Can I point you toward Oddny’s Blog? Though we have never met, I love what she writes. The post linked here is on Compassion.
The Camping Ban of which she writes has been in effect here in Denver for a year now, and it’s on my mind. Proponents say that the goal of the ban is to push the homeless into getting assistance. The reality in Denver is that there are not enough shelter beds, and many of the shelters can’t accommodate families. When offered a choice between splitting up their family and sleeping on the street, many choose to sleep on the street.
As Oddny’s post says so eloquently,
… I was so happy when some of the leaders of the Norwegian Church suddenly one day decided to say: Enough is enough. And they packed their sleeping bags and went to one of the public parks in Oslo to sleep outside with the beggars. They thought that when politicians decided that the poor could sleep outside in our parks, but didn’t give them any other alternatives either, then they, the followers of Jesus, would show them what they thought Jesus would have done. They were going to sleep with the down-and-out.
There are a few folk in our church who are active with ministry among the homeless, and I have dipped my toe in the waters with them. I confess that every time I do, I am afraid of drowning. Will they ask more of me than I can give?
The needs before us are so enormous that solving one problem often opens the door on six more. Where I work as a physician, my patients frequently can’t afford the medication– or physical therapy, or surgery– I recommend. Ought I then to buy it for them? If I manage to find a surgeon who will see a patient without insurance, but it’s all the way across town and my patient doesn’t drive, what then? Should I drive her there? My patient who speaks only Spanish manages to get to her appointment at the neurologist but then there was no translator, so he didn’t understand what the specialist said. Should I have gone with him?
I serve from a place of insecurity. Will what I bring be enough? The answer is always no. It’s a slippery slope, and I feel myself slamming on the brakes before I even start.
Yet the Norwegian Church has presented a third way. Jesus’ way, I think. And when I serve along with the church, among the poor instead of to them, I can allow Jesus to be my sufficiency. To meet needs and to be a witness to how he does it. When the Church owns a ministry together (here I use the word “own” in the sense of “takes responsibility for”) then we will find a way forward together. Maybe I could see the patients and meet medical needs, and others in the body could translate, or provide transportation, or prayer, or money for medication. I am not comfortable (and maybe comfort isn’t the point) going out to sleep on the street with strangers… but the Church together can have an impact.
I am tired of being self-sufficient. I am tired of being afraid to minister. How does your church body meet needs together? What does the third way look like for you?