Category: Poverty

When Someone Far Away Loves You, Too (#Giving Tuesday)

When we first think about poverty in other countries around the world, some of the first images that come to mind tend to be mental images of poverty in warm climates such as Africa or India. However, cold-weather poverty is a unique reality in the world and presents its own set of challenges. While I […]
Syndicated from The Official Blog of Benjamin L. Corey

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Blessed Are the Poor

God can be funny sometimes. In an inconvenient and mildly irritating way.
During a sermon writing break on Saturday, I took the dog for a walk. As I was nearing home—only about a block or two away—I saw a strange thing, at least for small town southern Alberta. A shopping cart full of miscellaneous items—bottles, clothes, a sleeping bag, etc.—covered in tarp sitting in the middle of a snowy sidewalk. As I was passing by, I looked down the lane and saw a man sitting under a blanket against a building. The weather was, well, arctic.
I’m not proud to admit this, but I walked on by. An excellent Levite, I am.
But before I even made it to my back door, the words of Jesus that I had just been writing a sermon on crashed rather inconveniently into my brain. You see, I was preaching on—of all things!—the Beatitudes.

Blessed are the poor in spirit… theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I squirmed a little.

Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.

I squirmed a little more.
I opened a book that I had been reading by Czech theologian Tomáš Halík about the love of God and read these words:

Jesus fundamentally links love of God with love for one’s neighbor. And in so doing, he “grounds” it, rooting it deeply in the everyday reality of life. Should we be too tempted to be carried away by the romantic sentimentality of “celestial love,” there is always a neighbor just outside our door….

I stopped squirming and decided that I had better get up and do something before Jesus ran out of patience with me. I made a pot of coffee and put it in a travel mug, threw some food in a bag, put my boots and gloves back on and trudged back out into the snow. He was still there. I greeted him and asked if it was ok if I joined him. He smiled and nodded.
I asked him what his name was. “Denis,” he said. His smile was broad and toothy. His beard was impressive and his hair was long and stringy. He was holding a bottle and smelled like cheap booze. I asked him if he was cold. He grinned and said, “not really” in a heavy French accent. He was from Quebec, had bounced around across the prairies to Vancouver and back. He liked the prairies the best, he said. I shivered and wondered how that was possible. I gave Denis the food and coffee and bid him farewell. I had important things to do, after all. I had a sermon to write.
I preached my sermon yesterday. I even worked Denis’ story into it. Not too difficult, obviously. A sermon about the outsiders, the looked down on, the ignored and forgotten and rejected—Denis was almost a living, breathing Beatitude, for crying out loud. At the end of the story in my sermon, I said, “Maybe Denis will cross my path again. I hope so.” Did I really hope so? Or was it the kind of thing that I figured someone in my position ought to hope. Or say, at any rate.
This morning I took my dog for another walk. I walked a block away from house and there was Denis. Of course. I could almost hear God chuckling. Be careful what you say you hope for. I sighed. Didn’t Denis (or God) realize it was my day off?! I thought back to another line from the Halík book. This one came—I’m not joking—immediately after the one that had prodded me out the door a few days prior:

Sometimes the neighbor stands or lies there in a very inconvenient way…

Indeed.
I walked over to where Denis was sitting on the steps of a church. “Hey Denis, how’s it going?” He smiled, “Good! It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” I noticed that Denis had gotten an early start on the day’s drinking. “Well, it’s a little cold, no?” I said. “Ah, this is no problem!” Denis looked and smelled pretty drunk. He clearly didn’t remember who I was. I asked him if he was hungry. He looked a little sheepish. “No, I’m ok.” I looked at him and raised my eyebrows. “Well, I guess I could eat.”
I walked back home and threw some food in a bag. A stack of homemade chocolate chip cookies, a couple bananas, a few pepperoni sticks. I looked at the kitchen counter. Over by the toaster sat a loaf of homemade sourdough bread that had been sitting on my office desk after church yesterday (yup, the people in my church are awesome). I threw it in the bag. Denis had, after all, said that he “could eat.” I was pretty confident that the person who had made the bread for me would have approved of its ultimate destination. I rummaged around in the closet; found a pair of winter boots and a winter coat that my teenage son had outgrown in roughly a third of a winter. I threw those in, too.
I drove back to Denis. He was still there, sitting on the church steps, grinning away. “So, I got you some lunch,” I said, “and I found these boots… You want them?” His face lit up. “Oh yeah, man. That would be great. I’m pretty warm, but these shoes… I looked down at his cheap runners and shuddered at how cold Denis’ feet must be in this weather. I offered him the coat but he declined. “I don’t need the coat… I have lots of those.” I looked in his cart and saw an enormous fur coat that looked like it had come straight out of Siberia. Denis was proud of that one. He pointed to a bunch of other ones in his shopping cart. Sometimes he used them to barter with “the natives” for cigarettes, he said. His sly grin broke out into a kind of hacking rasping laugh. Poor Denis probably wouldn’t pass many tests for using politically correct terminology. But he was keeping the Russian fur coat. Obviously.
We sat on the church steps and talked for a while. He told me about picking berries in the Okanagan, about his family in Quebec, about how he knew a bit of Spanish. He told me which beer was the cheapest and about how sometimes it’s too cold to even drink beer. We shook hands and said goodbye. I told him I hoped I would see him around. Knowing God and having experienced his sense of humour over the past few days, I didn’t say those words as lightly as I otherwise might have. A natural Levite, I might be, but God graciously, if slightly impatiently, keeps prodding me towards Samaritan-hood.
“God bless you, Denis” I said before leaving. He looked at me and grinned. I could tell he wasn’t so sure about that. I wonder what he would have said if I had told him that his was the kingdom of heaven. He probably would have just said thanks for the boots and the bread.
Syndicated from Rumblings

