Not at New Hope!
I started scanning an article on the Daily News website that was comparing the area's support of dogs and cats through shelters and the lack of the same for homeless people. The writer made her case that something seemed wrong in an area where there was such an outpouring of caring for animals, but over ten years, despite numerous attempts, no homeless shelter has been built. Then she wrote:
"a network of churches shelters the homeless when temperatures drop below 40 degrees. Churches also have cobbled together a feeding program" -Wendy Victora of the Daily News
A commenter then wrote
"Wow, how very humane that the area churches can help on occasion. Otherwise, they're to busy using their tax free funds to build more church stuff, buy more property (taking off the tax rolls), and go to retreats. A real caring lot those church going folks."
That's the view from the outside I guess, but he's looking in the window of the wrong kind of church.
There are times when it feels like the mission we are on at New Hope is completely out of step with what the majority of churches in our area are seeking after. Yes, we have buildings, and a mortgage. But that writer should come and see how we agonize over spending money on anything other than our mission. Every time we think about the two A/C units that went out earlier in the year, we put their cost in this context - "we could have drilled two wells with that money." Two wells that would have supplied 2000 people with clean water and lowered their chance of water-borne disease. We had to replace them - people in Florida expect to be cooled at church - but it spoke volumes that we counted the cost in a different way that most.
We send out every penny we can to those the Bible refers to as "the least of these."
And we are a blue collar church, a smaller church in a small community that's shrinking and may shrink more with the F-35 noise abatement issues. One employee - me. I wear many hats, and my wife some more. We serve alongside other people who volunteer their time and give their money to make a difference for God locally, in the States, and around the world. They "do something!" to change this world.
We've helped Love146 , The Water Project , From HIV To Home, Africa Bags, and more outside of the disaster relief, hunger help, and other activities funded by our participation in the SBC. Our members sponsor kids in the Compassion and World Vision programs, and one class also supports the Amazima orphanage in Uganda. We've sent Buckets of Hope to Haiti, and our girls program Child2Child has been more active in more ways that most churches as a whole are. Blankets to the Navajo elders, formula to orphanages, stainless steel bowls to Haitians, those are just a few of the projects they have taken on. They actually kicked the whole church into high gear and we haven't let up. During Thanksgiving week, we'll be challenging each other to eat rice and beans at each meal and give the money we would have spent to the drilling of a well. Does that sound like we don't care?
It's cost us to be this kind of church. We don't measure with the same metric as most other churches do. We don't follow the same consumerist path. As a result, we're not nearly as visible, and frankly not as attractive to people who want to come in and observe and be cared for as opposed to our "Do Something!" method of operation where all of us - children, youth and aged - new believers and older saints - work together to love and serve. It ain't about us - it's about Jesus. Our growth has been slow and at times unsteady. Our finances - well, let's just say my prayer life has been strengthened. But I want the writer of that comment as well as those who may share his views to know - there's a church that isn't on a mission to buy and build. We're on a mission to share and to love.
I keep thinking and praying to God that one day we'll see people like the writer decide to look for a church that really is trying - with all our imperfections not withstanding - to give and to serve - to sacrifice to help those who need it. We've got room. The writer should know he's just looking through the wrong window. We'd love to do more. Maybe he could come and give us some ideas. Or maybe he could come and help.
How about you?