Thursday, June 22, 2006

Head and Heart

Last week I wrote about an increasing burden I am feeling for the poor in our area and how we as a church can more directly take hold of the Biblical mandate to “continue to remember the poor” (Galatians 2:10). I shared information about the work of Bear Creek Assistance Ministry (B.C.A.M.) and statistics from the Cy-Fair School District concerning the poor in our area. A member commented something to the effect that I am “discovering there are poor people in our area.” Well, let’s just say I’ve known it in my head but am starting to feel it in my heart. And it’s important to note: I am feeling it especially in my role as a preacher whose role is to foster healthy Biblical community and call the flock (including me) beyond ourselves into God’s Kingdom mission.

This week I visited with Cypress Assistance Ministries (C.A.M.), on Huffmeister near 290, and talked at length with its director of fifteen years, Joan Christiansen. Let me say that both B.C.A.M. and C.A.M. are very impressive; they are well run and organized. Here are some things that stuck out from my conversation with Ms. Christiansen:

* C.A.M. has four primary ministry programs: 1. Assistance (food, rent or utility or transportation money, vouchers, etc.), 2. Operation Jobs (employment networking and placement), 3. Angel’s Attic Resale Shop (clothes, furniture, books, household goods, etc.), and 4. Adult Education (G.E.D., job training, etc.). Interestingly, people occasionally come to C.A.M. in times of bereavement when they don’t know who else to turn to. Evidently they feel that folks who help materially will help spiritually as well. The reverse should be true also, of course.

* Ms. Christiansen described one “cycle” into homelessness she sees often: a working Mom or Dad sustains an injury on the job, for instance; workers compensation is slow in coming and inadequate when it arrives; they miss some payments in order to meet medical bills; soon the snowball gathers speed and they miss a rent payment; eventually they wind up on the street with their kids. “It’s easier than you might think,” she said.

* She noted that C.A.M. sees a lot of need among seniors and disabled, though seniors often are reluctant to ask for help. C.A.M. has a food delivery program to seniors on the third Monday of the month, because “that’s about the time their money starts running out and they are willing to receive help.” Each volunteer driver delivers a food package to 2 or 3 seniors one day per month. One woman had been caring for ten years for her husband who had multiple sclerosis, and their money finally ran out. That’s when she was willing to ask for help.

* Finally, and this may sound incredibly obvious, but here’s something we can all do regularly: Donate stuff to and shop at B.C.A.M. and C.A.M.’s thrift shops. I always figured buying at thrift shops should be left for people “needier” than I. But purchases are a source of cash for these ministries; they welcome “middle class” shoppers.

Okay, I’m pretty new to all this, much to my chagrin, but I’m learning. And I’m thinking and praying about what this can lead to. As always, I am open to ideas and suggestions.


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