Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Really Good, Rough Week

Sorry for failing to post in my blogs this week. Not only did my computer crash a week ago, but Anawim has been receiving a record number of in kind donations. We've received dozens of sleeping bags, even more blankets and tarps, and a huge number of clothes.

Also, we've had to open up the Gresham Underground Emergency Shelter (GUESs) a for six nights in the last two weeks. While I'm not in the shelter every night, I do open it up and close it every evening and morning.

This has been really tough on all the Anawim staff, and we're pretty exhausted. And Christmas hasn't even come yet!

Praise God for His ample provision, though! This is the first year I can say that we've provided for our folks in East County according to their need after more than twelve years of ministry there. I pray that next year we will be able to provide more-- and have more staff to help us! And we also received a couple stove/ovens for the Yellow Church, just in time to cook four turkeys for Christmas!

Also a me and a couple other day shelter folks were able to meet with a representative of the Gresham police, and we were able to share our concern for the homeless community and how we are both trying to help them and the security provisions we have. We seemed to have reached a tentative agreement, or at least we had a pleasant conversation!

If anyone is flexible in time and has ample patience and some smarts and would like to help us, we could really use the help. We don't have any salary to offer, but the retirement package is unimaginably great!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Disrespecting The Poor

He who mocks the poor insults his Creator
He who rejoices at the destruction of others will be punished by God
But he who has compassion will find mercy.
Proverbs 17:5

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?
Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
James 2:1-9

Why do you seek me daily and want to know my ways?
Why do you ask me for wisdom and think I am near?
I will not answer your prayers or listen to your cries
Because even as you pray you already have your desire
But you keep from the needy what they deserve.
If you give bread to the hungry from your heart
And satisfy the afflicted soul;
Then shall your light shine forth from darkness
And your darkness shall be bright as midday.
Isaiah 58:2-3,10

Sell your possessions and give to the poor
And you shall have abundance in heaven
Where no thief can steal
And no animal destroy.
Luke 12:33

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.
Luke 6:20, 24

The poor is detestable even to a friend, but many are they who love someone rich. One who despises the needy is at fault, one who takes pity on the poor is blessed.
Proverbs 14:20-21

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Peacemaking Isn't Easy or Obvious

A couple of our folks got a ride from a neighbor, whose name is Mort (name changed). Our folks brought their dog with them, who got out of the truck and ran over to another dog, who was easily four times his size. The two dogs scuffled a bit, and the owners separated them. Mort, however, was disturbed by the sight of a small dog he loved being "attacked" by another, larger dog. Mort is diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and he just snapped. He talked about getting his .44 and shooting the other dog. When the owner of this dog heard this, he began to threaten Mort. And there was much yelling and many threats, even threats to kill people from Mort.

At this point I got involved and tried to talk to Mort about how we don't allow threats on the church property to which he responded, "I can say whatever I want. And if you try to stop me, I'll shoot you too!" I've been threatened before and it didn't mean much to me, but others in the church were very upset and they were ready to gang up on Mort for threatening the pastor. Then Mic, who is often problematic, goes right up to Mort with his hands outstretched and says, "Hey, it's okay, we don't want any trouble. We're not going to hurt you. We just want everything to calm down." Mic was so clearly peaceable and sincere that Mort decided not to make any more threats and just to leave to contact the police. Since Mort was speaking in such a crazy manner, we decided that him contacting the police wasn't much of a threat. Mort drove away. His friends said, "Did Mort just drive away and leave us? He has our bikes in his truck!' I told them that it was better for him to leave right now.

The incident seemed to be over, but Mort returned in just five minutes. I yelled at everyone, "Okay, just back off. I'll deal with it myself, everyone stay away." However, I was thinking that the time Mort was gone was just long enough for him to get a gun and to make his threats real. I didn't want anyone else hurt, and I didn't want anyone else to make the situation worse by trying to threaten Mort. Everyone backed off, and I approached Mort, saying, "Okay, Mort..." But Mort just looked at me with clear, innocent eyes and an open expression on his face and he said, "Hi! How are you doing?" I was surprised for a bit, but then I noticed that he was walking with a cane and a limp when before he was walking with no problem.

I responded, "Hi, Mort. Were you looking for your friends?" He replied, "Why, yes I am. I was supposed to pick them up." I said, "Why don't I go get them for you. They'll be right out." And I collected them and got them back with Mort and he drove them away, completely peacefully.

