Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pay to Stay

There is something of a debate going on regarding some recent decisions at some shelters around the country to ask guests to "pay to stay." While there are pros and cons, what was more sad was the attitudes revealed by those who chose to "comment" on the article. I was especially saddened by the statements from some who claimed to work or to have worked for shelters/service agencies.

Anyone who does read the comments on any internet article recognizes that the anonymity of the internet and the fact that you don't personally know those with whom you are arguing leads to extremely negative comments that the filter of personal knowledge or direct discussion would normally "block out." However, Christ said, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). And the majority of the "mouths" who chose to speak on this particular topic were surprisingly venemous in regards to those who are homeless.

Rather than enter into the argument of "to pay or not to pay," I'd like to offer a defense for Missions and a re-statement of our purpose. Missions by their very nature are independent; however, they were founded to further the message of the gospel to men and women who were lost in sin. The cast-offs, the unwanted.

Our founder, Thomas Dolton, was an alcoholic who was violently opposed to Christianity until his own conversion. His goal in starting a Mission was to reach out to men who were as he had once been. While the face of homelessness is changing (with unemployment, poor financial decisions, domestic abuse, divorce, etc. becoming contributing factors for homelessness), the Mission should continue to reach a hand of rescue to the unloved and unlovable. We have seen men and women that the world would consider hopeless. They would make their comments and use them as examples of the homeless stereotype that is so despised. Some of those same men and women have "used the system" for years before the message of Christ, preached faithfully by Missions, began to produce fruit in their lives. God forbid that we give up on these men and women. That we stop looking at them with the eyes of Christ (as sheep having no shepherd) and being to look at them with the eyes of the world (worthless losers who don't deserve compassion).

I would never say that Mission work is easy. Or that working year-in and year-out with such men and women doesn't require us to be in constant prayer for God's strength and compassion. But I would reiterate the words of Paul, "do not grow weary in doing good" (2 Thessalonians 3:13). The world is hungry for the unconditional love that can only be found through the grace of God. If Missions stop shining the light and spreading the truth that "Jesus Saves" even the ones who deserve it the least, then how will they hear? After all, the true "mission" of a Mission is not to provide a meal or a bed but to present the Good News that God's grace is sufficient for (and needed by) everyone.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! Romans 10:13-15

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