Posts tagged ‘resourcefulness’

June 15, 2013

Creating a praying community on the street

Some supporters ask how we approach our clients about prayer requests. Many are not Christian, and most do not pray on their own regularly. We simply ask “What do you want God to do for you?” at an appropriate point in our conversations. We like this question because it places emphasis on God’s provision, which is available to believers and unbelievers every day. It also puts God in an active role. Often the answer is “whatever He wants” or “just bless me.” To that we reply, “That’s fine, and we’ll pray. But the more specific you can be, the more helpful it may be. I believe God really wants to know what you want. Maybe He won’t do it, but He wants to hear it.” 
Another way we get into prayer requests is when we are asked for something (like shoes, guitar strings or a backpack). If we have it, we simply say, “God provided one of those today, and I’d be happy to give it to you if it will help.” If we don’t have the thing they have asked about, we never promise to go buy it. We turn it into a prayer request. We write it into our prayer book. And we share it with a prayer team member. The street youth have come to value that a lot. One client puts it this way, “When things go into that little book of yours, Terry–they just happen!” We also usually give them a little homily when they ask for things. We tell them: “Jesus said ‘Ask, seek, and knock.’ The ask part is what you just did. We’ll ask God for it with you, too. The seek part means you start looking for it. We’ll watch out for it, too. And nobody who wants the door opened knocks once and runs away. It means keep looking and keep asking.” More frequently than not, the street youth finds the item before we meet them again, giving us an opportunity to talk about God’s provision for them even on the street. And that’s awesome!

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March 20, 2009

You will always have the poor

I work with the impoverished every day, with a focus on people who are homeless or street dependent. I promise that I would have never guessed that I could make such a statement 10 years ago. Wow!

The poor were largely invisible to me 10 years ago. I know they were in my community, but I lived in such a way and at such a pace that I never saw them. A short term mission trip to Mexico changed that for me. Upon returning, I found life too fast. I found isolated consumerism an unacceptable substitute for community. And I saw the poor for the first time.

We often hear Matthew 26:11 quoted in relationship to serving the poor. Proponents for social welfare quote this as providing justification that the poor deserve our attention. Opponents of social programs cite this as evidence that there is no solution to poverty. However, I recently heard a preacher put a spin on it that has gotten me to thinking in a different way, a way that rings much truer for me that either of these conclusions.

When we take time to walk with the poor, they and we are both changed. When we stop to find out what someone needs… truly needs… we are able to give them gifts of great meaning. When we begin to minister in this real way, we find that we ourselves are lifted up. By walking together, both the served and the server and healed and made well.

So… here is the clincher. What if when Jesus said, “You will always have the poor” he was not merely making a commentary on social order. What if he was not ranking the importance of worship of God over helping of people. What if he were responding to a deep and true understanding that He was leaving his people and they would need help to find their way. What is he was giving a most precious gift: “You will always have the poor. I give you this precious gift so that, if you will take the time and effort to love them as your neighbor, you will both be restored and healed. I love you this much!”

I think society desperately needs to heal its relationship with the poor. In my town, we seem to be at war with the poor. Drive them out! Give them tickets! Get them out of town! If they can’t behave, label them as felons or convicted criminals with morally questionable backgrounds. I have come to believe that we are harming our own society by excluding a part of it. We need the poor, and we need a healthy relationship with them. We cannot ignore, turn away, or prosper by driving them away. We need to include them, love them, and talk with them as equals.

I believe that many of the homeless and poor in our midst will grow up and be people of great strength, drawing upon their backgrounds and experiences and resourcefulness to face, address, and ultimately solve problems that we would otherwise lack the ability and courage to resolve. Many of the mid 20th century leaders rose from the poverty and turmoil of the early 20th century. I can only imagine what is yet to come.