I join many other voices when I say that we live in a world of haves and have nots. I’m not sure there are many middle class Americans who would deny this. But how many of us have any conception of what this really means? How can we? Have we seen the disparity with our own eyes? Have we lived on both sides of the equation? Even for those who have had seasons of financial struggle, have any of us ever gone to the brink of death because we can’t get a single glass of clean water? Have we lost a loved one to a simple fever? Have we ever had to go barefoot for lack of shoes, or live with creepy crawlies living in our skin, or watch our babies die because we have nothing to feed them?
We read about such things. We see them in the news and in movies, and perhaps shed a tear of compassion or cringe with horror and disgust. But then we head to our kitchens to make a cup of coffee and have a snack. Maybe we give our children an extra hug, remembering for that brief moment to be grateful that they are healthy and safe. Perhaps we believe we are somehow making a tiny dent in the world’s problems by dropping off a bag of food at the local food drive or handing a homeless veteran $5 out the car window.
Within the Christian community, many books have cropped up in the past few years intended to start a conversation about the poor in the world and our responsibility toward them. Books that I have read on the subject include: Radical by David Platt, Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker, and Anything by Jennie Allen, as well as such personal narratives as Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis and Same Kind of Different as Me by Denver Moore and Ron Hall. There has also been a recent slew of books about how to live out that responsibility responsibly (i.e. effectively and without doing harm), most notably including Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton and When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. But, fellow Christians, where are these conversations leading us? What have we changed? What are we doing to engage the poor (those impoverished not only physically, but spiritually and emotionally, as well) in meaningful ways? What real sacrifices are we making?
Let me ask the harder question: Why have we not all found a desolate part of our community and integrated ourselves into it? Is it because we don’t know how to begin? Is it because we are afraid for our safety or that of our family? Is it because we fill ill-equipped to help?
Perhaps it is because we don’t have time (what with all our kids’ ball games and music lessons, our New Year’s commitment to go faithfully to the gym 3 times a week, and all that great prime time TV programming). Or maybe, in truth, we simply don’t care about the largely invisible poor in our cities, in our country, in the world……at least not enough to trade a chunk of our comfort and freedom for theirs.
Almost daily, I wrestle with these questions.
Two years ago I made a commitment. I made it quickly, but with a conscious awareness that it would require a fair amount of sacrifice and a whole new level of faith. How much sacrifice and how much faith I didn’t know (and still don’t), but the decision really boiled down to whether I was going to answer a very direct question from God with a yes or a no. I answered “yes” and so my involvement with El Crucero Iglesio began. Little did I know that I would soon feel as if I had adopted an entire community of children….that I would love them so fiercely and feel so much heartbreak because I have so little control over their lives.
I have decided to start a blog for several reasons. First, I want to record this journey so that I don’t forget the details, joys and struggles along the way. Secondly, I long to enter into conversation with others on the subject of ministry to the poor and community development and am hoping this forum opens a door for such conversations. Finally (and perhaps most urgently), I need an outlet for the often consuming thoughts, struggles and emotions this ministry has grown up in me.
I realize that I have not yet explained what El Crucero is or how I’m involved. In my next post I will start at the beginning….