World Food Day: Preventing Famine is Better Than Its Cure

A guest post by World Vision U.S. President Rich Stearns … I don’t know about you, but I can think of at least a dozen more interesting ways to spend my time than going to the doctor. I don’t enjoy check-ups, even though it’s the best way to stay healthy. Over the course of regular visits, my […]
Syndicated from The Official Blog of Benjamin L. Corey

BGWG 6: Housing Crisis

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Ebony Adedayo and Steve Kimes return for another episode of Black Gal, White Guy, this time to discuss the housing crisis in the United States. Topics for this episode include:

Steve’s recommendation: Gospel rock and roll artists (1:50)
Ebony’s recommendation: self care practices (5:09)
The housing crisis in Minnesota (11:19)
The housing crisis in Oregon (20:07)
A hospitality problem, not a housing problem (26:16)
Why does this matter? (33:40)

Relevant Links
https://www.citylab.com/equity/2016/02/the-problem-of-resegregation-in-suburbia/462396/
https://www.citylab.com/equity/2016/02/brooklyn-park-minnesota-suburbia-affordable-housing/461955/
https://www.citylab.com/equity/2016/02/when-integrating-the-suburbs-isnt-enough/462765/

http://media.blubrry.com/mennonerds_audio/p/podcasts.mennonerds.com/BGWG6-HousingCrisis.mp3Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | Email | Google Play | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS

BGWG 5: Reconciliation

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Ebony Adedayo and Steve Kimes discuss the topics of forgiveness and reconciliation, specifically in the context of racism. The discussion includes:

Ebony’s recommendation: the album The Transition of Mali by Mali Music (0:56)
Steve’s recommendation: Scene on Radio podcast, Seeing White series (2:42)
Does racism against people of color in America still exist? (4:28)
Affirmative action, which mostly helps white women (10:10)
Is it lacking in the quality of forgiveness to bring up racial inequality issues such as police brutality? (17:19)
The parable in Matthew 18 (20:04)
Forcing the oppressed to forgive (25:28)
How do we achieve true reconciliation? (29:14)
The economics of forgiveness (33:08)

http://media.blubrry.com/mennonerds_audio/p/podcasts.mennonerds.com/BGWG5-Reconciliation.mp3Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | Email | Google Play | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS

