Go to the people Live among them….Chinese Poem

Louis and I are going to Chicago the first week of April to attend the Christian Community Development Association’s (CCDA) Institute called Immersion.  Following the week-long program, we, along with a small group of about 50, will be certified in Christian Community Development.  We have been doing a lot in our community at a grass-roots level and are looking forward to gaining additional knowledge!  Financially, this a big commitment for us, but we are so grateful to God to have received a CCDA Scholarship that will assist us!

I just learned Friday, that there are 10 (yes…I said 10, ten, diez, dix, zehn) books were are to read before we get there.  They have shipped them to us.  So…I guess you know what I will be doing between now and when we leave on 4.2! (And…what I will probably be writing on!  Thanks for letting me process with you!!)  I’m hoping I have read some of them, at least!  One that I have had on my shelf for a while now is called Restoring At-Risk Communities: Doing It Together & Doing It Right, which I started reading Saturday night.  It’s the “Official Handbook of the Christian Community Development Association”….so I am hoping, expecting and praying that this one is on their list, because I’m about half done!

Dr. John Perkins and some other urban ministry gurus like Bob Lupton, Noel Castellanos, and Mary Nelson share their wisdom gained from decades of experience.

In chapter 1, Perkins asks and answers the following question…

…How do we affirm the dignity of people, motivate them and help them take responsibility for their own lives?  By beginning with the people’s felt needs we establish a relationship and a trust, which then enables us to move to deeper issues of development.  This idea of beginning with people’s felt need is what is called the felt need concept.  It is summed up in a Chinese poem…

Go to the people
Live among them
Learn from them
Love them
Start with what they know
Build on what they have:
But of the best leaders
When their task is done
The people will remark
“We have done it ourselves.”

Then, Perkins describes how Jesus engaged the Woman at the Well story located in John 4.  How Jesus started by talking to her and asking her for help — demonstrating she had something of value that she could share with him–Jesus affirmed her dignity and broke down the wall of distrust–before he talked with her about who He was or anything about himself.

Some however sometimes go in like this…

Go to the community with an agenda
Observe the people (maybe)
Tell them what to do
Enable, manipulate and take advantage of them
Even lie to them
Start with what they don’t know
Tell them what YOU think they should know
But the worst of leaders
will do things TO the community
instead of WITH the community
The people will ask
“What have they done to us?”

It’s easy for some of us to come into a situation with all the answers…because although we would never want to admit it…we see ourselves as smarter, more educated, more experienced, more whatever…fill in the blank.  We often think we know what is best for a community.  We force our opinions, thoughts, ideas, etc on a community. When in fact, we do more harm to the community than help.  The community isn’t transforming or coming together, but being torn apart instead.

I’m excited about what we will learn in Chicago…and grateful that we have the opportunity to attend this year.  It’s been on the bucket list for a while…and this is the year!  Praying that we will continue to learn how to see our community and our city through the eyes of Jesus.


Prosperity Gospel = B.S.

OK….Day 3 of talking about money…spending….saving…giving….and your faith.

First, in How Rich are You and I? we talked about how much money we really have compared to other people in the world…and all the stuff we have…and what God is calling us to do with it.

Then, in To Give or Not to Give, we read the wise words of Bob Lupton and others on the subject of giving money to panhandlers.  Which is a regular question in my world.  Thanks for those you have commented.  Let’s keep the conversation going!

Today, I came across the following video by John Piper, Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota…on the topic of what is called the “Prosperity Gospel”, which basically teaches that God blesses those he favors with health, wealth, and material possessions like cars, houses, and other stuff that money buys.  This gospel is preached in impoverished areas in Africa….by people coming out of America.  Yes…THIS is the Gospel that is often preached to people who live in low-income communities (including mine!) right here in the US,

I love the way that John Piper provides his thoughts on the subject….and TOTALLY agree!!  Prosperity Gospel/Theology bottom line…makes me SICK!  God must really shake his head at the people who preach this mess.  That God sent his Son, Jesus, to die on the cross to make us rich and healthy! Really?  I guess someone forgot to tell Mother Teresa that!

that’s elevating the gift above the giver…as stated by Piper in the video.

