Monday, September 19, 2005

Seeing the Invisible

Ever since Hurricane Katrina hit, there has been a lot written about, blogged about and reported about the efforts that millions from around the country (and the world) are doing to help the victims. While a lot of finger pointing and bureaucratic red tape was holding up relief efforts by local, state and federal governments, the church (and by this I mean ALL churches) stepped up. Some opened their doors as shelters for the evacuees. Others raised and donated money. Still others delivered food, water, and supplies to hurricane and flood-ravaged areas. And I applaud that. It's not something that we need to pat ourselves on the back about, though; we were and are doing exactly what we are called to do as Christ's body.

So Jesus called them together and said, "You know that in this world kings are tyrants, and officials lord it over the people beneath them. But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:42-45

Kudos aside, I can't help but feel convicted about the fact that while my heart has been so touched by those were rendered homeless by the hurricane and its afteraffects, I struggle to have the same sensitivity towards those who have been poor and homeless for years. There are millions of homeless, destitute people in small towns and big cities all over this country. There are hundreds living right here in Montgomery. So why haven't I felt a need to help them, as I feel a need to help the hurricane victims?

Is it perhaps that I don't see them as victims, that somehow they're to blame for their own poverty? Or maybe it's that they seem to be invisible altogether. If their faces were plastered on the news day and night, would I feel a deep sadness and desire to help them? If I heard their stories, would I be more sensitive to their plight?

This past weekend, I joined several members of my life group in working at a shelter for the poor and homeless. We prepared food for the Sunday meals, which serve anywhere from 500 to upward of a thousand people. These are not hurricane evacuees being served at this shelter, or people who find themselves temporarily displaced from their homes. These are poverty-stricken, desperate people who day in and day out are fighting for their lives.

I have to admit that working at that shelter was WAY beyond my comfort zone. And yet I can't get it out of my head. Long after the flood waters recede and homes are rebuilt and the evacuees return home and things return to "normal", these people I helped feed will be around. And hungry. Hungry for food and water. Hungry for attention and love. Hungry for compassion. Hungry for acceptance.

I know that there are many, many churches (mine included) that already minister in some way to the poor and neglected in our towns and cities. But it bothers me that we as a whole, myself included, were so quick to aid those in a crisis due to the hurricane, but are less quick to aid those who were already impovershed and homeless.

Am I the only bothered by this?

O God, open my eyes to see those who the world views as "invisible," but who You view as priceless. Make me a servant.

3 comments:

Rhonda said...

Lisa,

You are not the only one bothered by this. These people have been on my heart and I can't stop thinking about them.

I think we are quick to help the hurricane victims because we can easily identify with them. They lived just like we are used to living and in the blink of an eye they had lost everything. We know that same thing can happen to us.

But it's different with the poor and homeless. More than likely, this happened over time. We don't want to imagine living like them. We don't want to admit that at times we feel invisible. We don't want to admit that at times we are hungry for food, water, attention, love, compassion and acceptance. We don't want to identify with them because then we will be the same. We are afraid of that. But in the end, we are the same. We all have to face God and account for how we lived our lifes. Whether we are poor and homeless or wealthy (on some level) and homeowners with possessions has no meaning to God. It's what's on the inside and who we are and what we did with what God gave us that matters. That guy sleeping on the cot night after night in the shelter may very well be the guy that walks through the gates of heaven in front of us and enters the mansion that God has prepared for him for eternity. We have a responsibility to help them. God can work through us to help them. If they chose to reject God, that is their choice. But if we choose not to help them, then we are rejecting God's call.

Just some thoughts.

That Girl said...

I am encouraging people to remember our local hungry as well as our new citizens. God's grace is given to all of us... let's spread it around!

I like your new template!

DJG said...

I stay bothered by it....I just fail to do anything about it too often. I did send a check to Jimmie Hale Mission when I sent one to the Disaster Relief Fund though, Maybe together we can all make a difference.