In my last post, I wrote about foster care for children. I wrote about my love for them and the limitations I share that love under. I wish I could order the world through them the way I see fit. I wish I could fix them.
When you see a baby with cigarette burns, you want to fix that. But immediately you run into complexities. Most of them beyond your control. In my case, I am a mere foster parent. What can I do? What needs to be done?
A sheriff needs to arrest the person who did it and take them to jail. But before that, an ambulance driver needs to rush the child to the emergency room. You can see the “fix” bifurcating right at the start. There is the legal side of this fix and the medical. Cops, jailers, lawyers, and judges on one side with doctors, nurses, medical technicians on the other. Then the social workers and foster agencies step in. Paper trails are generated. Administrators loom behind all of these. And I have not yet got to the part where I, as a foster parent, come in. Nor have I said anything about anyone addressing spiritual matters, which surely are at the root of this problem to begin with, no? (Tower of Babel anyone???)
But when you meet a child in such a need, one of the things you MIGHT feel convicted/inspired to do in response is get licensed as a foster parent and take such children into your healing home to love them with all you’ve got for the little bit of their life you are allotted. And how many of those precious babies go through all that (including your loving home) and wind up harming the babies they also then bring into the world?
Ohhhh… but we sure spare no expense it seems in electing officials and judges. We spend millions on the sheriff’s department, the court, the hospital, the doctors and on and on and on… (Building our Tower) But is “the problem” getting better over time? Or worse?
I live in Lubbock, Texas. The “most conservative county” in the U.S. per capita is in our congressional district. Lubbock is very much a part of that culture. We are as “Christian” and conservative as it gets here. (Btw, I consider myself “Christian and conservative too!) And yet we have a long history of quietly leading the nation in STD’s and unwed-teen pregnancies, and we don’t lag far behind in child abuse cases. Lubbock it not a big city, nor is it located in a highly populated region. So, we are almost a secret to begin with, but we sure don’t put these statistics in our visitor brochures!
Lubbock is not situated along any main railways. We have an “interstate highway” but if you look carefully at a map and find I-27 on it, you will notice it does not cross any state lines! In fact, it is the shortest “interstate highway” of them all! And I point that out, because highways and railways tend to bring homeless populations with them. Amarillo, 120 miles up our “interstate”, has major railways and sits on I-40 (the famed/fabled Route 66 of old). They have a massive homeless population, ours is small by comparison.
And like the STD’s, Lubbock has been able to live in denial of the homeless we have attracted. Most of them are actually from here. But the last decade that population has grown to levels that must be dealt with. But homeless people are not fixable! And we have proven capable of great denial!
And back when I started getting involved in homeless ministry in this town (the Fall of 2009), I found articles in the newspaper covering Lubbock’s response to the homeless. (I know, you are thinking that is not “denial”, but when the media makes it sound like Lubbock has the mess you have been seeing out your car window under control, then yes… that is denial. It is what some of us around here call “fake news”.) I recall reading the words of the pastor from a leading ministry that serves the homeless where he was quoted telling Lubbock not to give money to beggars. (Now, how do you think a message like that gets received in a town like this?) The pastor pointed out that the money would almost definitely be misused if you do that and so you should give it to him instead. He knew how to fix the problem.
Well, in almost a decade since then, that ministry has grown to over a million dollar budget while we have added hundreds of new people to the street homeless population. In fact, in the last 8 – 10 years, Lubbock has managed to get at least 5 major homeless ministries with several smaller ones chugging along behind. All while promoting a denial of the problem in our public consciousness.
I chose a prophetic path in this ministry over the course of time. I come from a church tradition that barely acknowledges prophecy at all, and certainly has no idea what to do with a prophetic ministry in its midst now. I see that all this fix we do on the one hand is not “working” and all the denial of the problem on the other hand is only helping it all get worse. (The Tower of Lubbock makes a name for ourselves, but not God.) I came to this unlikely path largely because of when I spent a night out by the Mahon Library one very cool October night in 2009, just before the city kicked all the homeless off that property to force them into hiding. I specifically remember laying there on the cold pavement looking into the window of the library where, under dim security lights, I could see hundreds of thousands of books being kept warm and dry. BOOKS! Books – warm and dry while PEOPLE slept outside shivering, and I thought: How do the values of a “Christian” town get us to THIS point? And I set out to call the bluff on every statement, action, inaction and unspoken message I could find that supported this mess.
Do I think homeless people cannot be fixed at all?
Yeah. Pretty much. But they can be loved. I am sure Jesus loves them. And I am sure that IF there is a fix for the problem, it will be God Almighty who supplies it – not us… Not legislation, not taxes, not the sheriff, and definitely not denial. But I also think that IF there is a fix for the problem, it LIKELY will be God working THROUGH his church. And the one thing church brings that no one else does or can is WORSHIP – IMAGE BEARING WORSHIP – of God/to God. This, instead of idolatry, will be the WAY through which the world is redeemed. And you can’t have that if you claim to be the people of God but live in denial and/or employ every other complex attempt at fixing the problem through your own will or abilities.
And so, when you meet a homeless person in need, one of the things you MIGHT feel convicted/inspired to do in response is open your church house door (or even the door to that empty guest bedroom in your fine Lubbock home) and take such person into your healing home to love them with all you’ve got for the little bit of their life you are allotted. And how many of those precious souls go through all that denial, cold, and neglect without meeting Jesus? Think you might be able to affect a change if you picked up a cross and followed Jesus???