Thursday, June 15, 2006

Wondering

Living in suburban middle-class areas as many of us do, it is easy to feel that “the poor” are not our immediate neighbors. My illusion was shaken nine months ago when I encountered a homeless teenager sitting on the curb near the Kroger on 290 & Spring Cypress. He had a sad story, much of it incomprehensible, and wanted to go to Phoenix. I helped him out with food, clothing and a little money, and began thinking.

I began thinking about the biblical mandate to help the poor. I began wondering how West Houston could take hold of that more directly. We have an outstanding ministry to the Impact church near downtown Houston, but what about the poor in our “direct ministry” zip codes? We respond to many benevolent needs within and outside our congregation, which is wonderful, and we partner with various agencies when they request local church help over the holidays and for special situations. But I began wondering if a group of Christ-followers committed to living out the gospel in our area should satisfy ourselves with waiting to be asked. I began wondering if instead the “Jesus way” is to take the initiative.

Recently I made an appointment with the director of Bear Creek Assistance Ministries (on Hwy 6 and Keith Harrow) to get an idea of the scope of their work and their current needs. I was particularly interested in ministry to seniors, for whom God placed a burden on my heart after I watched a documentary about how many elderly people appear “on the surface” to be financially comfortable but often have to choose between buying medicine or food. I learned a good bit in this meeting about our area. Following are some facts that caught my attention:

* BCAM has 22,000 visits per year, 11,000 of them first-time, from people seeking food, clothing, transportation vouchers, medical help, employment training and other “life development” assistance.
* BCAM has a waiting list of seniors who have requested help making essential repairs to their homes, e.g. to a crumbling and un-functioning wheelchair ramp (contact me if you would like to do some “home improvement”).
* BCAM logged 47,000 volunteer hours in 2005. Their biggest need still is for volunteers.

Talking to our own Kelli Durham, Cy-Fair Asst. Superintendent of Communication, I learned that:
* Cy-Fair’s projected enrollment for 2006-2007 is 92,100 students, with over a third (34%) expected to qualify for free or reduced fee breakfast and lunch (For a family of three, the income level to qualify is $21,580 for free meals and $30,710 for reduced).
* Cy-Fair ended the school year with 1528 homeless students of which roughly 1200 were due to hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

I am setting up an appointment with Cypress Assistance Ministries (CAM) soon, on Huffmeister near 290, which I expect also will be an eye-opener. I welcome your input and ideas.

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