Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with how much sadness there is in the world. It breaks my heart to see people so defeated and oppressed by the enemy. As Christians we’re called to care for people, but with entitlement programs, I think American Christians have decided that it’s not their mission field. Besides, it sounds better to say you went on a mission trip to Africa than it does to say you went downtown.
My campus ministry did a local mission a couple years ago. We provided five hundred meals for a women and children’s shelter in Seattle. We also went and did the “Everything Skit” along with shared our testimonies and did worship and prayer. I was so blessed to get to know those women and hear their stories. It’s so easy to judge people when you only take them at face value, but when you hear the pain in their voice and see the hopelessness in their eyes, you realize that there is so much more that goes on behind the scenes.
So what about the people we see on the street holding signs? How many times do we think “get a job!” or “you’re just going to use it to buy booze”? While I may agree that begging and boozing isn’t the way to live your life, I don’t think that treating these people less than human will make them want to rejoin the ranks of every day Americans, do you?
So what’s my plan?
Well, according to my research (Magic School Bus), there are about 330,000 churches in America. In 2009, it was estimated that there were 650,000 homeless people on a given night. That means that if every church “adopted” just two homeless people, we could wipe out homelessness in America. There are so many excuses people could use, like “Well, some people have been on the streets so long, they don’t want to come off” and to that I have to ask, how the hell did we let people stay on the streets for YEARS?
And what about hungry people? Is it possible to get America off food stamps? Well, forty-seven million people sounds like a lot, but if you break it down by churches, that’s about 142 people per church. I’m not saying it’s doable for every church, but there are megachurches that spend millions building state-of-the-art buildings, when really, what they’ve been called to do is to help the poor.
I don’t know all the logistics, and not everybody wants to be helped by the church. There’s a lot of cynicism, and some of it is well-deserved. I think American churches have really dropped the ball. It’s not too late to do something, but the problems have grown to be overwhelming in size, so it’s hard to know where to start. So start with breaking down the numbers. See what it is that you can do on a personal level, then talk to your church leaders and see what your church can do on a community level.
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” — Ezekiel 16:49