Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us. Thinking about that, we find it easy to conclude that the problem of the poor is too big for us to solve, so we drop a few dollars in the Salvation Army kettle at Christmas and write a check for missions and give it to our local church.
We almost become blind to the poor where we live.
When the recent census revealed that there are over ten thousand homeless people in San Diego, everyone I know thought those numbers must be incorrect. “Occasionally I see a homeless person at an intersection begging for money but surely there can’t be more than a few hundred homeless people in the entire city!”
One church group of which we were a part decided that the homeless were on the streets because of “bad decisions” they had made. The group felt that helping them would only encourage them to stay homeless. The solution – “They should get off their butts and get jobs!” Another group felt that God only “calls” certain people to help the poor and the homeless, and no one in the group felt “called.”
Going to the HomelessLast Saturday our small group ventured to downtown San Diego to an area where several hundred homeless people live on the sidewalk, in the shadow of the ballpark. I was reminded of Jesus being born in Bethlehem, literally in the shadow of the Herodian, location of one of Herod’s palaces and a symbol of the wealth and might of the Roman Empire.
Friday had brought a soaking rain. On Saturday the homeless were trying to dry their clothes, blankets and sleeping bags. As several told us, “We’re trying to get dry before it rains tomorrow”. We shared chips and some other prepackaged food we had taken with us and talked to them. Some had been living on the streets for months or years. One man said he had lost his job, had run out of money and had just joined the ranks of the homeless that day.
About lunch time on Sunday the second storm arrived. The rain continued until the middle of the night. Several times after we went to bed the heavy rain woke me. I prayed for the people sitting in the rain on the sidewalk downtown, some without even a garbage bag to put over themselves. The temperature dipped into the upper forties and low fifties. As the homeless we have known have explained, even though the temperature is above freezing, being soaked to the skin on a chilly night can lower body temperature and is especially dangerous for those with health problems.
Are the Homeless My Problem?I prayed while it rained. We had taken food to the homeless, but I was lying in a warm dry bed and they were sitting on a cold, wet sidewalk getting soaked. The problem is too big for me or our small group to solve. But should we do something?
We are trying to do something. Last winter during similar, but colder weather, we gathered two carloads of blankets, coats, sweaters, tarps, socks and similar supplies and delivered them to the winter homeless shelter. Once again we are gathering similar supplies for this winter. But is that enough?
Even when all of the winter shelters are open, there are still hundreds of homeless who can’t be accommodated. I think of them sitting in the rain, soaked to the skin, sometimes shivering uncontrollably. What can we do? What should we do? (Not just our group here in San Diego, but all of us, wherever we live.) What do you think?
Be the Church in Your CommunityWant to be the church in your community but don't know? Here are some posts which not only explain what it means to be the church in your community, but also gives concrete, practical examples of what it looks like and how to be the church whatever you do and wherever you go. Remember, you ARE the church, and wherever you go, Jesus goes with you!
- How to Be the Church in Your Community
- How to Preach the Gospel to your Neighbors
- Being the Church is Loving the Person in Front of You
- 4 Practical Suggestions for Being the Church in your Community
- Love Like Jesus by Listening to People
- Welcome New People to the Community
- Finding Jesus in Denver
- Being the Church by Loving the Homeless
- Helping the Homeless in the Rain
- Loving the Homeless like Jesus