Monday, June 20, 2011

Caring for the Poor while Living in the Good Ol' U-S of A?

We're finally feeling like we're back in the swing of things in America.  There are times when I think of Haiti, think of people like Ben and Heidi and think that our life in Port-au-Prince almost feels like a strange dream...a terrific novel I once read that wasn't real and yet I can't seem to forget it.  I think of the characters and wonder what they are doing, much like when Gilmore Girls ended and I couldn't help but imagine Rory and Lorelai sitting in their cute little cottage wittily bantering back and forth.   Except some of those characters were us, and we're right here, so far away. 

I find myself in the most random moments stunned that Haiti is real.  Driving home last night in the dark, on smooth, quiet roads lit up like a runway, Haiti memories washed over me.  Haiti is still there.  Even though we're here.  It's real.  Real.  And we're returning.  These thoughts stun me.

Is this how Edmund felt the first time he walked back through that wardrobe...back into what he knew, what was familiar?   Once he was snuggled up tight in his own bed in his own room did Narnia feel like a dream?

Being back, it's been a real struggle to remember how we lived before moving to Haiti.  A full year before we decided to "go" we were on a journey to try and live out our convictions about the poor and the helpless while living right here in the United States.  We had yet to consider leaving the United States to love and care for the poor in a hands-on, kind of way.  But surely there are ways to care for the poor while living right here.  Right?  We were on a mission to figure out how to do that.

How about a collection of posts about that journey?  A short series of posts offering some things to consider if your heart is already broken for the poor, and you know God is gently nudging you to "do" something to live out your faith and the gospel towards the least of these while living in the United States?  I'm sure you all have some beautiful ideas and thoughts to add to the mix as well.

We're here for two more months, and surely we don't have to quit living out our convictions just because of where we live.  We have lots to learn, and want to grow in these areas as well.  So as always, we are thankful so many of you are in this with us.

I'm praying God uses these posts as an encouragement to so many of you who write to us saying you want to "do something".  God has lovingly gripped your heart.  You are ready to put actions to your beliefs, but you know you're not leaving the United States any time soon.  We're no experts, just people who God is gently stretching and teaching.  When John the Baptist sent word asking if Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus sent word back to John saying, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them."

Wouldn't it have been a relief if Jesus had replied, "Well, I'm going around sharing the gospel, teaching people, discipling them, inviting them to church,  so duh."  Maybe those things were important to Jesus too, but they obviously were not the things He used to sum up his ministry or his on-earth mission statement.  Instead, Jesus relayed information to John about how the gospel He was teaching was being lived out among the sick, the poor, and the outcasts.  Giving sight to the blind, mobility to the lame, healing to the sick, hearing to the deaf, life to the dead, and good news to the poor are tangible things, that obviously matter to God.

While we're incredibly jacked up individuals, what our hearts desire (while simultaneously falling short of this) is to be Christ followers whose lives imitate our Savior.  If someone asked us the same question John the Baptist asked Jesus, could we say, "Yes.  We're followers of Christ.  His gospel has so changed us that we can't help but see that same gospel come alive and lived out among people just like us...the broken...the sick...the desperate...the helpless."

We know our best efforts to serve the poor and advocate for the helpless do not earn us right standing before a holy God. Jesus' death alone has done that for us.  We have nothing of worth to offer God, and our best efforts to live out God's heart towards the poor will never gain us right standing before God.  Our works, our "bad" ones, and even our "best ones" are still filthy rags to the Lord.   We don't explore these ideas and make changes in our lives in order to pat ourselves on the back, or because we want God to pat us on the back.  If we belong to God, He has already pat us on the back and called us sons/daughters.  So when we fail to care for the poor our standing is not compromised before God.  When we succeed, our standing before God is not changed either.  As children of God, it truly is "finished", Christ's righteousness is credited to us, and by God's sweet grace we are granted access and accepted by God the Father.

