Missions in A Sea of Poverty

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It is in the thirties on a Friday night and the number of homeless and some hungry continue to sign in to the Union Mission on Poplar Avenue downtown. The gate to the parking lot is open and there is a rear entrance for the staff. I walk into the place with barely anyone speaking, but I sense that I have scanned and presumed harmless and out of place even. I walk around for a moment and finally I ask someone for the director. I was surprised at the amount of freedom to enter without being questioned by anyone. It is about fifteen minutes before time to serve the meal for the evening. It is like organized chaos in that people are moving about like bees in a beehive. The Union Mission is a multi faceted organization in the city of Memphis that serves those in need of food and shelter, as well; it is buoyed solely by donations. The Men’s Emergency Shelter is one of several departments that comprise the Union Mission. On this cold night, the men continue to stand in line registering to enter the shelter. A group of teenagers with their teacher from one of the area high schools enters as some of us began setting up tables for dinner. Meanwhile the serving line is quickly assembled as food is brought from the kitchen and volunteers are assigned serving stations. The director shares a blessing over the food and the men form a line. The men represent all ethnicities it seemed as well as all age groups. However, it is obvious that most of the men range anywhere from 35 to 55. The serving line consists of pizza, vegetables, bread fragments and desert. I served the bread fragments that appeared consist of fragments of wheat and white breads. I was instructed to give only one piece of bread, but the fragments were so small and the container w... ... middle of paper ... ... culture, we perpetuate the very disease we are seeking to eradicate. It is like putting a band-aid on a broken leg. Additionally, my church is behind the times on congregational awareness of poverty. Our church has spent the last ten years trying to survive. What is the role of the church as it relates to poverty? How does a church that has a membership with similar issues reach out to others? What did Jesus mean when He said, “For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish…” (Mark 14.7). My tradition generally interprets the first beatitude as poor in spiritual matters. Associate ministers are generally bound to the Pastor of the church concerning interpretation of scripture and the type of teaching to be done in the church. How do I as an associate overcome this hurdle? At this point, I have more questions than answers.
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