Monday, January 2, 2012

Unto The Least of These

I’ve been in church most of my life.   I’ve listened to all the talk of impacting the world, reaching the lost at any cost, starting new ministries to “help the wounded”, reach the down and out, blah blah blah.   Yet, those churches stay stagnant, with no new faces, no down and outers who have been reached.    Leadership claims that people are “unreceptive”…but those people aren’t going to come to you, you have to go to them and put a little action to all your fluffy spiritual talk.   I’m sick of it, I touched base on it a bit in a book review some months ago entitled Real Church.

When the holidays approach people get more into the “giving mode”.   Lets throw an extra box of spaghetti in the food pantry bin, maybe even take a name off the Angel Tree and purchase a gift from the Dollar Store.   Because after all, it’s Christmas, it’s about Jesus.   Or is it?

A week before Christmas I was contacted by a desperate woman.  She was scared, homeless and alone….and she was family.   A first cousin, who some 12 years ago rebelled and ran from the force fed religiosity of the day.   Now here she was, with no food, no where to sleep and no way to get help hundreds of miles away from “home”.    The church that she’d went to for help in that city told her to “have faith”, “trust God” and sent her on her way.  No warm meal, no coat in the December chill…just words.

The stranger that took her home (for his own purposes) was kind enough to let her use his phone to contact me, and even agreed to help get her to a bus station if I could get travel arrangements made.  This “sinner” at least fed her and gave her a place to sleep, although with costly strings attached.   But it was more than the “church” had done.

I made travel arrangements by internet and by phone.   I prayed and asked God to please put someone there to help her as she traveled.

December 23 I stood at a bus station in a city near by my home.   I watched people exiting the bus, excited to be home for the holidays.   Then I watched a frail, weak and sickly remnant of a woman step off the bus.   Her total worldly possessions were in a black trash bag, shoved inside a box.  A box she didn’t have money to pay for, but a traveling couple paid the $6 for the box, or else her few possessions would have been left behind.  A box she was too weak to pick up, so she just scooted it along with her foot.   Another stranger gave her $4.  She was able to buy a soda, pack of mints and bag of chips, her first meal that day, and her only food until the 18 hour bus trip was over.

Prior to her arrival I’d contacted several local churches, ones I have close ties too.  Ones I’ve worked with and for.   Pastors and pastors wives who are my “friends” on Facebook.  Churches that have ministries for women in these circumstances.   I asked “can you point me to any resources that are available to help us to help her get back on her feet?”.   That’s all….just ideas of how to get help.  Not ONE SINGLE CHURCH so much as responded to me.  No return message, no “sorry I don’t know what to do”…just nothing.

Thankfully, I did reach one great lady from the local Baptist church (gosh I’m loving the Baptists more and more).   She showed up with clothes, pajamas, money and Christmas gifts that she and some lady friends had purchased, collected and wrapped.   She showed up with information on where to go locally for help….she showed up with a love for a woman that she’d never met, but was willing to reach out to because THAT is what Jesus calls us to do.  

More than a week has passed now.   Our visitor can now walk pretty well, carry her own laundry basket to the washing machine and stand long enough to wash some dishes.  All things that she was too weak to do when she first arrived.   She’s gained some weight, and is looking healthier already.  She’s reading her Bible and her Christian books and making progress.   We’re in the process of getting her identity restored (as her purse and everything in it were stolen at gunpoint on the streets).

The holidays have slowed down progress, not a lot of the necessary offices were open last week.  Hopefully we’ll be able to cover some much needed ground this week and have some things in the works.

But yeah, don’t expect her to be too anxious to get involved with “church”.   The empty words didn’t feed or clothe her.

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