Friday, June 29, 2012

When I Was Homeless, You Gave Me a Home

Matthew 25 doesn’t actually say, “When I was homeless, you gave me a home.”  But it does say that strangers, aliens, visitors, who have no where to go, are welcomed.  Maybe we could paraphrase Jesus by saying, “When I had nowhere to go, you gave a place to lay my head.”  There just isn’t any debate among the followers of Jesus that finding shelter for those without shelter is a Jesus honoring task and falls under ministering to “the very least of these.”  
Two weeks ago we got to see God really move in providing for his people.  
At the beginning of the week we were notified about the plight of a young woman with two small children in a dangerous living situation that had nowhere to stay after June 30.  So we prayed and asked God to help and then broadcast her need to the congregation and the world on e-mail and Facebook.  Within hours we’d heard back from two families, one from Zion and one from Hope, who were interested in helping.  We set up a meeting and now, we’re pleased to announce that the young family has free housing for at least the next six months between the two families.  This should allow for ample time for her to get back on her feet and find a suitable long term solution.  And of course, we’ll be there to help.  Someone is even interested in hiring her full time.  
Then, at the end of the week, God provided a break through in another situation.  A man we’ve been helping by providing transitional housing just got a letter from Des Moines Municipal Housing offering him a place.  We immediately went down and saw the nice apartment and secured his future home.  One of the best things about his new arrangement is that there is a social worker on site who will help him get connected to more of the benefits he might qualify to receive.  We’re so glad that Municipal Housing found a place.  We’re so honored to have helped keep him find a place in the meantime  for the year it took for an apartment to become available.  
For over five months we’ve been working as a church with a young addict.  It’s been a beautiful thing to watch her emerge as a sober, happy person.  She has struggled valiantly through prayer and a stubborn desire to be free of her past and addiction.  Every day is a struggle.  We are so grateful to God for bringing her into our lives.  She needed a church to walk with her.  She needed multiple families and people to help her through these times by giving time, rides, sometimes money, and most of all, love.  I’m so thankful to Pastor Tina and her husband Mark, who stood up for this lovely woman in court and volunteered to open their house to her.  It was an amazing act of bravery and courageousness.  Sometimes to serve the least of these like you’d serve Jesus you have to throw open your house and offer everything you have.  
I’m thinking about Christian life as  stewardship of what we’ve been given.  Nowhere does Jesus say we’re to pay our 10% and be done with it.  Instead, Jesus frequently tells us that if we are truly to follow him, we must deny ourselves and pick up our cross.  In other words, he wants it all.  But why shouldn’t he?  We often tell people that all they have is a gift from God.  Sometimes, He might want to use it to help others.  Sometimes He might want it all back.  But if  it was his in the first place, that shouldn’t be a problem, right?
Sadly, we too often get caught up trying to set limits on God.  It’s his church, we say, but we resist with all our might “giving it away.”  It’s all his money, but we too often find excuses for not letting him use it.  It’s all his time, but we have so many pre-prepared lectures on healthy boundaries and needing time for ourselves or time for our families.  I’m sure all of these have a grain of truth in them.  But when the Master calls, the servants respond.  We are the servants.  He is the Master.  We live to serve him whenever and wherever he calls us, and with whatever he’s given us to 
These are really wonderful stories with happy endings.  I’m reminded how God is always faithful.  Sometimes you have to hang on for a long time, but He has a plan and He never stops providing.  As a church we’ve decided to keep doing what we felt God was calling us to do:  to be the arms and hands and legs of Jesus and help people in need.  He has always been faithful and we can testify to the miraculous things He’s done in our midst.  Trusting God with the little you have tends to grow your faith, and I think exercises like these grow the faith of the entire congregation.  We’ve learned to trust God to provide together and I think that’s grown us in unity and faith.  At the end of the day, there is no denying the relationship between a vibrant, growing faith and obedience.  If you want your faith to be alive and grow, you have to do what God says.  You have to care for the least of these.  And that means you have to step out in faith and take risks.  Thanks for reading.  God bless you.  PJ 

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