Here in the Midway, Central Baptist is exposed to a wide range of diversity and people from all walks of life; a community illuminated with a social structure ranging from well to do families, to middle class workers, and hundreds who are in transition. This blessed community, however, is also home to several who find themselves dangling, figuratively, from the bottom of the social ladder in St. Paul.
Most of the people from the Midway’s homeless community struggle desperately from unfortunate but common circumstances which includes mental health, addiction, poverty, and broken families. Prior to my arriving at Central two years ago, our faith community held a healthy and mutual relationship with the homeless, and others in need, through the kind and generous work of Pastor John and Sharyn. When I came on board as Community Pastor I was assigned the responsibility of being a point person to accommodate people in need, including the homeless. Having the opportunity of working with those in need has been both challenging and humbling. It’s been humbling because many circumstances involving the needy & homelessness are things we’re all susceptible to, yet, for a variety of different reasons, most Americans will not experience--even though we struggle with similar issues. Engaging the needs in the Midway has therefore humbled me by acknowledging God’s amazing grace (in my life), and for also becoming more aware of the many aspects of life that I’ve taken for granted, and without shame! It’s been a challenge because one gets an up-close observation of the reality of so many who are utterly without help or a safety net to rescue them from extremely hard times. The human reality of total deprivation requires the listener to be not only mature in Spirit, but also fully capable of resisting the temptation of becoming bitter, discouraged, or pessimistic regarding the uplift of those whose ethos is strapped down by poverty…. I personally flunk this requirement all the time! However, it has left a profound and transforming imprint upon my soul.
Over the last two years I’ve learned genuine empathy from listening to those who willingly share the personal and family crises that has led to them to being without food, transportation, jobs, income, or social support. Unfortunately, Central Baptist has yet to be in a position to deliver any one person from their economic or social setbacks, being that many of those seeking assistance may require immediate intervention from qualified professionals (from social or psychological services) or family members who understands their overall need. However, I’m honored to be a part Central’s willingness to help many of those who have qualified for assistance as we strive to be a faithful presence in our community. Those whom we are able to help have received assistance in housing, food, bus cards, temporary shelter, clothing items, finances, and resources to give them a lift while trying to sustain their imminent progress. The difference between those who qualify and those who don’t comes down to the social ethic of being guarded against enabling, yet having the openness to fully hear one’s story and circumstances thereby taking the time to interpret how to appropriately respond to the individual need. I personal believe this privilege (of judging circumstances) would be nothing short of a misguided train-wreck without prayer and the Spirit of God working through the Body of the church. Behind the power of prayer and divine intervention we have witnessed a few cases in which individuals have indeed been lead out of their homeless and dependent state to the beginning of a life-transforming journey walking with, and trusting in God. Thanks to Central Baptist church I, along with Grace and Steve (who have done an outstanding job being the front-line people to those who come through our doors), have had several occasions of being led by the Spirit in providing for many who are in need. Of course every need cannot be met by the church, however it’s been a privilege to help those who needed a lift forward or even temporary assistance to simply sustain their hope in the constant strive for humanity to survive the harsh realities of our unjust, and broken world. I’m proud to be a part of a church that is willing to risk what it truly means to “be” a faithful presence, and I’m proud to be a part of a community that stands beside their mission with more than words.
(PLEASE NOTE: The contributions made the first Sunday of each month to the Fellowship Fund are used to help our neighbors in need)