Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Family Homeless Shelter

Well, as promised for some time, we finally have one of our first consistent ministry opportunities as a church! Over the past few weeks and months, I have been forming a relationship with a family homeless shelter located in Woodlawn. This shelter is a very unique ministry for several reasons: First, it is designed to specifically house families as a unit, which is very uncommon. In fact, this is the only shelter in Birmingham that allows families to stay together! Most places split up the men from the women for safety, space, and to deal with gender-specific issues. Additionally, many places cannot house children at all, which obviously creates a problem for parents. So, to start, this shelter offers the very rare blessing of allowing families to remain intact, as well as ministering to all family roles in the same place.

Another one of the main "pros" to this place is that it trains the families in life skills, in addition to offering a place to live. As I have been reading and studying about urban ministry, I have been learning about the absolute necessity of accomplishing something called empowerment instead of enablement. There are many, many organizations and ways to reach out to try to address the needs of those around us, but unfortunately, one of the biggest problems with most of these remedies is that they offer short-term solutions for deep, long-term problems. In a very real sense, they attempt to put a band-aide on a very deep, festering wound and expect everything to be better. However, the reality is, that while this is often a genuine attempt to reach out and to help, we really are not helping the heart of the issue. In fact, we often make the problems worse by creating a dependency amongst the poor and needy, where these acts of kindness are not only expected, but become a necessity for their survival. I admit that I have been part of such outreaches. And while these simple "acts of kindness" had some merit in them and made me feel better, they did little to help solve the greater issues. Therefore, the type of ministry that we want to be part of is one which seeks to go deeper-we want to help address the problems behind homelessness and poverty - Problems like poor money management skills, lackadaisical work ethic, lack of opportunity, and many more. Therefore, when you find an organization that goes beyond the surface, that doesn't just give a handout, but seeks to empower people to create life changes, it is a breath of fresh air! This shelter is one such organization. Each family that lives there stays for several months at a time, rather than a fly-by-night or occasional stay. They are put on a strict time-management schedule, the parent(s) must hold a steady job, and they must maintain appropriate lifestyle and conduct for their families and the house. Since all is provided at the shelter, they must save every penny they earn, thus allowing them to also pay off debt. All residents must participate in a communal dinner every night, to give their family some routine and interaction. All of these things are absolutely vital to help empower people to overcome their difficult problems rather than fall back into a cycle they soon cannot escape.

Since each family is required to all eat together every night, we want to take advantage of this opportunity. Every Tuesday night, we want a family or small group of individuals to prepare dinner for the residents, and then to spend meal with the families. Not only is this a great opportunity to feed these families a meal and for them to spend time together, but also for a family from our church to minister together, as a family, to families, in the least intimidating form. In this organic way, we can begin to form genuine relationships in a laid back, small group setting, with the hope of consistency. If some families or groups from our church commit to making this a regular occurrence, true relationships will form and Christ within us will become very evident.

We will begin this ministry next Tuesday, February 24th, and continue every Tuesday evening, so if you are interested in signing up for a certain week as a family or small group of individuals, please email Dwight (dwight@rccbirmingham.org)! We want to be faithful with what we start, and so have taken our time in choosing which ministries to take part in. Now, as we begin to introduce more ways to get involved, ask the Lord what part He wants you to play in being his hands and feet to those in need! We are so excited about how the Lord will work through this opportunity!

1 comment:

kdefuniak said...

I'd love to prepare a meal for these families. Sign me up for whenever Amanda Blake is signed up. Thanks for all you're doing brother!