Take a look…let’s hear what you think.

“To Give or Not to Give?” Bob Lupton

Yesterday, I posted How Rich are You and I?.  At the time, I didn’t know that this would be a series on spending and giving.  This question always comes up!  My friend and ministry partner, Charles Fitzgerald (who spent 33 years on the streets doing everything under the sun) and I were having that discussion just last night while running ministry errands and meeting his new neighbors in Highland Park.  Do you or do you not give money to the “homeless” or rather…panhandlers on street corners?  Now that I have read this, I can say that although I understand all 3 points of view, Charles and I agree with Ron Sider’s approach presented below.  What about you?  Do you choose to give, or not to give?

To Give or Not to Give?

February 2011

by Bob Lupton, February 2011

Should Christians always give money to street people who ask for it? That’s what Christianity Today recently asked three veteran ministry leaders known for their commitment to the poor.

Yes, freely!” answers Gary Hoag, known as the Generosity Monk whose passionate mission is to encourage Christian generosity.  To him it is very clear in scripture:  “Freely you have received; freely give.”  It is not our place to judge others, to evaluate them as worthy or unworthy of our assistance.  God is the judge, not us.  What they do with our aid is between them and God.  We are to love and give unconditionally.  Gary’s theology of generosity is summed up in his quote from contemplative priest Brennan Manning:  “God’s call for each of us to live a life of unlimited generosity is rooted in his limitless love and care for us.”  Through our free and generous giving “the postmodern world will see Jesus in our generosity.”

Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles, sees it quite differently.  “Giving cash to someone in need is the least helpful and most temporary solution and should only be a last resort,” he says.  His years of experience with street people has taught him that most panhandlers are not really homeless at all.  Most are scammers who may collect $300 a day from kind-hearted passers-by and at the end of the day walk a block or two to their cars and drive home.  When someone approaches Andy for money for food or a place to stay, he gives them his card and invites them to his mission where they can get not only food and shelter but other support as well.  Very seldom does he give money, and then only when there are no other alternatives.  Like Hoag, he too has scripture to back his position.  His biblical example is the lame man who asked Peter and John for some money.  They offered no money but rather something better – healing!  “People experiencing homelessness and poverty need a community,” Andy says.  “People need permanent help in becoming strong.  They need a connection with Jesus Christ and a faith community.”

Absolutely not! So says Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action and author of best selling Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.  A quick donation is cheap love.  There is simply no way to tell whether a story is legitimate, or if a person will spend the money on drugs or alcohol.  Supporting immorality, laziness or destructive behavior is simply irresponsible and clearly not a loving act.  Scripture demands that we stand on the side of the poor but it certainly does not tell us to give irresponsibly.  Rather than give money, Sider suggests taking the homeless person to lunch and listening to his story.  “People almost always need love even more than money,” he says.  Generous giving should be directed toward effective, holistic programs equipped to deal with the deeper socio-economic issues, ministries that share the love of Christ and “truly empower, liberate and transform.”

Three respected Christian leaders, all committed to helping the poor, all relying on the scriptures to guide them, each with distinctly different convictions on how to rightly serve – opposing convictions.  They take their stand at opposite ends of the charity continuum, from “always give money” to “never give money.”  Who’s right?   Whose counsel do we listen to?

Andy Bales certainly has the most direct experience with the homeless, living and serving among them for decades.  His “last resort” giving position is shaped by years of personal involvement, watching con games on the street, seeing first-hand the long, up-and-down battles of those trying to break free from addictions.  Pragmatic experience has taught him that healing is far more likely in a supportive community environment than struggling alone on the street.  Of course he believes it is better to steer street people toward a program like he runs.  He has committed his life to it.

