Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ugly ... meet Beautiful

Ugly things bring out the best in the truly beautiful.

When my neighbor's trash can blew into the road, we couldn't ignore it; we put it in a safe place. When the neighbor's dog went dashing across the lawn with a guilty look on his face and "electric fence" receiver swinging from his wrinkled neck, we didn't ignore it; we captured him and returned him. Careless neighbors, you say? No. Just "life" happening ... normal things falling apart and needing attention. Neighbors do the same when they see me falling apart, and I'm so glad. That's what it is to be a neighbor. Once we encounter a need and know it's there, we can't move on as if it doesn't exist; part of us in the image of our Creator nudges us to stop our forward motion and respond.

Today I saw needs in my "neighborhood," needs that point out some ugly stuff of life. A group of 20 women and a few of our children joined me for a tour of Knox Area Rescue Ministry. It was started almost 50 yrs ago by 4 churches who saw life needs among neighbors, and they banded together to respond, instead of turning away and trying to forget what they saw. Today KARM sits on a city street, next to the shadows under the highway bridge where it's easy for people in suburbs (like me) to forget as we drive "over" it and all of its needs.

It isn't easy to just "drive over," though, once you take time to listen and learn and watch. We were toured through the facility by two passionate women who showed us many facets of the outreach, including: residential rooms for men, women, and families; a resource room to help with job searching during the day; a cafeteria that feeds over 1000 meals a day; and a chapel where songs of praise drifted into the foyer. Our hosts gave gold nuggets of wisdom about how to really help the homeless and the working poor, not just how to make ourselves feel better "about" the homeless and working poor. They told us how the fastest growing group of homeless people in our city include women and their children. Wow. Sadly, they shared that the one common denominator for those they serve is that they were abused as children.

Ugly stuff. Makes me long for heaven.

Our hearts were full, and our minds were inspired as we considered how to serve in practical ways on behalf of our Lord and His loving heart. Many practical needs are met, but the staff and volunteers obviously serve generous helpings of truth and love that lead people to real PEACE.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy," Matthew 5:7.
In the midst of the heaviness and needs of the neighbors, it could all appear ugly, except for the BEAUTY of God's love, magnified by all the need. I wanted to share some of those beautiful images today that are sprinkled throughout KARM ... truths that overcome the ugly parts of life in a fallen world.

Just think of how much more lovely the Good Samaritan looked, because he was preceded by two rotten scoundrels who ignored a hurting man .... I'm sure needy "neighbors" will cross my path soon. Yours too. Seems like our pathways are more crowded with needy neighbors as our economy continues to limp along, so needs are pretty much a guarantee. Will I drive on by and look away from the needs in the shadows, securing my membership in the "rotten scoundrels" group? Or will I stop and respond to the needs, joining the smaller but longer lasting group of "Samaritans R Us"?

Angie Sledge from KARM will be joining our women to present a workshop in November entitled, "Homeless for the Holidays." Can't wait to learn more from this woman with her full heart, to apply the riches of what she shares in my own life, and to pass it on here! Have you had the chance to visit or partner with a merciful mission that cares for neighbors where you are?

1 COMMENTS ~ Click here to leave a COMMENT:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a glimpse of the "tour." This post was meaningful on many levels. "They will know we are Christians by our love" - I'm not sure how true that is of me . . . Too much self and not enough love for others. Thanks, JLC in VA