Urban Plunge Reflections: What about the Poor in Our Own Backyard? - page 5


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From the Fall 2014 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Urban Plunge Reflections:
What about the Poor in Our Own Backyard?

by Fred J. Clark
C.S. Lewis Institute Fellow

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Consider Serving the Homeless by Being Homeless: The GFP challenged us, as Christians, to consider becoming homeless ourselves as a way to serve the homeless. They noted the many homeless people who have great needs, especially those who do not know Christ, or are suffering from addiction or mental illness. What better way to minister to them, and to intimately learn about their challenges, than to voluntarily live among them? (I see the logic in their point. Though I do not personally feel called to do this, John Christopher Frame chronicled his experience in his book Homeless at Harvard: Finding Faith and Friendship on the Streets of Harvard Square [Zondervan, 2013]).

Conclusion and Takeaways

  I found the Urban Plunge to be a valuable part of the C.S. Lewis Institute Fellows Program experience. With so much of the program focused on reading, prayer, and interaction within cohorts, the experiential nature of the Plunge is an important enhancement to the Fellows’ understanding of service and why it is needed.
  My personal takeaways from the Plunge include the following:  
  1. Serve the Poor Where I Am. Now.
  To the extent that I feel called to serve the poor, I should do so here and now, close to home. I confess to having a romantic notion of serving the poor overseas in short- or medium-term missions. But even if I feel a call to serve the poor overseas (or expect that I may hear such a call in the future), this is not a reason (an excuse?) to forgo serving the poor, the sick, widows, orphans, or those in prison here and now (as Jesus calls us to do).
  2. There Is Wisdom, Power, and Comfort in Serving on a Team.
  Jesus Christ was wise that when He sent out the seventy-two to prepare the way for Him, He sent them out in pairs (Luke 10:1–20). This wisdom was confirmed for me in my Plunge experience when we were likewise sent out to serve in teams. Working with a team allowed us to leverage the various gifts of all to accomplish the slightly uncomfortable task of engaging with strangers. The team also provided the encouragement, comfort, and accountability that come in working together. This is a good lesson that I will try to implement in ministry and in my professional and personal life.
  3. Need I Discriminate among the Poor Whom I Serve to Separate the Truly Needy from the Truly Lazy?  
  The notion that many are “homeless by choice” was thought provoking me. Should it make any difference to me if they are homeless by choice? Throughout the Bible, Christians are commanded to serve the poor, widows and orphans; to visit those who are in prison; and help the sick (e.g., Ezek. 16:49; Isa. 1:17; Exod. 22:22–24; Matt. 25:31–40). Without doing a great deal of research, I do not recall Jesus laying out a precondition that we should serve only to the extent that people are in need as a result of forces beyond their control. Even if some people find themselves in need due to their own personal choices, they are still in need—that Jesus calls us as Christians to alleviate.
  The book of James seems to instruct that, at least in within the walls of the church, we are not to discriminate between rich and poor, at James 2:1–5 (NIV):

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