Labor Day

Once per year the USA celebrates Labor Day, a national holiday originating from 1800's celebrations of trade workers and the social/economic benefits they bring to our society. So, is this holiday only an antiquated excuse for an extra time to sleep in?Let's use the day to examine the serious economic and labor struggles that still plague our country.It is increasingly difficult for the average worker to support a family. In most states, minimum wage is well below the living wage (there is a big difference between the two). Ironically, thousands of folks will go to work on Labor Day because they need the money and can't afford a day of rest.When folks are desperate for work, they will endure any number of abuses or indignities. They may work in dangerous environments, or be paid less than promised. Workers may be given insufficient training, leading to injury or embarrassment when they don't perform to standards.Employees may be held at work long after their shift is over, if that is what the boss deems necessary. Maybe they need to pick the kids up from school, but they don't dare leave and risk losing their jobs. Workers may be required to maintain an open schedule to be placed in shifts as is convenient for the company, but may not be told their schedule until the last minute, and so cannot line up child care or other jobs.Folks may spend an hour on the bus to get to a job, only to arrive and find out they aren't needed that day. Or they work for two hours and then get sent home. "Try again tomorrow." And if they don't show up for that chance, they know they loose the opportunity for later.There are serious consequences of this labor disparity. Workers skip meals so that their children may eat. Folks turn to loan sharks to make ends meet, entrenching themselves in a spiral of debt (see post: The Cost of Being Poor). Families make tough choices to cut out "non-essentials" like medicine (see post: Healthcare Reform), clothing, and nutritious food.And as the nation bemoans the 7% unemployment rate, unemployment in communities of color remains at 13%--the same racialized wage disparity ratio that Dr. King bemoaned in 1967. Indeed, while analysts fret about about the housing market, there continue to be huge disparities in homeownership across race.Take a close look at the words of Jeremiah 22:13-16. Woe to we that profit from injustice and gain economic security at the expense of others! We "who make our neighbor serve us for nothing and do not give them their wages." Jesus himself urges that "the workers deserve their wages." And yet, as more states put an end to collective bargaining, the wealthy receive a smaller tax burden now than they have in the last 80 years.Part of our problem is that we have a very warped perspective of economic reality. Particularly since housing in the United States is largely segregated by economic standing, people look around themselves and feel that, on the whole, there is equal opportunity and prosperity for everyone.PBS News Hour recently conducted an informal survey, asking people identify the sort of economy that exist in the USA. Their findings are telling. Also, Jon Stewart points out the huge economic disparities that most folks gloss over. Both of these videos are embedded below.Take time this week to give thanks for your own economic security, no matter what level it is at.For more insight into the issues mentioned above, read Barbara Ehrenreich's 'Nickel and Dimed' or play this excellent interactive game to see what choices you would make given some stark realities.The Daily Show with Jon StewartGet More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,The Daily Show on Facebook

Syndicated from By Their Strange Fruit

BGWG 2: The Decriminalization of Drugs

Ebony and Steve return for the second episode of Black Gal, White Guy. In this show, they discuss movements to decriminalize drug possession including new legislation in Steve’s state of Oregon. The episode includes further discussion on topics like the racial elements of the war on drugs and the need to treat addicts as somebody in need of help, not somebody to be excessively punished.
http://media.blubrry.com/mennonerds_audio/p/podcasts.mennonerds.com/BGWG2-TheDecriminalizationofDrugs.mp3Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | Email | Google Play | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS

Empowering Entrepreneurs and Creating Enduring Livelihoods as Solutions to Poverty

That title is quite a mouthful, isn’t it?
And doesn’t it over-reach by suggesting that empowering entrepreneurs is a solution to poverty?

Consider systemic racism in North America, conflict in Israel-Palestine, famine in South Sudan, violence in Congo, and other ills at home and around the world. The causes of poverty are so many and so far-reaching, that business solutions alone are not enough. We need multiple solutions, including the creativity and energy of entrepreneurs.

Since 1953, MEDA has been working at this by partnering with people in poverty around the world to start or grow small and medium-sized businesses. To this end, MEDA has offered technical training to farmers, affordable loans so people can start businesses, and other financial services. The acronym stands for Mennonite Economic Development Associates, and their mission is to “create business solutions to poverty.”

In November, I’ll have a chance to learn more about MEDA at their annual convention that will be held in my hometown, Vancouver, B.C. What’s more, I’ll have a chance to contribute since I’ve been asked to lead one of the seminars. As a full-time pastor, I mainly preach and teach in the context of my own congregation which I love to do, but I’m also excited for opportunities like this to speak to different groups.

This time I’ll present a seminar on Spiritual Practice for Busy People. The list of other seminars has not yet been released, but will likely include a mix of sessions on business, faith, and other topics of general interest. I’m glad to see that the convention schedule also includes a plenary session with a panel on refugee issues.

The MEDA Convention is still months away, but I’m already looking forward to it, and couldn’t wait to share the news! I only hope that Vancouver will be as beautiful in November as it is in this video below that introduces the Convention:

MEDA Convention 2017 – Vancouver from MEDA on Vimeo.
_____________________
Writing/Reflection Prompt: One of MEDA’s taglines is “business as a calling.” In what way(s) have you observed or experienced business as a calling?
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Syndicated from April Yamasaki

Hesed: The God of Mutuality #AllPeoplePractices

Please welcome back Pastor Greg Henneman, Director of the Healthy Eating and Living (HEAL) initiative at Church and Community Development for All People. Here, he reflects on God's call to mutuality:
 

Psalm 130 has long been the psalm I identify with most.

I resonate with the psalmist crying from the depth of the heart.

As one who served in the military, I have experienced the twice repeated phrase “more than those who watch for morning, more than those who watch for morning.”

I love the modern expression of the song by Sinead O’Connor.

But while this psalm is an old favorite, this week I have noticed something new.

In verse 7, Israel is invited to put its hope in the Lord, because with the Lord there is “steadfast love.” Steadfast love sounds good on its own: a love that is not conditional and doesn’t wax and wane like our love of a favorite song or restaurant.

