Since early June, I have been studying the book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, by Jen Hatmaker with a small group here in Huntsville, AL. It has coincided well with my recent move to the area. Over the summer, I have met and gotten to know a number of delightful ladies…of all ages. I no longer feel like a stranger here…or when I go to church.
Yesterday was our last meeting. It was the wrap-up. We ended with lunch. It was provided by the church staff member who has been part of our group most of the summer and is in charge of mercy ministries at our church. I’m sorry, I’m not certain of her precise title. Her name is Sarah.
She does quite a bit of work behind the scenes and has gotten to know a lot about resources in our community since she came two years ago. I had a suspicion that she was going to do something stark with our lunch, but I didn’t prepare for it. I was right!
This is what she got for our lunch. She went to the area of the community where she often ministers and bought the food for us there. The available choices for main dish were canned chili (with or without beans) or spam with melted cheese. She chose the chili. It turned out that the expiration dates were from 2012! She didn’t plan on that! She planned to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but there was no peanut butter in the store! So we had jelly sandwiches. She also made cornbread and bought canned fruit…there were no fresh fruit or fresh vegetable choices in the store! As we looked at the food and read the dietary info on the labels, we understood why diabetes and hypertension are so rampant in poor communities. They don’t often have the great choices we do in our grocery stores!
DEEP ROOTS OF ALABAMA
This community (where the food was purchased) is considered to be an urban desert. Look at Deep Roots of Alabama website for inormation re what an urban desert is. They minister wholistically to people in these areas, but not exclusively to the poor. They will help anyone who needs help starting a garden…rich or poor. Why? Because all of us are poor in some way.
They offer assistance in learning to garden as well as teaching how to cook the food and how to preserve the food ie. pickling, canning, etc. The building they use to do the teaching? The local church there. I’m impressed to hear about the philosophy behind what they do…that is, to help the people they are helping become independent, not dependent on those who are helping them. Deep Roots is one of many cooperative ventures in that community. I can’t wait until Fall when I’ll get to see first hand some of what is being done there.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR SHOWING MERCY, PASSING ON GRACE
But, I digress. Sarah told us over lunch…where our drink was water, about many service opportunities that are available. Some are a simple as bringing desserts and goodies to help with meals that are provided, others need some training as a person commits to help mentor a woman in the job corps for one year or counsels in a crisis pregnancy clinic. There are all kinds of things in between!
OUR SUFFERING VS. THE REAL SUFFERING OF POVERTY
No, yesterday we didn’t share in any suffering except to get a miniscule taste of their food choices. But our meal was augmented with fresh watermelon and cantaloupe. One lady wanted to bring some delicious homemade cookies. She didn’t know about the twist to the meal. We appreciated it too! We had iced water and a beautiful air conditioned home to sit in.
All of us are moderately healthy and are able to keep our medical problems treated. We do not know the oppression of being poor…of being overcharged for food that is outdated…of not having fresh food handy to eat and enjoy. Most of us are able to stand up for ourselves and our appropriate rights because we haven’t had a lifetime of being without resources.
It’s not always that proverty is something done to individuals intentionally. Often, there is a life cycle that has gone on for generations. It has involved sinful behavior to be sure, but help is needed to give mercy, justice, care for widows/single moms, orphans or the modern equivalents who are children who need justice, mercy and the love of Christ! They need personal involvement as they struggle to change ingrained habits. They don’t need handouts, but personal involvement for sure!
We weren’t really suffering yesterday. But we have been challenged to choose to share in the suffering of others by the study we have been through, by the Word of GOD and by Jesus Himself. Yes, I know they overlap!
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8 (NIV)