Thursday, May 27, 2010

Understanding the poor

There is much wisdom in those that have gone before us.
Who are the poorest of the poor? Following are words from Mother Theresa - one who became poor, like Christ, and lived most of her life serving Him in the poorest of the poor.

Today, the poor are hungry for bread and rice, and also for love and the living word of God. The poor are thirsty for water but also for peace, truth, and justice. The poor are homeless, in need of a shelter made of bricks, and also for a joyful heart that understands, covers, and loves. The poor are naked, in need of clothes and also for human dignity and compassion for the naked sinner. They are sick in need of medical care and also for that gentle touch and a warm smile.

The "shut-in," the unwanted, the unloved, the alcoholics, the dying destitute, the abandoned and the lonely, the outcast and the untouchables, the leprosy sufferers, all those who are a burden to human society, who have lost all hope and faith in life, who have forgotten how to smile, who have lost the sensibility of the warm hand touch of love and friendship, they look to us for comfort. If we turn our back on them, we turn it on Christ, and at the hour of our death we shall be judged if we have recognized Christ in them, and on what we have done for and to them, there will only be two ways, "come" or "go."

Last winter we met a scruffy-looking man in the park one Saturday. He was standing off to by the sidewalk alone. I noticed him, said hello and asked if he would like a sandwich. He replied, "I've been watching you here for a few weeks now. Why are you taking your time to stand out in the cold to hand out food to people you don't even know?? I looked into his eyes - so full of searching and brokenness - and said, "The truth is that the Holy Spirit led me down here. I'm not one to like freezing cold temperatures, but this doesn't bother me. I'm here to offer my brothers and sisters a hand." This man (I'll call him Frank) was living in his van. He shared how hopeless he felt, how if the next ten years of his life were going to be like the last ten then what's the use in living? We listened, not really knowing what to say, but offering encouragement as best we could. After awhile, he left and we didn't see him again for a few months.

Recently, I began seeing him around more and more. He had been in and out of jail, lost his van, lost his way.
A little over a month ago, he shared with a friend that he "just didn't know if he could go on."
Well, our awesome God is amazing in how He takes care of our needs when we step out in faith, like 'Frank' did by sharing his feelings with my friend. God is always setting up divine appointments through his followers...

One of His followers (Dave) decided he was going to get involved with an early morning Bible study on S. Division. Through this Bible study, our Lord put 'Frank' in touch with a godly man and a wonderful ministry called Next Step. From there 'Frank was able to get out of the homeless shelter. Dave then hired him to work at his construction company. Now he also has a more permanent place to live.
A couple weeks ago when I saw him again at the park, I didn't yet know all this news about the Bible study, job and living arrangements. What I did know was that there was "something different" about 'Frank.' He seemed more upbeat.

Here comes the best part - Last Saturday he came up to my van to help me unload the food and tables. He had a big smile on his face and shared that he was getting baptized the next day!

"Praise God," I shouted. "You're getting baptized on Pentecost. How awesome!"

The "something different" about 'Frank' was his new life in Christ. No human comfort or worldly good can provide this. He was lost but had been found.

'Frank' was one of those who Mother Theresa talked about - one "who was a burden to human society, who had lost all hope and faith in life, who had forgotten how to smile, who had lost the sensibility of the warm hand touch of love and friendship." He looked to us for comfort.

I pray that all of us as God's children can have our eyes and ears open to see and hear Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor. He is reaching out His hand to us each and every day. Will we grab hold and ask for the faith to follow him?

In Jesus and Mary,

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Human dignity in Christ

Sharing in the dignity of each human person as a creation of God is the paramount mission of ‘Jesus on the streets.’

In prayer before serving, we acknowledge that we are getting ready to serve Jesus, so we greet Him in each person with a loving smile, eye contact and a warm hello. So many of the people we meet stand in one line after another for this need or that.
They can get eat at different shelters, churches, etc… around GR. Many times they are handed food without much contact or relationship.

From day one, we went out, striving to live the beatitudes in our serving.
We focus on a personal relationship with individuals – whether it be for 5 seconds, 5 minutes, or 5 months.
Through relationship, we can open the door further to share the love relationship of the God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit and help them find resources for jobs, housing, etc…
We begin this relationship can begin with a simple smile.

Mother Theresa always said, “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” We know this is so true.
Someone once shard with me about the love they always feel when my son smiles at them. They mentioned how they are brought out of their pain for a brief time through the love and acceptance in his smile. In saying, "I love you" through our smile and greetings, God's grace allows us to lift each other "out of miry clay", if only for a short time.
Showing extraordinary love through ordinary acts is our daily call.
God help me to walk the walk and talk the talk, so as to be a witness of Your love.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the magnitude of homelessness, poverty, etc…Many times I have thought, what’s the use? Then I fall on my knees. Show me, Lord. Pour out Your wisdom.

We can never go wrong sharing the love of Christ with our neighbor.
In the silence of prayer, I continually hear the Lord say in my heart – Keep going. Focus on ONE person at a time. Through this, I will take your seeds of love and makes them grow.
God continues to change lives through this ministry.

By His grace, we plant and till, plant and till the soil. Christ is the gardener who brings growth. In His mercy, He sometimes allows us to see the fruit of our “work.” Yet, that is not our goal. Our goal is to be faithful in living the Gospel.
Christ is knocking at the door of our heart today. He is disguised as a family member, a neighbor, the homeless, the hungry, the imprisoned.
Will we open the door and let Him in?
May God bless you today and always as you seek Him.