Gary the Generosity Monk, on the other hand, views scripture (and the world) from the ivory tower of religious academia.  Not that he’s removed from humanity – he’s certainly not.  He’s very engaged with the Christian community, particularly as it relates to generosity.  But he doesn’t live among the broken.  In one sense, his reading of scripture is purer, uncontaminated by the troubling realities of life on the street.  His “yes, freely” theology of giving is fashioned around a compelling body of scriptures such as “Give to anyone who asks” and “Freely you have received; freely give” and “If you have two coats, give one.”  And his examples of the extravagant giving of historic heroes of the faith are inspiring.  His message is clearly directed toward an affluent church that needs for its own salvation to be freed from its bondage to material things.  Giving freely is a prime way to break the strangle-hold of materialism.  But is his “unconditional giving” doctrine informed by the real-life down-stream impacts of unexamined charity?

Ron Sider understands poverty from a systems perspective.  He pores over statistics, scrutinizes legislative motivation and decision-making, holds up a biblical standard of justice by which to evaluate public policy and practice.  He is a prophet to a nation that has subsidized poverty, eroded a work ethic through dependency-producing entitlements and decimated the family structure of the poor – all in the name of doing good.  He knows better than most theologians the vast number of scriptures that deal with God’s concern for the poor.  And theresponsibility of God’s people to care for the widows and orphans and strangers.  His plea, like the prophet Amos, is to “let justice roll down like a river.”  The quick donation, whether for expediency, sentimentality or guilt-relieving, is cheap love that is neither merciful nor just.  Prophets are not pragmatists.  They speak in absolutes.  Understandably, to Sider, irresponsible giving is just plain wrong!

Always.  Sometimes.  Never.  Who’s got it right?  I guess it all depends on the level of the platform you are viewing the poor from – ground-level practicality or elevated theological theory.  Your altitude will determine your attitude.

How Rich are You and I?

I, along with a number of my friends and about a gazillion other people, have been challenged by Radical:  Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt. I first wrote on it in August, 2010 in my post Happy 5th Anniversary to Me!!!.  6 months later, this book continues to come up in conversations with friends and family.  Platt states things like…

  • Today, over a billion people live (and die) in desperate poverty (less than a dollar a day).
  • Close to two billion others live on less than two dollars a day.
  • 30,000 children today will breathe their last breath due to either starvation or a preventable disease.

How do you and I feel about that?  Do we believe it?  It’s hard to make those kinds of statistics real.  I just stumbled on a a new website…Global Rich List. According to their formula, if your annual income is $50,000 (US$) you are in the top 1% of the richest people in the world (yes…I said WORLD!!!).  That means that out of 6,775,235,741 (that’s 6.775 BILLION!!) people in the world….you are # 59,029,289 (that’s 59 MILLION)  At $125,000 (US$) it jumps to the top 1/2 percent; and you are # 29,907,929 (that’s 29.9 MILLION).

So, what are we called to do with all this money?  Buy a bigger house?  Buy a fancier car?  The latest smart phone??  Guilty!!!  I am soooo tempted now that Verizon and iPhone are working together!!!  It’s getting harder and harder to hang on to my stuff; and I am getting ready to give it all away…in a reactionary way….wanting to purge myself of stuff that I feel like just weighs me down.  Not to mention, I have to step over it, dust it, move it to make room for more, etc.  It just makes me tired…really tired!  Thankfully, Louis is slowing me down (so I don’t do something TOTALLY radical!!!) as we continue to pray through what God is calling us to do.  Jumping into the deep end can be scary….so I think we will wade in.  So…watch for us to have a big ole yard sale this spring.  Our goal is to use the proceeds for the community.  We have a small “sock fund” that we use to meet needs in the community ~ treat the kids to ice cream, pizza, or after school snacks, school supplies, Bibles, community meals, hats, gloves, and socks for those in the cold, etc.

