This post has laid heavy on my heart for a while now. It is so difficult to write because I’m not entirely sure what I want to say. I know what I want to accomplish, I just lack the words to make it happen. But it needs to be said, so with God’s help, I’m just going to put it out there the best I can.
Friends, this season has been fraught with so much heartache. We watched helplessly and in horror as media reports brought us news of awful, wicked acts carried out in other parts of the world. We followed hashtags and said our #PrayersForParis and #PrayersForTheWorld and applauded faraway do-gooders who welcomed the stranded with a #PorteOuverte (an open door). We watched helplessly, again, as new discoveries were made that supposedly linked the ones who hurt so many to the ones fleeing a certain and similar fate. We made our judgements. Our politicians made theirs too. We used new hashtags with a much less graceful rhetoric. #NoToRefugees. #RefugeesNotWelcomeHere. #TakeCareOfHomeFirst. We shared memes that pictured the hurting foreigners juxtaposed with the hurting locals and felt justified in our anger because the suffering of the latter hits much closer to home. We argued with people who must just be so naive to think that offering refuge to the poor and hurting of the rest of the world is in fact the right thing to do. We built up a defense of self defense and self preservation and we’re sticking to our dialogue – no matter the heartstrings they pull, no matter the tears they elicit, no matter the values they question.
I’m here to tell you that I don’t have an answer to these disputes. I have my opinions, yes. And they fall on one side of the spectrum, for the most part. And they are supported by people I admire and respect. But me voicing those opinions to you will not change your mind, regardless of which side you stand, so stubbornly, on. And that’s ok. I stand stubbornly, too.
But I also question my stance. And I think, if we’re all being honest, most of us do. That’s ok. Because in questioning, in letting these issues keep me up at night, I’ve found that my stance is not quite so rigid. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t understand all the logistics. I don’t fully comprehend all the consequences of any one decision. And that’s ok. None of us possibly could.
What’s not ok is letting our hardened opinions harden our hearts to the bigger picture. What’s not ok is feeling content to shout #HelpHomelessVets on a social media outlet and going on with our homeless-vet-less day. What’s not ok is to all of a sudden care about the ones who need help within our borders when we haven’t thought about them all year long until now. What’s not ok is comparing the pain and suffering of “our own” to the pain and suffering of “them,” as if it isn’t within our power to help both.
If you are a Christian, you’ve no doubt seen by now the countless urgings of other Christians to heed the words of the Bible that compel us to love our neighbors. To feed them, to clothe them, to serve them. If you haven’t, I’ll just leave some scripture here for your convenience:
35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
35 I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
I don’t share these verses with you to make any kind of political statement. I share them with you to remind you that we are called to help those who need it, and to serve those whom others may consider “the least,” regardless of how we really feel about them. Jesus never said to only love your fellow countrymen. He never said to support the weak, as long as you can verify their “good-guy” status. And he never said to take in the stranger, as long as he is less strange than someone else who’s also in need.
Here is my challenge to you: look for ways to serve them all.
And if you can’t do that because you are still struggling with how you really feel about it all, at least look for ways to serve the people you do care about.
If your heart is really (truly) breaking for homeless veterans, families, teens and children, then go out. Serve them.
If your soul is really (truly) crushed by the atrocities that drive so many families from their homes and into foreign lands that may or may not even accept them, then go out. Serve them.
If you can let go of the idea for a moment that it is the government’s responsibility alone to ensure the life-long happiness and stability of its veterans, its families, its children, and if you can concede with me for a second that refugees are people too, even if they are not “our” people, then you’ll see that is in fact our job, yours and mine, our burden, our privilege, our honor to serve them.
That is the purpose of this post. To fill you in on ways that you can actually be of service to the hurting world around you.
Each of the organizations listed below work in concrete, tangible, and amazing ways to meet the needs of those who are currently enduring a hardship that some of us could never imagine for ourselves. This list focuses on the homeless (or those at great risk of becoming homeless) and the refugee and is in no way a complete list of the possibilities. These groups and others rely heavily on donations and volunteer work. If you have no idea where to begin, here are some ideas to get you started.
In Colorado Springs
- Ecumenical Social Ministries – “In response to the Gospel, ESM promotes self-sufficiency and restores dignity by providing food, medicine, housing, job placement, educational programs, and spiritual encouragement. ESM provides a collaborative Christian response to low income and homeless people in crisis.”
- Urban Peak – “Urban Peak helps youth experiencing homelessness and youth at risk of becoming homeless overcome real life challenges by providing essential services and a supportive community, empowering them to become self-sufficient adults.”
- Interfaith Hospitality Network/Family Promise – “The mission of Family Promise of Colorado Springs is to end family homelessness in our community one family at a time. Family Promise realizes its mission by providing transitional shelter and supportive services to homeless families and those at immediate risk to experience homelessness. Family Promise’s primary goal is to assist families with children to permanently transition into independent affordable housing; secondary goals include meeting community transitional housing needs in the most cost-effective manner possible and providing congregations with an opportunity to put their faith into action.”
- Refugee and Asylee Program through Lutheran Family Services – “The Refugee & Asylee Programs’ goal is to help refugees be resettled into a secure, stable environment on their way to self-sufficiency.”
- Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries – “The Mission of Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries is to teach the love of Jesus Christ by building a renewed sense of wholeness and dignity and by standing with those who are broken, especially among refugees and those who are disenfranchised and displaced. The Good News of salvation is lived out by addressing spiritual and material needs, including emergency shelter and food, clothing, transportation, legal aid, advocacy and job referral through a cooperative effort with other agencies and religious organizations.”
- Feed My Starving Children – “Feed My Starving Children is a non-profit Christian organization committed to feeding God’s children hungry in body and spirit. The approach is simple: children and adults hand-pack meals specifically formulated for malnourished children, and we ship these meals to our distribution partners. FMSC meals have reached nearly 70 countries around the world in our history.”
- Week of Compassion – “Week of Compassion is the relief, refugee and development mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. We seek to equip and empower disciples to alleviate the suffering of others through disaster response, humanitarian aid, sustainable development and the promotion of mission opportunities.”
- Medical Teams International – “The mission of Medical Teams International is to demonstrate the love of Christ to people affected by disaster, conflict, and poverty around the world. [We] provide medical and dental care, humanitarian aid, and holistic development programs to all people in need, regardless of religion, nationality, sex, or race.”
- Carry the Future – “It is our primary goal to provide relief to refugee families while they are on their journeys to asylum. We specialize in giving baby carriers to families with babies and toddlers. We hand-deliver the carriers to refugees and also fit them and instruct them on proper use to ensure safety for the baby and longevity of the carrier.”
It’s time to end the hashtags and bandwagon movements that only promote alienation of a group, even if it is under the guise of lifting up another. Let’s bring back #PrayForTheWorld and add more to tune of #HowMayWeServe?
Thank you to those who helped in my research for this post. Some of these I have had the honor of donating time or money to and others I have only learned about recently while preparing for this post. I started with the Colorado Springs area, because that is what I’m currently familiar with. Some of the organizations listed have chapters in other parts of the country as well. Look for them. And if you know of other places we can go to serve, please leave information about them in the comments below.