But this is only the surface of it. The word translated steadfast love is the Hebrew word 'hesed' which means 'mutuality'.

Creative Mutuality

If there is one thing I’ve learned in ministry it is the power of mutuality.

It was including homeless people in on the creation and weekly leadership of Community of Hope that made it work.

Mutuality is at the core of the United Methodist Church’s focus area of ministry WITH the poor.

Mutuality is the secret sauce that makes Church and Community Development for All People a place of ever growing relationships and expanding programming. Within the Fresh Market and the Free Store, it is impossible to tell from racial or socioeconomic background who is provider and who is recipient.

Mutuality is more than a management concept to involve people from the bottom up in order to create diverse community. Mutuality is who God is.

God is in the cry from the depth of the heart. God is equally present in the broken heart of divorce as in the joyful heart of newborn parents. God is as much in the mud covered eyes of the blind, the leper, the addict, and the prostitute as God is in the faithful church goer.

When we are willing to put aside our ego and be vulnerable enough to share ourselves with others, the God of mutuality is moving. When we are humble enough to admit we don’t have all the answers and open our heart in prayer, the God of mutuality speaks. When we look at others asking what we can give instead of how we can receive, the God of mutuality provides.

I am often asked, what is the greatest asset of our community. Every time I respond by saying, relationships. It is in the mutuality of people who look out for each other and care for each other and support each other that the peaceable kingdom grows. The mutuality of God’s love is what forms us and shapes us and leads us forward.

We find God in serving the other, because the God of mutuality found us “out of the depths”; and, when we are willing to go down in the depths with others we find the God is mutuality is there.

Syndicated from By Their Strange Fruit

How to Save a Church Movement from Extinction

Andreas Ehrenpreis is not a well-known name in church history, but what he managed to do is truly astonishing. Born 1589 in Illingen, Germany, Andreas was brought up as an Anabaptist – a persecuted, radical Christian movement that emphasised faith, peace and justice. At seven years of age, his family joined a Hutterite community in Morovia, modern-day Czech Republic.

The Hutterites had been founded by Jakob Hutter (1500-1536) as a church that believed that community of goods is something all Christians should practice. However, as Andreas Ehrenpreis was commissioned as a minister of the Word in 1621, things had changed drastically.

Community was not practiced the same way as before – people usually laid aside money for themselves and stored various luxuries. Some bought weapons to defend themselves against persecutors, despite the church’s official, pacifist stance. As the Mennonite Encyplopedia puts it, “moral slackening was observable everywhere”.

Facing this major backsliding trend, Ehrenpreis preached about the movement’s roots and inspired his brothers and sisters to become radical again. In 1639, he was unanimously elected bishop, which gave him the opportunity to preach to the whole movement. He never chose to back down: he passionately argued for stricter disciplines, holiness and revival of the “first love”.

In his epistle Brotherly Community: the Highest Command of Love he writes:
Passion and money is the root of all filth just as much for the miser as for the spendthrift. Those who love possessions should never forget that avarice is essentially nothing but idolatry. For men cling to money as they should cling to God. They serve it as they should serve God. Their idols are silver and gold. No one who is in the service of idolatry, impure passion, or love of money can come close to the Kingdom of God. On these points, Christ the Lord is hard and inaccessible; His coming Kingdom is closed to them. The man who knows this gives his goods to the poor so that they may bear fruit a hundredfold; if he acts otherwise, everything will be taken from him.
He also emphasised the importance of raising children according to Jesus’ radical teaching:
The salvation of these young people is taken so lightly, so little value is set on it, that these defenceless young people are handed over to beasts of prey. They are practically pushed toward their ruin. They are delivered to the worst and most godless influences, which in the end must spell their ruin. Who can answer for that before God? The Holy Scriptures and the voice of our own consciences could and should protect us from this.
One could think that such a radical and harsh teaching would lead people to abandon Ehrenpreis’ church. On the contrary, the movement was revitalised and strengthened. Instead of facing marginalisation or possibly extinction, the Hutterites lived on as a radical movement and exists to this very day.

No wonder Ehrenpreis has been called the “second founder” of the Hutterites.

Get Andreas Ehrenpreis’ book Brotherly Community: the Highest Command of Love here.

Filed under: Church & Theology, Justice & Economics
Syndicated from Holy Spirit Activism

Vlog 30: Food

Steve introduces the next topic on the vlog: food, and how what we eat reflects our values. Micael is joined by Sarah in a response talking about why they are vegan: not depriving others of food in a world where we have too many people to all eat meat and other animal products. Deborah concludes by talking about how we eat rather than what we eat.
https://media.blubrry.com/mennonerds_audio/p/archive.org/download/Vlog30Food_201703/Vlog30-Food.mp3Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | Email | Google Play | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS

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