I am pretty certain that Mort isn't just bi-polar, but also has multiple personality disorder. If he had been approached with threats, he would have reverted back to the personality that was threatening. Instead, a peaceful approach allowed him to remain peaceful, even after his threats.

Our church is unique, but we have some interesting times. Very interesting.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Plaintive Note From A Homeless Beggar

Get a job? Who has the time?
I spend my life standing in line,
waiting to be clothed or fed,
not knowing tonight where I'll lay my head.
What was that? What did you say?
Nothing to spare and I'm in the way?
i'm begging as humbly as I possibly can.
It's been a long day. Please understand.

A million times my feet slap the ground.
No reason to stop, no place to slow down.
I pound the pavement from morning to night,
easily spotting those with my flight.
Sleeping bags are a sure way to know
what they haven't any real place to go.
Backpacks are always a dead giveaway,
that they'll be standing in some line today.
Give them a nod, a laugh or a smile
because if they're standing in line,
they'll be there a while.

I just need a voucher or dollar to two,
to wash my clothes so I won't offend you.
Three hours spent standing in line
for 5 minutes to wash off the filth and the grime.
I look to strangers for kindness each day.
I need your help please don't walk away.
If you must keep walking, just pass me by,
but don't try to peek from the side of your eye.
I search all day to find a safe place.
Any hovel will do even the smallest of space.
Where I won't be told to "get up and go,"
where I won't be frozen and wet head to toe.

With the curb as my pillow and the street as my home.
I'm surrounded by people, but i'm always alone.
I know that sometimes I may not seem "right,"
please don't be rude, it's been a long night.

If I bum a smoke or ask for your name,
please don't ignore me, my needs aren't a game.

Poverty kills all hope and dreams
and being homeless is worse than I make it seem.
No hope for a mate, a family or life,
just me and the streets paved with heartache and strife.
I keep on moving while tragically knowing,
I'm headed nowhere with no place to go.

I can escape to the mall or the airport sometimes
and pretend for a minute this nightmare is not mine.
Sheltered for a night, a moment not more,
knowing the morning has nothing in store.

I'm not ungrateful, don't get me wrong,
it's just been a long month, it keeps dragging on.
Trying to search my way out of this hell
and forgetting that once my life was well.
All my efforts came crashing down.
I lost my house and my life without a sound.
If my house had burned down or a tornado had hit,
it would've been easier than my notice to quit.

All I want is a place of my own,
nothing great just a spot to call home.
I don't mean to sound trite when you have to say no,
it's just been along life and I've nowhere to go.
So please be kind it's been a long year,
one of these days it could be you standing here.
I pray to the lord it'll all end in time,
and I will finally reach the end of this line.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What is Poverty?

Most of us think of poverty as an economic problem. Poor people are people who don’t have enough money to live. And this is true, poverty certainly has an economic side. But the most significant issue of poverty is not economic, but social. If a person is unacceptable to society, they will never obtain economic increase. If a person is a serious criminal, or mentally ill, or is of the wrong ethnic group or has an irritating personality, they will almost never be able to create a sustainable income. Most people think of the poor as being lazy or simply unlucky. And while these factors may be involved, more likely the poor are those who have been deemed unacceptable by one standard or another.

If a woman is mentally ill, it doesn’t matter that she grew up in a wealthy household, she will not be cared for by her family. She will be institutionalized just as much as if she had been born in a middle class family. If a man is convicted for murder, even if he is innocent, and even if the verdict is overturned, his economic viability is over because no one would want to take a chance on him. If a person has a lot of money in the bank, but no one wishes to speak to him, then he is poor, although rich. Another person can be wealthy, but if no one will take her money because she has some unacceptable disease, then she might as well be completely impoverished.

The worst kind of poverty is separation from one’s fellow human beings. And ultimately, the worst of poverty is characterized by this. Those who end up on the street are those who have no family or friends to support them. The deepest poverty in Africa are not communities in poverty, but those who are alone, desperate, without help. And often communities of poverty grow because of the isolation of those who become poor. When people are separated from their support network and hit a tough spot, they look for others to help them. And some of the most generous communities in the world aren’t benefactors or philanthropists or Christian communities. They are the communities of those who are struck with poverty.