But like every other command in scripture, God's guidance and direction in our lives is always an invitation to know Jesus better...to intimately lean up against the character and nature of God.  A gift.  His commands have a way of pointing our eyes towards heaven and teaching our hearts to long for His Kingdom.   Allowing God to make our hearts tender towards the least of these and teach us how to live out the gospel towards our fellow man will always be an invitation to swim down deep, and cannon-ball ourselves into the rich, abundant life Jesus is forever offering His children.  In that way, learning to care about the things Jesus cares about is always something that should get our hearts pounding...wildly pounding...as we pray for His will to be done on Earth (through us) as it's done in Heaven.

So how about we all come together through these upcoming posts, pray, think, ask hard questions, and share how we are feeling led to live out our convictions to care for the poor, the orphan, the widow, and be a voice for the voiceless as we live in the United States.  Us...for two more months.  You...for however long God has you here.  Sound like a plan?

This post does not have a picture.  Disturbing.

17 comments:

Flower Patch Farmgirl said...

1. I just read excerpts of this out loud to CM and he laughed out loud at your "So duh" sentence. (I knew he would. That is CLASSIC.) And he said "That's really well-said" about the filthy rags part. In short: We like you.

2. Thank you for using "jacked up". Just - thank you.

3. I'm so all over this series. Bring it, Katie.

bye.

mbs said...

I appreciate this post so much because it's something I've been wrestling with and praying over for a couple of years. What came to me, personally, as I read your post, especially the quote about Jesus' response to John the Baptist, is that those were the kinds of things the early church WAS doing once they received the Spirit. And, personally, it's the Holy Spirit I'm longing to see poured out more and more on all of His church, especially in the west where we like to keep God in a manageable box. To see the church really believe they can live in that same Power. For ME to really truly expect the same and live out of that expectation.

I believe it is the Spirit's work, sweeping across the west, causing Christians to remember the scriptures about the fatherless, the poor, the widows...the Spirit reminding us of the Father's heart....and I'm looking forward to this dialogue you are beginning.

OK enough pontificating for tonight. Thank you for this post.

*The Old Geezer said...

Greetings from Southern California

I am your newest follower. I invite you to visit TOGB and become a follower, if you want too.

God Bless You

Jhen.Stark said...

Amen. I'm so looking forward to these posts and the words in just this one are beyond resonating in my heart.

Susan, wife of 1, mother of 4 said...

Another excellent post, Heather! Something I heard from a paster a few years ago is that some are called to go, and some are called to give. (It was a sermon on supporting missionaries.) That doesn't mean that not giving to missionaries is wrong and it doesn't meant that going is the only right action. It just means that God has gifted and given differently to His children. I have to say that often I've wondered if you aren't called to "going", if giving was a cop out....and yet, if everyone went, they wouldn't have the support needed to go. Despite that, it still feels like the "going" person should get more rewards. Any thoughts on this?

Megan said...

We're 23 days from being back in the States after having lived in Nepal for two solid years. our conversations right now constantly revolve around what it will look like to be intentional once we're "home". As tough as it is to live here, it's amazing to be surrounded by people with a purpose. all the people we're closest to are striving for the Kingdom. Sometimes that happens in ways we may not philosophically agree with, but they see a need and they're going for it. We have lots of ideas, lots of passion, we are just so afraid of falling into the status quo, 'cause it's "easier" that way some days. Anyway, all that to say, I'd love to hear your ideas. I can't lie, I'm freaking out a little bit right now. 23 days and I get Chick-fil-a! I mean, I get to see our families! It's gonna be crazy.

Denise said...

As a fellow "Christ follower wannabe" and another who "simultaneously falls short", I look forward to sharing in the coming dialogue. So much so, you have brought me out of "lurkdom" right now!

Waiting....
PS: I missed the pictures! :o)

Fiveboys said...

Heather, I would LOVE this - just as my husband and I are working through this! Your timing is great!