On a more practical side…we have already been taking steps to decrease spending, out of necessity…with my corporate job ending and making a move to more community work (which has been a long time coming!).  But, also out of a sense of calling…to be good stewards of what God provides us.  A few examples…

  • Why should we give over $100/mo. to Comcast when we watch only…maybe… an hour or 2 a week?  So…we are now on the basic cable plan!  It meets our needs…thanks to free programs like Hulu and inexpensive plans like Netflix!
  • Got new bids on our home/car insurance and saved a TON of money there!
  • Returning to coupon clipping…altho it seems they are never with me when I go to the store!  Gotta work on that one!
  • Louis continues to drive his ole “beater”. (I’ve called it that after it was totaled by our insurance company after it was vandalized multiple times by a neighborhood kid who acted out at us.) We want to pay cash for a new new-to-us (also known as used or previously owned) replacement.  Or maybe we will continue to share the other car.  I’m learning how to navigate the Richmond’s public transportation system!  It’s been years since I rode the bus!

So…a lot of us are either being forced into reducing expenses due to economic downturn, or are choosing to cut back or do with less, maybe out of an urging from the Holy Spirit.  What steps are you taking?  What ways are you making that move?  Would love to hear from some of you.  Would love to hear more ideas on ways to save and ways to give more or do without.

Pray for Trust…not Clarity

What a year it has been!  And…how quickly it has come and gone!  A year ago today, I started the Miss Marti’s House blog.  I spent some time this morning, reviewing some of my 120 posts….summarized below…

February, March and April ~ I started the blog as a Lenten project documenting the story of how I moved to SBH, the people I met along the way, the way my life has forever been changed, how I met the other half of my pair…in ministry and life….Louis, Frank getting shot 9 times and living, to name a few.

May ~ Well…May was a slow writing month!  It was a time of introspection, which I didn’t always feel like making public!  But, 2 posts stand out…Live Like You Were Dying and OH.HAPPY.DAY stand out!  How encouraging it is to read them again at this time!  I needed to be reminded of what God was saying to me in May 2010!

You might say I have been a little bit of a funk lately ~ adjusting to the new…slower…different pace of unemployment, death of a friend, illness in my family, change as a whole, etc.  and this often causes everyday struggles and disappointments to appear ginormous!!  It also serves to distract me from what I have been called to do!

But, after reading these 2 posts, like I was taking a look in my journal, I was reminded of my calling and his many provisions.  And…as I read Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning for the second time in a month, I also remember him saying this on page 5 ~

In first century Palestine the question dominating religious discussion was, How do we hasten the advent of the Kingdom of God?  Jesus proposed a single way:  the way of trust.  He never asked his disciples to trust in God.  Rather he demanded of them bluntly, “Trust in God and trust in me” (John 14:1.  Trust was not some feature out at the edges of Jesus’ teaching; it was its heart and center.  This and only this would bring on speedily the n of God.

When the brilliant ethicist John Kavanaugh went to work for three months at “the house of dying” in Calcutta, he was seeking a clear answer as to how best to spend the rest of his life.  On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa.  She asked, “And what can I do for you?”  Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him.

“What do you want me to pray for?” she asked.  He voiced the request that he had borne thousands of miles from the United States: “Pray that I have clarity.”

She said firmly, “No, I will not do that.”  When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.”  When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust.  So I will pray that you have trust God.”2

So, that’s my prayer for 2011 and beyond.  That I will trust God.  On page 6 Manning shares,

“We ourselves have known and put our trust in God’s love toward ourselves” (1 John 4:16).  Craving clarity, we attempt to eliminate the risk of trusting God.  Fear of the unknown path stretching ahead of us destroys childlike trust in the Father’s active goodness and unrestricted love.

I can’t tell you how many times I have prayed for and asked for prayer for clarity.  Now…my prayer request is…that I will trust God…and that I will learn to Enjoy the Journey, another reminder from a April 2010.  Join me…in praying for Trust!

Prayer for Trust

O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things.

(By St. Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556)