolation. These emotions, and the actions that stem from them, end up spilling into the world with the result that we become part of the problem rather than part of the solution, losing our saltiness; hiding our lights.

That's why the words of Father Zossima from The Brothers Karamazov, are so timely. I offer them, italicized, with my own prayers after each word.

If the evil doings of men move you to indignation and overwhelming disrress, even to a desire for vengeance on the evildoers, shun above all things that feeling.

Grant, O Lord, that I might see with Your eyes when my heart is moving toward the dark spaces of bitterness, anger, and judgment. And seeing these things that are destructive, bring conviction, that I might be quick to turn away.

Fear not the great nor the mighty, but be wise and serene.

It's easy, O Lord, to feel as if we're victims, tossed about by the whims of those in power. Thank you for the truth that we are, in spite of the stormy seas and whims of men, safest when we are in your arms. May we learn to dwell there with ever increasing steadfastness, and in so dwelling, know your peace and rest.

Love all men. Love everything. Water the earth with the tears of your joy and love those tears.

Yes Lord. Zossima was right. Open my eyes to see your glory, resplendent as always, even in these trying times. The new blossoms arise from the earth, testimony of your sustenance and hints of greater beauty yet to come. The cat is at rest, oblivious to the strivings of humanity. The days grow longer. The sunlight and shadows on the firs testify that you continue to uphold the earth, that beauty still exists, that provision still comes from you, that all shall be well. Give me eyes to see what is so easily seen when I but look - the beauty of the earth. Thank you for tears of joy that come when your beauty, seen in your creation, pierces my heart. Amen

It's all a matter, it seems, of where we choose to fix our gaze. Ah yes, it's wise to read the news, prudent to take action. But we would do well to see the light and shadows, the cat, the blossom, the hints of life bursting forth, for these are the shoutings of our good God intended to bless and fortify our souls.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tagging the Homeless

On The End Homelessness Blog:

Earlier this week, dozens of police and code enforcement officers descended upon a California tent city, separating those who could stay from those to be evicted with colored wristbands.

Since when is living in a tent city considered a privilege? What's more, why must a city resort to tagging its homeless as though they are cattle?

If only this was an April Fool's joke. But sadly, truth is stranger than fiction in Ontario, California.

A blue wristband means you can stay. Orange means you have to provide paperwork proving you lived in Ontario before becoming homeless. White means you have a week to leave the encampment.

This "tagging" of homeless people in the Ontario homeless encampment is meant keep out-of-town homeless from benefiting from the fine amenities at the tent city, according to the LA Times:

Ontario officials, citing health and safety issues, say it is necessary to thin out Tent City. The move to dramatically reduce the population curtails an experiment begun last year to provide a city-approved camp where homeless people would not be harassed.

Land that includes tents, toilets and water had been set aside near Ontario International Airport for the homeless. Officials intended to limit the camp and its amenities to local homeless people, but did little to enforce that as the site rapidly expanded, attracting people from as far away as Florida.

"We have to be sensitive, and we will give people time to locate documents," said Brent Schultz, the city's housing and neighborhood revitalization director. "But we have always said this was for Ontario's homeless and not the region's homeless. We can't take care of the whole area."

Officials believe the local homeless number about 140, less than half of those currently in residence. Schultz wants to reduce Tent City to 170 people in a regulated, fenced-off area rather than the sprawling open-air campsite it has become.

No other city has offered to take in any of the homeless who Ontario officials say must leave.

This is a outrageous example of city government putting their image before basic human needs. These tent city residents moved into this encampment for one reason: because they have nowhere else to live. Shrinking the number of people in tent city, branding them and forcing them to produce documentation in order to stay, does little more than shuffle around California's most vulnerable citizens and shake up the routine and familiarity so crucial to surviving on the streets.

"Code enforcement" in tent cities certainly has its place in maintaining sanitation and order. But in practice, it can also be unnecessarily cruel. It means pets are banned, so the dozens of homeless families and individuals with four-legged companions will have to choose between their companion or their community (most will choose their pet). It means people who have been living in cars and on the streets for years, carrying all of their personal belongings, will have to furnish a document proving they lived in the city before becoming homeless.

These may not seem like big issues when you're sitting safe-and-sound in house or office with a bed to return to each night. But when your home is the streets, and your pet is your life, and your tent city community is your only means of security, the thought of being uprooted again is downright devastating.

I read this story and got so angry I felt sick to my stomach. But like you, I'm just an outsider. Imagine how powerless these tent city residents feel after having "code enforcement" officers storm into their home, tag them like animals, and tell them to produce paperwork or get out.

I think this sums it up best:

Pattie Barnes, 47, shook with anger. "They are tagging us because we are homeless," she said, staring at her orange wristband. "It feels like a concentration camp."


Sent to me by Dale Reece:

We were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. —1 Thessalonians 2:7

Don Tack wanted to know what life was like for homeless people. So he concealed his identity and went to live on the streets of his city. He found out that food and shelter were offered by many organizations. At one shelter he could spend the night if he listened to a sermon beforehand. He appreciated the guest speaker’s message and wanted to talk with him afterward. But as Don reached out to shake the man’s hand and asked if he could talk with him, the speaker walked right past him as if he didn’t exist.

Don learned that what was missing most in ministry to the homeless in his area were people who were willing to build relationships. So he began an organization called Servants Center to offer help through friendship.

What Don encountered at the shelter was the opposite of what the people who heard the apostle Paul experienced. When he shared the gospel, he gave himself too. He testified in his letter to the Thessalonians, “We were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8). He said, “We were gentle among you,” like a mother (v.7).

In our service for the Lord, do we share not just our words or money but our time and friendship? —Anne Cetas

I want to do service for Christ while I live,
And comfort and cheer to poor lonely hearts give;
For this is the program approved by the Word,
To visit the needy and speak of the Lord. —Bosch

One measure of our likeness to Christ is our sensitivity to the suffering of others.