Missions In A Sea Of Poverty

2017 words - 9 pages

It is in the thirties on a Friday night and the number of homeless and some hungry continue to sign in to the Union Mission on Poplar Avenue downtown. The gate to the parking lot is open and there is a rear entrance for the staff. I walk into the place with barely anyone speaking, but I sense that I have scanned and presumed harmless and out of place even. I walk around for a moment and finally I ask someone for the director. I was surprised at the amount of freedom to enter without being questioned by anyone. It is about fifteen minutes before time to serve the meal for the evening. It is like organized chaos in that people are moving about like bees in a beehive. The Union Mission is a ...view middle of the document...

It is a very orderly process even though the men wanted everything and others were selective to a small degree. There was not much from which to choose. The pizza looked anemic, but I am sure it was filling on a night like this. A few of the men thank the servers and a few attempted to goad the young people into serving more. I had to remember to smile because I kept looking at the chopped up bread and the anemic pizza thinking to myself, surely we can do better than this. However, April stats are as follows: “Total Lodging Provided: 8,902 and Total Number of Meals Served 23,410. All of this is done on donations only with no government subsidies.
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings o your harvest; you shall eave them for the poor and for the alien: I am the Lord your God” (The New Interpreters Study Bible Lev. 23.22). Although temporary to some degree, I think the Men’s Emergency Shelter meet the criteria of Diana Butler Bass’s “Hospitality” with the subtitle “Welcoming Strangers.” The gleanings are the donations from others similar to our household or our church and I am sure some business organizations pitch in as well to reach out to those who suffer from homelessness and hunger. The commitment of the Christian men and women who assist in this endeavor that is active seven days a week may aid in defining the phrase, “missio dei.” Each evening always end with a worship service, a bath, relaxation and shelter for the night. Although the Men’s Shelter is close to my heart, I also had an opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of a part of the justice system.
Our church benefits from those who have ran afoul of the criminal justice system and been ordered to do community service. It is one of many methods used to deter first time offenders of not-so-serious criminal offenses. Generally, there is a time limit to when the community service must be completed. Our church offered to provide community service for those located within the neighborhood that is challenge by transportation issues. I serve as an unofficial chaplain who takes the time to pray with and listen to the offenders. It is a fine line between church and state in that we are not allowed to plan any church related activities that would include the offenders. For instance, our sanctuary is open for prayer during the noon day hour. We cannot encourage those involved with community service to attend. They may attend on their own accord. There was even a question as to whether we were at risk for breaking regulations for offering the prayer opportunity during the time of court ordered community service. Nevertheless, community service can be a deterrent for minor offenses and economically, a way to meet the obligations of the court for those who cannot afford to pay fines.
I found serving in the community service program to be more challenging than serving at the men’s shelter in that I could freely interact...

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