~Sue Mitchell

Mercy said...

I have been reading your blog for over 2 years now. I never say anything to you but I have prayed for you and your family. I am 40 years old and I am back in school (after being a stay at home mom). I am going to become a nurse. I know I will do something for the poor and the not insured. Where? I don't know, but Haiti looks great. :)

Marla Taviano said...

This resonated with me in the hugest way imaginable. LOVE the cannon-ball paragraph.

Siesta OC said...

Distubing indeed! I just read on the Multnomah B.College blog an article by Bill Kramer, one sentence stuck out...'One evening in San Diego, I went to a little church, I acknowledged before God I couldn’t live the Christian life, He would have to live it. He took over.'

I thought exactly, I cant do this, but I vacate...GOD live it.
So blessed by so many people that are doing ministry for people, don't know where to help, but want to.

diplofam said...

can't wait to see what you come up with!

Jess said...

I think sometimes we make "poor people" unapproachable because we talk a lot and read a lot about them and we forget that they are people and not just theoretical things we read about.

Parks (especially inside cities) are awesome places to just hang out with people, play with kids, invite people sitting around to eat some (halal/kosher) hotdogs with us. Sometimes people invite us over, sometimes we never see them again. Soon we learn that they are simply people....broken people, joyful people, funny people, cranky people, shy people, loud people....and we are no different. Like seriously...the Lord opens our eyes to our own poverty.
Biggest lesson I've learned and relearned here in Minneapolis and in Haiti...I have nothing to offer "them" because my love is simply not enough...I am not their savior. He is...now and forever. Who am I that He allows me to be an ambassador of that love...I am not, but I know I AM.
I totally live this out ALL THE TIME because I am so holy AND supes humble. Okay but for real, I'm glad I live under the atonement of Christ's blood.

Can't wait to see you guys at legliz nan Ayiti this fall.

Peace and love,
Jess

Sharon said...

Heather, thank you for your honesty and openness. I've recently returned from over a year in Haiti and faithfully looking for work. I'm also wondering how the Lord wants to use me now? I'm looking forward to reading your posts.

Rachel said...

I'm pretty new to your blog -- my little family lives in China and I'm pretty excited to read these up coming posts too! We're about 30 days away from returning to Australia for an unexpected furlough so of course, this type of living is at the forefront of my mind too. Can't wait to read!

I chronicle "some" of our life at www.wokabout.net but not all seeing as we're living in a highly censored country ;-)

ourjourneytothere said...

Very interested in this topic! Right now we are raising support to go into ministry...by working at a Bible camp in Wisconsin. I'm struggling with this. Recently visited Haiti. I recognize there are so many needs around the world. Trying to remember that they aren't greater in exotic places, just different. I want to really make a difference. And I need to figure out how to do it in Good 'ol small town America.

Alexandra said...

I got the link to your blog thru Marla Taviano. I loved this paragraph: "We know our best efforts to serve the poor and advocate for the helpless do not earn us right standing before a holy God. Jesus' death alone has done that for us. We have nothing of worth to offer God, and our best efforts to live out God's heart towards the poor will never gain us right standing before God. Our works, our "bad" ones, and even our "best ones" are still filthy rags to the Lord. We don't explore these ideas and make changes in our lives in order to pat ourselves on the back, or because we want God to pat us on the back. If we belong to God, He has already pat us on the back and called us sons/daughters. So when we fail to care for the poor our standing is not compromised before God. When we succeed, our standing before God is not changed either. As children of God, it truly is "finished", Christ's righteousness is credited to us, and by God's sweet grace we are granted access and accepted by God the Father.
"
It by no means lets people off the hook for not caring about the needy. We are commanded to do so. I think it lets people not feel guilty when they feel no matter what they do, it's not good enough. Because guess what? It isn't. I like that. God won't compare us. I like that. We are commanded to care and be proactive, but it doesn't get us into heaven, and we aren't compared to others. I like it.