Saturday, April 2, 2011

You Have to Know Their Name

After writing in my last post about words becoming flesh, and talking about Social Justice over at Sorta Crunchy for 40 Days of Community, I couldn't help but be reminded of how important our actions are when talking about social justice.

Wes and I are taking a group of 6 high school kids on a mission trip to Los Angeles this summer, and we have been meeting weekly with them to help prepare them for the trip. They have readings, reflections and bible memorization's due, all to help point them towards a better understanding of homelessness and our call to continue to work with God to bring His Kingdom to earth. We want to teach them that the Gospel is more than words, it is action (and even more than just action, it is hearing the stories of others). I thought I would research a little bit to see the demographics of the homeless in our town to share with the kids.

I decided to look up "homeless in (our town)" on google. And although I could not find any homeless shelters in my town, I did find a "Help for the Homeless Pets" here. "Wow" was all I could say. We have people sleeping in the riverbed every night and yet we have shelters for pets and not for PEOPLE.

Our town does not have a homeless shelter...and the closest one is at least a 30 minute drive. And yet we have so many homeless people living here, camped out under tarps in the riverbed.

To be honest, I'm not one to talk. I've never even been down in the riverbed. We have one place where the hungry can receive a meal, and it's only once a week and I've never served food there.

I have served the homeless before, though. I have talked with them, eaten with them, ridden the bus with them. I have. But it has been so long. In the 2 years I've lived in this town, I have only had conversations with one homeless man...and that's only because we knew him before he was homeless. I's just...that I've forgotten them. I've stopped seeing their faces, so it doesn't hurt as much anymore. I don't KNOW them I don't think about them.

Needless to say, I'm not good at this yet. I'm really very good at articulating what needs to be done. And I know quite a bit about Social Justice..but it's the doing it that is the hardest. I'm not there yet...but I'm trying (And knowing the needs is the first step). I want to really help people, but it's hard to know where to start sometimes.

I love organizations like Compassion International, Toms Shoes and Operation Christmas Child...but where are we challenging people to be face to face with those in need? Am I challenged? These organizations are doing wonderful things...but...It is EASY to sponsor a child for 38 dollars a month. It is EASY to buy a pair of Toms. It is EASY to fill a shoebox once a year. It is not as easy to walk the riverbed where the homeless sleep on the ground. It is not as easy to eat a meal with the homeless at the soup kitchen. It is not as easy to give a sandwich to a child who has sores on her body because her family can't even afford to go to the clinic.

It is easy to give money. It is easy to separate us from the homeless. It's when you know their name that things get sticky. It's when you know that Bonnie has 3 children and lives on the street. It's when you know that Jessie can't get out of prostitution. It's when you know that Chuck can't get a's then when your heart truly breaks...and its then that you see Jesus.

Here are some things to get us headed in the right direction...

May we know the stories of the weak. May we know the names of poor. And may we always see Jesus in their faces.

James 2: 15- 16 "If you know someone who doesn't have any clothes or food, you shouldn't just say, "I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat." What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help?"